धरोहर

कहानियां बीते सदियों की जब हालात कुछ और हुआ करते,
इनसानों के बीच फुट कम, और पुल बहुत सारे थे जुड़ते।

सदी, जब ना था किसीका कोई भगवान, और ना कोई धर्म,
गोरा या काला, इनसान का रंग ना पैदा करता था कोई भ्रम।

जब मानसिकता नहीं थी भ्रष्ट, और ना था सोच में कोई पक्षपात,
सृष्टि का भला होता था एकमात्र धर्म, बस एक ही थी इनसानियत।

वैसी एक धरोहर हमरा हक था,
विरासत में मिला केवल विवाद,
फुट इतनी गहरी, और घाव इतने,
के पूरा समाज होने चला है बर्बाद।

क्या ऐसी एक धरोहर पर हक है हमारे बाद कि पीढ़ियों का?
क्या ये हमारा फ़र्ज़ नहीं के हम उनके लिए छोड़ जाएं कुछ अच्छा?

The stories of a different time altogether, when bridges between men outnumbered the differences.

A time when there was no God and no religion, and color of the skin did not create any confusions.

A time when the mentality was not corrupt and thoughts were not prejudiced, and everyone’s well-being was the only religion, and was the only humanity.

We deserved such a heritage. Instead, we inherited only differences, the fault-lines so deep and wounds so many, that the society is headed for destruction.

Do generations yet to come deserve such a heritage, a legacy of differences? Isn’t it our duty to leave something better for them?


Assembly Hall
The Assembly Hall, as this cave in the Bhimbetka rock shelters is called. It is open on both sides and held a very important place among the inhabitants. This cave was used for community meetings, with the boulder at the center believed to be the seat of the Chief.

Rock shelters of Bhimbetka were continuously inhabited from at least a hundred thousand years ago to as recently as the medieval period. These rock shelters look over the alluvial plains of the Betwa river (a tributary of Yamuna to the north), the plains which extend right up to the foothills of the mighty Himalayas.

Bhimbetka gets its name from Bhim Baithak (sitting place of Bhim of Mahabharat). The rock shelters find themselves mouth of the Deccan traps, along the Dakshinapath, the ancient important trade route that connected the southern India, which lied beyond the Satpura-Vindhya range, with northern India. The location makes the then inhabitants of these rock shelters prime witnesses to India’s unfolding history – Lord Ram’s exile and subsequent southern campaigns, the exile of the Pandavs, civilizational shift from Indus plains to Gangetic plains, Emperor Ashoka’s ascend, rise of the Satavahans and Islamic invasion of southern India. It was as if destiny had reserved the best seats of an epic called “India”, for the “primitive” inhabitants of these rock shelters.

They first find mention in modern times in 1888, by British India officer W. Kincaid in his scholarly paper, the rock shelters were physically discovered only in 1957 by V. S. Wakankar. Though thought to have been lost, their proximity to Bhojpur, the ancient capital of Raja Bhoj, and to the Dakshinapath means there have been exchanges between the inhabitants of Bhimbetka and other human encampments/civilizations.

What make these rock shelters special and earn them the badge of a “World Heritage Site”, are the paintings on the rock faces, created by the inhabitants. The oldest painting here is believed to be at lease 30,000 years old (oldest existing painting in the world is at least 40,800 years old and is in El Castillo, northern Spain). And then there are the cup marks on few rocks, believed to be as old as the habitation itself in Bhimbetka, and would be earliest evidene of human creativity, and so make Bhimbetka one of the earliest cradles of cognitive human evolution in the entire world.

Rockshelters of Bhimbetka, is entire mankind’s heritage indeed!

Note: As I keep digging my storage device for photos from Bhimbetka, I will update this blog post.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Buddha, who?

He is Avalokiteshwara also known as Padmapani. He is a Bodhisattva, who embodies compassion of all the Buddhas. Avalokiteshwara literally translates into “Lord who contemplates”, and Padmapani is someone who has a lotus in his hand (Padma – lotus, Pani – hand).

Per early Buddhism, Bodhisattva is Gautama Buddha in his previous lives, and forms the very foundation of Jataka tales. According to later Buddhism, Bodhisattva is someone who has a wish and mind compassionate enough to attain Buddhahood.

Who is a Buddha?

Wait! What do I mean by “a” Buddha? Were there more than one Buddhas?

By Buddha, we generally mean Gautama Buddha. And He was just one of them, but unquestionably the most popular one. Actually, Buddha is someone who has attained enlightenment and has fully comprehended the four noble truths of – pain, origin of pain, cessation of pain, and the path that will lead to the cessation of pain.

