Sunday, 17 June 2018

"Satkhanda” and Mini Taj at Chota Imambara, Lucknow

Lunar obsevatory. Satkhanda
In the city of Lucknow, besides the Bara Imambara and Chota Imambara, there are other Islamic structures that can not escape our attention. They are beautiful and attractive  and in terms of artistic work and decorations, meticulous care had been taken to bring out the salient features of Muslim architecture relevant to that time. 

Right across the road in Hussainabad  Chota Imambara, a unique building attracts our attention and it appears to be incomplete. It is a blend of  French and Italian architecture. This  incomplete monument does not have seven floors as it was originally planned, but is called the “Satkhanda”. What is the purpose of this strange structure that has only four floors? What about the remaining floors? It is said the structure was built with a view to taking a clear view of the Moon during the holy month of Ramzan. The builder  already had spent 5 years on this structure and , unfortunately, could not complete it because of his unexpected death on the 7th of May 1842.  With his death,  work on the tower - Satkhanda” came to a grinding halt. 

Under normal circumstances, the successor to the throne would normally resume the work where it was stopped and proceed to complete it. In the case of this tower, the next heir and later others were not allowed to resume the work on the tower  as it was considered unlucky and the ruler would run into all kinds of unnecessary problems if would venture to resume the work on the tower.  That is the reason why there are four tiers, each built in different styles.  This strange structure is under the control of the ASI who carries out periodic repairs.

 Mausoleums - Mini Taj:

chota Imambara,
Mosque at chota Imambara, Lucknoow.
Mini  Taj.chota Imambara
Among the other structure in Chota Imambara, the small, but beautiful structure that serves as a mausoleum for four graves  of the son, daughter and son-in-law of the King Mohammed Ali Shah and one of the lady. is an interesting one. This simply a small version of the Taj Mahal  at Agra built by Shah jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. 

This tomb  was built on the model of the Taj by the Lucknow's Nawabs to  impress on the Moguls that construction of the Imambaras was a prestigious issue for them and they would rather build many Imambaras for the benefit of the people, rather than wasting money on highly embellished huge and luxurious tombs for their own selves like the Moguls. The message was quite clear:  For the Lucknowi Nawabs the holy prophet of Islam and his family  are close to their heart and more   important than themselves. They would build many structures that were useful to the pious people. This magnanimous attitude of the rich rulers helped them gain the trust of their subjects.

Mausoleum of the King and his mother: The Imambara building is flanked on the two sides by two white buildings which look a lot like mini Taj Mahal. The tomb of Princess Zinat Asiya, daughter of King Mohammad Ali Shah Bahadur is quite attractive.  These are actually the mausoleums for the King, his mother and his family members and the architect got the inspiration from  the iconic Taj Mahal.They though lack any decorative works of arts, embellishment and attractive calligraphy, etc., have their own aura about them. Yes, they stylishly simple and opulent.

Awe-inspiring Chota Imambara - a symbol of Lucknow's Nawabi legacy

Chhota Imambara in
Chhota Imambara in
Chhota Imambara in Lucknow.The Concrete Paparazzi

The city of Lucknow, UP is well-known for numerous Islamic monuments  of exceptional beauty  and artistic excellence, this is the reason why lots of tourists visit this city that is steeped in history. Among the various historical structures, the Imambaras attract our attention. Of particular interest to us are the Chota Imambara  and Bara Imambara.  Bara Imambara is an amazing piece of architecture, a rare kind in the world and a proud symbol of Lucknow's Nawabi heritage and legacy. The Nawabs of Lucknow were originally from Iran and followers of Shia 
sect. The story of the Nawabs of Lucknow, the capital of the erstwhile state of Oudh or Awadh, begins in 1722 and they were all great builders of beautiful buildings rich in art work and stylish in style. More often  than not, Lucknow is called a Shea city and festivities of this city are  closely associated with the Remembrance of Muharram. Once under the Moguls, the Nawabs of Awadh later became independent rulers when Mogul's influence declined.
Naubat Khana or ceremonial gateway Chhota Imambara.wikipedia

