Madhu Bazaz Wangu | Blog
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Days Thirteen, Fourteen & Fifteen: Old Delhi and New Delhi

Old Delhi and New Delhi Circa 1200-Present The two-week trip to South India with my husband Manoj, and our daughter’s in-laws, Drs. Young Woo Choi and Young Soon Choi was an unforgettable experience. This is the last post about our site seeing in Old Delhi and New Delhi. Delhi is replete with Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain monuments but out of them all, Mughal monuments are outstanding. Qutab Minar is the tallest brick tower in the world. Located in New Delhi, the 240 feet high tapering tower is 47 feet in diameter at the base and 9 feet at the peak. The Qutab Complex includes Emperor Asoka’s iron pillar, two tombs, a gateway and a madrassa. Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, built it in 1200 in red sandstone and white marble. Inside...

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Days Eleven and Twelve: White Taj and Red Fort

Prior to seeing Taj Mahal for the first time, I had imagined it from seeing it in photographs. When I finally looked it in three dimensions the monument was more magnificent than how I had imagined! Yet, this time, my fourth, it looked more spectacular from far and more impressive in details. Taj Mahal means ‘crown of palaces’ and is located on the bank of the Yamuna River in the city of Agra. When I visit Taj Mahal I also visit Agra Fort. About two miles northeast of Taj, the Fort is an equally powerful architectural marvel. While the former was built by Shah Jahan (1592-1666) latter was built by his grandfather Emperor Akbar (1542-1605). Shah Jahan’s reign is considered the golden period of Mughal architecture. However, many of the structure made during...

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Days Nine & Ten: House Boats and Spices

Called the ‘Venice of the East,’ the natural beauty of Alappuzha (or Alleppy), can be experienced only by being there. I can merely share the pictures of luxurious and leisurely day we spent in a houseboat cruising through its picture-perfect canals, backwaters, lagoons and the beaches of Arabian Sea. Watching the houses on the land between the sea and network of rivers flowing into it was the most delightful experience. Thirty-nine miles south of Alleppy is 39 Kochi—an important spice-trading center. At present whole spices such as cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and cardamom are exported throughout the world. Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, some still call it by its Anglicized name, Cochin. This picture perfect town was the center of Portuguese administration in India until they moved it to Goa...

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Day Eight: Kathakali in Kovalam, Kerela

We spent an unforgettable day at the beach and the town of Kovalam--walked on the beach, savored unfamiliar tasty dishes, watched a Kathakali performance with a view of Arabian Sea in the background. In Malayalam language Kovalam means a grove of coconut trees. The place offers picturesque sights of the coconut trees on land and near water. In the early seventies, hippies on their way to Ceylon, came to this town in throngs transforming a casual fishing village into one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Kathakali is the classical Malayalam dance-drama noted for its stylized make-up in brilliant basic colors, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body postures. The graceful movements are accompanied by singing, drums and percussions. This style of dance-drama originated in Kerala in the 17th century. Over the years, it has developed...

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Day Seven: Green Coconuts & Kovalam Beach

An excerpt from my novel, The Immigrant Wife: A Spiritual Journey (Forthcoming March/April 2016) The two friends gathered their materials in their shoulder bags, and then walked toward the beach. From far they spotted green coconut vendor. The thought of cool coconut juice made Shanti’s mouth water. They selected two coconuts and handed them to the seller. As he was slicing off the thick outer skin of the fruit, Shanti said, “A productive day! Wouldn’t you agree, Hema?” “I agree! You are good company to go sketching with.” The vendor handed the fruit to Hema. She put a creamy, slippery slice in her mouth and sucked in its sweet, milky juice through a straw. “Ahhhhhh . . . so soothing, satisfying!” She licked her lips. “Hard to explain such sensations,” Shanti said, waiting for her turn to...

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Day Six: Iridescent Dawn and Palace Complex

Kanyakumari, Southernmost Tip of Indian Peninsula, Tamil Nadu Kanyakumari (Old Cape Comorin) is a popular tourist destination. Hundreds of thousands of tourists come here to watch sunrise from its smooth-rocky beach. When we arrived it was dark. The sky was overcast with heavy black clouds. We waited patiently. Then iridescent orange shimmered from behind the clouds at the horizon. The moments of shimmering gold still resonate in my memory. Slowly, distant landscape emerged: a 95 feet high statue of Thiruvalluvar standing atop a 38 feet pedestal. Its 133 feet represent 133 chapters in the Tamil scripture, Thirukkural. Next to the statue stood the Swami Vivekananda’s Memorial on a rock. He is believed to have meditated on the rock and attained enlightenment. Padmanabhapuram Palace, Tamil Nadu In the afternoon we drove to, Padmanabhapuram Palace located...

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Day Five: Jellybeans and Temple Towers

In the temples of South India, the dominant architectural feature is gopura, (gateway towers)  that mark four directions in the enclosure wall built around the main temple. Gopuras of   Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tamil Nadu and Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai are painted in brilliant jellybean colors that shimmer under the tropical sunlight and dominate the landscape for miles. The basement of the gopuras is constructed of stone but their multiple tiers are made with brick and plaster that minimizes the weight of the superstructure. A barrel like structure called sala caps each gopura. Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu The main structure of Ranganathaswamy Temple culminates in a gold pinnacle. Surrounded by seven concentric walls, each wall has four gopuras facing the four directions. The farthest from the gold-topped sanctum sanctorum is largest in size. Sari Shops, restaurants, and flower...

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A Hymn in Granite & A Golden Sphere: DAY FOUR

DAY FOUR Heavy rain was pouring when we reached Brhadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, a UNESCO world Heritage Site. Behind the veil of shower the commanding grandeur of this granite monument allured me, like an eloquent hymn in stone. An expression of the wealth, glory, and artistic sensibility and expression of the emperor Rajaraja 1 (King of Kings) of Chola Kingdom, it took seven years to build. (1003-1010 AD. The temple complex is considered the foremost architectural creations produced in the world prior to the twentieth century. The central temple including its subsidiary shrines and gateways (gopuras) are testimony to the greatness of Rajaraja 1. Preceding the temple are two gateways. The temple tower is the highest reaching 216 ft (66 m). A bulbous structure at the top is carved out of a single...

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Virgin Mary Dressed in Sari: DAY THREE

Virgin Mary dressed in a sari! Jesus Christ standing on a fully blossomed lotus flanked by peacocks! A wonderful surprise! On the morning of our third day, we were in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Our first stop was Saint Thomas’ Basilica in Mylapore. This minor basilica was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers over the tomb of Jesus’ apostle, St. Thomas, and rebuilt in 1893 in Neo-Gothic style by British. A beautiful building in which a surprise awaited us. In the apse stood culturally befitting image of Jesus and outdoors an image of Mary. An unexpected pleasure! After a sumptuous lunch we were driven to the rock-cut monuments of Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the shores of Bay of Bengal the monuments were sculpted by Pallava sculptors during...

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Aboard the Luxury Tourist Train: DAY TWO

After twenty-four hours R & R at the West End Taj, the following late afternoon we were driven to the railway station to board our train, the Golden Chariot. I have traveled extensively by people’s trains in India. Most Indians choose train as the mode of long distance transportation because a network of trains criss-crosses the whole sub-continent and the fare is low. The country has one of the world's largest railway networks that were introduced by British in 1853. Since then new routes have been added and steam engines replaced with diesel and electric engines. Indian Railways introduced the luxury tourist trains as recently as 1980s. The first luxury train, Palace on Wheels was launched in 1882. These trains were inspired by the comfort and décor of personal railway coaches of the...

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