Thursday, November 25, 2010

Deogarh hills and lakes in Rajasthan

The illuminated facade of the Deogarh Mahal, a heritage property in the town of the same name located in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan state. When traveling by road, Deogarh is a few kilometers east of National Highway 8. It is 140 km from Udaipur, 280 km from Jaipur, and 170 km from Jodhpur, the three main tourist centers of Rajasthan. Deogarh was part of the Kingdom of Udaipur (Mewar), it's chieftain had the title of Rawat, and the family was one of the premier 16 aristocracies of Mewar. Their descendants have renovated and modernized the 300-year old Deogarh Mahal, and that in an Eco-friendly way.

The owners generate their electricity using solar panels, windmills and biogas plants. They have banned plastic from the premises and use bio-degradable materials like jute. Bio-degradable Haylide is used for cleaning utensils, the bathroom, metal polishers and for mopping of floors. Deogarh has a sewage treatment plant, which recycles sewage and uses the water in the garden. Traditional water harvesting technologies have long been used here and Deogarh Mahal overlooks the Raghosagar Lake. A few kilometers away the Seengh Sagar fortress is situated in another man-made lake. It is a small luxury villa with a few suites, each has a private balcony, and a common terrace where you can catch views of the forest around the lake. In fact man-made lakes are plentiful in the entire Mewar belt, the more famous being Rajsamand and Jaisamand, and the many lakes in and around Udaipur city.

Deogarh is located in hilly and forested countryside marked by igneous rocks, and undulating down to the plains. The place was quarried for several kinds of stones, like limestone, granite, and marble of a coarse kind, while sandstone was imported from the neighboring Kingdom of Marwar, located in the dry plains to the west. The Deogarh school of painting is a subset of the Mewar miniature school, and ancient paintings depicting the rulers holding court, hunting, celebrating festivals, adorn the rooms and outer walls of the fort. Excursions to the nearby temples, lakes, and forts, shopping in the town, or hiking in the rugged hills are the many attractions of Deogarh. The more relaxed kind can lounge in the swimming pool or take a break in their spa.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Swimming in Raas Hotel Jodhpur

An inviting swimming pool in the strong Jodhpur sun. This is the heritage Raas Hotel in the walled city of Jodhpur beneath the Mehrangarh Fort (image from Blacktomato).
Financial Times
Raas, Rajasthan’s most innovative boutique hotel. Last December, it became the first luxe hostelry to open in the heart of an Indian walled city. Snazzy blue-painted tuk-tuks ferry guests and baggage from the clock tower through buzzing bazaars; a wooden gateway opens into a calm courtyard and pillared reception; beyond rises a modern 35ft wall of rose sandstone; above it, blue cubes merge into the city’s skyline.

Besides the pool and terraced gardens are a 19th-century pleasure pavilion for dining; and 300-year-old ornamental buildings of the women’s purdah quarter, which now include a spa – all juxtaposed against a second block of suites clad in geometric jaali-work. Dhananajaya Singh, a Cambridge-educated farmer, purchased Raas in 2007 from an elderly feudal chief; his brother Nikhilendra found two British investors and engaged architects, Amrish Arora and Rajiv Majumda. Each of Raas’s rooms is a statement in cool, pared-down style, from their black terrazzo floors to the private balconies with 11ft-high stone jaalis in metal frames that roll back, like shutters, at the flick of a finger.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jamnagar in Gujarat

Historic Jamnagar in the rich state of Gujarat; old world architecture juxtaposed against a vibrant economy. The above carving portrays a lion on the left, Goddess Durga in the center, and a soldier with a musket on the right. The carving is from the old Dabargadh, the former royal residence of the Jam Sahebs of Jamnagar, built in a fusion of Rajput and European style of architecture.

Jamnagar was founded by Jam Rawal, a Jadeja Rajput who came from Kutch in 1535 AD. The city, located in the Kathiawar Peninsula of Gujarat, was modernized by cricketer Maharaja Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji in the 1920s. Rajputs in Gujarat write 'Sinh' (Hindi word for lion) while Rajputs elsewhere use 'Singh'. The Kathiawar Penuinsula is also called Saurashtra.

