Miniature Painting from Jaipur, India to Durham, NC

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Materials used during our visit and hati (elephant) painted by Elizabeth on our tour

While in Jaipur, we had the opportunity to see the ancient art of miniature painting in action. The brushes have chipmunk hair and are sometimes dipped in paint infused with gold. The artists can only work for limited hours a day as the experience is delicate, tedious, and intense. To learn more about this intriguing art form click here: Rajasthani miniature paintings  (not the artist we visited). I brought home a miniature painting of Ganesh, god of wisdom and learning and the remover of obstacles.

Ganesh Miniature Painting Oct 2014

I shared the hati (elephant), drawn by the artists we visited in Jaipur, with my 6th graders in Durham, North Carolina. Although my students did not use gold for paint, their final creations were spectacular. I believe the artists in Jaipur would be honored to work beside these 6th grade artists!

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Hati Sarah Julius DSC_6192

Hati Quinn Shanahan DSC_6194

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Come to room 212 to see the rest!

Animals of India

Animals are always fun to see. In India there are animals all around you as you are walking the streets or riding down the road. Some are animals you expect to see and some are unexpected. Snake charmers can be found everywhere. This one was at the Pushkar Camel Fair.

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And this is what it sounds like:

Snake charmer Pushkar Camel Fair October 2014 from Patti Donnelly on Vimeo.

Cows are sacred and wander the streets freely. Early in the morning, cows walk around the village getting the first bread of the day from each family. They are harmless, but watch out for the horns when you pass them in a crowded street!

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IMG_7993 cow by Pushkar Lake

There are many species of birds to enjoy.

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DSC_2719 Rufous Treepie bird Pushkar

Monkeys are probably my favorite. They have such personality. My mom had two monkeys as pets.

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5DSC_3595 baby monkey Pushkar Patti Donnelly

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I love the cows and the monkeys always make me smile, but monkeys and cows together are the best! Sometimes they share and sometimes they do NOT!

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Drinking together

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The cow would like some naan. The monkey is not interested in sharing.

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Camels, camels everywhere at the Pushkar Camel Fair.

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Of course there were horses too.

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The camel symbolizes love. I love my family for sharing the world with me. There is still so much to discover and learn from other people and other places.

IMG_8027 mom and Patti camel Pushkar 40 years later

I Love India!

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If you read my ‘What I Notice’ post, you are aware of the delight I take in seeing hearts all around me. I do not go looking for them, they find me. It is a reminder to be present and be conscious of what is right in front of me at any given moment. There were many hearts and much love in India, so I will share a few with you.


Cows are sacred in India. As the sun rises, the local cows go from house to house and are given the first bread of the day. This cow in Jaipur walked by our hotel each morning.

DSC_1129 Jain Temple

Jainism is an Indian religion that values nonviolence towards all living beings as well as spiritual interdependence and equality between all forms of life.  The three main principles of Jainism are Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Anekantvad (Non-Absolutism) and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness). People who follow the Jain religion have a strict diet where they will not eat anything that harms animals. Some will not eat root vegetables because small animals may be hurt while harvesting. They are also careful not to step on any insects. This heart was outside the Jain temple in Jaipur.

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Do you see it in the barbed wire outside the flower and vegetable market in Jaipur?

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IMG_7797 Puja at Pushkar Lake

We participated in Puja at Pushkar Lake.Puja is a prayer ritual performed by Hindus to honor and worship deities or to spiritually celebrate an event. We put our rose petals in the holy water of the lake near the end of the ceremony.

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Finally, I found this woman captivating. I wish I could have asked her the story behind her heart. There is so much to love about India!

Blue Pottery in Jaipur

DSC_1181 Blue Pottery Factory Jaipur

While in Jaipur, we visited a local pottery factory that has been in operation for four generations. The color is unique to this area. You can see some of the designs and colors on the plates below.

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India is striving to preserve the work of local artisans including pottery, block printing, miniature painting, and hand made silk or camel hair rugs. Jaipur blue pottery, made out of Egyptian paste, is glazed and low-fired. Instead of clay, the pottery is prepared by mixing quartz stone powder, powdered glass, Multani Mitti (Fuller’s Earth), borax, gum and water. Another source cites Katira Gond powder (a gum), and saaji (soda bicarbonate) as ingredients.

