Watercolour Travelogue – India

Insights of India

– a travelogue in watercolour

We would like to share with you an artist’s insight and fruits of his labour as presented by a watercolourist Chan Chang How when he traveled to India in the early 2000s(this is a translation of his original text written in Chinese).

India is a multiracial country with a long and rich  history, It has a recorded culture of more than 5,000 years. The predominant religion in India is Hinduism.

However, there is colourful contrast between Indian religions of the north and south. In the south, the temples are prominent. They are brightly coloured and the sculptures within are akkuring with their sense of mystique, giving its admirers a sense of warmth.

In the north, their symbols of pride are the magnificent castles with an ancient history imbued with a rich culture. It is these colourfulm contrasting cultures in India and the majestic ancient buildings that have made sculptors and visitors alike stand in awe at their brilliant craftsmanship.

New delhi

The moment you step into New Delhi, you will feel that you are stepping on the ground that is steeped in 5,000 years of history and culture. Her history, culture and religion offer a unique past for you to experience.

Located in the north, New Delhi is the capital of India. From what I know, the origin of the name “Nee Delhi” can be traced to medieval times where once, it was said, there were seven cities in this region. The largest and oldest if these was Dhilika. Over time, the name has evolted into ‘Delhi’

In New Delhi, the most well known tourist spot is Quth Minar. The city represent victory. The Gourde Pagoda is like a pillar that extends to the heaven. Another tourist spot is Red Fort, built from 1639 to 1648. This was a castle that served as a palace. It is completely built from red slit. Jana Masjid is the largest mosque in the city. It has typically Persian architecture. It was built in 1644, in the Sanjahan era. Another rourist spot is the Indian Gate, built in 1921, modeled after the Triumphant Gate in Paris. This Indian Gate was built in memory of the 90,000 soldiers who died in World War I (1914 – 1918) and the Afghanistan war (1919). On the arch over the gate is engraved the names of these 90,000 soldiers – a memorial for all eternity.

First Varanasi, then Sarnath

To reach Varanasi, you have to take a demestic flight from New Delhi Airport. At the New Delhi Airport, you need to go through three security checks before you are able to board the plane. In the airport, armed guards on alert are ubiquitous, lending to the tense atmosphere. Every passenger must pass any batteries in his equipment to the chief steward upon boarding the plane. You can retrieve them upon reaching your destination. Travellers should take note of this.

Varanasi lies north India, deriving its name from the native Varuna river and the southern Assi river which flows through it. It is also known as Ganga River.

At one side of the river bank, you will find towns and hundreds of ghats (river temple). These ghats spread over 6 miles and they all differ in design. The ancient colours has faded over time, but it still showed how old these structures were. Varanasi has at least threethousand years of history, witnessing the rise and fall of many dynasties. On one side of the river, it is crowded towns with historical culture,whereas the other side of the riverm is vast wilderness covered with fog, there is no inhabitant as if it forbidden ground.

For worsshippers coming from all  sides to Heng River, they will need to reach the river before sunrise, If you take a boat along the river for sightseeing, it will take you probably an hour.

When you walk into the narrow lanes which are only two meters in width, you will often see corpses that are transported to the riverbank for cremation. There are also sacred cowsand the cowdung that you will need to look out for.

Sarnath is one of the four holy lands in Buddhism. In BC 532, the 35 years old Sakyamuni came here where he gave his first sermon and anointed the first five Picchu (monk). At that time, Sarnath was a forested land with many deers residing in it. It is said that Sakyamuni preached Buddhism, the demure deers will come and listen to him. This is why come and listen to him. This is why Buddhists called this place “Deer Garden”.

The pagoda, Dhamekh Stupa, is said to be the place where Sakyamuni first started preaching. It was first built in the third century, during Ashoka Dynasty, and throughout the years repeatedly extended into the majestic structure that stands today. At about 140 feet high with a diameter of 90 feet, the pagoda’s walls are engraved with Buddhist Chronicles using India’s ancient Sanskrit in the clockwise direction.


Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan (the desert province). This ancient city was buried in the sands for ages until it was incidentally discovered by King Rao Jodha in 1459. After many years, it was then realized that there was actually a 10km Great Wall of 200 years in history that protected this ancient city. Till now, nobody knows when and how the city was buried in the desert.

