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INDIA VOL 27 NO. 4 SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2013

PERSPECTIVES

INSIDE

HERITAGE Caves of India

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES India窶的raq relations

OCTOBER CHEER Threads of faith


P O T P O U R R I BUNKER ROY GETS TOP US AWARD

Indians worldwide donned patriotic colours as they celebrated the 67th Independence Day, unfurling the national flag and organising cultural events. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoisted the tricolour at the Red Fort, New Delhi, and addressed the nation.

Indian environmentalist Bunker Roy has received the Clinton Global Citizens Award for Leadership in Civil Society. The awards honour individuals, who exemplify global citizenship through their vision and leadership. Roy is the founder of Rajasthan-based Barefoot College, which has been providing solutions to problems in rural communities for more than 40 years.

AFP

INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATED

HUMAYUN’S TOMB IS BACK After six years of restoration work, 16th century mausoleum, Humayun’s Tomb is back to its original splendour. The UNESCO Heritage Site located in New Delhi was the model for the Taj Mahal, according to historians. The monument suffered alterations in many of its structures due to use of cement during 20th century interventions. It has been brought back to its architectural integrity by use of traditional materials combined with traditional building craft skills.

UNESCO HERITAGE AWARDS The Royal Bombay Yacht Club Residential Chambers, a prominent 19th century club, and Lal Chimney Compound, a late 19th century housing colony, both in Mumbai, Maharashtra, have won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards 2013 for distinction and merit. The UNESCO heritage conservation programme recognises the efforts of private individuals and organisations that have successfully restored and conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region.

The Tamil Nadu government has notified the formation of a new wildlife sanctuary in Kodaikanal. The forest division boasts of all types of forests. Elephants, barking deer, Indian Gaur, sambar, common langur, wild dogs, leopard and sloth bear are some of the wildlife one could see in the division.

INDIA’S LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

he famous words of Mahatma Gandhi communicate his real approach towards India’s freedom struggle. It was actually freedom of mind that built the freedom of people and freedom of India. This October, India observed the 144th birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A visionary who went beyond India’s Independence to become a global authority on non-violence and equality, Gandhi’s frugal lifestyle, simple approach and strong values made him dear to one and all. An evidence of this common respect has been the postal stationery across the globe. Over 100 countries have so far released postage stamps depicting Gandhi’s life, philosophy and principles. This year, we too pay a tribute to the Mahatma by acknowledging his global philatelic journey. October is also when monsoon retires, giving way to first chills of winter in India. The transition is delightful, as the month is suggested best for travel and also to be at home, thanks to the many festivals lined up. Our schedule is quite packed this time, as we visit India’s acclaimed rock-cut caves. Now, most Indian states have caves, a few dating back to the Stone Age, so calling on all was arduous. We could only manage seven states, but are sure you can beat us at the number by visiting the rest of the caverns and sharing with us the accounts. The other interesting treats and retreats that we recommend our readers are an Old Delhi food trail, an escapade to Tripura, and Ganesh Chaturthi in Pune, Maharashtra. Unlike other Indian festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi—the birth of Hindu god of fortune, Ganesha—began as a secular, public festival during India’s freedom struggle. The festival binds India’s diverse communities that come together to rejoice the arrival of Ganesha. An interesting feature this time is on India’s three women mountaineers, who despite coming from different circumstances realised their strength atop Mt Everest. The edition covers the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri-al-Maliki to India this August. Renewing its historical ties with Iraq, India is committed to rebuilding Iraq and working towards peace and stability in West Asia. In our Partnerships section, we cover India’s Small Development Projects that are bringing development to the far-flung areas of Nepal.

T KODAIKANAL SANCTUARY

Lalit Kala Akademi, Ministry of Culture, in September organised Mapping Indian Culture, Arts and Language to celebrate the linguistic diversity of India. The event saw release of books with the vision that preservation of a language entails the preservation of the community that puts that language in circulation. It also had an exhibition that displayed traditional masks, reprints of illustrated manuscripts and audio-video compilations.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Riva Ganguly Das

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INDIA

PERSPECTIVES

September-October 2013 

VOL 27 No. 4/2013

Editor: Riva Ganguly Das Assistant Editor: Nikhilesh Dixit MEDIA TRANSASIA TEAM Associate Editor: Jyoti Verma Assistant Editor: Aashruti Kak Junior Features Writer: Pallavi Paul Creative Director: Bipin Kumar Editorial Coordinator: Kanchan Rana Design: Ajay Kumar (Assistant Art Director), Sujit Singh (Sr. Visualiser) Production: Sunil Dubey (DGM), Ritesh Roy (Sr. Manager), Devender Pandey (Manager), Jeetendra Madaan (Assistant Manager - Prepress)

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SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2013

Chairman: J.S. Uberoi President: Xavier Collaco Financial Controller: Puneet Nanda Send editorial contributions and letters to Media Transasia India Ltd. 323, Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurgaon 122016 Haryana, India E-mail: feedback.indiaperspectives@mtil.biz Telephone: 91-124-4759500 Fax: 91-124-4759550 India Perspectives is published in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil and Vietnamese. Views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Ministry of External Affairs.

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This edition is published for the Ministry of External Affairs by Riva Ganguly Das, Joint Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division, New Delhi, 0145, 'A' Wing, Jawahar Lal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi-110011 Tel: 91-11-49015276 Fax: 91-11-49015277 Website: http://www.indiandiplomacy.in Follow us on: https://www.facebook.com/IndianDiplomacy https://www.twitter.com/indiandiplomacy https://www.youtube.com/indiandiplomacy

Text may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to India Perspectives For a copy of India Perspectives contact the nearest Indian diplomatic mission.

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Potpourri

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Tribute Gandhi stamps

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Global Perspectives India−Iraq relations

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Partnerships India’s SDPs in Nepal

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Heritage Caves of India

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Celebration Ganesh Chaturthi

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October Cheer Threads of faith

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Travel Tripura

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Photo essay Safdarjung’s Tomb

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Profile Women mountaineers

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Art Terracotta

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Cuisine Dehlvi

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Documentary SAMA: Muslim Mystic Music

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COVER PHOTO: INSIDE OF ANCIENT BUDDHIST TEMPLE, AJANTA CAVES, MAHARASHTRA COVER DESIGN: BIPIN KUMAR

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TRIBUTE

MAHATMA, IN THE MAIL

A celebrated icon on postage stamps, Mahatma Gandhi is someone nations world over turn to for inspiration, writes N. Kalyani

ahatma Gandhi’s steadfast belief in, and practice of, non-violence and peace has been a source of inspiration around the world. He is of course the father of the Indian nation, but his is a global iconic status. Countries around the world have naturally turned to the great apostle of ahimsa (non-violence), whether they were fighting for freedom from colonialism or seeking to establish human rights and peace. The United Nations has also declared his birthday, October 2, as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi has been honoured by countries around the world on their stamps depicting diverse aspects of his life, work and philosophy, making him perhaps the personality most featured globally on postal stationery. The very first set of stamps on Mahatma Gandhi was brought out in India in 1948. Anil Dhir, in his book Famous Stamps — The Romance of Rarities, writes about the stamp issue right from the concept, in 1947, of having a set of stamps on Gandhi to be released to commemorate his 80th birthday, on October 2, 1949. However, the great leader was assassinated on January 30, 1948, and the set of stamps was released on August 15, 1948, marking India’s first anniversary of independence. The stamps were printed in Switzerland rather than India! Some of the stamps were then ‘Service’ overprinted back home in India for Governor General C. Rajagopalachari’s official correspondence. Then in 1969, the birth centenary of Gandhi was commemorated by India by issuing four stamps. Gandhi and his wife Kasturba, affectionately addressed as Bapu and Ba, were shown on the ‘Ba-Bapu’ stamp.

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Indian stamps depict diverse aspects of Gandhi’s life, work and philosophy

South Africa was crucial to Gandhi’s Satyagraha (insistence on truth), and in 1995 a joint stamp issue of India and South Africa was released. The stamps show the young lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the elderly Mahatma. The illustrations on the miniature sheet show Gandhi spinning the charkha and at historic Dandi, as also his belongings such as a timepiece, spectacles and slippers that portray his frugality and simplicity. The ‘Centenary of Satyagraha’ also saw India Post bringing out four stamps in 2007 depicting events from Gandhi’s life in South Africa. As the leading light of the freedom struggle in India, Gandhi served as the president of the Indian National Congress in 1924. And he is shown on the stamps released by India in 1985 marking the party’s centenary. The other noteworthy stamps have been themed on Salt Satyagraha, Dandi March and Quit India Movement. A celebrated stamp was released in the millennium’s first year based on Gandhi’s caricature by well-known cartoonist Ranga that interestingly also bears semblance to the outline map of India! And ‘Mahatma Gandhi Man of the Millennium’ was the theme of the stamps issued the next year. The charkha as the symbol of non-violence is a leitmotif on the stamps on Gandhi. And in 2011 India Post released the world’s first khadi stamp. The unique diamond-shaped `100denomination stamp shows Gandhi’s face in profile and the charkha on khadi cloth with his words, ‘Be true’.

