On the road near Vrindavan

12th February 2014 (Day 4) (Vrindavan #5)

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Family with house and dog.

Most of the images in this post were from the journey back from Govardhan (and Kusum Sarovar temple) to Vrindavan.  The first two are from the journey to Govardhan.  Many were taken from the bus, in motion.

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This is at Govardhan, having just alighted from the bus.

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This is still at Govardhan but we are leaving on the bus.  This appears to be a makeshift shrine.  Three seekers or holy men and their puppy.

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The shadows don’t really help here or in the previous image but when you’re travelling you can’t be everywhere in good light.

The wheels are a kind of mechanical threshing machine that you can see more clearly if you click on the image.  There is a handle on the large wheel to turn it around.  I suspect the huts store the green materials used to feed the machines and the output in turn is for animal feed, such as for the buffalo tied up in the foreground.

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Low-tech traffic signals for trains, it would seem.  This is taken from the bus on an unregulated crossing and I presume that all trains are expected to stop to ensure no accidents.

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A village scene flashing by as we drive past.  All the huts would be for storage.

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After a while we stopped for lunch under a large tree.  This image and the next five were taken of people passing by or of the farming area around where we stopped.

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I can’t show you the photograph taken on the phone.

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DSCF1219-3-Edit

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For the last two, we are on our way on the bus again.  I understand these cattle are just lounging around in the sun, rather than being outside their own house in a village where cattle have property rights.

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Current technology transport and transport from time immemorial.

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Resizing Images in WordPress

This post is for others who generate WordPress blogs, especially with multiple images per post.

WordPress removed most of the functionality for image editing two days ago in the guise of an upgrade. There has been a storm of protest on the WordPress forum and they are now looking at how to restore at least some of the functionality.

For me the worst downgrade was no longer being able to resize images by percentages.  When you place images on a WordPress page they appear at page width. A landscape (horizontal) image with an aspect ratio of 3:1 therefore starts off nine times smaller than a portrait (vertical) image with the same aspect ratio. I used to use the percentage resize option to get all images on the page to be approximately the same area.

Losing this capacity got me thinking. I realised you could change image sizes by editing in text mode so I knocked up a utility in Excel to specify what the changes should be. Typing in those new values is probably quicker than percentage resizing was. And then I realised I could automate this using a Word macro, potentially useful for multiple-image posts.

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Adult blue-tongued lizard

Adult blue-tongued lizard

Here are two images (cropped 1×1 and 16×9) that I resized in WordPress edit using the Word macro.  Actually, with only two images I might as well have done it manually using values from the Excel spreadsheet.

I usually use standard aspect ratios in Lightroom to resize images including a few custom ones I have defined for panoramic images (2:1, 2.5:1, 3:1). I started using standard aspect ratios so I could reuse mattes for prints in Canberra Photographic Society competitions.  I then found standard ratios more useful than custom ones for considering cropping and seldom need to specify custom ones for individual images.

I have included all these standard aspect ratios in the macro.  The macro will not change other ratios.  You can get the revised values for these from the spreadsheet and type them into the editing text or perhaps revise the macro.

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Baby blue-tongued lizard

Baby blue-tongued lizard

The images show blue-tongued lizards sunning themselves in our garden yesterday, an adult and a young one. These are more specifically the eastern blue-tongued skink, Tiliqua scincoides scincoides. We also have the closely related shinglebacks in our garden.

Here is a link for an Excel spreadsheet which has both the utility to calculate image dimensions and the text of the macro to copy to Word.

  • Resizing WordPress Images
    • The spreadsheet includes the instructions for using both the utility and the macro.
    • You can use the macro to change all images to constant size provided you use captions (WordPress bug)
    • Otherwise, you can obtain values from the spreadsheet and use them in Edit Image/ Scale Image
      • including percentage resizing (further resizing cell)

I have also suggested WordPress incorporate an automatic capacity for resizing images and suggested how they would do this.  Whether they listen of course is another matter.

Vrindavan – Kusum Sarovar

12th February 2014 (Day 4) (Vrindavan #4)

We went on a short journey from Vrindavan to Govardhan where we saw the Kusum Sarovar temple complex which was built in the eighteenth century.
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The area round Govardhan is on Govardhan Hill, which I also heard described as the Sacred Mountain.  It is a gently uplift over four or five kilometres that you only really notice from a distance.

Krishna is said to have encountered villagers preparing to sacrifice to Indra, the God of Rain, and he told them to stop the sacrifice and go about their business.  When Indra sent torrential rain, Krishna lifted up Govardhan Hill to protect the villagers and their cattle.  The legend represents leaving behind old practices of sacrifice to concentrate instead on dharma, the way of living one’s life to generate most beneficial karma.

