CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER 2015

P1210586

Christmas is once again upon us, it seems to come quicker and quicker, and an Antique Map or Print is always an interesting, different and unique sort of present. And, moreover it is ecologically sound.

There is still time to ship anywhere in the world and don’t forget even recipients can exchange maps with me.

Below are a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my website www.maphouse.co.uk.

The itinerant mapseller has been in a few interesting spots the last few months, Kashmir, Nagaland ( meeting a retired headhunting Burmese King, with four kills..!) and Indian Tibet.. and a few photos can be seen here.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mickjennings/albums/72157659447012144

 

Venice 1719

Venice 1719  £495

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/italy/lombardy-north/M3340-map-view-of-venice/

World eng Chamouin £345

World eng Chamouin £345

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/world/M3356-world-map/

Daniel's Dream World 1566 £495

Daniel’s Dream World 1566 £495

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/world/M3304-world-cartographic-curiosity-daniels-dre/

London Homann £595

London Homann £595

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/london/M3355-london-map-and-views/

Essex by John Speed £550

Essex by John Speed £550

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/essex/M3303-essex-john-speed/

Middlesex by Zatta £125

Middlesex by Zatta £125

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/middlesex/M3346-Middlesex/

Paris by Merian . £595

Paris by Merian . £595

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/france/paris/M3238-merians-panorama-of-paris/

Norway Chiquet £135

Norway Chiquet £135

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/scandinavia/M3353-norway/

Malta by Ortelius £245

Malta by Ortelius £245

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/mediterranean-and-islands/M3264-malta/

Antibes & Cap D'Antibes Vernet £1750

Antibes & Cap D’Antibes Vernet £1750

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/france/south-east/M3342-antibes-port-cap-dantibes/

Provence Mercator £385

Provence Mercator £385

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/france/south-east/M3309-provence-provinciae/

Africa Homann £750

Africa Homann £750

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/continent/M3306-africa/

The Cape £140

The Cape £140

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/south/M3326-cape-town-carte-du-pais-des-hottentots/

Asia Homann 1712 £495

Asia Homann 1712 £495

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/asia/continent/M3302-asia-homann/

California as Island Christmas special 1719 £220

California as Island Christmas special 1719 £220

http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/world/M3345-world/

AND MANY THOUSANDS MORE

——————————

I have added many new David Roberts lithographs to my website and there is a good selection of the sought after Folio lithos.

THE GREAT SPHINX

THE GREAT SPHINX

I have written a little about Robert’s lithographs and Naopleon’s expedition..  https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/antique-prints-of-egypt-by-david-roberts-and-from-napoleons-expedition/

 

Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I have many yet to be put on website or be able to find it for you.

For anybody visiting the French Riviera I am always available.. Contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.

My current blog of tavels and interesting Antique Maps can be found at https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/

 

Best wishes

Michael

Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252
FREE Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988+33
(0)610 753 988 FREE
michaeljennings@orange.fr

Follow me on
twitter @jenningsoldmaps and https://www.facebook.com/Maphouse-Antique-Maps-329036852532/

Links to Antique map & travel blog https://mickjennings.wordpress.com

You have been sent this email because you are in our mailing database. To unsubscribe, click here.

 

 

Posted in ANTIQUE MAPS, ANTIQUE PRINTS, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Antique Prints of Egypt by David Roberts and from Napoleon’s Expedition.

THE GREAT SPHINX

THE GREAT SPHINX

Prints from these two large folio publications have fired the world’s imagination about Egypt for the last two hundred years, leading to gentlemen archaeologists and treasure hunters digging throughout Egypt, and not only initiating a whole design movement, but the science of archaeology and of course many horror movies involving mummies.

The Pyramids at Giza from the Description

The Pyramids at Giza from the Description

In reality the publications, because they are not mere books, are the chalk and cheese of the depiction of Egypt, one scientific and methodical whereas the other came from pure artistic sensibilities and a touch of romance.

All these original prints and more are available through my site at..http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-prints/egypt-and-middle-east/napoleons-expedition/

and http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-prints/egypt-and-middle-east/david-roberts/

Pyramids at Giza ..David Roberts

Pyramids at Giza ..David Roberts

Although there were a few publications before Napoleon’s expedition, the ‘Description De L’Egypte’ a massive opus, eclipsed virtually everything from before and nothing came close to the accuracy and quality of engravings. It also pushed the limits of size with some plates that could be produced at the beginning of the nineteenth century with some plates up to 100*70cms.

Temple at Luoqsor from the 'Description'

Temple at Luoqsor from the ‘Description’

TEMPLE OF LUXOR DAVID ROBERTS

TEMPLE OF LUXOR DAVID ROBERTS

About 160 civilian scholars and scientists, known popularly as the savants, accompanied Napoleon‘s expedition to Egypt in 1798 to 1801 as part of the French Revolutionary Wars with the General planning to make Egypt part of the new Republic.

THEBES MEDYNET-ABOU

THEBES MEDYNET-ABOU

TEMPLE OF DENDERA ..DAVID ROBERTS

TEMPLE OF DENDERA ..DAVID ROBERTS

Along with 2,000 surveyors, draughtsmen and artists every building and artifact was measured and recorded in absolute detail. Later 400 engravers would complete this work back in Paris.

EDFOU APOLLINOPOLIS MAGNA

EDFOU APOLLINOPOLIS MAGNA

THE GREAT COLOSSI AT THE MEMONIUM

THE GREAT COLOSSI AT THE MEMONIUM

The intellectual rigour of the Description was a direct follow on from Diderot’s Encyclopédie, famous for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article “Encyclopédie”, the Encyclopédie’s aim was “to change the way people think”…Diderots work included numerous plates explaining all forms of science and manufacturing from opthalmics to bridge building.

Stone fragments at Thebes

Stone fragments at Thebes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A9die
After the destruction of Napoleon’s fleet by the British and the overland return of Napoleon and the army through the Levant, the scientists, savants and artists managed to take with them the huge collection of notes,drawings and artefacts that later, back in Paris, took over 20 years to turn into the 30 volumes and approximately 850 plates of the Description as it finally became.

 LE KAIRE PLAN ET ELEVATION D'UN ABREUVOIR

LE KAIRE PLAN ET ELEVATION D’UN ABREUVOIR

So accurate were the plates that in the 1980’s I visited an important medieval merchants palace/ house in Cairo that was being rebuilt by french architects with the plates from the Cairo section. I was told it could only be done due to the precision of the drawings.

