Author Archives: team out of the bacchus

Last stop in Agra: Itimad-ud-Daulah

Before leaving Agra on Sunday, we made a final stop at the lovely  tomb, Itimad-ud-Daulah.  Although it is overshadowed (rightly so) by the Taj Mahal, it is an exquisite structure with beautiful designs inside and outside that probably would receive tons of tourist attention if were located in any other city.  Itimad-ud-Daulah was built from 1622-1628 by Nur Jahan, the wife of the Mughal emperor Jehangir, for her Persian nobleman father who was Jehangir’s chief minister.

The Tomb

The Tomb

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A number of aspects of the tomb make it a really unique building for India.  First, it is very rare that a woman would be responsible for building any structure at that time.  Second, tombs of this size were typically reserved for emperors.  The story goes that Nur Jahan hid the tomb as it was being built to not cause a stir by locating it on other side of the Yamuna River, away from the main activities in Agra.

Beautiful pietra dura (inlay) on the white marble

Beautiful pietra dura (inlay) on the white marble exterior

The beautiful ceiling

The ceiling of the dome

Unique for most buildings at the time, this tomb features wine flasks and glasses, supposedly because Nur Jahan's father liked the bottle

Unique for most buildings at the time, this tomb features wine flasks and glasses, supposedly because Nur Jahan’s father liked the bottle

A combination of fresco art and pietra dura in the interior of the tomb

A combination of fresco art and pietra dura in the interior of the tomb

What makes this tomb really special though is its link to the Taj Mahal – it is nicknamed the Baby Taj as it was erected 30 years before the Taj and has a number of similar artistic/architectural elements.  For example, this is the first Mughal structure built completely from marble and the first to extensively use pietra dura (the flower inlay designs).  While not as overwhelming as the Taj, it is beautiful and was a perfect end to Agra.

A view of the gate/entrance to the tomb area from one of the carved windows inside the tomb

A view of the gate/entrance to the tomb area from one of the carved windows inside the tomb

The gardens and tomb from the corner of the space

The gardens and tomb from the corner of the space (the smog is obscuring the Yamuna River, which is just on the other side of the red building in the back)

Our nemesis: the first time we were asked to move quickly in India was to escape this guy

Our nemesis: the first time we were asked to move quickly in India was to escape this guy

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Categories: Taj Mahal | 2 Comments

Welcome to Chennai!

Our group has descended on Chennai, coming in from New Hampshire, Vermont, Boston, Florida, New York, Dubai, Rome, Australia/Bali, Qatar, and South Korea.  Chennai (formerly Madras) is the largest city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the sixth most populous city in India with 6 million people, and a major hub of cultural, commercial and education in South India.  Although jet lag is still hampering us slightly, we kicked off our India Learning Expedition with a day and a half of sightseeing around Chennai and learning about the cultural and historical elements of the city and area.

First stop was the old port city of Mahabalipuram, which is about 2 hours from Chennai (that is 2 Indian hours, probably 45 minutes if India had a highway infrastructure like the US).  Mahabalipuram has a number of 7th or 8th century stone monoliths, friezes, and cave and free-standing temples, all adorned with carvings created by the Pallavas, the first great southern Indian dynasty.  The carvings incorporated Hindu gods such as Shiva the Destroyer and Vishnu the Preserver, as well as lots of animals including a life size single stone elephant sculpture.

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First stop at Mahabalipuram (Mahabs as Indians call it)

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Enjoy Mahabs with some schoolgirls (they asked to pose with us!)

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Our Tuck contingent with a life-size elephant monolith

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Shore Temple

The following day we continued on with a bus tour of Chennai and got to witness up close the confluence of Hindu, Portuguese Catholic, and British imperialism in the city.  In one hour we were touring a church dedicated to St. Thomas (complete with a finger bone relic of the patron saint)…then in the next we were taking off our shoes and walking through puddles and dirt to visit one of the oldest Hindu temples in the city…and finally in last hour we were visiting the Fort St. George museum of British colonial rule.

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Barefoot throughout the temple

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Detail on the Hindu temple

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Selling traditional Hindu flower necklaces outside the temple

During all of this touring, it’s been amazing to take in the city and Indian life overall.  Some of it is very difficult – despite all of the growth of the last two decades, garbage still lines the streets (even areas like a sacred temple), children hawk goods, buildings and sidewalks aren’t maintained, traffic is crazy, and there is general filth, dirt and grime everywhere.

There is also amazing vibrancy and life.  Beautiful saris of all different colors abound, delicious Indian food is available at every meal, and people make all the craziness work for them.  Our amazing guide Prasad even got us to crash/invited on the spot to an Indian engagement party!  It should be an exciting 10 days.

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Crashing an Indian engagement party

The bride and groom

The bride and groom

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