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The Much-anticipated Coffee-table

Before we could say ‘lets finish the blog series on Rediscovering Delhi’, Monuments of Delhi had been written, designed and run through the printing machine…Thats right, the big book took 4 months flat from the start …There’ll be more posts on the photography escapades, but now you know that that was only a part of the TGV-ride… Here’s how it looks

 

Latest from Goodearth: Monuments of Delhi for the Archaeological Survey of India

 

Yes, its out! And the Prime Minister gave a thumbs up at the official launch! (We couldn’t all make it to the launch but we believe the news-people couldnt stop clicking…ok, the PM’s Monalisa smile could have had something to do with it..)

 


PM Manmohan Singh releases MoD

 

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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Shahjahanabad ki galiyon mein

Interestingly, our early morning trip to ‘Purani Dilli’ began with a ride in the symbol of modern Delhi, the Delhi Metro. Nidhi and I sit adjacent to each other in office but found the cubicle-less proximity much inducive to deep conversation and missed our station. Grumbling about the shocking speed at which the train traversed through the belly of the city and after paying a princely fine of Rs 50 to the Metro authorities we emerged in the heart of Shahjahanabad, Chandni Chowk.

The rickshaw ride through the ancient bazaar, watching it stir into break of day activities at the leisurely pace befitting the 17th century havelis which line the streets, was enchanting. The aroma of freshly fried puris and milk sweet tea filled the air while the shutters went up revealing shops selling everything from bejewelled sarees to electrical goods. Ajmeri Gate, one of the five remaining gates of Shahjahanabad, stands forlornly at the intersection of several such streets that in a few hours time would see frentic commercial transactions. Our task of photographing the gate for our book Monuments of Delhi was challenging to say the least. The single arched gateway looked imposing but was surrounded by scaffoldings as it is being renovated by ASI. When we attempted a closer inspection we were greeted by a large mongoose family, its current residents, who seemed to take our intrusion well and posed indulgently for Nidhi. The gate’s semi-octagonal turrets on the two sides and embossed motifs still look magnificent though.

Ajmeri Gate

We proceeded to Delhi Gate, again by rickshaw. It stands on a traffic island, at the junction of Asaf Ali Road and Netaji Subhash Marg and owes it name to the fact that when Shahjahanabad was built, it faced the old cities to the south known as ‘Dilli’. Today, it is identified with Daryaganj, the hub of India’s publishing industry which lies to its north. Like Ajmeri Gate, it is a single high arch with flanking octagonal turrets. While we took photographs of the gate at high noon, with heavy traffic constantly whizzing past it, we were amazed at how it stood stoically, unattached to the wall of which it was once a part.

Delhi Gate

When Mughal emperor Shah Jahan laid the foundations of the city of Shahjahanabad in 1638 he enclosed it within walls, bits of which now remain in Daryaganj. We walked to the wall from Delhi Gate crossing the offices of several publishing houses. The almost 13 m high wall, with spear holes and battlements, now serves as a parking space for editors! Cars stand in a neat row ensconced in the arches in the inside wall.

the Wall

As we wound our way back to the relatively new and structured lanes of South Delhi we made urgent plans to revisit the area to shop and eat, finding it hard to shake the aura of the ancient city that has neither lost itself in the new nor resisted inevitable growth.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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(Re) Discovering Delhi Part-I

So the latest project is a monumental one. Not just for the dimensions of the book… it’s a coffee-table… but its not just another coffee-table…its on the monuments of Delhi…yes, there’s one on every road… and its commissioned by the Archaeological Survey of India…yes they’re sprucing them all up… and its part of the intriguing run-up to the Commonwealth Games 2010…yes, need I say more? Anyhow there is more as regards our experiences working on this project, and we thought we’d fill you in on it in a series that the Goodearth team has lined up for you. Say Hello Delhi, we’re on the trail of the torch!

Presumably one of the city’s oldest extant structures is the edict of the 3rd century BC Emperor Ashoka proclaiming his expansive conquests through Dhamma ­– the great precept of Buddhism that took the age by storm – and enlisted in the ASI Inventory of Monuments as Edict in Srinivaspuri for the benefit of the interested explorer, me. After asking seven Delhiites if they had an idea of where exactly in Srinivaspuri I would find the said treasure, I realized no-one really did. However, my father informed me that indeed there was such an edict near the ISCKON Temple in East of Kailash, which set me to rub my hands and charge the camera and set off in pursuit of the precious stone.

The hillock on which the edict stands was situated in a well-manicured fenced-off lawn at the traffic signal after the temple, with the hallmark ASI board saying Protected Monument and nothing else. So I knew this was it and walked in

The hillock with the edict

Up where the air is clear

and as I climbed the rocky hillock, was pleasantly greeted by some enthusiastic children flying kites. They were even more enthusiastic to stop flying them and come running to see the camera I was carrying, but I proceeded up the hill, and found a 10m x 10m shed, enclosing a 1m x 1m cage that enclosed our edict.