CARP & HERRING

CARP & HERRING

Jules-Cesar Savigny was responsible, along with Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, for the Natural History sections of the Description de l’Égypte. This was an enormous undertaking in it’s own right with up to 5 volumes of plates of Birds, mammals, coral, fish etc. These are some of the largest original Natural History prints available.

SHELLFISH

SHELLFISH

One of the most interesting things is that some of the plates contain such purity of lines and subject that today the large prints from Description sit equally as well in a modern house as an old one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Description_de_l%27%C3%89gypte

I have had an affection for Egypt since 1980 and 1981 when I spent a few months travelling from Alexandria to Aswan (and beyond into the Sudan) including the the western Oases of Daklah and Kargah.

Egyptian family

Egyptian family

The people were wonderful and nothing was too much trouble..we were hardly ever hassled for baksheesh …people wanted to talk , practise their english and tell us of their woes of not being able to marry without money to buy the bedroom furniture..

Egyptian Women Wadi Daklah

Egyptian Women Wadi Daklah

One could walk safely anywhere.. Cairo slums or middle class suburbs. I have wanted to return recently and regularly ask my friend, a coptic bookdealer, is it OK this year and it is always the same reply.. not now Michael, Wait..Will it ever be OK to travel with my camera around Egypt.

It is so sad that religion and the army have destroyed a beautiful and friendly country that has so much to see.

Luxor Roberts

Luxor Roberts

David Roberts started as a circus scenery painter in his native Scotland, then a renowned theatre scenery painter in London.

David Roberts ..painted himself into the scene..Thebes

David Roberts ..painted himself into the scene..Thebes

It was Turner who persauded him to be a full time painter and soon after he spent the best part of two years sketching and painting water colours in Egypt and the Holy Land. Whereas the Napoleonic expedition numbered thousands David Roberts travelled up and down the Nilme with a retinue of between six and eight.

 

The Gates of Cairo

The Gates of Cairo

The story goes that he produced two monumental oil paintings of Egypt and they were put on display at the Tate, inviting the rich of london to subscribe to the planned work of fine lithographs to be produced by Louis Haghe. Sketches in the Holy Land & Syria and Egypt and Nubia. I only stock the Egypt & Nubia plates. It was one of the most successful artistic ventures of the nineteenth century with over 400 subscribers, Queen Victoria being number 1. The publication was issued part by part from 1842 to 1849. About 1,600 of the standard edition were published at the same time. In all not more than a couple of thousand were ever produced.

Luxor Roberts

Luxor Roberts

David Roberts was from the beginning a theatre scenery painter , involving the romance and story telling of the imagination. Unlike the Description which was accurate to the centimetre Roberts works sometimes moved Statues of columns for dramatic effect. And Dramatic they are.

Cairo Dancing girls

Cairo Dancing girls

David Robert’s lithographs of Egypt and the Holy Land are some of the best prints of the Victorian era.

Cairo Coffee House

Cairo Coffee House

These and more at http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-prints/egypt-and-middle-east/
Or email me for others at michaeljennings@orange.fr

Cairo

Cairo

Philae

Philae

P1210340

P1210433.jpg.1

j36

vases

vases

 

 

 

 

..

 

 

Posted in ANTIQUE MAPS, ANTIQUE PRINTS, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PONDICHERRY A BEAUTIFUL CITY AND SCANDAL AT AUROBINDO ASHRAM

The sea front .

The sea front .

Walking along the sea front at Pondicherry you could be anywhere except India..

At 5 in the afternoon before the ‘passeggiata’ starts and just after the road has been closed the sea front is almost devoid of people. A little later there are families and groups of friends buying snacks or toys for the children and enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, but they are overwhelmingly middle class Indians. P1110466.jpg.6 After the Gateway of India in Mumbai and the Marina beach in Chennai, where one encounters not only a mass of people but a cross section of class and caste, here in Pondicherry there is something rather odd.

Sea front snacks

Sea front snacks

the evening ‘passeggiata’

the evening ‘passeggiata’

Earlier that day I arrived at the wonderful Maison Tamboule in the Tamil Quarter ..The rooms were full of old funiture and tall ceilings, and I even had a dressing room between the bedroom and bathroom. I was the only guest at this calm ninetennth century hotel laid out around a covered central courtyard resplendent with rich velvet cushions in the oriental style, but luckily every evening other diners arrived to eat the best fish curry in town, and break my sense of isolation.

There are three distinct bands from the front going inland based on wealth as is always. Most of Pondicherry is laid out exactly as it was under French colonial rule, and according to one guide book is a little like New Orléans a city not yet visited.

Blessed by Lakshmi the elephant at the Ganesh Temple

Blessed by Lakshmi the elephant at the Ganesh Temple

The town is a great place to walk around with surprises everywhere, from beautiful temples to an English bookshop where none of the staff spoke English, Parisien squares with wonderful flowers and french style cafes.

One of the Ashram private houses

One of the Ashram private houses

The first up to a canal / sewerage ditch is that part of old Pondicherry that was and still is in the southern half French, but now occupied for a large part by the Aurobindo Ashram and the houses of the rich and often corrupt members of this odd sect. In fact all the buildings on the front, facing the sea are owned by the Ashram (painted in their two-tone grey) except for the Pondicherry Legislature surrounded by the tentacles of this secretive avaricious quasi religious group.

The Franco Indians playing boule near the sea front

The Franco Indians playing boule near the sea front

The next band, from the canal to the main commercial street, Mahatma Gandhi Road, is full of old tamil houses and mainly occupied by wealthier Indians..and many of the 4,500 Indians and their descendents, who took up the option to become French citizens in 1954 .. and a few hotels but increasingly being taken over by Ashram followers and I must admit that the houses now owned by the ashram are being beautifully restored.According to a local there is a surfeit of architects in Auroville with no-one to build for.

 

One of the Tamil houses

One of the Tamil houses

In 1954 the Tamil inhabitants of Pondicherry were given the option of French passports and citizenship and around 10,000 did so with about 5,000 of their descendents still living in the city ( many others live in Paris and return for the summer), they have to renew their Indian Visas every 5 years. This largest French colony east of Suez has the right to vote in the French Presidential Elections, and a polling booth is set up in the French Consulate. This group known as the ‘Renoncants’ after renouncing their Indian nationality, is regarded as the second richest in Pondicherry, after the Ashram people, as they still receive generous French pensions.

The fish market Pondicerry

The fish market Pondicerry

And then the last band that carries on into India and starts at Mahatma Ghandi Drive is the commercial area and the Tamil Indian part of town.

