Tribal India has an extensive Pharmakia


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India’s Bhil Tribals believe disease is caused by the displeasure of the Gods. A cure may require a gayan lasting 24 hours to exorcise the offending illness. However, tribal India also has an extensive Pharmacia of much quicker cures.

From the Ethnomedical knowledge of plants used by Kunabi Tribe of Karnataka, the 40 most important herbs used by the Korku of Betul District, Madhya Pradesh,  tribal medicine is simple to prepare and convenient they are affordable by tribal’s and rural poor.

In Satna district, Madhya Pradesh, plant medicine cures gastrointestinal problems that western medicine only relieves[1].

Loose stools are prevented by 20 mil of fresh Arjun bark juice in 400 ml of curd water. For infants  the leaf extract of chotti dudhi is used.
Garlic is antiseptic and excellent for intestinal inflammation.
Four or five fruits of Shivalingi are fried in fresh cows butter and taken twice a day for  colitis.
Four or five teaspoons of saunf are bought to boil and steeped for 15 minutes. It is cooled and strained then sipped to relieve colic.

Not just a random collection of herbal cures, ancient Indian medicine goes back to the Vedas.


For example western trained Darshan Shankar was amazed to how Maharashtran Thakar, Mahadev Koli and Katkari tribals enhanced the breast milk of lactating mothers with Ipomoea mauritiana, reduced swollen testicles with Calantropis gigantean and could draw out deeply imbedded thorns with a latex from the same plant.  Dry cough was cured with the fruit of Terminalia bellinica roxb, dysentry by Holarrhena pubescens, uterine bleeding was stopped by Minosa pubica.

The range of Indian medicinal skill , both tribal and Ayurvedic, is inspiring. It is also a little angering to realise that the futuristic deal f heath in your hands is already promoted in the village. However, the migration of youth to city opportunity risks the loss of  great body of knowledge.

There are many Indian centres seeking to preserve these ancient skills.  For example, Madhya Pradesh promotes commercial herbal production. The methods of preparation are extremely diverse and sophisticated.

Badwais and Bhils confirmed that they use different parts of the same plants for different diseases and mixture of several parts of same plants or different plants for different diseases. The different parts of plants used as medicines are whole plant (usually in herbs), leaves, flowers, fruits, roots of herb, shrubs, trees, climbers, stem, root, root bark, resins, and latex, rhizome, tuber, bulb, tender, seed, petiole and latex. In some cases only one part of the plant has medicinal value. Usually the different parts of plants were made into paste, juice, powder, decoction and raw form. In most of the cases people use fresh plant as a medicine. The doses of the medicine depend upon the form in which it is used. The dose differs with different plants.

Generally, the ‘Badwai’ are very secretive about the medicinal uses of herbs and it is almost impossible to extract information, but by developing closer contacts they revealed certain vital information about the indigenous system of medicine practiced by them.

Folk traditions are not only rooted in the community but usually community supported. Traditional Birth Attendants are paid through rural communities.

Folk medicine knows over 8000 plant species, several hundred animals, minerals and metals. There are an estimated traditional formulations, knowledge of drugs, diagnostic and therapeutic techniques both physiological and mind-body based.

But unless the tribal communities and their plat based ecology, are revitalised we may lose the opportunity.  Shankar observed that outside of the tribe, respect for the vaidu tradition was low. He observed that the self confidence of vaidyas, hakims and siddhas was also low.


It seems the forces eroding these traditions are not medical inefficiency, but result from economic, cultural and political pressures.  These included reduced demand, and the irrational lexpectation that all tribal ideas must match western parameters.  Because, the indigenous Adivasi system of medicine has been handed down orally from generation to generation, there are no written records. As youth rush to the cities in hope of opportunity, traditional knowledge is not being passed on.

I find it sad that the while Western science criticised religion, especially the Western church, for disrespecting human diversity , science has unwittingly an undermined respect for traditional medicine.  Also, I have previously written of IGRMS efforts to keep medicinal traditions alive .  In  Ponicherry. Guruji P. Srinivasaraju  and a group of Adivasi have been spreading the word  of traditional medicine.

Because“Bhils believe that illness is caused by the displeasure of the spirits, they are indifferent to practitioners of modern medicine. That being said, there are a number of allopathic dispensaries that have been established by the State Government and people are encouraged to avail of the services provided by trained Medical Practitioners and auxiliary nurses.”

Traditional and Western medicine are complimentary not enemies. Most tribals know the bhopa cannot cure all disease. Many herbs are remarkable, others cure only partially. At times custom ignores the importance of hygiene for maintaining good health.  So together the availability of Western and eastern cures have space for each other.

[1] S. N. Swavedi, Sangeeta Swavedi and P. C. Patel ,Medicinal plants used by the tribal and rural people of Satna District, Madhya Pradesh or the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and diseases,Department of Botany, Janata,, P. G. College, APG University, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, India.

Bhopal and the world: What is landscape in the modern world?


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Capitalism does not want you to stay content. That new fangled item you were sure you needed is useless and needing to be replaced.

Unfortunately the beautiful malls we thought we needed will last a lot longer. Sometimes as deteriorating concrete frames.

So why does Bhopal, with all of its small population need the biggest Mall in India? Besides DB Mall, and Ashima there is the collection of faded concrete arcades scattered everywhere.

What happened to the meditative reflection of the Ashram? There is the headlong rush of food courts, with the hype and hustle of 24-7 sales pitch. Turn on pay TV and the same add will be repeated four times in a row just to be sure you didn’t get the McPoint that you need to McPurchase McRubbish you didn’t McWant.

Chasing fame, wealth, and power can prevent us from the truth of our personal and world challenges. Addicted to more goods and a hectic life only bandages our gaping spiritual wounds and compels us to greater loneliness and unhappiness.

Of course, there is a need for development. Bhopal has developed beyond the BEMAC label. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shiraj Singh Chauhan has an enviable 3 term record for getting thing done. (In a recent visit to Brisbane Australia I met a BJP official who praised him from afar).

But why rip up good farmland on Bhopal outskirts for town houses in a state that is spending money on giving infrastructure for agriculture?

Hinduism and Islam ritual respect natures rhythms. So if nature is construed as at least a little closer to the divine then surely our push for consumerism and commerce has become the architecture of evasion and deception. The unquestioned desire to consume an ever proliferating arrays of unneeded, commercial products seems a soul-defying measure of happiness that is damaging the planet.

India’s national politics has become slogan driven ideological wasteland, where cunning is praised and compassion a weakness. Politics is a cultural construction of media mirages, communal division and an ecological mess.

Osho Anhad Ashram, Bhopal

Osho Anhad Ashram, Bhopal

What is landscape?

Britain bought the Enlightenments idea landscape controlled and commanded.

“The English word landscape comes from landscaef , an Anglo-German word that meant “a clearing in the forest with animals, huts, fields, fences. It was essentially a peasant landscape carved out of the original forest or weald, out of the wilderness[1]. The English ‘land‘ means earth from the older Gothic for ‘a ploughed field’. Scape implies the shape of similar objects or shaeth , a buncle or sheath of similar plants.

