Monday, 23 May 2016

Shankar Market Street Art Project.

Since moving here and reading about the new street art, that has recently adorned the streets around Lodi Colony, there seems to have been a boom in buildings decorated within the capital. I've also noticed that one of the Lodi street paintings is now shown on national TV on an advert for some car or other!

Just off the Outer Circle of the famous Connaught Place in New Delhi sits one of the oldest markets in Delhi, Shankar Market (although there seems to be a number of markets with this name throughout Delhi and its outskirts) It is famous for its textiles and was once extremely popular with woman. However much like the rest of Connaught Place and its environs, slowly over time it has become forgotten and neglected with people going to the central up market stores in the centre of Connaught Place. Things though are changing and NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) are trying to encourage regeneration and increase footfall back into these once beloved markets.

In June 2014 NDMC collaborated with DSA (Delhi Street Art) and over 40 artists, to revive, refurbish and rejuvenate this oldest of fabric markets. The aim was to create a 'Rainbow Street' with each of the blocks a different colour of the rainbow, adding to the vibrancy of the road and its already colourful fabric stores below. The decorated blocks aim to showcase art, music, dance and drama in the hope it will encourage more people to visit.

Sadly although turn and look across the other side of the road and the buildings are in much need of some TLC, but smile and look in the other direction :)

Shankar Market came to my attention last week and in the 46 degrees heat I took a very quick look.......

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Loo.... Summer in the City

And no the title isn't what you think its about.....

On Wednesday Delhi was issued with an Orange alert, we are in the midst of a Summers heat wave. We have seen temperatures reaching as high as 47 degrees and apparently the monsoon has been delayed by another 14 or so days. It's now expected around the 27-31 May. Already in SE India there has been storms and the news is full of the tragedy in Sri Lanka, where over 100 people are missing in mudslides, following days of continuous torrential downpours. A friend sent me a clipping from a newspaper this morning, a town near Jodhpur in Rajasthan yesterday recorded Indias official highest temperature of 51 degrees (and we all know that in spots the temperature is higher than the official recorded places)

However yesterday I awoke to a strong wind blowing and I opened the doors to let this welcome breeze through....ah air! It's been so hot and dry recently that in the afternoons it almost hurts to breathe. It makes you lazy and you close the curtains, snooze the afternoon away, hibernating for a few hours.  Now as you know I'm not very good at 'relaxing' and I'm finding it quite frustrating to be entombed inside the house, but in all honesty you cannot stay outside for too long without being cooked. Poor Oscar isn't enjoying his comfort breaks as his paws are burning on the ferociously hot concrete.

There is no need to put the hot tap on for our showers now, the water coming out of the taps is hot enough! we are watering the plants on the balcony in hot water!! Yes throughout my time in Singapore I dont think we ever had truly cold water coming out of the taps and when we returned to the UK for those few months my teeth actually ached from the cold water! This temperature however is completely different.

As predicted we are regularly have power cuts, already this morning we have had 3. Thankfully we have a back up generator which makes life that much more pleasant, although we've had to buy units to protect our computers from these power cuts. We however are the lucky ones many, many thousands don't have aircon, cooler boxes and certainly no generators to aid when the inevitable power cuts occur. Whether in their homes, living in shanty slums or living on the streets thousands are suffering in the heat, we are so very fortunate. Our security guards until recently had no fan, you're asking someone to sit in this heat for 12 hours a day 6 days a week with no basic facilities (I've mentioned before that there are no toilets for them and they 'share' the alley with the dogs and cows) Our driver and his extended family live in a 4 storey house in a town on the West Of Delhi, like us they're suffering power outages but unlike us do not have aircon or the luxury of a generator. He and his wife, brother and his wife and young child have been given permission by the Embassy their mother lives and works in to stay there for the next month. A simple but kind gesture by the Embassy but one I'm sure they won't advertise as its not a request they can agree to for all their staffs extended family members.

