Mysuru Dasahara(Nadabbha) 2015

Maa Chamundeshwari atop Jumbo

Maa Chamundeshwari atop Jumbo in a 750 Kg Gold Howda

Celebrated with traditional gaiety and fervor every year, the Mysuru Dussehra (called as Dasara in Mysuru) is a unique socio-religious cultural event of South India. Unlike at other places in India, the highlight of Mysore Dussehra is not the burning of Ravan, Meghnad or Kumbhkaran. It is actually the 10 days lighting of Mysore Palace with 100000 lakh bulbs during Navratri followed by an elaborate afternoon event following Vijaydashami, where the idols of Chamundeshwari Devi sitting atop the caparisoned elephant  is carried in a 750 kg gold hauda(thats true!) at the end of a 2 hour long pageant of local arts and dances inside the palace. Its a life time event to watch as whole of Mysore joins in the festivity at the palace.

Luckily, I happened to be there last week with my son and my brother and witnessed this grand event myself and also through my lens. The galaxy of invitees included the Chief Minister of Karnataka and every who is who of Karnataka. The current King of Mysore Raja Yaduveer Krishnadutta Chamraja Wodeyar too graced the occasion. The large participation of the general public of Mysore along with tourists from India and abroad charged the whole participation

The festivity as reflected in the pictures below speaks perhaps more than the words i have written above:)

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Beauty Of Mandu

Jahaj Mahal

Jahaj Mahal

Ever since I read the love stories of Roopmati and Baaz Bahadur, I had been yearning to visit the small town of Mandu. This small fortress town, a part of Dhar at an altitude of 2000 feet is perched in Vindhya ranges of Malawa. It is believed to be fortified first by  Raja Bhoj in 10th century A.D. The town got importance and prominence during reign of Afghan governor of Malwa, Dilawar Khan and even more during the tenure of his son Hoshang Shah, who shifted the capital of Malawa from Dhar to Mandu in 15th century. The fortified wall around Mandu ran for over 37 km and had 12 gates. The famed love story of Mandu took place in Mandu in 16th century. Rani Roopmati was a not only outstandingly beautiful but was a melodious singer too. Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Mandu fell for her charm. They married and Baz Bahadur got built a Rani Roopmati pavalion from where she could watch a flowing Narmada. The love story ended unfortunately when she poisoned herself after an invading Mughal army led by Adham Khan conquered Mandu and she was told that Adham Khan was interested in her.

The town of Mandu is spread over a large area and the prominent buildings inside Mandu, include Jahaj Mahal, Jama ,Masjid, Tomb of Hoshang Shah, Asharfi temple and Shri Ram Temple. The most prominent one of these is the Jahaj Mahal. The Jahaj Mmahal was conceptualized by Ghayasuddin Khilji(1469-1500) and was so built between two lakes that it looked like floating in water. It was primarily used to house, scores of beautiful wives and concubines of Sultan. Some say there were more than a thousand ladies living in this beautiful harem. Our guide explained to us in detail the intricacies of Jahaj Mahal. The intricate pattern of water harvesting and water storage was one highlight of this 15th century building.

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Jahaj Mahal

Jahaj Mahal

View of Lake from Jahaj Mahal

View of Lake from Jahaj Mahal

The other prominent structure is Jami Masjid. It was started by Hoshang Shah but completed by Mahmud 1st. The masjid with its raised platform was also used for dispensing royal justice for some time.

Jami Masjid

Jami Masjid

Pillars Of Jami Masjid

Pillars Of Jami Masjid

The Hoshang Shah’s tomb built entirely of white marble is also one fine architecture of 15th century and predates very well the white marbled Taj Mahal of Agra. Just besides the tomb there is a Dharamshala compound having hints of some Hindu architectural style.

Hoshang Shah Tomb

Hoshang Shah Tomb

The Tomb

The Ashrafi Mahal of Mandu is bang opposite the Jami Masjid and has a big courtyard in front. There is a staircase and the legend says that a King placed an Ashrafi each on the step, her queen could ascend. The queen could make a maximum of 160, leading to collection of 160 Asharfis or gold coins, distributed later as alms among poor, thus the name Asharfi Mahal.

