Monday, 3 August 2015

Kamarghat Dwadosh Shiv Mandir, Prankrishna Chandra Lane

I was exploring the temples in the Chetla area of South Calcutta (Kolkata) when I found the Kamarghat Dwadosh Shiv Mandir, completely by accident. I was there with my friends Amartya, Soumyadeep and Sourav, visiting the Radhanath Temple of Mondal Temple Lane and the Baro Ras Bari and Chhoto Ras Bari of Tollygunge Road when a local walked up to us. All of us were carrying rather large cameras, so it was quite obvious what we were here for. Since we were photographing old temples, he asked us if we had seen the “Baro Shiv Mandir”, a group of 12 Shiva Temples which he assured us was quite old. With guidance from locals, all of whom were aware of the existence of the temple, we reached a large courtyard on Pran Krishna Chandra Street and found written on the wall the words “Kamarghat Dwadosh Shiv Mandir” and the date 1259, according to the Bengali calendar.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Teele Wali Masjid, Lucknow

Teele Wali Masjid, literally meaning “the Mosque on the Hill”, located in Lucknow’s Hussainabad area is a potentially controversial monument. To understand why I say that, you need to first know that the name Lucknow apparently derives from “Lakshmanavati”. Lakshman was the brother of Lord Rama in the Hindu epic Ramayana. Legend has it that Lakshman established his capital where Lucknow stands today. The hill in the Hussainabad area is known as “Lakshman ka Teela”, or Lakshman’s hill and Hindus believe that buried under it are the remains of Lakshman’s capital. There are also vague references to a Sheshnaag Temple being somewhere around the same spot. So Teele Wali Masjid is a Muslim monument standing on top of an allegedly Hindu site. See the problem?


Monday, 20 July 2015

Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore

Mysore’s Lalitha Mahal Palace has got to be the fanciest hotel I have ever lived in. I almost always stay in budget hotels, but since I was in Mysore for only two nights, my friend Sreyashi suggested this luxury hotel, built by the Wadiyar Kings of Mysore. It wasn’t frightfully expensive, plus I thought I’d have the chance to live in and photograph an actual palace, so we went ahead with the booking, and I can tell you, the Lalitha Mahal Palace did not disappoint.


Monday, 13 July 2015

Why is South Calcutta losing its buildings?

Author Amit Chaudhuri’s campaign to save Calcutta’s old residential buildings, its old neighbourhoods, seems to have caught on. It is sparking discussions in social media and articles about it are getting written and shared. But the houses that he wants to save are not what Calcuttans call “heritage buildings”. They are not colonial, and are not homes of famous people or zamindars, Bengal’s fabulously wealthy landlords. They are family homes of nameless, faceless Bengalis mostly from the middle-income group. What makes these buildings unique and interesting is their often eccentric and unique architecture. A colonial building in Dalhousie Square in Calcutta will find echoes in London, Rangoon and even Australia. But these buildings in Dover Lane, Puddapukur, Bhowanipore and Lansdowne Road are unique, and they are unique to Calcutta. Even more interesting are the few features that almost all these houses share. Two of them in particular have caught Amit Chaudhuri’s eye.

A building near Northern Park being demolished

Monday, 6 July 2015

St. Andrew's Church, Dalhousie Square

St. Andrews Church, located at the North Eastern corner of Dalhousie Square, has two other names; The Scotch Kirk and Lat Sahib Ka Girja. The second name it probably acquired from the fact that the foundation stone was laid by the Countess of Loudon and Moira, wife of the then Governor General, The Marquess of Hastings. The former nickname stemmed from that fact that it was built to serve the Scottish Presbyterian community of Calcutta (Kolkata).

St. Andrew's Church. The tram seen here is entering the B.B.D. Bag Depot

The place where St. Andrews Church now stands was once occupied by the Old Court House. It may have originally been a charity school, which then became the Mayor’s Court, and finally the Supreme Court, before the magnificent Gothic pile on Esplanade Row West came up. The road leading from the Church to the Maidan is still known as Old Court House Street. This was the same court house where Maharaja Nandakumar was tried and sentenced to death in 1775. The Old Court House eventually fell into disrepair, and was pulled down in 1792. The Anglo-Indian Presbytery was created by the Charter of 1813 along with the Anglo India Episcopate. The Court of Directors in a public general letter dated 12th November 1813 informed the Governor General of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal of the appointment of “one Minister of the Church of Scotland with the same Salary as is granted to the Junior Chaplain at each of the Presidencies, and we direct that a suitable place of Worship be provided or erected”. The Rev. Dr. James Bryce arrived in Calcutta on 28th November 1814 to fill the position of Chaplain on the Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment. It seems that right from the beginning a bitter rivalry existed between Rev. Bryce, and the first Bishop of the Indian Episcopate, Bishop Fanshawe Middleton, who headed the Anglican St. John’s Church located at the North Eastern corner of Government House (Raj Bhavan).

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sinhagad Fort, Pune

Known as “Kondana” in the old days, Sinhagad (also spelt Sinhgad), or “the lion’s fort” is one of the most popular weekend destinations from Pune. Located at around 30 km to the Southwest of Pune city, on a hill of the Bhuleshwar range of the Sahyadri Mountains, some 1300 metres above sea level, Sinhagad is a favourite with trekkers but may be reached via car as well. The Marathas have fought multiple battles from the 1640s to the early 1700s for control of this fort.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Holy Rosary Church: India's Only Submerged Church

I found out about the Holy Rosary Church, in the Shettihalli village of Hassan District, in the Indian state of Karnataka, from a photograph posted by my friend Ananya,on Facebook. A rudimentary Google search revealed some surprising facts. Remarkably, the Holy Rosary Church in Shettihalli is India’s only submerged church. Submerged by what, you may ask? By the waters of a dam’s reservoir, of course! An opportunity to visit the church finally emerged this year. I was going to Mysore, and I decided to take a day out, and drive over to Hassan.

It was the last weekend of May, and roasting hot in Karnataka. The monsoons would arrive by the following week, and common sense suggested that water in any river or reservoir would now be at its lowest level. I set off with my friend Sreyashi in a rented car at 6 am. The drive from Mysore to Shettihalli was about 130 km and took exactly 3 hours. The roads were in good shape for the most part, and even when they got a little patchy, they were far from the worst roads I have been on. Some distance inside the village, the car turned off the metalled road into a dirt track, and after clearing some bushes, I got my first sight of the Holy Rosary Church. To my relief, my guess was completely correct. The reservoir was all but bone dry, and the church was completely visible. Our car almost ran right into it!