Life and the world seems quite quiet now, even the birds are silent, our 'Mr & Mrs Raven' sit in the tree in front of our balcony silent and unmoving, with their beaks open trying to cool themselves down. Monkeys are coming closer to homes than before, looking for water and the street dogs are only seen first thing in the morning and in the evening. From 9am onwards they are under cars, beneath trees looking for shade, they're not even interested in coming out for their doggie treats which they know we carry in our pockets.

Anyway the reason for the name of the post. The Loo? and no its nothing to do with the smallest room in the house. Here was me saying to my lovely Delhi ladies how much I appreciated this wind blowing through at the moment, when they were askance at me for venturing out in it (they kind of think I'm nuts any ways for going out exploring but then I'm used to that opinion by now!!!) It turns out the lovely breeze I'm so thankful for is in fact the dreaded Loo.

The Loo is a dry hot wind blowing in from the West between May and June, a precursor to the coming monsoon. Its a weather system originating from the deserts of India and Pakistan (the Indo-Gangetic Plains) With temperature of between 45-50 degrees it brings with it high risks of heatstroke. These heatstrokes are called Loo lagna, which means 'stricken by the Loo'. People are advised to avoid where possible, especially the young and old. Indeed not only my Indian friends here in Delhi have warned me of this but also those Expat Indians in the UK and Singapore. The Loo is similar to that of Frances Mistral and other such hot winds across the world.

Not only is it advisable for humans to beware of but, it brings death and destruction to wildlife and insects. One positive is that the number of mosquitos decline dramatically. Woohoo... in the past 2 weeks I've only be bitten twice and currently the only hum we hear in the bedroom at night comes from the fans and not those ninja insects (a pity it wont last) Water supplies are evaporating quickly as the wind dries them out all to quickly, a cause of concern for humans and wildlife alike, both who many will sadly succumb through.

It also brings with it dust/sand storms, a few of which we have had already. The world goes dark for a short time and the air is thick with sand and debris as the blizzard of dust blasts through. We have not had anything to strong here in Vasant Vihar. The other week hubby watched from his high-rise office window as one blew through Gurgaon and he has driven through another on the way home, watching as he passed the airport as a plane tried to land sideways through another sandstorm. These how are not severe, there are many news reports on the internet of damage caused in recent years.

My friends swear by a local drink to refresh themselves during this time. Rooh Afza, indeed this seems something of a national treasure. A 'squash' made from cooling ingredients of which rose is a strong ingredient. It is also popularly served with milk and ice. I have to admit its not really my 'cup of tea' or should I say 'glass of Rooh Afza' probably due to the inclusion of rose, which isn't my preferred taste. Give me a plain sweet lassi any day, thankfully they have Mothers Dairy just across from home here, which reminds me I need replenish my stock. In Singapore the drink I'd turn to for the same cooling effect was a lovely cold soya milk, plain or almond flavoured, usually bought from the lovely Aunties down at Parkway Parade.

Now The Loo may be dreaded by some, but I still find a wind, even if hot and dry, preferably to no air and burning temperatures, but a good storm would be excellent right about now, I shall be the first to stand out on balcony and enjoy. It's likely to be another month at least yet though and let's hope the rains do come, especially after a dry winter. The earth is dust, the leaves crinkled and dry and the once green grass is straw. I wonder if they get wild fires here? Especially with all the rubbish and broken glass around.

I'm learning to adjust my way of life to each week and Indias seasonal changes and challenges. It certainly doesn't make for a dull life and as I'm a Brit we of course always like talking about the weather.... as I've found do the Indians, Australians, Singaporeans and...and....

Now to get this finished before another power cut, partake of a cold lassi and snooze the afternoon away. Happy Weekend all! 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Tomb

As I've mentioned before, in Delh, you are literally falling over the past, with tombs, and religious buildings, remains of walls, gateways and the like spied everywhere. Here is just such an example! This is a Tomb with Chatri, meaning 'umbrella' or 'canopy'. Chatris are ornate, domed buildings which can either be purely decorative or marking an entrance to a tomb or site of a cremation. This was spotted through the gates of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on its Northern side. Sadly the gates were locked, so I couldn't get closer. I had seen on instagram a couple of photos so set out to find today failing at the last step. When the stadium was built in 1982 this and 2 other tombs, I've since learnt, were preserved.