Do we command ecology through the science and technologies of architecture? Landscape is certainly sublimated or modified by mans interference. But now, the ideological imperative to remake the land is losing ground to environmental fears.

2014-10-07 11.27.27res

Landscape is memory

In W J T Mitchell suggested landscapes are part of a ‘process by which … identities are formed[2]

Sometimes landscapes remind you of childhood, meeting the love of your life, a concert at the Bharat Bhavan, or – heaven forbid – loss, pain and sometimes the fracture society experiences in a riot or the Bhopal’s Dow chemical disaster.

Princes, Priests and Politicians have shaped India’s landscape. But now it seems the rush to consumerism is rubbishing the scenery. In India where landscape is so often associated with linked to the gods must this also be true. The vibrant, textured colour of India has assimilated many marks of invasion.

In the village the Banyan tree is never trimmed or removed from the middle of a road. Even palaces and temples have sprawled organically without the geometric perfection of Grecian ideals that were borrowed by Islamic designers. Islam also espouses garden designs inspired by paradise.

Now, India is a secular democracy, and the issue of land use and economic progress for the poor transcends state lines. But, I hope India will not fall to the Western trap of market driven morality. Business interests tend to place profit over human life and biodiversity.

By amir taj (, Khattak Dance) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By amir taj (, Khattak Dance) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dervish dance of modernity

The modern world, is constantly moving described well by the word raqs.

Raqs is “the state dervishes enter when they whirl. It also means dance” wrote Elena Bernadini in Raqs Media Collective: nomadism in art practice. “In Urdu and Hindi it indicates a temporary home for travelers, a place where travellers meet, a caravansary, an inn.”

She links ‘hypermobility,’ ‘nomadology,’ ‘space-time compression,’ and ‘hybridity’ as key words for modern space. Modernity is, in Donna Haraway’s terminology[3], “about vulnerability.”

The excitement of modernity is the very cause of our vulnerability because personal and social identity is a process. Landscape is also a process, though moving much slower, offering us a psychic anchor. But even the landscape is increasingly fluid in our increasingly urban world.

It contrasts with culture as embodied genealogies of “blood, property and frontiers”. Culture “rooted societies and their members: organizations which developed, lived and died in particular places.”

While people yearn for a modernity that allows them their memories.

“The past lives on in art and memory, but it is not static: it shifts and changes as the present throws its shadow backwards. The landscape also changes, but far more slowly; it is a living link between what we were and what we have become.

This is one of the reasons why we feel such a profound and apparently disproportionate anguish when a loved landscape is altered out of recognition; we lose not only a place, but ourselves, a continuity between the shifting phases of our life.[4]

India needs both modernity and nature, just as she equally needs both men and women.

At times the balance is lost and along with it, India’s uniqueness. The sprawling village gave us that. But cities require structure to function. Cities work when their infrastructure allows for movement and social expression.

We are torn between the masculine fixation on structure and feminine fluidity of mind and nature that resists the politics of closure, but is insatiably curious about the webs of connection.

The Laxmi Narayan Mandir or Birla Temple, Bhopal

The Laxmi Narayan Mandir or Birla Temple, Bhopal

Before the Commonwealth Games, ‘What will foreigners think?” seemed to drive a need to make Delhi a modern megacity that moved the chai wallahs to the outskirts and ignored the ‘nomadic sensibility’ still apart of Indian psyche.

If we are not careful the interconnectedness promised by technology can build a social apartheid of inclusion and exclusion. We observe national borders increasingly “thinned” and “doubled,” “multiplied” and “reduced” creating border zones, regions of residence suggests Etienne Balibar[5]. The dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘others,’ insiders and outsiders is not something which is drawn necessarily at national borders, but also within the very space of the city itself.

Cities can be both a breeding ground of natural beauty or of confrontation. A relaxed user friendly city can help keep the peace.

Bhopal is beautifully green built around a 38 hectare lake, with other smaller water bodies. But the landscape and psyche were scarred by a promised economic growth from a defunct fertilizer factory.

What have we learned? Will Bhopal will be turned from a lake garden to a beehive of prefab poorly maintained concrete? What do Bhopalis want as their cities cultural landscape?

As Ken Taylor expressed it: “The character of the landscape thus reflects the values of the people who have shaped it, and who continue to live in it. Culture itself is the shaping force. Landscape is a cultural expression that does not happen by chance but is created by design as a result of human ideologies.”

So what type of landscape of memory do we want? Heritage site give us pride, but walk outside and look. Where is the rubbish? Even if it is put properly aside more often than not rubbish collected may find its way in an empty field.

Is this the message of authenticity and integrity we want to leave for our children?

[1] Ken Taylor, Landscape and Memory: cultural landscapes, intangible values and some thoughts on Asia
[2] Mitchell WJT, (1994) ‘Landscape and Power’, Chicago University Press, Chicago.
[3] Donna Haraway as quoted in Irit Rogoff, Terra Infirma. Geography’s Visual Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 25.
[4] Margaret Drabble in A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature referring to Virginia Woolf’s sense of loss of a loved place. Drabble M, (1979), A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature, p.270; Methuen, London
[5] Etienne Balibar, “The Borders of Europe,” in Cosmopolitics. Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, ed. Peng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 220

Healing the sick Bhil: Why Tribal healing should matter to you


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Group of Bhils vintage postcard obverse

When a Bhil tribesman falls ill he believes the deities will cure him if they are properly worshipped. They believe disease is seen as a sign of the god’s displeasure.

So the Badwa is called. The Badwa is highly respected elder and chief physician with considerable social power.

The Bhils, like India’s other Adivasi tribes, do have an access to a pharmacea that Western medicine is only beginning to understand.

After examination, if it is considered a normal disease he recites mantas and blows air into her with the leaves of a neem tree. Occasionally herbal medicines are used.


The myths and legends of the tribal people reveal that they suffered from a wide range of ailments – endemic as well as epidemic – in the past. Before the 1880s, they were left largely to their own devices when ill. In a few cases, they may have sought herbal and faith based cures from wandering mendicants – such as sadhus and pirs – who resided in forest tracts. Most healing was by relatives and neighbours using herbal and other folk remedies. Tribal specialists who used herbal remedies, cauterisation, divination and exorcism, treated the more intractable cases.

Song and group dancing are inseparable in Bhil culture with even tempo, and regular rise and fall. However, songs sung with a faith to cure the sick both physically and mentally  are the exception.

Unlike the daily hawen offered by Hindus, Tribals do not worship gods, but only propitiate or appease them.  Ritual is left for the priest or tribal  Badwai,who may be open to explain the ritual of sacrifice, but will refuse to explain the mantras used.

If the sick are confined to bed, or with a long fever, a Gayan may be advised.

bhil postcard

 The Gayan

The stuff required for gayan are -cardamom, clove, dry dates, almonds and lemon, all nine in number, lobhan and incense sticks.

