Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

GPS and travel

August 10, 2011

A piece in New Atlantis by Ari Schulman; via Nicholas Carr. A wonderful piece!

The romance of the train journey

January 4, 2010

Is nicely captured in this must-read piece of Malavika Karlekar:

As one would expect, children, particularly those who travelled in the first class, were immune to such grown-up fears; for them, there was little to rival a train ride. Colonial memoirs recount many such journeys, some more exciting than others. Jon and Rumer Godden in Two Under the Indian Sky write of long train journeys to north Indian hill stations. As high-spirited children, they swung from the upper berths, visited the lavatory endlessly — assiduously disinfected with Lysol by their mother — and waited for entertainment at the next station.

Ample food lay safe in tiffin baskets, “large oblong Japanese cane baskets with leather strappings to hold enamel plates and mugs.” Bottled water was carried from home and though during the journey, “bread went dry, butter melted, shells off the hard-boiled eggs got into the buttoned upholstery of the bunk seats… we thought the meal ambrosial”. An accompanying servant would come to wash up, squatting on the floor of the lavatory shower room that led off from the compartment. In the blazing hot summer when travelling in what were basically metal boxes on wheels could be unbearable, a zinc stand with a deep tray beneath it was set up in the middle of the compartment “and every morning with shoutings and staggerings, coolies would carry in a huge block of ice and unwrap it from its sacking”. A fan often circulated the cooled air and telegrams used to be sent down the line for replacements of ice during the day.

As dusk came about the countryside, “a curious sadness would fall on us” and the compartment suddenly seemed small, “the train infinitesimal as it travelled over the vast Indian plain”. And then finally, out came the bedding from those “invaluable roly-poly pieces of luggage rightly called holdalls into which anything and everything would go”. Those irreplaceable holdalls may be difficult to come by today, and ice blocks have given way to fitful air conditioning; yet which train passenger can deny an inexplicable sense of wonderment — or maybe even melancholy — as night falls, a few lights twinkle on the horizon and the edges of India fade away beneath the criss-cross of railway tracks?

Take a look!

The art of Chola paintings and the feat of photographing them

July 10, 2007

After talking about Chola bronzes, it is time to talk about Chola murals. Recently, Frontline published an article describing the photographic feat achieved by two officers of Archaeological Survey of India and an young photographer:

In a remarkable feat performed in the face of overwhelming odds, two officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and a young photographer have photographed in minute detail four huge frescoes found in the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. What makes their work all the more creditable is the difficult location of the murals, their enormous size and their reflecting surface, all of which posed big challenges.

The murals, each 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide (4.5 metres x 3 metres), are about 1,000 years old. They are located in the narrow and dark passage around the temple’s sanctum sanctorium. The great Chola king Raja Raja I built the Brihadisvara temple between AD 1000 and AD 1008 and the paintings were done between AD 1008 and AD 1012.

The article, while giving the technical details of the photographing, also has plenty of photographs of the murals themselves.

Don’t miss the accompanying article describing the history of the murals and their artistic merits too:

These Chola masterpieces differ vastly from the Ajanta murals. The Ajanta artists used the easier tempera technique whereas the Chola artists opted for the difficult fresco technique, covering some 7,200 square feet of wall area. The themes were carefully selected from Saivite mythology. Without doubt, every theme and form was approved by Raja Raja himself, who was a devotee of Siva: his pet epithet was Sivapathasekaran.

The themes depicted in the panels exposed (1,200 sq ft) so far are Siva as Dakshinamurthy, the story of Sundarar, Raja Raja and his three queens worshipping Nataraja (Siva) at Chidmabaram, Tripurantaka, the marriage of Siva and Parvati, Raja Raja worshipping the Linga to be enshrined in the temple, and Ravana at Kailasa. The Nayaka palimpsest covers the rest of the area.

The banyan tree behind Dakshinamurthy is testimony to the imagination of the Chola artists. There are playful monkeys and birds such as peacocks, swans and owls. Enters a ferocious cobra and there is a sudden change in the mood. A monkey rushes away while another stares at the new entrant. Another, on a faraway branch, is not yet aware of the danger. A few sensitive swans flutter their wings in fear. The owls do not react as the whole thing happens in daylight. A peacock bends his long neck to watch. A squirrel, unmindful of all this, happily bites into a nut.

