Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jaigarh Fort – Jaipur

Our next stop was Jaigarh fort, which means the Fort of Victory, and is located 12 kilometres away from Jaipur. This colossal fort is the best of the three forts overlooking the city (the other two being the Amber and the Nahargarh forts) It is built atop a hill by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1726 A.D. While the Amber fort is situated at the bottom of the hill. Both the forts are well connected through guarded passages.

Nestled amidst rock-strewn, thorny scrub-covered hills, this rugged fort, was a center of artillery production for the Rajputs. The highlight of the fort is the Jaivana, which is the world’s largest cannon on wheels! There is a vast collection of cannons in this fort. This fort also served as the royal treasury for a number of years. A huge moat surrounds the fort, too !

A striking museum is present in its premises,with an extraordinary collection of armoury used during the bygone era including swords, shield, guns, cannon balls etc.

Another interesting feature is, the water channels built inside the fort – part of rainwater harvesting system ! There are a total of 3 underground tanks in the fort and the largest of them had the capacity to store 60,00,000 gallons of water. A 5 kilometre long canal can be seen entering the fort complex to bring in water from the high hills and store in the fort . A huge water tank is centrally located connecting the canal.
Truly, a planning and engineering feat !


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Central Museum of Jaipur

Located amidst the gardens of Ram Niwas Bagh, it is also known as Albert Hall museum. Supposed to be the oldest museum of Jaipur, it was designed by Colonel Swinton Jacob in 1876 to greet King Edward VII (Prince of Wales) on his visit to India. It houses the various treasures of the rich bygone era !

Unfortunately, when we reached this museum, we learnt that it was closed for renovation . But we did get a chance to take a quick look at it from outside.
This museum has been modeled on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and has many pillars, courtyards and arches that give it a very traditional yet elegant look.
One of the unique feature of the marble pillars of this museum was that different types of leaves have been depicted on each of the pillars, which is very interesting!

Museum visiting hours: 10.30 am – 4.30 pm

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. - Hilaire Belloc

Friday, October 15, 2010

International White Cane Safety Day – 15 October

Today is International White Cane Safety day. It is recognized to honor the white cane used widely by the blind and visually impaired people in many countries.

It is a symbol of the blind citizens in our society.

Throughout history, the cane, staff, and stick have existed as traveling aids for the blind and visually impaired.
Thanks to the Braille system, a blind person can read and learn too. Helen Adams Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Braille is a system of making raised dots on paper to form letters and words that are read by the blind with their fingertips. The basic Braille “cell” consists of two columns of three dots. The dots are numbered 1-2-3 from top to bottom on the left side of the cell and 4-5-6 from top to bottom on the right side of the cell. Each Braille letter, word, punctuation mark, number, or musical note can be made up using different combinations of these dots.

Let us endeavour to respect and increase, the awareness of this ‘Symbol of Independence’and for the blind people around the world ! For more information and to render help to the blind people, please visit the site,

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. - Helen Keller

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Navaratri – A Celebration of Traditions !

Festival of Nine Nights !
A Celebration of Success !
Victory of Good over Evil !
Worship of the Feminine Form of the Supreme !
A Time for Selfless acts and Prayers !

Also known as Dusshera, Navaratri (nine nights) is a major festival in India. It is celebrated for 10 days, from October 8 – 17, this year.
This festival is a tribute to the infinite power of Goddess Durga, the manifestation of Shakti (Energy or Power) Known by various names as Amba, Ma Bhavani, Aparna, she is worshipped in various parts of India, with utmost reverence during this festival.

Navaratri is celebrated in different ways throughout India. In Western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat, it is celebrated with the famous Garba and Dandiya-Ras dance.
The state of West Bengal is synonymous with this festival. During this festival, huge idols of the Goddess alongwith other deities are displayed at various places, and worshipped.
In some parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, many households create elaborate shelf displays of handmade clay dolls, called Bommalu kollu (display of dolls)

In South India, the Goddess is worshipped in three forms. During the first three nights, Durga devi (Shakti or the Powerful Mother), then Lakshmi devi (Goddess of prosperity) on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and finally Saraswati devi(Goddess of learning and wisdom) are revered, until the ninth night.

In North India, one of the nine aspects of the Goddess is venerated each day.