Asharfi Mahal

Asharfi Mahal

Ahilya Bai Ghats of Maheshwar

Ahilyabai Ghats

Ahilyabai Ghats

The ancient town of Maheshwar is situated on the banks of river Narmada. This present day small town(part of district Khargon in Madhya Pradeah) was once the capital city of Maratha Holkar Kings till 1818. The town was known as Mahishmati in ancient times and was capital city of Southern Avanti. King Sahashrarjun or king with 1000 arms, is said to have ruled from here in ancient times. Great Maratha Queen Ahilyabai Holkar also ruled from Maheshwar for 30 years. The town presently is also famous for it’s Maheshawari Sarees.

View of Ghats from Fort

View of Ghats from Fort

I got a chance to visit the city on my recent trip to Madhya Pradesh with my friend and his family. As we reached Maheshwar in the evening, we decided first to visit the famed Ahilyabai ghats of Maheshwar. The path to ghats goes via many temples like Rajrajeshwar. We took steps downwards from there and reached the ghats soon. The ghats here are quite wide and you can relax by sitting on the ghats. The gentle breeze that blows towards ghats in the evening is really so soothing and de stressing that you will feel rejuvenated just by sitting there.DSC_5540

We decided to take a boat ride to glance closely towards the ghats in the lights of late evening. The sun had just gone down the horizon and the electric lights were just then put on. While I was looking at Ghats from boats, I found the ghats so enchanting and illuminating that I got hold of my camera and clicked few pictures to preserve those moments for ever. It was a bliss actually to be at Ahilyabai Ghats that evening.FullSizeRender_2 (5) DSC_5568

Ellora Caves:The Jewels of India

IMG_5891After alighting at Manmad junction on busy Delhi-Mumbai circuit, I moved on to the small town of Ellora, located on Manmad-Chalisgaon road, as a part of my long overdue Ajanta-Ellora trip. The 34 famous and magnificent caves carved out of basaltic rocks are divided between Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious traditions. The cave no 1 to 12 belong to Buddhism; cave no 13 to 29 to Hinduism and caves no 29 to 34 are devoted to Jain Gods.

Before visiting Ellora, I had only a faint idea about Ellora caves and was aware that these caves are part of UNESCO world heritage sites. However, looking at caves, I realised soon that I was seeing one of the most extraordinary structures in my entire life. The scale and magnitude of the effort that has gone into shaping these caves is no less than impossible. One can only be dumbstruck at the first sight of these magnificent caves. These caves were hewn out sometimes between 5th and 8th century. The Rashtrakuta King Dantidurga (753- 757 AD) and his sucessor Krisna 1 (757 TO 787 AD) are known to be big patrons of these caves. The famous cave no 16 having World’s largest monolithic temple was carved out in later’s regime.

The caves 1 to 10 and cave 21 are believed to be older and hewn even before Rashtrakutas arrived on the scene. It is also noteworthy that the abandoning of Ajanta caves and establishing of Ellora caves coincided to some extent. It is also important to note that unlike Ajanta, Ellora caves were never abandoned and this may be attributed to the fact that Ellora is on an ancient trade route. The reference to caves comes in writings of Arab traveller Al Masudi who visited the place in 10th century AD.

Cave 21

Cave 21

I started my journey of these caves from famous Rameshwara cave 21. Its amazing and has big halls with huge pillars, all carved out of the cave itself. The statues of various God and Goddesses are there and there is a seasonal waterfall too on one side of the cave called locally as Sita ki Nahani or bathing place of Goddes Sita. The cave no 29 is also prominent for it’s sculptures. The sculpture of Ravana lifting Kailash Parvat while Lord Shiva and Parvati are sitting atop is really impressive.

