In search of the indian heritage
A Tour by the Students of the Department of Architecture, University of Asia Pacific (UAP)
Ishita Nafisa Islam
Every year Architecture Department of the University of Asia Pacific (UAP) arranges study tour to different countries to explore architectural heritage of those countries and the role architecture plays in the national development. The tour, therefore, includes examples of historic, as well as modern and contemporary architecture. In 2006, the chosen country was INDIA. The selected students were naturally excited and were eagerly looking forward to the visit because a grand 17-days' tour of India had been a dream for many, including me.
Our group comprised of 45 students accompanied by 2 teachers. We started our journey from the UAP Campus in Dhanmondi on the evening of 19 September 2006. We had gathered in front of our department well ahead of time. Many of our parents and guardians had come to see us off. The University had hired a bus to take us to Kolkata in the first leg of our journey. The bus started rolling at about 11 PM amidst singing and merrymaking by all of us. It started raining in the early morning slowing down the traffic. Our first stop in Kolkata was the “Science City” a grand tourist attraction where scientific mysteries are explained through spectacular audio-visual shows. There were also exciting 'Rides' for us to enjoy. In the evening, as the rain slowed downed, we went to have a look at the famous Kolkata New Market. This was one of the oldest, yet a grand shopping mall of Kolkata. Of course, we were not ready to empty our pocket yet! The market tour was limited to window shopping only. At night we all went to Hawra station to board the train for our next destination - Ahmedabad. On the way, we crossed the famous “Hawra Bridge” over the river Ganges an architectural marvel of its time, and still today an important landmark of Kolkata.
The Ahmedabad Express, started from Hawra Station at about 2.30 am on 21 September. The journey to Ahmedabad was long, but not tedious. We kept the spirits up by lots of fun and frolic. We reached Ahmedabad the next day i.e. on 22 September in the evening. Our tour of Ahmedabad started the next day. The study tour began with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), an educational institute of international repute. The Institution is also a grand architectural monument. IIM was designed by late Louis I Kahn, one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century and stands as a tribute to the late architect's genius. We then went to visit “Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology” (CEPT) an architectural school established by Bal Krishna Doshi, a renowned architect. We were briefed about the academic program followed in that institution. There were interestingly many features common in their approach to what we do in the UAP.
Our next stop was “Villa Sodhan” made by anther famous architect of the 20th Century - Le Corbusier. It is another fascinating experiment of Le Corbusier and an architectural marvel. We then went to the “Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya”, the ashrams where Gandhi lived near the Sabmarti River. The quite and calm environment and the gentle breeze flowing down the river cheered and refreshed us all. The surrounding reminded us of the Mahatma and the ideals he stood for. After this pleasant retreat, we went back to our hotel, took rest, had our lunch and then got ready for our journey to Jaipur by train.
We reached Jaipur on the morning of 24th September. After reaching the hotel we took our breakfast and went out for sight seeing. Jaipur is the city of Maan Singh, the Military Commander of Akbar, the great Mughal emperor of India in the 15th Century. Jaipur is known as the Pink City. This is because the inner city, planned and built during the Mughal and British period, is made of Pink marble stone. This makes the city look wonderful and is a great tourist attraction. We visited a number of grand palaces and museums in Jaipur. The visit to the Amber Palace and the elephant ride into it was of particular interest to us. Amber Palace, built by Maan Singh, is a huge palace complex atop a hill that overlooks Jaipur. In fact, it was both a royal residence and the fort guarding the city.
The next day, i.e. on the morning of 25th September we took a bus ride to Agra the city of Tajmahal. On the way, we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, a fort and palace complex that for some time served as the Court of the Mughal emperor Akbar. The huge complex was a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. We took keen interest in the design, construction techniques and the materials used to build such an impressive architectural monument. When we reached Agra the sun was going down in the western sky.
The view of the Tajmahal is impressive at any time; it was particularly dazzling against the setting sun. Tajmahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th Century as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It's geometric, yet highly aesthetic design, complex construction, intricate calligraphy and art work is something one has to see to believe. Tajmahal is indeed one of the wonders of the medieval world. Although we wonder at the skill and mastery of the designers and craftsmen who designed and built the Taj, the identity of the master builders remained unknown for ever. We stayed on till evening to see the view of the Taj under moonlight. That was another exhilarating experience one that we shall always remember. Next morning we went to see the Agra Fort another Mughal masterpiece. Long walks down the Fort's many structures once again reminded us of the common heritage, shared by all of us in the sub-continent. By the afternoon it was time to move to Delhi, the capital of India.
The next day we started our sight seeing in Delhi. We saw the Rashtrapati Bhaban which is India's President House. Then we went India Gate, a monument dedicated to the Indian soldiers embraced martyrdom in wars. After that we went to see the Pragati Maidan and the Asian Sports Village made by Raj Rawal, a famous Indian architect. We were very much impressed by the modern architectural works done by Rawal. From there we went to see the famous Qutub Minar Complex. Qutub Minar, a tall Minaret was built by Qutub uddin Aibek, the first Muslim Ruler of India, to mark the beginning of his dynasty in the 12th Century. The complex also had a Large Mosque, a Madrassa and a huge Archway known as Alai Darwaza. As the evening was setting in, we reached to the Lotus Temple a place of worship and contemplation of the people of the Bahai faith. The temple is known as the 21st century's Tajmahal because of its architectural beauty and unique design. The quiet, cool prayer hall of Lotus Temple took all our tiredness away and we were as fresh as in the morning. As the evening gathered we made our journey to the railway station to catch a train for Shimla our next destination.
On the next morning i.e. on 28th September, the train stopped at Kalka from where we took a narrow gauge train to Shimla. The train winds through hills and canyons of great natural beauty. The 6-hour long journey seemed to have ended in a blink as we were enwrapped by the beautiful nature. Shimla, a hill station, served as the winter capital of the British India. We spent the rest of the day walking through various roads and alleyways in Shimla. The weather was cool and refreshing. Next day, we went out by jeep and kept on visiting various sights of natural beauty. Towards afternoon, we started for our next destination Chandigharh the joint capital of the states of Punjab and Hariyana.
Chandigarh is a planned city designed by famous architect Le Corbusier. The city is not a tourist spot, but is very useful for our training as an architect. Chandigarh was the first city in South Asia to have been planned, designed and built from scratch. We spent the next two days in Chandigarh appreciating the city-planning and its design. Our visit took us to the High Court, State Assembly, Secretariat and other public places. Le Corbusier had designed the buildings to be both grand as well as functional. We were on the last leg of our Grand tour. On 2nd October we started for Kolkata on our way back to Bangladesh.
We spent two busy days in Kolkata, visiting such tourist destinations as the Victoria Memorial, the Maidan, Esplanade, and the 'must-see' Kolkata Metro. A visit to the College Street took us to the rows of bookshops with enormous collection of books. We did a lot of sight seeing, shopping and had many fun in Kolkata. On the morning of 6th October we started for Bangladesh. With joyful heart we said good bye to India and wished that we return again to appreciate the warm hospitality of the Indian people. As we crossed the Indo-Bangla border we felt a joy inside as if we had conquered the world. Late in the evening when we reached our Dhanmandi campus our faces were beaming with joy of a mission accomplished.
As we relish the sweet memories, I only hope that we can have this sort of tours again. This tour opened our eyes to the wide world beyond. As a group, it brought us close to one another. The wonderful camaraderie that we developed and practical examples of architectural marvels that we witnessed will help us in our future professional life. In the end, many thanks to the UAP and the Department of Architecture for making all this happen.
(4th year 1st semester
Deptt of Arch, The University of Asia Pacific)
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