Maharaja Ranjitsinhji later built the Pratap Vilas Palace, with it's architecture inspired by the 'Victoria Memorial' of Calcutta with beautiful traditional carvings of birds, animals, creepers and plants. Its three domes are made of glass and it is a prime tourist attraction. After Ranjitsinhji the most famous ruler was Digvijaysinhji, also a cricketer, but more famous for being chancellor of the Chamber of Princes and the first Rajpramukh of Saurashtra state who sheltered. Digvijaysinhji was first chairman of the Somnath Trust which was the organization in charge of the Somnath Temple reconstruction.

The Lakhota Lake (photo from Panoramio) is in the centre of old Jamnagar and is the winter home for hundreds of migratory waterfowl from Central Asia, Tibet, and Siberia. In the middle of the lake is the Lakhota Fort, rumored to have an underwater tunnel linking Jamnagar to the nearby Kutch Peninsula. The fort now houses a museum, which contains a fine collection of sculpture and weaponry, from the 9th Century to the 18th Century. Near the lake is the Bhujia Kotha, which housed old Jamnagar's arsenal. One of its most interesting sights is an old well, the water of which can be drawn by blowing into a small hole in the floor.

The old Jamnagar Railway Station, built in 1897 and known for its Victorian architecture, may soon by converted into a modern hotel. The station was used by the royalty of Jamnagar and other states in Saurasthra and Gujarat; it still has imperial waiting rooms for the royal travellers.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orissa artisans need raw material bank

Known for more than 40 handicraft items, Orissa boasts of a major presence in the sector even in global arena, but to boost artisans’ efforts there is not a single raw material bank in the region. Name the craft and Orissa’s artisans would have excelled in it. From applique and pathchwork, coir, tussar painting, pattachitra, palm-leaf engraving, stone and wood carving, sea shell, terracotta, filigree, lacqer, dhokra, brass and bell metal, golden grass, horn craft, cane and bamboo, paper machie, coconut shell, straw and paddy art to flexible fish (brass and wood) our products stand out among others.

Quality raw material provision through designated raw material banks will not only help artisans in getting their basic input materials at a right price, but also help them insulate from the middlemen and touts, said a top official of a handicrafts marketing organisation. Unlike industrial clusters, the artisan clusters are poor in linking among themselves, he said. "A coordinated effort among all stakeholders and especially between states in western and southern parts with states like Orissa could be extremely helpful and a mechanism like PDS can be developed in handicrafts sector also," he added.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Patwa Haveli Interiors

It's all about keeping cool in Jaisalmer, as seen in the comfortable interiors of the Patwa Haveli, full photo at Travel Webshots. The Patwa Haveli was built between 1800 and 1860, by five Jain brothers who were brocade and jewellery merchants. This is the largest haveli in Jaisalmer, standing in a narrow lane, and is called the Taj Mahal of Jaisalmer.

The first of the five sections is opened as the privately owned Kothari's Patwa Haveli Museum, while the rest are occupied by the government. The office of the archeological survey of India and state art and craft department are situated in these. The five-storeyed Patwa Haveli has exquisite carvings and its design features include separate male and female quarters and a courtyard. The museum section exhibits the lifestyle of the Patwas, and their aesthetic taste, paid for by the rich pickings from the old trade routes of medieval Asia.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mumbai architectural background

The Western Railway Headquarters in Mumbai, was built by the British in a new architectural style called Indo-Saracenic, which incorporated traditional Indian design elements like domes, brackets, and arches, in modern architecure of the colonial era. Many buildings in Mumbai are built in this Indo-Saracenic style, but in a seminal held at the K R Cama Oriental Institute recently, scholars and historians traced back the architectural background of Mumbai to more than 2000 years!

