A historical account of the city of Agra

A city with a heritage as rich as its rulers, a city that is synonymous with royalty is a story in itself. That, folks, is Agra for you. But one needs an eye to read between the cracks of walls and stones and dig for its stories.

Road to history

Agra is well connected and easily accessible from Delhi. You can travel from Delhi to Agra by car, which takes about 4 hours.

Agra anecdotes

The capital of Delhi and then the Mughal Empire, the city of Agra found its existence in 1504, when Sultan Sikander Lodhi established his reign on this town, on the banks of Yamuna. Eventually, in the Battle of Panipat, in 1526, Mughal emperor, Babur took over the state and ruled his kingdom from Agra. During his rule and under his patronage, Agra saw its golden years with grand architecture, and skillful artistry, which would become benchmarks for Indian art in the years to come. His first project was a public landscaped garden on the banks of Yamuna- or what we know as Aram Bagh.

Post Babur, such creative initiative skipped a generation, until Akbar took the onus of reinstating the prestige of the Mughal Empire in Agra, with his artistic vision and patronage. During his rule, Akbar laid the foundation of what is Agra Fort today. He also extended the influence beyond the city and built Fatehpur Sikri, with palatial monuments and grand constructions.

The empire capital was bejeweled with exquisite architecture, featuring fine stone carvings, marble works, and delicate ornamentation. The highlight of Agra’s history was when Shah Jahan gifted the city its most apprized and cherished monument – the Taj Mahal. With this marvel in marble, Agra became the most prized city, not only for the empire but for the entire country.  

The five generations of the Mughal Badshahs, marked the golden era of Agra’s history with contribution and benefaction from each of its ruler, adding to the rich heritage of the capital. Over the years, people from all over the world have come to experience the grandeur and magnificence of Agra’s remarkable past. Thus, making it one of the most visited historical city in the world.

Monumental monuments

Today, the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Here’s a quick roundup of the most significant constructions of the Mughal Era, the traces of which still linger in the 21st century.

Taj Mahal

There are no words that can describe this monumental mausoleum of love. 22 years and 20000 workers contributed to this portrayal of pride and unparalleled artistry with Persian, Turkish and Indian influence. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal leaves its visitors spellbound every time.

Fatehpur Sikri

About 37Km from the city of Agra sits the historic, religious and legendary city of Fatehpur Sikri. It’s foundation dates back to 16th century when Akbar built this city in honor of the revered Saint Salim Chisthi. Legends are that Akbar sought the saint’s blessings in pursuit of heirs and in turn, was gifted with three sons. The city was built as a sign of gratitude of the benevolent emperor.

Agra Fort

Another edifice of grandeur, built under Emperor Akbar’s patronage, the Agra Fort stands tall since 1565 as a witness to 500 years of India’s modern history. Made with red sandstone and white marble, this big crimson structure overlooking the Yamuna River, is a sight you cannot miss, especially, in the golden hues of the twilight sky.

As far as history is concerned, Agra still holds its fort of pride, legacy, and heritage. Though its golden era is a matter of past, it has left traces in its air, which you can sense in every corner of this city. For a comfort, convenience, and safety, you can rent a chauffeur-driven car with Savaari Car Rentals and make your journey of 233 Km rather enjoyable.

The tribal art of Bastar

A quiet and remote district in Chhattisgarh, Bastar is home to the most distinctive tribal communities of Gond, Maria, Bhatra and more. These ethnic groups comprise 70% of the district’s population but stay hidden in the shadows of the dense forests and grasslands, far from the prying eyes of the modern civilization. For a comfortable journey to this part of the country, book a cab in Raipur. But once you reach out to this amazing community and learn about their culture and tradition, you would be overwhelmed by their sense of artistry, aesthetics and skilled craftsmanship. The most popular of all tribal communities, is the Gond tribe, settled in Kondagoan and Jagdalpur.

The tribal art of Bastar, a dying art form, is finding its way back to the modern society, and being resurrected by global media, travel enthusiasts and adventurers, who have discovered the hidden potential of these indigenous people.  

Art and crafts of Bastar tribes

The true beauty of these ethnic art forms comes from the fact that they are made of all naturally sourced materials, found in the region – forests, mines and rivers. Bastar being a mining haven for iron ore, the tribal people mostly use iron and its scraps to make magnificent figurines, idols and more. The ethnic tribes of Bastar are among the first people to develop expertise in working with metal, along with various other kinds of handicrafts.