Beginning about eight P.M. the gayan lasts until dawn. Three others accompany the badwa. The badwa brings a musical instrument called Bahari which makes a sound when rubbed

One of his assistants keeps a branch of sindh, called Jhadna. it’s leaves are torn with a thick needles so it turns into a fan to blow air on the sick. The Badwa holds in his had a Kharkisya.

The badwa does the Gayan depending on the ghost the person is suffering from. The badwa plays Khakiswa and his friend beats a brass plate. If the person is possessed by a Chokhala Bhoot or Chokahli Bhotani then the badwa and his friends do not drink wine a tthe time of Gayan. But if the ghosts or hags are not Chokhala then wine is drunk.
Chokhala Bhoot or Chokahli Bhotani are good people killed prematurely by someone doing evil known as Ghayandha.

The gayan begins by invoking the earth, stars and sun. The sun is called satpudi being described in seven pages. Each is invited to a mandal for their worship prepared on the East, North and south, where is kept an urn, and items including beetle nut and cloves.
They meditate and call on Ram-Lakshman.
They meditate then call on God Shankarji and Saat Bhahuvani Mata. In song they are called on to heal the sick person.

“My God, we call you, please do come.”

Hunamanji is last called to heal the sick.  As the sick person hears the gods been invoked, they sing of Teetya Jasi , Teetya Jasi, a famous past badwa of the Gayan,  finding medicinal herbs in the jungle. Teetya Jasi has taken a pick-axevand a broken pawadi to dig herbs.

Peepli refers to the sick person.

“You have to come and blow a healing wind, you have to blow wind with fan of gold and silver to cure the sick.”

The Bhil people believe Hunamanji bought sanjeevani with Badrisillla fo the god Badrinaath in the Himalays and he will do the same to heal the sick person.

The Brahmin devta is called to “see his calendar” (horoscope) to find disease and blow wind.

“The sick person is in trouble and is crying desperately, but the Brahmin guruji comes and blows the windwith the result  that the sick person becomes cheerful.”

Next Mahadev is called. He has not come and his place lays vacant.     As expert in the arts he is called to find what the disease is and to blow wind to cure. It is believed Mahadev came and has blown the amar jhada on the sick then the sick person bursts out in laughter.

Parvati is called to give jhada of silver and gold on the edge of her sari.

Next Kandi Paladev is called to be rebuked. How can a disease enter the village when he is there to protect it?

The gayan lasts until sunset next day. Prays are offered to Kalika Mata, Narmada Mata, Beheema-Arjun and Seeta Mata.

“There is a pool midstream In the Bikaner in Dhar District, about which it is believed that it cures any disease in one takes a bath in it on seven Tuesdays.”

Why does a Bhil healing ritual matter to you?

Tribal beliefs remind me that life is not a clean idea, tragedy death are all  part of  our experience..  Where Westerners  hide from illness and death behind clip boards, tests and protocols.

Observing both tribal and Hindu belief I realize the West has become  detached from life because ignore death and illness.

Consider the Western rise of alternative psycho social healings as Western science is making great discoveries. People want meaning beyond the machine of the body. Mind body medicine is much a part of the Indian tradition, as it was once in the West, but ignored and denigrated as unscientific in the modernist world. Abstrctions seem divirced from nature.

In India every possible human experience, even those frowned on socially, are expressed in the divine realm. This polytheism of the human soul gives expression even  to what is forbidden.

Just as , research on the placebo effect and hypnosis demonstrate the incredible power of the mind to heal. the experience of Tribal healing,  allows release of illness inducing emotions

This is more than the quaint acceptance of social relativism. Tribal healing is connected to the earth, and health is more than fixing the broken parts of the human machine. Most of us want to believe we are part of something beyond our self. The Hindu philosophy, as well as Abrahamic mysticism, recognizes all creation as part of the infinite divine. In that view we have all universal possibilities as part of us, as a hologram expresses the whole.

However, those parts of our self that we deny become shadows that we seek to admit to in the lovers we pursue and the enemies we despise.

The nuance of illness is largely derived cultural meaning , so healing  is influenced by the beliefs and customs of a culture. This is especially true of the  meaning given to illness: in this case to exorcised with divine

In many traditions the answers are dormant within, and healing comes from awakening them up .
Like Jacob struggling with the angel, to heal we must wrestle with the demons within to reconnect to our ‘earthiness’.

Understanding our tribal brothers and sisters is a window to understanding the primitive earthiness of humanity within us all. From admiration, to misunderstanding, to praise and sadly angry criticism, reveal unrecognized component parts of our self we must recognize if we are to have health and peace with ourselves.

As Archetypal psychologist James Hillman explains “The power of myth, its reality, resides precisely in its power to seize and influence psychic life. The Greeks knew this so well, and so they had no depth psychology and psychopathology such as we have. They had myths. And we have no myths as such -instead, depth psychology and psychopathology. Therefore… psychology shows myths in modern dress and myths show our depth psychology in ancient dress.”

Myths are  sounding boards employed “for echoing life today or as bass chords giving resonance to the little melodies of life.”

Reference: Bhil Devlok, Adivasi LokKala Evam Boli Vikas Academy, Madhya Pradesh Sanskriti Parishad, Governmment Press, Bhopal.

Back again for Punjabi Tandoor


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Amutsari kulche chole

Women have bad hair days,  I was having a bad Hindi day. Maybe I was just tired, but basic questions like “How do you say greater” in Hindi escaped me.

The day was compounded by some personal dramas effecting my business partner.

So I decided to walk from HB City Mall to 10 Number Market, an area named by the local bus stop, to enjoy a latte at Shake’n’Bake before heading off for one of Bhopal’s legendary hones of Punjab tandoor, Amutsari Kulche Chole.

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If you want India, check it out, but If you want a 5 star experience it may not satisfy. But i was the locals who insisted I should check it out. I’m glad I did.

With my comments to follow, you may wonder why I recommend this side street cafe.  But do not go in the flooding monsoon, when the floor was mudded wet and I go the runs.

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So why do I keep returning there?

There seems something wickedly exciting about the place. The old tandoor looks more like a metal drum than the fancier clay. The cylindrical drum is heated by charcoal fire within the tandoor itself cooking the parathas stuck to the inner sides of the drum by live-fire, radiant heat, and hot-air, the the flavoured smoke from the fat and food juice that drip on to the charcoal.

My Hindi failed to make much sense of the staffs questions, reduced to pointing, the Palak (spinach) I wanted was not available, i misread the menu – until I realised the word for onion (pyaaz), had been replaced by English lipi (transliteration) of the English.

I order two parathas: one of onion and the other paneer, cost 80 rupee, served with rajmah  and onion sauce.

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Simple vinyl ‘table cloths’; stained walls squeezed between the cart of Yashi Chinese and Raspan South Indian Sosa opposite Nakhrali, a fashion store in 10 Number.

Staff in tshirt, trousers and chapels respond to an a singleted gentleman, who I usually remember in blue. He orders my bowl to be refilled with beans. Meanwhile, a blue turbaned Sikh sits at the front with the cash box. I’m sure his turban was orange last time I visited.

Rustic and delicious. He waves to me as I return the next day.

