VOYAGE TO THE MOTHERLAND: A LOOK AT INDIAN CULTURE AND HISTORY

Lotus Temple in New Delhi

By Param Bhatter
Staff Writer

Every few years, my family and I travel back to India to visit all of my cousins and relatives who live there. This winter break, I decided that I should spend more time learning about my cultural heritage, which stems from my North Indian roots. I decided to visit two separate cities, New Delhi and Jaipur. The former is where I was born and the latter is where my family originates from.
This photo journal displays some of the rich history, religion and culture that can be found in India today. From the palaces of Maharajas and Maharanis (kings and queens), to the Hindu and Muslim relics throughout the city, and the crowded streets with cultural crafts and food, India has much to display.

New Delhi

The largest city in the north of the country, New Delhi is also the capital of India. Due to its proximity to a Pakistan, there is rich Muslim culture found throughout the city and its relics, even though many citizens are still Hindu.

The Lotus temple, which was constructed in 1986, is probably one of the most recent landmarks to be built in the city of New Delhi. It is actually a Baha’i temple, and one of the largest of its kind. As indicated by its name, the temple is designed in the shape of a lotus flower, which represents divinity and spirituality in Indian culture.

Qutb Minar is one of the oldest standing towers in India, measuring about 73 meters in height. Built from red sandstone and marble in the year 1192, this tower is actually an Islamic monument covered with Arabic inscriptions. This tower is the main attraction of the Qutb complex, which over 500 years ago was a religious sight where many people of the Islamic faith would gather and pray. Most of this site has been damaged over time from pollution, and the tower is the only building in the complex that has ever been restored.

This giant statue found in Karol Bagh stands over a 100 feet tall on the outskirts of the Chatarpur Temple. The god shown here is Hanuman, who is famous in Indian folklore and from one of the most celebrated religious texts of Hindu culture. Legend has it that he once lifted an entire island on his finger to aid a dear friend in need of a lifesaving herb from that island. Hanuman is the deity that is often worshiped to protect against trouble from evil spirits.

The Red Fort, though no longer very red due to the pollution found in New Delhi, is located at the heart of the city. It was the center of residence for the Mughal emperors for a good 200 years, until it was put out of commission in the mid-17th century. It was built by one of the most famous Indian emperors of all time, Shah Jahan. Even though the Mughals were Muslim, the architecture of the Red Fort reflects Hindu and Persian cultures as well.

This central suburb in New Delhi is known as Chandni Chowk, one of the most famous markets in India. The streets are full of traffic from sunrise to sunset, occupied by motorcycles, cars and rickshaws. Specifically, the market focuses on textiles and electronics, with many great street food vendors all around. Unfortunately, I got the stomach flu from eating the street food here, which I probably shouldn’t have done as a foreigner. Even though the food was amazing, it was definitely not worth the trouble!

Jaipur

Jaipur is located in the state of Rajasthan, one of the most beautiful states in all of India. Although mostly desert, the state has been home to many palaces and emperors, who have created many monuments. The city of Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, and just happens to be the home of the type of Indian that I am, which is Marathi. My family and I spent a couple days here touring the many palaces and temples that were built in India, many of which were the oldest of their kind.

This palace, surrounded by water on all sides, is known as Jal Mahal. Closed to tourists, this is the closest you can get to actually entering the building. It is located in the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, and is built out of red and pink sandstone. Unfortunately, the pollution in the air limits the view of the surroundings, but without the pollution you would be able to see that the temple overlooks one of the largest dams in India.

Built in 1799, Hawa Mahal is one of the most famous landmarks in the city of Jaipur. Its translation in English means the Temple of Wind. The reason it was given this name is all the tiny holes and windows in the structure, which can be seen above. These holes would let wind run through them and resonate, causing sounds to be made that were noticeably audible. Originally, the Hawa Mahal was built as a way for queens to view public processions. Because they were not allowed in public but still wanted to watch, the King built this giant temple with many windows that the Queens could look out from.

This view of the city of Jaipur is taken from a tall watchtower upon a mountain close to the city. The big structure towards the left of the picture is one of the most famous attractions in Jaipur, the Amber Fort. Built in 1592, the Amber Fort was the home of the rulers of Jaipur for over 300 years. Many members of the royal family, as well as the military took residence here, while overlooking the city.

