Pineapples at Madhukeshwara .. Sweetener of Karnataka

IMG_20181229_115347Banavasi, the names connects to being the oldest and the first capital of Karnataka is today a quite sleepy town with its beautiful Pineapple farms and the majestic Madhukeshwara temple.

Looking at the temple one can certainly say that this place would have been a high activity place. The Kadamba dynasty was the first dynasty to rule over the North Karnataka in the 3rd century AD. It is no doubt the oldest places noted in the annals of history of  Karnataka. Banavasi, has its reference in the records of Ptolemy (Dates to 1st century), Kalidasa also had visited this lovely place and there are references of Banavasi in his Meghaduta and also had been visited by monks during Ashoka times.

The Madhukeshwara temple holds its relevance from mythology where Lord Vishnu had killed a demon called Madhu on the behest of Lord Shiva. Initially this temple was built in reverence to Lord Vishnu, interestingly today we see a great Shivalinga, who is called as Madhukeshvaralinga. IMG_20181229_122155

The temple and place was later under the control of the Chalukya and then the Hoyasala dynasties. Both the dynasty have an impact on the temple and its architecture.

As one enters the temple, one is welcome by the openness of the place. The Gopuram of the temple is flat and short, typical of the temple structures in the Western Ghats.

The inner pillars seems to be a combination of structures from different dynasties. The pillars does showcase the fact that India even in 1st Century was so well advanced that it could carve out pillars that stand tall even after 2000 plus years. A marvel and feat to feel proud about this culture. The carvings on the pillars came in much later with the Hoyasala.

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As we enter the inner temple, one sees a huge Nandi (Bull, Lord Shiva’s vehicle) should be at least 6 ft in height.

IMG_20181229_120836The uniqueness of this Nandi is that, the head of the Nandi is at an angle where, one eye is focused on Lord Shiva while the other is intently looking at Goddess Parvathi, whose temple is smaller and adjacent to Lord Shiva’s main temple.

The sanctum has the Shiva Linga which is huge and has a flat top which depicts of the time a little later than the Kadamba time.

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Lord Indra on his Airavata

The outer walls temple has got the idols of both Shiva and Vishnu. A majority of sculptures are that of Lord Vishu and does talk about the temple being dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This may be one of the few temples in India that have an elaborate carving of Lord Indra with his consort on his Airavata, the elephant. The sculpture work is simple yet mesmerising.

In the temple space one would find carvings of the five headed snake with Prakrit inscription from 2nd century.

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Does this not remind you of Pyramids & Mummy movies.

In the courtyard of the temple one would also see a stone cot, with monolithic structures that talk about the craftsmanship of the Shonda rulers.

After spending close to an hour or more in the temple, we stepped out to relish ourselves with some of the sweetest Pineapples that one could ever have. Banavasi, today contributes significantly to the Pineapple production of Karnataka. There are farmlands that produce these sweet pineapples. One could also see factories to package and may be export them.

 

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The monolithic Stone Cot, well preserved within the temple space.

Before we left this beautiful little space well tucked in the western Ghats, we had our simple lunch at a Khanawali. We enjoyed a simple home made vegetarian lunch managed by women. The simplicity of the food and people have got entrenched in our hearts, minds and stomach too.

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The snake carvings with Shiva, Parvathi & Nandi on top of it. The craftsmanship is simply mystical!! 

 

It is said that perhaps, in those times apart from Varanasi, Banavasi was the only other city that had a culmination of many religious beliefs. One can only imagine the magnitude of this place which had laid its relevance more than some 2000 years ago.

 

 

 

Things to check:

  • Banavasi, today is small place mainly connected by road. The nearest station is at least 100 odd kms. 
  • The drive to the place is very pleasing and the trees are you constant companion.
  • It is quite a tranquil place. 
  • You can carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone.
  • The language is mostly Kannada and could hardly find people who could talk English. Hindi a few could speak. And the human language is the best way to connect.
  • Carry your own water bottles or food. Do not miss to try out the Khanawali. That is an experience in itself.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat” & say no to plastics. The place is relatively clean and has been maintained by local people.              

As we left the place, the sweetness of the pineapple and the past architecture lingered through the return journey of ours.

Indeed…. Incredible India!!

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Machkund – A slice of Rajasthan

Being spontaneous is a great thing and being open to listening is like a dash of lime on a Bhel Puri.