Rvana Lifting Kailash

Ravana Lifting Kailash

The most famous cave however is cave 16, having temple Kailash. Carved out of a single stone, the magnitude and beauty of Kailash is such that you would have to bow your head to those who made it possible. This temple still in decent shape was carved out in 8th century and is a real gem. The sculpted elephants, dhwajstambhas and whole temple complex is simply extraordinary. The temple was designed to replicate Mount Kailash and few of walls were painted with limestone in such a way so as to get an impression of snow atop the mountain. The temple has been carved at many levels the galleries are decorated with most beautiful sculptures of various Gods and Goddesses. The central structure or Nandi-Mandapam houses Lingam and the idol of Nandi is outside. The temple simply is unbelievably beautiful.FullSizeRender_2 (3) FullSizeRender

Kailash Temple

Kailash Temple

Among the Buddhist temples, the one at cave 10 is most impressive with the huge sculpture of Buddha. The prayer hall has huge columns and a courtyard. The ceiling of the temple is carved out to replicate the wooden beams in Buddhist style and matches with few at Ajanta too. When I was there few Buddhist followers reached there in synchronous queue and I clicked the following picture. The color of rocks and white robes presented the perfect contrast in morning light.FullSizeRender_2 (2)

FullSizeRender (3) Cave no 29 to 34 are devoted to Jainism and these too have some most intricately carved floral patterns and sculptors of Gods and various angles as per traditions. Despite being carved almost 1500 years ago, the sculpture are usually intact and impressive. The cave 30, Chhota Kailash, and Cave 32, Indra  Sabha, are most impressive. The Indra Sabha has two levels and has beautiful carving

Jain Cave

Jain Cave

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Indra Sabha, Jain Cave

After visiting to all the caves, I realised that these caves were not possible to be hewn without the devotion and commitment of the sculptors who would have lived there for years before dedicating this to posterity. This commitment after gelling with human vision and intellect can do wonders and while may feel happy to have the progress in science and technology, the scale and magnitude of Ellora caves will always remain an humbling experience for me.

Ajanta

Ajanta Caves from View Point

Ajanta Caves from View Point

Ever since I read about Ajanta caves in history books, I was eager to see the place. It has been a world heritage site as well and has all the ingredients to be on my to do list. However the comparative inaccessibility of the place and just an outside knowledge of it, led to delay in actually seeing this place. Meanwhile I had seen Rock cut temples of Mammalpuram thrice and was impressed by the efforts of ancient Indian, down south. However only when I actually reached out to Ajanta this month, I realised that what a great gem it was. Its simply unbelievable that humans could do it over thousand of years ago. I was not only awestruck but was humbled by the experience. It actually gave me one more reason to be proud about my cultural heritage.Ajanta_Caves_Map

Lined along river Waghora, Ajanta caves are situated in Aurangabad district of Maharshtra and is at 100 odd km from the world famous caves of Ellora. The Ajanta caves can be accessed easily from Aurangabad and Jalgaon. The caves, in all 30 and collectively lined in a horse shoe shape have been carved out of volcanic basalt rocks of Sahyadri hills over a period of 800 years. While the cave no 10 believed to be oldest, was hewn out in 2nd century B.C. The caves individually were linked to river flowing there by flight of steps. The last of the caves were done around 6th century A.D. The caves no 9,10,26 and 29 were Chaityagrihas or worship places while the rest were used as Vihars or living places. The caves can be broadly divided into categories of Hinayana and Mahayana. The earlier ones were associated with Hinayana where the stupas were worshiped, the later ones can be linked to Mahayana, where the Images and idols of Buddha were worshiped.

While the caves started before Christ, it got one big push during the Vakatak rulers, a contemporary of Gupta rulers. The Vakatak ruler Harishena (475-500 AD) and his minister Varahadev patronized the caves in their time. Their mention comes in cave 26 in form of an inscription in Pali. Hieuntsang too mentions caves in detail in his memoirs though he did not visit the place himself. However from 7th or 8th century onward, the caves were abandoned and got covered with trees and jungles. This continued till next 1000 years.DSC_4850

The chance discovery of caves was due to a British army officer John Smith, who while hunting in Sahyadri hills, saw the opening of cave no 10 from a viewpoint and reported the matter to then ruler, Nizam of Hyderabad in 1823. The Nizam had their own archaeology department and therefore worked for next tediously to unearth the caves in next few years. Archaelogical survey of India took over the protection and preservation of the caves after independence.

