Sunday, December 30, 2012

Andhra Pradesh State - Hyderabad, Part II

Golkonda Fort
Tour date: 3rd June 2012, Sunday

Taken from the highest point @ the Palace!

I was on official trip to Delhi for a meeting with NHAI Authority and the Minister (RT&H) on 1st June 2012. I was scheduled to be back to Vijayawada on 5th June as there was a meeting that I have to attend in Hyderabad on 4th June. To occupy my lonely weekend in Hyderabad, I have booked Ravi, the office driver who was fetching me from the airport on 2nd June to accompany me on Sunday to Golkonda Fort. It was 5 months ago when I have done with my sightseeing in the City of Pearls. Golconda Fort, now being made famous for locals jogging track shall complete my tour list in Hyderabad, seated a bit outskirt from the city. Ravi said we had to start early, but early means short wait as they only open at 10am. It is recommended to wear a comfy walking shoes and a hat if 1 intend to cover all important places, a walk in here is really a challenging task :) 

The Palace on the highest point of the Fort.

Golkonda is a combination of 2 words 'Golla' and 'konda' carrying a meaning of shepherd's hill, a ruined city of South India and a capital of ancient Kingdom of Golkonda in 16th century situated 11km west of Hyderabad. The city was built by Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah Wali, the 4th king of Qutub Shahi Dynasty following the spirit of his ancestors. The Qutub Shahi kings first capital, the fortress citadel of Golkonda was rebuilt for defence from invading Mughals from the north. They laid out Golkonda's splendid monuments (now in ruins) and designated a perfect acoustical system by which a hand clap sounded at the fort's main gates, the grand portico, was heard at the top of the citadel, situated on a 300 foot high granite hill. The Muslim Sultanate ruled over most of present Andhra Pradesh before the British Raj.

But the 13th century Golkonda Fort was built by the Hindu Kakatiyas dynasty, established by a subordinate of Easthern Chalukyan monarch, Amma II in 10th century. Kakatiya's worship a goddess called Kakati. The city and fortress are built on a granite hill that is 120 metres high and is surrounded by battlement ramparts. Islamic Bahmani Sultanate conquered the fort from the dynasty which became the capital of Sultanate major province. Golkonda rose to its prominence as the seat of the Qutub Shahi dynasty after the collapse of Bahmani Sultanate. However, it finally fell into ruins after a siege and its fall to Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb in 1687. The fortress held out against Aurangzeb for 9 months, falling to the Mughals through treachery.

Golkonda consists of 4 distinct  forts with a 10 km long outer wall, 8 gateways, 4 drawbridges with a number of royal apartments and halls, temples, mosques, stables etc. inside the compound. The whole complex and its surrounding spreads across 11 km of total area. A visit to the fort reveals the architectural beauty in many of the pavilions, gates, entrances and domes. The graceful gardens of the fort may have lost their fragrances, for which they were known 400 years ago, yet a walk in these former garden should be in a schedule when exploring the past glories of the Golkonda Fort.

Water storage tank

Bala Hissar Gate is the main entrance to the fort located on the eastern side, It has a pointed arc bordered by rows of scroll work. The area above the door has peacocks with ornate tails flanking an ornamental arched niche. The granite block lintel below has sculptured yalis flanking a disc. The design of peacocks and lions is a blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture. A large wall was built in front of the gate to prevent elephants and enemy attacks from having having a proper ramp to run and break the gate. This is where the magical acoustic system were placed as a warning note. Besides Bala Hissar, palaces, factories, water supply system and the famous "Rahban" cannon, within the for are some of the major attractions.

Toli Masjid, situated at Karwan, about 2 km from the Golkonda Fort, was built in 1671 by Mir Musa Khan Mahaldar, royal architect of Abdullah Qutb Shah. The facade consists of 5 arches, each with lotus medallions in the spandrels.

