India is a country full of surprises and are hidden in places that finding them itself is mesmerizing. Though we had done good amount of googling to find more about this lovely place, Galagnath hidden in a small village on the banks of Tungabhadra, one can get lost, practically.
After having done a quick stop at Somesvara, we headed towards our destination. The fascination with this place was more with regard to structure in which this was created by the western Chalukya dynasty during the period of Vikramaditya.
Galaganath village was earlier called as Palluni Village and was later named as Galaganath because of Galageswara. When we read in history that habitations happen on river banks and cultures flourish, this place can stand out to be one great example. The beautiful temple is tucked on the banks of Tungabhardra, It is also called the place where five rivers meet. They are Tunga, Bhadra & Kumudvathi merge with Varada & Dharma.
The temple is on a real high platform and it gives a great view of the river and village.
We after being lost, managed to slowly move towards the temple after multiple attempts to converse and understand the language. Finally the sign language & humanness took the better of us and we reached this beautiful temple.
As one steps into the temple, what catches our eyes is the structure. Though there is a Chalukya influence, but the base makes you feel that this is that of a pyramid base. But as the structure rises it has got beautiful designs and intricate workings. The structure is that of a mandala and the temple opens up to the east towards the river.
As we walked around, we were mesmerized by this small base and the stone carvings. What fascinated me the most was the Shiva linga. It is a huge linga compared to the ones that I have seen so far in Dakshina Karnataka, where the concept of building is huge linga are evident. More, we got to hear from the locals there who spoke some good Hindi and English.
It is said that this Linga has a “Sparsha Linga” underneath it. Legends say that, people used to put an Iron rod near the Linga and pray, which used to get converted to gold. When the king got to know about the misuse of it, he got the Linga covered with “Galaga” or a protective layer. Since then the temple has been called as “Galageswara” and the village name changed to Galaganath.
It is not just Shiva, but the walls are also adorned by Vishu avatars, and Lord Surya (The sun God).
The temple has a small mandapa and it seems the temple was used for Art and Dance proliferation. There is no denial that temple were built as culture & Communication hubs and religion was used a binder. On the raised platforms within the mandapa are etching of board games that would have been played during that time.
There are stone inscriptions stating that the temple was built around 1080 AD.
We spent time talking to the ASI caretaker, the School headmaster and a few locals who were very enthusiastic to share their knowledge and understanding. One could see the pride they carry for the place. They loved to pose and we loved to shoot them.
The temple shares its boundary walls with the village and the co-existence is so nicely woven in.
It is said that the Kanndiga Literary novelist “Shri Venkatesh Trivikrambhat Kulkarni” was born in Havanur and he had written most of his novels sitting in the mandapa of Galageswara. He is also called as “Father of Kannada Novels”, who had self published and sold his 29 books on the streets to popularize the language too.
After spending close to an hour we headed for our destination for the day, Haveri and not before we had an impromptu stop on the open field to pick up Byadgi Chilly.
A few pointers:
This is a small village and GPS may not locate the temple accurately. Get onto local people network to find more.
There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money in the temple.
The place is very peaceful so you could spend some “Me time” and soak the beauty.
Carry your own food & water bottles. You do not have shops to buy what you may like.
Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”
That one hour is well etched in our minds and we just cannot remove the fascination and creative excellence that India had then.
It is so so true that life is a journey and one can discover more beauty that the destination alone.
Our plan was very clear that we reach Galaganath temple before 3 pm so that we could return to Haveri before sun down. We were travelling from Chitradurga fort post our lovely time at the fort. Well, navigating the Indian roads especially when you trust the Google maps, it could be fun and we felt we were lost in the fields.
It is simply a state of bliss though and we did not hesitate to pause and wonder at what the North Karnakata offered us. And when you stop once, It become a ritual to stop again and again. Well the traffic on the road (Which was very heavy & difficult to navigate) also helped us to slow down. This is when our senses and anxiety also slowed down.
We blended with the rustic nature of what the road and the place offered. As we slowly make through the confusion of what the google maps offered to that of the place, we happened to reach a tri-junction. The map said go straight for Galaganath while the scene of the right was something different and it said, “Come over and visit me”. We looked at each other and the answer was clear, we turned our car towards this unknown architectural feat. This was a village called “Haralahalli” and it is on the banks of Tungabhadra. This village holds a beautiful temple called Somesvara or Somesaragudi.
