Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sight see-ers

Not all of those hanging out at the historical, World Heritage sights were human.
There was a wide range of other visitors.

A monkey brought her baby to see the Taj Mahal.

A dog was exploring along the wall of the Agra fort palace.

The monkeys also thought the fort was a good place to hang out,
and to see some of the other tourists.

The parrots liked the artistic carvings around the Qutab Minar.

And the pigeons were checking out the keystone-less arches.

At Fatehpur Sikri, there was a chipmunk who stopped for a snack.

Word is out that sightseeing is a good past time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Motorcycle sea

Delhi: it's a motorcycle sea out there.

Closed on Mondays

The Lotus temple is closed to visitors on Mondays.

Please remember this detail or you'll be taking pictures like this: looking for holes in barbed wire and posing on the wrong side of the fence.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Qutab

The amazing Qutab Minar.
This 800 year old tower is the tallest--and oldest?--minaret in India.

It is the first example of Muslim architecture within India and, therefore, has some unique qualities.

It combines Hindu and Muslim art and architecture, with its rounded and angled design, its elaborate carvings,
and the combination of wheels (typical in Hindu design) and Koranic verses.

Another unique detail is the lack of keystone in the arches.
The builders making the mosque complex had never themselves seen an arch, only had it described to them. So they did not understand the concept of a keystone for support. Instead they just made the stones the shape they were told to make.
No keystone, yet here stand the arches all these years later.

Something else in the Qutab complex is an iron pillar that has the claim of being a metallurgic mystery: all these centuries later and it is still not rusted.

Yeah, it's a pretty cool place, the Qutab Complex.
Lots of history hangs out there.

Snakes and tourists

I don't see as many snake charmers as you might imagine.
So I did stop to watch when I saw this woman and her husband posing with a cobra and two other snakes the man pulled out of a bag.
Venom removed or not, there was no "charming" music being played and this just seems very brave of them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scratching monuments

Apparently monument scratching is something we need to be concerned about.

I had no idea.

The elephant memorial

What is that tower in the distance?" asks the guide, "Anyone know?"

We squint into the distance and make guesses.
A watch tower.
A minar.
A lighthouse.
A distance marker.

Then I remember the documentary I had seen about Akbar the Great and how he loved elephants.

The story goes that his favorite elephant was buried here, and that the outside of the tower was decorated with hundreds of elephant tusks. Now those tusks are either gone or replaced by stone replicas.

"You're the only one who has ever known the answer," says the guide.

Chalk that up to time well spent on documentaries.

Restorers in Agra

These guys and their bamboo scaffold labor above the heads of thousands of tourists a day.

After they finish with their work for the day, the monkeys come to play on their scaffolding.

I always find restoration work fascinating.
All kinds of restoration: buildings, art, and the restoration of relationships, too.
Restoration keeps things beautiful.

Abandoned city

The abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri is a fascinating place.
It took about fifteen years to build this massive palace complex and its surrounding fortress. Akbar the Great's entire court was moved here, but then it was abandoned a year after its completion.
Maybe because there wasn't enough water. Maybe because there were wars and world conquering to deal with and there was no more time for playing parcheesi with live, human pieces or carving intricate details in red sandstone.

Some of the details, like this one of carved earrings are so well preserved.
The Hindu wife of the Mughal emperor had a thing for earrings. There is a wall lined with these earring designs--hundreds of them--and each one is unique.
Amazing wealth and artistry.

If lack of water was the reason for leaving Fatehpur, then it seems they've come up with some sort of solution for that now.
For visitors, there are now several of these drinking water stops. Perhaps it would be possible to move back in.

The "original left over water, though, really doesn't look very appealing.

Even with all the magnificent construction and detailing, I probably would have wanted something a little more fresh to drink, too.

Women painters

It is not common to see women painting.

In fact, this is the first time I've ever seen it in India. Women here just don't do this kind of work.

But these two do.

They were painting when I went to eat lunch. So you can see here the "before lunch" and "after lunch" progress.

I think it's brave of them to do something out of the ordinary.

Buffalo beach

There's a place in Agra where all the buffalo congregate for their bath.
Not something I see every day.

Taking care of the lawn

Every time I visit the Taj, I see different lawn manicuring techniques.

There's been the reel push lawn mower.

The cow mower.

And this time it was the scissors.

A visit to the Taj

Ah, the Taj.

It's not just a white marble building.

There's so much color and texture and life in that marble which has withstood centuries of monsoons.

It is, perhaps, the most photographed building on earth.

Around 10,000 people a day visit this famous building.

They are all over the Taj complex...

...People standing around posing...

...Or just lounging in the shade.

Three bonus bits of Taj trivia:

There are twenty-two domes on the gate at the East entrance to the Taj Mahal. The guides say this is because it took twenty-two years to build the complex.

The Koranic verses displayed are not painted, they are black onyx and are designed as an optical illusion: they get bigger the higher up they are so that the characters appear to be all the same size.
The minarets actually tilt outwards, so that optically, they don't appear to be caving in, and also, if an earthquake should ever make them crumble, they would not fall on the taj itself.

So many details. Click on the image below for a few photos.