The 2 individuals pavilions on the outer side of Golkonda are also major attractions of the fort. It is built on a point which is quite rocky. The "Kala Mandir" is also located in the fort. It can be seen from the king's court (durbar) which seated right on top. Beside the ingenious water supply system, the ventilation of the fort is absolutely having  a fabulous exotic designs. They were so intricately designed that cool breeze could reach the interiors of the fort, providing a respite from the heat of summer. 

It is believed that there is a secret underground tunnel that leads from the "Durbar Hall" which ends in 1 of the palaces at the foot of the hill. The fort also contains the tombs of the Qutub Shahi kings. These tombs have Islamic architecture and are located about 1 km north of the outer wall of Golkonda. They are encircled by beautiful garden and numerously exquisitely carved stones.

For those who wishes to visit Hyderabad, may consider places that I recorded in 2 parts of my visit in this blog. Rest assurred that you wont regret the tour in this beautiful city even on your own. Thanks for reading.   

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Andhra Pradesh State - Hyderabad, Part 1

City of Pearls, Hyderabad
Tour date: 7th January 2012, Saturday

Unlike the project site, Saturday is a weekend holiday for our HQ in Hyderabad. I was reporting to work on the 1st week of new year and mobilised to Vijayawada site on the 2nd week of 2012. As there was a meeting on the following Monday, I decided to book a company vehicle touring the city of pearls or known as the city of Nizam on the weekend.

I wish to share the historical facts of Hyderabad and the places that I visited, information that was collected from the hotels as well as from my tour. Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb captured the city in 1687 due to its strategic location and its legendary wealth. When the empire was disintegrated, Asaf Jahi, the prime minister proclaimed himself as the master of Deccan, called himself the Nizam. His descendant, the current Nizam is now 1 of the richest man in India. This 400 year metropolis is a residents of a mix varied culture with Muslim being a majority population, especially in the old city of Hyderabad. The old city is a place where magnificent monuments and mansions, built to mark the emperor's heritage. I explored the following city attraction for a start.

Chowmohalla Palace - a unique for its style and elegance, was built around 1780 by the 2nd Nizam, extensively renovated in 1911 was recently open for public viewing. The palace administer charged an entrance fee of Rs150 for foreigner and Rs50 for the camera. Locals is being charged at Rs25. The complex consists of 2 courtyards with elegant palaces, the grand Durbar hall, the fountains and beautiful gardens. Different portions of Chowmohalla were built during different phases of the Nizam's rule, i.e. Afzal Mahal, Mhatb Mahal, Tahniyat Mahal and Aftab Mahal. Afzal Mahal (can be seen from below photo) is the most outstanding among all. The grand pillared Durbar Hall was a pure marble platform on which the royal seat was laid to receive ambassadors from all over the world. The council hall is the venue for temporary exhibitions and family treasures that offers a glimpse of the bygone era.

Mecca Masjid - it get its name from the bricks that was brought from Mecca, laid to build the central arch of the mosque. The mosque construction was initiated by the Qutb Shahis but was completed during the reign of Aurangzeb in 1864. Its hall measuring 67 metres with a height of 54 metres. It has 15 graceful arches, 5 to of the 3 sides supported the roof. Towards the southern end of the mosque lied the graves of Nizam Ali Khan and the families of Asaf Jahi @ Nizam's dynasty.

Charminar - by far it is the most imposing structure and a landmark of Hyderabad. It is where the pivot and the history of the city was developed, built by Mohammed Quli Qutub Minar in 1591. Charminar is a beautiful colossus in granite, lime and mortar seated not far from Mecca Masjid. It is a square structure with 4 towers placed at the 4 corners, each measuring 20 metres length. Every side opens into a plaza through giant arches, 20 metres high on the plinth and 11 metres wide. The minarets are 4-storeyed with a delicate carved ring around the minaret. Inside the minarets are spiral stairways of 149 steps. For the record, I myself climbed up to 54 stairs (remaining stairs is being locked) to enjoy a panoramic of the city. The surrounding significant architectural are Jama Masjid, Char Kamaan and Miya Mishk.

