Before coming to the IFA, I had the opportunity to work at the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) as a conservation intern in Worcester MA. The city boasts an amazing museum, and its residents for the Kinnicutt Travel Award. Frances A. Kinnicutt (c. 4 July 1868–28 Dec 1933, née Clarke) was a wealthy women—a donor to and trustee of the Worcester Art Museum—who was frustrated that it was not encouraged for women to travel abroad to look at and/or study art. Young men were sent to Europe on the “Grand Tour” so that they could return home as cultured men. In response, the Kinnicutt Travel Award was established with an endowment.
Today, these awards help to defray the expenses of travel abroad and subsidize “study undertaken to introduce one to the fine arts, to further professional growth in the fine arts, or to enhance art-related goals of a personal nature.” Any woman who lives or works in Worcester County can apply!
I had studied Asian art history in my undergraduate education but had never had the opportunity to travel to that part of the world. India in particular had always captured my imagination. I wrote a proposal to travel in north India, looking at the art and architecture of the Mughals and of select Rajput kingdoms: Kachwaha, Marwar, and Mewar. I was ecstatic when I received one of the eight awards for the 2012-2013 academic calendar year.
In order to have a full three weeks of travel, I finished my finals early, packed my bags, and set off for the subcontinent. My mother decided to come along on the trip and we headed to Delhi to start our adventure. After 26 hours of travel—crossing 10 ½ time zones—we arrived and made our way to our guest house in the predawn hours. We spent the next four days visiting the major sites: Tomb of Humayan, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKCON Temple, and various museums.
Delhi is a cacophony of sights and sounds. The streets are filled with colorful people, cars, buses, tuk-tuks, bicycle rickshaws, cows, goats, camels, monkeys, elephants, etc. Sometime it would take us a few minutes to gather the courage just to cross the street! At times we would just sit and watch the street life while sipping chai or eating delicious street food. The city is a challenging place to visit especially as women. One cannot walk down the street without the unwanted attention of men. Four days was more than enough and we headed 134 miles to the south to Agra.
Agra sits on the Yamuna River and served as the capital for several Mughal rulers. We first spent three days visiting forts, local markets, tombs, and even took a day trip to the town of Fatehpur Sikri. Agra draws tourists because it is the location of the iconic Taj Mahal. Our guest house was just a ten minute walk to the Taj and we walked by it every day as we explored the city.
The Taj Mahal is even more beautiful than the pictures. We arrived at the moment at dawn to watch the mist rise. It was almost magical waking through the Persian gardens towards the Taj. Unfortunately, construction was being done on the reflecting pools so there was no water. We spent most of the day looking at the building from different views.
From Agra, we took the train into Rajasthan and stopped in Jaipur for four days. The “pick city,” as Jaipur is also known, was the capital of the Kachwaha kingdom, and ruled by one of the major Hindu princely families. The art and architecture was distinct from the Imperial Mughal style. The Hawa Mahal “Palace of Winds”, the City Palace, the Monkey Temple, and the Amber Fort were some of the major sights we visited.
After having a very confusing experience at the train station in Jaipur, we headed west to Jodhpur where the great Mehrangarh Fort was located. The city, also known as the “blue city”, was the capital of the Marwar Kingdom. We spent two days visiting the markets (excellent markets for silk saris and spices) and visiting the fort.
The last major city on the itinerary was Udaipur, the “City of Lakes.” For those James Bond fans, it was the location for his Octopussy film. The city is located on the banks of Lake Pichola and served as the capital for the Mewar Kingdom. Much of the art and architecture is a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The major sights that we visited were the City Palace, Lake Palace, and the Jagdish Temple.
While in Udaipur, we rented a car and driver to visit the countryside and two historical sights: Kumbhalgarh Fort and Kanakpur Jain Temple. We passed an area where locals were making bricks in the traditional manner with an outdoor kiln and using cows or elephants as beasts of burden. The Kumbhalgarh Fort was an impressive monument with a wall perimeter of 36 km. There were many Hindu temples within the walled area.
We spent our final days in Udaipur walking the streets and visiting many of the local markets. Although we had three weeks, I feel like we barely touched the surface. I would love to come back for at least three months to really explore all areas of this beautiful country.
I would like to thank the Kinnicutt Award for making this trip possible. For people who are interested, I am giving a public talk about trip at noon on April 12th at the Worcester Art Museum.
Eve has been asked to give her talk at the Worcester Art Museum a second time! Further details will come soon.