Not many visitors to this city of Nawabs realize that Chota Imambara is equally and, in some way,  more beautiful structure than Bara Imambara. The amazing beauty of Chota Imambara is overshadowed by the massive and ornate Bara (Bada) Imambara.
Chhota Imambara in Lucknow.
Chota Imambara also called as Hussainabad Imambara standing to the west of Bara Imambara,  was built by Muhammad Ali Shah (1837-42), the Nawab of Awadh in 1838. Located in the prime location of the city, it was constructed as  an Imambara. Imambara is a place of worship or congregation for Shia Muslims. In Lucknow these also house the Tazias built during Muharram. Later it served as  his own mausoleum and his mother as well who  was buried  by his side. It is an highly embellished, ornate structure with  gilded dome, several turrets, eye-catching chandeliers  specially imported  from Belgium, gilt-edged mirrors and colorful  stucco works  which adorn the interiors.
A truly unexceptional monument of Islamic style of Mogul design accentuated by a golden dome and fine calligraphy on the exterior of the building that, when it is lit up on festive occasions, comes alive. It is opulent in its own way and no comparison is needed.
Chhota Imambara in Lucknow.
This Imambara has  two halls and a Shehnasheen (a platform where the Zarih of Imam Hussain is kept.) Zarih refers to the  protective grill or structure which is placed on the grave of Imam Hussain at Karbala, Iraq. Azakhana is a richly decorated large hall bordered in white and green with stunning chandeliers and a good number of crystal glass lamp-stands. No doubt, Chota Imambara is called the palace of light by Westerners as it is nicely embellished. The highlight of the exterior is beautifully decorated holy Quranic verses in Islamic calligraphy. The holy five  Panjetan,is given due importance with five main doorways. The Chota Imambara, as it is called, not only consists of the Imambara, but also other structures.  As mentioned earlier,it owes its  originto the 9th Nawab, Abul Fateh Moin-ud-din, a.k.a. Muhammad Ali Shah. It was to serve as his final resting place as well.
Chhota Imambara in
It  is a heritage building under the ASI, but, worship  is allowed at the site under the care of the Hussainabad Trust. To access  the Bara and Chota Imambaras and the Picture Gallery, , visitors have to purchase admission tickets.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Historical Solah Khamba Masjid, Bidar, Karnataka - largest Muslim structure

Solah Khamba Masjid, Bidar.Ixig
Solah Khamba Masjid,
Solah Masjid or the Zenani Masjid or the sixteen-columned prayer hall, in Bidar is a well-known tourist destination.  Built in 1423 AD by  Qubil Sultani Prince Muhammad before shifting the capital to Bidar, this  mosque is said to be the  largest in India and the oldest Muslim structure in Bidar. This mosque is steeped in Islamic history as we learn that the Mogul ruler  Aurangzeb, after the conquest of Bidar, held prayers in the mosque  here to decree Mogul  sovereignty. The gate opposite to the royal baths leads to the gardens of the old Lal Bagh and the ladies apartments - Zanana. Once this big garden had interesting  water fountains and a series of water cascades, but now we are left with only remnants. Once you get to the top you will get a vista of the serene and panoramic surroundings  around the old structure.
Inside. Solah Khamba Masjid,flickr.comSolah Khamb
The mosque has a large prayer hall divided into a large number of aisles by massive circular columns, the central one towards the western end being more spacious. Here, the faithfuls can do their Namaz comfortably as the hall is large. Yet another advantage is since the structure has a covered corridor all around, inside the mosque it is cool and in the summer time one can pray without sweating it out.  The roof is  topped by a majestic dome of fine shape, raised on a high clerestory with lattice -type windows with perforated screen-work in different geometrical patterns.  A parapet of beautiful designs above the imposing arcade adds to its beauty. This impressive structure is a good example of the second phase of Deccani style. Solah Khamba Mosque is also known as the Zanana Masjid, This mosque is about 90 metres long and 24 metres wide. Behind the southern wall of this mosque, there is a large well. The massive structure has 16 pillars made of granite with lime mortar. Actually, it means  the mosque has 16 gates  to enter and they are resting on 15  Columns.
The mosque  is located 2.8 kilometres from the Bidar railway station and is inside the  historical Bidar fort.