This tomb is early Mughal, rectangular in shape, unadorned and quite plain, with a vaulted ceiling. The other two tombs can be found further south on this large complex. A 14th century small plain tomb is near gates 9 and 10 and, sitting next to the running track, is apparently an interesting 16 sided tomb, believed to be from the 16th century. Each side having a locked door in a niche leading to the burial chamber and on the roof sits 3 cenotaphs upon a raised platform.

I have been unable to find any information as to who these belong too. Although Im sure my driver thinks I'm mad, getting him to drive me around hunting for these little gems, I really must go back another time when the gates are open to find the missing 2!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A walk through Hauz Khas and its tombs

Situated in the South of Delhi is the rather trendy and sort after area that is Hauz Khas, known for it hip and quirky, artistic boutique shops of clothes, furniture and very popular restaurants and cafes. At evenings and weekends it will be packed with the 'young and beautiful' and many expats. Indeed we may not come under the title of young or beautiful but, yes we are expats and yes, we can be found there hunting through the shops, visiting our 2 favourites - the brothers who rescue and repair old silk saris and the small silver shop where, the owner is so passionate about his old items that he will happily talk to you for hours showing you his wares. Needless to say we have items from both shops and I'm sure we'll have more!! We also try to avoid the furniture stores but again have failed there too, but we are being strong and resisting the urge to 'just take a quick look'.... for the moment at least.

So after a couple visits here and spotting numerous tombs I took myself to investigate the area. Starting from the Outer Ring Road I wandered through the Rose Garden, still desperately looking for snakes but still they allude me here :( What I did spot was dozens of peacocks, noisily mewing to each other and scurrying around both on the ground and in the trees. Now since a child I have always been fascinated by these electric blue/green birds and used to make my father drive a certain way home, after visiting my grandparents, as there was a large house which had them in its grounds. Here I've been happily surprised at the number you will see. I am looking forward to procuring many feathers (you see bunches of them for sale on the street corners) Why this is called the Rose Garden I do not know as there doesn't appear to be rose in sight! All the same it makes a nice short stroll through the woods to HK Village and the Deer Park.

Exiting The Rose Garden you cross over the small but busy road, dodging the autos and enter into the Deer Park and yes, this name makes sense as it is indeed home to many deer, although they don't roam the Park and woods freely, but are behind tall fences. From here I walked down to the tank (reservoir) and followed the other morning exercisers as we walked clockwise around it. Hauz Khas is so called as Hauz means water tank and Khas means Royal - Hauz Khas - Royal Tank. It was built by Alauddin Khilji who reigned 1296-1316 and who built one of the earlier cities of Delhi, Siri, in 1303. Khilji was quite a ruthless ruler and was renowned for beheading anyone that displeased him. Apparently many heads of those where displayed from the buildings here. The tank was built to provide water to the residents of the nearby Siri Fort ( will explore the remains another day)

Hauz Khas Complex

Passing below the modern village and its restaurants you come to the rather striking Hauz Khas complex, sitting at one corner of the lake. Here you will find a madrasa (Islamic school) a mosque, tomb and pavilions. This L shaped complex has the lake at one side and a garden to the other, home to 6 domed pavilions. Access to the complex and the gardens is now from the village, you can no longer climb the many stone staircases from the lakeside. In the centre of the L shape is the tomb of Firoz Shah Tughlaq who reigned after Khilji from 1351-88 and who built the city of Firozabad. Firoz Shah de-silted the lake and added many more buildings to the area. He built the mosque to one end of the complex and at the other the madrasa, which became a world renown school of Islamic teaching in that time. This complex in itself deserve further investigation and a post all to itself.