Building in the spirit of the Vedic home


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Hand-colored Engravings by Balthazar Solvyns, c. 1799

Hand-colored Engravings by Balthazar Solvyns, c. 1799

House building is an expression of civilization. They are more than shelters since  culture and civilization are intrinsically linked. The word implies sanctuary.

Unfortunately, when reflecting of India, many think of a wandering ascetic, naked save for a loin cloth.

While, it is true that saints in many countries and traditions have chosen a simple life without a home, In ancient India, as now, home is where the heart is, with deep spiritual significance.  Our home environment reflects our interior world.

 Each decoration tells a story

The Veda’s reveal  that the ancient Indian home was far more than the product  of primitive shepherds.

 “We lay the strong foundation of a house which is well ventilated, beautiful, with parts symmetrically corresponding  to each other and measured or enclosed all round.” Atharveda IX-3.1.7

“It’s main four parts are store houses, kitchen, harem and drawing room.”

Commonly the Indian Hindu home has a home altar with fore and incense to keep the sacred energy alive.

Westerners include more practical altars: a well stocked kitchen a television to worship with hours of trance like devotion, or a workbench in a man cave as a shrine to masculinity, or dressing room as a shrine of adoration to feminine transformation.

In the ancient Hindu texts, the home is most sacred.

“The house may be two-sided, four-sided, six-sided, eight-sided or even ten-sided. The house is peace giver to mind. I take shelter in as fire in its womb.”

“From humble to mansion the home is compared to a beautiful bride, and  a place where you find happiness.” Atharveda IX.3.24

The most sacred inner shrine of a Hindu temple is also called a womb.

The book of rituals, Paraskara, calls the house the centre of the world, Bhivanasya nabhih. It is the centre of his life and universe the pivot of his ideas.

Rather than built with  rudimentary workmanship, three classes of masons are mentioned.

But to know the feeling of the ancient Vedic home we can consult the Rig Veda book 7 hymns 1-3:

“O  great house builder! Impart this satisfaction to us that thou art a giver of an abode free from diseases to us. Kindly do as I request you. Let thee bring happiness to our bipeds, and quadrapeds.”

“O delight giving builder, add to our wealth by being helpful to our cows and horses. Through thy kindness, let us live in hygenic conditions to a good old age. Be kind to us as a father to his son.”
” O builder, make us such a house that we may live in all sorts of comforts and enrich ourselves. Let happiness come to us. Let us ever be blessed with auspicious things.”

houses4 (1)

The structure of Vedic home

The structure of a home is less poetic and more practical.

In 1939 French scholar Louis Renou (1896-1966), began the process of culling the Vedic literature about the “process of building” and “techniques of construction” of shelters for home and ritual (“La maison védique” in the Journal Asiatique).

Profane homes were called shala  distinct from cultic shelter. He found imprecise ritual use of the terms veshman, “habitation”; sharana, “refuge”; avasana, “place where one removes the harness after a journey” but also meaning “site of the house.” The word frequent word is vastu, designating both the house and its site. vimita (“construction”) to refer to a ritual “hut” described in the Shrautasûtras ).

From “the rites that accompany house construction” he discovered the materials of bamboo, thatch, straw mats, rope, as ell as their arrangement and orientation.

Rituals for the home (vidhi or karman) are called vastushamana (literally “appeasement of the soil”). The Vaikhanasiyas, it links to birthing practice; other times it stands alone.

A broom, or udûha, clears the ground. The surrounding wall (parilikhya) is laid carefully. According to the shvalayana Shrautasûtra, a thousand furrows are dug. Possibly a preliminary tilled into the soil (uddhatya). From all directions water flows toward the center, creating an ambulatory path (pradaksina) around the bedroom (shayaniya), claims the shvalayana orders. The water then drains noiselessly eastward.

The soil was raised at the sides, forming a drain slanted slightly eastward, claims Narayana’s commentary, with a north channel (syandanika) to drain off water, near the kitchen (bhaktasharan.a), north of the bedroom. The bed should be northeast claims the Baudayana Shrautasûtra.

However a variant tradition uses the variant samavasrava, to explain a house site should allow for draining the same everywhere. Devapala explains”no side should be lower or higher than any other.”

Renou’s goes into the specific rooms including a chariot house. A salon (sabha), where the master of the house receives his guests, says Narayana, is in the part of the house “that inclines toward the south” according to (i.e. in the northern part according to Narayana.  Its best location is at the water’s confluence, says the shvalayana.


Construction began by digging a number of holes (garta) of equal depth to the distance from the ankle to knee, so that water drains well from them (dharayisnûdakatara). They are called four corner holes in Jayarama’s commentary on the Paraskara Gr.hyasûtra. The Kaushikasûtra mentions a middle post-hole (madhyama garta).

Posts (sthûna), called “that which rests in the cavity (darashaya)” by Nirukta, were then installed of udumbara wood. If wood of an inferior quality is used, the Shankhayana Shrautasûtra recommends a ritual of atonement (prayashcitta).

If a house is “white” (dhavalagrha, which may mean they were made of stone), stones replace the sthûna. , A stone is placed at the bottom of each hole to support it, but no Vedic text describes stone buildings. We do not know the number of posts or holes, but the Paraskara Grhyasûtra speaks of four but this may be only referring to the corner posts. Nine are mentioned in the Shankhayana Shrautasûtra.

These homes were not rude.

“Above the east entrance, in the space between the two middle pillars, is an ornamental fronton called the “forehead” (rarati). The  rarati is a strap-work of finely knotted reeds (aisiki), inclined toward the east and attached to the front cross-beam by a thread. The Manava Shrautasûtra says this rarati is a pad to prevent drafts (varasa) made of grasses that one places at the center of a strap-work of reeds; it seems that the grasses are gathered together by encircling them several times with thread, the two ends joined together, and the strap-work suspended from the front cross-beam” explains Renuo

For the home is itself sacred.

In the Rkasamhita the term for beam (vamsha) is used to describe the priests raising  Agni [the fire-god] like a beam (vamsha). Indra [the lord of heaven] is likened to the raised sky that does not need beams (avamshe). The Rig Veda also refers to pillars (sthûna) in comparisons such as “you carry men, O Agni, like a support pillar.

In the Atharvaveda we see the respect offered to cows.

“May the calf, may the child, may the dairy cows come to you (oh,shala), when they return in the evening”; also “hommage to bulls, to horses, all of which are born in the house”; and “you cover (chadayasi) in your breast, Agni, servants as well as cattle (oh shala).” One prose source refers to a cowshed called a gostha and in another a goshala is alluded too.

I prefer a home as poetry.

Or as H. Bodewitz, wrote

The Sadas hut is Prajapati’s belly. The Udumbara wood is strength (life-sap). When theUdumbara pillar is erected in the middle of the Sadas hut, one thereby places food, life-sap, in the middle.


The central pillar of a house or of a sacrificial Sadas is identical with the axis mundi which is placed in the navel of the earth.

For a home is a palace of chants.

In a funerary hymn the poet supplicates the Earth to allow a thousand pillars to be raised in the cavity where the dead repose, so that her weight will not crush those who take refuge in her breast.