Well, while having to reach Gwalior we had to cross a small part of Rajasthan, Dholpur on NH44.  We did not trust our beloved GPS and stopped to check with locals and have a local Chai. The moment we did that, one added to another and someone said, there is a place which is not too far and is of historical and religious significance. Post the chai, we took the detour. Though not a part of the plan, we said “why not!?!”. May be worth half an hour spend.

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And the huge arch on our right welcomed us to get into Machkund. The approach road is good but one can feel lost and we had to ask a few locals to reach the place. As the vehicle rolled in, we were welcomed by the traditional Red stone, Rajasthani structure. We gingerly got out of the car and started to walk towards a small gate on the left hand side, which happened to open into the temple complex and believe me, “It is a world in itself”.IMG_20191002_103335

The beauty about Indian history is that there has to be some Mythology behind a structure. It is said that a demon by the name of Kaal Yamaan unknowingly woke Raja Machkund who was sleeping at this place. The Raja had a divine gift, a boon by the Lord that he could destroy any person. When the Raja was disturbed, he burnt, Kaal Yamaan at this place.IMG_20191002_105805

The architecture and grande is worth the time. The lake right in front is supposed to be sacred and was built by the suryavanshi kings. Well the overall structure came up later. As we stepped into the place, the other aspect that greets one is the serenity and calmness of the place.

One cannot state that this place is dedicated to a particular deity. It seems that most of the shrines came up between 915 BC to 775 BC. Off course the outer structures were built much later.

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At the entrance we had the Shiva shrine in the open, which has been placed on an open high raised platform with a covering only on top. HE is placed right infront of Krishna temple. The whole set up was placed inside a temple structure. It was like a temple within a temple.

We walked a little further to see the Jagannath Temple and many others smaller shrines. The Jagannath shrine had a small “Gowshala” (Cow shed) too.DSC_0948 (2)

This place is also a space where you find a lot of small samadhis (Cenotaphs) of the kings and royal members also. The cluster of these makes the place spiritual and mystical.

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While we were there, we felt the water of the pond to be extremely still. So still that one could see the reflection of the boats and trees crystal clear. It was a mesmerizing feeling.

It is said that there is a mela that happens there, when one finds a lot of crowd or else this is a very quite place and indeed it was. I am surprised that such a lovely place is hidden in the folds of the country and it is not published or spoken about.

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As we left the place, we were not only soaking ourselves in a bit of Rajasthan but also a question as to why these lovely places are tucked in some corners of the country.

Things to check:

  • Dholpur falls in a cusp zone as you cross UP and heading towards Gwalior. The roads leading to Muchkund is really great.
  • There are hardly any one who will bug you for anything. You could peacefully walk in and walk out.
  • You can carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone.
  • Soak in the beauty. There could be a lot to walk around. We saw boats in the pond, but hardly anyone to ferry at that hour. 
  • Carry your own water bottles or food.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

Soak in a bit of history, mythology and beautiful Architecture. Basically, soak in the beauty of Rajasthan..

Indeed “Incredible India!!”

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Taj – A photo Essay

The Taj Mahal a monument built in memory of emperor’s wife… Here is an essay the way I looked at this wonderful monument. And as we enter the space post beating the queue by booking online by booking on https://asi.payumoney.com

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Archaeological Survey of India and made the whole process so easy with the online mode.

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Any colour and it still stands tall and beautiful

The nature that day, wanted to play with this mammoth structure and it was a delight to capture it in all its splendor.

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And as we proceeded to the monument event the entry gate looked mesmerizing. The whole place is so so spread and grande. Even with so so many people in the place, we still managed to find space to shot the emptiness.

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It is so beautiful, that even the half of the monument delights one. The white marble just mesmerized us with its massiveness.

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The Black & White picture threw a class with a little beautification help from the clouds. One can not just take your eyes from it.IMG_20191001_201204_829

It was pristine and beautiful space to be in.

Things to check:

  • The Yamuna express Highway is a great road to drive to Agra from Delhi. There are trains too from Delhi. 
  • Book your tickets online through https://asi.payumoney.com .. you will save money and time.
  • You can only carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone, rest all in the cloak room. There is normally a long queue there.
  • The number of people who throng the place are plenty. So keep that in mind. 
  • Photographers there asked us Rs.600/- for some 60 pics. It is worth as they very well know how to shoot.
  • We did not find much value in picking a guide there, but if one wanted to then you could at Government rates. You could negotiate further.
  • If you happen to go to the interior of the mausoleum, pick up shoe covers from people outside the monument at Rs.5/- a pair.
  • Carry your own water bottles, food is a no-no.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

 

 

 

 

Lost Yoginis of Mitawali

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Chaushati Yogini, the word itself takes me back to the time when I had visited this Sakthi pitha at Hirapur near  Bhubaneswar. Especially this being the Dasahara time, I remember how Mahamaya, the central deity of Chaushati Yogini is celebrated.

