Wednesday, December 29, 2010

King of the World: Shah Jehan & my video of Shalamar Gardens

Browsing around the internet, as I am wont to do, I came across an image of the tughra, or seal of Shah Jehan, which brought back memories of my visit to Lahore, city of Shah Jehan's birth.  Before I show you some home videos, here is a picture of the tughra from the Met:

Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art
The intricate beauty of the calligraphy, the silver script almost invisible, is only befitting a man whose name means, "King of the World" and who was the ruler of the Mughal Empire at its peak.  Shah Jehan was born in Lahore in 1592, the grandson of Akbar, son of Jehanghir.  He came to power in 1627 and ruled until 1658.

Shah Jehan was a gifted ruler, but he is most remembered for the legendary love he had for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal ("jewel of the palace") for whom he built the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world.  He established his court at Delhi and built many architectural marvels that stand to this day.

I recently visited Lahore and saw the Shalimar Gardens, which were commissioned by Shah Jehan in 1641 and built in just a year.  It is a beautiful network of 410 fountains, with water supplied by a canal that spanned 161 kilometers.

Below is a brief movie I took of Shalimar Gardens, back in November 2010. I think the video is so narrow due to size restrictions on blogger.

This is the upper part of the Gardens and the water was drained because they were cleaning out the fountains in preparation for Eid-ul-Adha, as hundreds, if not thousands, of people were expected to offer Eid prayers.  Also, a slight correction to the commentary, the Gardens are about 369 years old:

Second video, showcasing a different, and I think more beautiful, part of Shalimar:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Badshahi Masjid: then and now

Fascinating picture of Badshahi Masjid in Lahore from somewhere between 1858 to 1861, via the Met, taken during British rule:

Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Compare that image to one that I took in November 2010:

Copyright: Umar Shakur, 2010
The Masjid is next to Shahi Qila, the Lahore Fort, and both pictures are taken from that vantage point. The top picture also shows Ranjit Singh's palace, in white and on the right, built in Hazuri Bagh (a garden) when the Sikh's took over Lahore (1799-1849). 

The beauty of Badshahi Masjid remains, but look how open the grounds around the masjid are in the old picture.  There are large, grassy fields surrounding the complex.  Today, it is full of people, roads, buildings and the bustle of thousands. In fact, essentially across the street, stands the Minar-e-Pakistan.

Another interesting tidbit, Badshahi Masjid was built in about 2 years at the direction of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, son of Shah Jehan, and features some of the finest Islamic architecture in the world.  Its minarets are taller than the Taj Mahal's and it remains the 5th largest masjid complex in the world.

Compare that to the 8 years it took to build Minar-e-Pakistan in the 1960s. Amazing to consider how efficiently and masterfully the Mughals did their construction work.

Finally, a brief video I took of the adhan at maghrib time in the Badshahi Masjid.  The spirituality and sense of peace one finds there remain intact, over 300 years later:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Leslie Hazelton: an agnostic Jew's reading of the Qur'an

Leslie Hazelton is a prolific writer, formerly a Middle East reporter, who has taken an interest in religious writing and describes herself as an "agnostic Jew." She is writing a book about the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and gives an interesting talk at TEDxRainier, about her experience with the Qur'an.

It is an intriguing 9 minutes

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Ah, digital media.

So, one post-call day, my very sleep deprived intern decided he wanted to take pictures of the ward team, apparently to help him remember a very memorable call night.  He got his pictures, which were actually quite nice, and later, an intrepid, and digitally savvy, medical student used the pics to create this, um, fascinating video clip:

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Who says medicine isn't fun? Just for the record, I have never participated in any 80s-style rock band groups...

Friday, December 24, 2010


WorldScopes is a worthwhile charity, sponsored by the American Medical Association, that seeks to provide doctors all over the world with stethoscopes. If you have an extra one lying around, consider making a donation today.