Travelling to understand : India (part II)

….second post on India….  Click on photos to enlarge/reduce….

Delhi

The history of India’s capital is long and deeply intertwined with that of the country.

The city is believed to be the site of Indraprastha, the legendary capital of the Pandavas in the Indian epic Mahabharata but its earliest architectural relics are from the Maurya period (c. 300 BCE). The remains of eight major cities attest to the relevance of its status.

The recorded history begins with of the city Lal Kot (736 CE, Tomara dynasty), followed by that of Qila Rai Pithora in 1180 CE (Chauhans dyn.). The Chauhan were then replaced by the Afghan under Muhammad Ghori and by 1200 the Muslim dominance was established in India, ultimately to last for the next six centuries.

The first Sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, began construction of the Qutb Minar and Quwwat-al-Islam mosque, the earliest extant mosque in India.  For the next three hundred years, Delhi was ruled by a succession of Turkic and Pashtun dynasties. The Mamluk Sultanate, overthrown in 1290 by the Khilji ruler, was later re-established and its control expanded considerably until 1325. Captured and sacked by Timur Lenk in 1398, Delhi remained under the weak Sayyid sultanate until 1451 when the Afghan Lodhi dynasty reestablished control and brought the city to new heights.

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The towering Qutb Minar and a detail (below)

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The sultanate was finally destroyed by Babur – in 1526- and its Mughal dynasty ruled Delhi for more than three centuries. The seventh city of Delhi (Shahjahanabad, now Old Delhi) was built by Shah Jahan in 1638, it was sacked by the Hindu Maratha forces in 1737 and in 1739 by the Turkic ruler of the Afsharid dynasty. Hindu and Moghul rulers alternate control of Delhi until 1803 when the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Maratha.

Delhi fell to the forces of East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and it came under the direct control of the British Government in 1858. In 1911 the capital of British held territories in India was transferred from Calcutta to Delhi. “New Delhi” since 1931, it was officially declared the capital of the Union of India after the country gained independence on 15 August 1947.

The city offers a glimpse of its past in its monuments and urban details. Today, a comfortable underground subway runs Tokyo style, while aboveground the traffic flows smoothly regardless of its composition. Cars, trucks and motorbikes move fast on the freeways of the new residential area while any imaginable wheeled device (as well as cows, goats etc.) slowly move throughout the mediaeval network of narrow streets of the old city.

Delhi is truly a wonderful and chaotic city in the daytime but its magic is revealed at sunset, when the flat rooftops of its houses become alive with kids masterfully handling kites in the breeze, the monkeys lazily climb to the cooled rooftops and the noisy crows seek shelters for the night.

Monuments of all periods as well as important institutions are scattered throughout the large city and can be easily reached using any mean of urban transportation on two, three, four or more wheels.

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The imposing Jama Masjid

Picture 113Not a typical restaurant, Karim is the best in Delhi (and near the Jama Masjid)

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Life on the streets of Old Delhi

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India Gate

Picture 072Slow traffic…

Picture 088Humayun’s tomb

m (65)View from one of the tomb windows

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Transporting ice in 38 degrees Celsius weather.

Picture 585A detail of the amazing Observatory

Bath

An ancient well in the heart of the city.

 

Agra and Fatehpūr Sikrī

World famous for the immaculate Taj Mahal, Agra and the adjacent Fatehpūr Sikrī are a treasure trove of Mughal buildings, forts and mausoleums.  The two cities are located a short train ride from Delhi.

The Delhi’s Sultan Sikandar Lodī founded Agra in 1504 and in 1556 Hemu Vikramaditya conquered Agra (and Delhi) and established the Hindu Vikramaditya Dynasty in North India.  The city was then conquered by the Mughals under Akbar, which named it Akbarabād. It served as capital of the Mughal Empire – until 1649 – and it witnessed large scale building activities. Babur laid out the formal Persian garden on the banks of river Yamuna, while Akbar raised the ramparts of the Great Red Fort. In 1569 Akbar started the erection of a new city on the outskirts of Akbarabād called Fatehpūr Sikrī. It will serve as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585.

The Mughal emperor Shāh Jahān gave the city its prized monument, the Tāj Mahal, built in loving memory of his wife Mumtāz Mahal and completed in 1653.

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under the influence of Marathas and was called Agra, before falling into the hands of the British Raj in 1803. Picture 221

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

Picture 238The Tāj Mahal

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Palace complex at Fatehpur Sikri

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Multistoried palace

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Fatehpur Sikri Jama Masjid (detail)

Orchha

Orchha is located in Madhya Pradesh (a 15 km car ride from Jhansi, reached by train from Delhi/Agra) and it lies on the Betwa River. The town was established by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 1501. Today is a marvel of well-preserved medieval palaces, temples and cenotaphs.

There are several very pleasant cottages available to tourists, all established by the State tourism board and other tourist agencies in the archeological area close by the river.

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Royal chattris (cenotaphs)

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Royal chattris from a second group

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Perfectly preserved royal chattris

Picture 313Jahangir‑Mahal

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Jahangir‑Mahal (interior)

Udaipur

Founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II as the final capital of the Mewar kingdom, Udaipur is one of the gems of Rajasthan.

Often called the “Venice of the East”, the “Lake City” is known for its Rajput-era palaces. Many of the palaces have been converted into hotels ranging from affordable to luxury (the Lake Palace covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake).

Selecting Udaipur as a place where to pause from travelling will reward the visitor with amazing day and night sights and an unforgettable leisurely time.

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Udaipur under the sun.

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An old palace converted to modern hospitality

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The Lake Palace, an small island in the Pichola Lake.

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A lakeside musician.

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Udaipur gate to the Pichola lake.

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Going home…

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Cenotaphs in Udaipur 

Jaipur

“The Pink City” is the capital and largest city of Rajasthan. It was conceived and erected in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber. The city is remarkable among pre-modern Indian cities for the width and regularity of its streets and its urban quarters are further divided by networks of gridded streets.

The Palace quarter encloses the sprawling Hawa Mahal palace complex, formal gardens, and a small lake. Nahargarh Fort, which was the residence of the King Sawai Jai Singh II, crowns the hill in the northwest corner of the old city. The observatory, the Jantar Mantar, is a World Heritage Sites.

Another Rajastan’s gem, Jaipur may not let the visitor relax and smell the flowers; the numerous fantastic monuments and the countless traditional artisan shops (jewellery, rug making, fabric dying, etc.)  are irresistible to tourist. Picture 353

The Jantar Mantar.

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 The Amber Fort

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 The Hawa Mahal palace complex.

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A Hawa Mahal palace window

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The Amber Fort garden.

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One way to travel…

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One of the elephants taking tourists to the Fort

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 Colours at the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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