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People are actually not supposed to bathe in the waters but there is no way of stopping them.

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Inside the domes there are ancient frescoes which are sadly in need of restoration.

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Vrindavan – Walk through town

11th February 2014 (Day 3) (Vrindavan #3)

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On the street.

In the afternoon, we went for a walk across town to a recycling centre and then back to the ashram.

Here are a few comments about my attitude to street photography.  I don’t ask people if I can take their photograph.  What would be the point of that?  You just would get faces put on for the camera, not potentially a fleeting glimpse of reality.  On the other hand, if people ask me, that’s fine.  I don’t usually look through the viewfinder or the back of the camera in order to have some interaction with the people I photograph.  If people indicate they don’t want to be photographed then I don’t do so.  I’m looking for what’s real rather than flattery. I will discard or not take images that show people in an unfortunate light.

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Walking past a yarn shop.

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Automotive recycler.

This was a case where a couple of people pulled me over to take a picture so I did so.  It was only later, looking at the image on the computer, that I realised they had given me a special opportunity for an environmental portrait.

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People in Vrindavan were frequently keen for me to photograph them just for the event and the social interaction.  All I could do was show them the image on the back of the camera.  Usually they had no computer or email and maybe not even a viable postal address.

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These women are making paper using recycled materials.  Friends of Vrindavan is a non-profit community organisation that seeks to improve the environment in Vrindavan in a variety of ways and also provides employment to the poor.

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Bovine pedestrian.

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Canine pedestrian.

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For a while walking back along the streets of Vrindavan I was besieged by a scrum of laughing, screaming children, wanting me to take their photograph and having a great time.   It was difficult getting images in focus because you can’t focus on a moving crowd from six inches away.

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Simian pedestrian (though in fact we’re all simian).

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Doorway in a back alley.

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Indian Macaque mother and child.

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Vrindavan – Across the river

11th February 2014 (Day 3) (Vrindavan #2)

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This morning we crossed the river and went for a walk to a nearby village.

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The second boat with the other half of our party.

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Egret.

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Storage hut, not a dwelling.

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The hut has collapsed, they appear to be removing the contents.

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Buffalo at the village.

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Herbs at the edges of the fields.

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Black-winged stilt.

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In this last image, what is behind the boat is not a sculpture or a special roosting installation for birds, it is the pylons for a motorway bridge that was to go through the heart of Vrindavan, demolishing the integrity of a cultural heritage area.  This was only stopped following concerted local objections.

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Vrindavan – On the river

10th February 2014 (Day 2) (Vrindavan #1)

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Having arrived in Vrindavan and dropped our luggage off, we went for a journey on the river.

Our stay in Vrindavan was very special.  It is an ancient religious centre, where Krishna spent part of his childhood, and we were staying at an ashram, guests of Robyn Beeche (also see A Life Exposed) and also Raju.  Robyn was a pioneering fashion photographer in London in the 1970s and 1980s, creating amazing surreal portraits using skin-painting, lighting and backgrounds.  She has lived in India since 1985, producing remarkable images of the people there.  Raju, who grew up in Vrindavan, is also an experienced and highly accomplished photographer.

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The images in this post are taken from a boat on the Yamuna, one of the most sacred rivers in India.  The exception is the last image, taken from on land, having just alighted from the boat.

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This pontoon bridge is removed and stored each year prior to the arrival of the monsoon floods.

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There was a religious ceremony being performed by the river as the sun went down.  I thought perhaps there was a festival but this happens frequently.  It is a Puja or Arati ceremony.

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Delhi to Vrindavan

10th February 2014 (Day 2)

Delhi

Delhi

We undertook a long journey from Delhi to Vrindavan.  This gate in Delhi caught my eye as we went past on the bus.  It was only later when I looked more closely at the image on the computer that I was intrigued by the spelling error in the sign.  OK, most people in India are more comfortable in Hindi (or other non-English language) and it’s probably just a signwriter’s error but this is a University offering law courses in English and as well they offer “Management Coureses”.

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Delhi

Ready, set, go… (Delhi)

The traffic in Delhi is often a challenge.  Just as well I didn’t have to drive in it.

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Delhi

Delhi

Some modern sculptures in a park on the outskirts of Delhi.

This was taken from the bus, as for most of the images in this post.  Tricky at the best of times, with the opportunities usually very fleeting.  After this we got up to highway speed and it got just too hard until we reached Vrindavan.