A symbol of non-violence, charkha is a leitmotif on the stamps on Gandhi. An interesting attempt by India Post in 2011 was the world’s first khadi stamp 08 INDIA PERSPECTIVES

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A few Gandhi-themed stamps issued world over

Besides stamps, Gandhi has been featured on India Post’s pre-paid postal stationery such as inland letter cards, postcards and envelopes. There are also permanent cancellations issued from post offices in Gujarat showing the Alfred High School, where Gandhi did his schooling, his ancestral home and Kocharab Satyagraha Ashram. A unique special cover with a hologram showing Gandhi was also brought out by the South India Philatelists’ Association, with the postal department’s approval. Globally, stamps and postal stationery on Gandhi have been released by more than 90 countries. The United States of America, Mauritius, Fiji, Switzerland, Guyana, Poland, Bhutan, Myanmar, Mexico, Iran, Ireland and the former USSR are only some of the countries. An error occurred when Trinidad and Tobago brought out a stamp in the year 1970 instead of 1969 to mark the leader’s centenary! Britain, despite having the tradition of not issuing a stamp on a nonBritish personality, issued a Gandhi stamp in 1969. The United Nations too brought out a stamp on Gandhi in 2009 designed by Miami-based artist Dr Ferdie Pacheco. Pacheco reveals that the colours in the stamp depict what Gandhi epitomised: “I chose these colours: red because it is the colour of energy, his energy even when he was fasting, green the colour of healing, white of purity, blue of serenity, yellow of balance and brown of the Earth as he helped people here on Earth. All of these colours represent a peaceful man who helped the world.” Indeed a true representation of the Mahatma in the miniature art piece that a stamp is. 

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PHOTOS: AFP

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GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES

HISTORICAL TIES, NEW DIRECTION Building stronger relations between India and Iraq stand to serve their national interests and help peace and stability in West Asia TEXT: MANISH CHAND

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mid the flux in the volatile West Asia and a conflicted Arab spring, India has scripted a new narrative of engagement with Iraq, a friendly country in the Gulf that has surprised its critics by a quiet and incremental national resurgence despite difficult circumstances. This refashioning of a timetested relationship, bound by a confluence of economic, energy and strategic interests, with an old friend and one of the world’s top oil suppliers, was telescoped in the three-day visit (August 22-25) of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to India. Toasting the comeback of Iraq on the global scene after years of hard struggle, India pulled out all stops in rolling out a red carpet welcome for al-Maliki—the first head of government-level visit between the two countries since 1975. The visit brought back a flood of memories and warmth between the two countries that hark back to early years of oil discovery in Iraq in the 1970s. The bonds forged in those years may have receded into the background for some time due to turmoil in the region, but mutual goodwill and admiration remained intact. Alluding to “historically close links of commerce, culture and spiritualism complemented by a fund of goodwill between our people,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed that this “alone ensures that ours will always remain a close bond.” India’s ties with Iraq are civilisational, deeply rooted in history and underpinned

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(From left) Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki inspects a guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan; and during his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi

The talks saw the

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Iraq has emerged

as India’s second largest source of oil, accounting for over 12 per cent of oil imports last year. The August talks, among other things, culminated in sealing an MoU on energy cooperation (Clockwise from top left) Iraqi PM Maliki meets President Pranab Mukherjee; Dr. Singh with Iraqi delegates; and Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma with PM Maliki, in New Delhi

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by strong people-to-people contacts. Basra, through ages, was not only the market par excellence of the Indian merchandise, including textiles, spices, food grains and other commodities, but also of the famous pearl trade that flourished mainly through Indian traders and jewellers. The Iraqi philosophers and Sufi saints such as Hasan al-Basri, Junaid al-Baghdadi and Sheikh Behlul had profound impact on the spiritual movements in India. Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani, better known as Dastagir Saheb or Ghous-e-Azam, has enormous following in India. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.” Sacrifices of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas not only inspire the Iraqis, but also millions of Indians who continue to visit, in thousands every year, their holy shrines in Karbala and also of Imam Ali in Najaf. Iraq has quietly emerged as India’s second largest source of oil, accounting for over 12 per cent of oil imports last year. The August talks culminated in, among other things, the sealing of an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of energy that will underpin a strategic energy partnership between the two countries. The nations agreed that their energy trading relationship should be turned into a strategic partnership, including through joint ventures in oil exploration, petrochemical complexes and fertiliser plants. Energy is, undeniably, the prime driver of India’s reinvigorated Iraq diplomacy. Iraq has displaced Iran as the second largest source of oil supply for India. Apart from the US and EU sanctions that have imbued the pursuit of Iraqi oil with an added zeal, there are other reasons accounting for the shift. First, Indian refineries geared to process the Iranian oil find the Iraqi oil a near-perfect substitute in terms of quality. Second, India’s energy needs, fuelled by its growing economy and burgeoning population, are seemingly limitless. Iraq has been more than responsive to India’s overtures and has promised to increase the supply of oil to India by 30 per cent. The oil push will also rejuvenate India–Iraq economic cooperation. The recent talks saw the two leaders deciding to cooperate on diverse areas such as agriculture, water resource management, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, information technology, infrastructure, low-cost housing and trade. Currently, there are over 17,000 Iraqis in India on medical tourism and over 10,000 Iraqi students. India’s

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capacity-building and human resource development assistance for Iraqi nationals through ITEC programme with 150 slots for 2013-14 is a highlight of bilateral ties which Iraq appreciates. India underlined its commitment to the reconstruction of Iraq. “I underlined to Prime Minister Maliki the strong interest of Indian companies to participate in Iraq’s reconstruction efforts and its ambitious plans to expand and upgrade its infrastructure,” said Dr. Singh. This commitment towards Iraq’s reconstruction efforts has been an enduring theme in India’s diplomatic engagement with Iraq. In 2005, India had pledged to help rebuild Iraq and committed $10 million to the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq. India has also channelled an additional $20 million through the United Nations. In his address to the apex chambers of Indian trade and industry, Maliki made a robust pitch for Indian companies’ investment and expertise in projects to rebuild Iraq ravaged by serial wars. Contract projects, the mainstay of India’s economic connect to Iraq, are, therefore, set for an upswing. Many Indian companies have a strong track record in delivering quality projects in Iraq. There are encouraging developments on this front. India’s Reliance Industries Limited has been short-listed for development of the multi-billion-dollar Nasiriya oilfield project, while Jindal SAW Ltd. has garnered a $198 million contract to build and operate a factory for manufacturing oil and gas pipeline in southern Iraq. Cooperation in the area of security and counter-terrorism emerged as another key area for future engagement. As Dr. Singh said after talks in New Delhi, “As democratic and pluralistic societies, India and Iraq face similar threats from radicalism and terrorism. India believes that a strong, stable, peaceful, united and democratic Iraq is in the interest of regional and global peace and security.” Clearly, India has natural stakes in peace and stability in the West Asia region, which accounts for around 60 per cent of India’s oil imports and is home to over 7 million Indian diaspora. Building stronger relations between India and Iraq will, therefore, not only serve national interests of the two countries, but will also help shape the course of peace and stability in West Asia. —The writer is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes, www.indiawrites.org, an e-magazine focused on international affairs

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(From left) Iraqi PM Maliki addresses the business meet organised by India’s apex trade chambers in New Delhi and during a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra

The

nations shared concerns over terrorism and Afghanistan, and closer cooperation in the areas. Commitment towards Iraq’s reconstruction efforts has been an enduring theme in India’s diplomatic engagement with the nation


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Conceived as low-investment and short-gestation

projects, the SDPs have augmented the local development efforts of Nepal in a well-devised, communityoriented, transparent and participative manner

PARTNERSHIPS

Building Himalayan dreams

(From left) Patients after their treatment at an eye care camp; an operation theatre at a health camp; and Shree Bhandari Higher Secondary School at Kusunkhola, Palpa

India’s Small Development Projects are bringing smiles to people of far flung areas of Nepal, says Ram Kumar Kamat

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epal’s quest for modern development began in 1950, when it freed itself from the shackles of 104-year-old Rana family oligarchy. Large parts of the country lacked basic infrastructure and facilities such as roads, schools, bridges and drinking water. Although India had been facing staggering development challenges, it became the first country to respond to Nepal’s development issues. Today, Nepal’s development efforts are supplemented by developed countries such as Japan, United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France and some multilateral organisations, but India’s assistance to its progress remains unique and unparallel in terms of volume and reach. India’s partnership has brought the Himalayan nation closer to the rest of the world with a network of roads, airports and communication infrastructure.

