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Silenced city

India1

The street of the Virupaksha Temple was a lively commercial centre until conservationists shut down the stalls. Was it a good decision?

Not long ago, the street of the walled Virupaksha Temple buzzed with stalls and livestock. Megalithic 15th-century arcades called mandapas flanked the 720-metre-long avenue where local people ran trade off tourists. They called it the ‘bazaar’.

The bazaar starts by the towering temple in the city of Hampi: the last capital of the Kingdom of Vijayanagar. It was among the greatest and wealthiest of the Hindu empires and ruled the entire south India at its height. The empire identified Hampi, in the southern state of Karnataka, as an ideal location for a capital city. Between the 14th and 16th centuries its rich princes erected remarkable Dravidian temples and palaces here.

The constructions were majestic. The city attracted visitors from far and wide including Arabs, Portuguese and Italians. The dominating building of the complex was – and still is – a nine-storey tower made of bricks and mortar. The idyll ended in 1565 when the Deccan Muslim confederacy conquered the city. It was plundered for six months, damaged and then abandoned. Only in the 19th century was it rediscovered and restored. Continue Reading…

Asia, History and culture

In the shadows

Krishna.Wu

Beside the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort stood as an impregnable bastion under the Mughal Empire.

 

In 1565, Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the third ruler of the Mughal Empire – which controlled large parts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries – built the main constructions of the Agra Fort. He erected walls around what became a fortified city. The provincial city of Agra became the empire’s capital.

In 1627, Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, became the empire’s fifth ruler. Years later he moved to Delhi. He constructed the Taj Mahal, the famous white marble monument, in memory of his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal. He built it only a few kilometres from the Agra Fort.

Jahan fell ill in 1657 and resigned his throne to Dara Shikoh, the eldest of his four sons. His brothers were jealous. They attacked the Agra Fort and defeated Shikoh. The third son, Aurangzeb, appointed himself ruler and locked his father inside the fort. “He did it because Shah Jahan didn’t want Aurangzeb to become the ruler,” says Ruknuddin Mirza, conservation architect at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. “It wasn’t revenge, but more about taking the power by force.” It is said that Jahan could see the Taj Mahal from his balcony. He died after eight years in imprisonment. Continue Reading…

Adventure, Asia

On top of the world

Galyna-Andrushko

The Great Himalaya Trail is the mother of all hiking routes, and could be used to help impoverished mountain villages.

Nearly five years ago, Robin Boustead, a British explorer and mountaineer, started a journey across the high mountains of Nepal. He had been researching treks there for five years, having fallen in love with the Himalayas back in 1992. In September 2008 he set out. He wrote down routes, trails and distances; using GPS, he mapped water sources, villages and campsites. He crossed the entire country, marking up a 1,700-kilometre route (1,050 miles). It crossed passes as high as 6,200 metres and included 150,000 metres of climbing and descending. In July 2009 he completed the trail, having lost more than 20 per cent of his bodyweight. The first part of the Great Himalaya Trail had been completed.

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