The Dargah-Qutub-Sahib, Delhi, a sanctified place of worship

Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki's dargah Delhi,
Dargah Qutub Sahib, Delhi
In Delhi, there are countless dargahs and mosques, each has its own historical  value and religious significance.  The Dargah-Qutub-Sahib, situated near Gandak ki Baoli in the Mehrauli village, close to  the Adham Khan’s tomb, is an important place of worship for Muslims who believe in Sufism. India is home to Sufi saints whose teachings are of immense value to the humanity, irrespective of faith being followed by the people. These venerable saints have taught us the the essense of righteous living and charity.  Muslims, who on a visit to Delhi, always make it a point to visit this highly venerated mosque. Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kalki (born 1173-died 1235; Kyrgyz Republic), a disciple and spiritual successor of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer was held in great esteem by the Muslim community here. He was a scholar of the Chishti Order from DelhiBefore him the Chishti order in India was confined to Ajmer and Nagau. His dargah located adjacent to Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli, and the oldest dargah in Delhi, is also the venue of his annual Urs festivities.  It is  said well-known rulers like  Bahadur Shah I, Shah Alam II and Akbar II lie buried in the various enclosures around the saint’s grave. It is also believed that if a person has deep trust in the mystical powers of  the saint and  makes a wish by tying a thread near the grave, he will get positive results.

Rupmati Mosque in Ahmedabad, Gujarat - named after a queen!!

Rani Rupmati mosque in 1430 1440 ADAlamy
Rani Rupmati mosque, Ahmedabad. MapmyIndia Map

Ahmedabad city in Gujarat state  has a number of beautiful old mosques  and some of them have superb architecture.  Located on the Northern side of the city, there lies an impressive mosque called Rani Rupmati mosque built by  Sultan Mehmud Beghara. Beghara (r. 25 May 1458 – 23 November 1511), was the most prominent Sultan of Gujarat Sultanate. Raised to the throne at young age, he successfully captured Pavagadh and Junagadh forts in battles which gave him his name Begada. Some historians point out that he got the title because of his big twisted moustache that looked like a bull's twisted horns. He established Champaner as the capital. 
Begumpur Mosque; Dindigul,
 A perusal of Indian mosques  reveals none of them is named after women. The exception being Begumpur Mosque (also called Begumpur Big Mosque) located on Madurai Road, Begampur in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu The mosque is named after Ameerunnisa Begum, the younger sister of Hyder Ali (1721-82 CE), father of Tipu Sultan. She  is buried in the mosque during 1766. 

Aurangabad. Bibi Ka

 The other one is  the Bibi Ka Maqbara (English: "Tomb of the Lady") and it is a tomb located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. It was commissioned by Aurangzeb's Son Azam in memory of his Mother Dilras Banu Begum (posthumously known as Rabia-ud-Daurani). The unique feature of this mosque is it has a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal, Agra the mausoleum of Aurangzeb's mother, Mumtaz Mahal.

Rani Rupmati mosque, Ahmedabad.MapmyIndia Map

 What is so special about this mosque.? This mosque is named after the queen of a Sultan - Rani Rupmati. It  is popularly known as Masjid-e-Nagina or Mirzapur queen's mosque.  The sultan was so much fond of his beloved wife, he named the mosque after her in fond memory.  It took 10 long years for him to complete the construction work in 1440 AD. The work on the mosque was undertaken  during the later period of Ahmed Shah I's reign.  Ahmed Shah belongs to Muzaffarid dynasty; between 1411 to  1442 he ruled the Gujarat Sultanate. The historical mosque is characteristic of impressive domes, carved galleries and tall and thin minarets. This mosque stands out above other structure because the fusion of Hindu and Muslim architecture  accentuates the beauty of this mosque.  The mosque measures, 105 feet long, forty-six broad, and thirty-two high. Due to the natural calamity that affected the Ahmedabad city in the year 1818, the mosque lost one of its minarets. The ceiling of the dome is beautified with the Hindu style patterns. The prayer hall of the mosque is of great aesthetic value, consisting of exquisite carving.  ASI has declared it as a monument of national importance.

The Grange, Yercaud Hill Station - Robert Clive used it as his summer retreat!!

