Six Unknown Architectural Wonders

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Palace of the Parliament, Romania
The world’s largest, most expensive and heaviest civilian administrative building, Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament is truly an unknown wonder. “Built by hated communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu… the building is so huge that it is difficult to take a photograph that does its scale justice ,” said Jann Hoke, a lawyer who worked in the palace in the mid-1990s.

Built in 1984, the neoclassical building has 12 stories (with eight additional stories underground), and some 3,100 rooms covering 330,000 sqm. The project cost an unprecedented 3.3bn euros, but it also cost the people of Bucharest much of their city. To build the Palace of the Parliament, one-fifth of central Bucharest was razed, including most of its historical districts, more than 30 churches and synagogues and some 30,000 homes.

“The patterned carpets on the main level, which run through hundreds of yards of wide corridors, were woven inside the building during construction,” Hoke said. “Weaving them outside and bringing them in was not feasible due to their sheer size.

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Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali

Built in 1907, the Great Mosque of Djenne is the largest mud structure in the world, constructed almost entirely of sun-baked earthen bricks, sand and a mud-based mortar and plaster. It is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style and was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988.

The mosque’s three minarets are decorated with bundles of rodier palm, which double as scaffolding for the annual repairs – a tradition that’s become a local festival in April and May.

“The brutal North African summers bring out cracks in the mud and weaken it over time,” said  Abishek Lamba. “Before the yearly rains that follow, the locals get together and re-coat the entire building with clay from a dried up pond.”

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Chand Baori, India
One of the most overlooked landmarks in India, Rajasthan’s Chand Baori is a spectacular square stepwell, 13 storeys deep, with walls lined with scores of double staircases that descend some 30m to the bottom of the well, where a pool of emerald green water awaits.

The mesmerising maze of symmetrical steps “appears to form a never ending path deep underground,” said Vipul Yadav. With its 3,500 steps, Chand Baori is “one of the deepest and largest of its kind in the world”.

Built by King Chanda of the Nikumbha Dynasty between 800 and 900 AD, Chand Baori was designed to be as practical as it was pretty. Due to the structure of the well, the bottom of it remains cooler than the surface, critical in the hot, arid landscape of Rajasthan.

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Derawar Fort, Pakistan
A fortress of monumental proportions, Derawar’s 40 stunning bastions rise from the desert in a striking square formation. Combined, the fort’s walls form a circumference of some 1,500m and stand some 30m high.

This is a magnificent structure in the middle of the Cholistan Desert,” said Faisal Khan. “Many people don’t know about the Derawar Fort. Even most Pakistanis don’t know of it.”

And for good reason: to get to the fortress, visitors must hire a guide with a four-wheel drive vehicle to make the day-long trip from the city of Bahawalpur, Pakistan through the Cholistan Desert to the fort, where special permission from the amir, or local leader, is needed to go inside.

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Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran
Mona Khatam described the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – an architectural masterpiece of Safavid Iranian architecture – as “a study in harmonious understatement”.

Located in Naghsh-i Jahan Square in the city of Isfahan, the stunningly elegant mosque was built between 1603 and 1619 during the reign of Shah Abbas I. It is named after the ruler’s father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah, a revered Lebanese scholar of Islam.

The mosque is unusual in that it features no minarets or courtyard. “This was probably because the mosque was never intended for public use, but rather served as the worship place for the women of the shah’s harem,” Khatam said.

As such, the prayer hall is reached through a long, twisting, underground hallway, and the decoration on the mosque is extraordinarily exquisite.

“The dome makes extensive use of delicate tiles that change colour throughout the day, from cream to pink,” said Khatam. “Inside the sanctuary you can marvel at the complexity of the mosaics that adorn the walls and the extraordinarily beautiful ceiling, with its shrinking, yellow motifs. The shafts of sunlight that filter in through the few high, latticed windows produce a constantly changing interplay of light and shadow.”

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Great Wall of India
“We have all heard of the Great Wall of China, but few know that India also has its own Great Wall, which has been long overshadowed by its neighbour to the East,” said Quora user Ayush Manu.

The Great Wall of India, also referred to as Kumbhalgarh, is the second-longest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Located in Rajasthan, the wall is 4.5m thick in some areas, extends for 36km and has seven fortified gates.

Rana Kumbha, a local ruler, commissioned the wall in 1443 to protect his fort, situated on a hill above.

“Legend has it that despite several attempts, the wall could not be completed,” Manu said. “Finally the king consulted one of his spiritual advisers and was advised that a sacrifice be made, and a volunteer offered his life so that others will be protected. Today, the main gate stands where his body fell and a temple where his severed head came to rest.”

The wall was enlarged in the 19th Century and now protects more than 360 temples located within its walls, but it remains an unknown treasure to most of the world.