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Tribhuwan Highway, the first highway linking the Kathmandu valley with Terai region was constructed with the help of Indian assistance in 1953. Nepal’s first six airports—at Gauchar, Kathmandu (1951), Simra (1964), Janakpur (1964), Bhairahwa (1964), Pokhara (1964) and Biratnagar (1968)—were also built with Indian assistance. Large parts of 1050 km Mahendra Highway, also known as East−West Highway, the lifeline of the country, was also built with Indian assistance. This highway is likely to be part of the projected Asian Highway in future. Tribhuwan University, one of the first centres of higher education in the country, was set up with Indian assistance as well. India’s development assistance to Nepal embodied greater synthesis of large infrastructure projects and peoplecentred grassroots development initiatives in the 90s, particularly after the advent of multi-party democracy. Small

programmes such as goitre control, building of schools, gifting of ambulances and electrification have gone hand in hand with the creation of infrastructure, such as the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan (1999). The Optical Fibre Cable Project (2004) brought benefits of the revolutionary optical fibre technology to Nepal, symbolising India’s efforts to usher in cutting-edge 21st century technology to Nepal. The other larger projects that India is carrying out in Nepal today include the construction of a 200-bed emergency and trauma centre in Kathmandu, and Terai Road Projects, which will upgrade 1450 km of postal and feeder roads in the region, build integrated check posts at four points on the border and cross-border railway links. In 2003, India launched Small Development Projects (SDPs) in Nepal, beginning a new chapter in the sixdecade long journey of the India−Nepal Economic

Cooperation Programme. India is providing assistance to over 425 SDPs and 35 large and intermediate development projects. The SDPs are carried out in all 75 districts of Nepal. Under the SDPs, 25 to 30 projects are carried out every year. Projects with cost less than NRs 50 million approximately are undertaken with focus on infrastructure development and capacity building in the areas of education, health and community development. Conceived as low-investment and short-gestation projects, the SDPs have supplemented local development efforts of Nepal in a well-devised, community-oriented, transparent and participative manner. These grassroot projects reach out to the beneficiaries directly, efficiently and promptly without the complexities of big projects. Under SDPs, schools are being built in rural areas where students attend classrooms under leaky roofs, and bridges

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The uniqueness of the Indian SDPs in Nepal is

reflected in the method of project selection, release of funds and monitoring of projects works. In fact, the SDPs are implemented through local bodies of Government of Nepal

(From left) Workers at the Mount Everest cleaning camp; and Farmers’ Society Building at Lalitpur and the library building on Adi Kavi Bhanu Bhakta Campus at Tanahun are result of Indian SDPs

are being built on rivers of hill districts where two villages were cut off for days in rainy season. As far as SDPs in health sector are concerned, India has been helping Nepal in controlling goitre since 1970. Financial assistance amounting to NRs 680 million has been extended to the initiative over the years. Independent study shows that this programme has nearly eradicated visible goitre and significantly reduced the number of people suffering from iodine deficiency in Nepal. India has also been providing assistance to Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh (NNJS) and has been carrying out school eye care programme. India’s assistance to NNJS has cured 1,02,000 patients of cataract and 5,100 patients of trachoma, and provided optical devices to over 36,000 school-going children. Moreover, India has gifted 402

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ambulances and 78 school buses to various health and educational institutions in Nepal. Rural electrification programmes have illuminated hundreds of houses in all geographical areas of Nepal and benefitted thousands of people in various districts. Among the districts that have benefitted from solar photo-voltaic technology to illuminate homes are Glum, Baglung, Dhading, Nawalparasi, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Terhathum, Panchthar and Taplejung. Professor Hari Bansh Jha, executive director of Centre for Economic and Technical Studies, Nepal, who had studied impacts of Indian SDPs in 2008 in Sarlahi district of Terai, says, “SDPs are changing lives in a big way and could serve as a model of development for developing countries. Long projects take time to build and sometimes their

impacts are not visible, but small development projects are built within a short span of time.” SDPs in Nepal are also unique in the sense that 100 per cent of the cost is invested in project works and the beneficiaries themselves choose their projects, which is not the case with projects carried out by other countries in Nepal. “When other countries do projects in Nepal, a large chunk of money indirectly goes to the donor’s country,” Jha says. In a way, these projects have unleashed a new energy and drive for local development across Nepal. These projects are small but useful, recipient-driven and locallyowned. Today, the Indian SDPs include building schools, libraries, universities, primary health posts, hospitals, micro hydro projects, solar and rural electrification projects, bridges, drinking water projects, canals and providing school buses and ambulances. India’s assistance programme is guided by the vision that alongside progress in political process in Nepal, it is equally important to ensure that economic deliverables, particularly in the areas of education, health and infrastructure, reach the people without any pre-conditions in a smooth, quick and unencumbered manner. Towards this end, Government of India is providing technical and

financial assistance for multi-sectoral development of Nepal. “Indian SDPs are popular in Nepal because these projects are free from bureaucratic hassles,” says sociologist Uddhab Pyakurel. The uniqueness of the Indian SDPs is also reflected in the method of project selection, release of funds and monitoring of project work. In fact, the SDPs are implemented through local bodies of Government of Nepal viz. District Development Committees (DDC), municipalities and Divisional Office of Department of Urban Development and Building Construction. Indian government does not release funds directly to the beneficiary organisations. Funds are released to the local body of Government of Nepal in the districts concerned in four installments based on progress reports received from the local bodies. An overseeing committee, consisting of executing agency (DDC and others), concerned district office (education, health, etc.), local community leaders and beneficiary organisations, is constituted to ensure quality and timely implementation of projects. Implementation of projects is closely monitored by the Indian Embassy through periodical on-site inspections by its officials. —The writer is Special Correspondent with The Himalayan Times, Nepal

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HERITAGE

HISTORY’S HIDEOUT

Caves can be dark, mysterious and, at times, frightening, but surely adventurous and a window to the eras gone by. These natural passages are also where history meets myth and legend. The amazing caves of India offer a visitor all of these. India Perspectives dares to step in country’s most amazing caverns to rediscover India Inside view of a Buddhist rock temple at Ajanta Caves


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M A H A R A SHT RA

HERITAGE IN ROCKS

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n Indian state known most for its caves is Maharashtra. Dating back to as early as first century BC and artistically built over a few centuries, its caves have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves have been home to monks of different religions. Most of the caves here are viharas (hall) and chaityas (pillared religious caves) and showcase fine art heritage of India. Be it the paintings in the Ajanta caves or the sculptures of the Ellora caves, or the divine presence in the Elephanta caves, the visitors have always and will always continue to be spellbound. These caves offer a visit that is truly unforgettable. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, of the self and of the divine. Hailed as India’s most magnificent heritage site, the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, were built as places of worship under the patronage of the Chalukya dynasty between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. The series of exquisite cave fresco paintings (in Ajanta), sculptures, murals and mammoth rock-cut shrines is considered to be one of the finest expressions of Indian Middle Age art and architecture. Whether it is the unique construction of the Kailasa temple in Ellora or the life-size statue of Buddha that gives an illusion of three expressions when viewed from different angles or the colourful pictorial display of Jataka tales in Ajanta, each has earned for itself a place in the glorious history of art in India. The cave temples of Ellora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the finest examples of Deccan rock-cut architecture. From the 6th to the 10th century, many generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carved chapels, monasteries and temples from

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Hailed

as India’s most magnificent heritage site, the Ajanta and Ellora caves were built by Chalukya dynasty. The series of exquisite cave fresco paintings, sculptures, murals and rock-cut shrines is one of the finest expressions of Indian Middle Age art and architecture

(Clockwise from top) Kailasa Temple at Ellora; and a painting and stone sculptures at Ajanta

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(Clockwise from top) Tourists at Elephanta; stone statues and a cave carved out of a basalt rock at Kanheri; and a stupa at Bhaja

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a two-kilometre long escarpment and decorated them with a profusion of sculptures that were precise to the last detail. The 34 caves at Ellora represent the renaissance of Hinduism under the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the subsequent decline of Indian Buddhism, and a brief resurgence of Jainism. The sculptures show the increasing influence of tantric elements in India’s three great religions. In fact, their coexistence at one site indicates a prolonged period of religious tolerance. The masterpiece is the Kailasa temple, which is considered to be the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, supposed to be sculpted from rock by 7,000 labourers over a 150-year period. The other prominent caves of Maharashtra are Elephanta, Kanheri, Karla and Bhaja, Pandavleni and Pitalkhora. The caves at Elephanta Island, located 11 km from Mumbai, have beautiful carvings, sculptures and a temple of Lord Shiva. Kanheri caves have an advantage of location. Just 42 kilometers away from Mumbai, the place is green with wooded hills and valleys, and architecture regarded one of the finest in India. Karla and Bhaja Caves are located near Lonavala in Maharashtra. A set of 22 rock-cut caves dating back to 200 BC, Bhaja caves are a representation of the Hinayana sect and showcase the early phase of Buddhist architecture. Pandavleni caves, built by the Jain kings, is a group of 24 Hinayana Buddhist caves, which date back between 1st century BC and 2nd century AD. Pitalkhora Caves, which date back to 2nd century BC are only 40 km away from Ellora caves at Aurangabad. Here one can see many unusual sculptures that resemble Yaksha figures. The main entrance has a wide terrace. —Khursheed Dinshaw and Madhulika Dash

The

sculptures at the Maharashtra caves show the increasing influence of tantric elements in India’s three great religions. In fact, their coexistence at one site indicates a prolonged period of religious tolerance

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M E G H A LA Y A

CAVERS’ PARADISE

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Six

kilometers from Sohra lies the Mawsmai Cave, a limestone cave known for its stalactites and stalagmites covered with bright crystals. The cave has impressive formations of large passages and chambers, and is large enough to facilitate easy movement

(Clockwise from top) Cavers in Siju Cave and the inside views of Mawsmai Cave

PHOTOS: INDIAPICTURE

eghalaya is another Indian state blessed with pristine caves. Over 700 natural caves—including subcontinent’s longest cave system (22 km in length)—are located throughout its East Khasi, Jaintia and the South Garo Hills. The prime caves are Mawsmai, Krem Dam, Krem Liat Prah, Siju, Krem Um-Lawan and Krem Umshangktat. The attractions of the Khasi Hills are Krem Mawmluh, Krem Dam, Krem Lymput, Krem Mawjymbuin and Mawsmai caves. Six kilometers from Sohra lies the Mawsmai Cave, a limestone cave known for its stalactites and stalagmites covered with bright crystals. The cave has impressive formations of large passages and chambers. Krem Liat Prah, located in the Jaintia Hills, is the longest natural cave in India. The cave is one of approximately 150 known caves in the Shnongrim Ridge of the district. Its foremost feature is its enormous trunk passage, the Aircraft Hangar. Another amazing cave is Krem Chympe, situated at a walking distance from the village of Khaddum to Sielkan. A river cave, Krem Chympe would require swimming over a series of large and deep lakes, formed by the existence of over 50 natural dams. The cave is also known for a large colony of bats and possibly cave-adapted fish. The Garo Hills has Tetengkol Balwakol, a delight for spelunkers. Located north of Nengkhong village are two adjacent circular entrances that lead to a 5-km-long dendritic river cave blessed with a maze of stooping to walking size passages. A sizeable cave existing behind a small entrance surprises just anyone getting in! Siju Cave, located on the bank of the Simsang River, is another cave famous for impressive limestone formation and bats.