At the Entrance of Caves

At the Entrance of Caves

I reached the cave along with my friend and his son few weeks ago. The access to cave is controlled with only few devoted buses allowed to ferry the passengers up to the caves. After buying Rs 10 entrance ticket and Rs 5 light ticket (it authorizes you to carry a low glare torch to see inside the caves), we hired a guide Mr Sheikh to know about the place. The caves are little up the hills but still are easily accessible for even medium fit person. The cave no 1 is of later age but named as no 1 due to its location. It is the most famous one as it has best paintings left even after 1500 years.  The most famous is one of Budha where is holding a blue lotus and is in contemplative mood. This picture is called as Padmapani Buddha. The expressions on face of Buddha are just amazingly done.

Padmapani Buddha

Padmapani Buddha

The paintings of the caves were done with all natural elements and colors.  First, the grooves were made in the rock surface and then a plaster of sand and vegetable and paddy husks was applied to make it smooth. Then the 2nd coat was done with mud and ferruginous earth followed by a coat of lime wash. After that, out lines were drawn boldly and they were filled finally with colors made from flowers and other vegetation available locally. As per our guide, the lapis lazuli, used for blue color was sourced from Central Asia. The paintings done are based on Jataka stories, based on previous births of Lord Buddha.3339-050-84E7B2E8

Seeing these paintings you can not but let you eyes and mind, eclipse to the glory of Indian art and heritage of those times. And when you realize that these paintings were done after decades and centuries of rock cutting to create a hall just by chisels and hammers, you can not but be mesmerized. I had my notions about beauty of Ajanta but seeing them actually was initially shocking and when you realize that this was all done by devoted monks and painter over years, decades and centuries sans any technological advances of 21st century, you feel humbled.AJANTA_CAVES_-_C.SHELARE_(4) - Copy DSC_4828

I went to cave after cave and just continued to be bowled over by the magnitude and beauty of these caves and the work inside them. The cave no. 10 has this huge rock cut stupa structure so beautifully done that you will be only amazed to see this art form. In fact, every cave showed us one more aspect of outstanding skills of Indians sculptors cum monks of those times.

Cave No 10

Cave No 10

Entrance Panel of Cave 10

Entrance Panel of Cave 10

Its unbelievable actually that human beings would have toiled this hard to cut rocks and then to paint in to express their devotion and commitments. I am at loss of words to say more about them and I feel really privileged and lucky to see this one more unmatched Gem of India through my own eyes.

Maha Parinirvana Buddha

Maha Parinirvana Buddha, Cave 26

Actually after this journey, I am now even more proud to be an Indian.

Footfalls at President’s Mughal Gardens

Welcome 2015 at President's Garden

Welcome 2015 at President’s Garden

Every year in month of Feb-Mar the gates of Mughal gardens at Rashtrapati Bhawan are thrown open to public to have a look at the beautiful and sprawling gardens. Designed primarily by Edwin Lutyens, the gardens take the name and design from the Mughal tradition of building gardens in India. Mughals had actually brought this concept and style from their native places in Central Asia. The famous Mughal gardens built in then India, included Shalimar Bagh at Srinagar and Lahore and Lal Bagh at Dhaka. These gardens are characterised by significant use of rectilinear lay outs and of pools, fountains and canals inside the premises. Lutyens used this style while planning for Viceroy’s house (built between 1912- 1929) subsequent to shifting of India’s capital to Delhi from Kolkata in 1911. This house later used by Presidents of India is so big and huge that it is said to be second biggest residence of a head of state in the world after Quirinal Palace at  Rome.

