Monday Flashback Story : Ajanta Caves – Sustainable Monuments & Architecture from 2nd Century BCE

This week in the Monday Flashback story, we present the Flashback story of Ajanta Caves. The Buddhist Caves in Ajanta are approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India. The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form.

They are universally regarded as masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. The caves were built in two phases, the first starting around the 2nd century BCE and the second occurring from 400 to 650 CE, according to older accounts, or in a brief period of 460–480 CE according to later scholarship. The site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, and since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship-halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 75-metre (246 ft) wall of rock. The caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. Textual records suggest that these caves served as a monsoon retreat for monks, as well as a resting site for merchants and pilgrims in ancient India. While vivid colours and mural wall-painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records, Caves 16, 17, 1 and 2 of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting.

The UN World Commission on Environment and Development has stated that in order to be sustainable one has to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations, to meet their own needs, especially with regards to use and waste of natural resources.” Keeping this mind in the last few decades there has been an increasing number of “Green buildings” that are designed in a way which keeps them in sync with sustainable environmental development. Interestingly, the idea behind these “Green buildings” are not new, and date back to the ancient times, when available natural resources were used efficiently, avoiding unnecessary wastages. Indigenous materials specific to the locations were used in order to keep the houses warm or cool based on the climatic zones, while elaborate sewage and water supply systems were built with the available natural materials.

The Ajanta caves, which form a series of 29 rock-cut caves from ancient India, demonstrate how the architects of those times would make optimal use of the available natural resources at hand. The vaulted ceilings of these rock cut caves had sun windows that would light up the prayer halls naturally. The Ajanta caves, unlike other rock cut caves, have low ceilings which were specifically designed to allow hot air from prayer halls to rise and move into the surrounding cells that held cool water. This hot air would then be cooled naturally, leading to the cooling of the entire cave.

The caves are carved out of flood basalt rock of a cliff, part of the Deccan Traps formed by successive volcanic eruptions at the end of the Cretaceous geological period. The rock is layered horizontally, and somewhat variable in quality. This variation within the rock layers required the artists to amend their carving methods and plans in places. The inhomogeneity in the rock has also led to cracks and collapses in the centuries that followed, as with the lost portico to cave 1. Excavation began by cutting a narrow tunnel at roof level, which was expanded downwards and outwards; as evidenced by some of the incomplete caves such as the partially-built vihara caves 21 through 24 and the abandoned incomplete cave 28.

The sculpture artists likely worked at both excavating the rocks and making the intricate carvings of pillars, roof, and idols; further, the sculpture and painting work inside a cave were integrated parallel tasks. A grand gateway to the site was carved, at the apex of the gorge’s horseshoe between caves 15 and 16, as approached from the river, and it is decorated with elephants on either side and a nāga, or protective Naga (snake) deity. Similar methods and application of artist talent is observed in other cave temples of India, such as those from Hinduism and Jainism. These include the Ellora Caves, Ghototkacha Caves, Elephanta Caves, Bagh Caves, Badami Caves, Aurangabad Caves and Shivleni Caves.

The caves from the first period seem to have been paid for by a number of different patrons to gain merit, with several inscriptions recording the donation of particular portions of a single cave. The later caves were each commissioned as a complete unit by a single patron from the local rulers or their court elites, again for merit in Buddhist afterlife beliefs as evidenced by inscriptions such as those in Cave 17. After the death of Harisena, smaller donors motivated by getting merit added small “shrinelets” between the caves or add statues to existing caves, and some two hundred of these “intrusive” additions were made in sculpture, with a further number of intrusive paintings, up to three hundred in cave 10 alone.

Formed from a single block of excavated stone, Kailasa temple is considered one of the most impressive cave temples in India. The enormous structure is one of 34 cave temples and monasteries that are collectively known as the Ellora Caves. Located in the western region of Maharashtra, the caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and include monuments dating between 600 and 1000 CE. While there are many impressive structures on-site, it’s the megalithic Kailasa temple that is perhaps the most well known.

Cave 1 was built on the eastern end of the horseshoe-shaped scarp and is now the first cave the visitor encounters. This cave, when first made, would have been a less prominent position, right at the end of the row. According to Spink, it is one of the last caves to have been excavated, when the best sites had been taken, and was never fully inaugurated for worship by the dedication of the Buddha image in the central shrine. This is shown by the absence of sooty deposits from butter lamps on the base of the shrine image, and the lack of damage to the paintings that would have happened if the garland-hooks around the shrine had been in use for any period of time. Spink states that the Vākāṭaka Emperor Harishena was the benefactor of the work, and this is reflected in the emphasis on imagery of royalty in the cave, with those Jataka tales being selected that tell of those previous lives of the Buddha in which he was royal.

The cliff has a more steep slope here than at other caves, so to achieve a tall grand facade it was necessary to cut far back into the slope, giving a large courtyard in front of the facade. There was originally a columned portico in front of the present facade, which can be seen “half-intact in the 1880s” in pictures of the site, but this fell down completely and the remains, despite containing fine carvings, were carelessly thrown down the slope into the river, from where they have been lost.

The frieze over the frontage of Cave 1 front shows elephants, horses, bulls, lions, apsaras and meditating monks.
This cave (35.7 m × 27.6 m)[114] has one of the most elaborate carved façades, with relief sculptures on entablature and ridges, and most surfaces embellished with decorative carving. There are scenes carved from the life of the Buddha as well as a number of decorative motifs. A two-pillared portico, visible in the 19th-century photographs, has since perished. The cave has a frontcourt with cells fronted by pillared vestibules on either side. These have a high plinth level. The cave has a porch with simple cells on both ends. The absence of pillared vestibules on the ends suggests that the porch was not excavated in the latest phase of Ajanta when pillared vestibules had become customary. Most areas of the porch were once covered with murals, of which many fragments remain, especially on the ceiling. There are three doorways: a central doorway and two side doorways. Two square windows were carved between the doorways to brighten the interiors.