The market Pondicherry

The market Pondicherry

Most of the travel writing and photographs of Pondicherry appear to cover the old French quarter, The Aurobino Ashram and Auroville; but the Indian part of the city with it’s temples and markets is more vibrant. The huge central mainly covered market is about the most interesting part of town. In the centre is the large covered fish market, run entirely by women, with the only men bringing in the fish and blocks of ice. Near a small Tamil temple is the flower market for the town.

flower sellers

flower sellers

flower seller

flower seller

In the market many gods

In the market many gods for sale

Returning to my initial impression that Pondicherry is an odd sort of place, not unakin to something out of the Prisoner with  me playing Patrick McGoohan’s role as Prisoner Number 6. I googled Pondicherry and Ashram, and found that the absence of many ordinary Indians  along the sea front or even the French / Ashram part of town is that there is a deep suspicion of the whole Aurobindo Ashram complex. There are accounts of much corruption, sexual harassment, theft of property, rape and paedophilia etc in the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry with at least 160 cases against the Ashram in the High Court at Madras..and most bizarrely of all, one group from the Ashram taking the other to court for changing Aurobindo’s words in new publications of his writings..there are links at the end .. Here a bit of contextualization is necessary. The Ashram was founded by Mirra Alfassa – known as the Mother to devotees based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. From a trust founded with borrowed money, the Ashram has grown to become the largest property owner in Pondicherry. To become an inmate, one has to go through a probation period, following which a contract of complete surrender is entered into with the Ashram. The Ashram allocates the inmate work in one of its departments based on his or her skill sets and qualification and in return provides for food, shelter, medical care, clothing and so on – but strictly no monetary benefits. This contract (called prosperity list) till recently also had clauses that prevented inmates from approaching the police or media. However, a caveat needs to be added here – the contract does not prevent an inmate from leaving the Ashram – and all inmates believe in the surrender! Without any effective internal grievance redressal mechanism – this means absolute power. Over a period of time there have been allegations from Ashram inmates ranging from sexual abuse, pedophilia, physical abuse, medical negligence etc. When some of the inmates protested, their prosperity was withdrawn – meaning that their food and shelter too was withdrawn. Some inmates left the Ashram. A few others, rather than leave the Ashram and retract from their leap of faith and surrender, decided to go to court to get their food and shelter restored. After, a long protracted legal battle one of the cases came before the Supreme Court of India. The apex court turned down the prayer in the case. That is a different story requiring different legal analysis that I would not want to go into here. In the meantime some inmates got together and formed an association to protest what they saw as gross human rights abuses. When their complaints fell on deaf ears, they organized two dharnas in January and February 2012 – and the inmates who participated in the Dharna were show-caused asking why their prosperity list should not be revoked – against which these inmates have gone to court. With some of the organizers of the Dharna – they have been removed from their allotted jobs and few privileges have been taken away. Since then, the inmate association has been trying to draw attention to their plight in whatever form possible. Given the Ashram’s insular nature these efforts seem to have met with little success – leaving the protesting inmates cynical about the larger society. Now they seem to believe that the only recourse for them is a state takeover of the Ashram management. The logic for this demand seems to be hinged on two simple requirements – transparency and effective grievance redressal mechanisms. They point towards the government takeover of Auroville – another institution founded by the Mother – through the Auroville Foundation Act of 1988 “for the better management” as a precedent. A small diversionary note is required here – though the Ashram is the centerpiece of Pondicherry’s economy – beyond employment; there is hardly any interaction between the local Pondicherry citizenry and the Ashram. In fact, the local populace views the Ashram with deep suspicion. On the other hand given the vast resources owned by the Ashram, there seem to be a background political struggle to gain access and control of these resources. These resources are hidden behind some 40 trusts and a further 30 subtrusts. Apart from being the biggest property owner in Pondicherry the ashram owns many businesses including petrol stations.. Unfortunately, avoidable death of 3 women allegedly abused by the Ashram management (according to their suicide note) and four others in critical condition in the Government Hospital in Pondicherry – all of them from the same family – had to happen before the issue has come to centre stage. The Tamil media at least is abuzz with the news and all political parties in Pondicherry including the ruling party are going on a Bandh on the 20th December demanding exactly what the Prasad family (Those who attempted and committed suicide ) have been demanding for over a decade – the takeover of the Ashram by the State from the present management. Too little, too late – 3 lives are already lost.

The police in Pondi with the french Kepi

The Police in Pondicherry still sport the French Kepi

Photo exhibition
Photo exhibition

Organised by PondiArt  the blowups of their photos on the old walls of an industrial building were striking.

Photos by Dhruv Dhakan and Swarat Ghosh

Photos by Dhruv Dhakan and Swarat Ghosh

 

 

The old brewery on the sea front front was the location of  great photographs by Dhruv Dhakan and Swarat Ghosh. The international and cosmopolitan side of Pondicherry with the Alliance Français and it’s French schools, cafes and bakeries helps to alleviate the oppressiveness  of the grey walls  of the ashram buildings and guest houses.

Inside the Catholic Church Pondicherry

Inside the Catholic Church Pondicherry

 

I visited Auroville on a day tour ( a snip at £3) from the Pondicherry Tourist Office, which also included a church, a temple and the forlorn city museum.

the gold plated Matrimandir built for meditation

the gold plated Matrimandir built for meditation

Both UNESCO and the Indian Government for some reason decided to fund and provide land to build this city planned for 50,000 people..

“to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.”
Although the planned city of 50,000 has after 60 years only about 2300 people around half Indian, Unesco and the Indian government still help finance this secretive village.
It is a very slick operation with a visitor centre where one has to watch a video before you are allowed to visit a small part of Auroville, the rest is off limits to the visitor.
I must admit that I arrived with mixed feelings I do find the concept of communal living rather seductive but am very sceptical of communal living attached to a cult, and as it transpires a rather dangerous cult.
This new form of living was the dream of the Mother a one time Egyptian occultist and according to the biography of Aurobindo by Peter Heehs a previous member of the Ashram, his lover.
At the centre of Auroville, set in a rather poor area of Tamil Nadu, is the gold plated Matrimandir built for meditation, containing apparently the world’s largest Crystal.
There are only 1800 adults in auroville , and only about 700 non Indians and again according to official figures only 4% are in the 20 -30 age group., many are now old and need domestic help and gardeners who come from the nearby Tamil villages. It is this foreign master and and Indian servant relationship that has led to many Tamil blogs against Auroville describing it as a new form of colonialism. Tamil land given by the Government has recently been sold at vast profit, while it has been acquiring other parcels cheaply. However there is a darker side and Auroville like the Aurobindo Ashram has been beset by claims of child abuse, sexual harassment, financial irregularities and even murder, a BBC documentary in 2008 outlined among other things the abuse of local children by white aurovillians.