I had a similar impression when we started our planning some three months earlier. India has got some 12 odd Yogini pithas and Mitawali (near Morena) is one such revered place.

Thanks to Madhya Pradesh Government, the approach road to this place took me back to 1980’s roads of India. DSC_1052 (2)

Anyway, somehow we managed to reach the place by 4 pm. Our plan was to rush of to Orchha at the earliest as we now became worried of the roads. As we parked our vehicle, we were attracted towards a chorus singing.

DSC_1049 (2)We paused ourselves as we were enthralled by a group of village women who had sat down to sing a simple folklore and praise Mother Durga.

As they finished singing we could not hold ourselves back requesting them to sing again and they happily obliged.

After spending our time, we started to climb up a hillock. And this was not before, one of the ladies invited us to come to her home. When we politely said later, she said have some water from the tube well and head off. We had some really sweet, chill water from the tube well and made our way out. It was quite humbling to see the simplicity and warmth in our villages.

As we approached our climb, we realized the walk would be of  some 100 steps up. I kept running up with excitement and literally ran up gasping for breath. The familiar circular structure invite me.DSC_1068 (2)

There was a board there stating us to remove our footwear. As I took the final flight of ten steps, I looked around the inner shell of the temple. It had a different feel. The circular inner shell had sixty four small Chambers and there was the central mandapa.

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We started to walk around and for me it was a gloomy scene, there were no yogini’s inside. I found Shiva lingas been kept inside these chambers.IMG_20191002_152940

The central mandapa was even more disappointing. They had managed to keep three Shiva Lingas where the locals offer prayers.

I was feeling low seeing the plunder that has happened to this magnificent piece of history. This structure that has given India it’s parliament structure was now standing hollow.IMG_20191002_153036__01

With a heavy heart and a tinge of disappointment we headed back to our car, though thankful to Archaeological Society of India (ASI) that such lovely structures and piece of history is preserved the test of time.

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Things to check:

  • Do not attempt any other route, make the way from Gwalior. This route is safe and has some tar on the road. The other approach roads are really bad.
  • There is not much of signage that will guide you except when you are close to the place. So hold on to your GPS maps and human maps too.
  • The climb is steep and has close to 100 odd inclined steps. Shoes are a good option
  • There is no ASI fees / charges to enter the place and no one asks for money.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades. 
  • Carry your own food & water bottles (BYOB). There are local village shops and I doubt if it could be of much help. 
  • People are very humble and helpful.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

Ruins of Chambal … Bateshwar

IMG_20191002_134805Ever felt lost and found with awe… Bateshwar, near Morena, Madhya Pradesh is just the place that would make you feel that.

When Google fumbles with the path, and you trust technology too much, then be rest assured, you will have a journey of a life time. We went through villages that would take you back in time, roads that will test your driving skills and vehicles shock ups. We quit the maps and went back to the age old tradition of asking people about the directions. It was on their judgement call we trusted and made our way through the villages and battered roads.img_20191002_140047

Finally we reached the destination. Believe me it was a scary space. Apart from the board which looked neat, the rest of the places felt deserted. We gingerly moved in. My partner had plans to leave the place. When we reached the gate, we were welcomed by a neat looking office but manned by none.

IMG-20191009-WA0061We parked the car under a tree and made our way through the gate.  The team from ASI has really worked in making the place look beautiful. The trees are welcoming and all the tiredness went off into thin air.

The site of a peacock was bliss and it felt warm and welcomed as our eyes began to scan the place for signs of a different life and archaeological wonders from the glorious past of India.

