Author: Ashish Sharma

New Delhi, India – May 2000

Delhi, the capital of India, is an amalgam of the old and the new. The ancient and the modern times are in juxtaposition here, not only in the remains of a succession of empires, but equally in present social structure and lifestyles.

Delhi is divided into two parts. The old Delhi was one of the capitals of Muslim India between the 12th and 19th centuries. Old forts, mosques and monuments related to India’s Muslim history are located here. New Delhi is the imperial city, created as the Capital by the British. It is spread over a wide area and is lined with imposing boulevards.

Among the places of special interest to tourists in Delhi are the Red Fort, Jama Masjid (Mosque), Coronation Durbar Site, Raj Ghat, Jantar Mantar, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Qutab Minar, India Gate, Secretariat Building, Rashtrapati Bhawan (President’s House), Parliament House, National Museum, National Gallery of Modern Art, Nehru Museum, Rail Transport Museum, International Dolls Museum, Crafts Museum, Gandhi Darshan, Purana Qila, the Zoo, Safdarjung’s Tomb, and Bahai House of Worship.

Delhi, being a conglomerate of different cultures, can serve people with varied tastes from all over India. Of course, globalization has brought MNCs like KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos and McDonalds to India. There are Nirula’s and Wimpy’s in league with them as well as specialty restaurants serving Chinese, Continental, Thai, Italian, Spanish and Mexican cuisine.

A paradise for shoppers, you can buy almost anything in Delhi from anywhere in India. Delhi has thousands of good shops tidily grouped together subject-wise – antiques, handicrafts, European fashions, leather articles, rugs and carpets, linen & fabrics, silks, jewelry, furniture etc.

Delhi, where an empire rose and fell before the dawn of history; where citadels of emperors appeared and disappeared; a city of mysterious eternity whose old ruins proclaim a majestic and imperial past and whose present pulsates vibrantly with the ever flowing life of India.

The eternal Jamuna bears witness to the glorious and tumultuous 5000-year old history of Delhi. A history which begins with the creation of Indraprastha by the Pandavas and the transformation of this barren gift of the Kauravas into an idyllic haven.

A history which encompasses all the various kings and emperors who fixed their royal citadels here – Indraprastha, Lal Kot, Quila Rai Pithora, Siri, Jahanpanah, Tughlakabad, Ferozabad, Dinpanah, Delhi Sher Shahi or then Shahjahanabad. However, combined and integrated into one, these ‘new cities’ have always been called Delhi and howsoever many names it may have acquired, Delhi has always been intrinsically identified with power and imperial sway. There have been at least eight cities around modern Delhi, and the old saying that whoever founds a new city at Delhi will lose it has come true every time – most recently for the British who founded New Delhi in 1911.

Recently India celebrated the festival of Holi, one of the most boisterous of Hindu festivals. It heralds the end of winter and the beginning of the Spring. People throw colored water and powder at each other and make merry.

Another major festival that was recently celebrated was Ram Navmi – the birth ceremony of Lord Rama. It is celebrated on the ninth day of the waxing moon in the month of Chaitra. Temples are decorated, religious discourses are held and the Ramayan is recited for ten days.

Coming up this month in May is the Muslim festival of Urs, held every year at the dargah of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer, commemorating his symbolic union with God.

Art & Theatre
Classical Dance “Kuchipudi” from Andhra Pradesh
Originated in a small village in the State of Andhra Pradesh, Kuchipudi is not merely a dance form but is a combination of dance, gestures, speech and song. A Kuchipudi dancer has to be well versed in dancing, acting, music, various languages and texts.

Kuchipudi was born in a small village of Andhra Pradesh. It was in the 17th century during the bhakti movement in the South India that Siddendra Yogi – the formulator of the dance form – selected some boys from the village to perform dance drama. Thus came the Kuchipudi in this world. In those days Kuchipudi was performed once in a year and the dance form was cautiously kept out of the reach of Devadasis.

From the first performers, the technique and skills of this form got handed over the generations to acquire the present form. Some of the legendary performers and gurus were Kuchipudi Brahmins like Lakshmi Narayan Shastri and Chinta Krishna Murti who excelled in roles like Satyabhama in Bhamakalapam; later gurus include Vedantam Chinna Satyam.

Today both group performances and solo performances are popular but experimentation are always being done with the choreography. Kuchipudi is a combination of movements of the whole body.

Feature of the Month – Ladakh
Deep within the folds of the Karakoram mountain ranges, is the remote, fascinating land of Ladakh, also known as the land of passes. For centuries, it had been closed to the outside world, due to its inaccessibility. The sheer, stark landscape, comprised of aloof mountains, dramatic ridges, and valleys, leaves an indelible imprint on the visitor’s mind.

For those evincing an interest in Tibetology and Buddhism, Ladakh is like a dream come true. The land of lamaseries, lamaism being a peculiar feature of the Buddhist social structure here, which stresses on celibacy for males, and monastic existence for the women. The Ladakhi people are devout Buddhists, famous for their integrity, and innate humanness. Mask and scarf dances, flutes, cymbals and percussion instruments accompany the festivities on special days. Leh, the nerve-center of the region, and the low-profile Kargil are the two main districts of Ladakh.

Leh, located at a height of 3500 metres in the Karakoram Mountains, is 434 kms from Srinagar. The main attractions of this area include the Leh Khar Palace, Leh Monastery, Leh Mosque, Tsemo Gompa and the Stok Palace Museum.

  • The Leh Khar Palace, dating back to the 16th century, is hewn into a rock-face. Within the palace are Buddhist wall paintings, centuries old ‘tankas’ or painted scrolls and other artifacts.
  • The Leh Monastery looms over its surroundings, housing a solid gold statue of the Buddha, and ancient manuscripts among other articles.
  • The Leh Mosque, built by Single Namgyal, sports a unique blend of Turkish-Iranian architecture.
  • The royal monastery, better known as Tsemo Gompa, has an impressive two-storeyed image of Chamb Buddha.
  • The Stok Palace Museum has on display the royal crown, ‘tankas’, coins and other invaluable items.

    The festivals celebrated in Ladakh, include the Hemis festival, held in June to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava; Losar, which is held in the eleventh month of the Buddhist year, and the Ladakh festival held in August, which is primarily organized by the District Tourist Office, for the tourists.

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