P1100982

It is on the surface a peaceful and beautiful place to visit and those, sometimes vulnerable people not aware of it’s darker side are often sucked in, to what from many disclosures and court cases show, that like virtually all cults side, it has a more sinister side.

P1100635.jpg.1

A communist trade union poster

A communist trade union poster

Typical Tamil Hindu temple

Typical Tamil Hindu temple

Thi Indian part of Pondicherry

The Indian part of Pondicherry

Wood carving important craft in Tamil Nadu

Wood carving important craft in Tamil Nadu

P1100725

P1100696

 

P1100991.jpg.1

Links to the Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville

https://nandhivarman.wordpress.com/tag/aurobindo-ashram/

http://www.tehelka.com/scabs-beneath-the-serenity/

http://archivenews.blogspot.fr/2008/07/aurobindo-ashram-ex-lawyer-target-of.html

http://articles.latimes.com/1987-03-23/news/mn-8932_1_pondicherry

 

Posted in India, INDIA 2014, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MICHAEL JENNINGS ANTIQUE MAPS ..SUMMER NEWSLETTER

P1140100
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/west/M3226-sea-chart-spain-west-africa-azores-canari/

I hope everyone is having a good summer, I realise in the UK it hasn’t arrived yet but here on the Riviera it has been a tad too hot.
Last months London Map Fair was a great success for map buyers and sellers alike and it was a pleasure to meet so many new and old customers. I am sure everyone enjoys visiting the Royal Geographical Society in Kennsington with those paintings of intrepid explorers.
Below a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my website http://www.maphouse.co.uk

AFRICA

P1170543
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/continent/M3285-africa/
Sebastian Munster
AFRICA £145.00
P1140200
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/continent/M3246-africa/
AFRICA £295.00 SANTINI Francois

P1170610
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/continent/M3297-africa/
AFRICA FOLIO HONDIUS
P1170601
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/africa/continent/M3296-africa/
HONDIUS Family
AFRICA £225.00

ASIA

P1170567
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/asia/east-indies-philipp/M3287-sumatra-malasia/
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin
SUMATRA MALASIA £135.00

P1140227
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/asia/continent/M3254-asia-munster/
Sebastian Munster
ASIA MUNSTER £435.00

P1170542
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/asia/continent/M3283-asia/
Gerard Mercator
ASIA £235.00
P1170569
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/asia/east-indies-philipp/M3288-sumatra-malasia-borneo/
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin
SUMATRA MALASIA BORNEO… £155.00

BRITISH ISLES
P1170490
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/scotland/M3266-scotland/
MOLL Herman
SCOTLAND £175.00

P1140229
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/M3255-british-isles-munster-ptolomaic/
Sebastian Munster
BRITISH ISLES MUNSTER PTOLOMAIC £295.00

P1170485
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/ireland/M3265-ireland/
MOLL Herman
IRELAND £175.00
P1140245
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/M3257-lancashire/
Robert Morden
LANCASHIRE £195.00
P1170582
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/counties/M3291-oxfordshire/

Robert Morden
OXFORDSHIRE £185.00

P1170588
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/british-isles/surrey/M3278-surrey/
Blaeu Family
SURREY £450.00

EUROPE CONTINENT

P1170545
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/europe-continent/M3295-europe/
LANGENES Barent
EUROPE £145.00
P1170541
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/europe-continent/M3284-europe/
Gerard Mercator
EUROPE £195.00

FRANCE

P1170509
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/france/M3272-france-ptolomey-modern-france/
FRIES Lorenz
FRANCE PTOLOMEY MODERN FRANCE £585.00

P1140175
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/france/south-east/M3245-monaco/
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin
MONACO £325.00

ITALY

img041
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/italy/rome-south/M3273-sicily/
Abraham Ortelius
SICILY £185.00
P1140248
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/italy/lombardy-north/M3258-genoa-genua-carta-geographica-genova/
Homann J.B et Heirs
GENOA GENUA CARTA GEOGRAPHICA GENOVA £550.00

MEDITERRANEAN & ISLES

P1170537
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/mediterranean-and-islands/M3281-malta-island/
Alain Mallet
MALTA ISLAND £235.00

img040
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/mediterranean-and-islands/M3264-malta/
Abraham Ortelius
MALTA £245.00
P1140184
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/mediterranean-and-islands/M3248-the-mediterranean/
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin
THE MEDITERRANEAN £325.00

NORTH AMERICA

P1140224
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/the-americas/M3252-japanese-map-of-the-americas-rare/
JAPANESE MAP OF THE AMERICAS RARE

aaa porcacchi
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/north-america/M3060-north-america-mondo-nuovo/
PORCACCHI Tomaso
NORTH AMERICA MONDO NUOVO £725.00
P1170468
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/north-america/M2488-north-america-franklin-state-charte-von-no/
Walch.J
NORTH AMERICA ‘FRANKLIN STATE’ CHARTE VON NORDAMERICA £495.00

PACIFIC & AUSTRALASIA

P1140211
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/pacific-australasia/M3253-sandwich-isles-hawaii-3rd-voyage-of-cook/
Benard
SANDWICH ISLES HAWAII 3rd VOYAGE OF COOK £495.00
m3213
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/pacific-australasia/M3213-new-zealand/
BONNE Rigobert
NEW ZEALAND £595.00

RUSSIA

m3072
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/russia/M3072-russia-st-petersburg/
Jacques-Nicolas Bellin
RUSSIA ST PETERSBURG £165.00
P1140205
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/russia/M3249-russia/
HONDIUS Family
RUSSIA £595.00

SCANDINAVIA
P1170514
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/scandinavia/M3271-norway/

ANON
NORWAY £250.00
P1140236
http://www.maphouse.co.uk/antique-maps/scandinavia/M3256-baltic-sea-and-scandinavia/
MOLL Herman BALTIC SEA AND SCANDINAVIA £425.00

Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I might have it or be able to find it for you.
For anybody visiting the French Riviera this summer I am available up to the middle of August. Contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.
After that I will be back in India for 2 months continuing my photographic odyssey, but it is internet business as usual with twice weekly shipping days.
Latest blog https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/
Best wishes
Michael
Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252 +33 (0) 4936 57252
Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988 +33 (0)610 753 988
michaeljennings@orange.fr
Follow me on twitter @jenningsoldmaps
Links to Antique map & travel blog https://mickjennings.wordpress.com

Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman

Posted in ANTIQUE MAPS, Antique maps..maphouse, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Madurai The Great Temple of Meenakshi Amman, Festival of Mariamman

Ganesh Madurai

Ganesh Madurai


‘Madri Madri Madri’ The driver shouted out to us sleeping passengers in our double beds in the bus from Cochi to Madurai. I was suddenly as shocked as I’d been 7 hours beforehand when I got on the bus to find out that yes it was a sleeper bus with double bunks down one side and single the other. I was told that I was lucky in that I had the outside or aisle side of the bunk to be shared with a portly Tamil with a huge beard. I had rarely shared a double bed with a man before, but certainly not someone I had never met ! At least we all kept our clothes on.