Each wall of the hall inside is nearly 40 feet (12 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high. Twelve pillars make a square colonnade inside supporting the ceiling, and creating spacious aisles along the walls. There is a shrine carved on the rear wall to house an impressive seated image of the Buddha, his hands being in the dharmachakrapravartana mudra. There are four cells on each of the left, rear, and the right walls, though due to rock fault there are none at the ends of the rear aisle.

The paintings of Cave 1 cover the walls and the ceilings. They are in a fair state of preservation, although the full scheme was never completed. The scenes depicted are mostly didactic, devotional, and ornamental, with scenes from the Jataka stories of the Buddha’s former lives as a bodhisattva, the life of the Gautama Buddha, and those of his veneration. The two most famous individual painted images at Ajanta are the two over-life-size figures of the protective bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani on either side of the entrance to the Buddha shrine on the wall of the rear aisle (see illustrations above). Other significant frescos in Cave 1 include the Sibi, Sankhapala, Mahajanaka, Mahaummagga, and Champeyya Jataka tales. The cave-paintings also show the Temptation of Mara, the miracle of Sravasti where the Buddha simultaneously manifests in many forms, the story of Nanda, and the story of Siddhartha and Yasodhara.

Several others caves were also built in Western India around the same period under royal sponsorship. It is thought that the chronology of these early Chaitya Caves is as follows: first Cave 9 at Kondivite Caves and then Cave 12 at the Bhaja Caves, which both predate Cave 10 of Ajanta. Then, after Cave 10 of Ajanta, in chronological order: Cave 3 at Pitalkhora, Cave 1 at Kondana Caves, Cave 9 at Ajanta, which, with its more ornate designs, may have been built about a century later, Cave 18 at Nasik Caves, and Cave 7 at Bedse Caves, to finally culminate with the “final perfection” of the Great Chaitya at Karla Caves.

To many who are unaware of the premises of Indian religions in general, and Buddhism in particular, the significance of Ajanta Caves has been like rest of Indian art. According to Richard Cohen, Ajanta Caves to them has been yet another example of “worship this stock, or that stone, or monstrous idol”. In contrast, to the Indian mind and the larger Buddhist community, it is everything that art ought to be, the religious and the secular, the spiritual and the social fused to enlightened perfection.

According to Walter Spink – one of the most respected Art historians on Ajanta, these caves were by 475 CE a much-revered site to the Indians, with throngs of “travelers, pilgrims, monks and traders”. The site was vastly transformed into its current form in just 20 years, between early 460 CE to early 480 CE, by regional architects and artisans. This accomplishment, states Spink, makes Ajanta, “one of the most remarkable creative achievements in man’s history”.

Sustainable Brand Story : Ekam Eco Solutions – Sustainable Solutions for Hygiene & Sanitation

Access to clean water and sanitation is integral in keeping public health intact. While India has made significant progress in this aspect with the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, there is still a long way to go. 

According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), around 29 percent of rural households in India do not have access to basic sanitation facilities. The availability of water is also a grave concern, especially during spells of drought. About 21 major cities across India, including Delhi, Bengaluru, and Chennai, are on the verge of running out of groundwater this year as per the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report released by the NITI Aayog. 

Intending to improve this situation, Uttam Banerjee, Sachin Joshi, and Dr VM Chariar started Ekam Eco Solutions in 2013. The startup not only focuses on building humane and hygienic sanitation systems but designs sustainable processes to employ them. Its line of products includes waterless urinals, natural cleaners, sewage care items, and food composting structures. 

“Unscientific waste disposal and inadequate sanitation facilities affect both the health of humans and the environment they live in. The intention behind starting Ekam was to safeguard the wellbeing of people at large, and at the same time, conserve all natural resources, including water,” says Uttam Banerjee, Co-founder and CEO, Ekam Eco Solutions. 

NEW DELHI, INDIA – SEPTEMBER 24: Uttam Banerjee, director and CEO, Ekam Eco Solutions on September 24, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Ekam Eco Solutions Ltd. is a social start-up which makes Zerodor, a technology related to waterless urinals. (Photo by Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)

Sowing the seeds 

The idea of establishing Ekam goes back to when Uttam was pursuing his master’s degree in industrial design at IIT-Delhi. Coming from the city of Bokaro, Jharkhand, the 35-year-old was used to living around a lot of water bodies and greenery. However, when he moved to Delhi-NCR, he felt anguished to observe the degraded state of the environment around him, especially the state of the river Yamuna

“When I noticed the toxic froth floating on the river, I could not help but do some research to find out the reason behind it. And, that was when I found out that several drainage lines were leading into the water, with only five percent of the sewage being treated. I wanted to do something to improve the state of sanitation so that such eventualities never arise,” Uttam recalls.

Zerodor is an attempt to recover urine and feces in pure form so that it does not pollute the soil and water and can be converted into useful fertilizer. The only way you can do this is to avoid flushing the pans. The initial iterations revolved around both urine and feces which evolved into a waterless urinal for men and women.

Solutions offered at Zerodor

1. Zerodor Waterless Urinals: A cost-effective waterless urinal without having any consumables (no recurring costs) can greatly impact the water consumption in urban areas. The designed product can save over 1.5 Lakh liters of fresh water in one urinal pan in a year. The amount that is currently wasted in a single urinal for flushing can support the drinking water need of 14 families for over a year. (http://ekameco.com/zerodor-waterless-urinals/ )

2. Care Organic House Keeping Solutions and Odor removal systems: Care is a range of organic solutions with wide range of applications ranging from cleaning of floors, bathrooms to washing clothes and utensils. Care also has room fresheners which are nonallergic are very effective on bad odors. (http://ekameco.com/care-organic-solutions/ )

3. Care Sludge Management Solutions: Care also offers solutions to manage the fecal/organic sludge in the septic tanks as well as large STP. These solutions are free from chemicals and are completely natural. The sludge is digested in a span of 8–72 hours and converted into nutrient-rich water which can be used for gardening, farming or even flushing. (http://ekameco.com/care-organic-solutions/ )

The day at Zerodor

Happy, Energized and Motivated. Being in a small organization, you always have limited resources and that is when all your creative juices start flowing in to get your work done with the limited resource that you have. All of us in the team handle multiple portfolios and are always excited every day. Every day is a great learning process.

