Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Urban Street Art Festival - ST+ART

A street art festival ran in Delhi from December '15 until Feb'16. I saw a few photos on Instagram and thought I'd take a look, especially after Singapores exploding street art scene I've recently left behind. This festival was the 4th edition and over 20 artists from India and across the world came together. Lodhi colony (not far from the beautifully manicured park of Lodhi Gardens) was turned into an open air art gallery, similar to those in Singapore, Melbourne, Penang and Bristol. 

Street art in Delhi seems to still be in its infancy but will hopefully grow in popularity, many of the people who visited with me the other day had no idea this existed, perhaps more needs to be done to premote these exhibitions? The government homes of Lodhi colony are in themselves architecturally unusual, with their small leaded windows, arched porticos and arched gateways leading into the back entrances of the local residences. With the added addition of these street murals it gives the area a bohemian feel. 

The festival has now ended but the murals are due to remain in situ. The photos below are of the majority of the art works although I know a few have been missed and again taken on my phone. I may take hubby back in the near future and see if we can find the missing ones! 

Above is by French artist CHIFUMI and is titled 'Padma' inspired by the Indian hand gesture Padma mudra symbolizing a lotus flower. 

Hidden behind trees in dappled shade the above mural is by Mahendra Pawar from Rajastan where houses are traditionally decorated with ornate frescos in what is known as shekhawati style. 

Indian artist painted the above mural called 'Lava Tree'

This rather abstract design is by Japanese artist Suiko and is entitled 'The Lotus'

This mural is strikingly different from any of the others. It was painted by Australia Reko Rennie and called 'Original Aboriginal' 

'Dead Dahlias' is the quirky name given to the mural above by Indian artist Amitabh Kumar

And this vibrant one is aptly named 'Pink' by DWA ZETA it is meant to reflect the hectic and colourful nature of Delhi. 

This brightly coloured one has to be one of my favourites by a Mexican 'Senkoe'

This one above is by Indian artist Inkbrushnme

And these above are another of my favourites by French artist Lek & Sowat, spelling out 'We Love Delhi' 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Agrasen ki Baoli


I was one very happy lady last week. Sitting in the car, enroute to my morning walk around Nehru Park, I came across a photo on Instagram of a step well, something that was high on my list to see whilst here in India. I was very pleased to see there was one here in Delhi. I've since found out there's another... Another day! The other is even older, built in the 10th Century and found in Mehrauli, not too far from home. Mehrauli and its numerous tombs were already on my list and now I have even more reason to do so. This Baoli or step well though is found hidden not far from the iconic buildings of Connaught Place, Jantar Mantar and amongst the modern buildings. It is central Delhis oldest monument. 

Baoli means step well, although there are many other names for them too. This Baoli is named after Maharajah Agrasen, who ruled over 5,000 years ago, however although legend has it that was Agrasens well (also known as Ugrasen) what you see today was definitely built or rebuilt in the 14th century. A step well was the main source of water for the local inhabitants, as well as being a cool place to congregate and escape the savage heat of an Indian summer. 

Agrasen Ki Baoli is 60 metres long and 15 metres wide, made up of 3 levels each with arched alcoves lining the sides where people could sit and escape the sun. There are 108 steps down to the bottom and I can say they are very uneven and of different depths, but I walked both up and down them and refused to let the group of teenagers see how puffed I was on the way back up!! At the base are rooms and passageways leading off which I didn't investigate due to the depth of the pigeon droppings and the strong odour! At the far end of the steps lies a 8 metre round well which in the past would fill with water and overflow, gradually filling the baoli up to the top level. 

At the top of the steps, to one side, sits a mosque with the remains of a domed roof which has long since partially collapsed. The mosque now seems to be used for storage. Holding up the remains of the roof are red sandstone columns which are covered in Buddhist designs. 

The baoli has been dry for many years now. The water levels receded in the 1970s revealing deep levels of silt. The Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) desilted and restored Agrasen ki Baoli and its is now a protected monument. 

I've read that there was water in it until 2002 but also read the last drowning was in 2007? what can said for sure is it is no long full of water these days. There were many drownings and suicides and it is reported that the place is very haunted. I know a group of guys in Singapore that would be keen to see if this was true! 

There was a famous photo taken in 1971 by Raghu Rai (shown below) apparently from what I've read the boy jumping into the water was and maybe still is the guard that watches over the place. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Maha Shivaratri - 7 March 2016

Today I experienced, in some small way, my first Hindu festival in India. Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important festivals for those worshipping Shiva 'destroyer of the universe' and probably the most important of Hindu gods. 

Maha Shivaratri or the day of Extreme Power is one of 12 Shivaratri throughout the year but this one was Shivas favourite day. It falls on the 13th night and 14th day of the Hindu calendar of Phalguna/Maagh, usually in February or March. In 2016 it falls on 7th March

On this day Shiva saved the universe by drinking poison. He didn't actually drink it but kept it in throat by using a yoga technique. This poison sent his throat blue, hence we see him portrayed as blue in colour. 

On this day Shiva also married Parvati (also known as at goddess Shakti) the story goes that Shiva kept dancing (Tandava) and couldn't/wouldn't stop and this meant the world would end. Parvati worshipped Shiva and finally he stopped dancing and all was saved. Shiva and Shakti (Parvati) married and became one, this is known as Ardhanarishvara. 'Lord who is half woman' and you'll see him depicted with one half of his body as a man, the other a woman. 

The festival is celebrated all day by fasting, although one meal is allowed and making offerings. It is believed that followers will be cleansed of their sins today. Although devotees will be at the temple throughout the day the most important time is throughout the night, when prayers and a vigil are held in respect of Shiva saving the universe from perpetual darkness. Throughout the festival the Shiva mantra 'om namah shivaya' is chanted. 

