Saturday, August 20, 2011

Freedom Park, Bangalore

This is a slideshow of photos documenting the afternoon I spent at Freedom Park in Gandhi Nagar, Bangalore. This ongoing rally is one of many taking place around India and abroad in accordance with the India Again Corruption movement -- with its neo-Gandhian figurehead, Anna Hazare. These photos are from Friday, August 19th.

The music is the official anthem of the movement and was playing on loud speakers at the Park. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hyderabad - "Heart of the Indian Peninsula" Part 2

The second part of my trip to Hyderabad continues right where the first installment left off. The insightful experiences and anecdotes are pretty much through...and we're faced with some more routine obstacles over the course of the next two days...

July 29

The morning of the 29th, I got a call from Shareef as I was in the middle of catching up on taking notes from the previous day's travels. Apparently the car wasn't running. Not exactly what you want to hear when you have a day's worth of sightseeing scheduled ahead of you. Turns out there was a problem with the car's battery charge. The car was left outside as heavy rains poured down on the city overnight. Shareef called me down to help push the car, and after much effort, we failed to get the car to start once again. We realized we needed to disconnect the battery and take it somewhere for charging. The guesthouse attendant suggested we head to nearby Erragedda for the repair. 

Neither of us knowing the area very well, Shareef and I hailed an auto rickshaw driver who took us to a repair shop and stayed with us to make sure the shop would open. While waiting, we had some chai and Kiran arrived. Kiran took our place and waited outside the store so that Shareef and I could leave to find some breakfast. 

Though the sign outside the store said the store would open at actuality, the owner arrived around 10:30am (the ubiquity of 'desi time' is REALLY irritating in some situations). The owner provided us with a spare as the original battery would be charged by the next day. Once back at the guesthouse, Shareef and Kiran re-installed the battery...and we headed to Golconda Fort. 

From The Archaeological Survey of India:

Lying to the west of Hyderabad city at a distance of 11 km, the historic Golkonda Fort derives its name from a Telugu word ‘Golla Konda’ which means Shepherd’s Hill. With its extensive and elevated fortifications it was a landmark that governed the destiny of the south. The fort originally belonged to the Kakatiyas of Warangal. This is testified by the over-door carvings and relief work in stucco consisting of lions, peacocks, griffins and lotus at the entrance of Balahisar. In AD1363 it was ceded to the Baihmanis. After their downfall in AD1518 it became the capital of the Qutb Shahi kings (AD 1518-1687). The fort was extended and substantially strengthened by these kings with massive fortification walls having bastions and battlements. Subsequently Aurangazeb annexed it to the Moghal Empire (AD 1687) during the reign of Abul Hasan Tana Shan, the last ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty and appointed Asaf Jah as the Subedar of the Deccan province. Asaf Jah declared independence in AD1713 as Nizam-ul-Mulk and the Nizams held sway over Hyderabad until AD 1948.

After climbing to the top of the Fort, we drive through a series of narrow streets to the nearby Qutb Shahi Tombs. 

From the World Heritage Convention: 

The Qutb Shahi tombs complex consists of 30 tombs, mosques and a mortuary bath. The tombs belong to the rulers of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, their queens and children and the nobles who faithfully served them. It contains the epigraphically documented tombs of five of the dynasty's seven sultans, as well as those of another four members of the royal family, spanning the 130-year period from 1543 to 1672. The Qutb Shahi tombs collectively constitute an outstanding example of an Indo-Muslim dynastic necropolis and is the most extensive and best epigraphically documented in all of India.
One of many tombs in the Qutb Shahi Complex

Detail on a Mosque in the Complex
After touring the Qutb Shahi Tombs, we chose to eat lunch in the city rather than at the APTDC-furnished restaurant the the Tombs. We made our way through rough traffic to Ameerpet for lunch at Swagath where we were served a traditional South Indian thali-style meal with several courses of breads and rice/curry dishes. After lunch, we headed across the busy street to the RS Brothers department store before taking a drive through one of Hyderabad's most affluent neighborhoods: Banjara Hills. The drive to our final destination also took us through an area of town aptly named "Hitec City" for the campus-like arrangement of IT companies clustered in neighborhood.

Our last attraction in Hyderabad, Shilparamam, is an "arts and crafts village" to preserve the traditional crafts and folk cultures of the area. In essence, the park indulged in a variety of replications of village life and traditional artisanal lifestyles in such villages. The park was a welcomed experience different from the noise, pollution, and tacky commercialism of the city itself. I imagine Shilparamam as a museum or resort of sorts for natives who themselves want to connect with a nostalgic model of the life lived by their ancestors. As India becomes an urban majority, it provides an escape from the stress of city life...a glimpse into an alternative, forgotten lifestyle.