Birla Mandir - It is an idol temple, a replica in Tirupati built by Birlas in sculptured white marble on the top hill of Kala Pahad, 3 decades ago. The temples offers a panoramic view of the twin city of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, however, when the camera is forbidden at the entrance, no photographic evidence can proof the statement. Scenes from Ramayana and Mahabrata, besides quotes of wisdom's from other religious texts, i.e. Torah, Bible, Sai Baba, Gautama Buddha etc are finely sculptured in marble around the temple.

Hussain Sagar Lake - was constructed by Hussain Shah Wali in 1562 during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah. Boating's and water sports are regular activities here. Recently, the world's tallest monolithic statue of Buddha stands in the middle of the lake at its 17.5 metres high and weighs 350 tonnes.

Others beautiful buildings that can be seen from distances (below photos), mostly belong to the Nizam's family being used as commercials such as universities and government office built during the glory of the Muslim's Sultanate and the Mughals. Hyderabad has been made a very commercial and modern IT city. Their new airport has been constructed to meet the tourist demand and foreign investors that flooded the city. It's twin city, Secunderabad is equally crowded for those who wishes to visit an interesting places of the past glory of Nizam's ruler. I would say that the locals Hyderabad people are very lucky with both historical places and modern urbanization development being very well reserved and developed in  their lovely city.

to be continued with Part II of my journey to Golkonda Fort...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Will I be good at teaching?

I had a conversation with a University Professor this afternoon about my intention to pursue Master by Research in the department where he was teaching. I've given him a clue of what research that I'm planning to do if I succeed in the application. Hearing of my 24 years working experience in construction industry including 5 years working abroad, he assured that there will be no problem for my topics to be accepted.

He advised that depending on my ability and focus to do it, it will take fastest 1 year for me to submit my research paper and the longest time that the university allowed is 3 years. He even suggested that I can continue with PHD thereafter. What? PHD is meant for someone who has interest to become a lecturer. Politely I told him that I don't think that I'm good at teaching though long ago I was aiming to lecture part time to share with the younger generation (generation X) of my experiences in the same field.

Hmm.. maybe I should give it a serious thought. After all, I might have 5 more months a quite free time before my new project will get me busied throughout next year. 

Looking back, it was already close to a month I am back to Malaysia. Except for 1 day MC, I did not take any leave as toward the year end, the road is clear and the office is a bit quite to enjoy the peace environment. Majority of people taking opportunity clearing their leave balance vacationing abroad. I did not have many, 4 days, of which I intend to carry forward for next year. Theoretically, I don't really need a leave as working 5 day week, I have 2 days break on weekend. What did I do so far, during my previous weekend?

1st weekend, I attended 2 weddings.
2nd weekend, another wedding in Perak and visited my best friend, Maznah in Shah Alam.
3rd weekend, stayed home, doing nothing.. nope, watching 16 hours Korean drama series in 2 days!
4th weekend, stayed home, really2 doing nothing, rather, reading and cooking!

On Christmas day, we went out celebrating Nasrul's 15th Birthday though he insisted that he was 16 not 15. Next weekend I made appointment with another friend to have New Year dinner with her family.

In fact, staying home is the most wonderful thing that I really cherish. The moment I got home from office, seeing my husband car parked outside, made me smile widely knowing that he waits for my return. Our 4 grown up children gives us a lot of space as they don't want us to disturb them too. Therefore, being surrounded with a love 1 is indeed a bless and bliss moment that I cherish every minutes. Not forgotten having 2 Persian cats and newly member of our family, a pair of love birds brightening our life. How could I not thank God with the peace that I have right now.

