Saturday 13 July 2013

The Changing Moods of Hauz Khas Lake

I have been to Hauz Khas several years back. But during the recent visit as I had the camera with me I was able to click the lake in its various moods.

Hauz Khas Lake

Hauz means water tank (or a pond or lake) and Khas means special. So it is a special or royal tank meant for the rulers. Originally the tank was much larger than it is today and according to the rock plaque at the site the ruined pavilion or the Munda Gumbad on a mound in the north west corner of the tank was in the middle of the water. Originally called Hauz-e-Alai the tank was excavated under the orders of Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316 AD) for the use of the inhabitants of Siri. Siri was the second city of Delhi founded by Alauddin Khalji. Later on, however, the channels leading to the tank got silted and the tank dried up. Then in the mid-14th Century Feroz Shah restored the water supply to the tank and built a madrasa next to the tank.

Ducks & their Ducklings at Hauz Khas lake 

The water tank also is a host to several ducks and their ducklings. Though majority of the ducks are white there are some spot-billed ducks as well. The ducklings are yellow and they will shed their lovely colours with age.

Hauz Khas lake with the buildings in the background

When I was there I saw the lake change colours as per the mood of the sky. At the beginning the lake was looking a dark green due to the reflection of the trees that are in the middle of the lake as well as those that surround it.

Evening glow after rains on the Hauz Khas Lake

Then all of a sudden from a sunny day clouds emerged and it started drizzling and it became dark. After the rain there was a glowing red tinge in the sky and the mood of the lake changed accordingly.

Serene Hauz Khas lake at sunset

I had thought that since it has become so dark and then the evening tinge in the sky that the sun must have already set but as I was sitting on the fifth floor of a restaurant building I saw the sunset as the clouds vanished and the lake and its surroundings preparing for a night of rest. It was beautiful to watch the lake change its moods and colours in just a few hours so dramatically.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Sheesh Mahal, Farrukhnagar

Farrukhnagar, a Mughal era town in the Gurgaon district of Haryana is a treasure trove for heritage buildings.  Most tourists go to the Sultanpur National Park famous for the migratory wintering birds but somehow ignore this town. Though now the city of Gurgaon is called the 'Millenium City' (a misnomer according to me) it was Farrukhnagar which was a bigger and important town during the Mughal and British rules.

The Sheesh Mahal, Farrukhnagar

The Sheesh Mahal palace was built by Fauzdar Khan around 1711 AD. To reach the palace one has to cross the main market as well as the Delhi Darwaza (gate) and takes one amidst very old houses and havelis.

The entrance gate of the Sheesh Mahal Palace

From the entrance gate one cannot make out that there is a whole palace inside. Though the palace is surrounded by fort walls but at most places there is now no trace of the walls.

The Sheesh Mahal from inside

Though the name (Sheesh Mahal means Mirror Palace) is suggestive of mirror inlay work but with time now there are no more mirror inlay works that I could see. There is a courtyard in front with water channel.  

The backside of the Sheesh Mahal in ruins

Despite being the most important monument in Farrukhnagar what I saw of the state of the monument disappointed me. Only a part of the monument is now under restoration including the basement. The back side is in utter disrepair and the walls are crumbling down.

Red Sandstone was used extensively in the Sheesh Mahal

The Sheesh Mahal is now being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. When I went there was no restoration work going on and I believe the pace is slow and the work tardy. There is also a memorial for the martyrs of the 1857 rebellion in the courtyard.

An Air duct

The Sheesh Mahal is three storeys including the basement which people often miss to locate. The stairs leading to the basement are steep, dark and dingy. The basement must have been very good place to sit in summers as there are air ducts (you can't see where this air duct opening is going) from which air passes and there is a cool breeze in the basement.

The basement in the Sheesh Mahal

I also saw that the basement was a refuge of liquor bottles and other waste material. How is it possible when  they keep the doors closed as for example I had to wait for quite some time before the caretaker arrived as he had gone somewhere for lunch (and probably a siesta!). He even took my identification card before allowing me to enter and returned it only when I came out of the premises (this is presumably being done to stop the vagabonds from entering and spoiling the place).

In Farrukhnagar one can also see Ali Gosh Khan Baoli, a stepwell and Sethani Ki Chattri which is a memorial cenotaph.

Monday 1 July 2013

No, It is not a painting

When I first saw this wall hanging I thought that it must be a painting. But I was surprised when told that it is not a painting at all but a wooden inlay art wall hanging. It looks so much like painting but no paint is used but shades of wood only.

It is not a painting!

Inlay is a technique of inserting pieces of contrasting and coloured material into hallowed out spaces to form a picture. In Inlay work, also known as Marquetry, material used is wood but could also be ivory, metal, gems etc. 

Wood inlay work on a table top

First of all the artists make a pattern then the pattern is traced on the wood. Grooves are then made on the wood board. Then very fine narrow wood strips of various colours are cut and glued to the pattern and then with the help of sand paper it is smoothed out. The resulting work gives the decoration depth for example in the top photo even the shadows have been created of the women carrying the pitcher of water. 

An Artisan (artist) at work in Hoshiarpur

I saw this in Hoshiarpur, which though a small town, is world famous for its wooden inlay work of furniture, decorative pieces etc. Some of you must have seen table tops where in the earlier days ivory was used for the inlay but now due to scarcity as well as ban on ivory acrylic as well as camel bone is used for the inlay work to what I would call as imitation ivory. Other wooden inlay products are chess boards, screens, trays, boxes, elephants and other animals. 

Camel bones & acrylic used for inlay work

The whole process is very time consuming and is done in Hoshiarpur as a small scale cottage industry. Hoshiarpur is located in the north eastern part of Punjab bordering Himachal. 

They all look like paintings!

Majority of the wood inlay work from Hoshiarpur is exported to countries like US, Canada, UK and Germany. This art started in the town about 300 years back.

Also read – The Clock Tower of Hoshiarpur