Courtsey : BBC, Quora

 

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Kumbhalgarh – The Unbeatable Fortress

Kumbhalgarh, a small town in district Rajsamand is known world wide for its great history and architecture. It is about 90 km from Udaipur (about a two hour drive). Here lies the great Kumbhalgarh fort which was built during the 15th century by Rana Kumbha.

Under the rule of Rana Kumbha, the kingdom of Mewar stretched right from Ranthambore to Gwalior. The kingdom also included vast tracts of Madhya Pradesh as well as Rajasthan. Mewar was defended by about 80 fortresses from its enemies. Rana Kumbha, himself, had designed about 30 of them and Kumbhalgarh is the most famous of them all.

It was only once in the entire history that Kumbhalgarh was taken and its defenses breached. It was when the combined armies of Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber and Raja Udai Singh of Marwar attacked the fort of Kumbhalgarh. That too happened because of the scarcity of drinking water. A thick wall that is 36Kms long surrounds this remarkable fort. The perimeter of the wall is said to be the longest after the Great Wall Of China. The width of wall varies from 15 to 25 feet. It is mentioned in the various books of history that eight horses could run on this wall side-by-side. This wall runs through surrounding mountain cliffs of the Aravali range. The wall is a great example of architecture brilliance of Rajput Era. Its architectural brilliance is proved by the fact that in spite of being around 700 years old it is still intact and in a very good shape.

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The fort is about 1100m high from the sea level and offers a marvelous view of the surrounding area. The main attractions of the fort consist of mesmerizing palaces along with about 360 different types of temples inside it with 300 being Jain temples and the remaining being Hindu temples. The Badal Mahal Palace is right at the top of the fort. The palace has beautiful rooms and is painted in the colours of green, white and turquoise, thus providing an interesting contrast to the raw and grim fortress. 13 mountain peaks surround the fort of Kumbhalgarh, 7 huge gates guard the fort and immense watchtowers further strengthen it.

Kumbhalgarh is the same place where prince Udai was smuggled to in 1535. This happened when Chittaur was under siege. Prince Udai who later became the successor to the throne and also became the founder of the Udaipur City. The renowned Maharana Pratap, who fought against the army lead by Akbar in the battle of Haldighati in the year 1576, was also born at Kumbhalgarh.

There are a number of interesting ruins around the fort and there are many magnificent palaces and havelis. There are ancient remnants that you can explore while you decide to take a stroll through the ravines of Kumbhalgarh Fort. The adventurer can enjoy a horse safari and the thrill of riding and camping in the Reserve Forests around Kumbhalgarh.

The nature lovers could take a hazardous, barely jeepable track to the 586 square kilometer Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. The main attraction here would be panther, sloth bear, wild boar, four-horned antelope or crocodiles.

The reserve forest is a delight for bird watchers. Good forest cover, jungle berries, fruits and nuts, water grasses, algae, and fish provide sustenance for thousands of flamingoes, sarus cranes, spoonbills, painted storks, cormorants, purple heron, egrets, duck, and rosy pelican in winter. One also finds plenty of chakor partridge, crow pheasants, jungle warblers, golden orioles, gray jungle fowl, and the usual peacocks; parrots, pigeons, and doves.

The best time for a trip to the land of the Rajput Warriors is October to March. Contact Road2Travel for information

Worlds Largest Stepwell: Chand Baori

Building stepwells (Baori in Rajasthan) has been a necessity under northern India’s hot summers. These wells acted as rainwater harvesting systems and they were a cool oasis in the parched hot summer of this area. The temperature difference between the surface and the lowest depths of these wells could be 5 to 6 degrees. The earliest were made around 550 AD, but famous ones like Chand Baori were made during medieval times. And from those times, over 3,000 stepwells were built in India’s two northern states. Rajasthan and Gujarat.

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Chand Baori in Abhaneri, near Jaipur, Rajasthan is propbabaly the largest step well in the world and perhaps the most visually spectacular stepwell. Chand Baori is an incredibly geometric sight; it is a deep four-sided structure with an immense temple on one face. 3,500 terraced steps march down the other three sides, 13 stories, to a depth of 100 feet. The construction dates to the tenth century, and is dedicated to Harshat Mata, goddess of joy and happiness and is believed to have been built by King Chand, ruler of Abhaneri and a Rajput from the Chahamana dynasty.

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Chand Baori is also well known for being the location where Batman gets imprisoned in the “ The Dark Knight Rises” and for the movie “The Fall”. A version of the game “Minecraft” is also based on the Chand Baori.