The beauty of most of the temples in this region is that they were built during the Chalukya time in around 10th – 12th century. This temple was built in the 12th century by King Vikramaditya VI. These temples also depict the rise of the lingayats in this part of the country. This temple is dedicated towards lord Shiva and opens up to the eastern side. Today one typically would enter from the northern part as the gate is located there for visitors while the villagers still use the eastern gate to enter.
There is quite an intricate work that has been done. The sanctum has three gopuras each dedicated to the lord Shiva.
Today prayers happen only at one of the sanctums as there is maintenance work that is going on still. The surprising part is that there are some of the Vishnu avatars that have been created. Snake structures and Yalli’s are very common carvings that you would notice. The gopura is quite short.
Today ASI seems to have taken up the task to get this temple in place. There seems to be some deterioration in the structure. But what ever said and done it is a lovely place to stop by and appreciate the kind of work that the then kings had done.
It also makes me wonder and think, this place must have been a prime location at one point of time when the king had given the land and money to get this amazing temple up and today it is struggling to keep it self going with only agriculture to support itself. The people there are very humble and humane.
After the lovely time there, we moved our to our next destination Galaganath.
Faith comes in many colours and are blissful especially in a country like India.
It is wonderfully said, “Unplanned events are sometimes more mesmerizing and fulfilling than what a planned event can give”.
This was my second visit to Bannari Amman Temple, down south of India. This place was very famous because of “Veerapan” – the famous Sandal wood & Ivory smuggler who ruled the hills of Sathiamanagalam. He also gave the governments and police personnel of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala many sleepless nights. Well that story for some other time.
I happened to be here for the first time while returning from Mysuru driving through the Sathi Ghats (One of the most enchanting Ghats of India).
That time, it was a stop for break and the visit to the temple was just a routine plan. This time, it was an unplanned trip that I landed up in the temple around 5.30 in the evening. The drive through the beautiful tree lined roads can lift any down spirits.
As we reached there, the evening Arthiwas in full swing and there happened to be hardly ten people in the queue. We patiently waited for the Arthito be over and our turn to visit the powerful Amman.
There is a beautiful folklore, where the traders used to carry their goods from one side of the hill to the Mysore to sell. Once a local herdsman saw a cow stopping near a tree and the milks from her udders started to flow. The herdsman saw it over a couple of days before sharing this with others and the local villagers dug the place up to find a “Swayambhu”of a Linga that emerged on its own. As the news spread it seems the goddess made her presence felt to bless the traders and their safety. This folklore is some 400 years old but even today, the travelers to pay their obeisance before heading ahead on their respective journey. She is also known to ward off any evil that may befall one as we keep hustling in our lives.
Though the sanctum is small, but the place is huge and is busy with activities through out the day. Just sitting there and soaking in the environment will enlighten your spirits.
What ever be the folklore, but I did feel a serge of a positive vibration there. The idol is a very small one but the eyes that spark in them will leave a very positive feel in one. It was indeed a blissful evening as we walked around and soaked ourselves in the bliss of this powerful Amman or Goddess.
People indulge in buying the threads and idols that they could carry with themselves as a blessing.
A mother who treats all in the same way, and all are grande for her who are living their legends and she is just there to help them in their journey.
She is such a delight to be with and take back the smile and faith that life is indeed Beautiful!!!
Food is always the backbone of any city and little towns of this beautiful country is always mesmerizing. One such place that we happen to visit was Chitradurga during December. The temperatures were down but this rock city still held its warmth in the air. The hotel was not that helpful and it prompted us to step out. The long drive from Chennai was not too worrisome.
It was getting dark as the lights started to come out to bring out the night life in this little city and we got curious as to what this city could give. The smaller lanes and rumbling tummies made us ask people about the eateries around. Unanimous was the “Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Center” and the path brought us to the first fort gate and right adjacent to the gate was a small eat out, our nostrils pulled us to the aroma and we could not resist ourselves from experimenting food there. If you happen to be there, do not miss the aloo bondas there, they are simply mind blowing. They happen to shut down by 6 pm.