There are different ideas about its origin, but the blue glaze technique was possibly introduced in the 14th century. It was used to decorate mosques, tombs, and palaces. It is thought to have come to Jaipur in the 17th century where it transformed from being used in architecture to being used by potters. Some older pieces of works could be seen in Rambagh Palace in the fountains. In the 1950s, blue pottery disappeared in Jaipur. Thankfully patrons such as Kamladevi Chattopadhaya and Rajmata Gayatri Devi helped revive the craft.

Blue Pottery in Jaipur from Patti Donnelly on Vimeo.


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In the following pictures, you can see the process of shaping the clay and throwing it on the wheel.

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After watching the demonstration, we got a chance to paint our own. When there are enough pieces, the outdoor kiln is filled and the masterpieces are fired. My mug sits on my desk at school full of styluses for iPad illustrations.

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Paper Making Factory in Jaipur

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Women folding gift bags in paper factory in Jaipur, India

The next time you wander in a craft store to buy glittered paper, or when you go to the store to buy a gift bag, think about where it may have come from. I know I assumed most of it was made by machine in a factory. Yes, there are machines in the factory we visited in Jaipur, however, there were also many people doing the work by hand. If you have ever made your own paper, you will find the following photos familiar.

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Paper was put through a press

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There were many beautiful colors

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Women separated the paper by hand

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Paper was put in a press and then glue was added using a template

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The paper was handed to a woman sitting on the floor where she put the glitter on one end and then pulled it up…

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It is now shimmering!

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So is she!

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We also got to see the paper being folded in to gift bags and then glued and pressed. See the video below:

Gift Bag Making Jaipur India from Patti Donnelly on Vimeo.

The Red Fort in Agra


On our third day in India we visited the Red Fort in Agra. The various buildings within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation of different cultures, which was the mark of the Mughal period. Akbar was the third Mughal emperor and. He was crowned the Mughal ruler in 1556 at the age of 14, when his father Humayan died suddenly. Akbar began the construction of this massive fort made of red sandstone on the banks of the Yamuna in 1565. The fort was ready by 1571, though additions were made up until the rule of Shahjahan, who was Akbar’s grandson. It mainly served a military purpose, but also served as a palace and court.


Walking through the different eras of residency in the fort was preceded by both anticipation infused with the longing to linger in the moment. While learning about the carvings and patterns in the walls, the ceilings, the floors, our group of quilters saw familiar quilt patterns as well as inspiration for new fabrics and quilt tops.



After arriving at the outer edge, we saw the Taj Mahal through the smokey fog in the distance.


In another room, when someone committed a crime and went before the emperor for sentencing, an elephant was called three times from the corner. If the elephant did not come and trample him, the person was considered meant to live and set free.


On our way out we saw a family of monkeys climbing the tower. They has the best view of anyone!



Happy Diwali


Diwali, also known as Deepavali and the festival of lights, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest new moon of the Hindu Calendar.



Before Diwali night, people clean and decorate their homes. They dress up in new clothes, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes. They also participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. There are fireworks, celebrating, and visiting with family and friends. A family feast includes mithai (sweets) and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali is a time where everyone comes together to honor the light in each other.



First Day India At A Glance


From my initial post, you know we began our first day with the rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. What an exhilarating way to start the day. See previous post for video. A man, older than my father, pedaled through the busy streets with blaring horns and the slim alley ways that were bustling with merchants, mopeds, and the color and merriment of Diwali.



Next stop was Rajghat, the memorial and place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. Eagles soared above our heads as we approached the eternal flame. Mahatma Gandhi was born in 1869 and was assassinated in 1948. He advocated for the rights of Indians, both at home and in South Africa. Gandhi became a leader of India’s independence movement and was known for peaceful forms of civil disobedience.


A short drive from there, we approached the India Gate at the changing of the guards. India Gate is an arch commemorating the soldiers who died in World War I. An eternal flame dedicated to the soldiers burns underneath the arch.


Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world. Five stories high, it is decorated with geometric designs and quranic verses. We took a picture from the same spot my father did in the mid 1960’s. Below is a photo of my father, Curt Hardee. My parents met in India! The origins of Qutab Minar are shrouded in controversy. Some believe it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of the Muslim rule in India. Others say it served as a minaret to call the faithful to prayer.


Dad Qutub Minar


Our final destination was the Craft Museum where we got to see a variety of diverse crafts, artifacts, and textiles. From terracotta horses to tribal masks, silk scarves, and handmade jewelry, the museum reflected an Indian village representing cities far and wide.





Could there be more? Yes, our last activity before dinner was a quilting class with world famous quilter, Jinny Beyer. I am learning about patterns, shading, and design. Somehow I am supposed to be sewing diamonds together while experiencing the sights and sounds of India.