Or Architect Anthony Lawlor once said,

“You enter the temple of home by discovering a new way of seeing, one that reconnects the needs of your soul with the buildings and landscapes that shelter you.”

It was also true of the ancient Indian home.

The Birla Museum is a must for lovers of archaeology



Together with the Lakshmi-Narayan temple next door, the Birla Museum sits serene in a beautiful setting on the on the Arera Hills. The red and white sandstone building entered by steep steps, it houses an extensive 4,000 volume library of art and culture, terracotta sculptures and manuscripts.

The Birla Museum is a must for lovers of archaeology, but there is little effort to keep for the average “Philistine” tourist interested.

A lover of history, I was enthralled. I immediately began photographing the gardens, aided by one of the staff, only to be told that photography was not allowed. I would have loved to show you more of the very special artefacts inside!

Durga Trimurti, 12th century, from Sagar. []

Durga Trimurti, 12th century, from Sagar.

Not to be missed is the 12th century Durga Trimurti. In her Trimurti form, Durga where the goddess is depicted with the attributes of the Hindu Trimurti of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The central image shows her on her lion, flanked by her depicted standing.

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The colourful Kondapali toys make for a refreshing display. These toys traditional to Andhra Pradesh are made of soft wood and tamarind powder and enamelled gums. They are painted with bright water colours to depict mythological figures and village scenes.

Varaha, Paramara dynasty, 13th century  from Samasgarh

Varaha, Paramara dynasty, 13th century from Samasgarh

A ninth century image of Varahi, the feminine form of Vishnu’s boar avatar in the Devi gallery. A head of a Salabhanjika, or stylized woman grasping a branch, depicts a tree spirit.

Paramara dynasty, 10th century,  from Ashapuri .

Paramara dynasty, 10th century,
from Ashapuri .

A 12th century Vishnu holds a conch and discus, surrounded by attendants and deities, including Brahma and Shiva.

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Unfortunately, in our over hyped super sensory world. Tourists can be a necessary but despised breed. Wanted for cash, but despised for their Philistine disregard for subtlety of tradition.
Tourists need to be engaged or they lose interest.

This is perhaps why the Birla Museum is not rated highly on People complain it is boring, and not been allowed to take photograph means you walk in look around and leave. Perhaps, a guide, or an audio headset that explains each display will engage people more.
For lovers of archaeology, there a booklets for 20 rupee detailing the artefacts with black and white images. Six colour post cards are available for 20 rupees for the set. I hope the collection will be digitized, perhaps as a CD so people can enjoy the beautiful art when they return to their home country.
Apparently, the museum workshop makes limited display replicas for purchase. Without a vehicle, I will return later to purchase one.

The terms ecotourism or cultural tourism seem oxymorons. Tourists are seen as culturally ignorant and tourism is accused of changing the very thing come to see.
Thinking of the neaby Union Carbide site, I recognise frustrated sceptics feel justified in describing Social Justice tourism as “self righteous arrogance”, “hypocritical” and “ironic”.
However, museums importantly allow locals to appreciate their heritage, and tourists a chance to treasure a world I hope is never forgotten.

2014-10-02 16.39.14res

10 Rupees adults 5R children
50 rupees foreigners.
Open 9:30 AM – 8PM
Monday closed

Karma and maya: Why Indians never give up


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carpet vendors MP Nagar res

People are wrong to think India is other worldly. Indians are not mantra wielding ascetics, but pragmatic who think the worst of sins is to miss an opportunity to get ahead. But they relish in the spiritual reputation,

Indians are not oblivious to the world, but rather oblivious to what is of no direct interest to them says Pavan Varma in his book Being Indian. They will droop if there is no prospect of upward progress. That is why the British wrongly thought Indians lazy. Britain gave opportunity to only a few – mostly Brahmins – so why should they bother? Yet, as British found out in the 1857 rebellion, they would risk their life for the high return of smuggling food to the British enemy.

Ritually obsessed by personal purity they ignore filth around him stray dogs sewerage stench does not distract them from prayers. Theologically, God may be the unrepresentable Brahmin, but gods and goddesses are shaped into beautiful women, or heroes seen as all to human patrons to his profession.
There is the giving of charity, but this is part of the barter with the gods. There is no special day of worship that offers community spirit. It is as if each has their own ‘special arrangement’ with god and the community excitement of regular lunar festivals.


I find my neighbours constantly taking the customer and personal parking. I returned to Bhopal to find water was being piped from my homes sump, and electricity diverted from my building.
Yet in a land known for corruption, I have witnessed remarkable honesty.

It seems strange that in business men routinely pay bribes, yet Gujarat diamond merchants can simply hand over millions of dollars in diamonds to Angadias, or door to door specialist couriers on trust. Their service offered in Surat, Ahmedabad and Mumbai has no receipts or records of transfer and yet it works.
The gambling during the 2003 cricket world cup, illegal at the time,  totalled about 10 billion US but people paid their debts even though there was no way to legally enforce it.
Yes Indian life and religion seems like disorganised chaos, but then people are convinced anything can happen in the cosmic play of the gods.

To be honest, many foreigners have described the people of Bharat as callous, It is so pervasive it can infect a visitor over time.
But that should not discount the alchemy of personal gain personal salvation or deny Indians their spiritual nature.

Hinduism recognises the legitimacy of atha (economics progress), dharma (duty), and kama (pleasure). The order of importance varying according to each school of thought.
Each has its place in the four stages of Hindu life:

  1. Brahmacharya, the learning student
  2. Householder , with the pursuit of pleasure, livelihood, and experience
  3. Then begins the graceful withdrawal from active life
  4. Finally, one prepares for the next reincarnation

While there are rare ascetic or saints, youthful renunciation, is not the most robust choice.

It is commonly held that the three objectives of human endeavour are interdependent and should be pursued equally. The scholar Kautilya explains without pretension ”Excessive importance given to anyone of brings harm not only to that objective but artha (sound economics) is the most important , for dharma and kama are both dependant on it. “

Similarly, Vatsyayana, who wrote the Kamasutra included kama in the four purusharthas of a successful life. If a householder is meant to enjoy pleasure, or kama, then he should learn to be a successful lover. He is equally utilitarian: artha is placed first even over dharma. While together dharma more important than artha , atha is king because men’s livelihood and pleasure depends on it.

In reality, few Hindus care about the intricacies of religious philosophy or know the details of their scholars.But they refuse to be deflated.

Milega nuqaddar ,I will find my destiny, and in hope that by some chance if a god may be found, a gurus blessing works or ritual will be blessed, then he will seek it.
Na jane kis mein mil jaaye bhagawan, you never know what form you will run into God.

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So why remain so optimistic in a hostile struggle of India?

The answer is in the two pervading doctrines of Maya and Karma.
Only Brahmin is real. Anything that cannot survive this life is an illusion. Maya is the power that makes the illusion of this universe that appears to us only because of our ignorance. Life is like a computer game, and we the characters in it, forget we are only the play of pieces of computer code. Like Neo in The Matrix, salvation comes when you can experience the hidden reality and short circuit the program.