From there we moved on to Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin center. It seems that the shop closes by 7 pm and so by the time we reached there, the
stocks had run out. But we did manage to try the Dosa and the Gulab Jamun. They were good and it left us asking for more. We felt it was more hype than the quality of the food that we could have.
The beauty about travelers is that they could be hungry for exploring and asking people shamelessly about things especially food .. 🙂
We headed off towards the next destination but not without having the “Mirchi Bajji” and walked munching the spicy delicacy,
This lead us to walk the streets to “Sri Basaveswara Hot Chips & Condiments”, this lead us to hog on “Thata Idli“, Vadas and bondas apart from the savories that were flying off.
How can it be that the evening would end without something sweet. Just across the road were hot Jalebees freshly made. It was just the right food to seal off the evening.
It was simply juicy and sweet. The tangyness was just right. It was crispy and hot to tell you that this was made right there and just for your taste buds. The only sad part was that it was served on plastic kept over news paper. I wish there could be some other way.
That evening when we retired to the room, we kept talking about this little city and its gastronomic flavours. It was simply wow..
Stones can be a guardian when used to fortify Stones can be an art when crafted by an artisan Stones can beautify when weather does its natural work
Chitradurga, is an fort that is a combination of all where nature has worked along with the kings of yesteryears to build at fort that was a symbol of pride and beauty.
It was early in the morning by 5:30 that we woke up. Our excitement was so high that in the darkness, we just wanted to jump out and reach the fort. The fort opens up by 6 am and we did not want to be late as we knew that it would get hot so what if it is December.
For the morning to get started we had a cuppa of tea at the local stall and got into a rickshaw to head to our destination.
As we got down, first things first was the tickets… we picked that up at the nominal rates and then the fight was that of a guide. Do pick up a guide as the place is too big and you would need one to understand the place better. Also, seek out with other people who are searching for a guide. Could be a good bargain and a better deal. We did not find many good Hindi or English speaking guides, one of the security guys (Mr. Bholaram / 09741512749) who was on his way to work said he can pitch in and it turned out to be a good choice for us as he could show us the places and the dialect just worked well for us.
This location, has its existence from the Mauryan dynasty in the 3rd Century AD and later after its fall was with the Rastrakutas, Chalukyas and Hoyasalas. When the Vijayanagara dynasty collapsed, the Nayakas or Paleyars took over this rock bed place. Madakari Nayaka was the last most powerful king of the Nayakas who brought glory to this amazingly mysterious place.
The symbol of snakes, Shiva and vishu’s icons decorate the otherwise plain straight walls of the fort. They must be at least 40 – 50 ft high and the path way is serpentine too. As we came up from the first gate, realized that the place has similarity to that of Hampi’s natural boulder structures. These rocks have been used to the best possible ways, by creating natural guarding points as well as dwelling places.
Rock structures are abundant. Some have been created naturally while many of them have been man built. They are mesmerizing and one does not have to stretch one’s imagination to visualize them.
Who placed a boat on top!!!
Stoned Elephant.. Literally!!
How are the Rabbit ears
The crowd in the early morning hours makes it difficult to move around and to take some lonely pictures. The best time would be on a working day 🙂
The history is rich and there is more to learn about this lovely fort, the best concise history that I could read on the net is by one Barry Lewis.
Our guide took us through the palace pathways, arches and huge stone doors. These pathways, enabled not only the army to move into the palace but also horses and elephants with ease. The structure has been so well built that the enemy if is not aware about the trap doors and points could easily be shot.
One of the interesting things, that walls have fish symbols and they are significant as they meant that the water place is close by. A representation for the soldiers to access things. They are so huge that one cannot miss noticing them.
Also the palace is so so huge that not only the kings had their army stay but also could practice. It was a small township inside the fort well fortified and kept alive. It was indeed a thriving township.
Our Guide, Bholaram took us to through the paths that once were taken by the proud strong solders of Dakhina Kanada, today is nothing but just wild grass and broken walls.
After seeing the regular places, like the Gali Mandapa, Obavvana Kindi, Temples, we went started walking towards the place that was not normally visited by the tourists. I think our secret was that we had our security guide and that was clearly the advantage that we had.
The loneliness of the place even in day time could be eerie. Once we overcame that, we ventured into the broken down areas that took us by surprise. The our attention was the huge water body that has been a major source of supply to the palace that is just a stone throw away from there.