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

For this image and the next two, we had stopped (I think for people to get some money from an ATM) and I was out of the bus and photographing from the street.

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

In the background an old Hindu temple, Madan Mohan Temple, built in 1580.   In the foreground are people playing cricket and spectators.   On the pole is an advertisement for a new block of flats just outside town, somewhat bizarre in context.

This and the next three images flashed by as we travelled into Vrindavan on the bus.

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Delhi – Humayan’s Tomb and Isa Khan’s Tomb

9th February 2014 (Day 1)

Isa Khan’s Tomb

Isa Khan’s Tomb

Here we visit the tombs of Isa Khan Niazi and Humayan.

Isa Khan Niyazi was an official in the courts of Sher Shah Sur and his son Islam Shah Sur.  I know little of his life but he was made Governor of Multan in what is now Pakistani Punjab by Sher Shah Sur at the age of 78 or older.  His tomb was built from 1547 to 1548 and he died in 1548 at the age of 95.  I will provide some context of Sher Shar Sur when I talk of Humayan further below.  First though, I will discuss early Indian history (which is of such complexity that providing any kind of summary is a challenge) and then lead up to the period of these tombs.

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Isa Khan’s Tomb

Isa Khan’s Tomb.  View through main gate.

Humans have lived in India for a long time.  Homo Erectus was in India, perhaps as long as two million years ago.  Dravidian people from South Central India are related to Australian Aboriginals and therefore have probably been there for 60,000 years or more.

India (well, Pakistan for the main part) was also home to one of the worlds pioneer civilisations, Harappa.  It lasted from around 3000BC to 1700BC.  It was centrally organised with standardised urban planning, house design and construction.  It also had sewerage and relatively even wealth distribution.  It was not militarised; the mud-brick towns were not fortified and there have been no finds of weapons.  It was an agricultural society and in the end overwhelmed by a climatic event involving persistent floods.  They had writing but we cannot read it.  Where Delhi is now would have been just on its borders.

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Isa Khan’s Tomb

Tawny Eagle (?) guarding Isa Khan’s Tomb

India is protected by the Himalayas to the north, jungle to the east, water to the south and the Thar Desert for most of the area between India and Pakistan.  Overland invaders come from the North-West, from Afghanistan or Persia.  New people coming in from the North-West after the fall of Harappa were herdsmen on horses.  Agriculture withered away.  Urbanisation didn’t commence again until about 600BC.  The next major state was Nanda, controlling the Gangetic valley for two generations from around 400BC.  Alexander the Great turned up in 327BC when it was in decline and the ruler had a huge army but was unpopular.  Alexander might have won or been annihilated but he turned back, just past the Pakistan border, after his troops rebelled.

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Isa Khan’s Tomb

Detail, Isa Khan’s Tomb

The Nanda were replaced by the Mauryan Dynasty and the third Mauryan ruler, Ashoka, ruled over a vast empire from Afghanistan down to almost the southern tip of India.  Ashoka became a Buddhist and dedicated his empire to harmony and peace.  He was also influential in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, particularly Thailand.  After his death the empire quickly fell apart.

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Isa Khan’s Tomb

Ceiling, Isa Khan’s Tomb

It was another 500 years before another large state appeared, that of the Guptas around 300AD to 400AD.  Based at Ayodhya below the western end of today’s Nepal, that empire came to include the Gangetic valley, stretched across to Gujarat on the west coast, and down the east coast almost as far as Sri Lanka.  The cultural influence of the Guptas is shown in the application of the name of the capital Ayodhya to Ayutthaya, the ancient Thai capital, and Jogjakarta or Ngajodya-karta in Java.  After an intervening period of disintegration, the Harsha Empire covered a similar area around 600AD, excluding the east coast.

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Isa Khan’s Tomb

Window, Isa Khan’s Tomb

From 700AD to 950AD there was a fluctuating competition between three large states:  Pallas based in Bengal, the Gurjara/Pratiharas based in Gujarat and the Rashtrakutas based in the Deccan.   And from 950AD to 1100AD the Cholas built a substantial state based in Tamil Nadu, were very influential in South-East Asia and traded with China.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Humayan’s Tomb

There were also many incursions from the north-west. The Huns were rebuffed by the Guptas around 450AD but defeated the Guptas and caused the downfall of the dynasty in the early 500s.  They then ravaged the north-west until finally expelled during the formation of the Harsha Empire.  The Arabs (/Moslems) reached the Indus in the early eighth century soon after conquering the Persian Empire but then stayed there for two centuries without greatly troubling India, contained by the rajas of Rajasthan.  At the end of the twelfth century, Moslem Turks from Afghanistan broke through and established the Delhi Sultanate.  After a few decades they controlled an area similar to that of the Harsha Empire.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Ceiling, Humayan’s Tomb