The Temple at Madurai tower

The Temple at Madurai one of the 14 towers

Temple Madurai ..detail

Temple Madurai ..detail

First thing one notices , apart from more men wearing the Lunghi, is the darker Dravidian skin colour.

Street Madurai

Street Madurai


Madurai, is slap bang in the centre of Tamil Nadu and the bus station has that look of of a third world dusty city but that belies the true magic of Madurai. One of the oldest continually inhabited cities, it was known to the ancient Greeks and has been a Hindu religious centre for 3 thousand years.

Madurai worshipppers outside temple

Madurai worshipppers outside temple

Outside temple

Outside temple

In Tamil Nadu the ethnicity and culture is descended from the much earlier Dravidian peoples who covered the whole of India, probably emanating from the Indus valley, until pushed south by the Indo European people some two thousand years ago.
It is claimed that the Hindu religion and culture is in fact Dravidian and was adopted by the lighter skinned Aryan Indo European peoples at a later date. There is still a popular movement in the south against the interlopers in the north who now rule India.

Madurai  outside the great temple

Madurai outside the great temple

Chennai might be the big administrative city of Tamil Nadu but Madurai is the beating heart of Tamil culture, and the great temple of Meenakshi Amman is at the centre of the heart.
The Temple was on the shortlist for one of the seven modern wonders of the world, and after seeing the 45 acre site with its huge 50 metre carved and painted entrance gates one wonders why it didn’t make the 7.
Inside there are many shrines including 2 famous gold shrines and apparently 33,000 statues. Some of the rooms are enormous, so much so that in one I had been looking round in the gloom for five minutes before I noticed there was an elephant in the corner blessing pilgrims for a few anna.
The temple is dedicated to Parvatti and her consort Shiva.

Madurai

Madurai

Women are the majority of market traders

Women are the majority of market traders


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Praying outside temple..everyone stops at some point around the temple to pray.

Praying outside temple..everyone stops at some point around the temple to pray.


Much of southern India had had socialist and even Communist Party of India elected regional governments since independence and I was staying at the Moskva Hotel, really an Indian businessman’s hotel, so great food as usual.
The south of India still has pockets of communist mayors and this has resulted in a general higher level of education , health care and social welfare than other parts of India. Also there is general greater tolerance. Tamil Nadu has an estimated population of more than 30,000 transgender people. It has made great strides in trying to integrate transgender people into society and includes welfare schemes initiated by the Government.

I particularly liked the scheme in Madurai called swayamvara. In ancient time swayamvara was a form of arranged marriage whereby a girl of marriageble age chose a husband in one day from a list of eligible men and was subsequently married that same evening.

A modern form of ‘Swayamvaram’ was started a few years ago in Madurai to match differently abled couples.
The Differently Abled Women’s Welfare Association holds a yearly event where disabled singles can chose a partner.
“Persons who are not differently abled are also welcome to register for the ‘swayamvaram.’
And this has been an amazing success, so much so that “In the last two years, 77 couples have been united through our initiative” according to the Welfare Association for the Differently Abled.

Great face

Great face

The British were lucky in that there were no cameras or even social media during the two hundred year occupation of India. I think it is quite safe to to put the figure of over 100 million dead during this period; with just the 2 incidents, the backlash to the Indian mutiny and the 1940’s Bengal famine totalling around 25 million alone * .
It was the talabanic destruction of cultural sites in the early days that affected Madurai.

Here under the British or more precisely the East India Company
that the wonderful street system based on lotus flowers and leaves , the fortifications and moat around the temple were destroyed to use the now rubble for their new colonial road system and for building materials for the homes and administrative offices for colonial rule.

My cyckle rickshaw driver

My cyckle rickshaw driver

After visiting the architectural gem of Thirumalai Nayak Palace I was gently but persausively pursued by a cycle rickshaw driver offering ‘cheep tour city’..I walked on smiling and tried to ignore him but after 10 minutes he was still cycling beside extolling the beauty of the flower maket and the coppersmiths, and with not much planned for the rest of the morning I cracked and hopped on the rickshaw and let him take me on his tour.
The flower market was some way out of town and I was starting to feel sorry for him struggling up even the slightest incline..

The flower market was large, serving the numerous temples in Madurai and festivities such as weddings, funerals, births and just general home decoration. It is the men who weave the beautiful garlands and strings of flowers worn by so many. The tour back was past more temples and the green spaces of the Raj district with the typical colonial villas and clubs.

Flower Market Madurai..Typical Tamil Nadu woman

Flower Market Madurai..Typical Tamil Nadu woman

Flower market

Flower market

Madurai flower market ..men do most of the Garland preparation

Madurai flower market ..men do most of the Garland preparation

Madurai flower market

Madurai flower market

flower market

flower market

Temple Madurai

Temple Madurai


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Colourful god

Colourful god


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Banana market Madurai

Banana market Madurai


We visited all the backstreets around the temple with the coppersmiths, basket weavers and many craft trades that have changed little in the last 500 years. The banana wholesale market was sufused with a great yellowy light reflecting off the thousands of ripe bunches. We conducted the ritualistic haggling over the fee for his services at the end of the tour , with the usual I have 4 children to feed and educate, and I, still fresh in my mind the sweat on his back on the long uphillish journey to the flower market paid him what he wanted. He was evidently happy as it was he who bought me the cold drink.

Here, in the rickshaw driver’s world nearly all the men wore the Lunghi, the male wrap around dress, so pratical in the heat and it was in Madurai in 1921 that Ghandi adopted the loin cloth of the poor as his preferred mode of dress for the rest of his life.

Street tailor

Street tailor

Festival to the goddess of rain  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess of rain Mariamman

While walking along the banks of the Vaigai river, more a series of pools at this time of the year, and being entertained by plethora of small artisanal blacksmiths, I looked up distracted by music and shouting and singing from the other bank. Here was one of the holy grails of the street photographer, and interested cultural observer, a full religious procession with band and priests and dancers.
Luck, as finding these local religious festivals is mostly luck as they are not advertised, was on my side again as there was a bridge over the river at exactly this point.

