The Taj Mahal: How to Wander the Wonder

Honestly, it wasn’t until my fourth visit to India that I visited the Taj Mahal. I was always interested but had been delaying the experience, believing it to be a little overdone, overwhelming and stressful. Having been a few times now I’ve discovered that actually you can never ‘overdo’ the Taj; it has its reputation for a reason! And overwhelming, yes, but in a wonderful can’t-get-enough-of-this-beauty kind of way. As for the stress, it exists, but with a little research and prep it’s totally manageable. Read on for my personal tips and insights…

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The Adorable Tiger of Ranthambore National Park

“Yes there are leopards in this city, and we can go visit a tiger tomorrow.”

Sometimes when people tell me things in India, they seem so incredulous to my western mind that I’m just not sure whether to believe them or not. But I would trust Vivek Channgani with my life (and kind of almost did at one point, but that’s another story), so when he was telling about these local big cats, during a motorbike ride in the hills of Jaipur, I simply asked him to elaborate.

It was dusk and we were coming back from a visit to the Maharaji of Galtaji Temple, Vivek was pointing to the skyline and looking out for the sillhouette of a leopard. He told me that sometimes you could see them walking along the hilltops, their bodies outlined against the setting sun…

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Gemstones, Jewels and... Coffee?

While living in Jaipur for a short stint in 2017, this spot soon became my favourite place to hang, drink surprisingly good cappuccinos and do work-kinda things (edit photos, write blogs, plan workshops etc). I think what I most liked about spending time at Curious Life was, alongside their smoothie bowls, chocolate chip cookies and fresh roasted beans, I was captivated by the other people that visited the cafe. With the exception of a few other tourists, this place seemed to attract all of Jaipur’s interesting, beautifully dressed, charismatic local professionals…

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Creative Travel meets Rajasthani Cuisine

From Jaipur’s finest high-end bars to the best and secret local street snacks, delicately spiced regional thali dishes to fresh, hot, masala chai, from dining under the moonlight in Jaipur’s City Palace to sharing samosas among artists on the studio floor, from trying our guide’s favourite sweet dishes to cooking chappathis for the public inside the huge kitchen (langar) of Delhi’s Gurudwara Bangla Sahib… it’s safe to say we filled our bellies with a vast range of insights…

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A Master Class in Miniature Painting

An integral part of the Inspired India 2018 creative yoga trip was a chance to spend a day with India’s award winning artist Sri Ramu Ramdev, learning the art of Indian Miniature Painting from within Jaipur City Palace…

…Miniature Painting is a practical way to experience yoga within painting, through recognisable physical techniques such as breathwork, as well as that subtle devotional quality that resonates throughout the images, the artists and the atmosphere of the studio. Art from the heart…

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Houses of the Holy: Yoga at Galtaji Temple

…We arrived in the dark hour before dawn and climbed the steps to a temple courtyard, which we shared with a group of young monks who were chanting their morning prayers. Music and mantra filled the air, and so did the local monkeys, who began to leap around the rooftops as the sun came up. We moved and breathed and bathed in the devotional sound, we jumped through vinyasas as the monkeys jumped into trees, and we sat in stillness on the stone floor that we shared with our young spiritual companions. After practice, droplets of rain began to fall from the sky and we were welcomed inside for hot chai and sweets with His Holiness, Maharaji of Shri Galta Peetham….

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"Kerala Fisherman" is a painting that I created after living in the village of Kurakkanni, Kerala, in 2014-2015. This portrait of a local fisherman on Edava Beach, fixing his fishing net after his morning catch was put up for silent auction from August 25-September 9th 2018, so that 100% of proceeds could be donated to the Kerala Flood Relief Fund to help with the August 2018 devastation from the South Indian Monsoon.

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Prints for the People the interest of spreading joy and spreading the teachings of yoga, here it is, another little glimpse into the many ways that we can access union, connection and a deeper understanding of the humanity around us. I quickly learnt that the stories I'd imagined about many of these people were not even close to the truth, that their real lives were way more interesting than I could have guessed, and that it wasn't always appropriate for me to share in their experiences. This small project has given me a new perspective to creating portrait images of strangers, a chance to question more deeply what the art is trying to show. It offered a further glimpse into the culture around me, and an increased appetite for exploring the unknown while letting the moment lead the way.

