Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sutlej at Tattapani

On the banks of river Sutlej at Tattapani, some 60KM from Shimla. You can see the sand and rock deposits on the banks. Tattapani is known for hot sulpher water springs. I must say that is is really hot.
As you descent from Shimla at 2200m to Tattapani at 650M you get a sense of a roller coaster ride with gorges on either side. It took almost 3 hours to reach there. Long away and down the valley you will start seeing a river. I didnt have any idea that that was the place we were supposed to reach. Actually no idea of the altitude difference between both the places. So Tattapani is almost hot and humid as Delhi is and where as Shimla was mild cold.
We were rewarded with beautiful gorge and hot water springs there. This is a religious spot. People come and take social dips in the months of January-February. Sutlej is the longest river of the 5 rivers in the Greater Punjab. Sutlej merges with Beas first and later with Indus before draining down to Arabian sea near Karachi in Pakistan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Akshardham Temple Delhi

Yesterday we visited Akshardham temple in Delhi. It is situated very close to the India gate on the banks of Yamuna. Photography is not allowed in the site. We had to be content with those gate / road side view of the marvellous temple.

I think for someone visiting Delhi this is a must visit. Akshardham means abode of immutable God. There are not many temple existing of this size and grandeur in India. It is an attempt to relive India's rich heritage and philosophy. The stone temple is created by some 7000 craftsmen over a period of 5 years. The entire construction is on sandstone. It has a grand movie theatre, heritage boat ride and a light sound show with in the temple compound. The shrine is dedicated to Swami Nayarayanan of Swami Narayanan sect, a saint from 17th-18th century from Loj in Gujarat. Swami Narayanan or Neelkanth born in a small village near Ayodhya in Uttarpradesh. He took austere life at the age of 11 and took a pilgrimage running into 7 years and spanning himalayas, eastern India and the peninsula before finally settling in at Loj. He founded a hindu sect based on Swami narayanan sampraday.

The temple emulates our cultural elements in architecture, sculpture and in the mythological elements in the sculptures. The platform is carved with elephants in their most lively forms, in jungle, as domesticated and as portrayed in hindu mythology. The main monument is made out of marble. There is no steel used anywhere, its all based on the traditional means of construction which is centuries old.

Whats different about Akshardham. Akshrdham temple is a recreation of the marvellous temples structures once used to exist. It espouses a puritanical philosophy aimed towards moskha attained by content way of living in devotion. It less ritualistic and lot less symbolic. You wont find any dieties in the temple other than Swami Narayanan himself. With all this you feel a new thinking in everything, the way it is conducted at Akshardham.
The visit will take close to 4-5 hours. So it you need to have half a day dedicted to this in Delhi. I saw some more images of Akshardham published in flickr.


Taj - architectural marvel

A very different view of Taj from the red fort in Agra. Also most impressive and therefore most published frontal image of Taj.
Let me tell you an interesting element about the lay out of the Taj complex. The Taj mahal complex is a rectangular garden divided into four with rectangular segments (divided by the streams running inside). These gardens are depictions of the paradise as per Islamic beliefs. In the current lay out the tomb is at the end of the garden. Most mughal gardens will have the tomb at the centre of the garden. Taj seemed to be a deviation. But archeologists recently discovered the 'moonlight garden' at the other side of the Yamuna which is supposed to be part of the complex (Design of the garden looked so similar to the one on the Taj side of the river). If you add that to the complex, the tomb is still in the center, with the Yamuna becoming one of the natural streams in the garden.

I have seen Taj to be a marvel in its conception. Very vivdly conceived and then architected. I would say even before the first brick was layed its timelessness was assured. Look at the very fundamental elements in its archietcture - built along the river side, built on a platform such that it gives a sense of hanging in the sky, the colors varying with the day, built on the mild bent of the river such that you can view miles away to different directions, and then the lay out itself... Add to that other elements of mughal gardens.

We dont know if Shajahan was planning another Taj on the other side of the river meant for himself. If materialised it will be a mosoleum for himself.. thus both Mumtaz and Shajahan resting on either side of the river.

Monsoon greenery

Photo taken in 2004 near Mumbai during Monsoons. Its cloudy sky and all green around. I love monsoon. Its a rice paddy in the background.