And talk about local belief, to take off an evil eye there were celebrations that had happened just the day before and the celebration was still fresh on the rock and it was awesome to see the celebrations still being done in a traditional fashion by the local folks. Just the vivid colours on the rock could bring in liveliness to the place. To me it looked like Bhairava being remembered even today for power and getting rid of an evil eye.
We realised that this place was actually the Palace and what well protected towards the center of the palace. This place had the royal chambers, granary place, ammunition center. This part of the palace is yet not been taken care by the archaeology and am sure once done, it will be a delight.
As we moved from the palace, the dilapidated place opened up to reveal a beautiful temple that was just carved out of the the rock. It had a cave and rock carving structure. It was really amazing. We came up to the Kali temple which was carved into the rock structure.
We happen to be fortunate to have met up with the climber Mr. Jyothiraj, who is also called the Monkey man of India, who is going to represent India in Olympics. And literally he showed us why!!
He made the whole interaction so so interactive that one can travel with him on how an orphan made his way and what destiny with hard work can do to a man.
He has broken his bones but his focus to represent India is such a strong urge that nothing seems to be coming in between that. Tried to record this event of him climbing a 25 feet stone wall in just 5 seconds. It is breathtaking to see the ease at which he does this against a background of cheers, awws and claps..
Few things that you would need to remember while being at Chitradurga:
Best time to visit Chitradurga would be winter season (October to Feb).
The fort opens by 6 am, so be there early. Even the winter heat could drain you out. The biggest advantage is the crowd. It peaks up as the sun gets brighter
Wear your shoes as you could end up walking lots.
Covered clothes are better, especially Jeans as any of the local shrubs could have thorns.
Patience especially at Obavvana Kindi, where every one would like to feel a part of history through which “Hyder Ali’s” soldiers got into the fort secretly.
Read a bit about the places, as you have loads of places to shoot. A great place to do video blogs too.
Carry your water bottles & food. Though there is a shop in the middle of fort, it may not be open at the times you may need. Do remember Swatch Bharatand keep your trash only for Trash bins.
No rest rooms inside the fort.
As we stepped out of the palace, we were still reeling under the mammoth-ness of the place and the grande that the place offered.
Overall an experience to wrap you well and leave you talking about it.
Chilli, Red and spicy… one of the major ingredients for any preparation in India. The mere thought of Red Chilli sends one in an imagination of a Red or deep Orange coloured shriveled crescent moon structure filled with capsaicin seeds.
Chilli as such is not a native of India but rather an origin from New Mexico, Guetamala, Peru and has been domesticated in an around 5000 BC. Columbus was the one who brought these beautiful fiery fruits to Europe and from there this has moved to Asia. It came to India in around 1584. It was initially used as a crop to protect the crops from the birds but today is a main crop as such. I was largely aware that Chilli production happens at Andhra Pradesh & Rajasthan but never knew that Maharashtra, Odisha & Karnataka are also major contributors. While Assam’s city Tezpur produces one of the spiciest chilies the world has, Naga Jalokia, the rest of the country produces chilli that are used in food and cosmetics (which was a surprise to know for me!!).
Well the other big surprise were the chilies being produced in Karnataka. I never knew about its Chilli producing capability and the variety that it produces. One of the largest producing areas is Byadgi region, near Haveri. The chilies from Byadgi are known for their red colour enhancement in food and less on the spice content. They are also exported for usage in cosmetics especially Lipsticks.
We happened to be travelling from our visit from Galaganath to Haveri and thanks to our GPS, it took us through some of the most lovely interior villages of north Karnataka. As we were crossing the village of Agadi, I pulled over to the sides of a paddy field on the sight of red chilies being dumped in the fields.
I had never seen harvesting of Red chilies and the sight was really exciting. We got down and literally ran into the fields with excitement. In a large clearing of the field there were close to 9 people working in sorting and packing the chilies in sacks. There was an air of excitement in them when my partner started talking to them.
She had no clue of Kannada and they had no clue of any other language. Actually, my partner amazes me all the time in the way she communicates with strangers and has good laughter with them.
Our broken discussions lead us to discover that this variety of Chilies that were produces was to be shifted to Byadgi which is the central zone for all Chilies production in the region. Here they were drying, sorting the chilies based on the colour and then packing them in sacks.