Festival to the goddess  Mariamman ..boy holding milk

Festival to the goddess Mariamman ..boy holding milk


Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


The noise, the heat the dancing, children holding brass bowls of milk on their heads , the older men and women holding clay bowls with burning coals, the two men with long skewers through their cheeks. I was in the middle of something pecularly Indian and it was intoxicating.
Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


This religious festival was to Mariamman, the goddess of rain, harvest and generally praying for better things, and is more of a rural peasant affair and in fact rather than ending up at some large ornate temple we arrived at a small temple in the poorer suburbs of the city.
Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman

All the residents had turned out to cheer and throw buckets of water over the particpants and drinks of local cordial to keep them cool in the now 40 ° heat.
I was struck but the friendliness between each other and especially me.

Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Festival to the goddess  Mariamman

Festival to the goddess Mariamman


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Madurai is a great city, with a 3,000 years of history, that traded with ancient Greece and Rome and now a future global IT centre that will trade with the whole world.

* However the exact figures might never be known due to the British Foreign & Colonial office systematically destroying all records.

Posted in INDIA 2014, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

COCHI AND THE KERALA BACKWATERS

Cochi girls

Cochi girls

The flights from Varanesi to Cochi took most of the day as I had a long stopover at Mumbai. Intransit these days one could be anywhere in the world , the same set off uninspiring duty free shops with watches, sunglasses, clothes and jewelry, flogging overpriced middleclass aspirational trinkets. But in Mumbai there was something that stuck out , a scruffy Manchester United shop, full of outdated, last seasons football shirts at close to a months average Indian wage. I have done a minor unscientific survey over the last few years and most of these duty free items, can be found cheaper in malls and much cheaper online.
What I really needed was a chemist, but no nothing pratical here although I must admit the restaurants, offered good Indian food.
After buying my coupon for the prepaid taxi (absolutely essential for a peaceful life) I walked out of the Cochi airport terminal into a humdinger of a monsoon downpour.

Sheltering fromthe rain

Sheltering fromthe rain


My hotel The Cochi Palace is really an upmarket Indian businessman’s hotel, and all the better for it, excellent wifi and a really good restaurant, and no middle age tourists in lycra. So good that I spent most of the day looking forward to my evening’s meal and entertainment provided by a phalanx of waiters, I believe I had 5 hovering around making sure my glass was never empty or there were enough parathas. The food was the best so far in India.

I took the TukTuk over to Fort Cochi with darkening skies and a reasonably cool breeze to alleviate the incredible humidity. Strickly speaking Cochi is 2 towns, the new town, Ernakulum and Fort Cochi. Fort Cochi developed, for there was already an existing Arab/ Indian trading port here in the Lagoon created by ferocious fourteenth century storms, and the modern Ernakulum, where I was, the commercial and administrative centre for the region. We had to travel through atrocious traffic ond over many bridges to reach the old Fort Cochin.

Roadside hoardings in Ernakulum  ..Advert for holidays in Norway ....!!

Roadside hoardings in Ernakulum ..Advert for holidays in Norway ….!!

As we arrived in Fort Cochi the feel changed from the hectic, noisy, traffic clogged modern city with it’s typically badly designed buildings to a quieter pace , full of old Dutch and colonial British architecture. These old colonial buildings were for the most part rather decrepit and covered in green..tropical slime and moss, but with gardens bursting out of it’s old wall confines with greenery and flowers.

Fort Cochi Old Colonial factory

Fort Cochi Old Colonial factory

Around the old parade ground and the Santa Cruz cathedral many new arrival Europeans had restored buildings and opened restaurants and small hotels for the burgeoning tourist industry.

Indian tourists Fort Cochi

Indian tourists Fort Cochi


The only tourists at this time of the year during the monsoon were Indian. As I walked around the sandy beaches on the Indian Ocean/ Arabian Sea side of the Island there were many tourists out enjoying the brief respite between monsoon downpours.
Fun on the beach Fort Cochi

Fun on the beach Fort Cochi


Cochi with it’s large lagoon as a harbour was an important port on the Malabar coast for centuries, with the export of spices, coconut oil and sandalwood to the Middle East, Europe and China.
The Chinese were trading here long before Europeans arrived and the famous Chinese fishing nets date from the early fourteenth century .

The chinese fishing nets have been in Cochi for 600 years

The chinese fishing nets have been in Cochi for 600 years


The Portuguese sent a series of Indian Armadas from 1498 onwards, perhaps a series of arrogant; self righteous marauding pirates would be more apt.
Calicut, north of Cochi was the predominant port before the Portuguese arrival, but the Zamorin of Calicut with a long term relationship with Arab traders was not prepared to bend to the aggressive will of the Portuguese interlopers. The Portuguese on the famous second Armada decided that if they couldn’t get what they want by trade, they would take by force, so after stealing Arab merchants cargos,burning their ships and killing the crew, then after suffering reprisals from the town where 50 Portuguese died they bombarded the town , killing up to a thousand of the native people.

The racist and religious prejudices of Europeans at the time, with their hatred of the ‘moors’ and their antipathy towards muslim arab traders in general, led to plundering and killing of arab seamen and traders for many years after.

Muslimboys today in Fort Cochi

Muslimboys today in Fort Cochi

After this unsuccessful attempt at a diplomatic encounter with Calicut the fleet headed south to Cochin, where the Raja of Cochin, in perpetual conflict with Calicut, was happy to sign trading treaties with the Portuguese allowing them to build a fort and the Portuguese factor to buy spices and other exotic produce . the Portuguese built a church and factories ( warehouses).
The Portuguese second Armada led to Cochin or Fort Cochin, as it was known, in becoming the most important trading port on the Malabar coast for three or four hundred years.
The Portuguese were surprised to find communities of Syrian Christians and Jews living and trading successfully here when they arrived. Fort Cochi still has a working Synagogue and out of the 25 odd languages spoken in Kerala, many of them only spoken by hill and forest people, there still exists a Judeo-Malayalam spoken by less than a hundredpeople here and in Israel.
P1090593.jpg.1

Kerala was the first place in the world to elect a communist govournment , and although not in power across the state since 2011, Cochi has a communist mayor.

The CPI M is the second largest party after the Congress party. It would probably be the largest if it hadn’t split into factions.