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KARNATAKA

JEWEL OF THE HILLS

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(Clockwise from top) The fort atop rocky mountain and first cave temple; Bhuthanatha temples and sculptures at the Badami caves

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or anyone who is a lover of nature and its many hidden secrets, Badami cave complex is a must visit. Situated in the Bagalkot district of north Karnataka, the virtuoso sculptures and breathtaking vistas of the monument appeal to both learned and regular tourists. Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyas who ruled from the 6th to 8th centuries. The rulers built several fascinating temples in Badami between the mountains and the lakes. The Chalukyan king Mangalesa (598-610 AD) was responsible for the completion of these cave temples. The complex has four caves, all carved out of the soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff in the late 6th to 7th centuries. Rich and intricate, the architecture of the caves is most admired for its artistic adoption of stylistic elements from North Indian and Dravidian styles. These cave-temples consist of a rectangular pillared verandah (mukha mandapa), a square pillared hall (maha mandapa) and a sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha), all in an axial plane and rock cut, constituting the flat-roofed mandapa type of temples. Two of the temple caves are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one to Lord Shiva and the fourth is a Jain temple. One has to climb about 2000 steps to reach the cave. The engraved pillars and ceilings have beautifully crafted figures of Nataraja (Lord Shiva) in 91 imposing dancing poses, Mahisasurmardini (Goddess Durga) and Sheshanaga (serpent deity), Ardhanareshwari (half man−half woman), Vishnu in his Varaha and Narsimha incarnations, and 24 Jain Tirthankaras. Come out of the caves to see the Bhuthanatha Temple, on the opposite hill across the tank, Agasthya Tirtha, and a fort built by Mysore king Tipu Sultan, who visited Badami in the 18th century.

Rich

and intricate, the architecture of the Badami caves is most admired for its artistic adoption of stylistic elements from North Indian and Dravidian styles. The cave temples are built in flat-roofed mandapa type

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TA M I L N A D U

SILENT, YET ELOQUENT

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amallapuram is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture. With its antecedents rooted in legends and history, the port city represents the beginning of the architectural supremacy of south India. Historically, the city was founded by the great Pallava ruler Narasimha Varman I, sometime in the seventh century. The king was a great wrestler or a maha malla and so the city came to be named after him as Mamallapuram. While most of the architectural work at the city was left incomplete, and time and nature eroded the remains of this once great port, Mamallapuram is still known for its amazing rock-cut cave temples. Also called mandapas, they are sanctuaries covered with bas-reliefs. The earliest use of these caves as sanctuaries is traced to Buddhist and Jain periods. The famous eighth-century, pagoda-shaped Shore Temple has served as the benchmark of Dravidian architecture. It is the lone survivor of the group of seven temples that once graced the seashores. The Five Rathas (chariots of the five Pandavas) reflect the Pallava style of architecture in their variety of ornamentation and carved panels, besides a Buddhist influence. The Mahishasuramardini Cave (depicting demon-slaying Goddess Durga), the supine figure of Vishnu, Krishna Mandapam (carved with tales from Krishna’s life) and Krishna’s Butter Ball (a balancing rock) are stunning. Another attraction is the huge bas-relief panel known as Arjuna’s Penance. Every year during December–January, this UNESCO World Heritage Site hosts a dance festival, resurrecting to life the graceful poise of the figures carved in stone. —Uttara Gangopadhyay

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Mamallapuram is known for its amazing rock-cut cave temples. Also called mandapas, these are sanctuaries covered with bas-reliefs. The earliest use of the caves as sanctuaries is traced to Buddhist and Jain periods

(Clockwise from top) Bas-relief of elephants and Hindu deities; monolithic bas-relief, Arjuna’s Penance; a carved panel; and the Five Rathas site at Mamallapuram

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MADHYA PRADESH

A STONE AGE CANVAS

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(Clockwise from top) A tourist at the Bhimbetka Caves; scenic views of the rock shelters; and a painting in the cave

PHOTOS: INDIAPICTURE

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hink of a time thousands of years ago when you could not buy paints off the shelf, when there were no easels and there was nothing called commissioned art. But then, when did art need such paraphernalia to survive? The Bhimbetka rock shelters have the answer. On their walls and ceilings there are stunning line drawings of animals and motifs, all abstract, but stylish and graceful. What fascinates is the thought that there were no patrons and these were not drawn as paeans to the ruler; these are done by ordinary people depicting everyday lives. Moreover, it is not just one artist poring over it for that one special moment; it is a continuum of everyday people painting everyday life over hundreds of years. Archaeologists say it belongs to the Stone Age; there are 642 rock shelters of which 400 have paintings. At some places you see layers of colour because something new has been painted over an old drawing. That adds up to present a very fascinating documentation of eras. Located in Madhya Pradesh, Bhimbetka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves comprise a rocky projection in the midst of green fields on the edge of the Vindhya mountain range. There are around 500 paintings, in ochre or white, with an occasional splash of green or yellow. The style indicates that these paintings have not been completed over a definite period, but across several centuries. Considering there are images of elephants and horses existing in the region, it belies the theory that horses were not endemic to the Indian sub-continent. Since the paintings are believed to belong to an era between 25,000 BC and 10,000 BC, researchers may perhaps be able to decode many such mysteries. —Nandu Manjeshwar

Bhimbetka

rock shelters showcase a continuum of everyday people painting everyday life over hundreds of years. At some places you see layers of colour because something new has been painted over an old drawing. That adds up to present a very fascinating documentation of eras

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O D I SH A

FROM THE CITY OF JOY

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ust six kilometres away from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, stand two barren, small hills facing each other across the serpentine road. Legend says that the Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills—as these hillocks are known—were first used for carving out dwellings and retreats for Jain ascetics during the third century BC. The caves saw their glorious period during the rule of Kharavela, the ruler of Kalinga and of the Mahameghavahana Chedi dynasty. Kharavela rebuilt Kalinga, which according to inscriptions became ‘a city of joy’ under his rule. He built palaces, roads, rest-houses, canals, hospitals and every utility, besides the repair and rebuilding of the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves for Jain ascetics. According to a legend, Rani Gumpha, the two-storeyed and the most spectacular cave in Udayagiri, became the site of many artistic performances by singers and dancers. Though time has wiped off many of the original sculptures and inscriptions, Udayagiri still has 18 caves, while Khandagiri has 15. Carved friezes show scenes of war, the surrender of the Nanda king Bahasatimita, the love stories of Vasavadatta and Udayan and Shakuntala and Dushyant. In several caves, the friezes also showcase many holy Jain symbols. Probably the most important feature of the Udayagiri caves is the Hathi Gumpha inscription. In its 13 lines, it describes the life and career of emperor Kharavela. The inscription, written in Brahmi, is one of the oldest stone edicts in the historical records of India. In Khandagiri, three caves show the sculptures of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras with their symbolic animals and Sasan Devis. They comprise the complete pantheon of the Jain religion. Up on the top is a Jain temple built in 1837, on the site of an ancient temple.

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The

most important feature of the Udayagiri caves is the Hathi Gumpha inscription. In its 13 lines, it describes the life and career of emperor Kharavela. The inscription, written in Brahmi, is one of the oldest stone edicts in the historical records of India

(Clockwise from top) Tourists at the Udayagiri caves; rock-cut cave temples; and a visitor posing at the Khandagiri caves


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A N D H R A PR A D E S H

SPIRITUAL SOJOURN

S

Undavalli

caves possess a sculpture of Lord Buddha in sitting posture and another of Lord Vishnu made up of only one block of granite. The rock on which these caves are found gives an incredible view of the other equally riveting rock-cut structures

PHOTOS: INDIAPICTURE

(Clockwise from top) The stairs to and inside of Borra caves; and the sculptures of Undavalli Caves

outhern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has an interesting case when it comes to caves. A few of its caverns are as long as those found in Meghalaya, a few as ancient as found in Madhya Pradesh, and a few as scenic as those in Karnataka. Evolved over a period of several centuries, the Andhra caves have been a subject of interest among archeologists world over. Borra, Undavalli, Belum and Yaganti caves are the main halts for anyone interested in the subject. Belum Caves are the natural underground passageways that are known for being second to the Meghalaya caves with respect to their length. Borra Caves, near the river of Gosthani, are built of limestone deposits and bear a past of around one million years. A natural splendour by the side of Krishna river is Undavalli Caves, which are believed to be discovered in the early periods of 4th and 5th centuries. These caves possess a sculpture of Lord Buddha in sitting posture (believed to be built between 4th and 5th centuries AD) and another of Lord Vishnu made up of only one block of granite. The rock on which these caves are found gives an incredible view of other equally riveting rock-cut structures. Known for its beauty and serenity, the holy, natural caves at Yaganti is where 17thcentury saint Potuluri Veera Brahmam wrote his monumental work, Kaala Gnanam (a collection of chanting poems with future predictions). Located about 100 km from Kurnool, the caves encompass the Sanka, Venkateswara, Rokalla and Veera Brahman caves. Yaganti is a splendid conglomeration of subterranean passageways originated due to various actions and reactions of nature over a sizeable span of time. Its stunning chambers and natural cavities capture the imagination of anyone stepping in.