It was interesting to see the bugs in the chilies. They reminded me of the bugs from “Mummy” movie.
We took photos and videos of them doing the various activities on the land. The laughter that they had was coy and their simplicity was just contagious. It was a time that tells one that the heart of India is in its villages truly.
As we left from the farm land, we did manage to pick up some chilies for ourselves too, off course we paid them for the generosity. It was a beautiful evening to spend time in the rural part of this beautiful country.
Few lovely travel tips:
Always be on a look out for the beauty as you drive to your destiny.
Travel is for your pleasure, so pause when you feel or find something special.
Speak to the locals even though you may not know their language. The heart knows best to connect.
Request the people before you would like to take their photos or videos.
Carry a simple empty bag, just in case you would like to buy local things.
Keep change, it will always be handy as the rural side does not have many ATMs or swipe machines.
80ft below the surface, a thought that can send shivers and goosebumps.. many channels to one room can confuse but at the same time, can also be a safe bet.
The Ankalagi caves, at Chandravali is a delight to be. We had driven all the way from Chennai and reached there by 2.30 in the afternoon. The sun was bright enough even on a winter afternoon. Wondered how hot this place would be in summers.
The place was ambiguous as we parked our car and walked. All the sign boards were in Kannada and it was a struggle for a stranger like us. We asked people here and there who directed us towards the caves. As we reached the spot saying Ankalagi caves, we were not sure if the caves were the same as Chandravali, only to realize later that this place has a relation to the saints of Belgaum from Ankali Mutt. A flight of stairs under construction took us to an opening of the well structured rock place.
A team of so-called guides seated there suggested they could help us and the moment we stepped into the cave we realized why. One could get lost in the darkness and the many chambers without a guide.
Chandravalli caves have a huge significance as they seem to have covered times from Pre-historic to the Hoysala dynasty. These caves have been known for the sages who had visited this place for meditation.
From a Geography point of view, these caves are in the valley between three mountains, the Kirabanakallu, Chitradurga and Chollagudda. There is a lake right before you enter the caves that adds to a beautiful sight. There are rock structures that would make you feel like you are looking at Elephants at the water body.
Now, as the guide took us in our biggest challenge was that of language. Most of the guides are Kanada speaking and they speak in broken Hindi. Our guide got inside and went on a ramble. We had to stop her many a times and reiterate what we understood. There is so many more things that one needs to soak in the darkness down there. The only that helps is the torch lights.
As one steps in one does realize that, the place is airy and not stifling at all. The heights of the passages are quite short may be around 3.5 ft so one has to be watchful. With the clean shaven head, I had to be more careful. 🙂
Secrecy and escape routes were of paramount importance. As we entered down a flight of stairs, the space opened up into a meditation center with the entrance being adorned by two elephant like structures. Then we moved into the sleeping and the bath chambers of the caves. Even though we were in the cave, the bathing chambers had a space for rain water harvesting and ensuring that the water was let out properly. There were spaces for keeping the Diyas which was the only source for light in the caves in those times.
We also happened to walk through smaller passages to reach a space where the king and his key members along with the sages had discussions. That space was so dark when the lights were off that, if there was any emergency they could escape quickly without anyone knowing. There is also a belief that there were underground passages connected to the Chitradurga fort. These caves also were used to store the treasures of the kings (It is so believed).
The Vishnu sculpture beautifully carved
Imagine the beauty in its full glory
Even the door paths have been intricately carved
What really was breath taking to observe was the carvings and sculptures that were created and still available for us to see after thousands of years. Just imagine, how those fine artisans would have sculpted just using the light of diyas. What a craftmanship it was during those times. The walls are adored with creepers, designs and idols. A treat to the eyes even in such darkness.
Lord Shiva seems to have been a prominent deity to be prayed to. There were too many a sculptures and graphic images that adorned the walls too.
As we came out it took time for the eyes to adjust to the light. Once out, you could see the other structures that were built on top of the caves, though mostly in broken condition.
After we left the guide, we took time to just soak in the feeling of a history that was not only mysterious, historic but also architecturally brilliant. As we left the place, it felt there is much more than what we saw and the place needs more time for art and architecture lovers.
Few points definitely to note.
The road leading to caves is not that great.
