The grand and empty Vohrawads of Sidhpur

I first heard of Sidhpur about 6 months back when I shamelessly eavesdropped on a conversation while commuting to work by bus. In my defence, the conversation, which was between two women from the Dawoodi Bohra community (as was evident from the colourful ridas they wore) in Gujarati and English, was really loud.

It was an animated conversation in which they spoke about their ancestral homes in Sidhpur and the holidays spent there. They spoke of chandeliers, Belgian glass windows, wooden antique furniture, fine linen, tableware, feasts, parties, and antiques among other things. There was gossip, as well as an element of ‘my-ancestral-house-is-grander-than-your-ancestral-house”, but it seemed to be in good fun.

The “conversation” on ancestral homes in Sidhpur intrigued me to look for more information on the Internet. Thanks to my good friend Google, I found in Sidhpur mansions with distinctive European style architecture, each one grander than the other. This information was enough for me to include a visit to Sidhpur when I toured North Gujarat in December 2014.

It was a little after 4 pm when I arrived at Sidhpur. While asking for directions from a local tea stall, I learnt that the Bohra houses were called Vohrawads and also that I needed to go to the Najampura area, which had the best and maximum number of such houses. A short rickshaw ride later, I was standing in front of the house that you see in the photograph below.

Sidhpur, Vohrawad, Comminity housing, Gujarat
Locally, this mansion is called the “house with 365 windows”

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Ajanta Caves: Where all the fine arts converge

The world-famous, rock-cut Ajanta Caves is one of those places where background reading or research doesn’t help. At least, it didn’t help me.

Prior to visiting the caves in December 2013, I had read up on the best time to visit, the must see paintings in the caves, etc., but my first look at the Ajanta Caves spread out before me like an arc, and I forgot all that I had read. So, when I walked into Cave 1 and saw the shimmering painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani (see photo below), I was surprised and delighted. Arguably, the best known Ajanta painting, I was as surprised and delighted as the 3 villagers who were standing next to me, and who had perhaps neither seen a picture nor read anything about the Ajanta cave paintings before.

Ajanta Caves, Buddhist paintings, Murals
Bodhisattva Padmapani

The Ajanta Caves is also one of those places, which has been very difficult to write about. More than a year and countless drafts later, I finally wrote this post — my nth attempt. I have written it with the full knowledge that it does not do justice to what I saw and experienced. Hopefully, the photographs in this post will try to convey what my words cannot.

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A walk in the sky – 4: Sion Skywalk

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in Mumbai and I am standing at the foot of the stairs leading up to the Sion Skywalk at the Sion Circle exit. The skywalk’s stairs are so close to the adjacent building that they appear to be an extension or appendage of the building itself! In fact, I can just lean over and tap on the windows from the stairs if I want to.

Once on the skywalk, I just take a moment to pause and look around. I like skywalks in general as I like the pleasurable feeling of being suspended in mid-air and watching the world go by. I also like the perspective that skywalks offer, almost like a bird’s-eye view. But the first thing I notice here is not the view, but the relentless noise — a combination of the roar of traffic and incessant honking. And this is a sound that threatens to bring on a headache at 9.30 am in the morning !

Don't be fooled by the almost empty road below the Sion Skywalk ! The traffic noise was unbearable
Don’t be fooled by the almost empty road below the Sion Skywalk ! The traffic noise was unbearable

The Sion Skywalk, which stretches from Sion Circle to Sion Railway Station, is built at a major interchange, where traffic from Mumbai’s Western and Central suburbs meet. Inaugurated just over 2 years back, the Sion Skywalk is built in the shape of an exaggerated and a squiggly “Y” with 6 exits, of which one leads directly into the Our Lady of Good Counsel School (OLGCS). It was built keeping in mind the many schools, offices and commuters in the area and with the expectation that 50,000 commuters would use it everyday.

And does the Rs. 6 crore skywalk live up to that expectation? Let’s see…

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