The Mongols sacked Delhi in 1241 and they repeatedly invaded from 1298 to 1327 but they encountered the ferocious Ala-Ud-Din Khalji who repeatedly defeated them.  Under Muhammed bin Tughluq in around 1335 the Delhi Sultanate controlled most of India though many regions fell away in the latter part of his reign and especially in the succession struggle after his death.  His successor Firuz Shah Tughluq retained the Gangetic valley but after a defeat to the Mongols in 1398, the power of the Sultanate outside Delhi withered away.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Humayan’s Tomb

Then in 1526 Babur (Zahir Al-Din Muhammed Babur) invaded from Afghanistan.  He was descended from Timurlane on his father’s side and Genghis Khan on his mother’s.  He had many years of experience, having previously taken and lost Samerkand three times.  He defeated two much larger armies near Delhi because as well as his 12,000 cavalry he also had firearms, specifically mortar, cannon and matchlocks and he was an astute military tactician.  He became the first Mogul Emperor, with an empire stretching from Afghanistan almost to Bengal and approaching Gujarat on the west.  However, he died after only four years, of natural causes.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Humayan’s Tomb, subsidiary chamber of female relatives (?)

This now brings us to the two monuments I visited that we see here.  The second is Humayan’s Tomb and Humayan was Babur’s eldest son and successor.   He was talented and intelligent and a capable military leader but too much inclined to self-indulgence and opium.  This meant that periods of successful activity were followed by periods in which nothing much happened and where he left decisions to others.

Initially he had many threats to deal with.  First he defeated Mahmud Lodi, brother of Ibrahim Lodi, last of the Sultans of Delhi defeated and killed by Babur.  Then he conquered both Gujarat and Malwa.  At the citadel of Champaner in Gujaret, Humayan led the assault, scaling a seemingly inaccessible cliff with hammer and pitons in a “wildly audacious assault”.  Next he came to deal with Sher Shah Sur in Bengal.  Here he was roundly defeated and had to flee, first to Rajasthan for three years, then for much longer to Persia.  Sher Shah Sur was now emperor.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Reflection, Humayan’s Tomb

Sher Shah Sur had been an influential supporter of the Lodi Sultanate of Delhi and from his fortress base at Chunar, near Varanasi, successfully challenged and expelled Humayan. As imperial ruler he proved an exceptionally capable administrator.  For example, he reduced the prevalence of corrupt overly independent Governors by decentralising appointments with limited terms and treated all peoples and religions relatively equally.  He died of burns while successfully besieging a citadel in Gujarat when a rocket bounced off a wall and fired a pile of rockets he was standing beside.

We considered Isa Khan Nyasi’s tomb, towards the top of this post.  Isa Khan Nyasi was an official under Sher Shah Sur, as we described there.

Sher Shah Sur’s son was not as politically adept as his father.  When he died as well after a few years, the Empire degenerated into a succession conflict.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Humayan’s Tomb, with moon

At this point Humayan stepped in again and after some battles regained his position as Emperor, after fifteen years of exile.  He saw off his three brothers who challenged him from their positions as regional Governors but he did not last long.   In 1556, within a year of regaining the throne,  he was on his roof to observe the rise of Venus, tripped on the stairs, fell and died.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Humayan’s Tomb

Reflecting his period of exile in Persia, his tomb was designed by a Persian architect and incorporates Persian styles.

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Humayan’s Tomb

Detail of Arab Serai Gate, for enclosure housing Persian craftsmen building Humayan’s Tomb

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Nearby cricket.  Everywhere in India.

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Delhi – the Red Fort

9th February 2014 (Day 1)

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In Old Delhi from a Rickshaw

From Jama Masjid or Jamma Mosque, we rode through the streets of Old Delhi in a bicycle rickshaw, on the way towards the Red Fort.  Most of the streets were very narrow but unfortunately it was a Sunday so most of the shops along the route were closed and there were much fewer people around than there would usually be.  There is a great variety of vehicles on the streets of India.

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In Old Delhi from a Rickshaw

Here a street vendor is adjusting something under his cart in the middle of the road and the rickshaws are just squeezing through.

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In Old Delhi from a Rickshaw

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In Old Delhi from a Rickshaw

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In Old Delhi from a Rickshaw

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In Old Delhi on the street

In Old Delhi on the street

We stopped for a while, so this and the next one are from the street.