Creating greener spaces

In the last seven years, Ekam Eco Solutions has contributed a great deal to the environment through its eco-friendly offerings. Having sold about 12,000 units of waterless urinal systems, kiosks, and many more of its other sewer treatment products, it has helped save one billion litres of water. Further, it has been diverting at least four tonnes of waste away from landfills every day. 

Ekam Eco Solutions

The team of Ekam Eco Solutions.

The Naval Base at Chilka in Odisha, the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam, INS Sardar Patel at Porbandar in Gujarat, and the Indian Railways also form part of Ekam’s customer base. The startup has been setting up urinals and composting systems in these institutions for quite some time now. 

Rashmi Singh, a 46-year-old retired naval officer, who has been using Ekam’s products, says,

“I have been buying a range of cleaning solutions from the startup after a friend of mine recommended it to me. Just the fact that they all are chemical-free and tend to keep natural resources intact motivated me to use them. Besides, they cost almost the same as other conventional cleaners.”

The Delhi-based startup is planning to expand its endeavor of providing affordable and environment-friendly sanitation systems by reaching out to more geographies in the future. It is also exploring solutions to knock out the usage of plastic in its packaging by collaborating with rePurpose, a global campaign focused on offsetting plastic footprints.

Monday Flashback Story : Golconda Fort – A Sustainable Heritage Fort from Qutb Shahi Architecture

Golconda Fort, also known as Golla Konda, is a fortified citadel built by the Kakatiyas and an early capital city of the Qutb Shahi dynasty (c. 1512–1687), located in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. Because of the vicinity of diamond mines, especially the Kollur Mine, Golconda flourished as a trade center of large diamonds, known as the Golconda Diamonds. The region has produced some of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the colorless Koh-i-Noor (now owned by the United Kingdom), the blue Hope (United States), the pink Daria-i-Noor (Iran), the white Regent (France), the Dresden Green (Germany), and the colorless Orlov (Russia), Nizam and Jacob (India), as well as the now-lost diamonds Florentine Yellow, Akbar Shah, and Great Mogul.

The Qutb Shahi tombs are the necropolis of the Qutb Shahi rulers, set in a vast garden on the outskirts of the Golconda Fort. The tombs share a common features : an onion dome atop a cube surrounded by an arcade with rich ornamental details, with small minarets featuring floral motifs.

It was initially called Shepherd’s Hill, meaning Golla Konda in Telugu while according to legend, on this rocky hill a shepherd boy had come across an idol and the information was conveyed to the ruling Kakatiya king at that time. The king constructed a mud fort around this holy spot and after 200 years, Bahamani rulers took possession of the place. Under the Bahmani Sultanate, Golconda slowly rose to prominence. Sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk (r. 1487–1543), sent by the Bahmanids as a governor at Golconda, established the city as the seat of his government around 1501. Bahmani rule gradually weakened during this period, and Sultan Quli formally became independent in 1538, establishing the Qutb Shahi dynasty based in Golconda. Over a period of 62 years, the mud fort was expanded by the first three Qutb Shahi sultans into the present structure, a massive fortification of granite extending around 5 km (3.1 mi) in circumference. It remained the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty until 1590 when the capital was shifted to Hyderabad. The Qutb Shahis expanded the fort, whose 7 km (4.3 mi) outer wall enclosed the city.

During the early seventeenth century a strong cotton-weaving industry existed in Golconda. Large quantities of cotton were produced for domestic and exports consumption. High-quality plain or patterned cloth made of muslin and calico was produced. The plain cloth was available as white or brown color, in bleached or dyed variety. Exports of this cloth were to Persia and European countries. The patterned cloth was made of prints which were made indigenously with indigo for blue, chay-root for red-colored prints and vegetable yellow. Patterned cloth exports were mainly to Java, Sumatra, and other eastern countries.

Golconda Fort is listed as an archaeological treasure on the official “List of Monuments” prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India under The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. Golconda consists of four distinct forts with a 10 km (6.2 mi) long outer wall with 87 semicircular bastions (some still mounted with cannons), eight gateways, and four drawbridges, with a number of royal apartments and halls, temples, mosques, magazines, stables, etc. inside. The lowest of these is the outermost enclosure entered by the “Fateh Darwaza” (Victory gate, so-called after Aurangzeb’s triumphant army marched in through this gate) studded with giant iron spikes (to prevent elephants from battering them down) near the south-eastern corner. An acoustic effect can be experienced at Fateh Darwazaan, a hand clap at a certain point below the dome at the entrance reverberates and can be heard clearly at the ‘Bala Hisar’ pavilion, the highest point almost a kilometer away. This worked as a warning in case of an attack.

Bala Hissar Gate is the main entrance to the fort located on the eastern side. It has a pointed arch bordered by rows of scrollwork. The spandrels have yalis and decorated roundels. The area above the door has peacocks with ornate tails flanking an ornamental arched niche. The granite block lintel below has sculpted yalis flanking a disc. The design of peacocks and lions is typical of Hindu architecture and underlies this fort’s Hindu origins.

Toli Masjid, situated at Karwan, about 2 km (1.2 mi) from the Golconda Fort, was built in 1671 by Mir Musa Khan Mahaldar, royal architect of Abdullah Qutb Shah. The facade consists of five arches, each with lotus medallions in the spandrels. The central arch is slightly wider and more ornate. The mosque inside is divided into two halls, a transverse outer hall and an inner hall entered through triple arches.

