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