The Ashokan rock edict...no really, its there

I tried taking some pictures through the bars of the shed and then went looking for the caretaker, only to be informed that he had left for the day (it was 6 pm) and nobody came to look at the edict at that hour. What he didn’t add perhaps was that nobody came to look at the edict at all, so I felt a tinge of sympathy for the guide, and asked when the keeper of the keys to the kingdom would be present. Come at 12, said an inebriated man who always came to the park to play ludo/cards and never really knew it to hold other attractions. But neither, I suppose, did I.

Footnote: The rock edict was actually discovered by a building contractor in 1996…it was thereafter that ASI built the cages and the shed.

Picture of the edict: Courtesy ASI

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2010 in travel

 

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Paint me Red!

Though a Delhite it had never occurred to me to explore Old Delhi, having heard of it as only being ‘dirty and crowded’. And it was not until my work as a travel writer pulled me with a great fascination to any place new or unknown, that I grew excited and impatient about the idea of wanting the see and experience Purani dilli.

A most appealing opportunity came when work took me there. No need to fish out time, wait for weekends or holidays to visit it now! We got a project with the Archaeological Survey of India to publish a guidebook on Red Fort.

After mounds of research and a rough draft with all information collated, we got ready to make trips to the fort, to photograph and experience it for our self. Armed with cameras and any/every permission required, we went about capturing the fort, inside-out.

The imposing Lahori Gate

The imposing Lahori Gate

 

The red walls of the fort

The red walls of the fort

There is a lot more to Red Fort than meets the eye. It took me at least seven (if not more) visits to the fort to be able to experience and capture it in its entirety – a general walk around the complex on day one, and thereafter a close look at all the palaces, museums, gardens and the adjoining Salimgarh fort.

Diwan-i-khas and Khas Mahal

Diwan-i-khas and Khas Mahal

 

Walking through Rang Mahal

Walking through Rang Mahal

 

The marble pavillion in front of Shah-Burj. The Nahr-i-Bihisht or the 'stream of paradise' that flowed through all the palaces started from the beautifully carved alcove set in the wall.

The marble pavillion in front of Shah-Burj. The Nahr-i-Bihisht or the 'stream of paradise' that flowed through all the palaces started from the beautifully carved alcove set in the wall.

Peeking into every corner otherwise out-of-bounds for visitors, climbing on to the ramparts and exploring it by the inch, we fell in love with the fort. The romance and grandeur of the fort undoubtedly came alive with all its tales and legends that we had gathered.

Scanning through their pictures

 

Lace-like jaali screens in Khas Mahal

Lace-like jaali screens in Khas Mahal

 

Taking a tea break sitting outside Naubat Khana

Us, taking a tea break sitting outside Naubat Khana

 

The eastern wall with the palace complex seen through Muthamman Burj

 

Gilded rich ceiling of Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audience

Gilded rich ceiling of Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audience

 

Diwan-i-Am

Diwan-i-Am with its multiple arches

 

End of it, I had visited the fort at all times of the day possible – shooting it in the early morning light, exploring the indoor spaces when the sun was overhead, walking through the gardens in the evening breeze, and seeing the little shops in Chhatta-Chowk aglow in the dark.

The domed Muthamman Burj where the emperor came out to give a public appearance every day

 

Ceiling in Sheesh Mahal

Ceiling in Sheesh Mahal

 

The colour and tinsel of shops in Chhatta-Chowk

 

Chhatta-chowk in the evening light

And needless to say, once we were done with our work, all visits to the fort would be accompanied by exploring some part of old Delhi! Visit to Jama Masjid, eating at Karim or Al Jawahar… shopping for silver at Dariba Kalan…rickshaw ride through the galis – the crowded, jostling Chawri bazaar, the tinsel Kinari bazaar, and Nayi sadak with its rows of stationers and bookshops…eating at Paranthewali gali and having a lassi in khullar with rose essence sprinkled on top from Kinari bazaar… aah what life!

Sisganj gurdwara

Sisganj gurdwara

 

 

The Red Fort project was thrilling not just because of the visits to old Delhi, but because it was to be my first design project! The first Goodearth guide that I design! And looking back I’d say designing the book wasn’t as much a task as it was to make a selection of the pictures, from the zillion we’d all ended up taking! So much for our zeal and enthusiasm!

Here is a glimpse of the pages.

 

 

 

The guide is available with the Archaeological Survey of India at their Janpath office. For any one remotely interested in the monument, I’d suggest you grab it, for you’d surely feel the fort coming alive for you once you’ve immersed yourself in the legends and history surrounding it!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2009 in goodearth guides

 

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Ramzan in Delhi

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Posted by on September 4, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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