I'm looking forward to pursue academically before entering the next phase of my life, being 50. Maybe taking PHD and becoming a lecturer is not a bad idea after all. Who knows what lies ahead.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jogjakarta, Day 3 - Museum, Borobodur, Mt Merapi

Day 3 - 17th June 2009, Wednesday

We first visited "Monument Jogja Kembali, a museum that was built for the brave people of Indonesia fighting for Independence. It is to remark the due importance of Jogjakarta during the war of independence from the Dutch. To the east of the town centre is a large air force museum; as Indonesia was for a period in the Soviet sphere of influence this museum contains a number of vintage Russian aircraft not widely available for inspection in the NATO sphere of influence.

Our second stop was at the renowned Borobudur Temple, built during the Golden Age in the beginning of 8th Century for Buddhist devout, by Syailendra Dynasty. Buddha statue, among 504 Buddha's was placed inside the Stupa, offering prayer. It is well known as 9th Century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument consist of 6 square platforms topped by 3 circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the centre of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa.

The temple design is in Gupta architecture reflecting India's influence on the reign. It is also depicts the Gupta style from India and shows influence of Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through 3 levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kamadhatu (the world desire), Rupadhatu (the world forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and balustrades.

Evidence suggest that Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th century decline of Hindu kingdoms in java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparkled in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (also found the Prambanan), then the British ruler of java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesia government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year by Bud hists in Indonesia celebrate Wesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.

Seated not far from the Borobudur site, about 3km of east is a Mendut temple. It is a ninth century AD Buddhist temple, located in Mendut village. Mendut, Borobudur and Pawon, all of which are Buddhist temples, are located in 1 straight line. There is a mutual religious relationship between the 3 temples, although the exact ritual process is unknown. Mendut is the oldest of the 3 temples. In the Karangtengah inscription, it was recorded that the temple was built and completed during the reign of King Indra of Syailendra dynasty. the inscription dated 824 AD mentioned that King Indra of Sailendra has built a sacred building named Venuvana which means "bamboo forest". Dutch archaeologist, JG de Casparis has connected the temple mentioned in Karangtengah inscription with Mendut temple.

We stopped at extremely nice restaurant located on our way to Mount Merapi. What else to said about good foods, nice ambiance, peaceful weather and a lovable companions? I indeed am a very blissful and bless person to be able to have all that understanding and love from my beloved family.

Our final destination was to Mount Merapi, an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Jogjakarta, Indonesia. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. It is located approximately 28 kilometres north of the large Jogjakarta city, and thousands of people live on the flanks of the volcano, with villages as high as 1,700 metres above sea level.

The name Merapi could be loosely translated as "Mountain of Fire". The etymology of the name came from Meru-Api; from the Javanese combined words; Meru means "mountain"refers to mythical mountain of Gods in Hinduism, and api means "fire". Smoke can be seen emerging from the mountaintop at least 300 days a year and several eruptions have caused fatalities. Hot gas from a large explosion killed 27 people on 22 November 1994, mostly in the town of Mutilan, west of the volcano. Another large eruption occurred in 2006, shortly before the Jogjakarta earthquake. In light of the hazards that Merapi poses to populated areas, it has been designated as one of the Decade Volcanoes.

On 25 October 2010, a year after our visit, the Indonesian Government raised an alert for Mount Merapi to its highest level and warned villagers in threatened areas to move to safer ground. People living within a 20km zone were told to evacuate. Officials said about 500 volcanic earthquakes had been recorded on the mountain over the weekend of 23-24 October, and that the magma had risen to about 1 kilometre below the surface due to the seismic activity. On the afternoon of 25 October 2010, Mount Merapi erupted lava from its southern and southeastern slopes. 
The mountain was still erupting on 30 November 2010 however due to lower eruptive activity on 3 December 2010 the official alert status was reduced to level 3. The volcano is now 2930 metres high, 38 metres lower than before the 2010 eruptions.

The end. Thank you for visiting my site and reading the journal. May our life filled with love and compassion, always!