Worry is seen as confusing a rope for a snake.
Karma suggests your misfortune or success is linked to your past life, carried over when the imperishable soul changed its clothes in a new birth.

While both ideas seem intended to promote self responsibility for the future and seeing beyond short term appearances, for many they offer an escape valve.

If you succeed you have played the game of maya well, if not its only an illusion so why worry, is at best a short set back. Maya in some contexts means wealth, but if you fail nothing of real value is lost. Besides, what is one bad life time in the time scale of eternity.

The Hindu scholar may not agree that karma omits our personal responsibility. However, it is easy to blame a past life, or if you have to cheat to get ahead, then you pass accountability to an impartial but future court of justice of your future karma.

As a Director General of Police once told me, Hinduism is a religion of survival.
Destiny may change by surprise blessing of the gods, a guru, or a future life.
Either way, the Indian never believes he s defeated.

A Delhi businessman, whose shop was beneath the painted women of GB Road’s bordellos, seemed oblivious reports Being Indian.
“My dhanda (business) is my dharma. It does not matter what is going on outside. Once I am in my shop, I do dhanda. So long as I make money I fulfil my dharma. Those outside must fulfil theirs.”

Indians on the move: Migration in search of livelihood



Why I care
When I moved to India my first glimpse was of blue tarps and Mumbai’s airport slum.
It shocked me. Even though I knew of its existence, as I looked out my flight window the reality of twenty million people, nearly as many as Australia’s entire population, live in Mumbai. Half are homeless.
Four years on, I have since visited villages of Madhya Pradesh, and seen the good work of the Satpura Integrated Rural Development Institution, (SIRDI), Madhya Pradesh and witnessed the life of Tribals in MP.
Now I find myself disgusted that my native country of Australia has made the arrival of 153 boat people from Sri Lanka a national emergency when Pakistan has 1.5 million refugees, shores of France, and unaccompanied children flee to the USA.
That racist politics of a minority in key marginal seats has exploited the fear of terrorism with half truths to use the military to intercept unarmed refugees with military secrecy seems against the principles of informed democracy and moral decency.
I believe the ultimate in cowardice is to blame others so we don’t have to look at ourselves.
India also cares for political refugees, however rural migration is primarily economic.
India has helped me to treasure respect the decency of those struggling for a better life.

“So long as your state does not develop we will continue to have problems in Mumbai. ..We keep getting three trainloads of people into Mumbai daily from states like MP, Bihar, UP and Rajasthan and one trainload goes back with those unable to get jobs. How can we cope with such a situation? It’s not a Marathi versus Hindiwallah confrontation, but about the lack of development in these populous states I am talking about.” Congress politician  Shrwad Pawar  to journalist Abhilash Khandekar (Shivraj Singh and the Rise of Madhya Pradesh, Abhilash Khandekar:118).

India’s migration is largely a survival or subsistence strategy in response to economic and social conditions. A second reason is short term attempt to supplement the income during low periods of seasonal employment.

Migration is a mix of being compelled by “push factors” or drawn, by opportunity, or “Pull factors”.

“Migration in search of livelihood is a stark reality in India today. The bleak livelihood scenario in backward, hilly, tribal, desert, drought-prone, rain fed, flood-effected, high density or conflict ridden areas has led to the emergence of migration as a survival strategy” writes Dr Gopal Kalkoti who estimates India’s internal migrants to exceed 100 million.

“Preferred for their cheap labour, most of these migrants work in the informal sector devoid of social security and legal protection. Lack of portability of entitlements across State borders makes them lead a subhuman existence, devoid of access to basic services and labour rights.”

India’s urban population was 17% in 1951, but will reach 42% in 2025, meanwhile the rural population has decreased from 82 to 68.9 percent in the last 50 years.

Agricultures share of GDP has declined from 40% in the 1990’s to 15% presently.  At 23% of GNP agriculture sustains 70% of the population. Agricultures decline is a catalyst for migration as farming community of looking for other alternatives opportunities.

But here is more to migration than tales of sorrow. The results of urban migration are a mix of good and bad: increased income but poor living conditions. The market driven economy with its increased telecommunications has reduced migration costs.  It has the potential ti contribute to the economy.  Indeed, migration is a boon for industry and has helped many under employed rural people.

In 2007 -2008 the National Sample survey Office random sampled 572,254 people from 79,091 rural and 46,487 urban households from 7921 villages and 4688 urban blocks. The survey was nationwide except for Leh, the Kargil district of Jammu Kashmir interior Nagaland, and villages in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The report entitled “Migration in India, 2007-2008” found:

  • Most migration remains within the state (72% in urban; 78% rural). The proportion of migrants is 35% of urban population and 26% rural.
  • Nearly 57% had migrated from rural areas and 29% from urban households. The majority migrated for employment (55% of those moved to rural and 67 in urban homes).
  • The majority of women migrating were for marriage: 91% rural, 61% urban.
  • Rural male migration has declined. 28.6% of rural males and 0.7% of rural males migrated for work. Only 4% of non literate males migrated, 14% of graduates or above. Urban illiterate males were 17% compared to 38% of graduates.
  • The lowest rate of migration was among scheduled castes.
  Industry Percentage
1 Construction 41.6, often seasonal workers
2 Agriculture 23.6
3 Manufacture 17
4 Mining/quarrying 1.1
5 Trade 7.3
6 Transport 16.8

There are 40 million migrants in the construction sector, 20 million domestics, 11 million in textiles, 10 million in brick kilns. The number of migrants in Construction increased by 26.5 million from 2000 – 2010 (Kalkuti: 14, 15).



Why? The Reasons:

“Migration does not necessarily signify a rejection of the rural livelihood” explains Dr Shrikanta K. Panigrahi (2014:11-13), Director General of The Indian Institute of sustainable Development, New Delhi. Survival strategies  extend beyond the immediate vicinity, but are also linked into other economies rural and urban locations. “It is precisely the inter-linkage which supports rural communities and helps them to survive in such climactically unstable environments.”

Push Factors: Compulsion, distress

Population pressure: depleting resources
Decreasing per capita land availability: 80 of famers now have uneconomical medium or small land plots. Increased farmer suicides or leaving the land.
Declining yieldsLack of livelihood opportunities & under employment: Coupled with absence of day schools, health care, financial institutions and suitable markets.
Secondly, locals are expected to be content with paying the social and cultural costs entailed in development caused by modern markets that undermine local crafts and skills. Ecological disturbances caused by large-scale mining and power generation cause soil erosion and pollution. The benefits from coal mining, power generation and timber felling felt by urban middle class, are often at the cost of land based poor.
Improvement in communications and transport: Cyclic or migration is an ancient Indian tradition, But improved roads make it easier for farmers to earn supplementary income elsewhere and return home for the owing season.
Marriage: 61% of urban & 91% rural females moved because of marriage.
Climate Refugees: increased floods and droughts are anticipated to reduce cereal crop yield by 2.5-10% in South, South-East and East Asia. A 1 degree Celsius rise in annual mean temperature above pre-industrialised levels may reduce developing nations GDP by 1.75%.
Dr Hefin Jones of Cardiff University anticipates 30 million environmental refugees in the next 50 years. Rising Sea levels would alter the Ganga-Brahma Putra Delta including the Sunderbans making 70,000 homeless by 2020.Legally India assists 200,000 refugees from surrounding countries. Migration from China and Bangladesh would increase.