According to a paper by Anita Rane Kothare, head of department of ancient Indian culture at St Xavier’s College, Magathane near Borivali has water tanks built for the benefit of Buddhsit pilgrims traveling to nearby Kanheri and Kondivite caves for worship and meditation. Then after a long gap we have Shaiva temples like Babulnath and Walkeshwar, built in the 18th century. Before that the Portuguese had possession of the island of Bombay and there are a few churches and bungalows built in their style of architecture. A distinct feature of these Indo-Portuguese houses was the ‘Balcao’ - kind of portico with seats built into it.

With the British Raj Mumbai's heritage was enriched with buildings like Sir J J School of Art, Bhau Daji Lad museum, Bombay High Court, Secretariat, David Sassoon Library, Bombay University, GPO, Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastusangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales museum), Gateway of India, Times of India building, and Majestic Hotel (MLA hostel). In many of these buildings the Indo-Saracenic style gave way to a modern art deco, incorporating modern design elements of the 20th century.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Udaipur City Palace pristine grandeur

The imposing and beautiful City Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan, on the shores of Lake Pichola was the residence of the Maharanas of Mewar. It is really a palace complex, with different Maharanas having added to the original palace over 300 years. 76 generations of the Maharanas, who are Sesodia Rajputs, have ruled Mewar but Udaipur was founded late in the 16th century. According to Travel & Leisure magazine, Udaipur is the top city in the world for vacations, with Bangkok being second.

In all there are seven palaces, each linked together, and each with traditional Rajput military construction providing grandeur to the vast complex. Access to the City Palace is also through three defendable gates: Bari Pol (Great Gate), Tripolia (Triple Gate), and Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate). While the palace interiors have design features from different time periods, like beautiful mosaics of peacocks, silver-work, Chinese and European ornamental tiles, inlay-work, gorgeous chandeliers, crystal furniture and crockery, and brilliantly mirrored bedchambers. The entire complex is the property of the Mewar royal family and a number of trusts take care of the running and maintenance of the structures.

The construction material for the City Palace is marble and sandstone from the Sajjangarh mines. The architectural marvel of pristine Hindu construction is seen in the large stone blocks being interlocked together without the use of mortar; this was common in all Rajput buildings which have stood for centuries. For more intricate balconies, turrets, and brackets, the local Udaipur artisans used traditional mortar made by mixing limestone soaked in water with river sand. Another kind of mortar was aarish/ghutai, made by mixing finely ground limestone with egg shells, pulses and colour. This traditional mortar not only kept the palace complexes standing, but also kept the interiors cool.

Friday, January 8, 2010


The green plateau of Hadoti, which starts with the hilly terrain of Bundi and meanders down to the Chambal valley of Kota, is in southeast Rajasthan. The princely state of Jhalawar lay to the south of Kota along the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border, and the city of Jhalawar is located on the highway connecting the capitals of both modern states, Jaipur and Bhopal.

Founded in 1796 by Zalim Singh Jhala, a general and minister in Kota state, Jhalawar takes its name after the ruling Rajput clan. Since it was a relatively new state, buildings like the Prithvi Vilas Palace (above) utilize modern designs. It's construction was completed in 1912 by Raja Bhawani Singh. An interesting historical tidbit: the Jhala Rajputs are originally form Gujarat and a stretch of land in that neighboring state is also called Jhalawar!

The older Garh Palace in the middle of the town is now used as a government office. Another interesting heritage building in Jhalawar is the Bhawani Natya Shala. Used as a theater, the Bhawani Natya Shala's unique architecture features an underground passage that allows horses and chariots to appear on stage. It was built in 1921 by Maharaja Bhawani Singh and named after him.

However places in Jhalawar do have buildings with 1000-year old architectural designs, like the Surya Mandir (Sun Temple above photo) in Jhalrapatan which is a 100 feet tall. Known as the Padam Nath temple, it was built in the 10th century by the Parmar Rajputs, and features elaborate carvings and sculptures. There are many other hidden treasures in Jhalawar, since it is far away from the tourist circuit of Rajasthan, like Bhimsagar Dam, Atishey Jain Temple, Gagron Fort, and Buddhist caves and stupas.
AVANTIKA RESORT Located on the main highway from Ahmedabad to the port of Kandla in the vibrant state of Gujarat