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Chand Baori Minecraft

Galtaji Temple – Jaipur

A pre-historic Hindu pilgrimage site, the Galtaji Temple, is located only 10km away from Jaipur. Ascetics are said to have flocked to the site since the early 1500s, but the present temple complex was built by Diwan Rao Kriparam, a courtier of Sawai Jai Singh II, in the 18th century.The temple complex encompasses natural fresh water springs and 7 holy ‘kunds’ or water tanks. Among these kunds, the ‘Galta Kund’, is the holiest one and is believed to never get dry. A spring of pure water flows from the ‘Gaumukh’, a rock shaped like a cow’s head, into the tanks. A spectacular structure, this magnificent temple is built in pink sandstone, amidst low hills, and is structured to look more like a palace or ‘haveli’ than a traditional temple. Temple is nestled in peaceful surroundings between two granite cliffs and has a back-drop of gorgeous landscape featuring lush green vegetation, and offers a fascinating view of the city of Jaipur.

Also known as The Galta Monkey temple, the temple is famous for the many tribes of monkeys that dwell in this area. These monkeys can outnumber people at any day and they never harm anyone. Galtaji was recently featured on National Geographic’s multi-award winning series ‘Monkey Thieves’.

This temple complex is usually overlooked by tourist who stay within the old city of Jaiur, visiting the forts and palaces. They miss the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Galtaji which attracts scholars, archaeologist and local pilgrims in large numbers. To plan your Jaipur trip…..Road2Travel

Forts of Rajasthan : Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fort is one of the largest fortifications in the world. It is situated in the city of Jaisalmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is a World Heritage Site. It was built in 1156 AD by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from whom it derives it name. Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Jaisalmer,. Founded on what was the cross – road of lucrative trade routes, this remote settlement came to be celebrated for the valour of its rulers, and for the aesthetic sense represented by their palaces and havelis. The rich merchants engaged stone – craftsmen who worked delicately on the sandstone mansions they built, filling up facades with sculptural filigree, screen windows, delicate pavilions and beautiful balconies. Today, these veritable art – museums are still inhabited, and their colourful celebrations and festivals have placed Jaisalmer Fort firmly on the world tourism map.

Apart from the artistic havelis the Jaisalmer Fort is home to Jain Temples which are a must visit site. You will find these temples to be very old with high pilgrimage as well as archeological value attached to them.

Jaisalmer fort , over 800 years old, is the second oldest in Rajasthan. Two hundred and fifty feet tall and reinforced by imposing crenellated sandstone wall 30 feet high; it has 99 bastions, 92 of which were built between 1633 and 1647. Wells within the fort still provide a regular source of water. Even today, you will find that nearly one fourth of the old city’s population resides within the fort. If you are a student of cross-cultural merging, the subtle fusion of Rajput and Islamic architectural styles, visible in this fort, will catch your fancy. Ganesh Pol, Akshya Pol, Suraj Pol and Hawa Pol are a must see.

You enter the fort from its east side and pass through four massive gates on the zigzagging route to the upper part. The fourth gate opens into a large square, Dashera Chowk, where Jaisalmer Fort’s uniqueness becomes apparent: this is a living fort, with about 3000 people residing within its walls. It’s honeycombed with narrow, winding lanes, all of them paved in stone and lined with houses and temples – along with a large number of handicraft shops, guesthouses, restaurants. Fortunately cars cannot drive beyond the main square. The fort walls provide superb views over the city and surrounding desert – it’s fantastic to stroll around the outer parts at sunset.The fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are a tawny lion colour during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets, thereby camouflaging the fort in the yellow desert. For this reason, it is also known as the Sonar Quila or Golden Fort.

Contact Road2Travel for your glimpse into the majestic Rajput Forts and Palaces of Rajasthan

FORTS OF RAJASTHAN – AMER

Amer or Amber Fort is about 11 kilometers from Jaipur, in Rajasthan, India. It is considered as one of the best hilltops fort in India which makes it a major tourist spot near Jaipur. The fort is a typical example for Rajput’s life style in Rajasthan. This magnificent fort is situated alongside the lake of Moatha. Amer was once known as Dhundar and was ruled by the Kachhwahas from the 11th to the 16th century, until the capital was moved from here to Jaipur. Raja Man Singh built this fort in 1592 AD and Raja Jai Sigh I expanded and renovated it later. While many such old structures have been either destroyed or replaced by other things, this fort has stood against all the tests of time and invasions.

The Amer Palace & Fort is in a beautiful natural setting, located on a rocky mountain gorge and overlooking an artificial lake.  The craggy and rugged view from the complex from the outside betrays the beauty and culture that is on display inside with an amalgam of Hindu and Moghul architecture, a rich blend of white marble and red sandstone, and exquisite palaces, halls, pavilions, gardens and temples, which were built over two centuries by each of the then ruling Maharajas. The walls of the fort are covered with frescoes paintings, which depict the scenes of daily life. Some other walls are designed with mosaics and minute mirror works which is absolutely royal. While the exterior of the fort is rough and mighty, typical of the life of the gallant Rajputs- militant, adventurous, temperamental, and self indulgent, the interiors have a soft, comfortable and soothing ambience. Amer has a pure majestic look.

