Ancient Multan.

3_DSC0296Multan is a city of great historical importance, located at the crossroads of central and south Asia on the Indian subcontinent.
Inhabited since antiquity, the city was originally part of the province of Sindh, where it came under Arab rule during the Umayyad period (ca. 712) and was later administered by a series of governors through the Abbasid period.
The city was primarily populated by merchants, which is unsurprising given its position on overland trade routes connecting the Islamic world with the subcontinent.
Multan was also a site of pilgrimage for Hindus, and the city’s sun temple is often mentioned by Arab chroniclers.
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Although the initial Arab administration of Multan was tolerant of worship at the sun temple, probably because it was a great source of revenue for the city, this situation was short-lived.
As the effects of Kharijite and Isma’ili (two sects within Islam) activity in undermining Abbasid power in Baghdad trickled down to distant parts of the Abbasid Caliphate, Isma’ilis gained a foothold in Sindh.
By the late tenth century they controlled Multan, and the city shifted allegiance to the Shi’i Fatimids of Egypt. It was at this time that the sun temple and its famous idol was supposed to have been destroyed.
The Isma’ili period is a crucial turning point in the city’s history as it propelled the movement of various Isma’ili saints to converge upon Multan and further laid the foundation for its transformation into a center of Sufi Islamic practice.
A number of Sufi saints are buried in and around Multan in spectacular monuments, including the tombs of Baha’ al-Din Zakariya (?–1262) and Rukn-i-‘Alam (?–1335).
via Using Color to Link Cultures: An Eighteenth-Century Islamic Tile in Context | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Time for Tiffin: India’s ‘Lunch in a Box.’

tiffinwallahs-of-bombay-011Lunch in a box. Photograph: Chris Caldicott
The word tiffin is also used as a name for a lunchbox. Tiffins (or dhabbas) come in all shapes and sizes, but traditionally they are round, with three or four stacking stainless steel compartments firmly sealed with a tight-fitting lid and a side clip to avoid any nasty spillages and a handle for carrying on top.
In India food cooked at home with care and love is considered to deliver not only healthy (and relatively cheap) food but also divine contentment.
Lunch is usually eaten thali-style, with a tantalising selection of regional delicacies that may include any combination of spicy vegetables, dhal, rice, yoghurt, pickles, bread and pudding served on a big steel plate or a banana leaf. The separate compartments in the tiffin lunchbox accommodate thali lunches perfectly.
Tiffin culture is now to be found all over India. Everyone – from women in brightly coloured saris working in the fields to giggling families on long train journeys – carries a tiffin to provide a compact, portable, homemade lunch.
Every weekday without fail something rather extraordinary is to be seen around midday on the chaotic streets of Bombay (or Mumbai). This is the sight of hundreds of stainless steel tiered tiffin boxes or dhabbas piled high on handcarts and bicycles being pushed through the streets by dhoti-wearing, white-capped tiffin wallahs.
Expertly run by the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers’ Association, armies of these tiffin wallahs provide the invaluable daily service of speedily delivering piping hot home-cooked lunches to more than 200,000 busy office workers.
Many workers live 50 kilometres or more from their workplace, a long commute on a packed train. There is certainly not time for the cook of the house to prepare a full meal before they leave home.
So the lunch-filled tiffin boxes are picked up later in the morning, colour-coded and transported to the station, where they are collected by the tiffin wallahs, whose mission is to deliver each box to its corresponding workplace still hot from the pan – and to return the empty tiffin to the home before the end of the working day.
With the essential core values of punctuality, teamwork, honesty and sincerity providing the backbone to the business, they have a staggering 99.99% success rate.
The tiffin wallahs have become so revered that they are now called on to lecture to big businesses, and have been honoured guests at British royal weddings.
They are considered so trustworthy that workers often place their wages inside the clean tiffin box on its return journey rather than risk carrying money on the commuter train.
Read further via Time for tiffin: the history of India’s lunch in a box | Lifeandstyle | The Guardian.

The 15th Century Prabalgad Fort.