DSC_0975 (2)We took a few more steps, the sight of the temple gopuras was fascinating. We forgot all the pain and the delusion of the road and soaked ourselves in the place.DSC_0978 (2)

As the expanse opened up, we were welcomed by a number of similar looking small temples. I was jumping like a little kid who had just got hold of a long desired ice cream. I ran from one flight of stairs to another exploring the series of temples at each level. I was in awe with the symmetry of the temples. Most of these temples would be from 5.5 ft to 6.5 ft. There are  a few that would be some 12 ft high too. These are Shiva temples built during the Gurjara Pratiharas time which would be 7th century CE.DSC_0987 (2)

There are stories that these temples were built by the students as a part of the Guru dakshina pratha post their learning at the school. How fascinating and a wonderful way to pay their tributes to the Guru.DSC_1004 (2)

Bateshwar comes in the Chambal valley and this part was well infested with dacoits who ruled the place. The time I am talking about is not too much in the past. It was in 2005, Bhopal region’s Superintending Archaeologist  from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) K.K. Muhammed who restored close to 60 odd temples here.DSC_0990 (2)

As per the recent folklore, it seems he had a dream of Lord Shiva asking him to come to Bateshwar and restore the shrines. Initially he ignored it especially given the fact that the place was notorious but as the dream kept coming again, he ventured into the heart of the dacoit land and convinced them to start the restoration work.DSC_0988 (2)

Well things did not come easy. But he kept working on his dream and finally gave the world some of the most astonishing temples and the glory what we would have missed. There are a couple of temples where the Lord is being prayed.DSC_0984 (2)

DSC_0985 (2)We spent close to half an hour there exploring the world that was part of a rich tradition. Today there is work being done by ASI in restoring it further.

It seems a lot of these were earlier Vishnu temples which were later reused as Shiva temples. These temples have got simple standard carvings that are fascinating to see the striking similarities. The gopuras are very interesting. Some are very ornate while some are absolutely plain in structure.

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Bateshwar, one does not know much about them from the history books nor is Madhya Pradesh tourism doing much to make the roads accessible or propagating it. Feels sad that such treasures are not being spoken about.DSC_0983 (2)

As we left the place, I was filled with delight to have finally made it to this place and witnessed a part of history that speaks millions of our glorious past.

Things to check:

  • Do not attempt any other route, make the way from Gwalior. This route is safe and has some tar on the road. The other approach roads are really bad.
  • There is not much of signage that will guide you. So hold on to your GPS maps and human maps too.
  • There is a lot of walk in and around the place, so make sure you have your comfortable shoes on.
  • There is no ASI fees / charges to enter the place and no one asks for money.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades. 
  • Carry your own food & water bottles (BYOB). You do not have shops to buy what you may like. Almost no habitation nearby.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

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Bankapur Nagareshvara Shiva

Being lost even when GPS seems working I think is something that we have taken up for granted. And, finding newer things and pausing to find something beautiful is a new normal then.

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Well Bankapur fort was one such place. We had read about the Nagareshvara Temple inside the fort and wanted to check that out post our trip from Galaganath.

The fort is some 360 odd kilometers from Bengalore and 23 kms from Haveri. Haveri, does not have great places to stay. It was an “ok” place, where we could sleepover as a pit stop before we headed off further north of Karnataka. We started off after a sumptuous breakfast.

The fort is off the main road in the Bankapur area, which is well known for Peacock sanctuary and for Black Bucks (Well we could see none). Bankapur was a glorious place in the past. It was ruled by Rastrakutas, Chalukyas, Suenas, Hoyasala before being ruled by the Bahmani Sultans. This place was also ruled further by Bijapur’s Ali Adil Shah and then  by the Suvanur Nawabs who had to pledge the fort to the Maratha Holkars, who fell to Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. The fort was finally seized by the Britishers. In the due course of time, the fort lost its glory and its structure too.

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Not knowing Kannada and following the GPS, we seemed to have gone around the barbed fencing of the fort and reached at a spot where we realized we were lost. That is where we paused and shot some lovely little birds.

We finally reversed and parked outside a wall and people said, you got to walk through this gate. As we started to walk, we were welcomed by a deserted feel. It had wild vegetation all around and the broken walls. From there on it was a deserted walk for close to one kilometer. The good part is that, there is a shade cover that the government has built. There are no signage to lead to the temple space though.

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As we walked to a small junction point we happened to meet a bunch of school kids who had come on a school excursion. What energy and fun. Reminded us of our school fun days.

After chatting up with them and asking for directions, we headed on our right side towards the temple place. The placed looked deserted yet had a charm of its own. May be still saying I have my mesmerizing effects still on.

This place was the fort area though deserted and not much of visitors except for the locals, there is a habitation. People come and farm inside too. The government has given the local people the lands to be used. The spaces unused are huge.

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Cultivation inside the fort

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As we neared the place, the first side was that of the roof and then the temple space opened up for us. The smallness was grandeur for us. The temple today would be some seven feet below the normal ground height as of today. As we took the flight of stairs, one could feel that ASI has been working on the space. It was very clean and gave a feel of the care that the government is taking for preserving these pristine pasts of ours.

