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).