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The Everyday Yogis

I like coming into the park and sitting with the elders as they practice their pranayama and morning prayers. The energy is quite potent, quite still in here. A certain type of quiet, even as the sounds of morning life still filter through the iron fence that circles the space.

I came upon these 'Everyday Yogis' quite accidentally while walking along a new route. They are an assorted group of people...

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Elephants in Exhibition

If you really love the elephants here in India, don't ride them. Don't chain them up and take selfies... instead get artistically inspired and join in with a global campaign that is raising awareness of elephant cruelty and working towards elephant conservation.

Elephant Family is a registered charity that is committed to delivering effective conservation projects, changing government and corporate policy and generating mass support for elephant protection. Here in Jaipur, we've been working with them on the global Travels to my Elephant art project, whereby the organisation commissioned 101 elephant sculptures to be painted by renowned artists around the world, using art to raise awareness of elephant corridors and the importance of protecting these environments that are the species' habitat.

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The Road is Life

So most people know that India is home to an abundance of street-side entrepreneurs, road merchants, travelling salesmen and quick-thinking opportunists.

But still, there are some people that take that up to a whole new level.

Tattoos in the traffic, dentists in an open air office, taxes completed on the ground in the shade. The really crazy thing though is I'm starting to get so used to this way of life that I now often forget to take photos; forget to take a visual reminder of these situations that are such a novelty when compared with our structured way of thinking. Our habit of sticking to the rules. But sometimes I do remember to document this lifestyle, and so let me share a couple of insights with you here.

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The Art of the Line

The Art of the Line is another name for Indian Painting as the line work is the most essential characteristic of the art. It is a smooth, elegant, flowing line that becomes emotive as it takes on the characteristic of each form in the image. A balance of force and flow, applied with delicacy and deliberation. The most effective way of learning how to paint this way is to spend time with one who has already mastered the technique, and then do as they do in order to try and experience what they experience.

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Patience and the Paint Makers: Mountain Stones

The first secret of Indian Miniature Painting? A little of the magic comes directly from the rare gemstones and minerals that make up the paint in the image.

To fully appreciate this art-form, it is essential to understand the great care that goes into the preparation and creation of all components of the painting. Everything is sourced organically and made by hand, and each part of the process is of equal importance to the artist. Before any painting can commence, the rigorous and careful ritual of paint making must occur, and this is what we're looking at in some detail here.

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Tikam, the 19th Century Street Photographer

If you visit Jaipur you'll be sure to walk along Hawa Mahal Road; a bustling street in the Old City that connects the City Palace with the Palace of the Winds and that is located right next to the Johari Bazar, the heart of the local gold and gemstone markets. This area is a great way to explore architecture, collect souvenirs and experience market life, and as such it's a tourist hotspot that is home to many traders and quirky businesses that speak to the needs of India's many visitors.

One resourceful and innovative entrepreneur has spotted an opportunity within our collective obsession for photography, selfies and photo souvenirs, and has set up on the street with his grandfather's 150(+) year old Zeiss camera. Located just outside of shop 120, near the Jalebi Chowk gate of the City Palace, Mr Tikam Chand offers street photography with a 19th century twist, and will take your portrait with his traditional camera gear and develop the photograph right there on the pavement as he has done for a lifetime. 

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Monkeys in the Palace

Thanks to the reverence that Hindus place on these creatures, they live (almost) harmoniously alongside local people and all the other city wildlife -of which there is a lot! The people are wise to the monkeys' tricks and as such know how to operate in a way that allows the monkeys to do their thing with minimal disruption to the lives of the people.

And I find that pretty admirable; how the locals here are happy to let nature meet the urban landscape, and treat their animal friends as (almost) equals. It's pretty different to our western culture, where generally we feel the need to tame any creature that we interact with on a regular basis. Observing the city wildlife is a beautiful teaching in how to live among nature, rather than feeling the need to constantly be controiling everything, and everyone, around you.

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Secret Local Lunch Spots #1

“Sita Ram’s Restaurant” -named specifically for this blog post as he’d never needed a name for it before, is situated just outside of the Udai Pol palace gate (near Jaleb Chowk) within the parking area and among some other chai and snack stands. There’s only one thing on the menu at this simple pop up food stop: Palek paratha and curry, served with red and green chilli chutneys and curd.

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