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According to legend the fort was built for a queen named Kalavantin but that really seems to be all that anybody knows.
Around 1458 Malik Ahmad, the prime minister of the kingdom of Ahmednagar, took over the fort during his conquest of Konkan.
The Mughals took control of Prabalgad along with Kalyan, Mahuli, Karnala and a number of other forts after Sambhaji’s death.
The fort was conquered by Shivaji from the Mughals in 1657, after he established himself in the Kalyan-Bhivandi area.
At the time of the attack the fort was governed by Kesar Singh, a Mughal sardar, and was the only fort to put up a strong resistance.
On seeing the signs of defeat the women in the fort performed Jauhar, a tradition of self immolation to ensure an honorable and respectful death.
Singh died during the battle in October 1657, Shivaji in an act of kindness allowed Singh’s mother and her grandchild a safe passage out.
via Prabalgad Fort, India | Amusing Planet.

Indian Kushti Wrestlers live a Spartan existence.

Image Credit: Photograph by © Alain Schroeder. All rights reserved.
Kushti is the traditional form of Indian wrestling.
Practised in Akhara, the wrestlers, under the supervision of a guru, dedicate their bodies and minds to Kushti on average for 6 to 36 months.
It is a way of life and a spartan existence that requires rigorous discipline.
Kushti is also known as pehlwani. The freestyle matches last about half an hour, and a wrestler typically wins by simultaneously pinning an opponent’s shoulders and hips to the ground.
Experienced wrestlers set the example and transmit their skills in the pit and in the community to the younger boys (7-8 years old) and new recruits, whereby promoting camaraderie, solidarity and fraternity.
See more great Images via Kushti | Smithsonian Photo Contest | Smithsonian

Stum brings 3D to the Streets.

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The 3D painting of a Kolkata street at Vivekananda Park Athletic Club, Haridevpur. Artist Tracy Lee Stum also seen. ( Source: Express photo by Partha paul )
Written by Arshad Ali
Those who have seen 3D street art in films and e-mail forwards, here is an opportunity to witness one in Kolkata.
The puja organised by Vivekananda Park Athletic Club at Haridevpur has put this form of art on display for visitors.
They roped in Tracy Lee Stum, an artist globally known for her street paintings, all the way from South California to help create the painting.
The theme has been called Tilottama which signifies both Goddess Durga and Kolkata. Different forms of arts have been blended in to depict the city and its transition over the years.
While the 3D painting, which has a bird’s eye view, is spread on a giant plywood canvas of 25 feet by 20 feet on the floor, the ceiling has paintings of an ant’s eye view of different areas of the city.
Read more via US artist brings alive Kolkata street in 3D | The Indian Express.

Images from ‘Hortus Malabaricus’ on Plant medicine, c. 1680.

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Selected illustrations from the stunning Hortus Malabaricus (Garden of Malabar), an epic treatise dealing with the medicinal properties of the flora in the Indian state of Kerala.
Originally written in Latin, it was compiled over a period of nearly 30 years and published in Amsterdam between 1678 and 1693 in 12 volumes of about 500 pages each, with a total of 794 copper plate engravings.
The book was conceived by Hendrik van Rheede, who was the Governor of Dutch Malabar at the time, and he is said to have taken a keen personal interest in the compilation.
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The work was edited by a team of nearly a hundred including physicians (such as Ranga Bhat, Vinayaka Pandit, Appu Bhat and Itti Achuden) professors of medicine and botany, amateur botanists (such as Arnold Seyn, Theodore Jansson of Almeloveen, Paul Hermann, Johannes Munnicks, Joannes Commelinus, Abraham a Poot), and technicians, illustrators and engravers, together with the collaboration of company officials, clergymen (D. John Caesarius and the Discalced Carmelite Mathaeus of St. Joseph’s Monastery at Varapuzha).
7561714328_67b7db25d8_oVan Rheede was also assisted by the King of Cochin and the ruling Zamorin of Calicut.
Prominent among the Indian contributors were three Gouda Saraswat Brahmins named Ranga Bhat, Vinayaka Pandit,Appu Bhat and Malayali physician, Itti Achuden, who was an Ezhava doctor of the Mouton Coast of Malabar.
The book has been translated into English and Malayalam by Dr. K. S. Manilal. (Wikipedia).
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Click for more Images via Hortus Malabaricus (1678-1693) | The Public Domain Review.