Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Qutab Minar

I have been a frequent visitor to the UNESCO World Heritage web page and there always been a few on my wish list. The world’s tallest brick minaret was one among them.

As planned we reached there well before the sunset.

History :

Inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, Qutb-ud-din Aibak commenced the construction of the Qutub Minar in 1193, only to complete the base. His successor, Iltutmish, added three more stories and, Firuz Shah Tughluq constructed the fifth storey, thus completing the Minar in 1386.

We enter through the colossal Alai Darwaza, the erstwhile main entrance to the whole Qutab complex. The magnificent gateway with inlaid marble decorations and latticed stone screens.

A 238ft tall massive structure with 379 steps leading to the top. The minaret is made of fluted red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Quran. All stories are surrounded by projected balcony encircling the Minar and are supported by exquisite stalactite designs. The tapering tower has pointed and circular flutings on the first story round and star-shaped on the second and third stories.

At the foot of the Qutab Minar stands the first mosque to be built in India, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns and architectural members of 27 Hindu and Jain temples, which were demolished by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance.

Walking over to the east gate and you can see an inscription over there that expounds that the original mosque was built on the foundations of a Hindu temple and the materials obtained by demolishing 27 idolatrous temples!

On entering the voluminous courtyard of the mosque, get to see the Iron Pillar, which is one of the world’s curious antiques. The Sanskrit inscription on the pillar indicates that the pillar was originally present outside a Vishnu temple, possibly in Bihar.

The Iron pillar easily reminds me of Cheeni Kum. But the pillar is now protected by a fence and people are not allowed to touch or encircle it.

Walking over to the west of the mosque we see the tomb of Iltutmish. It is a 9 sq m chamber of red sandstone, profusely carved with inscriptions, geometrical and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition on the entrances and the whole of interior. Some of the motifs viz., the wheel, tassel, etc., are reminiscent of Hindu designs.

Not only the sunset, but the well maintained premise that glows with ambrosial lights, cast a mesmerizing spell. It was a leisurely chit-chat visit for some Delhites.

Alai Minar

A second tower, the Ala'i Minar was conceived to be taller than Qutub Minar. But its construction was abandoned when it was about 12 meters tall.

Qutub remains one of my favorite site in Delhi. And this photo remains one of my favorites.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On the banks of River Yamuna ...

Far unable to place in any day’s itinerary, we decided to visit Raj Ghat early the next morning for our morning walk. When I knocked at the door the next morning she was in deep slumber, the previous evening’s Rajpath circuit was evident from her state. In spite of this, in next ten minutes we were heading towards Raj Ghat.

The travel time was relatively less due to thin morning traffic. It was a foggy morning, when we reached there. The place was huge than I expected it to be. It was tough to decide upon the to and fro traverse route, until we hit a map displayed. After which we quickly shortlisted upon the must visits.

Mahatma Gandhi - Raj Ghat

On depositing your footwear you are handed over a leaflet with sayings of Mahatma Gandhi. On traversing the archway you enter the main arena.

The place is really clean and well maintained. In a few minutes we saw loads of tourist. Most of them would never miss a visit to Raj Ghat. The more pious circumambulate and offer Flowers; And others even offer a few drops of tears. Although I find this a little strange, but its their belief and luv..

This is a huge arena which even has a lake inside, clean green place, fresh air what more. This was definitely unlike Delhi.

Rajiv Gandhi – Veer Bhumi

I just wanted to get a few nice shots, and look at the design. There were just two of us then. A guard entered from nowhere. He advised me to remove the footwear and circumambulate and offer prayers. To which I nodded in agreement. Sonia (Gandhi) and family would anyway do that, but was still not sure why he was targeting me. In the next few minutes, I saw him telling this to all visitors. Again its one person’s belief, and cannot be enforced.

The Lake was dotted with birds, adding to that was the morning sun, a nice sight.