We have 2 Hindu temples almost next to each other in Vasant Vihar, only a 5 minute walk from home. Hubby noticed they were selling flowers and offerings outside on his way to work, so I though I'd take a walk along and see what I could see. I always feel as if I'm intruding but I think this is just that I don't understand what is happening. Outside both temples were locals selling their flowers and food. Local street children accosted me as ever begging, it is so difficult to not be moved by them. 

I first stopped at Shri Sanakan Dharam Mandir, where most of the outside photos were taken, but I didn't venture inside. On reaching the second m, Shankar Vidya Kendra, an elderly gentleman insisted I came inside. So shoes divested I joined him. First as he 'washed' his hands in what I assumed was holy water before taking me to where the lingam was. This is an abstract symbol of Shiva, recognizable to many as a phallus, showing power and sits with yoni, representing Shakti. We saw many of these when we visited Cambodia and the temples of Angkor Wat. I was given 2 pieces of fruit by one of the priests before soon after exiting the temple. 

Only a few photos taken on my phone inside as it didn't feel appropriate 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The other side to India

Warning do not read this if you're of a squeamish or sensitive disposition! I'm writing this as a Westerner clearly recently arrived and with all the views and preconceptions that come with that. I mean no offense to India and the lovely Indians I know. I wondered if I should write this post but... yes, I can't write about my time here and only show the glossy shiny side

Toilet habits
Men pee everywhere! Literally everywhere, you can't walk or drive more than 5 minutes without a man standing urinating! OK so there is a definite lack of public conveniences here and with the millions of residents it's obvious there's going to be issues. There are a few public loos for men... Note I said men not women. Indeed we have one just a 5 minute walk from us, on the way to one set of shops, but the stench is rough to put it mildly and it is usually overflowing over the path and into the road. The newspaper last week was bemoaning the lack of facilities (I couldn't agree more) however it was angled at facilities for men. The angle was how it's unacceptable that men have no choice but to relieve themselves in public. One thing that struck me.... Do women not have the same requirements? I'm not saying they don't, but as of yet, I've yet to spy a women relieving herself alongside the road or alleyways. Having said this there are many facilities in restaurants and malls etc Fortunately I've not succumbed to any issues! 

We have a walkway between appartment blocks, just across the road from us, where all the dogs are walked, or the street dogs patrol. We walk Oscar down there, whilst I try not to breathe for 5 minutes. No one picks up after dogs here, so I seem to be playing hop scotch as I hop through here watching extremely carefully where I'm walking!  M calls it 'bomb alley' although that's a polite name I call it 'S*** alley' It doesn't bare thinking about what else is there. The poor guards and drivers who sit outside the appartments working 12 hours days have no toilet facilities, that's right none! I'll leave the rest to your imagination. I dread to think what 'bomb alley' will be like come mid summer. 

Sexual assaults
The way women are treated here by a huge number is totally unacceptable. Every single day in the Delhi Times, this is, at the very least, one report of a rape and very often gang rapes and abductions. I know there are over 18 million people in Delhi alone but the total disrespect for women is staggering. What's frightening is that it's not just the uneducated that inflict these crimes, last week a school girl was gang raped by group of year 12 boys, these are modern educated boys who still have this attitude. Today's story was that of a 32 year old Dutch tourist, who's sister reported her missing. The police have thankfully found her but she's in a very distressed state and had been again sexually assaulted. This attitude towards women is totally unacceptable and is never never justifiable. For all friends out there I can stress that I have a driver that takes me everywhere and I never travel alone at night and am uber careful of my surroundings. Sadly I will not be able to explore as I did in Singapore. 

Murders and abductions
Maybe it just reported more here, or the fact there are so many people living here but the papers are full again of murders and abductions daily. Police reports of missing people, predominantly children appear in the paper. Is life thought of as so worthless? 

Smog, haze, smoke...
Whatever you may choose to call it there's no getting away with the high level of pollution here. It's a given that Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Each day there's a 'cartoon' as is shows the days pollution index. Thankfully it's not bad all year around, and I've already seen a big improvement in the 3 short weeks I've been here. There's much talk on improving things, a second trial period of alternate days driving is due to start again shortly. Talk of green homes and solar energy installations are muted. There is dust everehere (I may have possibly mentioned that a few times in my debut post!!!)  I will simply say any initiatives are in much need. It doesn't just affect Delhi or India, we all know that the world is slowly choking itself to death. 

The poverty we will touch on another time, I'm not even sure how or when to discuss this. It's a known given that there is incredible poverty here, as in many places across the globe. Having said that the people are incredibly happy and seem to accept where they were born into. The caste system is something as a westerner that we can't really understand. I feel extremely guilty riding around in my car, with my driver, with disposable income in my bag. Commenting on how cheap everything is to buy here, when all I need is to look out of the car window to see the street sellers, peddling wares or begging. Children and families living on street corners. Sorting through bouquets of flowers discarded from flower shops, they pick off the dead petals and leaves, bunch together, mist with water and try to sell through car windows at the traffic lights. Just behind the appartment block in front of us is a tiny slum, made up of blocks taken up from pavements and tarpaulins, string and scraps of materials make up the rooftops. Many of these large slums are villages that have been in existence for hundreds of years and yet these people are invisible to many. 

Ok so I've got that off my chest! As I said no offense is made, there's plenty of negative issues in every country in the world, there is no Utopia. I just felt I had to mention these points as although I was prepared for them, there is no ignoring them. Without touching on these points Delhi Tales would not be a truthful representation of my time here in Delhi. I do however promise the next post will be happy smiley and all fluffy!! Xxx