Rajasthan and Agra
Happy Diwali! While YiOu took a few days off from our adventure, Sean traveled to Rajasthan. He visited the cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Agra (which is actually in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh). Whereas our adventures in Africa felt more, well, adventurous, Sean’s brief tour of this corner of India was more scripted. This is not to say that it was not thoroughly enjoyable; it was. The temples and palaces were remarkably beautiful, and his appreciation for its complex and ancient history was greatly enhanced. Indeed, it is difficult to appreciate the architecture without understanding a little bit about the history of India. What follows is the briefest of summaries of the last few millennia:
People have lived throughout India for thousands of years, but things really started to get interesting in 600 BC when Buddhism and Jainism were born. Jainism is essentially extreme Buddhism. Hinduism is a mixture of ancient traditions dating back even further. The first great Indian empire was that of the Maurya, which dominated from 300 BC to 200 AD and peaked under the reign of Ashoka. Interestingly, the Maurya were Hindu until Ashoka converted to Buddhism. Though his embrace of Buddhism contributed to nearly a half century of peace and prosperity, the shift towards non-violence weakened the empire against external threats and eventually led to its decline. The Gupta Period from 300-500 AD is considered the Golden Age of India. As Hindus, their dominance also spelled an effective end to Buddhism in India. After Islam was founded in 700 AD, the Rajput kingdoms in Rajasthan battled Muslim invaders for several centuries until the last Hindu king was defeated around 1200. Several sultanates followed until the Mughal dynasty took control in the 16th century. They are responsible for the Taj Mahal and many other spectacular palaces and forts. This is considered the second Golden Age. The Mughals ruled until the British assumed control of India in 1858. After nearly a hundred years of British rule, India gained its independence in 1947. Voila!
Now, hopefully, it makes sense why in a Hindu-majority country the most famous building is Islamic, why so many ancient Hindu temples have been destroyed or defaced, and why in the birthplace of Buddhism there are so few Buddhist temples. India is moving forward at a rapid pace, but I enjoyed immersing myself in the history of this ancient country. Let us all hope that the next Golden Age of India is upon us.