Ample parking space to park your vehicles.
Do take a guide as you step in or else you would get lost inside.
If you are not from Karnataka, negotiate well with the guide before getting in.
Torches are the best, not cell phone ones. Carry them. (We missed to get ours ready).
Take your time, if you like something. The guide would ask you to hurry up all the time as they are running their own agenda.
Stay at the place before you leave, breath in the freshness of the place.
The glow of the sun, running of the deer, temples of Chennai, paint brush, deforestation, water conservation, sponges, walls… Oh!! a random collection that I am trying to put here… Well this is about the fun that some of the Chennai folks had on a beautiful morning as the sun tried to peep out of the clouds.
Morning 6.45 and there were at least 25 young and elder folks down at one of the sub-urban area. Their objective was to have fun while painting the abandoned, peed walls of Chennai. This was the wall Opposite to the “National Institute of Wind Energy”. I have been through this area so many a times, and believe me it had been a mess. The Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) sub-urban group along with “The Hindu” started this initiative of cleaning up places and giving a beautiful life to the walls.
While I have had a beautiful pleasure of seeing and capturing the artistic walls at Cochin fort, this was altogether a new experience. Here we the ordinary, non artists like me and many others were showing our talent on the walls.
The whole process, began with Shanmugam, the co-ordinator from EFI talking about the marsh lands, water bodies, forest cover and the three rivers that are there in and around Chennai. It was really interesting facts and figures to know that Chennai had 33 water bodies and at least 4 small forest covers that used to adorn the city. Off-course, thanks to we human efforts, they are in a depleating mode. And with that context setting, he beautifully shared the topic for today’s painting. It was on “nature” and the city.
Armed with the resources of paints, brushes, sponges… Yeah Sponges, we were pleased to dirty our hands with paints. The EFI team had ensured that the place was cleaned up and walls white washed so that we could get started. Off-course there were a couple of artists there who were the guide for us.
Some members requested the artists to create the outline and they could start colouring them while the adventurous like us, said attack without a plan. Well, we got to our wall space and started creating. The challenge was what and why. My partner and my son and I got into major argument. Well no marks for guessing who won.. 😉
And we started, the outline for the deer started, and then the free flowing tree. Off course, there was a helping hand from the artist who after our initial effort said, “No problem, do it… I will get it sorted”
We could only look perplexed and went on. Well I must say, we could not have done it any better. After close to 90 mins of beautiful toil and work, we managed to get our wall done.
What we loved the most was the part of sharing. No body was in a rush for the limited paint materials that was there. If there was a ask for a brush or any particular paint, the other waited and then pitched in to support. Well, we also had a great personality who loved to do borders on every paint work. He walked around with a black paint and draw lines. His standard statement was, “I think there needs to be a line here?”
It really did not matter, how busy the street was getting. All of us were well glued to create our own imagination and representations. It was good fun, while supporting a beautiful cause to beautify our city and walls.
Hopefully the smelly walls will breath easy and keep the city beautiful!!
Few things that we could think of doing as we planned for our next wall some other day:
Plan the theme, what is that you would like to paint.
Bring in a pencil to help outline what you want to draw.
Water bottles, as you may feel thirsty.
Invite more friends to join the fun.
Always, remember not to pee on the walls.. you may be painting it someday.. 🙂
Chennai is a melting pot for art & culture and it certainly stays true to its nature. Will initiatives like these what EFI has been doing, it just adds to the flavour.
Come enjoy and unleash your happiness for a beautiful tomorrow at Chennai!!
The first time that I heard of Bishnupur, it did not rekindle any feelings. Yeah, like any other local town in India, this could yet another city. Now, the mind does play tricks and I happened to start reading about this town and what got me excited was that this small town some 130 odd kilometers from Kolkata has been on the tentative list of UNESCO Heritage sites. That was more than enough for me to make up my plans to travel to this city.
And thus the wings took me off to the “City of JOY” … Kolkata and from there we headed off to the sleepy town of Bishnupur. We had a great cab driver who was quite a chatter box and ensured that we had a lovely time travelling to the Town of RED. This town today falls in the Birbhum district and was ruled by local kings under the rule of the Gupta Dynasty. Somewhere in the 17th & 18th century, this quiet town was ruled by the Malla Rulers who were followers of Lord Vishnu and had built these elegant structures. There has been a time in history, Bishnupur was the cultural capital of Bengal.