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CELEBRATION

An auspicious

arrival The culture capital of Maharashtra, Pune celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesha in a traditional way

TEXT: BRINDA GILL

FOTOCORP

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ocated in the west region of India, the state of Maharashtra comes alive with festivities as monsoon sets in. As the rains transform the landscape into soothing shades of green, a calendar dotted with festivals enhances the joyous mood. And perhaps the grandest, liveliest and most awaited festival is Ganesh Chaturthi that celebrates the birth anniversary of Lord Ganesha, the endearing elephant-headed deity, also known as Ganapati. Ganesha Chaturthi—though widely celebrated across India and by Indians globally—is inextricably woven with the fabric of Maharashtra, where people come out in large numbers to participate in the celebrations. The festival is observed across ten days with traditional rituals, meeting family and friends, and attending cultural programmes. The celebrations have particular significance for the people of Mumbai and Pune, where the festival came into greater prominence as a public festival during India’s freedom movement. Freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak took Lord Ganesha out of the confines of homes, exhorting believers to join him in public propitiation and worship. For Tilak, it was a means of organising people during the freedom struggle. Various Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals (community groups) were formed throughout Maharashtra, making the occasion a public affair. Over the past century—even after India attained independence in 1947 and as Pune has grown into a

Shree Kasba Ganapati Sarvajanik Ganeshutasav Mandal carries idol of Lord Ganesha for immersion during the festival in Pune

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Ganesha

worship is believed to have become widespread in Pune during the reign of the Peshwas, who considered the elephant-headed god their patron deity

(Above) Devotees perform on the rhythm of manjira and (bottom) dhol tasha during the celebrations in Pune this year

GETTING THERE By air: There are regular flights to Pune from main Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru. By rail: Pune is well connected to the rest of the country through mail and express trains.

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By road: Pune is accessible by bus and taxis from major Indian cities.

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cosmopolitan metropolis—the festival has maintained its traditional avatar with increasing enthusiasm. A variety of cultural programmes are held during the occasion. On the first day of the festival the idols are installed with rituals in homes and at specially created pandals (stage-like structures). The five most prominent and revered Ganesha pandals in Pune— called Manache Ganapati in local language Marathi—are Kasba Ganapati, Tambadi Jogeshwari Ganapati, Guruji Talim Ganapati, Tulshibaug Ganapati and Kesariwada Ganapati (which was established by Tilak). The pandals are imaginatively designed on a theme and ornately decorated. Devotees and tourists visit the pandals to see the idols, offer prayers and enjoy the community festival. Many of the pandals create scenes from the epics, yet others draw from more recent social and political issues and trends in the country. The pandal of Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati is particularly famous, as each year a spectacular replica of a famous temple or palace is created for the occasion. Another highlight of this pandal is the recital of the Atharvashirsha—a prayer to Lord Ganesha—by thousands of women, dressed in traditional attire, who infuse the precincts with their devotion. The celebrations are throughout, from pandals to homes and markets. A special component of the celebrations is modak, a steamed fig-shaped sweetmeat favourite to Ganesha. Besides religious and community events, socially oriented

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(Clockwise from right) A man dressed as Maratha leader Chhatrapati Shivaji; the idol of Lord Ganesh of Tulshibaug; and the idol of Kesari Wada in Pune

Shreemant

programmes such as tree plantation, blood donation, competitions based on social awareness and medical camps are organised in the city. After a joyful ten days of festivities, on the day of Anant Chaturdashi, the Ganesha idols are carried in colourful processions—with devotees dancing and chanting amidst dry colours and whirling flags and beseeching their God to return soon the following year—for immersion in a water body. In Pune, the main immersion procession starts from Phule Market with the five Manache Ganapati, each in spectacularly decorated palanquins or chariots, leading the way. The procession route on Laxmi Road is adorned with colourful rangoli decorations made on the road. The dhol-pathaks or troupes, who play the dhol (drums) and tasha (small drums) are an important part of the procession. Students of the Poona School and Home for the Blind participate in several such troupes every year and some like the all-girls troupes garner much appreciation. Lezim troupes—performing a folk dance with rhythmic moves while playing the lezim or jingling cymbals—are also a great attraction. In recent years the procession has taken just over a day to end till the last idol is immersed. The act of immersion returns clay images to the fabric of the earth, and signifies the cycle of creation and dissolution, intrinsic to faith. 

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Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati is a popular Ganesha shrine in Pune. It is named after the person who had the idols made to recover from a bereavement

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AFP

AFP

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AFP

OCTOBER CHEER

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THE FIRST TEN DAYS OF THE RISING MOON OF ASHWIN, THE SEVENTH MONTH OF HINDU CALENDAR, IS FOR BELIEF, OPTIMISM AND CELEBRATION THROUGHOUT INDIA. WITH EID AL-ADHA JOINING THE LIST OF FESTIVALS THIS OCTOBER, THE MOMENT BELONGS TO FAITH, FAMILY AND FEAST

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AFP

(From left) Hindi film actress Kajol and women during the Puja celebrations

DURGA PUJA, MUMBAI

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here is something about the month of October that gets the Bengali community jiving with excitement. The time is of Durga Puja, an annual festival that reinforces the traditional belief that shakti (power), in the cosmos, is of a feminine nature. While Kolkata has always been the epicentre of Durga Puja celebrations, Mumbai, in recent times, has rapidly established the reputation for hosting some of the most glamorous and happening Puja celebrations in India. Gone are the days when the only celebrations were the elegant ones held in Tejpal Auditorium in South Mumbai, or the more rambunctious version held at Shivaji Park, Dadar.

Film makers Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee then decided to start Pragati, one of the earliest suburban Puja in Andheri. Other film makers, Sashadhar Mukherjee started the Balkan-ji Bari Puja in Juhu, and Shakti Samanta started the Natunpalli Sarbojanin Durgotsav in Bandra, and soon these venues became popular spots for actors, directors, writers and producers to meet, interact and rediscover their roots. By 90s, an astonishing number of Durga Puja celebrations had mushroomed all over Mumbai. A few like the Lokhandwala Durga Puja boast of a celebrity-studded attendance and a cultural programme line-up that has the crème-de-la-crème of Mumbai’s film

industry performing. Smaller homely celebrations like the Mahakali and the Airport Colony Puja and Kallol at Goregaon, score with their warm and personalised approach, while the Ramakrishna Mission in Khar, one of the few places that perform a kumari puja (worship of a girl child), remains a perennial favourite with the purists. Special attraction of these celebrations are artisans from Kolkata, who sculpt Durga idols months before the Puja. Since music, theatre and dance form the vital triumvirate of the Bengali psyche, Kolkata-based artistes, dance troupes and musical bands often travel to Mumbai during puja. —Kankana Basu

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AFP

AFP

(From left) Garbha dancers and lamps during the Navaratri fest in Ahmedabad

NAVRATRI, GUJARAT

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avratri (meaning nine nights, dedicated to the nine forms of Goddess Durga) must be one of the world’s most celebrated festivals. Perhaps only the goddesses of the Hindu pantheon know how many millions dance, sing, pray and fast to evoke their blessings on the nine nights of Navratri, especially in Gujarat. In fact, the excitement of Navratri begins long before the festival when girls and boys start work on designing, stitching or buying the best clothes for the nights of garba and dandiya, the folk dances of Gujarat. The streets and markets of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar are lined with myriad costumes

and ornaments. The womenfolk wear traditional attire— choli and chaniya, or lehanga and gaghra with an odhni covering the head—embellished with embroidery, mirror inlay, appliqué, tie-and-dye and prints. Not to mention the ornaments that cover them from head to toe. Even men turn out bedecked in colourful turbans, embroidered jackets and shoes. As the festival begins, the neighbourhoods are full of people in bright apparels. Dances called sheri garba take place in the housing colonies and apartment complexes. The whole atmosphere is one of revelry and celebration for the nine nights leading to the eve of Dussehra. The dances

are usually centred around a mandvi, a structure erected for holding earthen lamps or diyas. The garba gets it name from the perforated, illuminated pot called garbi that is placed on the floor of every house and lit on the first night of Navratri, called Norta, or the victory of women power. While garba is a dance for women, the dandiya raas is performed by men. On Dussehra, the tenth day, it is common to witness serpentine queues in front of sweetmeat shops, especially in Ahmedabad. Customers stand for hours to buy fafda (chick pea snack) and jalebi. —Anil Mulchandani

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(From left) The grand reception at Mysore Palace and a Yakshagana artist during the festival

