The Grand Tour III – Epilogue, and Journey’s End

1 - Victoria Memorial Option 1

The Victoria Memorial in Calcutta completed in 1921, was designed and built to echo the Taj Mahal in Agra.

So this is it.  Two and a half years later, I’m finally here posting my Epilogue to THE GRAND TOUR III – PORT AND PRINCELY CITIES OF THE SUBCONTINENT.

Unlike the first two Grand Tours, which took a year and a year and half respectively to complete, this one has taken me much longer because just before I began the journey, I also embarked on a journey of another kind (as a museum director).

But in any case, here we are. And here’s where we’ve been:

Calcutta (Kolkata), Benares (Varanasi), Madras (Chennai), Pondicherry (Puducherry), Tranquebar (Tharangambadi), Colombo in Sri Lanka, Cochin (Kochi), Goa, Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Lahore in Pakistan.

15 cities later, I can only say that I am older in mind and spirit, and perhaps just a little more worldly (or should I say, world-weary), having, quite literally walked through the streets of India, and occasionally Sri Lanka and Pakistan, on my own for miles and miles and days and days, and seen more than I ever expected to see.

2 - AGRA TAJ MAHAL

The Taj Mahal in Agra, completed in 1643 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, is the greatest monument to love and the greatest monument in India.

3 - Dashashmewadh Ghat

The great pageant of birth, life and death on the banks of the River Ganges, at the Holy City of Benares (Varanasi). This is the always-busy Dashashmewadh Ghat.

4 - Qutb Minar Detail

The Qutb Minar in Delhi was built in 1192 under the auspices of the Sultan Qutb al-Din Aibak, the first Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty. His tomb sits in Lahore, Pakistan.

What have I learnt on this journey?

I have learnt that the Subcontinent has a rich colonial heritage that isn’t only British – there was also a Portuguese, French, Dutch and even Danish heritage. And, if one considers that the Mughals came from Central Asia – also a kind of much older, Persian colonial heritage that has become thoroughly Indian (or Pakistani), thoroughly part of local identity.

And this colonial legacy lingers on in the contemporary day, not just in terms of the physical buildings, but also in terms of things more intangible like language and the way of life.  This makes the heritage of the Subcontinent so much richer, and – like Mughal heritage – European colonial heritage has to be seen as unavoidably and inevitably part of Subcontinental identity.

Queen Victoria’s legacy literally still looms large.

39-victoria-memorial

Victoria, Empress of India, on the grounds of the Memorial named in her memory – Calcutta.

5 - Bom Jesus

The Basilica of Bom Jesu, Old Goa, consecrated in 1604.

6 - Cercle de Pondicherry 1899

Cercle de Pondicherry, 1899, in former French Pondicherry.

7 - David Hall

David Hall (1670s) is one of best examples of Dutch architecture in Cochin.

8 - Fort Dansborg

Fort Dansborg (1620) – literally Hamlet’s castle on the shores of the former Danish settlement of Tranquebar.

9 - JAhangir Tomb

The Tomb of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in Lahore, completed in 1637.

I have learnt that all the port cities (at least) were cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, multi-faith melting pots.  And in this regard, they prefigure Singapore.

Like Singapore, the cities played (and continue to play) host to places of worship from all the great world religions, and their respective communities, still more or less worshipping where they have worshipped for centuries: Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Zoroastrian Parsis, Christians, Jews – and even the occasional Taoist.

10 - Faith I

From left to right: Sri Mallikeswarar Temple Chennai (1652); Sri Sambuddhaloka Vihara Temple, Colombo; Jain Temple at Rannakpur (1400s).

11 - Faith II

Left to right: Samadhi of Ranjit Singh (1848) and Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore Fort; Jami Mosque, Delhi (1656), Maneckji Nowroji Parsi Agiary Bombay.

12 - Faith III

Left to right: Interior of the Church of St Francis of Assisi (1661) in Velha Goa; Paradesi Synagogue Cochin (1568); Sea Ip Church in Calcutta’s Chinatown.

I have learnt that the Subcontinent has an amazing architectural heritage – wandering in the old “white”, “black” and “grey” towns, I have chanced upon a dizzying array of architectural styles from Mughal to Neoclassical to Indo-Saracenic to Art Deco; from Palace Architecture, to Religious, to Civic/Commercial to Fort.

13 - GPO 1868 NEOClassical

The Neoclassical General Post Office, or G.P.O. in Calcutta was built in 1868.

14 - Victoria Terminus

Victoria Terminus in Bombay was built in 1888 in a Victorian Gothic Revival style with Byzantine elements.

15 - MAdras Law College

Madras Law College, built in 1899 in an Indo-Saracenic Style.

16 - MArine Drive I

Marine Drive in Bombay has the largest concentration of Art Deco residential buildings outside of Miami.

17 - Lake Palace

The Lake Palace (mid-1700s), floats impossibly on Lake Pichola in Udaipur. It was first built as a pleasure palace by the Maharana Jagat Singh II of Mewar.

18 - Mehrangarh Fort

The Mehrangarh Fort perches 400 feet above the city of Jodhpur. It was built in 1459 by Rao Jodha of the Rathore Clan, Marwar.

19 - Rashtrapati Bhawan

Former Viceroy’s House, today’s Rashtrapati Bhawan, was built in 1929 in a self-consciously Indian Imperial style.