Pull Factors

Opportunity, better education, healthcare, modern transport, opportunity, growing craze of urban life.

The effects:

Migrants often report increased incomes but may suffer poorer living conditions. However, many from poor or remote villages have increased their living standard and invest money in the agriculture of their home village.

The supply of workers could result in increased education of the workforce.

Urbanisation:  The UN estimates 60% of urban growth in the developing world is natural increase, the rest migration.
Rural Depopulation:
Equalising social status: 
Bihari’s used to a frugal and rustic lifestyle  held back by caste pollution were often seriously deficient but lived an isolated life not aware of outside opportunities. Migration has released many from stratified caste taboos and economic gain (Amarendra:29-31).
Remittances  10% of rural households who receive money from migrating family paid debts; 13% for saving, investment. India received $24.6 billion in 2005-2006; the highest in the world. A UN study in 2000 found Bangladeshi women sent 72% of their earnings home.
Poor management  Uncontrolled migration has forced migrants to take up rickshaw pulling, roadside cart vendors, congestion and sometimes crime.

Pavement Dweller Bhopal

Pavement Dweller Bhopal

Health Effects

“In India, in is the migration which has been shredding the moral fabric of the migrant population, shattering the family structure and disturbed the whole economic and social structure of the society” In a survey Kanpur Nagar district 3/5th of migrants Issues of acclimatization, lack of basic facilities including water, sanitation, lack of toilets, poor or no housing, joblessness, idleness, deprivation and disease.

The Kanpur Nagar study found that while those settled permanently ia way from their native home were more deprived than migrants returning to their homes, but returning migrants suffered more ill effects.

The incidents of disease in rural migrants was 72.10%  Incidents for in returning migrants were higher than in migrants, for example, gastrointestinal (19.57 returning;  9.14 in-migrant), diabetes (10.33; 2.79), Back pain (10.97; 3.22). The exception being handicap (13,54% in migrants, 5.98% returning) and  visual impairment  (10.21 in-migrant; returning 4.35).

Returning migrants were less likely to have bad habits than in migrants:  40.6 of returning immigrants did not indulge in bad habits, for in migrants only 18 percent had not succumbed. These habits included gambling, chewing Gutka, tobacco, beedhi’s, drinking, or drugs in the form of charos and ganjha filled cigarettes. About 4% have resorted to stealing.

Possible Solutions

Providing urban facilities in Rural Areas (PURA)

PURA uses public and private partnerships to provide rural infrastructure. Conceived by  former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam it provides drinking water, sanitation, sewerage, village streets, drainage, solid waste management and skill development.

However, Hassan and Khan (2000:33) reported return immigrants alleged  corruption in the system.

Wage Opportunities

Increasing nonfarm rural activities will stimulate wage opportunities.

The  Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment  Guarantee Act ensures 100 days paid employment.  However, the real benefits do not always reach the target group and there are loopholes in implementation and accounting.

A study of 18 Panchayats in Dindigul district Tamil Nadu found after implementation migration stopped in 5  Panchayat where MGNREGA was applied. Migration continued where it was not implemented.

Vocational training and rural colleges

Making Agriculture Pay

Farmers see failure cultivation costs rise and declining yields. Sustainable agriculture with high yield seeds and irrigation may help. However, claims by some seed producers, including GM, have caused losses to farmers in the past.


A secondary income source for many, emphasizing the the National Dairy Plan may help increase milk yields in local areas.

The Prospects

The World Population Council anticipates India’s productive population (of 15 to 60 year olds) will stop increasing by 2025 then decrease to 62% of the population by 2050.

If migration continues to be seen as an escape route, then by extension, a brain drain of skilled professionals emigrating from India will hamper the nations future.

Unless migration is seen as “a social process that promotes  that promotes that contrivbutes to the well being of the society, that promotes cultural diversity, specialisation and division of labour and spirit of unity among diversity” explains Parveen Kumar, Rehbar-e Zirat (agricultural guide) with Jamma Kashmir .


Articles for this post were taken from Kurukshetra, Ministry of rural Development, Vol. 62 No. 11 Pages 52, Sept. 2014.

These include:

Tarique Hassan & Prof. Jabir Hasan Khan, Repercussions of Migrant or Rural Migrants A case study.
Kumar Amarendra Narain, Impact on rural Migration on Agricultural labourers from Biar and Assam.
Parveen Kumar, Consequences of rural Migration.
Srikanta Panigrahi, Environmental Refugees- the result of another form of forced rural migration.
Gopal Kalkoti, The status of rural migration-need for development initiatives.


Sustainable Architecture: Bhopal before the gas


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When people hear the name Bhopal they think of “the night of gas”. They do not realise a rich history of environmentally sensitive and sustainable architecture precedes the disaster for nearly a millennium.

Since the disaster, a former employee assures me, India has had to import fertilizer. But Bhopal’s agricultural heritage predates the malfunction and sabotage of a fertilizer factory.

Sprawled across 20 to 25 kilometres of the Vindhya and Singarcholi mountains, the City of Lakes, has a beautiful green cityscape built around the Bara Talab (Big Lake) commonly called the Upper Lake. A millennium on 11th century Raja Bhoja’s Dam still holds back 35 sq km of water but many other ruins dot the city uncared for.

Rock art caves Shamla Hills Bhopal

Rock art caves Shamla Hills Bhopal

Prehistoric man wandered Lalghatti and Dhrampuri and rock paintings are preserved in the Shamla Hills. However, it was during the reign of Raja Bhoj (1010-1053) the fortified grid iron city of Bhojapala guarded the east of Bara Talab. A sister city of Bhojpur, with its magnificent unfinished Bhojeshwar temple, was built east of an enormous lake 650 sq. Km of Bhima Kund and Sagar Taul. By utilizing natural terrain only three dams were required. At Sagar Taul two small gaps were required to be filled.   A 90 metre long, 14 metre high wal, 90 metres wide earthen dam with huge sandstone blocks with a flat top stood until 1334 CE.

The undammed river besides Bhojpur

The undammed Betwa besides Bhojpur

The local Gond tribes claim it took three months for the men of Hoshang Shah to cut through the dam and three years for it to empty. For thirty years the swampy lake bed was uninhabitable and villages downstream of the Betwa destroyed.

Now the once prosperous Bhojpur is remembered only by the incomplete temple and the huge scattered dam masonry.

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Nearby, Bhopal’s 11th century settlement is also layered with history. Ravaged in the 13th century, a decayed village by the 17th century. In 1722 Dost Mohammad Khan, a mercenary, was invited to assist the local Gond queen Kalmapati, annexed the Bhopal Taul.   Rani K amlapati suicided rather than be forced into Khan’s harem.

