Sunday, 29 November 2015

All Saints Garrison Church, Lucknow

Located in the Cantt. (Cantonment) area of Lucknow, the All Saints Garrison Church is high on the list of the spookiest places I have ever visited. The mutiny of 1857 ruined the British settlement of Lucknow, which had grown up around the British Residency. Damage from heavy shelling by the rebels forced the British to abandon the Residency and the new settlement was what is known as Cantt. today. Since British officers and families were living in the Cantonment area, a large number of Churches were built to serve them, and most of them survive to this day.


Monday, 23 November 2015

6 Things You Don't Know About Calcutta's Victoria Memorial

The Victoria Memorial of Calcutta (Kolkata), officially The All India Victoria Memorial Hall, is the city’s number one tourist attraction. In his book “Calcutta’s Edifice: The Buildings of a Great City”, Brian Paul Bach writes, “Probably no other structure is currently called upon as often to serve as a symbol of Calcutta.” Victoria Memorial attracts tourists by the thousand every day and yet, there is much about the monument that even Calcuttans are unaware of. Here are 6 things about the Victoria Memorial that most people don’t know


Monday, 16 November 2015

Babughat, Strand Road

Babughat is one of nearly 80 ghats that stand on either side of the Hooghly river, between Calcutta (Kolkata) and Dakshineswar. While the name Babughat is well known, not many people in Calcutta are aware who exactly this “Babu” is. So who is Babughat named after?


Monday, 9 November 2015

Beth El Synagogue, Pollock Street

On Pollock Street, surrounded by shops that sell electrical goods, stands the Beth El Synagogue. It is one of Calcutta’s (Kolkata) three surviving synagogues and is evidence of the fact that the city once had a thriving and rich Jewish community.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Art of Calcutta's Durga Puja

Durga Puja, or as Bengalis say, Pujo, is Calcutta’s biggest festival. The Hindu worship of the Goddess Durga, marks the beginning of autumn and commemorates Lord Rama’s summoning of the Goddess at this unusual time (the normal time being spring) to seek blessings for his battle against Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Here in Calcutta (Kolkata), Durga Pujo has morphed into something quite different and much larger than a mere religious festival. Calcutta’s Durga Puja has turned into both an explosion of installation art, as well as what is being acknowledged as the world’s largest street festival. Bengalis are known to be liberal in their interpretation of religion, and Calcutta’s Puja organisers now compete against each other every year, drawing from the realms of art, folk culture and even current affairs to put a new spin on the idol of the Mother Goddess.

The traditional idol is always the same. In the centre is Maa Durga, her ten hands holding ten weapons. Accompanying her is her “vahana” or mount, a lion. Together they do battle against Mahishasura, the demon who is able to take the form of a water buffalo and is usually shown emerging from one. Durga is thus known as Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of Mahishasura. Mahishasura is usually seen near Maa Durga’s feet, her spear having pierced her chest. Surrounding Durga are her children, from left to right, the elephant-headed Ganesha and his mount the rat, the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi and her mount the owl, the Goddess of learning Saraswati with a “veena” in her hand and with her mount the swan and finally Kartik or Kartikeya and his mount, the peacock. Durga's husband, Lord Shiva must also be portrayed somewhere in the scheme of things, and is usually seen high above the battle scene, looking down on the carnage. In this photo feature, I present to you some of the most unusual depictions of the Mother Goddess this year. As I toured the city taking photographs of the Puja, I was reminded of a phrase used by The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek as an album title - The Whole Thing Started with Rock and Roll Now It's Out of Control.

Gujarat themed idol at Badamtala Asharsangha

Monday, 26 October 2015

Zohra Begum Masjid, Tollygunge Circular Road

The Zohra Begum Masjid or Mosque on Tollygunge Circular Road (officially 32 Somnath Lahiri Sarani) came to my notice while doing a photowalk with members of Wikipedia in the Chetla area of South Calcutta (Kolkata). We were photographing the four temple complexes in the area when Indrajit Das took a look at the Municipality’s list of heritage structures and found a Mosque in the list. Curious to find out more, we walked in. We had no idea that we had walked into a property connected with Tipu Sultan of Mysore.


Saturday, 17 October 2015

Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore

Located 13 km away from the city of Mysore, atop the Chamundi Hills, is the Sri Chamundeshwari Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of the Hindu religion. The legend of the Shakti Peethas originates from the story of King Daksha, whose daughter Sati married Lord Shiva against her father’s wishes. Determined to attend a “yajna” at her father’s house, the uninvited Sati did what would today be called gate-crashing. But she was disrespected and humiliated by her father. Unable to bear the insults she immolated herself. The enraged and grief-stricken Shiva picked up the remains of his wife’s body and began the “Tandava”, the dance of destruction, laying waste to all creation. The panicked Gods appealed to Vishnu to intervene and Vishnu using his disc, the “Sudarshan Chakra” severed Sati’s body into multiple pieces. These pieces then landed in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, and in each place there exists today a Shakti Peetha, each spot corresponding to a body part. On the Chamundi Hills, it is said, it was Sati’s hair that fell.