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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View From The Top:Taipei 101

Taipei 101

Taipei 101

In year 2004, Taipei 101 with a height of 509 metres located in captal city of Taiwan, overtook the Petronas tower of Malaysia(451 Meters) and became the tallest building of the world. This distinction continued till 2010, the year in which it was overtaken by Burj Al Khalifa(829 metres).IMG_7023

I had an opportunity recently to visit this iconic green building during my stay in Taipei. The building has many corporate offices and some high value brand shops. It has also become a favorite tourist spot also due to the records and the panoramic views, it offers from the observatory area at the 89th and 91st floor. It costs a neat Rs 1000 in Indian currency to get an entry to the lift. There can be no other way too perhaps to scale those heights! The lift for the purpose is also the fastest lift in the world with a top speed of 1010 metres per minute, that is actually a speed of more than 60 km per hour!.

The Lift Display

The Lift Display

I too got up the 89th floor which has glasses on all sides to see the city and in fact most of Taiwan. The views from there are really amazing. I had reached there around sunset and to my great luck as the sun went down the horizon, all the lights were lit up in the city in all directions and the city landscape got illuminated with real beauty. I had amazing views from there and the pictures taken by me and before and after lights were on, speak more than the words I can think of.

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One has to be real lucky to be a witness to these outstanding views I was so mesmerized by the views from up there, that I spent almost 2 hours in looking at great views from there, from all directions, many many times. Every second spent there was no less than being a bliss being so close to sky.

Love you Taipei.

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

The Kumbhalgarh Fort

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan

Located 84 km from Udaipur in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is a ‘World Heritage Site’ and is named after indomitable spirited Rana Kumbha. He got it built in 15th century as second line of defense after Chittorgarh. This fort is also the birth place of the most prominent Rajput ruler, Maharana Pratap. Maharana Udai when was a child, and faced life threat in Chittorgarh got shifted to this fort by Panna Dhai, after she famously sacrificed her own son to serve the higher call of her duty to the Mewar state. Rana Udai later founded the city of  Udaipur also. The story is the most popular folklore of the region.

The Impregnable Walls of Fort

The Impregnable Walls of Fort

My visit to the fort took place in Jan’14. Though I was not very eager to visit it initially,  but conceded on the insistence of my friend Jitendra. But when I visited the palace, I was awestruck actually. It was simply huge and huge. The fort built atop a hill, 1180 mt above sea level is particularly noticeable for its 36 km perimeter walls which is believed to be the second longest after world famous great wall of China. The walls are up to 15 feet thick and the 8 row cavalry could ride on its wall. There were 7 entrances or pol for the fort initially. The views from the top are awesome and plains of even Thar desert and Aravali ranges can be seen from here. The fort area is really huge and in its hey days had 300 Jain and 60 Hindu temples in its premises. The walls run through the Kumbhalgarh National Park forest area. The fort is truly mammoth in all proportions. It is no surprise that it fell only once and that too due to shortage of water and not because anyone could breach its wall or defenses.

Views from Fort

Views from Fort

The entrance to the fort is through Hanuman Pol, which as per folk lore is the place where a human sacrifice was done to make the fort building possible. It’s a huge entrance gate and elephants could easily pass through it. On the top of the fort the palace rooms used by its inhabitants are still intact and so are, some of the wall paintings in Rajput style. The entrances to rooms and other strategic places have been located as such that any person coming can be seen well in advance. The architecture style is Rajput architect. On the top of the fort is Badal Mahal with a beautiful courtyard. It’s painted in green white and turquoise and sets a perfect backdrop to the area. The room where Maharana Pratap was born is in a separate area at the back and those who have interest in History can not miss the feel of the place.

Hanuman Pol or Entrance

Hanuman Pol or Entrance

The visit to the top of the fort also gives you a fresh breath of air and the views and surroundings of the place are such that one can not be anything but spellbound. One also is amazed by the courage of its builders and the artisans who would have toiled hard to create this master piece on the hilltop. If you sit there in peace for few moments and visualise the vivid images of Rajput kings, their ladies and the courtesans going through their daily lives, you feel nostalgic and even feel a sort of sweet taste of those times. You also reminisce about the times of Kings and Queens and when you leave the fort you come out with a sense of respect and awe of the beauty and valor of Mewar.

Fort with Lights

Fort with Lights