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This ancient Western Chalukyan temple is also called as “Aravattarukmbhada Gudi” or “Temple with Sixty six columns. It was built in the later Chalukya or Kalyani Chalukya rulers. And yes, this is again another Shivan temple, similar to what Western Chalukya kings have been creating. This temple was created in the 12th century.

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We had to remove our footware and get into the temple space, even though we did not find any prayers being done to the linga. The young Bengali ASI person who was bought up in Bihar and had an Odiya girlfriend who wanted to go for a kannada movie that morning with a local friend that day ensured that we all remove our footware there.

As we discussed and started to ask him more questions about the place, we realized he hardly had any understanding of what this place was. He was eager to close the main sanctum and move on for the day.

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Exquisite carvings on the door of the sanctum. There is a lot lost with time and still this art work stands tall.

The sixty six pillars forms the part of the small mandapa, which must have been a place of congregation. Though we stepped  into the sanctum, we could one see a small shiva Linga and it seemed to have been shut because of ASI work. Our ASI man did not let us click any pics inside too.

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The intricate designs on one of the pillars

 

The first impression that we got were the beautifully chilled pillars. It would remind anyone of the Belur & Belvadi temples. The only difference is that, they were build for Vishu and these Chalukyan were for Shiva. And yes, Hoyasala architecture is heavily influenced by the Chalukyan creations. This temple is a great example for it.

When one enters the temple, one could feel the chillness in the space. The floor and the sandstone pillars chill the place. The sandstone structures also gives in to the fact the carvings and structures suggests that it could have been the beginning of stone carvings. Bankapur has a dense population of peacocks and it shows in the carvings too.

We spent a lot of time, walking and feeling the beautiful carvings on the walls. The door especially had some intrinsic workings and one see how the stones have hollowness as well as liveliness at the same time.

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The raised platforms around the inner part of the wall did have similar impressions as that of Galagnath temple, where people must have used this for playing board games. There is something about that place that could get peace and tranquility.

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Board Games

The subsequent time that flew post the creation, the fort’s occupiers in the later years broke a lot of artifacts, statues and today what we see could just be a small part of that beautiful history.

Some of the monuments have been placed at different places of the palace, just as a reminder as to what this place would have been.

As we walked back to our car, we could only talk as to what the stars above us would have seen when the plans for this magnificent temple was laid and then its destruction. Thanks to ASI for having preserved such jewels for this and the subsequent generations to cherish and feel awe about.

Things to check:

  • Haveri is a small place, cannot expect great hotels. And if you are looking at staying before heading to Bankapur, this is the best place only.
  • Food is local but nice and clean. If you are experimenter then a great way to taste local food.
  • Own transport is the best to discover new places.
  • The Bankapur fort is dilapidated and the entrance would like some government place. So check with locals if you feel lost. People GPS is best.
  • There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money in the temple.
  • There is a lot of walking to be done from the gate to the temple space.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades.
  • The place is very peaceful 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”

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Indeed, Incredible India!! and a glorious history of India!!!… Only wanting us to come back again and again.

Sparsha Linga

DSC_8476 (2)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.DSC_8487 (2)

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.

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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.

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We paused and wondered before we could step further

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.

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The Unique structure of Galageswara
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Small yet Majestic temple 

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.

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The eastern entrance of the temple. A Nandi sits there majestically infront of the Shiva Linga. Notice the work on the walls. Simple yet elegant.

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.

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The inscriptions on the stone talking about the temple and its creation

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.

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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.

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Depiction of Fisherman, Praying woman (Stating normal life) and then the religious belief with Shiva Linga and Nandi

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.

Hats off to Incredible India!!

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Environmental Artist!!

The wallThe 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.IMG_20181028_083328

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.

img_20181028_084940.jpgThe 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.

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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?”

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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:

Colours

  • 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!!

Our creation
Our Creation!!

Terracotta Adda – Bishnupur

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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 The wingstown 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. Tera HorseThis 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. UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_ed1
UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_ecfYou 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. UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_f7cOn these red bricks, the terracotta slabs depict the life from Ramayana & unadjustedraw_thumb_f82-e1536476895193.jpgMahabharata. 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.

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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.

UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_faeThe 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.

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.UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_fcc

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.IMG_20180429_124950

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.

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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.

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Exploring the kitchen area, my imagination on food had no bounds 😉

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.

IMG_20180429_141955We 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.
  • Enjoy the place, it has more to offer.

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