MYSORE DASARA

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or most of the year, Mysore, in Karnataka, remains a laid-back town. But for ten days of Dussehra celebrations (spelt Dasara in Mysore), the city turns into a show of royalty, music, dance and sports. The Mysore Dasara has been adopted as the state festival and receives much patronage, but it’s the entire package that is the crowd puller. For one, the Mysore Palace is illuminated during the ten days, making it a surreal edifice. An important Hindu festival, Dussehra celebrates Rama’s victory over demon king of Lanka, Ravana. The tenday festival at Mysore, symbolising victory of good over evil, was celebrated by the royals since the Vijayanagara empire

in the 16th century and subsequently by the Wodeyar rulers over the last five centuries. The celebrations begin with a traditional puja of goddess Chamundeshwari atop the Chamundi Hills, and for the next ten days, the city plays host to a variety of activities. The music and dance festival in the Palace draws some of India’s finest performers. There are performances at the Jaganmohan Palace, Town Hall, Veena Seshanna Bhavan and Kalamandir, and a drama fest held at Rangayana. Competitions and sporting events like athletics, bastketball, volleyball, cycling, kho-kho, kabaddi and climbing the steps up the Chamundi hills draw huge

participation. Then there is poetry reading, a food festival at Town Hall, flower show at Curzon Park, air show at Banni Mantapa, pet show at Kuppanna Park, film festival at various theatres, and the Dasara Exhibition in Doddakere Maidana, making it a spectacle worth witnessing. On the last day, Vijayadashami, a victory parade or Jambu Savari led by elephants starts from the Palace, winds its way through the streets and culminates at Banni Mantapa, an open air stadium at the city’s edge. It is followed by spectacular acts of daredevilry, and concludes in a magnificent torchlight parade. —Anita Rao Kashi

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(From left) The holy palanquins and drummers during the celebrations in Kullu

KULLU DUSSEHRA

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hen India has finished celebrating Dussehra, the Kullu valley, in Himachal Pradesh, begins its celebrations on Vijay Dashmi, the tenth day of Ashwin month, which continue for seven days. The festival is marked by colourful processions of devotees holding aloft gold and silver images of gods and goddesses, who move towards Kullu’s Dhalpur Maidan from all parts of the valley. Kullu Dussehra is not directly related to the Ramayana, but is related to King Jaganand who ruled the valley in the 17th century, and established an idol of Raghunath (Lord Rama) on his throne. The festival sees traders setting up temporary stalls offering woollen shawls, caps, blankets,

pullan (traditional footwear made from plant fibre and goat hair), and more. At this time, the valley is at its festive best, and one gets to see the Kullu handicrafts as well as locals dressed in traditional outfits. On the first day, Raghunathji, the reigning deity, is placed in a decorated chariot and is attended by village deities mounted on colourful palanquins. The valley is known for its local deities and ancient traditions that govern the lives of the communities inhabiting the lower Himalayan slopes. The chariot is pulled by thick ropes from its fixed place in Dhalpur Maidan to another spot across it. The pulling of ropes is regarded sacred, and during these seven

days all gods of the valley visit Kullu to pay their homage to the deity. Graceful performances by Choliya dancers, natti dances, and songs sung by Gaddi shepherds follow. In the next six days, the gods are invoked and paraded in the morning and evening amidst much singing and dancing. On the last day, the chariot is taken near the bank of river Beas where a pile of wood and grass is set afire, symbolising the burning of Lanka. The chariot is then brought back to its original place and the idol of Raghunathji is taken back to its temple in Sultanpur, where it rests till next Dussehra. —Smita Singh

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PHOTOS: AFP

(From left) Devotees offer prayers at Jama Masjid, New Delhi, decorated goats, and a busy market in Srinagar during Eid al-Adha

EID AL-ADHA

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t the end of Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca), Muslims throughout the world celebrate Eid al-Adha with traditional fervour and gaiety. Also known as Eid ul-Zuha, this festival strengthens the spirit of togetherness and sharing, and symbolises the willingness to give up some of the bounties to help the needy. The followers recognise that all blessings come from Allah, and one must open the heart and share them with others. A special occasion for Muslims in India, Eid al-Adha is a celebration of faith through sacrifice, feast and prayer. It is observed to honour Prophet Ibrahim, who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail, as an act of obedience to God.

According to Muslim belief, God wanted to test Ibrahim and ordered him to sacrifice. But just as Ibrahim was about to do so, God replaced Ismail with a goat—hence the tradition of sacrificing an animal. The story is also told in the Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament, where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son. Muslims draw inspiration from this unique example of submitting to the Creator. This symbolism is a willingness to make sacrifices in life in order to stay on the right path. Muslims all over India wear new clothes on the occasion and offer prayers at Eidgah (an open-air mosque where Eid prayers are offered) and mosques. One third of the meat of

the sacrificed animal is retained for family, while another third is distributed among friends and relatives and the remaining one third is given in charity to the poor. The prayers are followed by visits from family and friends, exchanging gifts and greetings, and enjoying an elaborate feast together. Every Muslim who can afford the sacrifice must do it not only as a religious duty, but also join the celebrations as an opportunity to benefit the underprivileged. The social significance of Eid ul-Zuha also lies in its economic milieu. The festival makes the lower sections of society earn in more ways than one. —Kaneez Fatma

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A scenic view of a Tripura village

LAND OF TRAVEL

LEGENDS

TRIPURA’S WEALTH OF TRADITIONAL ART AND CULTURE, HISTORY AND BIODIVERSITY CAST A MAGNETIC SPELL ON EVERYONE, SAYS ANSHUMAN SEN


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AFP

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Magnificent Indo-Saracenic palaces, amazing tribes and their culture, orange festival and spectacled monkeys include the many attractions of the state. The Ujjayanta Palace is Agartala’s most spectacular edifice. Built by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya in 1901, the huge whitewashed palace is built in the IndoSaracenic style. Its highest dome is 86-ft high and I’m given to understand that its floor tiles and wooden ceilings are quite exciting. There’s a huge Mughal-style garden in front of it and two large water bodies on both sides. Since the state legislative assembly is housed in the Palace, entry of visitors is restricted till 5 pm. The building is floodlit at night. MBB College, set in a sprawling campus that includes a stadium, is another

(Clockwise from top left) Ujjayanta Palace at Agartala; a fisherman throws his net to catch fish; and a simple pier near a river in Tripura

ANSHUMAN SEN

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uietly nestled in lush green hills and blessed with beautiful valleys and waterscape, Tripura is a land of abundant myths and legends. The state resembles a tiny dot on peninsular India’s map, dangling between Northeast India and Bangladesh. Its handicrafts, traditional music, diversity of cultural streams and faiths add to its irresistible charm. This little and spectacularly picturesque northeastern state shares only 15 per cent of its borders with India. You’ll find Bangladeshi potato wafers, cigarettes and biscuits everywhere in Agartala, the capital. And if you worship Hilsa fish, as I do, you’ll spend all your time salivating, drooling and eating. But there is much more to Tripura than this.

The Ujjayanta Palace is Agartala’s most

spectacular edifice. The impressive whitewashed palace was built in Indo-Saracenic style by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya in 1901


ANSHUMAN SEN

SNIGDHA RAHA

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AFP

(Clockwise from top right) The beautiful Jampui Hills; a man fashions a boat from bamboo; and workers at the Fatikcherra tea garden, near Agartala

Bengalis constitute 65 per cent of

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impressive building. There are some interesting markets within Agartala. There are two main travel circuits in Tripura—the south and the north. You can either hire a vehicle or depend on public transport, which is well organised. The Sepahijala Wildlife sanctuary is 25 km south of Agartala and the journey itself is quite enjoyable. You may also go to the nearby lake, which attracts migratory birds in winter. Neer Mahal Palace is the next destination in the southern circuit. The views of Neer Mahal in the evening are spectacular, when the palace is floodlit. Situated in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake, it has a dream-like quality about it. Built in 1930 as the summer residence of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore

Manikya, the palace was inspired by Mughal architecture. Five kilometres away from Udaipur, a small town south of Agartala, is the Tripura Sundari temple, or Matabari, one of the 51 shaktipeeths (seat of goddess Shakti or Sati) sacred to Hindus. Perched atop a low hill, the temple overlooks the Kalyan Sagar Pond, which has a large tortoise population. Tripura Sundari is also referred to as the Kurma (tortoise) Peeth. The Kamala Sagar Kali temple, on the India−Bangladesh border, is another important shrine. The Jampui Hills are the farthest from Agartala in the northern circuit. It takes unusually long to traverse the 250 km. But the long and tiresome journey has some rewards in store. The spectacular sunsets,

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legends to the word’s origin and significance. The cultural diversity in Tripura is astounding. Bengalis constitute 65 per cent of the population. The rest is divided into tribes, the prominent ones being Reang, Chakma, Halam and Lusai. Each tribe has its unique dance form. The Reang Hozagiri dance is perhaps the most visually striking. Young Reang girls stand on metal pots and balance bottles on their head. The Chakma Bizhu dance is a riot of colours and is performed at the time of harvest. The Bengali Dhamail is another colourful folk dance variant. Tripura is best known for its fine bamboo and cane craftsmanship. With so much on offer, Tripura can make you stay longer than you planned. Small is beautiful after all. n

(From left) A craftsperson making bamboo products; and tribal girls, in traditional costume, perform the harvest dance AFP

orange gardens, cool breeze and Eden Tourist Lodge at Vanghmun make the Jampui hills a must-visit destination. The Vanghmun Lodge is beautifully located and surrounded by trees and gardens. The wide terrace is perfect for star gazing and evening tea. The Orange Festival, held every November, attracts the maximum number of tourists. Unakoti is situated in the northernmost part of Tripura. The ninth-century massive rock-cut sculptures are located deep within a forest. There’s a 30-ft-high Shiva head that reaffirms the old tradition of Shiv– Shakti worship in Tripura. Unakoti also has one of the largest bas-relief sculptures in India. Unakoti literally means one less than a crore and there are some

