Posts Tagged With: India

Delhi’s Rubble and The Election Struggle

“Delhi’s rubble-strewn Connaught Place mirrors ruling party’s election struggle
Reblogged from Reuters via Yahoo

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Jantar Mantar

A World Heritage Site, Jantar Mantar is unlike anything I have ever seen. Located in Jaipur, Rajasthan, Jantar Mantar is a collection of monumental sized astronomical observation instruments dating to the early 1700’s. They were created by the Mughal Sawai Jai Singh during the Raj of Emperor Mohammad Shah.

Appearing at first glance as a modern sculpture garden or perhaps minimalist architectural assortments, the instruments are for measuring and calculating various astronomical features. Varying from ascending triangular towers and staircases to submerged and inscribe hemispheres of white marble, Jantar Mantar is at once mesmerizing and sublime.

The Vrihat Samrat Yantra or “Supreme Instrument” which dominates the site, stands at 27 meters and is the largest sundial in the world. I stood and watched its shadow sweep across the graceful arc of white marble, hypnotized by the movement of the celestial body upon which we exist. The Supreme Instrument can track time with an accuracy of 2 seconds. Astounding!

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Categories: Travel, World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Road to Jaipur from Agra

The road to Jaipur from India brought the first significant hills we’ve seen, as well as my first camel sighting!

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Jaipur is One of my Favorite Cities

Jaipur is simply fantastic. Situated in Rajasthan, Jaipur is one of the three points in the golden triangle, along with Agra and Delhi. Jaipur has much to offer, from dizzying array of historic sites to cultural experiences. Also known as the Pink City, Jaipur is a city of many colors. Of the numerous highlights of our trip, Jaipur provided several, including some of the most spectacular scenery. More on Jaipur to come.

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Categories: Culture, Travel | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge

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My wife and I are educators. As such, we have both come to have a fondness for Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, education, learning, and the arts. Saraswati is the consort of Brahma, and her knowledge brings order out of chaos, a metaphor I appreciate.

Although often depicted riding a swan, playing a musical instrument called a vena, and carrying a book, this early sculpture (above) is one of my favorite representations of her. It can be seen at the City Museum in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

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(Raja Ravi Varma, Goddess Saraswathi, oil on canvas, 1896. Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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Hinduism

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Hindu Temple, Nainital, Uttarakhand.

Wherever one goes in India, a frequently seen thread in the fabric of Indian culture (and neighboring Nepal) is that of Hinduism. It is seen in frequent shrines and temples scatted throughout India, seen in the colorful flower and cloth offerings available to devotees in street-side stands, seen in the bindi dot worn by many on the forehead. Approximately 80% of India’s 1.2 billion population practices Hinduism (BBC).

Despite it prevalence and status as a world religion, Hinduism, I think, is largely misunderstood by westerners. I do not claim to be an expert on Hinduism, but I have had the opportunity to observe and interact with Hindus for weeks. During that time what has struck me as most erroneous is the typical western view of Hindus worshiping multiple gods in what is often characterized as an idolatrous manner. Yes, there are many significant Hindu “gods” that fit into a pantheon and are interwoven into allegorical stories that reach back millennia into the Vedic texts. And yes, these “gods” are depicted as having superhuman and/or animal characteristics to whom reverence is shown and offerings are given. However, to stop there at that superficial level of observation is shortsighted.

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Hanuman, the monkey god, a monumental sculpture seen on the road to Jaipur.

The numerous gods present throughout the Hindu world, though worshipped and part of a complicated stories, are but many manifestations or avatars of a single omnipresent and omnipotent creator. A Hindu practitioner told me, “there are many names but only one God.” Hindus may say that God has taken on a physical form as a man, or as a “god” with anthropomorphized animal characteristics, all are said to be manifestations of the creator of the universe — that which cannot be fully conceived. This supreme entity is also symbolized as Om

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(Om symbol & Shiva, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In it’s barest essence, Hinduism believes in the existence of one infinite Supreme Power, or God, worshipped by Hindus in various representative forms, such as of the Father or the Mother and Who is the Creator and progenitor of the Universe. The most fundamental tenet of our religion lays down that doing good to other beings is the highest form or Worship of the the Lord and, conversely, harming them the worst form of sin.
-Birla L.N., Hinduism: A Philosophy of Life
Shri Lakshmi Narain Temple, New Delhi

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Language in India

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For APHG Students: India has 24 recognized languages spoken throughout its diverse population and wide-ranging regions. Using the front and back of the 500 Indian Rupees bill (about $8 at the time of this post), answer the following questions:

What evidence do you find for multiple languages in India?
How many languages do you see evidence for?
What language or languages appear to be dominant?

Synthesis: what might be other effective ways for bridging the language barrier when so many languages are spoken in one country?

World History:
Who is the main figure depicted on this bill and why would India utilize his image?

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Fatehpur Sikri

Just to the west of Agra about 40km is the incredible fortified city of Akbar the Great, Fatehpur Sikri. It is renowned for being among the very best preserved examples of Mughal architecture in all of India, and it is resplendent with details. Fatehpur, meaning victory, was built by Akbar in 1569 following the fulfillment of a Sufi saint’s prediction that Akbar would have a son to inherit his empire.

It was here at Fatehpur that Akbar built an enormous palace, complete with royal quarters and his harem courts. It was also here that Akbar sought the advice of extraordinary men. Said to have been passionate about learning, Akbar assembled nine advisors on various religions and the arts, and consulted with them in the Hall of Audiences, an awesome building with an amazingly ornate central pillar atop which Akbar sat when he consulted with his advisors or held private audiences.

Despite the architectural achievements, the palace at Fatehpur was short lived. It was abandoned in 1585 due to a shortage of water and its closeness to brewing troubles to the West.

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Categories: Travel, World HIstory | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Agra Fort

Only a few kilometers away from the incomparable Taj Mahal is the Agra Fort, a fortified palace built by the Mughal emporer, Shah Jahan. More than a simple military stronghold, the fort is built with a combination of red sandstone and white marble, and houses a palace of incredible architectural details.

Shaw Jahan’s son, Aurangzeb, eventually seized power from him and he was emprisoned at the palace. From the white marbled palace one can gaze along the banks of the Yamuna River at the incomparable Taj Mahal, where his wife is entombed.

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The Taj Mahal

Agra is home to one of the seven wonders of the modern world: the Taj Mahal. It is India’s largest attraction and is the largest tourist attraction in all of Asia. Built as a mausoleum to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631, it was designed by a Persian architect.

One sees countless images of the Taj, and one can read about its details endlessly. What strikes me about the Taj is this: it’s shear beauty is genuinely awesome. It is one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. It was described by Rabindrath Tagore as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity” (Lonely Planet). Well said.

I am also struck by its exquisite craftsmanship, and its utterly immense size — something usually not depicted in photographs. As a reference of scale, note the size of the people walking into the Taj’s front entrance. Stunning. Simply stunning.

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