Tag Archives: Travel

{T} Travel Postcard #7: Tibetan Prayer Wheels

Tibetan-prayer-wheel

Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Also sometimes depicted are Dakinis, Protectors and very often the 8 auspicious symbols Ashtamangala. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers. – Wikipedia.com

Every time I visit a monastery, I am struck by a few things: the cleanliness and aura of peacefulness; the gorgeous, brightly colored tangka paintings and murals adorning the walls; the larger-than-life statutes of the various avatars of Buddha, and the prayer wheel outside most monasteries.

Every time I walk around a monastery, running my hand along the prayer wheels, I feel a sense of peace and calm descend over me. Once, I even managed to work through a particular problem that had been plaguing me since a while. Monasteries, along with churches, often have this effect on me.

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{J} Travel Postcard #4: Joie de vivre

Tango_Class_Central_Park_New_York

There’s something in the air of New York. A certain joi de verve – a love for life. In the many parks and squares that dot the city, you’ll find people sitting around, reading, having a cup of coffee…a group of people skateboarding while the rest of the people watch and applaud…and in Central Park, you come across different sights – a fashion shoot, free tango dancing, rollerblading, musicians, a group of drummers with random strangers stopping and dancing. It’s exhilarating. Vibrant. Alive. Joyful.

And it’s something I sorely miss back home in India. That spirit that lets people dare to be different. To march to their own drum beat.

Which city do you associate with joie de vivre?

{I} Travel Postcard #3: Installation Art – New York

Madison_Square_Park_installation_art

It was a bright, sunny day. I was walking through Madison Square Park, when a 40-foot tall sculpture stopped me in my tracks. Something about the tranquility and other-worldliness on that face compelled me to stop, stare, and reflect. At that point, and every time I look at this picture, actually, I fell a sense of peace wash over me.

The name of the sculpture was Echo, and it was created by renowned Spanish sculpture Jaume Plensa.

From the plaque accompanying the sculpture:
“Inspired by the myth of the Greek nymph Echo, the sculpture depicts the artist’s 9-year old neighbor in Barcelona, lost in a state of thoughts and dreams. Both monumental in size and inviting in subject, the peaceful visage of Echo creates a tranquil and introspective atmosphere amid the cacophony of central Manhattan.”

Peace out!

{B} Travel postcard #1: Brooklyn Bridge

There are so many lovely photographs we take on holidays, a lot of which just end up on our computers. I’ve been wanting to start a series of Travel Postcards – one picture with a short little write-up – since a while now. What better way to kick-start it than with the A to Z challenge?

Travel Postcard Brooklyn Bridge, New York

New York’s iconic Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, was originally designed to carry horse-drawn and rail traffic with a separate elevated walkway along the center line for pedestrians and bicycles. That’s one of the biggest differences between the US and India – the culture of walking and cycling freely. There are wide open spaces where people can walk, play, cycle, skateboard, sit and read all around the city.

This is in stark contrast to India, where we have bridges and flyovers solely for vehicular traffic (which, admittedly, is much higher than in New York), with scant attention paid to pedestrians and cyclists. So bad is the situation that various cities have designated areas on Sunday where vehicular traffic isn’t allowed – the space is opened up to people, allowing them to walk or cycle without fear.

But one day a week does not a culture build. Will we ever get to the stage when people will eschew their cars in favor of cycling or walking short distances? I wonder…

Delhi Lens: Monuments: Nawaab ka Masjid, Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi

Tiny matchbox shops line both sides of a congested road. A mêlée of pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and a few tempos are a cause for constant traffic jams. A lot of the buildings are crumbling and dilapidated. There’s a mess of electrical wires overhead. Everywhere you look there is chaos.

 Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi, India

And then suddenly, while looking up at that jumble of old buildings, you spot a delightful color combination – terracotta and blue. You pause, raise your camera to your eyes, zoom in, and see a beautiful carved wall. You click a picture, but keep staring at that building as a sea of humanity passes you by, gazing upwards, awestruck, spellbound.

View of masjid from the road, Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi

Until the shopkeeper – where your husband, oblivious to your delightful find, is busy buying wood working tools to fuel his hobby – moved by your stillness and your interest in photography, tells you that the building you’re staring at is a masjid. So while he pulls out the tools and makes the bill for your husband, both of you cross the road and climb up a flight of stairs to reach the mosque.

Your husband, who is ahead of you, suddenly turns towards you at the head of the stairs and says “Namaaz is going on, let’s go.” But before you can even process this disappointing news, another man sticks his head out and says “Oh no problem, please come in. Feel free to take pictures. And take off your shoes before you step into the courtyard.”

So you walk on up, give your husband a cheeky grin, and freeze.

Stone Carving, Old Delhi, India

Close up of a carved block of stone at the masjid

The masjid is far more beautiful than you had imagined. And, as the shopkeeper said, it’s unique. Because unlike any stone façade you have seen anywhere in the world, this mosque isn’t made of carved stone. It’s made of embossed stone. Yes, it means that the flowers and vines are not cut into the stone; instead, the stone around the shapes has been cut and smoothed away.

The entire mosque is made of red sandstone. Well preserved. Neat and clean. There’s no air of religious fervor here – instead, there’s a quiet spirituality. You can forget about the crowd just one flight of stairs down. The seething humanity, the chaos, the pollution, all of it just melts away. It’s a place where you feel connected with the divine…the universe…yourself…

Nawab ka Masjid, Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi

The masjid itself is 200 years old. Or 500. It depends on who you ask. No one seems to know exactly when it was built. All they know is that it definitely dates from British times. There’s an “English flower” carved on the entryway to prove it. They say the flower isn’t to be found anywhere in India, though they cannot tell you its name. When you ask a gentleman who has just finished his prayers what the name of the masjid is, he shrugs and tells you he is not a regular here.

English Flower, Mosque, Old_Delhi

The “English flower” carved at the entry to the mosque

You finally meet the caretaker, who tells you that the masjid is called Nawab ka Masjid – and you think that is a fitting name. He shows you around the place, showing you entire pillars and walls constructed of one piece of stone. He invites you inside and shows you around. Like all mosques, there are no figures or idols here, just a blank wall with a marble chair pointing towards Mecca. But the pillars are beautifully carved. The atmosphere within is serene. And you come away knowing that you have seen something unique…a structure that will live on in your heart for years to come.