It is believed that there is a secret tunnel that leads from the “Durbar Hall” and ends in one of the palaces at the foot of the hill.[citation needed] The fort also contains the tombs of the Qutub Shahi kings. These tombs have Islamic architecture and are located about 1 km (0.62 mi) north of the outer wall of Golconda. They are encircled by beautiful gardens and numerous carved stones. It is also believed that there was a secret tunnel to Charminar.

The two individual pavilions on the outer side of Golconda are built on a point which is quite rocky. The “Kala Mandir” is also located in the fort. It can be seen from the king’s durbar (king’s court) which was on top of the Golconda Fort.

The other buildings found inside the fort are:

Habshi Kamans (Abyssian arches), Ashlah Khana, Taramati mosque, Ramadas Bandikhana, Camel stable, private chambers (kilwat), Mortuary bath, Nagina bagh, Ramasasa’s kotha, Durbar hall, Ambar khana etc.

Naya Qila (New Fort)

Naya Qila is an extension of Golconda Fort which was turned into the Hyderabad Golf Club despite resistance from farmers who owned the land and various NGOs within the city. The ramparts of the new fort start after the residential area with many towers and the Hatiyan ka Jhad (“Elephant-sized tree”)—an ancient baobab tree with an enormous girth. It also includes a war mosque. These sites are under restrictive access to the public because of the Golf Course.

Golconda Fort is a very large fort consisting of temples, mosques, palaces, halls, apartments and other structures. The fort is spread in around 11km area and has beautiful architecture. The fort is divided into four forts each having apartments, worship places, halls, etc.

Gates
Golconda Fort has eight gates out of which the main gate is Fateh Darwaza or the Victory Gate. This gate was built to commemorate the victorious march of Mughal Emperor Aurungzeb. The gate has steel spikes to protect it from elephants. The length of the gate is 25ft and the width is 13ft.

Monday Flashback Story – Red Fort, Agra – The Sustainable fort from Mughal Era !

Agra Fort is a historical fort in the city of Agra in India. It was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. Before capture by the British, the last Indian rulers to have occupied it were the Marathas. In 1983, the Agra fort was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 2.5 km northwest of its more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled city.

Like the rest of Agra, the history of Agra Fort prior to Mahmud Ghaznavi’s invasion is unclear. However, in the 15th century, the Chauhan Rajputs occupied it. Soon after, Agra assumed the status of capital when Sikandar Lodi (A.D. 1487–1517) shifted his capital from Delhi and constructed a few buildings in the pre-existing Fort at Agra. After the first battle of Panipat (A.D. 1526) Mughals captured the fort and ruled from it. In A.D. 1530, Humayun was crowned in it. The Fort got its present appearance during the reign of Akbar (A.D. 1556–1605).

After the First Battle of Panipat in 1526, Babur stayed in the fort, in the palace of Ibrahim Lodi. He later built a baoli (step well) in it. His successor, Humayun, was crowned in the fort in 1530. He was defeated at Bilgram in 1540 by Sher Shah Suri. The fort remained with the Suris till 1555, when Humayun recaptured it. Adil Shah Suri’s general, Hemu, recaptured Agra in 1556 and pursued its fleeing governor to Delhi where he met the Mughals in the Battle of Tughlaqabad.

The 380,000 m2 (94-acre) fort has a semicircular plan, its chord lies parallel to the river Yamuna and its walls are seventy feet high. Double ramparts have massive circular bastions at intervals, with battlements, embrasures, machicolations and string courses. Four gates were provided on its four sides, one Khizri gate opening on to the river.[citation needed]

Two of the fort’s gates are notable: the “Delhi Gate” and the “Lahore Gate.” The Lahore Gate is also popularly also known as the “Amar Singh Gate,” for Amar Singh Rathore.

The monumental Delhi Gate, which faces the city on the western side of the fort, is considered the grandest of the four gates and a masterpiece of Akbar’s time. It was built circa 1568 both to enhance security and as the king’s formal gate, and includes features related to both. It is embellished with intricate inlay work in white marble. A wooden drawbridge was used to cross the moat and reach the gate from the mainland; inside, an inner gateway called Hathi Pol (“Elephant Gate”) – guarded by two life-sized stone elephants with their riders – added another layer of security. The drawbridge, slight ascent, and 90-degree turn between the outer and inner gates make the entrance impregnable. During a siege, attackers would employ elephants to crush a fort’s gates. Without a level, the straight run-up to gather speed, however, that thing is prevented by this layout.

Situated on the site of earlier fortifications, it lies on the right bank of the Yamuna River and is connected to another of Agra’s renowned monuments, the Taj Mahal (downstream, around a bend in the Yamuna), by a swath of parkland and gardens. The fort was commissioned by Akbar in 1565 and reportedly took eight years to construct. The walls of the roughly crescent-shaped structure have a circumference of about 1.5 miles (2.5 km), rise 70 feet (21 metres) high, and are surrounded by a moat. There are two access points in the walls: the Amar Singh Gate facing south (now the only means in or out of the fort complex) and the Delhi Gate facing west, the original entrance, which is richly decorated with intricate marble inlays. Many structures within the walls were added later by subsequent Mughal emperors, notably Shah Jahān and Jahāngīr. The complex of buildings—reminiscent of Persian- and Timurid-style architectural features—forms a city within a city.

Among the major attractions in the fort is Jahāngīr’s Palace (Jahāngīri Mahal), built by Akbar as a private palace for his son Jahāngir. It is the largest residence in the complex. The Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid), constructed by Shah Jahān, is a tranquil and perfectly proportioned structure made entirely of white marble. The Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-i-Khas) was used for receiving distinguished visitors. The famous Peacock Throne was once kept there before Aurangzeb took it to Delhi. Near the Hall of Private Audience stands the tall Octagonal Tower (Musamman Burj), the residence of Shah Jahān’s favorite empress, Mumtaz Mahal.

