Travel: Ranakpur Apathy

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Our initial plan today was to hire a taxi to day trip to Ranakpur before being dropped back at the airport for our flight to Mumbai later tonight. Unfortunately, our lack of internet connection at the hostel proved to be our downfall.

 

While I had posited asking the staff for advice on taking buses, Nick didn’t hear me, and I was too snuggled into my cozy cocoon to emerge from the warmth. We did not make it to Ranakpur and I regret not summoning the willpower to face the cold. Admittedly though, it was really nice to have an open day with nothing planned.

Credit: Ingo Mehling

Credit: Ingo Mehling

Ranakpur is 91 km away from Udaipur, making it approximately a 1-hour car ride in US terms and a 2.5 to 3-hour travel time according to IST (one needs to factor in traffic, rough roads, and slower speed limits). It is home to a  UNESCO World Heritage Site, a massive, sprawling, Jain Temple constructed entirely of marble in 1437.

imageIt is with sorrow that I cannot speakbout how amazing the structure was, as it has over 1444 pillars that are each uniquely carved in exquisite detail. Additionally, there is a massive rock that is carved into 108 snake heads and tails. The layout of the building is in the form of a chaumukha – four faces in each of the four cardinal directions that symbolize the cosmos.

Instead, Nick went off to meet his Uncle and I found a little cafe to savor coffee in while using their wifi for some net-based tasks. We met up again later that morning to visit Monsoon Palace.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarmi

The Monsoon Palace was built in 1884 entirely of white marble on the Bansdara Peak of the Aravalli Hill. At a total elevation of 3100 ft overlooking Lake Pichola, the original intent was for it to be a 9-story astronomical centre to track the movement of the monsoon clouds. It would also be a vacation home for the royal family.

 

imageUnfortunately, despite the innovative water harvesting system the building utilized in its underground cistern, the storage capacity proved to be inadequate resulting in the abandonment of the palace.

After the palace, all we had to do was get Nick a shave for the wedding, and find him some shoes. This was surprisingly almost as difficult as finding me a Saree; there’s not much you can do about a gigantor’s foot size when you are on a continent that tends to produce petite-sized humans.

 

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Travel: Exploring Sintra

Since it was a gorgeous day on Saturday, We explored the gorgeous landscape of Sintra. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site with royal residences scattered along the mountain top. Its historical buildings date from the 8th to 9th centuries.

Political Situation of Portugal Circa 1065

Portugal Circa 1065

The Castle of the Moors is one of the oldest structures, it was designed as a military outpost by the Arabs to protect the territory’s population. Despite the Moor Badajoz King’s transfer of these territories to secure an alliance with the Christian king (Alfonso VIin 1031, and the castle ultimately surrendered in the Conquest of Lisbon (1147) to the forces of Alfonso Henriques.

Due to limited time, and the expenses associated with visiting each of these castles, we opted to visit the most well-known, the Pena National Palace. It is one of the best examples of 19th century Romanticism in the world.

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It originated as a Chapel  to “Our Lady of Pena” which was built as homage to the virgin mary after an apparition. In 1493, when King John II made a pilgrimage to the site, and his successor,  King Manuel I, constructed a monastery there dedicated to the Order of Saint Jerome. The area was devastated by the Great Lisbon Earthquake, and left largely untouched until the fascinated Fernando II acquired the monastery and it’s surrounding area, and commissioned Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege for the design. The last Queen of Portugal, Queen Amélia, was the last royal family member to stay at this palace before her exile.

When you first emerge from the palace steps, a dramatic and dark bay window greets you. It is a clear representation of the Neo-Gothic style, and presents an allegory for the creation of the world, utilizing the depiction of a newt.

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As you progress through the castle, you can see the Islamic roots, this is particularly evident in the Arab Room which depicts domed ceilings decorated with intricate Arabesque detailing.

The palace does not uniformly draw its aesthetics from one style, rather it is an intentional eclectic merging of of Neo-GothicNeo-ManuelineIslamic and Neo-Renaissance architecture. Since I stem from a design background, it is awe-inspiring to note the time spent on such delicate details. It’s a shame that although we recognize architectural history as an art form, it is not practiced in the modern day. Yes, we continue to study the progression and origins of these classic styles, but it is becoming a lost art, much like the extinction of traditional crafts.

What are your thoughts on lost heritage? What can we do as a society to prevent the death of such vital history?