In the corner is the tomb of Firoz Shah Tughlaq

The madrasa or Islamic school
The mosque sits at one end of the L shaped complex

Moving on from here I carried on around the lake, with street dogs following me as company and the the lake full of wildfowl. It was quite misty giving the lake an ethereal feeling, with the remains of dead trees protruding out of the water. I came upon a building next which I hadn't spied when I was plotting the route, Munda Gumbad

Munda Gumbad

A rather plain square building, built of rubble, is all that remains of the pavilion which has 4 entrances and 4 staircases up to what would have been the 2nd storey with a domed roof. There is some suggestion that it is in fact built as a tomb but never completed. Its also believed that it was once situated on an island (sits now on a hillock) inside the tank which in the past was much larger than what you see today. By the way you will see many monuments named Gumbad, the word translates as dome or Pavilion.

Munda Gumbad

Kali Gumti

From Munda Gumbad I finished the loop around the lake and skirted the deer enclosure, to head a short distance into the Deer Park where 2 more tombs can be found sitting across from each other, Kali Gumti was the first small one I took a look at. The name itself translates to black domed building/tomb. There is however no evidence that a grave was ever inside it. It was believed to have been built in the Lodi era of the 14th Century. It is a small domed building yes dark in colour, now covered in scratched graffiti, sitting upon a small plinth in dappled light, surrounded by trees. To one side you will see a wall known as a qibla, within this is a niche or arched alcove that points the way to Mecca, the direction for prayers. This niche is known as a mihrab, certainly more attractive than the arrows you see in hotel rooms pointing to Mecca. Whilst researching I read that in recent times Kali Gumti was used to house animal feed, happily no more, even if its covered in modern day graffiti.

Kali Gumbad sits upon a stone plinth with a qibla to one side

Kali Gumbad translates to Black domed building now sadly covered in modern-day graffiti 

Bagh-I-Alam ka Gumbad

Just a few feet away from little Kali Gumti is the much larger and grander structure, what appears to be its big brother, Bagh-i-alam ka gumbad. Believed to have been built around 1501 this is quite a majestic building and is in fact the largest in the Deer park. It is a stunning building architecturally that is now thankfully a protected monument. It is made of local dressed stone and red sandstone with beautiful vibrant blue ceramic tiles that can be seen around the window above the main entrance. Inside are 3 tombs but its unknown who they belong too and on the West wall of the gumbad is an mihrab.

The brightly coloured and high decorated  Bagh-I-Alam-ka Gumbad

Adjacent to the tomb, like that of Kali Gumti, sits a mosque, although much larger and grander, which would have been in a Tughlaq Arabic garden. This large qibla has 5 alcoves/niches, mihrabs and sits on a large square plot with tombs inside, now used to feed the local birds.

one of the 5 mihrabs

NOOOOO! researching the history of these tombs and structures I've realised I've missed another one, tucked further into the deer park. There seems some confusion on its name and indeed it can't even be spotted on Google maps. Believed to be called Tohfewala Gumbad (although another argument for that named gumbad can be found a short distance away in Shahpur Jat village) I will need to return and search this elusive gumbad out very very soon.
See Bottom of Page, the intrepid explorer (lol) went back and 'discovered' the Lost Tomb of Hauz Khaz!!!!!

Jagannath Temple

Exiting the Deer Park and leaving Hauz Khas behind me I walked down the road passing the startling brilliant white Hindu temple (and tourist attraction) of Jagannath temple. I didn't venture inside today as I wasn't travelling through the 1960s today but was much further back, walking through from 1296 up to the 1500s. Built by the Oriya community and dedicated to the Hindu God Jagannath it is an extremely popular and bustling temple, but a visit for another day.

Chhoti Gumti

Another small domed tomb is the next you come to on your left handside. Chhoti Gumti is surrounded by grass and a metal fence area with a caretaker watering the grounds. It sits on the corner of a junction opposite another tomb, on the adjacent side of the road that is Sakri Gumti. The name Chotti Gumti means Small dome, pretty self explanatory. There is remains of a grave inside but who it belongs to has long been lost to the past. This small tomb has 3 entrances North, East and South, where there would have been fourth in the West is a Mihrab. Due to its design its attributed to the Lodi era and round the 14th-15th century.