In the Hall of Public Audience (Diwan-i-ʿAm), the emperor would listen to public petitions and meet state officials. The elegant marble walls of the Khas Mahal (the emperor’s private palace) were once adorned with flowers depicted by precious gems. Located to its northeast is the splendid Palace of Mirrors (Sheesh Mahal), its walls and ceilings inlaid with thousands of small mirrors. The structure’s two dazzling chambers were probably used as baths and possibly as a boudoir by the queens.

Featured Sustainable Story of the Week : D2O Learning – A Platform to help students & professionals to grow and excel in field of Sustainable Buildings

Recently, Bill Gates warns climate change could be worse than the coronavirus. By 2060, climate change could be just as deadly as COVID-19. He emphasized on innovation and awareness for reducing our carbon footprints. We at D2O Learning are working to spread the knowledge and upskill the Youth to be ready for the better tomorrow.

“We believe that education is not just limited to the classroom. Anyone can learn new skills from anywhere.  By connecting students & professionals across the globe to the best instructors, D2O learning is supporting learners to meet their career goals right from entering to the job market and changing fields to seeking promotion and exploring for Green Jobs in Sustainability Industry and work towards reducing their carbon footprint”, says D2O Learning Co-founder Mr. Anuj Gupta.

How was it started?

One of the co-founders of D2O Learning is working in Building Engineering Services since 2015. He has worked on various projects and assignments of Green Building Certifications, Climate Action, Various types of building simulations, audits, and many others. Through the market research, it has been found that many people would like to work in this domain but they are unaware about the work and what to select in their career. So, during the pandemic, he started D2O Learning with the objective of dissemination of knowledge and upskill the students & professionals in this sustainability field.

How is it going?

Team D2O Learning has developed various courses like LEED Green Associate Exam Preparation Course, Energy Simulation Mastery Workshop, LEED AP BD+C Mastery Workshop and many others. Also, various courses are under development.

Also, D2O Learning is collaborating with institutes to bridge the gap between industry and academia. Regular Faculty Development Program and technical sessions are organized for students. Apart from this, D2O Learning is associating with corporates to train their teams for climate-related issues, building engineering services etc.

Recognition

D2O Learning is an Ed-Tech startup which is recognized by DPIIT and Startup India. Check out the profile here – https://bit.ly/3EdRS7h

Also, D2O Learning is an approved startup from iSTART Rajasthan. Apart from this D2O Learning is registered as a MSME in India.

D2O Learning is an Alliance Member of Youth for Sustainability India Alliance. The objective of the alliance is to bring together like-minded youth-oriented organizations focused on SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 13 – Climate Action on a common national platform in the form of an Alliance to help India achieve its targets under SDG 12 and 13 with the youth as the accelerator.

Next what?

D2O Learning is planning to expand their team so that they can deliver best to their learners. Also, they’re collaborating with industry leaders so that they can reach out to maximum people. Please stay tuned to their social media pages for regular updates and shower your support & love. Check out more details here – https://linktr.ee/d2olearning

Monday Flashback Story : Chittorgarh Fort – Marvellous piece of Rajput Architecture

The Chittorgarh Fort also known as Chittorgarh or Chittor Fort is one of the largest forts in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort was the capital of Mewar and is located in the present-day town of Chittorgarh. It sprawls over a hill 180 m (590.6 ft) in height spread over an area of 280 ha (691.9 acres) above the plains of the valley drained by the Berach River. The fort covers 65 historic structures, which include four palaces, 19 large temples, 20 large water bodies, 4 memorials and a few victory towers.

In 2013, at the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Chittorgarh Fort, along with five other forts of Rajasthan, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a group called the Hill Forts of Rajasthan.

The fort, which is roughly in the shape of a fish, has a circumference of 13 km (8.1 mi) with a maximum length of 5 km (3.1 mi) and it covers an area of 700 acres.[citation needed] The fort is approached through a difficult zig-zag ascent of more than 1 km (0.6 mi) from the plains, after crossing over a limestone bridge. The bridge spans the Gambhiri River and is supported by ten arches (one has a curved shape while the balance have pointed arches). Apart from the two tall towers, which dominate the majestic fortifications, the sprawling fort has a plethora of palaces and temples (many of them in ruins) within its precincts.

The 305 hectare component site, with a buffer zone of 427 hectares, encompasses the fortified stronghold of Chittorgarh, a spacious fort located on an isolated rocky plateau of approximately 2 km length and 155 m width.

It is surrounded by a perimeter wall 13 km (8.1 mi) long, beyond which a 45° hill slope makes it almost inaccessible to enemies. The ascent to the fort passes through seven gateways built by the Mewar ruler Rana Kumbha (1433–1468) of the Sisodia clan. These gates are called, from the base to the hilltop, the Paidal Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jorla Pol, Laxman Pol, and Ram Pol, the final and main gate.

The fort complex comprises 65 historic built structures, among them 4 palace complexes, 19 main temples, 4 memorials, and 20 functional water bodies. These can be divided into two major construction phases. The first hill fort with one main entrance was established in the 5th century and successively fortified until the 12th century. Its remains are mostly visible on the western edges of the plateau. The second, more significant defence structure was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of the Sisodia Rajputs, when the royal entrance was relocated and fortified with seven gates, and the medieval fortification wall was built on an earlier wall construction from the 13th century.

There are seven entrances which are −

Padan Pol
Bhairon Pol
Hanuman Pol
Ganesh Pol
Jodala Pol
Laxman Pol
Ram Pol
The fort also includes palaces, temples, and water bodies.

Temples
When the fort was built in 5th century, it had only one gate. Sisodia Rajputs renovated the fort and built six more gates. The temples related to Hindus and Jains built inside the fort are

Kumbha Shyam Temple
Mira Bai Temple
Adi Varah Temple
Shringar Chauri Temple
Sattaes Devri
SatBis Devri
There are two towers which are the other Jain monuments and these are Kirti Stambh and Vijay Stambh.

