Sunday, February 26, 2017

INDIA'S QUTAB MINAR-A UNESCO SITE.

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Today, we visit Qutab Minar, a World Heritage site. UNESCO means the site is preserved by all nations because it is so beautiful and special that it is cherished by the whole world.
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As we walk toward the first set of  buildings, Hugo, always injects humor into everything we do. What a delight to have him on the trip. We rarely see a waste container, but India has a program called Keep India Clean. I'll talk some about that later.
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The first thing we come to is this wall with two domes and a tower. The tower is the main attraction, but I don't know how special it is yet.
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I got distracted by these beautiful parakeets on one dome. They are most likely the pigeons we do not revere in the U.S.
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Inscribed rocks in the wall show reused materials from a former life and then built into this 12th century edifice.
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Our guide leads us to this structure that Theo is photographing.dsc09518-copy
She explains what a perfect place to frame a picture of this 234 foot high tower. dsc09498-copy
This makes a nice photo too, but it does not do justice to the tower.
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A closer look. These columns are circular near the top and made of  circular bricks.
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An even closer look gives a better perspective of it's great beauty. Nearer to the ground, the tower meshes square columns and circular columns of brick, an astonishing feat.  To me, just viewing a building from the 12th Century boggles my mind.
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This is the entrance to the tower, though it is closed to the public. The tower  measures 14.2 meters in circumference at the base and 2.7 meters at the top. The original builder of this tower died before it was finished and a second Indo-Islamic architect finished it.  It was twice struck by lightening and repaired, the last time in 1503.
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The ornate carvings into the gate and walls leave you in awe.
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Our guide points out a section of wall restored.  I am thrilled and grateful that UNESCO has preserved this site from ruin.
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On the other side of the gate, we run into a group of school children. They are as fascinated by we tourists as we are of them.
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Children are so direct. They instantly bridge distances and you realize how alike all cultures are.
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Every surface of the gates-the arches are carved with exquisite designs.
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This arched gate is a mixture of sandstone and marble.
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Words pale.
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Another window.
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And another window.
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The grounds here are extensive and I mainly concentrated on close ups of the decoration. The square column in the middle is helping hold up what was part of the original structure. dsc09574-copy
This is the entrance to a tomb best explained by a sign. The white contrasting marble reminds me of ivory.
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Marble carving was perfected in ancient times and no one could afford to have such work done in this day and age.
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This site, the tower, the amazing history. If that wasn't enough, we have this famous iron pillar that does not rust. This great pillar carried an effigy of the great God Vishnu. It was moved here in...well, let the sign tell the story.
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Brought here in 11th century A.D.?   It makes me dizzy.
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Another close-up of marvelous design that defines this whole complex.
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We say goodbye to Qutab Minar...
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...and pass the well as we leave. It too, was decorated but not as elaborately as the main buildings.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

INDIA'S RAJ GHAT

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The name of this complex is Raj Ghat and is the place where Mahatma Ghandi was cremated. It is a beautiful walled garden where people come from all over India to pay their respects. The park is next to the Yamona River which runs through Dehli, though we never saw it.
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The gardens are beautiful and mats surround the area for celebrations and prayer on special days, always the anniversary of his death. The grounds are well attended and people sometimes throw flowers on top of the existing bed of flowers.
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An eternal flame burns at the head of his tomb where his ashes are buried.
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In script are the last words he spoke. "Oh God!" Our guide told us the man who assassinated Ghandi  touched his feet out of respect before shooting him. He claimed he did it for India. There was much anger about Partition. Ghandi preached that Pakistan was free to go or free to stay. Others felt that Pakistan must commit to Islam. His position on Pakistan cost him his life.
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When I was a kid, he was a folk hero to me. My dad talked politics at the table. After visiting the memorial, the bus took us to the tree lined, wide avenues the British set up when they governed India.
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Considered one of the seven cities of Dehli, a fountain in a roundabout sits near the government complex. No one is allowed to stop so our bus drove very slowly around and around so we could take pictures.dsc09416-copy
This is the seat of power for the largest Democratic Country in the world. The Presidential palace called Rashtrapati Bhavan.
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I was able to get the reflection of the building in the pond. dsc09418-copy
The ministries all have offices in this building, the Minister of Culture, Of Agriculture, Of Tourism, of Textiles, Health, and so on. Their parliamentary building.
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Modern paved streets contrast with the narrow lanes of Old Dehli. Next to this bridge, a tube can be used to get from one side of the freeway to the other. Very modern. (They don't use the word freeway.) You can barely see it under the walking overpass.
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We pass by the India Gate, dedicated to those who died in the 19th Century war with Afghanistan and those who served with  Great Britain during WWI. It has an eternal flame and a huge park.  Other buildings not photographed, National Gallery of the Arts, The Supreme Court, The National Stadium and some very modern Bungalows where the Brits lived in the days before granting India her Independence.
dsc09442-copy We stopped for lunch, Adam and Hugo are finishing dessert.
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Hazel and Pam.dsc09445-copy
Otto.dsc09446-copy
Ranvir and Theo. I didn't get everyone's picture.
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All of the restaurants are quality places to eat, but this restaurant had a glass window into the kitchen where chefs made nan in special barrel shaped ovens.
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They are fast and the man on the right quickly shapes the dough into a flat bread.
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With two irons he takes  the cooked nan off the side of the oven where he plastered it moments before with no gloves or protection. He sets the bread on the blue, cloth-covered wooden "plate" and reaches into the heat and plasters it to the side of the oven.
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Then he begins again. Tonight we have dinner on our own.
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Manju Sharmei is a Brahman woman, part of what is known as the Warrior Class.  Women are educated and in modern India, have jobs. Her children are grown and she enjoys the extra income and the challenge of perfecting her languages and in general, being a tour guide. Not all marriages are arranged in India but her marriage was an arranged one and she arranged it. Her father was a retired minister of the government at some time and they lived far from city life; a rural area where no perspective husbands could meet their class. So, she advertised herself, from a good family, credentials (her father's position) no dowry, also something changing, the dowry. She said she was attractive and had a pleasant personality. She advertised in several big city newspapers and got six potentials. Men like to marry a little bit above their class and that was the case with her husband.  She met with at least two men at a hotel in Dehli with both families present.  When her future husband presented, he met with the family, they spoke for about 15 minutes and he presented a ring which she accepted. Then, the date for a marriage has to be chosen by astrology. Their personalities must have at least 20 matching astrological points before they can marry. She was very happy to be a wife and mother until her boys grew to manhood. Her husband does not mind that she works.  India is definitely changing. I thought it was nice that she shared such personal information with us.