Biran ka Gumbad

Ignoring Sakri Gumti I take a slight detour, down the road, as I spied another tomb on the map the other day and take a short 5 minute walk down this bustling street of residential homes and street sellers until I reach a small park, Bal Vatika and walk through until I come to Biran ka Gumbad.
This is quite a large alcove, decorated tomb built in a similar style to the Dadi-Poti tombs which I visit last on the walk. It is a Lodi era tomb, again built of rubble masonry, with the remains of a grave inside although the history of who this was has long since been lost. Biran ka Gumbad translates to 'doomed building of the brother' a strange name but again believed to have been a nod towards Dadi-poti. It never ceases to amaze me that here we have these ancient ornate buildings, whispers to a long ago past, and right next door will sit an apartment building, shop or garage. Thank goodness they are now protected as the land on them must be prime retail. It does make you wonder how many have been lost over the centuries. I've read of many that have 'made way for the modern' in the last 50 years alone.

steps lead up to the doorway of Biran ka Gumbad
Inside the domed roof

Sakri Gumbad

Retracing my steps I head back up to the road and on the adjacent side to Chhoti Gumti sits a similar tomb, that of Sakri Gumti. This building is narrow and tall and the name Sakri Gumti translates to "narrow domed building' As there are remains of a wall on the eastern side of the building there are thoughts that this 14-15 century building may not in fact be a tomb, but possibly a gateway.... we will probably never know. It has four entrances and no sign of a grave inside. Compared to the other larger grander buildings, this is small in comparison, at just 4.56 sq metres and built like the others of rubble masonry.

Barah Khamba

I am nearing the end of the walk now as I head down the road towards Aurobindo Market, home to the best and freshest paneer and the much visited Midland book shop. If you've not visited so! As I walk down the road, on the right handside, raised up slightly, is Barah Khamaba. This is a much grander tomb built in the 14th century. Its name means 'twelve pillars" and indeed it does have 12 pillars! and 3 archways on each side. It is not known who it was built for but clearly someone of high status. There is a veranda running around the centre and at each of its 4 corners you will find an apartment. Until it was restored in 2009 (just in time for the Commonwealth Games, when many buildings were restored and beautified) there were people living inside. Outside in the corner of the plot, the remains of another building. Apparently this was Lalmahal (Kusak Lal) a red sandstone building built between 1266-86 by the then slave ruler Balban.

Dadi-Poti Tombs

And finally........ (although I need to go back for that missing tomb inside the deer park) I cross the road to the final stop for today. The two buildings that are Dadi-Poti. More precisely they are Dadi ka Maqbara and Poti ka Maqbara meaning Grandmother and Granddaughter. There is no knowledge to who the tombs belonged to, whether they were indeed related or, much more likely, that they were named so as they sat next to each other, one larger and grander than the other and being of different eras. However the one known as Dadi (Grandmother) is in fact younger than Poti (granddaughter) disputing the fact they are indeed related in that way. They sit proudly upon a small hillock, set back slightly to the road I walked along.

Dadi ka Maqbara (Grandmother) is the larger of the two and dates from the Lodi period of 1451-1526. It is 15.86 sq metres and houses 6 graves and is more ornate than its neighbour.

Poti ka Maqbara sits 20 feet away from its larger grander neighbour. This 'granddaughter' dates from the older Tughlaq Period of 1321-1414. Smaller and plainer it has sloping walls which were typical of this era. It is only 11.8 sq metres with plain walls and an unusual lantern adornment on top of its dome.

So now I've completed this meander through one small part of the Delhi's past. In just a few small square miles I've found numerous tombs and relics transporting me back almost 800 years. I just need to go back...hopefully next week and spy that elusive missing building! 

Update: 12/5/16. 

Returned and just a few metres from Bagh-i-alam gumbad and Kali gumti along a path to the right and you will easily spot the elusive gumbo I missed on my first visit. No signs give a clue to its name and very little seems to be on the internet. However, the Archaeological Society of India and the invaluable book "Delhi, A Thousand Years of Building" by Lucy Peck, gave this gumbad listed as Tohfewala Gumbad from the early period of the Tughlak era. Stating simply that is was 'plain and unadorned'. No mention of the graves that are inside which are dramatically designed and quite elaborate, what a shame. Sadly much graffiti and rubbish decorate this ancient old building.