Palaces
Rana Kumbha Palace can be accessed from the seventh gate. Rana Ratan Singh Palace was constructed in 19th and 20th centuries. Fateh Prakash Palace is also there which has been converted into a museum.

The Seven Gates

All the gates were built for security purposes and not surprisingly, the gates have special architectural designs. The gates have pointed arches, to make sure it provides extra protection should there be an attack. Notched parapets were built on top of the gates, enabling soldiers to shoot arrows at the enemy army. There is a common road that runs inside the fort, connecting all the gates. The gates, in turn lead to various palaces and temples within the fort. All the gates have historical significance. Prince Bagh Singh was killed at the Padan Gate during one of the sieges in the year 1535 AD. During the last siege, led by Emperor Akbar, Rao Jaimal of Badnore was allegedly killed by the Mughal emperor himself. This incident is said to have taken place somewhere in between the Bhairon Gate and Hanuman Gate.

Architecture

All the seven gates of the fort are nothing but massive stone structures, aimed at providing maximum security from the potential threat of enemies. The entire fort is built in such a way that it makes it almost impregnable for the enemies to enter. To ascend the fort, one has to go through a difficult path, which itself proves that the architectural design of the fort was aimed at keeping the enemies at bay. This is one of the main reasons why the fort was sieged by various kings at regular intervals. In between the second and the third gate there are two Chhatris or cenotaphs, built in honor of Jaimull and Patta, the heroes of 1568 AD when the fort was sieged by Emperor Akbar. These cenotaphs are considered as architectural marvels. The tower of the fort is nine-storeyed and is adorned with sculptures of Hindu deities and stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The tower provides a breathtaking view of the city.


Architecture of Palaces

The palace of Rana Kumbha was built using plastered stone. One of the main features of this palace is its series of canopied balconies. Suraj Gate leads to the entrance of this palace, which is associated with a host of legends. Padmini’s palace is an impressive edifice with three storeys. The old palace, which was ruined due to various reasons, was reconstructed in the early 19th century. The building, as it stands today, is white in color. The architectural design of the old palace was a nice blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture.

Monday Flashback Story – Shahnajaf Imambara Lucknow : Marvellous piece of Awadh Sustainable Architecture

Near Sikandrabad, on the bank of Gomti River, there is located a mausoleum – Shahnajaf Imambara that was built in the 19th century. It was the first king of Awadh clan – Ghazi-ud-Din Haider, who constructed this historical site in Lucknow. He built the Imambara as a token of his devotion to Hazrat Ali, who was the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Shahnajaf Imambara is a replica of Ghazi-ud-Din’s own tomb in Iraq. At present, Shahnajaf Imambara is one of the main tourist attractions in Lucknow mainly because of its historical significance and impressive architecture. Near the Imambara, a house and a mosque for Mumtaz Mahal (his wife) were also constructed by Ghazi-ud-Din Haider. However, in the year 1913, the house was torn down to construct a road on the riverside. Inside the Imambara, there lie the remains of him as he wanted to be buried here. Along with that, the graves of his wives Mubarak Mahal, who died in 1849, Sarfaraz Mahal who died in 1878, and Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1896. On 13th of Rajab (birthday of Hazrat Ali) and between 7th and 9th Muharram, the Imambara is beautifully decorated.

Most Lucknowites only know about two of the prominent Imambaras i.e., Bara Imambara and Chota Imambara. Matter of fact there is many more Imambaras in Lucknow. And one remarkable among them is Shahnajaf Imambara!

Imambaras are the holy places built for the avatars of Allah. Shanajaf Imambara was built by the first king of Awadh, Ghazi-ud-Din Haider, in the memory of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet of Islam, Hazrat Mohammad.

The Architecture

The path from the main door to the Imambara gate is made of white marble. Lakhori bricks and almond lime have been used mainly in their design.

As we entered the building, the shapes and textures of the verandah kept drawing our eyes. We were surprised to see that our city of Lucknow reflects such great wonders of history and architecture.

Entering inside we found some walkways and doors and a long way to the verandah. There was a large hall under the center dome of Imambara, where the remains of Ghazi-ud-din Haider have been kept at his will. The hall was very beautiful and decorated with the artistry of the mirrors.
Apart from Ghazi-ud-din Haider, his three queens, Sarfaraz Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, and Mumtaz Mahal has tombs here.

The Shahnajaf Imambara is a replica of Hazrat Ali’s burial at Najaf in Iraq. The building is settled near river Gomti, on Rana Pratap Marg in Lucknow, and is made up of Lakhauri bricks. The most remarkable landmark today would be Saharaganj Mall which is in front of the Shahnajaf Imambara.

Some important points

  • It is very nice in the evening around here, you can go for a walk.
  • There is a beautiful garden around the building.
  • There is adequate parking.
  • Take special care of your things.
  • This is a legacy, so you are requested to help keep it clean.
  • The surrounding gardens have a walk option. The fresh breeze of the evening will erase all your fatigue.
Pathways inside Imambara

Entering inside you can see some mesmerizing pathways and a long stretch of doors and verandas. Reaching the center of Imambara, there is a hall under the dome where the remains of Ghazi-ud-Din Haider were put as per his wish.

The hall is beautiful and decorated with lots of glass artistry so as to reflect maximum light. Apart from this, there were graves of the king’s three queens namely Sarfaraz Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, and Mumtaz Mahal.

Shah Najaf Imambara is also referred to as Karbala in Lucknow. Inside the main hall of the Imambara is the grave of Nawab Ghazi-ud-Din Haider, as it was his wish to be buried there. The graves of his three wives, Mumtaz Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, and Sarfaraz Mahal are also present in the Imambara complex.