According to contemporary Tibetan Buddhism, Avalokiteshwara is someone who looks after all beings with compassion, and usually emanates as Dalai Lama. He is also known as Shadakshari, the “Lord of six syllables”.

What six syllables?

If you have seen those colourful Tibetan prayer flags, have you ever wondered what is written on them? This is what you will find written on them – “Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum”. That’s six syllables. Each of these six syllables are believed to purify the following things in humans, respectively – Pride or Ego, Jealousy or Lust, Passion or Desire, Ignorance or Prejudice, Greed or Possessiveness, Aggression or Hatred. That is precisely all of humanity’s problems in six syllables.

Padmapani
Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India.

Why Buddha?

In ancient India, when the vedic culture turned from being highly scientific into merely ritualistic, the caste system became very rigid. And a vacuum was created which demanded the presence of a spiritual leader who could make humans see the things the way the were, and hence emergence of Gautama Buddha. And He became popular for taking a scientific approach towards attaining Nirvana. His teachings were very simple and spread like wildfire, sweeping settlement after settlement, and laid foundation of early Buddhism.

In frame: Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India. You can find this painting on the left side of the sanctum in cave no.: 1 of Ajanta. Because of extremely low light, photographing paintings inside the Ajanta caves can be challenging and can put your technical skills to test, especially if you are clicking in manual mode.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Dome Diaries – Part III: Two and a half tombs, and other things

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

Introduction:

With more than hundred domes of all sizes (the largest of them is 44 mts in diameter, you read that right!), Bijapur is called the “City of Domes”. Of all the structures, the most imposing, intriguing and fascinating are the mausoleums of Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Mohammed Adil Shah, namely Ibrahim Rouza and Gol Gumbaz, respectively. Looks like these Sultans who reigned over Bijapur during its most prosperous period had their mortal life sorted, so they focused more on making their permanent resting places (read tombs) worth staying for a really long long time.

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Image: Ibrahim Rouza and the mosque in Bijapur, Karnataka, India under the pre-monsoon cotton candies, as seen from the entrance

Wait! That’s just two tombs. What is half a tomb? Read on, and you will find out.

TOMB I: Ibrahim Rouza

Ibrahim Rouza was originally commissioned by Ibrahim Adil Shah II as a mausoleum for his beloved queen consort, Taj Sultana, at least half a century before the “monument of love”. That’s right! The Sultan probably laid the foundation of the idea to dedicate grand mausoleums to consorts, which culminated in the grandest of them all, the Taj Mahal in Agra. Although he commissioned the mausoleum for his queen, it was Ibrahim Adil Shah II who died first, and was eventually buried there. Hence, it is named after him, Ibrahim Rouza. It is widely believed that Ibrahim Rouza was the inspiration behind Taj Mahal.

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Image: Ibrahim Rouza in Bijapur, Karnataka, India, as seen up close 

Designed by Persian architect Malik Sandal, this magnificently ornate structure is built of dark grey basalt till the base of the dome. The dome is made of brick and mortar. What makes Ibrahim Rouza stunning is not what is visible from far away, but what is visible from up close. Its walls are filled with fine calligraphy in Arabic, mainly religious. The top portions of the windows also have religious calligraphy in Arabic, but in the form of lattice work on stone. The workers who created these masterpieces would have to be expert craftsmen in lattice work, as well as well-versed with religious scriptures and Arabic.

TOMB II: Gol Gumbaz

Also designed as a mausoleum by Malik Sandal for Mohammed Adil Shah, son of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, at more than seven storeys high Gol Gambuz is the most iconic structure of Bijapur, and the second largest freestanding dome in the world, measuring 44 meters in diameter. The location was chosen for this grand structure because the builders could use a very large basalt as a foundation for this imposing structure. It is said that it took 20,000 men, 23 years to build Gol Gumbaz.

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Image: Gol Gumbaz, the most iconic structure in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The technique they used here is interesting – perpendicularly overlapping squares as the base, intersecting arches using interlocking stones till the base of the dome, brick mortar on an wooden false structure for the dome, and the wooden structure was removed once the dome was complete. The thickness of the walls on the ground level is about 15 feets, at the base of the dome it is 10 feets, and the width of the dome itself is 9 feets.

HALF A TOMB: Barakamaan

Inspired by his grandfather and father’s mausoleums, Ali Adil Shah II went about starting the work on his mausoleum. Actually planned to be more than twelve storeys high (and hence the name Barakamaan – Bara means twelve and Kamaan means arch) when complete, this structure would have dwarfed the Gol Gumbaz, and could have claimed to be the largest freestanding dome in the world.

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Image: The arches of Barakamaan in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Constant power struggle with the Marathas and pressure from the Mughals meant Ali Adil Shah II could not make available all the resources that this mega structure would need to be completed. And as luck would have it, he would die with his mausoleum still unfinished and would be buried there. As he was the last Sultan of Bijapur to die independent, he would continue to lay under the open skies for eternity.