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In Old Delhi on the street

In Old Delhi on the street

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In Old Delhi from a rickshaw

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the Red Fort

the Red Fort

This is the Red Fort.  In was built between 1638 and 1648 by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan, who moved his capital from Agra to Delhi.  It is very large and incorporates various palace buildings.  A listed UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also an icon of contemporary India.  Nehru raised the Indian flag from the main gate in 1947 and the Indian Prime Minister delivers a speech from here every year on Independence Day.

The Mogul Empire reached its zenith under Shah Jahan‘s son Aurangzeb, who controlled pretty much all of today’s India, Pakistan, Bangla Desh and Nepal except for a small area in the far South.  The Moguls became much weaker in the eighteenth century and by 1730 they directly controlled only the area around Delhi.  With a succession of ineffective Mogul rulers, power had devolved to the regions which then became effectively independent though the Emperors retained wide-ranging influence.

The Maratha Confederacy, spanning Central India from coast to coast, became protectors of Delhi in 1752 but this was not enough to stem the tide of history.  Persian Emperor Nadir Shah took and looted the Red Fort in 1739.  Ahmad Shah from Afghanistan raided Delhi in 1756 and 1761 though I’m not sure whether he took the Red Fort.  The Sikh Misl Karorisinghia took the Red Fort in 1783 and then withdrew in exchange for concessions.  Then in 1803 the British defeated the Marathas and took Delhi, thereby effectively controlling subsequent Mogul Emperors.  In 1857 during the Indian Mutiny, the last Mogul Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, allowed himself to become the focus of the revolt.  After the collapse of the revolt, the Emperor was deported to Burma.  The British then looted the fort and destroyed many of the internal buildings.

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Ceiling, Naubat Khana (Red Fort)

Ceiling, Naubat Khana (Red Fort)

This is part of the ceiling of the Naubat Khana or Drum House.   The Emperor Jahandir Shah is said to have been executed here in 1713 on the orders of his nephew Farrukhsiyar, who had defeated him in battle and become Emperor.   Farrikhsiyar is also said to have been assassinated here in 1719 on the orders of his erstwhile ministers the Sayyid Brothers.

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Diwan i Am (Red Fort)

Diwan i Am (Red Fort)

The Diwan I Am or Hall of Public Audience was built between 1631 and 1640.  It was the place where the Emperor Shah Jahan addressed the general public as well as the nobility.  His balcony or throne would have been the white marble structure partly shown on the far left.

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Diwan i Khas (Red Fort)

Diwan i Khas (Red Fort)

The Diwan i Khas or Hall of Private Audience was where the Emperor Shah Jahan received selected courtiers and visitors and it originally housed his peacock throne.

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Sawan Pavillion

Sawan Pavillion

We were very short of time inside the Red Fort and I had to race around to get what images I could.  With more time I may have been able to find some further interesting details.

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the Red Fort

the Red Fort

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the Red Fort

the Red Fort

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the Red Fort

the Red Fort

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Delhi – Jama Masjid

9th February 2014 (Day 1)

Change of plan.  Instead of resuming permanent posts of Scotland, I’ve decided to first generate permanent posts of India while it’s still fresh in my mind.  This is the first of those.

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Delhi streets.

We’d flown in the previous day and this was our first full day in India.  You see here a view from the bus as we drove by.  On the other side of the road are some of the shanty houses of the very poor.

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India Gate.

This is India Gate, in memorial to the 90,000 Indian troops who lost their lives in World War I.  In the distance behind the Gate is an empty canopy, built at the same time, inspired by a 6th-century pavillion from Southern India.  The lining up could be more precise but the bus was in motion.

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Police headquarters.

I took this for the depiction of Mahatma Gandhi on the side of the building.  I only noticed when I came to process the image that the building is also Delhi Police Headquarters.  Never thought of Gandhi as a policeman.

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India streets.

People on the street as I walk towards the mosque.  Women in India are colourful and attractive in their saris.

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Jama Masjid.

The entrance to the mosque from the street.  At the top of the stairs you remove your footwear or don plastic coverings before going inside.

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Jama Masjid.

Jama Masjid or Jamma Mosque dates from 1650 and reminded me a little of images I have seen of places like Samarkand.  This is not a coincidence, I am sure, because the Mogul conquerors descended from Tamerlane and also introduced Persian influences.

Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India and was built by the fifth Mogul Emperor, Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal.  I will speak more of Indian history in due course.

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Jama Masjid.

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Jama Masjid.

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Jama Masjid.

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Jama Masjid.

This is the chandelier and ceiling of the main chamber inside the mosque.  The next image is looking up from under the recess at the back.

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Jama Masjid.

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Jama Masjid.

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