GETTING THERE By air: There are no direct flights to Agartala from any of the metros, except Kolkata. The other alternative is to fly into Agartala from Guwahati, in Assam. By train: The nearest railhead is Manu, 110 km from Agartala. By road: You may take a 24-hour bus ride to Agartala from Guwahati. Tourist helpline: 91-381-2300332


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PHOTO ESSAY: SAFDARJUNG’S TOMB

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A Mughal style garden tomb, the Safdarjung Tomb is among the popular historical memorials in Delhi. The mausoleum located on the periphery of Lodhi Road is described by historians as the “last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture”. Photographer Ashok Dilwali captures its history and beauty SEPTEMBEROCTOBER 2013 u INDIA PERSPECTIVES

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Safdarjung’s Tomb was built in 1754 by Nawab Shuja-ud Daula as a tribute to his father Safdarjung, the powerful

prime minister of Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. The monument is built in the style of Humayun’s Tomb, which is located on the other end of Lodhi Road

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The monument is built in red sandstone and buff stone. One can see great designs and carvings on the

marble and stone at the entrance of the main mausoleum. The main entrance is huge and displays fine decorative paintings

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The tomb stands on a high terrace, which is surrounded by a Mughal garden divided into four squares by tanks and side pathways. The mausoleum houses the graves of Safdarjung and his wife, a mosque and a courtyard. Its central square chamber is surrounded by eight rooms, which are rectangular and octagonal in shape

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PROFILE

She scales to conquer World’s highest peak, Mt Everest has become a test of self-belief for the Indian woman, irrespective of her being a professional, homemaker or someone physically challenged. India Perspectives salutes her spirit

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N I RU PA M A PA N D E Y

OUTDOOR DREAMS

(From left) Nirupama Pandey with the Indian tricolour atop Mt Everest and being felicitated by Union Defence Minister A K Antony

Squadron Leader Nirupama Pandey takes mountains as testimony of strength, resolve and serenity

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ountains have always fascinated Squadron Leader Nirupama Pandey. The heights not only pose a positive challenge for her, but also provide solace and peace. “A mountain embraces you with open arms and gives its optimism to you. The thrill provides an opportunity to be mentally fit and physically agile, and strengthens your inner self by stretching your hidden capabilities to the extreme,” shares Pandey, who scaled the summit on May 25, 2011, while posted at the Indian Air Force (IAF) station, in New Delhi. Hailing from Jamojalalpur village of Siwan district, Bihar, Pandey completed her studies from Pune, Maharashtra. An athlete during school and college, she did her first official trek during her days with the National Cadet Corps. After many recognitions in outdoor sports, she discovered her passion rested outdoor. “The realisation made me enroll in a basic mountaineering course. Soon expeditions to Mt Stock Kangri in Leh, Mt Kamet and Mt Abhigamin in Garhwal and Mt Saser Kangri I in Ladakh followed. I successfully summitted Mt Everest in 2011, becoming the first person from Bihar to do so,” says this IAF officer and winner of Ati Vishisht Khel Samman by the Government of Bihar. Climbing Mt Everest was no cake-walk, insists Pandey. An extreme terrain, it throws everchanging weather conditions, continuous fatigue, lack of oxygen and appetite and other problems at trekkers. “Mountain is the only place where in a single day one can have frost bite/chilblains and heat stroke. You have to be very meticulous while climbing. Prolonged stay at inhospitable terrain sets monotony. You really need to be patient,” she says. While pursuing heights, Pandey was inspired by senior female summiteers like Bachendri Pal. Today she herself is a role model to many Mt Everest aspirants, who regularly call and write to her. “I advise them to have healthy body and mind, be patient and ready for a lot of hard work. Go step by step: start with small climbs first, understand the mountains and then submit yourself to the mountain; she will take care of you,” she advises. —Jyoti Verma

An athlete during

school and college, Pandey did her first official trek during her NCC days. After many recognitions in outdoor sports, she discovered her passion rested outdoor

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A RU N I M A S I N H A

ICON OF GRIT

(From left) Arunima Sinha during the expedition, with her prosthetic leg and Indian tricolour

Former volleyball player, Arunima Sinha looked beyond her prosthetic leg while aiming the pinnacle

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t is now history that Arunima Sinha lost her leg when a passing train crushed it, forcing doctors to amputate her below the knee to save her life. The loss, as it turned out eventually, failed to hamper the doughty attitude of this former national-level volleyball player. The first female amputee to climb Mt Everest in May 2013, the 26-year-old lady from Uttar Pradesh used the feat to regain her inner strength and faith in life. “I was completely shattered when I was lying on the hospital bed with one of my legs amputated and the other with a rod inside. Besides, there were other injuries in my body. Whosoever came to visit me at the hospital was busy sympathising with me, and I was wondering what I would do with my life,” she recollects, adding, “But I never wanted myself to be seen as disabled or helpless, so I decided, while I was still in the hospital, to conquer Mt Everest.” The expedition was tougher for Sinha than any other fellow climber. “(Though trained for months) stepping up, especially on a slope, and that too on ice was grueling. There were injuries, bleeding and pain. But, as said, no pain, no gain. I believe it was the belief of my trainer, and support of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation and my family that gave me strength to take each step. Once atop the Everest, I wanted to shout at the top of my voice to let the world know I was there. Wish I had some energy left in me to do that,” she says with a smile. After realising her dream of hoisting the Indian tricolour on world’s highest peak, Sinha tells people to ‘wait and watch’ for her next moves. She opens up a bit to reveal her plans to start a sports academy for physically challenged children in Uttar Pradesh. It seems, Sinha’s positive attitude is not only working for her, but also for others like her. As Italian Renaissance polymath, Leonardo da Vinci once said, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” —Jyoti Verma

PHOTOS: AFP

After Mt Everest,

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P R E M L ATA A G A RWA L

HOME TO PEAK

(From left) Premlata Agarwal during the expedition and with her mentor and senior mountaineer Bachendri Pal

After Mt Everest and Alaska’s McKinley Peak, Premlata Agarwal has become the first Indian woman to scale the seven continental peaks

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or anyone of 48, climbing the Mt Everest might be a daunting task, but for Premlata Agarwal age was a fact too small in front of the heights she aspired to achieve. Looking back, the homemaker from Jharkhand acknowledges the sheer grit that led her to the zenith. “The journey was riddled with thorny heartbreaks enough to chill the strongest mental toughness and physical ability,” admits the hiker, who was later awarded the Padma Shri by Government of India for the accomplishment. The milestones kept adding as she became the first Indian woman mountaineer to step on the highest peak of North America, Mount McKinley in May 2013. Premlata Agarwal started towards her passion for heights at the age of 35 when she undertook the Dalma (hill) trek 13 years ago. Surprisingly, the Mt Everest opportunity came when she was scouting for her daughters, who were taking their table tennis training at the Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur, in Jharkhand. Apart from the age mindset, the other challenges for her were language barrier, a persistent pain from an old ankle deformity, food preferences and the vagaries of the weather. But, the company and support of her mountaineering teammates, who now are her extended family, made all the difference. Once atop the mountain, Agarwal never looked back or down. The mountaineer swells with pride when she talks about her family without whose support she would not have achieved these heights. “I am lucky to have an appreciative family. The excitement of scaling the highest international peaks reflects more in my husband and my two daughters, who believe that they have accomplished the feat and not me,” she says. “Post Mt McKinley, as part of my social contribution, I plan to take up the task of motivating homemakers to accomplish the impossible. The Padma Shri brings to me additional responsibility towards society, especially women. The attitude of determination, confidence and triumph has to be inculcated in them to ensure a higher level of success,” says the hiker. —Urmila Marak

Not stopping at

Mt Everest, Premlata Agarwal became the first Indian woman mountaineer to step on the highest peak of North America, Mount McKinley in May 2013

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Terracotta

has thrived throughout India’s regions, from being used in smoking pipes of Haryana to the flower pots, lamps and toys of Molela, Rajasthan

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ART

Earthy Ethnicity Terracotta, a functional art known to man for centuries, is now getting a fresh look for its aesthetic value TEXT: PALLAVI PAUL

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nown to incorporate itself within panch tatva or the five vital elements of nature—earth, water, fire, air and ether—terracotta is considered to possess an aura of mysticism in India. This clay-based, unglazed ceramic craft bears true testimony to man’s attempt at craftsmanship since time immemorial, as art works dating back to the period of Indus or Harappan Civilisation (3300–1300 BCE) have been unearthed. The excavations of the Harappan Civilisation validate the fact that India has been an unmatched repository of terracotta since over five millennia. Artworks suggesting a possible belief in a fertility cult and female figurines identified as mother goddesses due to their elaborate ornamentation were unearthed at the Indus Valley sites. Toys such as balls, rattles, whistles, carts with moveable parts, animals on wheels and spinning tops have also been unearthed. The first creative expression of civilisation, terracotta has maintained a central position in Indian life and culture,

