Monday, 29 February 2016

Graham Building, Clive Street

One of the reasons why I do what I do, photographing and writing about old buildings, is because I personally got fed up looking at buildings and not knowing what they were. According to author Brian Paul Bach, Calcutta is one of the least demolished cities in the world and a combination of declining economic activity in the East of India, a hopelessly overstretched judiciary and antiquated laws has meant that many of Calcutta’s colonial era buildings survive, still occupied by tenants. However, pro-tenant laws ensure that the revenue generated by many such buildings is so minuscule that their proper upkeep is often not possible. The sad truth is that if you own a commercial building with a heritage tag in Calcutta, it is much more profitable for you if that building collapses or goes up in flames. Thus, many of Calcutta’s old buildings continue to exist in a precarious condition, ghostly reminders of a colonial past. One such building is the one at 14, Netaji Subhas Road (formerly Clive Street).


Monday, 22 February 2016

Baneshwar Shiva Temple, Bonomali Sarkar Street

The Baneshwar Shiva Temple of 2/5 Bonomali Sarkar Street in Kumortuli in North Calcutta (Kolkata) is one of only two surviving terracotta temples of the city. Terracotta means baked earth, and many of Bengal’s temples, notably the ones in Bishnupur, are decorated with terracotta tiles. These tiles depict tales from the Hindu epics, scenes from daily life and society, wars and historic events, or simple floral or geometric patterns. Intricate designs and fine workmanship are the hallmarks of Bengal’s terracotta tiles. But unfortunately, the relentless march of progress has deprived Calcutta of many of her temples. Many have been demolished, many have been lost altogether and many have been “renovated” by rank amateurs, who have simply removed all external ornamentation, smoothed the surface with cement, and added a layer of distemper, often of a gaudy shade. There were probably not many terracotta temples in Calcutta (Kolkata) to begin with since by the time the city became a major centre of art and commerce, the art of terracotta was already in decline. The Baneshwar Shiva Temple is the sole surviving example of it in North Calcutta and it is now under threat.


Monday, 15 February 2016

Alamgir Masjid: Aurangzeb's Personal Mosque, Aurangabad

The Alamgir Masjid of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra, also known as the Shahi Masjid (Royal Mosque), is the personal mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Surprisingly not many people seem to be aware of this, even though this is one of the most important Mughal era monuments of the city. My friends in a popular Aurangabad radio station didn’t know about and neither did my chauffeur Anand who had lived in the city all his life. The only reason I found the mosque was because I was looking for it, because I had read about it in Pushkar Sohoni’s book.


Monday, 8 February 2016

Hooghly Imambara

Around 60 km to the North of Calcutta (Kolkata), in the Hooghly-Chinsura municipality may be found the magnificent Hooghly Imambara. An Imambara, also referred to as a Hussainia, an Ashurkhana or Imambargah, is a congregation hall for Shia commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the remembrance of Muharram. The Hooghly Imambara functions as both a Mosque and an Imambara. With its striking 80 feet tall towers above the main gate, it is the principal tourist attraction of the area. Although the Hooghly Imambara is associated with Haji Md. Mohsin, the original Imambara existed long before he had the present one constructed.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Bibi Ka Maqbara, Aurangabad

The Bibi Ka Maqbara is the chief tourist attraction of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra, although technically it lies just outside the city. Due to its resemblance to the Taj Mahal in Agra, it is called the Taj of the Deccan or even unflattering names like “poor man’s Taj Mahal” or “duplicate Taj Mahal”. But the Bibi ka Maqbara is, in fact, an original design; “the last in a distinguished lineage of Timurid inspired imperial Mughal mausoleums”, the earliest example of which would be Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, which was constructed 100 years earlier.