A number of Delhi monuments are slightly out of reach from the metro and economically unrealistic for singular rickshaw transport. I opted, therefore, to hire a car and driver at the staggering price of 23 US dollars per day. I would see five monuments within two days, all of which are greater than 400 years of age.
I began in the north with the largest mosque in India, Jama Masjid. Clouds hung low overhead, grey and gloomy, as I was given a light introduction to the Indian monsoon. The pathway to Jama Masjid was filled with merchants frantically tying blue tarps from tree to wall, cart to pole. Beneath the tarps light diffused into an aqua tint, like an underwater swap meet.
I progressed through and up the stairs to the entrance, the gate growing ever more overbearing as I approached. With shoes removed, and ticket paid, I entered through the gate and into the courtyard. It felt secure, rigid, and overbearing. Three walls are arcades, filled with the tired and hungry seeking shelter from relentless weather. The mosque itself filled the fourth side to the east and a pool of water laid center courtyard. A venture inside the main hall is reserved only for those in good standing with Allah. The prayer halls were relatively open, but so much so that they seemed to lack any depth whatsoever, turning into an exorbitant extension of the arcade.
By the sheer scale of the fortress walls and gate of the Red Fort, a magnificent palace beyond would have been befitting, but I was disappointed to find that no such immensity existed. Instead, it is filled with mosques, gateways, gardens and halls, and said to be paradise on earth, and was naturally the residence of Mughal royalty. But when juxtaposed to Versailles, a paradise of equal continuance and caliber, either my true western discernment is exposed, or there lacks a certain grandiosity. Perhaps its atrophy clouds my judgment.
Purana Qila, translates to the "Old Fort", and is quite similar in content to the Red Fort, although at a smaller scale, with further deterioration. There exists the Qila-i-Kuhna Mosque, and the Sher Mandal in their entirety, but it was the ruins of the southern wall at Humayun's gate, which held my attention. I found more beauty in the crumbling, dilapidated ruins, void of any decor, especially when exposing their inner stonework. Circulation eventually became dangerous and at times impossible, exhibiting spaces longing to be occupied, yet perpetually doomed to vacancy. A tension existed, and I felt the urge to climb. It was my respect, as well as the guards will fully automatic assault rifles, which held me back.
Commissioned by his wife nine years after his death, Emperor Humayun's tomb is a prime example of 15th century Mughal architecture. The tomb sits in a Persian paradise garden, surrounded by walls on three sides, and what once was the river Yamuna on the fourth. The walls are a mix of red sandstone and white marble, drawing contrast to the details. The cenotaph lies in the middle of the sepulcher, directed north-south, as the real chamber lies directly below.
As the monument should, it uses its grandiose size to transcend the visitor into the sublime. A clear hierarchy is used in both plan and section. First, in plan, from the entry dome to the secondary sepulchers on all four corners and lastly, to the central chamber, the size of the dome clearly defines the importance of the space. In section, the base houses the tombs of other less important figures, while the main chambers are set atop this pedestal. It must also be noted that marble latticework is used to enclose the spaces while still allowing light to penetrate. This leaves all spaces exposed to the elements.
In approaching the Qutub Complex, the Qutub Minar stands tall above the trees. It is a victory tower, and the tallest brick minaret in the world. It lies adjacent to the remains of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and the Alai Gate. The complex is a built hodgepodge of various rulers through time, up until British rule. At one time, 27 Hindu temples we're scattered about the site, until a Muslim fanatic ruler tore them down and used the stones to build the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque.
An Indo Inquisition is a thirteen-week train expedition across India. The journey will document the influences of international modernism and British occupation, as well as compare the effects of wealth accumulation, culture, religion, and poverty with economic growth and their effect on the built environment.