(From right) Rahul Modak’s artworks, titled Revived poetry of the dead leaves and Deceived vegetables

visible from the common earthen pot that stores drinking water to the colourful terracotta horses as part of village temple rituals of Tamil Nadu. The functional art has thrived throughout India’s regions, from being used in hookah chillums (smoking pipes) of Haryana to the flower pots, lamps and toys of Molela, Rajasthan. Special mention should be made of the state of Uttar Pradesh and its splendid contribution to terracotta. Gorakhpur, Khurja, Nijamabad and Azamgarh and Chinhat, all in Uttar Pradesh, are places renowned for amazing ceramic and terracotta work. Similarly, the terracotta figures of Aravalli district of Gujarat are popular, as most of them have been an integral part of the rituals of the state’s tribal communities. In the current scenario, the medium is a favourite among new-age sculptors, who use it to craft just anything— figurines, installations, home and garden décor items, tiles for floors and roofs, jewellery and collector’s items. The inspiration comes from nature, underwater life, rural lifestyle

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(Above) Tourists at Madan Mohan Temple and terracotta panels at Bishnupur

New-age sculptors are picking

INDIAPICTURE

terracotta to make figurines, installations, utility and décor products, jewellery and collector’s items

TERRACOTTA TOWN

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INDIAPICTURE

The history of Bishnupur, in Bankura district of West Bengal, can be traced back to 694 AD, when King Raghunath I founded the Malla dynasty. However, it was much later in 994 AD that the place was named Bishnupur, after Lord Vishnu. The place is best known for its terracotta art, which reached its pinnacle during the 17th century. The terracotta temples built during the period are also a specimen of classical style of Bengal architecture. The inner and outer walls of the temples are decorated with terracotta sculptures depicting the legends of Lord Krishna. The Radha Shyam and Keshta Raya temples, with ornate terracotta carvings, show the exhaustive skills of the artisans in the earthen medium. The interiors and exteriors of the temples are clad with high-quality, densely sculpted terracotta panels, and the ceiling, with a heavy Islamic influence, is complete with a terracotta finish.

(From left) A work by Rajan Shripad Fulari and a traditional Arabian pigeon house by artist Vinita Karim

and beyond. A few such artworks were displayed at Mystery of Mysterious Terracotta, a recent exhibition in New Delhi. “Contrary to popular belief, terracotta is quite sturdy. If it does break, it does not dissolve into nature, but does not harm the environment either. It is, thus, a cheap and ecofriendly material available in abundance,” says artist Ela Mukherjee. A visual artist and curator with Lalit Kala Academy, Rajan Shripad Fulari notes a growing demand for terracotta products among consumers, as they have immense artistic worth today. “Intertwined with Indian culture, the rusticity and earthiness of terracotta gives it a wonderful charm. Its antiquity adds to its allure. It has also been a vital source of employment for rural artisans throughout the country. Workshops across India help them fine tune their art as per modern needs and revive their products and designs, so that these are fit for both domestic and international markets,” he says. One such workshop was organised in Udaipur, in

Rajasthan, recently. Thirty craftsmen from 14 Indian states participated in this ten-day workshop on terracotta art at Shilpgram. Organised by West Zone Cultural Center (WZCC), one of seven cultural zones established by Government of India to preserve and promote India’s traditional and cultural heritage, the meet helped craftsmen share their knowledge and experience with each other. “Such meets also help the medium get better, like in the area of fragility. Keeping this in mind, lokalart.com—an online cultural platform where one can discover, purchase and advertise terracotta products— has been launched with a view to empower artisans,” shares Shailendra Dashora, director, WZCC. Visitors to Shilpgram would soon be able to see the crafts made during the workshop at its Terracotta Museum. One may also visit Sanskriti Museum of Indian Terracotta, in New Delhi, to catch some amazing terracotta crafts. The items at both the hubs display terracotta’s potential to capture human imagination. A communication in clay that younger generations proudly repeat! 

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CUISINE

FROM BYGONE KITCHENS

t’s early morning and Old Delhi is set to open to another day of brisk business. One of the oldest markets of India, it deals in everything, from commodities, clothes to jewellery and shoes. Besides business, many visitors to its narrow lanes—a few like us—are solely driven by gastronomical urges. The temptation is to rediscover the heritage cuisine of the walled city, fondly called Purani Dilli, that goes back to mythic Pandava capital and has culinary inputs from the kitchens of Mughal and communities such as Kayastha and Baniya that once stayed here. To explore all in day’s time, we have come prepared with our basics in place. At the outset, the Old Delhi cuisine has a name, Dehlvi, inspired by the name of the city. Historians say, each of Purani Dilli’s earlier community, with its style of

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preparation and food habits, has lent its uniqueness to the fare. The interesting mix of spices, aroma, ingredients and staples, served in an earthy style makes the cuisine exhaustive and outstanding. The platter has options galore —from street specialities such as chaats to elaborate dishes like kormas and qaliyas, salan and subzis, tahiris, breads (baquarkhani, bedami, nagori, among others) and desserts. We begin with the best-selling breakfast items paranthas (fried stuffed flatbread), paya-nihari (slow-cooked meat) and bedmi-aloo (potato dish served with deep-fried bread made of wheat and lentil) served with chutney. Initially developed for labourers during the Mughal era, nihari today is a famous Old Delhi breakfast. On the other hand, bedmialoo is perfect Baniya vegetarian delicacy. Another popular

The narrow lanes of Old Delhi offer a complete ‘Indian gastronomic experience’ built over centuries TEXT: JYOTI VERMA

THE

HERITAGE CUISINE OF OLD DELHI HAS CULINARY INPUTS FROM THE KITCHENS OF MUGHAL AND COMMUNITIES SUCH AS KAYASTHA AND B ANIYA


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THE

INTERESTING MIX OF SPICES, AROMA AND STAPLES, SERVED IN AN EARTHY STYLE MAKES THE CUISINE EXHAUSTIVE AND OUTSTANDING

delicacy of Old Delhi is the elaborate fare of paranthas from Gali Paranthe Wali (a street of paranthas), which has shops operational since the 1870s. The vivid options to be explored further are bade, tikka and kebab, main-course delicacies made of vegetables and cottage cheese, and desserts such as kulfi (a frozen dairy dessert), kheer (mildly thickened and sweetened milk), halva and gulab jamun (fried sweet dumplings). Culinary historians suggest that all these delicacies have seen centuries of research and development to get on our platter. One such developed cooking technique is bhuna, where spices are gently fried in oil to bring out the flavour of food. Another is to cook the food in a sauce made with browned onions and yoghurt (not tomatoes) to get the

texture and tanginess. Not just yogurt, Old Delhi has recorded the use of plums to get tanginess. Many such cooking styles make the Old Delhi food last long on one’s tongue and heart. Today, Dehlvi cuisine is an inspiration for restaurants and hotels at home and abroad. One of them is WelcomHotel Sheraton in New Delhi that has Dehlvi buffet on its menu. Its sous chef Vipul Gupta, has many secrets to share when it comes to his favourite subject. “Not many know that tandoors gained popularity post-1947 when people from Punjab set these up to cook breads and meat. The Kayastha gave the trick of mixing vegetables with meat, and Mughals gave us korma and nihari. With so much in its DNA, the splendid cuisine is for everyone,” he says. n

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A Baul singer during a performance in West Bengal

DOCUMENTARY

Spiritual Melodies Tolerance towards one and all became the foundation of Sufi mystic music in India, a heritage this film attempts to capture, writes Kuldeep Kumar Sama: Muslim Mystic Music of India Directed by: Shazia Khan Supported by: Public Diplomacy Division, MEA, and Public Service Broadcasting Trust

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ndia’s unity in diversity has been the foundation of its composite culture developed over the past two millennia. Members of all religious, regional and ethnic communities have contributed to this foundation whose hallmark is an undying spirit of tolerance towards one and all. Sufi mystic music truly exemplifies this phenomenon, and SAMA: Muslim Mystic Music of India wonderfully captures its origin and growth, and gives a panoramic view of its vast expanse. The compilation opens with the Quranic Ayat 152 from Sura 2 (Al-Baqarah): “You remember me and I will remember you,” and immediately takes the viewer to a breathtaking shot of a Tamil Nadu beach, where Sufi singers chant hymns in Tamil in praise of Allah. After showing a few dargahs (Sufi shrines), the film moves on to show the beauty of Kerala’s seas that had facilitated state’s links with the pre-Islamic Arab world. The film underlines the fact that during its nearly 1400-year-old interaction with various Hindu religious practices and culture, Islam assimilated them within its fold while continuing to retain its distinctive character. In 1184, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti came to Ajmer, Rajasthan, and with his arrival began the spread of Islamic mystic tradition in North India. As Syed Nazir Ali, scholar of Sufi music explains in the film, the saint observed that the Hindus sang bhajans (devotional songs), which were popular among people. So, he too started holding musical gatherings to sing in the praise of God. Gradually, these assemblies became an integral part of the khanqahs (houses of Sufis), and music came to be closely associated with Sufi practices. Women Mappilapattu singers of Kerala, Manganiyars of Rajasthan, Zikr singers of Assam, singers of Sufiana kalam from Kashmir, Baul singers of Bengal and qawwals of Uttar Pradesh spread the universal message of love and humanity through their music. They are devout Muslims, but their music has the influence of non-Islamic local traditions. The film brings out the non-dogmatic and heterogeneous character of the Sufi mystic music effectively. Competent camera work and tight editing make the film a memorable experience. It captures the true spirit of India. —The writer is a senior journalist and writes on politics, culture and classical music Watch SAMA at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyg4qpqDXqE

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During

its nearly 1400-year-old interaction with various Hindu religious practices and culture, Islam assimilated them within its fold while continuing to retain its distinctive character


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India Perspectives Sep Oct 2013