Today stands still to get recognition that it had in the past. The only thing that has got a world recognition is the beautiful Terracotta horse from Bishnupur that stands proudly with the West Bengal Tourism. It has become a symbol of pride from the past.
While heading to this historic place, we enjoyed the “Aaloo Chap” (Potato balls) a specialty from Bengal. It was way different from what we have had so far. One thing to remember is that, if you are heading towards the hinterlands in east, food is something you would have to adjust or carry your own stuff.
You may not find great restaurants on the way but guaranteed to find some amazing local delicacies in shacks. Offcourse, water is a treasure and do pick your bottles as you head towards your beautiful destination. Not that you may not find them, but just be sure that you have them when you need them.
We rolled down our car and one would tend to have some guides who would reach out and ask. The best part is that these guys are not too pushy here and very reasonable. Our guide asked for Rs 200/- to take us around. You would need one of these guys just to get a understanding of some of the nuances that web may not throw out.
After picking up the tickets, I turned to just be awestruck by the grande of “Rashmancha”.. the base itself is some seven feet high and on top of that is the edifice which to me reminded of the Pyramids. More than anything, it was the usage of Terracotta and red bricks to build this massive structure. On these red bricks, the terracotta slabs depict the life from Ramayana & Mahabharata. Just imagine, to cover such a huge structure how many just blocks would have first been conceptualized and then molded in heat to get the story done in a beautiful sequence.
The “Rashmancha” was made to celebrate the festivity with Lord Krishna. The villages from nearby and far would bring their Lord Krishna & Radha decorated in their finery best. There were places that were demarcated within the “Rashmancha” where the respective deities were kept. It must have been a scene filled with fun and frolic. Bazars must have been filled with delicacies and handmade art work for people to buy and celebrate the festivities.
After this we went to the “Radha Balabha temple,” which is exquisite art work. The temple is small but a lot compactly built. The square structure is proportionately built with door ways exactly the same way. But, each wall has a different inscription and story to tell. The terracotta work will leave you mesmerized and you would tend to spend more time understanding each of these panels.
Post this we went ahead to see another beauty called “Jor Bangla”.. Which is also called Twin palaces. “Jor” means joint.. There are two identical structures that look to have been joint in the middle. Except the fact that one has got a door while the other does not. The rest of the structure is the same.
The sad part is that people are not allowed to get inside the place. Am sure the exquisite work would have to be preserved.
As we walked around we found that, apart from the red bricks there were laterite rocks that have used to build these palaces. Both red soil and laterites are common to this place. A beautiful usage of what is available in the vicinity.
A circular pattern in a square roof patter (Interior view)
The various designs created depicting life
Elephants being fed by a rooster.. What an imagination
The square roof creation (Interior view)
Then there is the Madan Mohan temple and many others. All these temples that have been created. Many of these structures are fairly identical to one another and grandeur. This is one temple where the lord Krishna resides and the idol is worshiped everyday. We happened to reach there a little late.
Just a furlong down, is the “Large gateway”. It is also made up off Laterite rocks and Bricks. As I walked into the gateway that is still used for smaller vehicles to pass through, one could see the posts that were created for the sentries and Royal army to be stationed. The large dome did make it more spacious.
Each of these places do have something or the other happening right outside. We had a Baul singer, mesmerizing the place. Then you have the tea stall and a vendor selling the local handicraft.
After going through the regular tourist spot, we were fascinated by some of the dilapidated structures. One of them was this “Radha Krishna” temple. There were still in sequence next to the village pond. Even though it is a locked and broken temple, people have had kept the space in front of that cleaned for their evening get-together.
A further down was an old house of one of the singers from the “Bishnupur Gharana”. This house is now run down and is beyond use. Only after seeing this place, did we realize that Bisphupur, does contribute to the Indian Classical Music in a big way. Felt sad too that such places and art has not been publicized much.
What really surprises me the heights and the similarity in layout. One would tend to find a similar layout within each structures. Each of these temples have a Tulsi area, a kitchen area right behind the temple structures.
The top of all these temples have a very beautiful arch which am sure serves both the ways for keeping the place cool during the hot summer days and also, let’s the water recede faster during the rainy season.