The hammer & sickle Fort  Cochi

The hammer & sickle Fort Cochi

The very affable Communist Mayor of Fort Cochi

The very affable Communist Mayor of Fort Cochi


But more likely The Communist Party of India Marxist, is the victim of its own success. The free education and health care introduced back in 1957 have produced the most educated population in India, and perhaps the least corrupt, but that wouldn’t be difficult.
Many of this educated workforce are now in the Gulf States sending remittances back to families in Kerala, who are now homeowners and small business people, and less likely to vote CPI.
Fort Cochi..Trucks loading  spices

Fort Cochi..Trucks loading spices


Fort Cochi turns back the clocks late every afternoon when Tata trucks block the main road where the warehouses back on to the lagoon where in past centuriesthe boats brought in and took away the spices and other goods.
Fort Cochi..spice trade clerks

Fort Cochi..spice trade clerks


Today the place is still the centre of the regional spice trade and now it is the lorries that carry out the same function, delivering and taking away the sacks of produce, with the clerks in their small booths on the streets and the local tamil natives in their traditional Lungi mens skirts, humping sacks to and fro from the warehouses behind.
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P1090695

The lagoon has a resemblance to Venice or Istanbul in that there is a constant to and froing of little dilapidated ferries taking passengers at 10 pence a time, to the many islands. Here one noticed the true multiculturism of the region , with as many muslims as hindis. Very few muslim women covered up fully just a brightly coloured scarf for most. A stark contrast even to the muslim women in Istanbul.

Women on the ferry to Fort Cochin, an even mix of Muslims and Hindis

Women on the ferry to Fort Cochin, an even mix of Muslims and Hindis


Woman on the ferry

Woman on the ferry


I happened to be staying In Cochi during the festival of Onum, an ancient festival that has survived into modern times.
It is essentially a 4 day public holiday akin to our harvest festival, also it ties in with the ancient myth that King Mahabali visits from the underworld to see that his people are still living happily.. In the centre of town there are large marquees with a festival of books, another with clothes and regional foods and another with the latest consumer goods. The pavements were packed with clothes, saris and cloth sellers, hawkers with balloons and twizzle sticks.
A pookalam

A pookalam


In my hotel like many spaces the staff had created a floral carpet, known beautifully as a pookalam. The petals flowers were on sale all over town to make these carpets and to scatter around the many temples.
Drum sellers

Drum sellers

Selling bead bracelets

Selling bead bracelets


The walkway beside the lagoon on the new town side was full of families taking advantage of the public holiday, many taking pleasure boat trips. Unfortunately the monsoon rains soaked us all.

I stopped for a chai in a restaurant that was installing a special window with water ran down continually as if rain was perpetually beating down on the outside.In a place with a monsoon I just couldn’t understand why, a perpetual sunshine window ..yes. But it was also a monsoon town where I couldn’t find anywhere to buy a waterproof jacket for my trip to the Kerala backwaters the next day, but with rain forecast I did manage to buy an umbrella.
During the Happy Onum festival I was very especially taken with an exhibition of paintings at the Durbar Arts Centre of the latest works by the 90 year old K.G. Subramanyan. The brightly coloured paintings use mythology and traditional art in a striking way that many can easily understand, not dissimilar to African art.

Painting by KG Subramanyan

Painting by KG Subramanyan


Here there was no brochure, just the pictures with a title. Galleries in the west now use PR companies, that otherwise sell cars or political ideologies to write the press releases and brochures for modern artists using a language and phraseology if not entirely designed to obfuscate, certainly designed to attribute greater meaning to what is otherwise dross.

The boat trip in the Kerala backwaters was such a contrast to Cochi town. Just ten miles or so from the noise here was total silence, well except for some budding young Indian businessman who thougt he could talk loudly on his phone, before, to appluase from the other Indian tourists, I asked him politely to shut up or get off.

Kerala backwater fisherman

Kerala backwater fisherman


It was magic drifting silently with only the occasional splash of the pole that propelled us through this palm fringed series of creeks and lagoons.
2manpower boat

2manpower boat


Here from waterside villages people travelled on canoes. From our little covered flat-bottomed boat we drifted slowly past life little changed for many years.
But how long will this last. The boatman told me that these little plots of land, roughly an acre, were fetching up to £50,000 from workers in the HiTec industries of Bangalore to build second homes. Soon Cochicondos!

Kerala villager

Kerala villager


We stopped to drink fresh coconut milk from a villager who like all the rest supplemented all coconut products (rope, oïl, dried flesh) to their income from fishing.
Kerala

Kerala

Kerala

Kerala


Fort Cochin and the backwaters inland are fascinating places to travel around, with a history from the expoitation by the both Arabs and a rampant colony seeking Europe, with a modern political history where communism for the best part of 50 years actually worked and made a difference.
The next place is colourful and decorative temples of Madurai…….

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South India temple

South India temple

fort Cochin

fort Cochin

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Bicycle repair man

Bicycle repair man

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Kerala lottery

Kerala lottery

Fort Cochin

Fort Cochin

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P1090704

Posted in INDIA 2014, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VARANASI THE HOLY CITY

Varanasi

Varanasi


The corner shop next to the Gulnor hotel had the most delicious of vegetable samosas, so with four of these and some fruit and water I was ready for the night train to Varanasi. I had organised with Abid at Abyss tours to book not only the 2AC sleeper but the hotel as well. ( Abid organised my ongoing flight to Cochin and a hotel there for 5 days so I was sorted and could relax for the next 10 days).

Pilgrims in old Varanasi

Pilgrims in old Varanasi

I like travelling by train as unlike air travel passengers do talk to each other. The Delhi to Varanasi train was for the most part a pilgrim train. In my compartment was a middle aged Indian couple on their way to VNC as he called India’s Holiest City. For this journey I was very lucky to have the compartment with a bit of a polymath, and he was very happy to chat with me, in his impeccable English, until his wife told him to go to sleep. It was great to meet someone who could give me a crash course in India. He was the marketing manager for Lavazza Coffee and unlike most Indians I met had travelled around Europe. He was so happy to talk, and so was I , that he woke me with tea at 6 so we could continue putting the world to right.