The Amber Fort is divided into 4 sections. An imposing stairway and a broad isle for elephants to walk up the ramp lead to the hilltop palace. Suraj Pol is the main gate which leads to Jaleb Chowk which is the main courtyard. Jaleb Chowk also served as an area for welcoming back the army who return home after winning a war. Here the army would then display their war earnings to the population at large. Leading to the palace is the main stairway which is situated in Jaleb Chowk.

Ganesh Pol is another imposing gateway painted with images of the elephant headed Good- Ganesh and Rajasthani Motifs. This gates leads to the inhabited apartments of the Kings.

The Amber Fort has a lot to be seen in its four sections:

Diwan I – Aam : Also known as the Hall of Public Audience this is the first huge room to come across, entered through an imposing stairway. The hall has a lattice gallery and a well proportioned 40 pillared beautiful pavilion made of a combination of marble and red sandstone. The pillars are elephant shaped columns and intricately carved suggesting the mastery of the artisans of Rajashtan.

The hall pavilion built by Raja Jai Singh I was used by the Maharajas to receive the general public and to govern over their kingdom. During proceedings and problem solving issues the King sat in the middle of the pavilion with all the important nobles and officers sitting on the northern side while the less prominent officials along with the general public sat on the western side, with the crowd spilling out in the adjoining courtyard. The southern part was kept clear for the royal ladies to watch the proceedings from their apartments.

Shila Mata (Devi) Temple:The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali, Goddess of Victory and is located near Singh Pol. The temple has a unique black marble idol of Goddess brought from Jessore (now in Bangladesh) by Raja Man Singh in 1604. The temple gates are silver with images of nine forms of Goddess Durga (strength) and ten forms of Goddess Saraswati (knowledge). The mandap is made of white marble which is contrasting with the colour of the idol.

Legend of the idol: Before the war with the Maharaja of Bengal, Raja Man Singh prayed to the Goddess to grant him victory. Goddess Kali appeared in his dreams and instructed him to retrieve her idol hidden in the Bay of Bengal if he won the war. Raja Man Singh won the war, retrieved the idol form the spot and installed it in his temple.

Another temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, where Raja Man Singh always prayed before he left for any war. The temple is situated just before the entrance to the right side with a stairway leading to it. The temple is famous for huge silver loins and silver doors. The doorway to the temple has an image of Lord Ganesha, carved from a single piece of coral.

Diwan e Khaas: This is the Hall of Private Audience. Decorated with beautiful mirror work and carvings on walls and ceilings, the hall is also largely decorated with miniature murals made of coloured glass.

Old Amber Palace :Originally Amber fort was a place complex called Jaigarh Fort situated with in the Amber fort of today and was connected to Amber via fortified passages. The Jaigarh Fort is located above the Amber fort complex and was known to be the treasure vault of the Kachhwaha rulers.

Sheesh Mahal : This is the Hall of Mirrors located deep inside the fort and entirely filled with mirrors to lighten up the entire path. A single candle is enough to ward away the darkness of the night and the innumerable number of mirrors around light up as soon as one lit candle enters this hall.

Jai Mandir: Behind the Ganesh Pol, are a number of residential apartments of the Maharaja. Amongst them is Jai Mandir also known as Hall of Victory with inlaid panels, dazzling mirror ceilings, mosaics and sculptures. The hall has pattern made of glass that illuminate in the darkness just like twinkling stars (Convex mirrors)

Jas Mandir :Also known as Hall of Glory, this hall has pierced screen windows of alabaster that offer a beautiful view of Kesra Kyari (saffron bed) which is a garden with geometric designs.

Sukh Niwas : Opposite the Jai Mandir this is the Hall of Pleasure. It has a sandalwood door inlaid with ivory and a channel running down to the room. This helps in the natural flow of water to create an air conditioning effect to help cool the temperatures of the hall in the summer.

Zenana :This is the ladies house or royal apartments in which all rooms have a common entrance but separate chambers. The zenana surrounds a spectacular courtyard. Sitting right in their apartments the ladies could watch the proceedings in the Diwan e aam.

Gardens : Dil e aaram is the graden through which one enters the fort and the Charbagh garden is ornamented in patterns of Mughal Style.

The fort is a ten minute walk uphill and your little trek will be worth the wonders that it offers. You may also use the service of elephants to ride up to the fort from the bottom of the hill. The sound and light show should not be missed in the evening.

Road2Travel operates a Hotel in Jaipur and for your Rajasthan trip you are welcome to contact us. The best time to enjoy the heritage of Rajasthan is from October to March.