Quirinal Palace

Quirinal Palace, Rome

So with so much history to boast of plus being the house of the commander of all the armed forces in India, the gates were thrown open for the ‘common’ public of India on 15th Feb this year. I was there too in the 3rd week and decided to see the gardens along with my niece. I was curious to compare it with, had seen by me, famed Mughals gardens of Srinagar.

Mughal Gardens Srinagar

Mughal Gardens Srinagar

We went on Tuesday, thinking that schools being open and exams around the corner, there would not be much rush. I was proven wrong as soon as I landed near the gates. There was a huge rush actually. The crowds consisting of youngest to the oldest had queued up on the gates. We too queued and after some frisking got entry inside. I was happily surprised to be allowed to keep mobiles as I could now click pics. The perennial stream of crowd however took over right from the start. Everywhere we moved, there was a pressure of the crowd.

The Crowd Everywhere

The Rush at Gardens

The public entrance to gardens is from the herbs plants section. They have placed name plaques of those plants including their popular and biological names. Then you have the bonsai section. It has many high quality trees to display including an impressive cluster of Jungle-Jalebi. I tool some snaps and moved on to next section.

Jungle Jalebi (Ingo Dulcis)

Jungle Jalebi (Ingo Dulcis)

From Bonsai section, you move on to a section of fountains and flowers. The fountains were favorites of Mughals too. The fountains including the musical ones are a big public draw and are popular among tourists for pictures. The fountains are good really, but you can found similar and sometimes even better fountains in many parks of India, although they may not have the credits for glorious history. The guards on duty were letting every body take pics provided they did not over step on the grass section. However with every other individual sporting a mobile camera, it was not so easy to get yourself clicked there. It was sometimes embarrassing to smile and pose while many more pairs of individuals are waiting impatiently to get that vantage-point to click or to get clicked. I somehow managed to get a shot for me.

Iceberg Flowers

Iceberg Flowers

We moved on the next section which has architecture of geographical designs. There are circles and squares and plants of different types and varieties.My niece was too keen to be clicked along those designs and I happily obliged with few shots. There is a song of Mughal Garden too. The song welcomes the tourists on behalf of flowers and plants there and expects them to plant similar plants and make them part of their lives.

Mughal Garden Geet

Mughal Garden Geet

Musical Gardens

Musical Gardens

The next section is of water channels flowing beautifully through various patterns in garden. There are many beautiful flowers here including beautiful ‘Icebergs’ and Tulips etc. The red tulips can easily remind you of Hindi movie Silsila shot in Holland. The President too posed by them two days ago and the pics were in all newspapers.

The President and Tulip

The President and Tulips

Tulips

Tulips

We moved on to see many more sections and kept on jostling for space to take shots. The enthusiasm of crowd was really great. They wanted to feel and touch every flower but the pressure of crowd was little too much to enjoy the beauty of flowers and surroundings. We reached the circular gardens also, another beautifully laid out structure in Mughal Gardens. These stepped gardens are impressive in layout and have a fountain in centre. The elevation gives a truly panoramic view.

Circular Garden

Circular Garden

The exit to circular garden leads to the gardens of Cacti and there is a beautiful pattern of cacti flowers there.

The Cacti Garden

The Cacti Garden

I really enjoyed the beauty of gardens more so with the knowledge, that I was right there in the President’s house and was watching the flowers and gardens savored by his excellency. The love and enthusiasm of the crowds or ‘common-man’ for being there was also pleasing and more than compensated for the lack of some space. It’s a real tribute to the democratic ethos of the country that most ordinary can access the most privileged house of the country and that the classes and masses can can rub shoulders with each other.