Indira Gandhi - Shakti Sthal

The guard in the background walked towards us, and educated us about Shakti Sthal. He also told us not to miss Shanti Van, which is further down. He told us to remove footwear and take the walk path if interested to offer prayer. I appreciate his way, since he was not enforcing.

Not sure how many Delhites visit this place for their morning, evening walk?

Jawaharlal Nehru – Shanti Van

Our list was exhausted and we planned to trace back an alternative route. While a day’s job still awaited us, we bumped into 2 army men. And the conversation follows…

Army Men: Bangalore ki ho?

(I know, I look a South Indian, but its nice that South Indians are now associated with Bengaluru and not Chennai anymore)

Me: haaa...

Army Men: Software Engineers ho?

Me: Nooo. Why do you think thatz the only profession in Bangalore?

( I don’t reveal my identity as a Software Engineer. As people have tons of conceptions and misconceptions about Software Engineers.)

Army Men: haaa… But, we have heard a lot about Bangalore and Software.

So, then you are media professionals. Looking at your camera we can make out.

(They were happy and confident. And my Nikon D60 misled them).

Me: No, Students.

Army Men: Good…..(with all smiles). Look at our girls here. They hardly come to such places. These are must visit places, and they are not at all interested in these. Their way of dressing, interest and taste is pathetic. And I should appreciate you girls to have come all the way from Bangalore to visit Delhi.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

India Gate

I had earlier decided to meet a friend at around 6:30 that evening at the India Gate. My Social Textbook at School, especially Civics always had the picture of India Gate and Parliament House, and here was the first glimpse.

The atmosphere was lively this evening.

India Gate

This 42m war memorial arch stands at the eastern end of Rajpath. It bears the names of 85,000 Indian Army Soldiers who died in WWI, NE Frontier operations. Housed under it is The Amar Jawan Jyoti.

Met my friend amidst the crowd, after a quick photo session, we decided to walk down the Rajpath towards Rashtrapathi Bhavan or at least till some point where the police or Army would stop us. While with the Army and Air-wing, I always had dreamt walking this at the R-Day Parade. But, today I was here, walking down as a Software Engineer. :-)

We turned back, the road had comparatively started getting deserted, but our spirits were still soaring high. We could happily walk in the center of the road, talking and clicking snaps, and no one ever restricted.

The path was dotted with security officials, but walking or photography was not prohibited. Family and friends had told, ‘Delhi not a safe place’, but we girls didn’t find it so.

Rashtrapati Bhavan

An interesting structure with blend of Mughal and Western architecture.

No one would even stop or restrict you even if you stand in front of the Gate. But, you are definitely observed. It was only two of us here, except for a lone tourist Ambassador which took a turn here, and decided to head back, thinking this was too much for a non functional Prez.

Secretariat Buildings

on either side of Rajpath now house the ministries of finance and external affairs.

The Parliment House stood hidden and virtually unnoticed.

It was Karwa Chauth that day and families had already gathered. A South Indian ought to know this festival if he/she is known to follow Bollywood movies. The Moon was visible, and women were ending their day long fast, but with Panipuri. This seemed unusual.

Drive back to Friend’s Colony and a sumptuous Dilli dinner and called it a day.

Birla Mandir

After the day's work, on the way back to New Friends Colony (The place where my Employer’s guest house is situated), the Driver’s wanted to drive me via Birla Temple and CP. And, how could it be a ‘No’ from my end.

It was around 5:30 when I reached the Temple. I knew it was built in 1938 and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on condition that people of all caste and creed. Popularly known as Laxmi Narayana Temple, this was dedicated to the nation by Birlas. Dad had told me enough about this.

Consequently a plaque at the gate reiterates that people of all faiths and classes are welcome. Till date, it remains one of the most popular temples in Delhi.

Although it looked simple from outside, it had all the complicated security check in place. Camera, Cell Phone and Baggage was not even allowed forget usage. And the absence of a deposit counter forced me to dump it in the Car..