Vijayadashami, the triumphant tenth day celebrates the legendary victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon, Mahisasura. It marks the end of Navaratri alongwith the immersion of the Durga deities, which are worshipped for nine days.
One has to witness the celebrations held in Mysore during this festival, for this is where the victory is said to have occurred. It is famous for the elaborate Dusshera festivities ! Check my post on ‘Palace of Lights – Mysore’

May good, triumph over evil, forever !

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Laxmi Narayan Temple – Jaipur

We started the Jaipur City tour, by first visiting, the famous Laxmi Narayan temple, or Birla temple. It was built in 1988, by the Birla Group of Industries, one of the business tycoons of India. Situated just below the Moti Doongri hill, in the southern part of Jaipur, one can get a beautiful view of the Moti Dongri fort, which was built like a Scottish castle, from this place.

Constructed of pure white marble and surrounded by lush green gardens, this temple is dedicated to Lord Narayan (Vishnu), the preserver and his consort, Lakshmi devi, the Goddess of Wealth.

The temple has attractive stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology and rich carvings in pure white marble. It also portrays great historical achievers, philosophers and religious saints such as Socrates, Zarathustra, Christ, Buddha, and Confucius.

The three huge domes of the temple represent the different approaches to religion.
One can reach this lovely temple, easily from the city, by taking the local bus, rickshaw or taxi.

When walking barefoot * inside the temple, the coolness of the marble surface felt, under my feet, evoked a feeling of deep peace, satisfaction and gratitude towards life !

*one has to walk in, barefoot, whilst entering any of the temples in India, as a sign of respect to the deities in the temple. This also contributes significantly towards maintaining the cleanliness of the temple too!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Asia’s Most expensive movie !

Well, everybody is talking about it ! The much hyped movie ‘ Endhiran’ hit the box offices on October 1, 2010 and people who have watched it are ecstatic about it.

What is it ? 10 quick facts about the movie:

1) Endhiran (The Robot) is a Tamil science fiction film released in India and worldwide.

2) It is Asia’s most expensive movie and India’s costliest movie !

3) Officially budgeted at Rs. 162 crores, it also made the largest worldwide opening for a Tamil film.

4) The dubbed versions are Robo in Telugu and Robot in Hindi language.

5) The main role of the hero is played by the Super star of Tamil Cinema, Rajinikanth, who does a double role. Aishwarya Rai, who won the Miss World title in early 90’s, is the main female lead in the movie.

6) The music has been provided by the dual Oscar winner A.R.Rehman and the film is directed by S Shankar.

7) The Matrix team along with Yuen Woo Ping has created the stunts for Robot.

8) The team that created special effects for Terminator and Jurassic Park has worked for this film.

9) The costumes for the movie have been designed by, Mary E.Vogt , the Hollywood designer for ‘Men in Black’ series.

10) More than 70 percent of the total cost of this film was spent for the special effects alone.

Gotta definitely watch it !

Did you know ?
The world’s most expensive film is, James Cameron’s, Avatar, which cost Rs.1,200 crore.

‘Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater’.
- Roman Polanski

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yantra Madir - Jantar Mantar

A quick guide to the specific use of the curious instruments in Yantra Mandir (as depicted at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, Rajathan):

The Ram Yantra can measure the local coordinates of altitude and azimuth of celestial objects.

Jai Prakash Yantra is used to find the positions of the celestial bodies during day and night..

The Dhruva Yantra is used to locate the position of 12 Zodiac signs and also the Pole Star at night.

The Narivalya Yantra is a distinctive sundial with two dials - the first dial facing south reads time when the sun is in the southern hemisphere, i.e., from 21 September to 21 March and the other one facing north reads time for the rest of the year when the sun is in the northern hemisphere, i.e., from 21 March to 21 September.

The Krantivrtta is an instrument that is meant to measure the celestial latitude and celestial longitude of an object in the sky. It is also used for measuring solar sign of the Sun in day time.

The Yantra Raj is an adaptation of an Astrolabe - a Medieval instrument for the measurement of time and the position of celestial objects.
The instrument is used for measuring ascendants, altitude, time and the position of the Sun and that of some other celestial objects in the sky. It can also be used in the computation of celestial positions and their changes. The instrument also measures time from the positions of stars in the night, and that of the Sun in the day.