And other things..

Apart from the two and a half tombs, Bijapur also has two palaces – Gagan Mahal and Asar Mahal built by Ali Adil Shah I and Mohammed Adil Shah, respectively. Built in Persian style, these palaces are much less ornamental than the Adil Shahi mausoleums. Usually two stories high, the roofs were supported by wooden beams, made of teak wood. One such beam can be seen lying beside the Asar Mahal. It is said that the last Adil Shahi Sultan, Sikander Adil Shah surrendered in front of Aurangzeb in Gagan Mahal.

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Image: Asar Mahal in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The initial Adil Shahi rulers mostly followed Shia Islam, until Ibrahim Adil Shah II converted to Sunni Islam in 1552. His father Ali Adil Shah I had built the Jama Masjid, the Mehraab of which was redecorated with gold paintings by his son Mohammed Adil Shah, and is still one of the most decorated Mehraabs in India. The mosque was built to be used for prayers on special occasions. Given that Adil Shah I was born a Sunni but converted to Shia during later years, the Jama mosque did not have an eastern gate, as is the Sunni practice. The eastern gate was a later addition.

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Image: A guide explains its history to visitors in front of the beautiful Mehraab of Jama Masjid in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Ali Adil Shah I is also credited with building the citadel and the fort, among other things, especially in the post Talikota period. It was during his reign, and reigns of his adopted son Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Mohammed Adil Shah, Bijapur got its iconic buildings. It was a period when Bijapur bloomed, before fading away in the pages of history.

END OF PART III

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1)  Ibrahim Rouza and the mosque in Bijapur, Karnataka, India under the pre-monsoon cotton candies, as seen from the entrance.

2) Ibrahim Rouza in Bijapur, Karnataka, India, as seen up close. It is also called the “Black Taj” or the “Taj of Deccan”.

3) Gol Gumbaz, the most iconic structure in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. It is the second largest freestanding dome in the world, measuring 44 meters at diameter.

4) The arches of Barakamaan in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. It was planned to be the much bigger than Gol Gumbaz, and could have claimed the distinction of being the largest freestanding dome in the world. But fate had other plans.

5) Asar Mahal in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Unlike their mausoleums, the Sultans’ palaces were very simple two storeyed structures.

6) A guide explains its history to visitors in front of the beautiful Mehraab of Jama Masjid in Bijapur, Karnataka, India, which was redecorated in its current golden paint on orders of Mohammed Adil Shah.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Anatomy of a photographer’s mind

“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” – Elliott Erwitt.

Why do we take photographs? To document? To record? To cherish a memory, or as a key to the past… time travel, you see? And in worst case as evidence or proof. Right? For those of us who have difficulty with words (and even for those who have a way with words), it is easier and far less cumbersome to explain events through photographs. Ever heard of Instagram?

What would have we done if we had lived in an era where there was no Instagram or even cameras? Answer would be painting, yes? In most cases, we wouldn’t have painted those ourselves. Rather, we would have hired a painter. If we take out the elements of imagination and creativity, the primitive instinct which drives this behaviour is our propensity to record the events around us.

That, my friend, is the primary motive behind visual art! That’s where it all started.

Wait! How old is visual art?

Hold your breath!

The oldest existing painting is at least 40,800 years old (El Castillo, northern Spain). The oldest surviving examples of paintings in the Indian sub-continent are at least 30,000 years old, in the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Vindhya range in Madhya Pradesh, India. These rock shelters are believed to have been continuously inhabited right up to the medieval period. And the same primitive instinct which I mentioned earlier, was the driving force behind the paintings of Bhimbetka, for close to 30 millennia.

The procession (see photo) was one such event of ancient India, which the dwellers of Bhimbetka recorded. The painting is that of a royal procession, with possibly a very important figure seated on the decorated horse at the front. Some say, it is the royal procession of Emperor Ashoka, himself. Even I believe so, for three reasons. First, for the dwellers of Bhimbetka to depict something, it had to be an extremely important event. Second, Ashoka was the governor of Vidisha during the reign of his father, Bindusara, Emperor of Magadh. Vidisha lies about 90 kms north of Bhimbetka. And third, this painting dates back to the classical period which starts sometime around 3rd century BC, about the same time as Ashoka.

Now, go back up and the read the quote by Elliott Erwitt, while looking at the painting in the photo. Do you understand why we take photographs?

I got to confess, if not a photographer and a storyteller, I would love to be a historian. But wait, in a way aren’t historians storytellers too?

In frame: The Royal Procession, Rock shelter no. 8, Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh, India

You can read more about Elliott Erwitt here.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.