The entrance of the Imambara leads the visitors to the main Hall through a picturesque garden, which is wonderfully decorated with a variety of flowers and plants. In the middle of the Imambara lies the wonderful silver mausoleum of Ghazi-ud-din Haider. The silver mausoleum is located very close to the gold tombs of Mumtaz Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, and Sarfaraz Mahal.

Shah Najaf Imambara – Today

The majestic Shah Najaf Imambara is beautifully illuminated and adorned with colorful lights on the birthday of Hazrat Ali. According to Muslim calendar, the birthday of Hazrat Ali falls on the 13th day of the Islamic month of Rajab.

The Imambara is open for visitors from 9:00 AM through 5:00 PM on all days of the week. The conservation of the monument is undertaken by the Hussainabad Trust Board and Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

In stark contrast, you would be able to see the city’s medieval heritage at the Shah Najaf Imambara on one side and a modelesque view of the Sahara Ganj Mall across the street.

Monday Flashback story of Dholavira – Ancient Sustainable City since Harappa Civilisation

This week we present the Flashback story of Dholavira, the archaeological site of a Harappan-era city, which received the UNESCO world heritage site tag on Tuesday. While Dholavira became the fourth site from Gujarat and 40th from India to make the list, it is the first site of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) in India to get the tag.

Dholavira site

The IVC acropolis is located on a hillock near present-day Dholavira village in Kutch district, from which it gets its name. It was discovered in 1968 by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi. The site’s excavation between 1990 and 2005 under the supervision of archaeologist Ravindra Singh Bisht uncovered the ancient city, which was a commercial and manufacturing hub for about 1,500 years before its decline and eventual ruin in 1500 BC.

Distinct features

After Mohen-jo-Daro, Ganweriwala, and Harappa in Pakistan and Rakhigarhi in Haryana of India, Dholavira is the fifth largest metropolis of IVC.  The site has a fortified citadel, a middle town, and a lower town with walls made of sandstone or limestone instead of mud bricks in many other Harappan sites.

Archaeologist Bisht cites a cascading series of water reservoirs, outer fortification, two multi-purpose grounds — one of which was used for festivities and as a marketplace — nine gates with unique designs, and funerary architecture featuring tumulus — hemispherical structures like the Buddhist Stupas— as some of the unique features of the Dholavira site.

While unlike graves at other IVC sites, no mortal remains of humans have been discovered at Dholavira. Bisht says memorials that contain no bones or ashes but offerings of precious stones, etc. add a new dimension to the personality of the Harappans.

Rise and fall of Dholavira

Remains of a copper smelter indicate of Harappans, who lived in Dholavira, knew metallurgy. It is believed that traders of Dholavira used to source copper ore from present-day Rajasthan and Oman and UAE and export finished products. It was also a hub of manufacturing jewellery made of shells and semi-precious stones, like agate and used to export timber.

Bisht says that such beads peculiar to the Harappan workmanship have been found in the royal graves of Mesopotamia, indicating Dholavira used to trade with the Mesopotamians. Its decline also coincided with the collapse of Mesopotamia, indicating the integration of economies. Harappans, who were maritime people, lost a huge market, affecting the local mining, manufacturing, marketing and export businesses once Mesopotamia fell.

He further says that from 2000 BC, Dholavira entered a phase of severe aridity due to climate change and rivers like Saraswati drying up. Because of a drought-like situation, people started migrating toward the Ganges valley or towards south Gujarat and further beyond in Maharashtra.

In those times, Bisht says, the Great Rann of Kutch, which surrounds the Khadir island on which Dholavira is located, used to be navigable, but the sea receded gradually and the Rann became a mudflat.

Other Harappan sites in Gujarat

Before Dholavira was excavated, Lothal, in Saragwala village on the bank of Sabarmati in Dholka taluka of Ahmedabad district, was the most prominent site of IVC in Gujarat.

It was excavated between 1955 and 1960 and was discovered to be an important port city of the ancient civilization, with structures made of mud bricks. From a graveyard in Lothal, 21 human skeletons were found. Foundries for making copperware were also discovered. Ornaments made of semi-precious stones, gold etc. were also found from the site.

Besides Lothal, Rangpur on the bank of Bhadra river in Surendranagar district was the first Harappan site in the state to be excavated. Rojdi in Rajkot district, Prabhas near Veraval in Gir Somnath district, Lakhabaval in Jamnagar, and Deshalpar in Bhuj taluka of Kutch are among other Harappan sites in the state.

In its release, UNESCO termed Dholavira as one of the most remarkable and well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia dating from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE (Before Common Era). Since the excavation at the site, the ASI has developed a museum here. Dholavira, a village with a population of around 2,000, is the nearest human settlement at present. Near the ancient city is a fossil park where wood fossils are preserved.

Fibre Cement Boards are reliable & Sustainable Building Material

The material builders use is what brought a structure together, from simple sculptures to apartment complexes. Some of these items aren’t sustainable, though, and can end up hurting the environment. Everest Boards are greener alternative.

Everest Boards rises to the top among its competitors due to its eco-friendly benefits and cost-effectiveness. And Wood, regular cement, vinyl, and stucco are only a few examples of materials fiber cement outperforms.

When creating a home or building of any kind, construction workers will opt for the most effective path. Choosing a more sustainable route with fiber cement will yield the best results from that path. Here are the main benefits:

1. Lifespan

When comparing Fiber Cement or any Everest Boards to other siding materials like wood or vinyl, one of the first things you’ll notice is the lifespan. Everest Boards goes above and beyond what other resources can provide by outlasting the competition. It can last for up to 50 years.

The longer lifespan means residents won’t need to replace and repair their siding as often. Instead, they can save money and produce less waste over the years. Routine checkups and repairs won’t need to be done as often, resulting in cost savings.

Fiber cement is low maintenance, too. There’s no need to continually toss out old parts like you’d need to with rotting wood. Investing more now will yield a better return on investment (ROI) with fewer costs over the years.