There are also great museums here, with my favorites being the Indian Museum in Calcutta, the former Prince of Wales Museum in Bombay, the Government Museum in Egmore, Madras and the Lahore Museum in its namesake city.

Of course, there were also the Grand Hotels and Palaces, almost all of whom were quite simply a dream to stay in, and an out-of-this-world experience. If I had to pick my favorites, I would have to say these were the Grand Hotel in Calcutta, the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, the Taj Mahal Palace in Bombay and, naturally, the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur.

20 - Indian Museum 1875

The Indian Museum Calcutta (1875).

22 - Shiva Nataraja

Chola bronze Shiva Nataraja at the Government Museum Complex, Madras (Chennai).

21 - Prince of Wales Museum

The Indo-Saracenic former Prince of Wales Museum Bombay (today’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya), was completed in 1915.

23 - Gandhara

Gandharan boddhisattva at the Lahore Museum.

24 - Oberoi Grand Hotel exterior viewed along Chowringhee Road

The Oberoi Grand Hotel Calcutta was built in the early 1900s in a Neo-Classical style.

25 - Galle Face Once More

The Galle Face Hotel Colombo (1864) is believed to be the oldest grand hotel East of Suez.

26 - Taj Mahal Palace water

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel Bombay (1903), in an Indo-Saracenic Style.

27 - Umaid Bhawan

The spectacular, stupendous Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur was completed in 1943 and built in an Art Deco style that fused Hindu elements.

And the food! Oh the food! How can I even begin to describe all I’ve had the chance to savour!  It will require a whole other blog!!

My favourite gourmet cities were Calcutta, Colombo, Cochin and Goa.

And my favourite dishes?  The Bengali thali at the Grand Hotel Calcutta, steak-frites anywhere in Pondicherry, hoppers at the Galle Face Hotel Colombo, lampreis at the Dutch Burgher Union Cafe Colombo, and the Parsi Bhonu (the Parsi equivalent of a thali) at SodaBottleWaterOpener Wallah, Khan Market, New Delhi.

As it turns out, I LOVE fish curry.  And so there was the Keralan Fish Curry in Cochin, the Goan Fish Curry in Goa (and Bombay), and my favorite fish curry of all was the Tamil Fish Curry at the Bungalow by the Beach Tranquebar, which reminded me of Muthu’s Fish Head Curry in Singapore.

28 - Food I

Clockwise from top left: Bengali Thali at the Oberoi Grand Hotel Calcutta, Steak-frites in Pondicherry, Lampreis at the Dutch Burgher Union Colombo, Hoppers at the Galle Face Hotel Colombo.

29 - Food II

Clockwise from top left: Tamil Fish Curry at Bungalow on the Beach Tranquebar, Goan Fish Curry in Panjim Goa, Kerala Fish Curry in Cochin, Parsi Bhonu at SodaBottleOpenerWallah, Khan Market, New Delhi.

This Epilogue is also THE Epilogue to my Grand Tour of the East in general – the tour of Asian Port and Imperial Cities I began in May 2012, and which has taken me 7 years exactly to complete!

In my initial planning, I had expected the entire journey to finish by end 2016. I told myself that once I finished this entire journey, it would time to leave Singapore again and move to another city to live.

As it turns out, it’s taken me more than 2 years longer than expected because of the job. And because of the job, it’s not very likely that I’m going to move away from Singapore any time soon.

Ah well.

What a whirlwind it’s been!  7 years feels like a lifetime.  I’m literally not the same Kennie Ting I was when I started off this journey.

Even as I feel a great sense of achievement at having actually completed what I started, I’m also feeling a tinge of sadness at this monumental and on-going part of my life coming to an end.

What next?  What could be next? Who knows?

I will continue to travel, of course, though more often because of the day job.  And I will continue to write, naturally.

The good news is that my publisher has asked that I work on my NEXT book; the follow-up to 2015’s ROMANCE OF THE GRAND TOUR.  This next book I hope to title ASIAN PORT CITIES – FROM BOMBAY TO TOKYO, and it will feature the rest of the Asian Port Cities, alongside the first 12 in Romance of the Grand Tour.

So for the time being, I’m still going to be working on the Grand Tour, even if not physically grand touring.

Here’s hoping that I’ll figure out the next epic personal project by journey’s end.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, I welcome you to go through the archives on this very blog, to relive the past, glorious 7 years of THE GRAND TOUR OF THE EAST.

Bon voyage!

30 - Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur (1799).

31 - Chet Singh Ghat

Chet Singh Ghat, Varanasi.

32 - Armenian Church

Armenian Church (1772), Armenian Street, George Town, Madras (Chennai).

33 - St Johns Church

St John’s Church (1787) is the oldest extant church in Calcutta and was built to resemble the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

34 - Velha Goa

Sé Cathedral (1619), Old Goa.

35 - Queen St Calcutta

Queen’s Mansion, Park Street, Calcutta. By this point it would be clear to you, dear reader, that my favorite city of all on this Grand Tour was Calcutta. This was primarily because it most resembled Singapore in terms of its urban landscape, and there was a certain cosmopolitan, albeit crumbling charm to it.

36 - Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets, Cochin.

37 - Elephant at the Entrance

And finally… entering the Suraj Pol (Sun Gate), of the 16th century Amber Fort in Jaipur, by elephant. Goodbye to the Grand tour of the Port and Princely Cities of the Subcontinent!!

 

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Museums, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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