Unnatamsa for measuring altitude - the angular height of an object in the sky.

Chakra yantra gives the angle of an object from the equator.

Disha yantra or the compass always points to the north.

Dakshinottra Bhitti measures the altitude of the angular height of a celestial object when it crosses the meridian.

Laghu Samrat Yantra is a sundial that can give the time to an accuracy of 20 seconds.

Rashivalayas Yantra has 12 sundials for the signs of the zodiac.

Note: The traditional unit of measurement started with the smallest unit being 'human breath' that has been calculated to be of 6 seconds duration.

These structures remind us of the role of light and time in our everyday life !

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Largest Sundial in the World !

A sundial is a device that measures time by the position of the Sun.

Standing 27 metres (90 feet) tall and with a base length of 147 feet, the Vrihat Samrat Yantra (The Large Supreme Instrument) is the world’s largest sundial !

It is housed in Jantar Mantar ( literally means 'calculation instrument') in Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan.

It’s shadow moves visibly at 1 mm per second, or roughly a hand's breadth (6 cm) every minute,
It's face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur. The Hindu chhatri (small cupola) on top is used as a platform for announcing eclipses and the arrival of monsoons.

Used for calculating the time of the day to the exact second using the position of the dial and the shadow it casts from the sun, it has an accuracy of about two seconds. If an astronomical observer knew the time it took a prominent star to transition the sky, they could even use the Yantra to tell the time at night.

Live the BIG Life !

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Largest Stone Astronomical Observatory in the World !

Located across the road from the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, was our next destination in Jaipur.

- Was built between 1727 and 1733.
- Is the largest stone astronomical observatory in the world !
- Has the biggest sundial in the world !
- Is one of the largest and the only working observatories of the five, built by Sawai Jai Singh II (the others were built in Delhi, Mathura, Benaras and Ujjain)
- Houses a large collection of around 20, huge masonry astronomical instruments, each with a specific astronomical use. The main reason to build these large stone structures on a grand scale was to enhance the accuracy of the measurements.
- Has been recently (in July 2010), added to the World Heritage list, by UNESCO, as a cultural site.
- According to UNESCO, the site "is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India's historic observatories."

As listed on the National Geographic site, the other astronomical site added to the World Heritage list is part of the monuments at "The Centre of Heaven and Earth"—a sacred mountain in China's Henan Province.
The site includes the Zhougong Sundial Platform and the Dengfeng Observatory, built about 700 years ago at the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1271-1368) by astronomer Guo Shoujing.

I admire our astronomers and masons of yesteryears who conceived and built these amazing masonary instruments used to study the movement of constellations and stars in the sky !

Monday, October 4, 2010

The City Palace of Jaipur

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, ruled Amber kingdom from 1699-1744. He shifted his capital from Amber to Jaipur in 1727 due an increase in population and increasing water shortage.
And initiated the construction of the City palace.

The City palace is situated in the heart of the old Jaipur City, and it occupies about one seventh of the area. This palace complex showcases the grandeur of the royal past. It houses a series of courtyards, gardens and structures, the most prominent ones are:

Diwan -E- Khas - or the 'Hall Of Private Audience'. After crossing the first square, one comes across this hall which was meant for private audience. The famous mammoth silver vessels are on display in this hall.

Diwan-I-Aam - was meant for public audience, at present, is an art gallery which showcases enthralling painted ceilings and rare ancient handwritten original manuscripts of Hindu scriptures.

Chandra Mahal - This seven storeyed palace, displays wonderful architecture with delicate paintings, floral decorations and mirror work on the walls. The topmost floor is known as Mukut Mahal. In the present day, this palace serves as the residence of ex-ruler. The complex contains an excellent museum of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and has an extensive collection of art, carpets, enamelware and old weapons.

Badal Mahal - stands opposite to Chandra Mahal.

Shri Govind Dev Temple - stands in the middle of the Chandra Mahal and the Badal Mahal.

Mubarak Mahal - built by Maharaja Madho Singh, is converted into a costume gallery, which displays royal attires of the kings.

Maharani's Palace - which was meant for royal queens, has been converted into a museum, and display weapons dated back to the 15th century.

Seeing is Believing !