The most common art forms found in this district are:

Terracotta works

Terracotta crafts of Bastar are widely known. They are made with the finest quality of clay from the Indravati River, shaped into exotic forms and dried in the scorching summer sun, to render the best clay art you would have ever seen. Most of the terracotta works consist of votive animals that are locally found – elephants, deer, tigers, birds. Some communities also make decorative household items like oil lamps, candle holders, etc.

Bell metal crafts or Dhokra
One of the most unique kinds of traditional crafts of India, the Dhokra style involves molding and shaping bell metals into beautiful figurines, religious idols of local and mythology, and home décor items. Each and every piece is hand-made, using the vanishing wax system, and is characterized by fine metal pipes and wires, wound into spirals. Dhokra handicrafts are mostly found in Jagdalpur, Kondagaon and Narayanpur areas and is a traditional art form, passed down through generations.

Bamboo crafts
The dense wilderness of Bastar have abundance of bamboo forests which provide the perfect raw materials for bamboo handicrafts. The leaves are woven and made into mats and baskets, while the stem is cut and chiseled down to form knick knacks that depict local culture – fishing traps, hunting tools, lamps and baskets. Wall hangings made from bamboo reflect the stories of the tribes and their philosophies.

Cotton Fabrics
For the saree connoisseurs, Kosa saree is a familiar name. For those unaware, it’s a traditional textile, made from a silk-like worm, found in the wild of Bastar. It is then woven and dyed in the tribal homes, to give you the finest quality of fabric called Kosa, which is used for garments, upholstery and draperies.

Wood Craft
Home to finest quality Sal, Teak, and white wood, the forests around Bastar districts make for ample natural resource for exquisite wood crafts. Carved to perfection, the local tribes tell their tales on wooden wall décor, tribal gods and figurines. Also adding to the skilful artistry are small furniture, toys and artsy pieces.

A tour of the tribal communities of Bastar and their indigenous art forms, is undoubtedly an experience to cherish. When you book a cab with Savaari Car Rentals, you’ll be able to explore Bastar and the art that it offers till your heart’s content. And when you reach out to these ethnic people, you would feel a sense of nostalgia and a touch of your own roots, because, when something is hand-made by people in their homes, the consciousness with which it is made, is more significant than the thing itself.

Experience Mysore like a local

Mysore is a city known for its palaces, diversity, and royal heritage. Every year people from across the world visit this great city to experience the bygone royal era. Have you ever wondered if you could see the city beyond the clichéd touristy places? Well, there are some exceptional activities that you can undertake to experience Mysore like a true local.

 Go on a walkabout around the vibrant and lively Devaraja Market

Image source: Wikipedia

Named as one of the cleanest cities in India, Mysore is a peaceful retreat with its wide clean roads and lush green boulevards. One fun activity in Mysore that will not only set you in awe but also leave you with a sense of fulfillment is a leisure walk through Devaraja Market.

As you enter the market square and look around, you will be awe-struck by the sheer diversity of people present in the vicinity. With the city’s heritage buildings in the backdrop, the entire scene is an artistic masterpiece and perhaps, the reason why celebrated artists like T.S. Satyan and R.K. Laxman have drawn inspiration from the Devaraja market.

Another breath-taking sight to witness in the market is the arrangement of vibrant Rangoli colours, the meticulously arranged fruits, and the endless array of flowers and garlands that can be spotted throughout the market. The Devaraja market is a great place to get some of your favourite and unique floral perfumes.  

Mysore sandalwood articles and artisan houses

Image source: Wikipedia

Speaking of fragrances, Mysore is one of the best places to get pure sandalwood items like sandalwood vials, oils, perfumes, soaps, etc. You can head to the Government Sandalwood Factory to buy some souvenirs. Mysore city is blessed with some of the finest stone and sand sculptors. The Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum houses over 150 sculptures in over 16 varied themes. These sculptures are something unique that you may have never seen, at least not on such a large scale. Another important place to visit in Mysore will be the Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation (KSIC) factory on Mananthavady Road, where you can see how weavers artistically create the famous Mysore Silk Saree.