In Jodhpur, the main attraction is Mehrangarh Fort. Mehrangarh Fort is said to be the largest castle in India. Mehrangarh Fort has a height of 125m. Its outer wall is 36m tall and is 21m wide. It has conserved the most perfect and spectacular artifacts of India’s history and culture. This is a must-see when you visit India.

Other than the spectacular interior design, the exquisite furnishing is indeed filled with works of the highest standards. The lavish palaces, especially Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) have already made your trip very worthwhile. From the castle top, you see an overwhelming blue, the blue tone that residents painted their houses with belief that it could keep mosquitoes away. When the city is masked under the disguise of the mist, it is like a legendary city that exists in fables. Hence, because of the blue tone, it is also known as the Blue City

There are people residing in a town 5km away from Mehrangarh Fort. The people there enjoy music and dance  and theyare very friendly and hospitable. The tunes they played are similar to those played by Xinjiang people (Xinjiang is in China). Interestingly, almost everybody smoked opium as if it is their favourite pastime

PushkarWhen you reach Pushkar, you can see families riding camels traveling in convoy. The people wear traditional costumes that characterized the traits of Rajasthan —- colourful and vibrant. This is a rare sight because it is only during the Pushkar Camel Festival Fair that you will get a chance to witness this.Pushkar  is like a small pearl of Rajasthen desert. Although it is a small city, it is one of  the holy places that Hinduism believers will come to worship. Inside this small city,there are 4000 temples and 50 ghats. In November, people from all over India will come here. The pilgrimage destination is mainly Pushkar Lake where Hinduism believers will bathe and baptize.The real attraction to Pushkar is International Camels Festival (also known as Pushkar Festival). Now that the International Camel Festival is known widely in the world, many people will flock to this place in November.

Further out of Pushkar, you will see a desert that stretches for thousand of miles. Here and there, horses and camels are grouped snf traded. You can see horses galloping and  hear the bells twinkling melodiously as the camels strolled by. Traders are bargaining at the top of their voices, the whole place is just bustling with life. Perhaps when you look deeply into the camel’s eyes, you can see tears flowing out because it is leaving its old master as it follows the new one now.

During the night, as the cold wind sweeps in, you can see families circled around the fire place, boiling hot tea and chatting happily with one another. The colourful costumes that they wear, the different styles of beard that the men have, the turbans, the dances, the music, all this are so fascinating to an urbanite like myself. Shutterbugs will have a field day as the campfires are literally full of life

JaisalmerJaisalmer is a small city located at the far west of India. From past till present, it remains a strategic military stronghold, and it is also the trading hub for the “camel trade route”As there were many wealthy traders living in Jaisalmer, they decided to build the Jaisalmer Fort in 1156. The Fort  was 250m in height, excluding the 30m tall butterfly-shaped wall. Rising high up in the midst of endless desert, it is like a golden castle that is majestic and magnificient.Inside the Fort, there are grand buildings and luxury homes that still retain its finesse in intricate motifs ad architecture. Some of them are converted into museums whereas some have transformed into motels. From stonewalls to paved paths, handcrafted windows to grand corridors, lifelike embroidery to polished sculptures, you cannot help but to indulge yourself in the wonderful and romantic ambienceit feels like the places mentioned in the Arabian Nights.

When you step out of the Fort, you can watch ordinary folks busily working. Heavy-laden camel convoys, men loading and unloading more good onto trucks, a picture that depicts the simple life of trading. Looking back at the Fort, especially partly hidden by the morning mist. It resembles a timless scenery that is truly beautiful and amazingly alive.


Like Jaisalmer, Agra is also an ancient city. It has the white-marbled Taj Mahal as its main tourist attraction, followed by Agra Fort.

Agra Fort is also known as the Red Fort because of the red sandstone used to build the Fort. It is equally famous as the Red Fort in NewDelhi. Inside Agra Fortm there are hugh pillars that are made from white marble. The pillars and walls are engraved with flowers and embedded with gem stones. Visitors stand in awe when they see the place in front their eyes.

Being one of the wonders of the world. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful  monument that you can ever find. I can vouch that if you have not seen Taj Mahal, then you have not see India.