Below the tree is a herd of elephants; one ferociously breaks a branch and another runs uphill with its trunk coiled around the branch. Another one calmly enjoys the peaceful surroundings.

Happy reading!

Darlymple on Chola bronzes

July 9, 2007

In western art, few sculptors – except perhaps Donatello or Rodin – have achieved the pure essence of sensuality so spectacularly evoked by the Chola sculptors, or achieved such a sense of celebration of the divine beauty of the human body. There is a startling clarity and purity about the way the near-naked bodies of the Gods and the saints are displayed, yet by the simplest and most modest of devices their spirit and powers, joys and pleasures, and above all their enjoyment of each other’s beauty, and their overwhelming sexuality is highlighted.

From this article in April 2007 issue of Seminar. Darlymple talks about the unembarrasedly erotic nature of Hindu sculpture; the savage destruction that Cholas wreaked on their enemies; the survival of Hinduism down the ages:

The rituals that you still see enacted in the temples such as Tanjore were already being performed when the temples of ancient Greece and Egypt were still in use; yet while the Gods of Thebes and the Parthenon have both been dead and forgotten for millennia, the Gods and temples of Hindu India are still as alive and active as ever.

For Hindu civilization is the only great classical culture to survive from the ancient world intact, and at temples such as that Tanjore one can still catch glimpses of festivals and practices that were seen by Greek or Egyptian ambassadors to India long before the rise of ancient Rome. Indeed it is only when you grasp the astonishing antiquity, and continuity, of Hinduism that you realise quite how miraculous its survival has been.

and, the last lost wax process that is still being used to make these bronzes. A very nice piece indeed–do not miss it.

While you are at it, why not take a look at the entire issue, which is a special issue on some places of special interest in India.

A book about a forgotten funspot

April 3, 2007

Here is a book for free download about Coney Island; via B-squared.

For Indian grad students

February 12, 2007

Are you a research scholar in one of the Indian universities? Are you looking for travel funding? If so, here is a page with tons of information:

Travel Grants are provided to the research scholars by many institutes and research establishments across the country, like DST, CSIR, AICTE, INSA, ARDB, COSTED, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, IITMAANA etc., Data forms and filled sample forms and applications are provided here. The applicants may modify the contents/improve the way of presenting in their own way.

Note: Some of the information towards the end of the page is IIT-specific.

Bon voyage!

Hat tip: Adavilokeka

Yeh Jo Desh Hai Tera 

December 19, 2006

Mitti ki jo khushboo, tu kaise bhoolaayega!

Whatever you say sister, there is no place like our Coorg in all the seven worlds, I tell you!

Santas go to Tadiandamol, I am feeling very, very homesick looking at all those gorgeous photos!

On the anthropology of tourism

December 9, 2006

Here is a piece titled The tourist who influenced the terrorists (via A&L Daily),  which discusses,

Sayyid Qutb’s experience in Greeley, Colorado, bad haircuts, the anthropology and sociology of tourist behavior, the weirdly colonialist assumptions of post-colonialist scholars, the idea that Arabs can be just as touristically dorky as their American counterparts, the debauchery of Truman-era church sock-hops, Arabic travel writing, Occidentalism, Orientalism, the notion that Americans are emotionally inferior to chickens, Qutb’s influence on al-Qaida, culture shock, Otherness.

I do not know about the tourist-terrorist connection; however, the article seems to be a nice place to look for some pointers to the literature on the anthropology of tourism.

Chicago botanic gardens!

July 24, 2006

Yesterday, we visited the Chicago Botanic Garden. The tram tour as well as the walk through the rose garden, waterfalls garden, japanese garden and the English walled garden were very nice. We could even find a nice peaceful bench, where we listened to MS singing Bharathiyar songs for some time. The ice creams at the parlour near the rose gardens are delicious (and so…much for $3.50). A wonderful way of spending an afternoon in Chicago.


July 6, 2006

This suggestion of Paul Graham, not to carry books on your trip. I would never, ever try that.