a 1,000-year-old royal couple’s expression of love and piety: modhera and patan

Do you like stories? I do. A lot. 🙂

Especially stories of those who live larger-than-life lives in spirit and feat.

This post is the tale of one such story—of a king called Bhimadeva I and his lovely, loving queen Udayamati, who lived a thousand years ago. And no, it is no myth. There are colossal monuments they left behind as testimony of their love and piety, as I discovered one sunny wintry day I travelled 75 kilometres north-west of Ahmedabad in Western India, in the state of Gujarat.

Come, let me tell you more.

Son of Agni, the fire-god’s, Sun Temple of Modhera

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36 hours in kolkata

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Let me first clarify that this is not a mandatory schedule, or a list of top not-to-miss attractions. It is instead how I spent my 36 hours in the city of joy—as a traveller, art enthusiast, and a volunteer, and ended up falling in love with it, despite the lousy weather, crowds, and advertised poverty.

It is an attempt to see the city with very personal eyes.

Kolkata aka Calcutta is not a world city. I would not even call it an Indian city. It is Bengali where the faces are round and everyone and all road signs converse in the native tongue, under a colonial mantle.

The mix, I would like to believe, is unique to it. On one side Kolkata is deeply indigenous when it comes to deities and festivals, and the arts and music. On the other, it nonchalantly wears its monumental British legacy with ease and a stiff upper lip. Somewhere in between, the city has become synonymous with charity.

36 hours is not really enough to absorb all that it holds in its folds. But it sufficed as an engaging enough introduction for me, and maybe does for you as well. 🙂 Continue reading

global travel shot: the unknown 5th century shiva saptamurti in parel

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You may well say, Aah, I have seen this sculpture before. That is, if you are a museum buff. Wrong.

Allow me to make a confession. I often find myself torn between awe at the cultural treasures with which India bursts at its seams with, and angry at the apathy, neglect and state of degradation in which many lie. I know I am not alone in this conflict.

Exactly a year ago I visited the sculpture gallery at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. Like very many others, I fell in love with one piece. Continue reading

banganga: lord ram’s stopover in mumbai en-route to lanka

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“Excuse me, Banganga kahaan hai?” [Where is Banganga?]
This is the umpteenth time I have stopped to ask. There are no sign posts of any kind. Guided by countless shopkeepers, cab drivers and Marathi women with flowers in their hair, I finally find my way off the main road on to a small side lane with stone steps leading down into a valley.

Yes, I am confused. Around me urban Mumbai throbs with concrete high rises and bustling markets. The corner store keeper assures me, “Down the stairs on your right.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, sure.” And smiles.

So down the stairs I go, and at the bottom look to my right. A huge water tank guarded by deepstambhs, pillars to hold diyas, and surrounded by temples and dharamshalas clinging to its walls greets me with old world whimsical charm. Continue reading

nala sopara: mumbai’s ancient buddhist stupa and mythical temples

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The historical and artistic magnificence of India never fails to amaze me. Take a step in any direction and one is flooded with the country’s inordinate rich past and culture. Which does not always work in its favour for it lends to the Indian populace a nonchalance towards their own heritage.

Medieval sculptures which audiences lust over in international museums lie covered with petals and incense soot in temple nooks here. Millennia old crumbling edifices stand forgotten, holding on to time in desperation in an attempt to evade being razed down. And because they are in the multitude, one more or one less, sadly become irrelevant.

No part of this country is immune to its own cultural excess. Not even an uber metro like Mumbai. In fact even less so, for I have discovered and experienced sights here across centuries and religions, coexisting in uncanny innate ease. Continue reading

mumbai’s csmvs sculpture gallery: where stones speak of art and god

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Inspired by Mumbai’s rock-cut cave temples, I set out this afternoon to explore the sculpture gallery at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Yup, it’s a mouthful. 🙂 Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, it is one of the finest museums in the country. The quiet, tasteful sculpture gallery—a crash course in Indian history, religion, and art all rolled into one—is its highlight. Continue reading