Monday, 28 December 2015

Sea Ip Church (Chinese Temple), Tiretta Bazar

At 22/1 Chattawala Gully, in Calcutta’s (Kolkata) old Chinatown stands the Chinese temple known as the Sea Ip Church. It is one of the many temples built by the city’s Chinese community which has been settling in this part of town since the early 19th century. The Sea Ip Church is one of 6 Chinese temples in the area, and one of the most active, with Chinese families still worshipping in the old way. But if you were to ask anyone in Calcutta today about Chinatown, they would tell you about a very different area called Tangra. This part of Central Calcutta (Kolkata) now goes by the name “Poddar Court”. So what are so many Chinese temples doing here?


Monday, 21 December 2015

Basri Shah Masjid: Calcutta's Oldest Mosque (err...maybe!)

The oldest mosque in Calcutta (Kolkata) should be called the Basri Shah Masjid, but unfortunately, the name has been anglicized to Bhosri Shah, Bhonsri Shah, or even Bhousri Shah by some chroniclers of the city, such as the venerable Cotton. It is unfortunate because in Hindi, Bhosri literally means c*nt, and is used in the same sense; as an obscenity. But that is not the only thing that is intriguing about this mosque. Its claim to being the oldest mosque of Calcutta also cannot be unambiguously verified; a definite date of construction cannot be found. Neither can I confirm to you its exact address. The municipality’s list of heritage buildings says that this is a Grade I heritage building, and is “popularly known as 1 Lock Gate Road”. Pijush Kanti Roy’s Mosques in Calcutta says that the address is 8 Seth Pukur Road. Ok, so age not verifiable; exact address not confirmable, does it even exist? Oh yes it does! Here it is in Google Maps. See those three green (actually almost fluorescent yellow) domes? That is it. But when it comes to Basri Shah, we are dealing with two structures, not one. Thoroughly confused? Good. Now we can begin.


Monday, 14 December 2015

Photography Inside Ajanta Caves: Recommendations, Tips & Tricks

On the 28th of April, 1819, John Smith of the 28th Cavalry Regiment of the Madras Presidency stumbled into Cave no. 10 of a complex that has since come to be known as the Ajanta Caves. He was on a hunt and was following a tiger, but what he had in fact managed to do was rediscover a Buddhist cave complex whose construction began as early as the 2nd Century B.C.! Abandoned and overgrown, the caves contained some of the finest examples of early Indian art, especially painting and 30 caves were eventually uncovered. The Ajanta Caves, now in the Indian state of Maharashtra, and under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, are a world heritage site and a major tourist attraction. But photographing the Ajanta caves, especially what remains of the paintings can be a challenge.

They are called the Ajanta CAVES and caves are usually dark. Some amount of daylight does enter the Ajanta caves, but that’s far less light that is needed for photography. There are also a few artificial lights, but they are dim, dull and yellow since bright lights cause colours to fade. On top of that, while photography inside Ajanta caves is allowed, the use of tripods and flash is PROHIBITED!!! So how do you get great photographs under such terrible conditions? Here are my suggestions based on my experiences inside the Ajanta Caves.

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Gates of Aurangabad

If Calcutta is the city of joy and Paris is the city of love then Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra is the city of gates. The city owes its existence to an Ethiopian by the name of Malik Ambar. Sold as a slave in childhood, he would eventually rise to become the regent of the Nizamshahi Dynasty of Ahmednagar (which later shifted its capital to Hyderabad). He turned the small village of Khadki into a modern city and equipped it with waterworks and other municipal conveniences. Khadki would eventually come to be ruled by the Mughals and Aurangzeb made it his capital when he was the appointed the viceroy of the Deccan in 1653 and it is after him that the city is named.