Walkabouts and wonders

"A life not examined is a life not lived" – Socrates

Tag Archives: beauty

Fun in Singapore (?) 1

To be perfectly honest, when I realised that I was going to spend the better part of five days in Singapore, I thought, “Here’s a chance to catch up on the emails and sort all the pictures”. Actually, if you are happy to play along, there is an energy and forward-looking verve about the centre of Singapore that goes some way to explaining its extraordinary success. Take some of the architecture…….

Let’s start with something you might have been expecting –

Banganga_9

moving onto a guy who clearly wanted to open our minds..

Well, what else can you do to make shutters interesting?

Is it a boat, or maybe an open sub with cheese and a salad garnish….?

Banganga_7

Whereas this guy was just providing a practical solution to the problem of getting space for a garden……

Banganga_12

But I have to end on what happens when demands for new convenience, in the form of cool air, get bolted onto older technologies; the refurbished waterfront district that now houses the ex-pat bar and restaurant district….

Yes, those really are air-conditioners; all of them....

Yes, those really are air-conditioners; all of them….

A Sacred Space in the City of Birds

There is a place near the centre of New Delhi which defies the noise and heat of the modern city. It is known as the tomb of Humayun, but as well as a burial site, it is an inspired assay in sacred architecture and design.

Hamayun_23

And let me begin by telling you how I eventually went to this place, rather than the Taj Mahal.

Chandra Chawk_1You see, originally, I had set aside my first day in Delhi for some local sightseeing, before heading south to the Taj Mahal, as you do. It was only after an hour’s walk into the centre of Old Delhi and the market district, that I discovered all of the monuments and museums were closed, this being a Monday. Yes, I know that now.  So, Monday left me with sore feet and this one picture of rickshaw cyclists on the Chandi Chowk, and a curio – why does this city have so many birds?  Look around you in Delhi, and you will see the birds everywhere – true; many are the usual scavengers you find in any city, but not this many – no.

Anyway, come the Tuesday, my last full day in Delhi, I no longer felt like taking the two hour journey south to see the Taj Mahal. Following advice I got on the plane, I braved the Delhi traffic on an auto rickshaw and headed out to Humayun’s tomb.

The tomb is actually a complex of buildings that include some of the earliest surviving monuments of the Moghul period in India. The building at its centre, Humayun’s tomb is actually the resting place of around 140 of his family and descendants. It stands in the centre of a 15 acre formal garden, divided by narrow channels of water that feed a series of fountains.

Hamayun_17

Hamayun_16

As you might suspect from these pictures, the tomb is an early precursor to the Taj Mahal which lies 80 miles south at Agra. Like its more famous neighbour, it is a monument to love, but this time built by the wife, to honour her husband. All of this, of course, you may read in any decent guide-book or online. But what the guidebooks only vaguely refer to, if at all, is the basis of the building in ancient beliefs about life and its purposes.

Hamayun_22

The clues lie partly in the shape – the perfect surrounding squares and partly in the colours of the main building and its domes. And, of course, the numbers – 17 and 4; 72 and 5; 16, 4 and 1, amongst others.

Hamayun_20

But it wasn’t until I was trying to photograph this fountain that I put together the first of two things –

The surrounding wall, the central platform and the gardens are all set out in regular squares, north/south. But the crowning domes are set at an angle, thus

Hamuyun shape

This pattern represents a simple and ancient perception about life. Roughly translated, it says that body and soul are held together, not by food, but by the grace of the spirit of humanity that resides in our innermost being.

And then, I understood about the birds and how there had come to be so many in the city. The surrounding walls of the sanctuary are pierced by small openings – they were put there on purpose, as nesting sites for pigeons and green parrots so that they would always be in attendance. They are a constant reminder of another ancient idea that Islam holds very dear; unlike our bodies and histories, beautiful and arresting as they may be (and here represented by the gardens and the water courses), our minds are free to leave the earth and fly up into the realms of heaven and inspiration.

Hamayun_15

Beautiful night

Just found this via the BBC. Well worth contemplating from any number of view points – as science, as art, to see how crowded some places in the world are, and how some still aren’t. Currently, I am looking out my office window at the surrounding winter fields and woods – so big and rich with life to me, yet so small as to be invisible in this image.

Beauty and the Beast

I have been reading and re-reading another blog on WordPress –“Beauty and the Beast” – it is a raw and powerful piece telling of a woman’s experience of mental and emotional bullying from a (now) ex-husband, its continuing effects (rendering her a beast in her own eyes, even now) and the efforts she is now making to recover a sense of beauty and worth.

Naturally, many of her readers have sent messages of support and love, and she says how much this helps, but I wonder if she realises the significance of her very attempt to start her life anew. For surely, the greatest of all human beauties is freedom, for all the other beauty that humans have or can produce; love, honour, warmth, grace of movement, music, song – they rely upon freedom. That is why any story of a struggle for liberation always strikes such a deep chord in people. This woman may find it difficult to believe, but in the very act of trying to free herself of her history, she liberates that greatest of all beauties and actually puts herself alongside many of the greats of history, from the civil rights movement in America, to the freedom-leaders of South Africa, the wartime French resistance, the Congress movement in India, the suffragettes of many countries,  and so on.

And so this woman’s story is a story and an example to us all; very important in these times, I think.

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