Category Archives: History

A gothic architectural gem: Sainte Chapelle, Paris

One of the most beautiful, exquisite chapels that I have ever visited has to be Sainte-Chapelle, in the center of Paris. This gem of the gothic architecture is hidden in Ile-de-la-cite, Paris.

I had seen street signs pointing to this church before; there are so many beautiful churches in Paris that I never thought about going there. Last year, as I sat chatting with a friend over dinner, he casually mentioned Sainte-Chapelle and its beautiful stained glass windows. I have been able to visit it a couple of times since then.

A little history here: Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248 to house the relics of Passion of Christ by the king, Louis IX (later beatified as Saint Louis). Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie, are the only visible remains of the oldest palace of kings of France.

The building houses two sanctuaries – the lower chapel, for the palace staff and the upper chapel, for the king and his close friends and family. The upper chapel is airy, monumental and exquisitely decorated with sculptures and thin lattice framework supporting the stained glass till the ceiling. In every home, there is usually a personal place of worship and/or meditation; Sainte-Chapelle was the royal palatine chapel for Louis IX.

I have tried to record the architecture details, the XIIIth century stained glass, and the beauty that I see in Sainte-Chapelle. Photos are slowly being added to be viewed as a slide show in my Sainte-Chapelle gallery. But, photographs do not always do justice.

Hopefully, when you visit Paris, you will able to experience Sainte-Chapelle for yourself. Happy travels!

Tirthankar Statues on Gopachal Parwat

Gwalior Fort: Gopachal Parvat / Ek Patthar ki Baori

History and Architecture holds a spell-binding fascination for me.  When I visit Gwalior, I try and revisit the historical monuments to relive the countless moments I spent here as a child.  Yesterday, I visited Ek Patthar ki Baori (aka Gopachal Parwat) where artisans painstakingly carved twenty six giant statues of Jain Tirthankars in stone.

The ride on the motorcycle, a converted Yamaha RX100, was a great feeling, as usual, a slow ride with no helmet.  With the warm dusty breeze on my face as I rode along, I reached the rocky terrain at the slopes of Gwalior Fort.

The local Jain community has worked wonders around the monument, having cleaned and landscaped the whole area.  Gardens have sprung up around the base of the Fort, with walls built to harvest rainwater, to irrigate the trees that have been planted.  The area is very clean, quite a contrast to what I had seen before.   I also had to take off my shoes as the community deems it to be a religious holy place.  So, I walked up the small but arduous climb barefoot on the path, landscaped with rough cut stones and cement.  My feet were burning as I stepped on the stones but happily, I climbed to the monument, in anticipation of photographing the beautiful sculptures.

As I reached the monument, I was impressed.  The statues have been cleaned and well-maintained.  There are twenty six statues of Jain Tirthankars in various upright and seated positions.  There is a mention of the monuments being built around 1424 a.d. under the reign of Tomar King Dungar Singh in an inscription in one of the caves.  Built between 1398-1536 by kings of Tomar dynasty, these are quite a spectacle to behold.

Ek Patthar ki baori is in the first cave, a water reservoir carved out of a single stone.  Honey bees swarmed around as I peeked into the locked baori.  As I photographed the details of the statues, a group of pilgrims came up to pray.  I quickly took a couple of photos to show the scale of the statues.

Women in Prayer

The largest idol of Bhagwan Parshwanath seated on a Lotus is the largest single stone carved statue in the world.  It is 47 feet high and 30 feet wide and extremely difficult to photograph in its entirety.  More on this later…

Here is a photograph of the row of statues as seen from an opening in the rock…

Tirthankar Statues on Gopachal Parwat

Moments meander around Gwalior Fort

I visited Gwalior Fort again. It has been overcast and rainy the past few days but the Sun decided to shine again today, maybe, to mark the occasion of World Tourism Day. With Dada and Bobby, I drove up to Fort from Urwai Ghati instead of my usual hike up from the Gwalior Gate of the Fort. I had brought photos of Kushwahji and others that I had taken on my previous trips to the Fort and they felt happy on receiving the photos.

Man Mandir has undergone a fantastic cleanup. The blackened walls in the inside chambers have been cleaned and very few bats remain. The dark stairways leading to even darker circular dungeons now have lights as well to guide the tourists. This is where the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb had imprisoned his brother Murad and had him executed. I took some long exposures of the dungeons and Jauhar kund.

After photographing the colorful tiles of Man Mandir Palace and visiting the chambers in Man Singh Palace, we went to see some older monuments in the Fort.

Some things never change: the desire of us mortals to leave our name etched in stone for generations to see. I have been to so many beautiful monuments and places that have inspired misguided lovers and mortals to etch their names on the walls thereby disfiguring those for others. Sometimes, all this reminds me of ‘Ozymandias’ by PB Shelley or even of that beautiful song by Kansas – ‘Dust in the wind’ (esp the lines – “all we are is dust in the wind”).

This particular graffiti looked fresh and brought to mind my surprise at seeing graffiti on Eiffel Tower in Paris. Now I really digress but I must tell you this; still cracks me up on my stupidity. Having heard so much about the graffiti and the messages for Jim Morrison on his grave, I had gone to Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise in Paris. It started raining and finally I saw a mausoleum with people around and graffiti on the walls proclaiming how Jim is loved and lives on etc. It easily seemed the most popular tomb around and I photographed it and the music lovers from all angles. I am about to head out when I see an American tourist taking a picture of his boys in front of a comparatively small grave behind the tomb. Wondering whose grave it was, I check out the tombstone. Lo and behold! It was Jim Morrison’s! Having gone all the way to the cemetery, I had almost missed out the grave that I wanted to see. You can imagine how foolish I must have felt.

Anyways, back to Gwalior Fort: I sought out some of my favorite views of Vikram Mandir, ShahJahan Mahal and Karan Mahal.

I keep returning, hoping to find better, more dramatic light. Still have not found what I am looking for but hope remains. I am sure I will be back again, to relive the moments I have spent with near and dear ones while walking, playing around the monuments in the Fort. The clock keeps ticking as this very moment passes us by. ‘Dust in the wind’, indeed!