 Go on a heritage walk to know the story of kings

Image source: Wikipedia

Even though you might want to see the city like a local, it is recommended that you explore the picturesque palaces. You can become a part of heritage walk that covers popular Palaces such as Great Mysuru Palace, the Jaganmohan Palace, and Lalitha Mahal. Knowing the real stories of the past kings of Mysore will make you wish to be reborn in the bygone royal era, well of course only as a king.

 Spend a day exploring Mysore’s hidden gems like a local

Image source: Wikipedia

There are several things that locals do, but tourists never try. You can try Ashtanga Yoga session, ride on a Tonga, Witness a horse race, play Golf in the Palace grounds, and visit the Karanji Lake Butterfly Park. Behold the city glow like a shining star at night from the top of Chamundi hills. No trip can ever feel complete without munching on the local cuisine. In Mysore, try the Mysore Paks, Mylari Dosas, Butter Masala Dosas and the famous Banana Leaf Meal. One of the best times to visit Mysore to relish the city’s true spirit is during the months of September-October amidst Mysuru Dasara celebrations.

When you’re done exploring what the city of Mysore has to offer, you can head out of town to relax at some of the gorgeous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries nearby.

Happy Vacationing!

Famous arts and handicrafts from Uttar Pradesh

India has been blessed with artists who create finest of handicrafts that are renowned across the world. Uttar Pradesh is no different with artists and artisans specialised in different forms of art from Agra to Varanasi. Mughals ruled major parts of UP for over two centuries which impacted the artwork. The Nawabs were believed to have great taste and appreciation of art which led to further development of the craftsmanship in the region. Even today UP is home to several different handicrafts which are exported across the nation and the world. If you’re in Lucknow, you’re in for a treat – the bazaars in the city will give you a bird’s eye view of all the beautiful handicrafts that Uttar Pradesh has to offer. Be sure to book a taxi in Lucknow and explore all the bazaars.

Chikan Work

Chikan work has a long history that goes back to the early third century during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. Chikan literally means embroidery, but the Chikan work involves 36 different types of stitches. It is a multistep process, with the first step being cutting of the cloth as per the desired shape. It is followed by block printing the core design on which the artist would complete the embroidery. Later, it is washed to remove the ink of the printed pattern. Some of the most common stitches include the Jali, Tepchi, Murri, Pashni, and Khatao.

 Zardozi Work

The existence of Zardozi goes even far beyond the kings to the times of Rigveda. Yes, the art is that old. Zardozi entails metal embroidery using silver and metal threads. The process is quite complicated and involves numerous tools. The craftsman works around a wooden frame with his tools which include needles, hooks, glass & plastic beads, gold wires, silver wires, and threads. In UP, you can buy products such as coats, dresses, sarees, pants, etc. with Zardozi work on it, of course, minus the gold or silver embroidery.

Meenakari Work

Meenakari work is a Persian art that was introduced in India by Mughal invaders. Predominantly seen in Rajasthan in combination with other artwork, it is also practised by artisans in Varanasi. The artisans who practice the art are known as Meenakars, and it is passed down from one generation to another. Coming back to the art, it involves engraving ornaments with coloured enamels to create an appearance of a complete picture. The final jewellery goes through a chain of artisans which complete one task and hand it over for the next step. The Meenakars are part of this chain who make intricate designs and fill it with colours.

Zar Buland work


https://www.flickr.com/photos/wikimediacommons/16244296450Image source: Flickr

Zar Buland work was developed in Lucknow by introducing variations in existing Bidri work of Karnataka. It is an art of coating one metal over another resulting in a beautiful finished product. The designs in Zar Buland work are above the surface as opposed to Bidri work where it is inlaid. The process as in every artistic work is long and involves steps such as moulding, polishing, carving, engraving, and darkening. The Zar Buland work is still famous in the Lucknow, and you can buy souvenirs at a decent price.

Attar

India has been a prime producer of natural fragrances including Attar, also known as Ittar ever since civilisation began. Attar is a scented oil that is derived from plants via distillation and then adding it to sandalwood oil which acts as a base. This mixture is then aged for a period varying from a few months to several years. The town of Kannauj in UP is the present perfume capital of India that is trying to keep the art alive while fighting the competition from modern fragrance makers. When you in UP, buy few bottles of attar to keep a civilisation old Indian tradition alive.