Fatahgarh frot ramparts

Fatahgarh frot ramparts

Khan built city ramparts near the older settlement, establishing the citadel of Fatehgarh on the highest plateau of the lake. It remained the administrative centre to the early to mid 19th century. Part is now used by Kasturba Gandhi Medical College that includes the world’s smallest mosque.

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The fortified city of Bhopal was called Sher-e-Khas and enclosed 1.5 sq. Km in a 10 metre wall, 2-3 metres thick and 1.2 kilometres in length. Taxes probably paid for elaborate infrastructure that included

  • hammams, or public bathing with windowless chambers
  • serais, or housing for travelling merchants
  • hathi khannas, housing for elephants and their mahaots,
  • and mosques.

The narrow streets, the widest being four metres, were sided with buildings to three or four floors. The outside platforms, or pattias, had matching designs where people met and gossiped. An akhara, or gymnasium included mud pits and fitness training equipment.

The city was extended by Pul Pukhtra in 1794 when a 274 metre long and 21 metre wide masonry dam spanned the Ban Ganga and Patra valleys that formed the Chhota Talab, or small lake. A vassal state to the Nizam and then the Mahattas, little building followed until Mamola Bai, one of Bhopal’s history of ruling women, insightfully gave General Goddard of Britain shelter in Raisen fort as he battled his way across India and ensured a protective treaty with the British East India Company.

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Another female ruler, Qudsia Begum, built the Jami Masjid with its golden minarets between 1833 to 1856. Then in 1847 the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) was begun by Sikandar Jehan Begum as an administrative centre and residence, creating a new urban centre on large plateau north of the Gohar Mahal. Although the Khirniwala Maidan complex took 50 years it’s has a unified design elements including parapets, uniform wall height and plinths with French influence. In 1848 Sikandar Begum then commissioned engineer David Cook to develop the lake front that included a waterworks.

motimahal 1948A red sandstone boali or step wall of Bara Bagh is 3 stories deep, two above the water level, lead into a step-well was built by Nawab Wazir Mohammed Khan and later conserved by Nawab Qudsia Begum.

Inside are ornamental structures that surrounded the well, colonnade with cusp arches and slender pillars. Niches decorate the wall along the entrances of the boali built around 1819. Bhopal’s inter-connected lakes began with the building of a new suburb by Nawab Shah Jahan Begum called Shahjehanabad in 1874. An Idgah was constructed on the highest point, and three new terraced lakes constructed, now separated by a road. Water from one cascaded into the next forming the suburbs central area. Complete with bazaars, galla mandies, or grain markets, store houses, serais, and a residential quarter Shahjehanabad was enclosed by a city wall.

Bhopal-unplugged3 (1)The highest, Motia Talab spread 230 by 230 metres, to the 230 by 170 metre Noor Mahal Talab and finally the lowest Munshi Hussaini Talab was 115 by 230 metres.

An aqueduct still visible at Chhota Talab, pulled water up 15 metres by leather bags, or chawars, into channels that flowed down an arched slope. The chawars raised the well water with animal strength and the water flowed 1.75 kilometres to a pond at Noor Bagh where Afghan troops were stationed.

However, the three lakes were dependent on seasonal rains.

To balance water levels a reservoir was built north of Shahjehanabad with elaborate brick-lined vaulted drains that collected and bought water to the lakes. Transformed into splashing fountains and gurgling cascades, and silent chadars (sheets of water), these channels passed through important buildings along the way. Legend claims rose water or kewda was added to cool and freshen the air.

To this day ground water is recharged year round in the Bhopal’s old city. The boali reduce water loss in a locality known for high evaporation.

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Bhopal’s royal residences, the Taj Mahal and Noor Mahal, were linked to the rail . The Taj Mahal blends Muslim and Hindu design that includes cusped arches, massive gateways, mudlings and plaster work and squat domes with overhanging balconies called jharokahs. The inner courtyards detailing suggests British colonial design.

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Over a century, Asia’s largest mosque, the Taj-ul-Masjid, was built and nearby, across from the Motia Talab, the H-shaped Benazir Palace in 1875. Made of steel columns with louvered wooden partitions, extensively carved hammam, the Benazir Palace cleverly control the temperature. A summer palace, it is enclosed with terraced gardens and fountains its steps and plinths descend into the lake like a ghat. Its ornamental gate, the most ornate in the city, was added later. This has multi-foliate arched openings and stair cases leading to chhatris, or domed kiosks, with pitched eaves.

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The Colonial influence of high ceilings and raised plinths was more marked after 1901. The newer public buildings include Revenue courts, Minto Hall, Court of Justice, Civil Club, and the Hamidia Katubh Khana, or library.

Sadly more recent design has increasingly distanced itself from the environment and culture. Modern designs often show scant respect sustainable design once practiced by Bhopal’s Tribal, Hindu and Muslim forebears. The inappropriate materials and techniques are rushing construction.

Many of the gates are deteriorating. Locals speak of their city still beautiful in the 1970’s. The wall that enclosed the old city was partly removed to allow for a oad and access to the Hamadia hospital. The land Minto Hall has been leased out by the MP government  and will be demolished. The Munshi Hussaini Talab sadly looks like a rubbish dump.

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There are exceptions. Bhopal’s Tribal Museum has a green roof, the Correea designed Bharat Bhavan shows a Hindu sensitivity for nature, and Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly, or Vidhan Sabha is influenced by nearby Buddhist stupa’s of Sanchi. However, the step-wells of Bhopal and majority of the lakes constructed by the cities noble rulers have since decayed. The Baoli has been forgotten and lakes have been encroached.

But now, after walking the Union Carbide site, and enjoynig the connected series of lakes by the Taj us Masjid, I am sitting the smallest, Munshi Hussaini Talab. A local family kindly offers me chai. By the mosque an old man clasped my hand warmly. Hindu”s had paraded floats and hoses for Navratri. I still find old city charm and hospitality.

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For a  useful resource is checkout

Dass, Meera. “City with a past – an account of the built heritage of Bhopal.” In Bhopal 2011: Landscapes of Memory, edited by Amritha Ballal and Jan af Geijerstam, 80-84. New Delhi, India: SpaceMatters with Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), 2011.

Enjoying Balance, poise and Deepa Vedpathak


Wonderfull painting by Deepa Vedpathak


Sometimes I find beautiful things I simply want to share. Today, I hope you will enjoy the beautiful acrylics of Deepa Vedpathak.

Right from her childhood Deepa Vedpathak liked to draw and paint. Born in Karamala, Maharashtra, her sole aim was to be a painter. After obtaining a teachers diploma in 1996, in 2001 she completed a G.D. Art (Drawing and Painting), at the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya in Pune. Step by step her success grew and her hope increased. Deepa loves music so she paints on music. When the colors take shapes on her canvas, it has not any limit, she struggles with it, in fact she prefers color schemes and color application. It makes her work effective, as she thinks that weight and balance should come together in the painting.

Her abstract faces seem serenely balanced.


Beloved by Deepa Vedpathak


Endless Love

Endless Love


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