There seem to be an alignment to the Vastu requirements of building a place. The vastness of the temples does talk about the fact that these places were not only built from a worship point of view but also a place where people could get together and celebrate various functions. There is a very forward thinking by the kings who ruled this places. Importance has been given not only to the architecture but also the society that thrived around them.
We had spent almost three hours in this beautiful historical place and still felt we have not seen enough. Our driver then took us to a place slightly away from the main area. This place was further decorated with many a temples. These temples have been built by the local Zamindars and these are no less captivating.
After another hour of exploring the beautiful red structures and soaking in the past, we went ahead to see one last chapter in the annals of history. That is the “Dalmadal Canon”. This canon was the largest manufactured by the Malla Kings. The canon has been manufactured by layers of alloys stripped together and is quite intact. It has not rusted at all.
We ended our trip at the “Chindamastika temple”, which was really a peaceful space in front of a rather “Ugra roopa” (Violent image) of Goddess Kali.
By around 2.30 pm we were hungry and our driver took us to the “Bishnupur Tourist Lodge” for a simple Fish meal. Well even if you are a vegetarian, the food is really simple and nice. It was really a nice place to end the trip and before we headed back to Shantiniketan for the next part of our journey to soak in the cultural hub of West Bengal. It was quite a fulfilling journey.
A few things definitely would suggest who would like to go and soak oneself in this beauty:
Carry water bottle as much as you can
Be ready to walk, as there is much more to explore, a CAP is a must as these are open spaces.
Do carry some food with you if you can.
Try being there during the non summer season.
Take a guide, he will help you explore the place from a different perspective.
The place is fairly clean and the Archaeological department has done some great restoration. Help them in the cause by keeping it clean.
Soak in the local flavours, you will not regret it.
A regular Saturday afternoon on the banks of Khoai river, near Shantiniketan is a beautiful setting of the Khoai Hatt every Saturday. Those tall “Sonajhuri” trees adorned every meter of the ground. Under these lovely trees and as the sun shines right above your head the khoai market gets into a shape. The expanses gets filling up fast with the tribal and the local sellers unpacking and setting up their shops in the regular places. Listening to the argument between two adjacent stalls, I got reminded of the school days when we used to draw a line on the table to say that my neighbour should not cross the border. I laughed as I walked around seeing the various hawkers set up their establishments.
As I walked around, I heard an ektara play, and my head turned as I walked to the direction of the soulful music that played.
It was a hoarse tone to start off with but then the jingling sound of “gungroo” and the dhol sound mesmerized me as I seem to float towards him. As the man came into view, I was delighted to see the saffron kurta clad man in his own world playing the ektara and singing on…
It did not seem to matter if there were people sitting or listening to him. It did not matter who clapped or not. He seemed to go on with his song, the beautiful baul songs.
As he finished one, he paused adjusted his Gungroo, tightened the ektara sting to the tune he wanted, played with his hairs and beard and clearing his throat went on to sing the next song. I was simply stuck at the simplicity.
As I got up to leave, he did not even bother to acknowledge the only one intently listening leaving. I kept some money and moved on.
It felt as if he was the master here with no strings. I am here to give and do not expect any in return. If you feel like giving, give or else move on.
As the afternoon moved to evening, had many other Baul singers who went on with their presentations. One of the them seemed to be slightly modern with CDs of their songs displayed as they kept playing. These artists were more playful with one a banjo like instrument and the second one on the flute while the third one was on the dhol and another couple of them who were busy playing the gungroo. As the tempo went on, I could not stop myself from swinging and dancing along with them. They were so mesmerizing that you will forget where you are. It is one that can only be experienced as it steers your soul.
While their singing was soulful, their dressing sense was equally swag. I just fell in love with their representation and deep connect with the roots.
These songs are mostly from what they see life as and are not written down. It is the Guru-Sishya Parampara that enables the knowledge move from the guru to his disciples. While today, you do have CDs and music available to pick up and listen to them but the ambiance and their presence adds to the overall soulfulness to the baul music. Folksongs at its best and pristine form.
It is an experience not to be missed at all if you happened to be there at Shantiniketan on a Saturday.
As I left the hatt, even though I am a distant relative to the language, the music kept playing on my lips and my hands dancing to the tune.