2. Sustainability

Sustainability is a key factor when it comes to eco-friendliness. It’s the main reason why fiber cement is becoming so popular. Regular cement requires a lot of water during production, while fiber cement relies on recycled materials and consumes fewer resources. With water crises in certain areas throughout the world, using materials that reduce water usage is necessary.

Cement, sand, cellulose and recycled wood are the main components of fiber cement and Everest Boards, making it a standout for sustainable building materials. Of course, natural siding materials like wood are eco-friendly, too, but only to an extent. Once they start breaking down, they’re harder to recycle. In fact, the pieces are better off becoming part of the fiber-cement mix.

3. Versatility

If someone is hesitant about using fiber cement because they want to work with other materials, there’s other details about fiber cement then. Fiber cement is the chameleon of siding materials. It can mimic other resources like stucco or wood, including grain patterns that look like the real thing.

You can get them in a variety of designs, including panels, shingles or boards. Further, fiber cement works well with paint — both in the factory and on a building.

The versatility then benefits the environment. Builders use fewer resources and instead focus solely on using fiber cement. This impact adds up with more people using fiber cement and Everest Boards, there’s less of a need for mass manufacturing natural resources.

4. Resistance

Eco-friendly typically refers to how materials benefit the environment. In another sense of the term, though, Everest Products can help prevent weather-related damage. It can better withstand hail, storms, natural disasters, and fires.

Fiber cement is strong, sturdy, and resistant to anything life throws at it. It can protect against even the harshest conditions, which leads to less out-of-pocket expenses for the homeowners. Bugs and animals that gnaw through materials like wood won’t be an issue here – Fiber Cement and Everest Boards resist it all.

Different environments and locations throughout the world have various weather conditions and threats to endure. These residential living units in France give residents peace of mind that their homes can withstand the elements.

5. Health

One subtle benefit of fiber cement and Everest Product is the neutral components that make it up. Other materials like vinyl may have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to their synthetic nature. These toxic compounds come from paints, sprays, preservatives, cleansers and plenty more products and materials that are common in households. These VOCs can affect human health negatively.

For instance, VOCs can cause issues like headaches, nausea, asthma and ear irritation. Reducing materials that use VOCs is then necessary to create a safer environment. Avoiding these compounds altogether is key to good health, making fiber cement a good option.

Eco-Friendly Progress

In more ways than one, Everest Products are sustainable. Environmentally, financially and health-wise, this material helps consumers save money while reducing their impact on the environment and protecting their own health. As fiber cement solidifies itself as a viable option for buildings and siding, other materials must become more sustainable. If not, fiber cement will pull ahead as a beacon of progress for eco-friendly materials.

These five benefits prove it’s a leader in the field and shows the direction construction must go to benefit consumers and the environment.

Featured Sustainable Story : Sustainable Advancements – Restoring & Saving our resources

This Week we Present the Sustainability Story of an Organization working on Restoring & saving our Natural Resources by following Sustainable Practices.

Sustainable Advancements broadly aims to promote the 5Ps of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Global Goals, viz. people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.

This is done through a two-pronged approach – Advocacy and Implementation that aids in bridging the gap between ideas and actions, communities and businesses, India and rest of the world, thus bringing about holistic development.

“Earth Restore’’ an initiative of Sustainable Advancements (OPC) Private Limited has taken up the challenge to create an urban forest near Kolkata, West Bengal, India in approximately 1.4 acres of land surrounded by 22 housing co-operatives/ houses/ utility centers with about 10 of them having 32 families living in each of the co-operatives. Under the Green Verge project with the local government New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA), Earth Restore is planting mainly bamboos in this stretch as bamboos have a high growth potential and sequester large amounts of carbon.  However, assorted plantations will also be undertaken in the lines of Miyawaki forest to attract bio-diversity.

In Pic: Dr. Nayan Mitra, Founder Director, Sustainable Advancements with Mr. & Mrs. Debashis Sen, Chairman of NKDA and the Chief Sustainability Architect of New Town, Kolkata

A multi-stakeholder approach has been adopted with the local government, corporates, civil societies, academic institutions, individuals, and communities coming together to drive positive change. Challenges are huge, but baby steps have yielded resulted in behavioral buy-ins over a period of time.

In Pic: Growing the Urban Forest by Sustainable Advancements with young bamboo clumps, flanked by houses on both sides

This comes at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, 2021 has led the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres to flag the issue of climate change as ‘a code red for humanity,’ where he further points out that “the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

Climate change is globally affecting people, ecosystems, and livelihoods; recent trends in emissions and the level of international ambition indicated by nationally determined contributions, within the Paris Agreement, deviate from a track consistent with limiting warming to well below 2°C; increased and urgent mitigation ambition in the coming years, leading to a sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is a necessity; global warming is expected to surpass 1.5°C in the following decades, leading to irreversible loss of the most fragile ecosystems, and crisis after crisis for the most vulnerable people and societies.

To add to this, rapid growth in urbanization have yielded in mass housing projects that have very steadily replaced and engulfed green open spaces and urban green verges. Moreover, traffic congestion, population growth, exponential human and industrial activity are resulting in an urban heat island effect that is preventing the heat to escape to the atmosphere, resulting in increasing the temperature in urban spaces up to 3-4°C higher than in the surrounding countryside. The World Health Organization (WHO) points out that between 10 and 15 square metres of green space per inhabitant are required to ensure a healthy urban ecosystem.

Thus, urban forests will play an important role in not only impacting climate action but also improving the air quality and restoring biodiversity loss; ensuring proper land usage, planting native species, and beautification. Once planted, an urban forest has the potential to become maintenance-free after the first three years. Earth Restore, plans to plant more trees, under its Green Verges portfolio, in the future and bring about collective change in mindset and action towards the climate.

Article by : Dr. Nayan Mitra

https://www.sustainableadvancements.com/