The temple is designed as per Orissa style of architecture, with tall curved towers capped by large amalakas. The exterior is faced with the white marble and red sandstone typical of Delhi’s Mughal architecture. The interior court is overlooked by two-storey verandahs on three sides; there are gardens and fountains at the rear. The profusion of sculptures, idols, spires and jails, a splendor in terms of its architecture.

But, the Temple was amazing beautiful. The main sanctum sanctorum housed a beautiful idol of Lord Krishna. The sanctum on the right houses Goddess Durga and the left Lord Shiva.The beauty of these is that the idols are of the purest form of white, unlike the black ones down south here. These are only decorated with clothes and jewellery and hardly any flowers like here.

To me specially, the Shiva was mesmerizing, as he lacked the grandeur as with other shrines.

I spent some time visiting the ashram and various other small shrines housed in the Temple complex. It was different yet splendid and pure bliss.

A side entrance led to the garden behind. Camera and photography was not prohibited here.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Red Fort

The Red fort popularly known as Lal Quila extends for 2km. Shah Jahan completed the construction of this massive fort in 1648. However before moving his capital, he was imprisoned in Agra by his son Aurangzeb. The Yamuna River used to flow by the eastern edge of the fort, and filled the 10m-deep moat.

The goggle maps and wiki showed Yamuna flowing all over Delhi. I had even planned by morning jog towards Yamuna, as it was 2.5 km away from Friends colony. When I shared this with a friend and the driver, for the rest of the days they kept showing me, 'Madam, aapki Yamuna', whenever we crossed the bridge over Yamuna. I had compared it to R. Kaveri or R. Tungabhadra back home, while it had to be Vrishabhavathi!

Lahore Gate

The main fort takes its name from the fact that it faces towards Lahore now in Pakistan.

A visit to the Ticket and Deposit counter and we were at the security check. It was more stringent compared to the Airport. And I sometimes find this really funny, when the Lady Security official forces you into a covered cubicle and thoroughly checks you.

On entering the fort you find yourself in Chatta Chowk (Covered Bazaar). The shops here used to sell items for the royal household. Whereas what I saw now was touristy stuff and handicrafts, which you can find all over India. But the price tag was definitely royal.

The arcade leads to Naubat Khana or Drum house, where musicians used to play for the emperor. There is a Indian War Memorial Museum here. The path further leads you to Diwan-i-Am.


The Hall of Public Audience was where the emperor would sit to hear complaints or disputes from its subjects. His alcove in the wall was marble paneled and set with precious stones, which was looted. But, I could easily relate the present structure to the setting of Jodha Akbar.


The Hall of Private Audiences is constructed of white Marble. This was the luxurious chamber where the emperor would hold private meetings. The ceiling was originally inlaid with gold and silver. The centerpiece had the magnificent peacock Throne. The throne now is displayed in Tehran, with the marble pedestal still lying here.

Hammams - The Royal Baths

Next to the Diwan-i-khas are the hammams - three large rooms surmounted by domes, with a fountain in the centre - one of which was even set up as a Sauna! The marble inlayed floor and the rooms illuminated through panels of colored glass roof. The fountains here once emitted perfumed water.

Moti Masjid

Built by Aurangazeb for his own personal use and security, the small and totally enclosed Perl Mosque, made of marble, is next to the baths.

Shahi Burj

This 3 story octagonal tower on the NE was Shah Jahan's private working arena. From here water used to flow to Royal Baths, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am, Khas and Rang Mahal.

The Heritage Tea House

Dating back to the late Mughal period, this was known as ‘Prince Quarters’. But, the British is said to have converted this into a meeting and amusement place and named it ‘Tea House’.

Khas Mahal

The Emperor's private palace, served as emperor’s residence. The marble screen with scale of justice a charming specimen of Mughal Art here.

Rang Mahal

Palace of colors took its name from painted interiors.

Further down the Mumtaz Mahal has a small Museum of Archeology, and houses the usual small Museum stuff.


A one hour sound could be witnessed after sunset, to which I gave a miss.

That was an hour at the RedFort.

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