Of course, you can’t visit India without riding an elephant! For about $15, you and a friend can take a 30 minute ride up to the top of the Amber fort. This was definitely a highlight of my trip, and for many other tourists as well. In fact, the government keeps over a 100 elephants to make daily trips up and down to the fort, showing how popular this attraction really is. Everyone feels great to be standing tall and treated like royalty I suppose, even if only for half an hour!

Perhaps one of the most interesting architectural pieces that I encountered on my trip is this room within the Amber Palace known as the Sheesh Mahal. Translated to the Mirror Palace, there is a famous legend behind the building of this room. Supposedly, one of the kings who lived in the Amber Palace, was very fond of one of his Queens. He told her that she could have anything she wanted, and she demanded a piece of the moon. Knowing that this was impossible, the king built this room, which has thousands of tiny mirrors to amplify the moonlight on a starry night to one place in the room, so as to ‘capture the moon(light)’.

Just through exploring these two cities, I learned many things about my rich cultural and religious heritage. I encourage foreigners to visit these places in India, as well as other site around the country, especially if they are interested in the stories of kings and queens, Middle Eastern religions, and amazing architecture. I myself can’t wait to return to India sometime soon to explore other cities.

All images by Param Bhatter, Prospect Staff Writer

MAKING ENDS MEET IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

By Rebecca Benest
Staff Writer

While Spain and Portugal seem to be two European countries in deep economic trouble, it takes a second glance to notice that anything is awry. Spain has an unemployment rate equal to that of Great Depression era United States (over 50 percent of the working class under 25 are unemployed), and yet the nightlife still flourishes while the number of homelessness in Madrid—or any part of the Iberian Penninusla for that matter—is equal to Los Angeles. The culture of these Mediterranean countries provides an incredible support system for those out of work, making it common for the younger generation to live with their parents and grandparents. Sometimes entire families survive off the earnings from the social security of one individual in the household. Taking a closer look, however, the economic crisis is still incredibly present in the lives of everyday Spaniards and Portuguese.


In the fall of 2013, the basureros, or garbage men, of Spain went on strike. After the Spanish government privatized the trash system, private companies in control of Madrid’s waste disposal proceeded to fire almost 50 percent of the basureros and halve the pay of the remaining workers. While the strike lasted more than two weeks, trash built up to the point that this scene, taken on the corner of one of Madrid’s main streets, was a common sight.


During the basurero strike, the streets never got cleaner than this. The woman in this photograph wearing mourning clothes, holds a sign imploring pedestrians to help her feed her family. Walking through the streets, I was constantly shocked by the number of men and women who constantly asked me for spare change in a paper cup. As the economic crisis worsens, people who once had steady incomes and nice houses are suddenly found on the street without any other venues, confused as to how they got there.


This homeless man, who I met on a bus outside of Lisbon, Portugal, wandered through the city playing his guitar for money. He was completely blind, but told me people were always wiling to help him. Arriving in Madrid, I initially thought there was a more widespread blind community, but was later told there was just better infrastructure to encourage them to get jobs and leave their homes on a daily basis.


Street performers like this man from Coimbra, Portugal are an incredibly common sight. Performing on the street is a basic way to make a living, with almost every instrument from the accordion to the cello. Additionally, the red words behind him, which translate to “your voice” in Portuguese, were a part of a large system of anti-capitalism graffiti all over the walls of the city.


This little boy, from the small city of Evora, Portugal, played the violin on the street with his father. While street performers are a common sight, this little boy stood out due to his young age. As he took a break, his father walked through the crowd asking listeners to drop tips into a hat.


This woman often sat along Gran Via, one of the main shopping streets of Madrid. You could pet and take pictures with her pig in exchange for a few coins in the wood container. Interestingly enough, things like this were common, and I saw several homeless people using pigs and other animals to entertain passersby for money.


This sign was taped to a building in Barcelona, which was previously a residential complex and was in the process of being turned into rental homes for tourists. Seasonal tourism is a problem for those living in Mediterranean beachside communities. Tourists come in by droves during the high seasons, taking away any sense of traditional culture and leaving these community economically deprived during the low seasons.