Adalaj Ki Vav: Stepwell of Gujarat

The Stepwell

The Stepwell

The state of Gujarat is usually known for it’s venerable skill of entrepreneurship. The ‘White Revolution’ emanating from the Verghese Kurien led efforts at Anand, is known throughout the world. That made India the largest producer of Milk in world. The Fortune 500 listed, Reliance Group led by another Gujarati also highlights the scale to which a Gujarati entrepreneur can go. This spirit of profit making grand ventures at a huge scale is matched equally by the the spirit of charity and general welfare, exemplified inter-alia in various step wells built over Gujarat and called locally as Vav or Vavadi. These were built in whole of western India including present day Pakistan for providing and maintaining scarce water resources of the time. These step well built on the important roads of the time and near habitations were primarily for providing water for drinking and allied activities in this most western and semi arid state of India. The wells present a window to the traditional water storage systems prevalent in those days. They also underline the utilitarian concept of the architecture prevalent at that time in western India, compared to subsequent magnificent eye-popping grand structures of then contemporary India. It surely reflects the value added and people friendly architectural-cultural heritage of India.The vavs at some places were used as a part of irrigation system by adding sluice gate on the rim of the well and by lifting water from the well through rahat type structures and then pushing the lifted water to the field nearby for irrigation.

The Stepwell

The Stepwell

I happened to visit one of these most beautiful five storied step well of India, situated in village Adalaj, at 18 km from Ahmedabad. It was built in Solanki style by Rani Ruda, wife of Vaghela chief Veer Singh in 1498( year of Vasco De Gama’s discovery of India). This is one of the most prominent step well of the region and is known by its utility blended with some marvelous architectural work Some stories associate it with Muslim King, Mohmood Begda and his support to the project and subsequent impact of Islamic structure. The stepwell is five storyed and made of sand stone. Its shape is octagonal and entrance is from south. The entrance leads down to three floors which have rooms at each floor and and had space for congregations. These floors are supported by intricately carved pillars. The various patterns and carvings carved on various floors and pillars are one of the finest examples of 15th century architecture.

A carved Panel at Vav

A carved Panel at Vav

The three pair of staircases finally lead to the square shaped stepwell at water level. In between there are adequate provisions of air and sunshine at each level. The motifs of flowers and Jain and Hindu Gods gel well with the Islamic architecture too. A panel showing 9 Navgrahas is shown at the door on eastern side of second storey. The walls are adorned with carvings of woman attending daily chores of life, like churning milk and decorating themselves. These wells seem to have been the congregation places for women performing various religious and social functions. Interestingly, the wells are still the sacred and integral part of marriages in India. Few mandatory rituals are still performed at wells, in all most all parts of India. Though with depleting wells, these are now performed at different water sources including ubiquitous hand pump now a days!.

The Well View from the Top

The Well View from the Top

Going down to the well and coming back up, you can feel a difference in temperatures inside the well and outside. In the third week afternon of November I could very clearly notice the temperature difference of 4 to 5 degrees between in and out. It would have been a really soothing place in this semi arid land of Gujarat and with the clean water to quench the thirst for travelers, traders and habitats nearby. Being there, one can not but feel even after 516 years, the contribution of Rani Ruda and his people oriented architects, to the society in right earnest.

Adalaj Ki Vav

Adalaj Ki Vav

Chhatar Manzil : Past, Present and Future

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It took me almost three decades to enter into the building I continued to watch as a passer by during my school and college days in Lucknow in 80s and 90s. Riding past this building complex in the heart of city in normal days, to me it was a magnificently built premier scientific institution of India known as Central Drug Research Institute or CDRI in short. It dawned upon me a little late that this drug research institute was actually set up in this almost 150 years old building after independence in February 1951 by the first Prime Minister of India, J L Nehru himself. My inquisitiveness finally was satiated only recently when as a part of my official duties i got a chance to see the building complex and a few of almost 200 rooms and halls built on the right bank of river Gomati.