Robert Clive stayed here.The grange.
The grange.
Yercaud. Hill stn. Tamiol Nadu. India Unexplored - Lonely Plane
 The Grange is one of the oldest buildings in Yercaud, Tamil Nadu, a hill station first discovered by the then Governor of Madras Presidency, Thomas Munro (1829-1836). Later, it was developed into a summer hill station and a center of coffee plantations by the then Salem District Collector M.D. Cockburn. His contribution to the development of Yercaud and its economy is vast and his tomb is here in Kotagiri. 

Yercaud Hill station. MADURA TOURS AND TRAVELS
 The Grange was built in 1820s by Cockburn for the purpose of staying there on his visits to this place. He was the one  who first introduced coffee from Arabia and apples and other fruits from South Africa between 1820 and 1829. He brought to light the full potential of Yercaud and the utility of wooded areas around it. With his encouragement, subsequently many coffee and tea planters moved into Yercaud from the plains. It is  quite interesting to note that Robert Clive, the man who laid the basic foundation of the British Empire
Robert Clive of East India Co.1725-1774, Age Fotostock
Above imageRobert Clive,1st Baron Clive of Plassey, (born September 29, 1725, Styche, Shropshire, England—died November 22, 1774, London), soldier and first British administrator of Bengal, who was one of the creators of British power in India. In his first governorship (1755–60) he won the Battle of Plassey and became master of Bengal. In his second governorship (1764–67) he reorganized the British colony. He began his career in Madras at St. George Fort and there in the church he married Margaret Maskelyne. In 1756 under his  under command and subsequent wars much of Bengal fell into the hands to the British. .............

and who began his career as an ordinary clerk in the East India Company office in Madras (now Chennai) is said to have used this place  as his  summer resort during his younger age. Later he was destined to become the most effective Gov. General of India under the EIC,  In the late 19th century the celler in the building was used as repository. Today, the castle-like structure is part of the privately-run Grange Resorts.
Yercaud hil, station. Tour My India

During the tumultious period of Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, at the Grange, serious efforts were made to strengthen the roof, besides the ramparts were built with provisions to mountain Guns  and 3 Canons were mounted at vantage points to face any emergency situation. The Sepoy mutiny that started out at Meerut cantomment (now in Madhya pradesh) was mostly confined to northern states. In addition, a large cellar was made to hold provisions for about 6 months in case there was a long siege and the Europeans of the Area had to hold off rebels.
But this never happened  in the south as many kingdoms were victims of East India Company's unethical acts and diabolism. As for the south, it was quite peaceful and no untoward incident took place.  There is a well planned and maintained  Resort alongside the Grange, set amidst coffee & Orange plantations and Silver Oak Trees, providing a serene atmosphere to let ourselves loosen from stressed urban life and madness. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Tipperary Estate Bungalow, earliest colonial building in Yercaud hill station, Tamil Nadu

Yercaud: Tipperary Colonial
Yercaud hill sattion.  TN
  Located in the misty, picturesque Shevaroys range of hills in the Eastern Ghats, famous hill station serves as a regular summer retreat for thousands of people. Part of the reason is its location in the wooded area at an altitude of 1515 metres (4970 ft) above sea level, and the highest point being  the Servarayan temple, at 5,326 feet (1,623 m). The other reason is the prevalence of mild weather all through the year.  It ia haven for people from Salem and adjacent districts and also from border areas of Karnataka state. One of the early Governors of Madras Presidemcy Thomas Munro fiorst spotted this hilly area and later it was developed into a well-known summer retreat by the then Salem collector M.D. Cockburn in the 19th century. He was the first one to introduce coffee plantations in this region.
Yercaud: Tipperary Colonial Bungalow

Night Salem city.Yercaud: Tipperary Colonial
Tipperary Estate Bungalow is  yet another tourist spot and it was built by a relative of  Charles Dickens (1787 - 1859) and former Troop Sergeant Major. It is a 1900 colonial type bungalow set in a vantage point from where you can enjoy the beauty of the Sherveroy Hills. Standing  here you  can not only enjoy the vista of the entire estate and greenery around you but also at night you can gaze out the nightly city of Salem. It is one of the early colonial bungalows in this region. Dickens  and his family settled here and  over a period of time expanded their coffee plantation operations. They successfully ran the estate well for apretty long time even after India's independence. They controlled the estate till 1950. Presently the estate and the buildings are well well preserved. Lots of people come here and stay in the cottages.