In the old city Varanasi

In the old city Varanasi


His wife like many Indian women, expose their midriff and as most middle aged women in a country not obsessed with image, was slightly chubby; it was odd to see an expanse of flesh in front of me.
Arriving in town

Arriving in town


The station at Varanasi was chaos and as the only westerner arriving I was mobbed by auto rickshaw drivers. One has to make a quick decision on who is the most honest looking and then trust to luck. Little did I know then, but am passing on this knowledge now, that VNC has certain rules for vehicles. The auto-rickshaw took me about one kilometre towards the old town and then as he was allowed no further handed me over to a cycle rickshaw the driver of which must have been nearly 80, who took me only another 800 metres before he was allowed to go no further. Expensive journey by Indian standards not much really for a westerner.
On the way to the old town

On the way to the old town


But this still left me some distance from the Alka hotel which was another kilometre through the very narrow streets of old Varanasi which could only be travelled by foot. Luckily a young Indian guy picked up my rucksack and took me to the hotel for free, well hoping that he would be my guide the next day.
The Ganges

The Ganges


The Alka hotel is little more than a backpackers but it has the best location in all of the town, with a large terrace overlooking the Ganges and between the main ghats. The food and especially the chai masala were good.
Sadu

Sadu


The hotel was between the 2 main ghats, on one side some 600 metres away was the Manikarnika ghat, the main burning ghat and on the other the Dashashwamedh ghat where much of Varanasi’s pilgrims come to sit and watch the sun go down.
One of the remarkable things about Varanasi is the fact that there is no building on the other side of the river so one gets a great panorama of river and landscape from one of the busiest towns in India.

Pilgrims & holyman

Pilgrims & holyman


Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on earth, founded at least 3,500 years ago, and when one is in the oldest part of town, a long strip next to the river about half a mile wide, you can imagine that you are back in Varanasi during the middle ages.
Sadu on the back of a scooter Old Town Varanasi

Sadu on the back of a scooter Old Town Varanasi


There are an estimated 23,000 temples and I presume many of them one would consider as small shrines and almost every step brings you to another. With the continual processions of families bringing their dead to the burning ghats and the scores of holy men singularly or in groups following, the twenty first century seemed a long way away.

I eluded the young hasslers / wanabee guides outside the hotel who all cry out ‘ I take you to the burning bodies’ and set off on my own through the labyrinth of streets to discover this most ancient of living cities. The maze of lanes were not much more than a metre wide, not wide enough for a man and cow to pass at the same time, and the old town and the ghats were full of holy cows many with tassles and other affectionate adornments.

Sadus

Sadus


Little had changed in the last few hundred years and one could imagine being an explorer in the eighteenth century.
Mark Twain in the later nineteenth century said of Varanasi , “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Apart from plastic waste nothing had changed since Mark Twain had walked these lanes some 120 years before me.

According to Hindu cosmology..The city is the centre of the earth and
‘Tradition says that Benares first existed and the rest of the world was formed around it,
and if asked who founded Benares one might well answer who created the Himalayas’.
And these little lanes had a couple of soldiers with AK47’s on each corner ..after the Bombay terrorist attack all tourist or pilgrimage sites are heavily guarded.

Paan seller

Paan seller

From parts of town there are little alleyways that lead down to a single ghat; in other places you can wander along the bank of the Ganges from Ghat to Ghat passing temples, boat jetties and pilgrims bathing.

Flower sellers

Flower sellers


Here there are more children selling flowers, and groups of pilgrims being led in prayers and the bathing by a priest from the nearby temple.
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Groups of men would bathe and wash their dhotis and later hold their clothes aloft to dry in the breeze. It is quite a sight to see a line of men drying their clothes in the wind.
Pilgrim drying his cloak after bathing in ganges..my favourite pic in VNC

Pilgrim drying his cloak after bathing in ganges..my favourite pic in VNC


The sunken temple

The sunken temple

Of course where there are tourists whether they be Indian or western there is always a scam. Here where a smartly dressed young man takes you to one side and tells you about the burning, who is allowed and not allowed to be cremated here. And how so many poor people cannot afford the wood and he, as representative of the temple, is collecting money for wood for the poor and the widows, and there are many in Varanasi, to have a proper cremation.
Apparently in some poorer villages on the Ganges, families with not enough money for an adequate amount wood end up disposing of half cremated bodies in the river.
Again the 100 rupee note (£1) in the top pocket and the ‘ this is the only money I came out with ‘ gives one an excuse to get away with only a reasonable amount of severe hassling, but by now it was water off a duck’s back, and at least I had worked out how to get to a good spot without looking lost and attracting attention.

dawn boat trip

dawn boat trip

Delivering wood at the burning ghat.

Delivering wood at the burning ghat.

The best and only way to see and understand Varanasi is from the river and the morning boat trip, starting well before dawn, is a little bit of Indian magic. The small boats are best with just two young boatmen sharing the rowing.

Morning prayers and bathing Varanasi

Morning prayers and bathing Varanasi


As the sun comes up there are already hundreds of pilgrims and at the Manikarnika ghat the smoke is rising from a half a dozen pyres and the small barges are already unloading wood for the days cremations.

The light with the sun on the red and yellow sandstone buildings makes the light of provence a tad pallid. The golden glow is something special. The next day the monsoon had arrived and the sky was black but the town was still in hazy sunshine and the light again was a gift for a photographer.

By the Ganges monsoon arriving

By the Ganges monsoon arriving


I navigated through the maze to Manikarnika ghat, and luckily for me the bad weather had kept the tourist hasslers away and I was able to walk through the area of logs stored ready for cremation to the balcony overlooking the ghat where there were five cremations in progress.
The logs ready for the funeral pyre

The logs ready for the funeral pyre

Directly below me a group of temple workers were preparing the body while another was preparing the pyre.
There is something rather compulsive about visiting the burning ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat.
In the west the dead are usually hidden from the living and more often than not never seen before burial or cremation but in India and especially here it is more of a celebration;

Preparing the body for cremation

Preparing the body for cremation


We have all probably seen the burning of the bodies on some travel programme but why is one drawn to see it. It is of great significance in the Hindu religion, as cremation here, and the scattering of the ashes here in mother Ganga, is said to break the cycle of constant reincarnation and allow your spirit to ascend to heaven rather than return as a cow or an earthworm. This is receiving moksha.
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the Manikarnika ghat

the Manikarnika ghat


The monsoon storm now with rain and wind, blew the the smoke and ashes from the pyres in my direction and soon my eyes were stinging and I inhaled a mix of wood smoke and cremated Hindu.

ritual bathing

ritual bathing

The other side of my hotel is the Dashashwamedh ghat, here pilgrims, many tourists and their families, locals and troupes of holy men come to watch the sunset and on the day I was there a small herd of about twenty cows.

Chai

Chai


There are chai wallahs selling tea, Sadus offering instruction and barbers shaving pilgrims heads before the ritual bathing. Compared to much of the frenetic activity of India here, gazing out over the ganges all was calm and serene.
Troupe of Sadus at Dashashwamedh

Troupe of Sadus at Dashashwamedh

Pilgrim having head shaved before ritual bathing

Pilgrim having head shaved before ritual bathing

Varanasi is the most colourful, spiritual and captivating of all Indian cities. Once seen it will never be forgotten.

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