Designed by General Claude Martin(1735-1800), the construction of Indo-Italian styled Chhatar Manzil was started by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan (1798-1814) around 1800 A.D., in the memory of his mother Chhatar Kunwar and hence the name, Chhatar Manzil. It got completed during the reigns of her son Nawab Ghazi-ud-din Haider(1814-1827) and was further improved by Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider(1827-1837). In fact there were two Chhatar Manzils, big one or Badi Chhatar Manzil and smaller one or Chhoti Chhatar Manzil within the same complex. These two were in fact preceded by the Kothi Farhat Bux(pleasure-giving) built by General Claude Martin as Martin Villa for his own use in 1781. It was purchased by Nawab Asif-ud-daula (1775-1795) but was used by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan (1798-1814) for recuperation after an illness. Nawab Wazid Ali Shah too lived here and even after shifting to Kothi Kaiserbagh, many members of the royal family continued to live here till the mutiny or first war of Indian Independence in 1857.

Darshan Bilas and Chota Chattar Manzil - Lucknow 1860's

At its peak it was a four storied building with two underground basements. The basements so close to the river Gomati were done to provide relief to the Nawabs from heat during summers. It was also characterized by a dome, crowned by a golden pinnacle, followed up as a style subsequently by many later constructions. The building had square designs in Gothic style and had a pillared balcony for panoramic views of river Gomati and around. Its front doors and windows faced river Gomati and its terraced gardens touched the river. There was a walking pathway also called as thandi sadak or cool path between the complex and the river. The underground chambers and the front portions were extended up to the river edge. It had large terrace on the upper floor with the chamber having a cupola or Gumbad, at the corner of which rose a pair of octagonal turrets with conical heads. Lakhori bricks with Lime Surakhi(plaster) were used as the building material in tune with the times. The rooms were richly furnished with imported persian carpets, silk curtains, chandeliers and mirrors. The halls like Durbar hall had walls and ceilings with beautiful paintings. The complex had a beautiful garden too which was enclosed with a boundary wall for privacy and safety. It was known as of the most opulent and modern architecture building of the times.

Chattar_Manzil

The decline of this building started during the turbulent times of first war of independence in 1857. Its boundary wall was demolished by General Havelock and almost all precious artifacts were virtually plundered and the British who had annexed the Oudh kingdom quoting questionable grounds, used it as the premises of United Services Club. There was a library too now. The Chhoti Chhatar Manzil was demolished in 1917 A.D. The building after independence was used for setting up CDRI under the aegis of CSIR. It was declared as a protected monument in 1968, but CDRI did a lot of modifications in the entire structure to suit its purpose including installing a lift ! The complex now had new blocks built in modern style. Adjacent to an impressively huge banyan tree an area was segregated to house many animals including monkeys and rabbits etc, used for experimentation. What a contrast it was ! From the sound  of music and thumari and bhairavi to the noises of lab experiments and sometimes even shrieks of animals on whom experiments for drugs would been tried. This out of the original purpose usage continued till 2013 when it was formally handed over to U P State Archaeology Department in a really dilapidated condition.

The future of the building now lies in the hands of the department of archaeology of U.P., which in right earnest has proceeded to involve INTACH in restoration and reuse of this magnificent and strategically located building complex. The INTACH is in the process of developing a detailed project report in next 4 months to chalk out a detailed plan to restore its glory. The restoration of almost 244 years old building would be a mammoth task. The plan is then to use it a showcase of Awadhi culture in its full glory. The tentative plans include creation of a museum depicting the nuances  of Oudh culture through the music, dance style(kathak), calligraphy, cuisines and  handicrafts like Chikan work and even social events like pigeon and kite flying. There may be much more to show about Oudh and Lucknow and its unique Tehzeeb(culture)right from ancient times to Lakhanpura to medieval and  to the times of Nawabs upto 1857 and beyond and upto 1947. These efforts, implemented properly on the ground level along with the beautification of banks of river Gomati may give back to Lucknowites, what they deserve to inherit actually.  It will perhaps also give a relief to the spirit of General Claude Martin and to the souls of Nawabs of Oudh. I may also cherish more this heritage hinged to my memories.

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(This article draws from the write up on the topic by the department of archaeology of Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. Its Director, Mr P K Singh was a rich and authentic source of knowledge on the subject. My own spot visits and participation in few discussions were of immense help too.)