Whew, ready for bed! Do you remember the name of an Indian bed? Charpai!


Taj Mahal


The Taj Mahal, the seventh wonder of the world, means “Crown Palace.” The Taj was built over a period of 22 years from 1632, as a tribute to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Empress Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan had the Taj constructed to enshrine her mortal remains and be a a center of the pilgrimage. It was designed by the Iranian architect Ustad Isa. Shah Jahan was known to have patronized Indian artisans irrespective of religion and caste.


On June 17, 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died after delivering her 14th child. The Emperor had to be summoned from the battlefield to be with his dying wife. Overcome with grief, Shah Jahan promised to immortalize their love. Mumtaz Mahal asked her husband to create a symbol of their love and prosperity.
The Taj was built  on the banks of the Yamuna River using marble from the quarries of Makrana. A ramp 21 1/2 miles long was built to haul huge pieces of marble to the site of construction. There are four tapering minarets 136.48 feet high on each corner of the plinth. The minarets not only balance the main structure of the mausoleum, but are also leaning out so a natural disaster will not destroy the main edifice by falling on it. It is said that as many as 35 different types of precious and semi-precious stones were used in the inlay work done on the Taj. Turquoise, jade, agate, coral, lapis, lazuli, onyx, bloodstone, carnelian, jasper, garnet and malachite were used to decorate flowers like lily and honeysuckle.

On either side of the Taj are two identical buildings that are made entirely out of sandstone. While both are mosques, the one towards the west (left side) is important and used for offering prayers, as it not only sanctifies the Taj but also faces Mecca. The replica on the other side is known as the Jawab (answer).


In his later years when he was 65, his son Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan in the Red Fort at Agra and became the successor of the throne. In the last years of his imprisonment and until his death in 1666, he somehow managed to have a gaze at Taj Mahal through the grill work of the prison, the building, he had dedicated to his wife.


Why India?


The first time my mom went to India was in the 5th grade where she stayed until she graduated as a senior in high school, only leaving one year for 9th grade in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her dad, my grandfather, was the director of the Rockefeller Foundation.  Here is my mom in the 7th grade when she attended the American Embassy School in New Delhi.

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There was no television, no cell phone, nor a computer so she spent her time hanging out with friends, riding her bike, and reading. She also volunteered at Mother Teresa’s orphanage on weekends.

Mom at Mother Teresa's

My grandfather grew up on a dairy farm in Reidsville, North Carolina and studied soil science in college. His studies and expertise took him all over the world from Peru, to India, and more. What could be exciting about studying dirt? Here is his dissertation.


My grandfather was renowned as leader of the Green Revolution. “We had in North Carolina some of the settings for the kind of situations in many of the developing countries,” Cummings recalled in a 1991 interview with the NCSU Alumni Magazine. “It began to put in the minds of people that science could transform agriculture. I got a vision of what could be done in underdeveloped countries.”

In 1955, he organized and headed the university’s technical assistance program in Peru for two years. That began his career of world leadership in fighting hunger. He advanced soil science research and education not only in Peru, but in India and other developing countries through positions he held with the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, World Bank and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

From 1956 to 1966, working in India for the Rockefeller Foundation, he helped build research programs and eight agricultural research universities. These aided the nation in becoming self-sufficient in corn and wheat production. Among their innovations, he and his team of scientists in India developed a system that made it possible to grow crops during the monsoon season. Also during this time, he arranged the first import of high-yielding wheat varieties (developed by his colleague, Dr. Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for that contribution) which transformed India’s agriculture. My grandfather was the first director general of India’s International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. The ICRISAT auditorium was named for him.

Whether it was planting corn and beans with him in his back yard garden in North Carolina or traveling the world with him and getting to see how much it means to help others, my grandfather taught me that we can all make a difference. Do what you love, be who you are, and be kind to others. So began my journey.

I grew up with India being a part of my family culture. We have furniture and other artifacts around our house. I love Indian clothes and jewelry. As a reluctant reader, I gravitated towards stories about gods and goddesses with Ganesha being my favorite. I fancied my mom’s costumes even though I never pursued Indian dance. My mom learned Bharata Natyam, the fire dance, her junior and senior year in high school.

mom India

I went to India for the first time when I was in second grade and then went again in high school. I will have to share more about those adventures in another post!

Lord Ganesha

I just knew I had to go back. Next post will be more about our first day in India!

If you could do what you love, what would it be?