I found this while wandering the backstreets of Madrid late one afternoon. It translates roughly to, “I’m still looking for work,” a phrase that completely captures the economic trouble that faces young Spaniards. Jobs are so rare that many university graduates are willing to take work that pays incredibly low wages or nothing at all. For many, the ability to get a job depends mainly on whom you know. Despite the appearance that all is well in Spain and Portugal, there is still a sense of despair that seeps into daily conversations with many people about family and future.

RAMBLE ON: A YEAR OF TRAVEL

By Jaci Lerner
Contributing Writer

This is the fifth and final article in our 2014 Week of Photo Journals: Changing Perspectives. We hope you have enjoyed the beautiful photography and travel accounts from UC San Diego students. Until next year!


“Retrospective” – Vienna, Austria

Dancing in front of the Gottfried Helnwein Retrospective Exhibition at the Albertina Museum in Vienna.


“The Heart of Zagreb” – Zagreb, Croatia

This photo was taken in Lenucijeva potkova, a horse-shoe of parks and monuments located in the middle of Donji grad, a district in the very center of Zagreb. As far as I’m concerned, this woman was the heart of Zagreb as much as she was in it.


“In The Shade” – Berlin, Germany

This was captured on the Simonsonweg, a pathway cutting from Pariser Platz to the Reichstag, just in front of a parting in the trees that opens onto the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime.


“Astronomical” – Prague, Czech Republic

The Prague orloj, or Prague astronomical clock, in Old Town Square.


“The Earth Laughs in Flowers” – Zagreb, Croatia

I have a dear friend with that Emerson quote tattooed across her forearm, and thanks to her, the words have been revolving in my head for a few years now. I’m not sure that this man got the memo. I caught this at the Dolac open-air farmer’s market with a tourist’s map of Zagreb in my hand, which is what obscures the left third of the photo.


“Adalgisa” – Furci, Italy

At some point, I found myself living in an ex-convent with a Shi Tzu, a priest, and his mother. This is their neighbor, beautiful Adalgisa, walking through her “paradiso” with an armful of cauliflower. Of all the people I’ve ever met on my travels, she was the one with the kindest eyes and biggest heart. I think about her all the time.


“The Brave One” – Doha, Qatar

Surrounded by sky cranes and skyscrapers, Souq Waqif is a standing market and an intentionally preserved homage to pre-modernized Doha. For me, the most exciting part of the market was the animal souq. It is a sad but fascinating cluster of stacked cages, full of puppies, sugar gliders, falcons, even chicks that are dyed bright colours, like living Peeps. This boy was proudly the bravest of his siblings, who had tried before him to hold the little bird but ran away screaming and giggling at the last second.


“Rowing Old” – Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

If you’re ever in Croatia and only have time to see one thing, let Plitvice be it.


“With Wings” – Doha, Qatar

This is the proprietor of the aforementioned birds in Souq Waqif. It took me six months to notice his shirt.


“Silence” – Prague, Czech Republic

I think about silence all the time. Where and how to find it, how to engage with it, why I love it but am rarely comfortable in it. This moment was so quiet in itself that I have to strain to remember the busy sounds of Wenceslas Square: the street car, the passing conversations, the trumpet player behind me. Savages published a manifesto and album last year called Silence Yourself, and it calls for just that as a way to recompose. I think they’re onto something.


“Il Suo Cuore” – Furce, Italy

This is Adalgisa, caught in just one of the many moments where her soul shines through.


“Little Bird” – Doha, Qatar

This was also taken at the animal souq in Doha. She had been so reserved as she surveyed the birds, but as soon as this one was on her sleeve she broke out with the biggest, sweetest grin. I love her little underbite.


“A Little Rain” – Prague, Czech Republic

As a surprise rain shower fell in Old Town Square and the performers ran for cover, these ladies produced umbrellas out of thin air and hurried to the middle of the square to take turns trading the camera for the orange one.


“Swipe” – Doha, Qatar

Of all the interactions I watched people have with the birds, hers was the most surprising. Silently, without warning, she approached the stand, extended a tattooed finger, and swiped them all off of their perch.