Taj Mahal is located in the old city of Agra. When you stand in front of it. It is not difficult for you to see why it is proclaimed a wonder of the world.

This is how it came about. Shahgahan loved art and architecture. When he married Arjaman d Bano Bengaml, a Persian beauty, in 1612, there were already many concubines in his palace. However, Arjaman was beautiful and intelligent, and was well-versed in music, poetry and painting. This made her Shahgahan’s favourite concubine, and was bestowed the title “Mumtaz Mahal” as she was proclaimed Empress in 1627. “Mumtaz Mahal” meanss “the favourite consubine”, also known as “Taj” to the Indians.

In 1631, at age of 39, Taj was accompanying Shahgahan in his southern conquest. In the military camp at Burhanpur, after Taj had given birth to their 14th child (daughter), she passed away. Before her death, in tears she asked Shahgahan to promise her not to remarry and to build her the most beautiful tomb in the world so that the future generations will come to know about their enduring love.

From 1632, Shahgahan employed skilful craftsmen from all over the world to build this tomb. For three hundfred over years, this mausoleum has never failed to be praised by mankind. In the later years, Shahgahan’s throne was usurped by his son, Aurangzeb. Shahgahan was imprisoned in a tower of the Red Fort. For seven years, Shahgahan was not allowed to see the Taj Mahal. Every night, through the reflection of a big piece of crystal, Shahganan  managed to catch a glimpse of Taj Mahal’s image. Shahganan will stare at the image for a long time. When Shahganan passed away, he was buried in Taj Mahal, just deside hus beloved Arjaman. For this beautiful love story, I will definitely recommend a visit to Taj Mahal.


In 1876, the Prince of Wales from Britain cisited Jaipur. At the time, the king was Ram Singh II who wanted to welcome the Prince of Wales, made an order to paint the whole city pink. This is why Jaipur is also commonly known as “The Pink City”.In 1799, Prataph Singh built a five-storey sandstone wall at the south of his palace. The wall has 953 little windows, all bordered in white. The unique and creative design made it a landmark for today’s jaipur.

The wall allowed the court ladies to see the bustling streets from the little windows, fulfilling their curiosity of the street life outside and yet protecting them from the sight of the people. From far, the wall looks like a giant screen. As the wall erected in downtown area, filled with shops and even beggars, it is not easy to take a good photograph of it. It will be easier to take a shot in the morning when there are less people walking about. On hot days, the wind can blow through any window. From any angle, and that is why the Indians call it Hawa Mahal.

Amber Fort was built by Man Sing I and he wanted to use it as a strategic stronghold. It was onlyu when Man Sing I became the supreme commander that Amber Fort was extended into an awesome and majestic palace. Surrounding this palace are mountains with walls built on them that resemble the Great Wall of China from far. From Jaipur, you travel north. Along the way, you shall see tombs of kings from past dynasties and you will pass by the Winter Palace and other ancient sites.

When you arrive at Amber Fort, you may ride on elephants to enter this city. Every elephant is dressed in vibrant colours and they carry four passengers each. You can appreciate the scenic view of the city atop the backs of these elephants.

Inside Amber Fort, there is a palace with an actagon – shaped bedroom. Each ceiling is adorned with thousands of glass pieces. When light a candle or a lamp, the whole palace would reflect the light like a thousand stars on a starry night. This is why it is called Sheesh Mahal.

Amber Fort has exquisitely design doors, and windows and walls. If you look closely, you would be surprised with unimaginable rewards. Now you should see another attraction – concubines all to the restroom together. The living quarters in Amber Fort is fulled with many creative structures. For example, the king who takes great pleasure in seeing the concubines bathing built a very large communal bathing pool which can house one hundred concubines.

As he likes to view the expressions of his concubines when they are easing themselves at the toilet, he designed a very large toilet with no partitions, and on the marble floor are twenty over holes when the concubines are to squat over to ease themselves. The motion that they passed would then fall through these holes into the mountain valley below. From here, one can see how the king took great pains in designing this palace in order to satisfy his desires. This is why this place is so famous in Amber Fort.




  1. very good watercolour paintings

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  4. beautiful watercolours . Keep drawing. Be my guest next time you come to Delhi or Udaipur.

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