Chitra & Durga

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

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Classic symbol at the entrance of the Fort

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.

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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.

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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 DSC_8244 (2)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.

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.

IMG_20181223_085955One 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. Fish symbols

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.

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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.

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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.IMG_20181223_084038

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 dsc_8416-e1555845641369.jpgliterally 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 Bharat and 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.

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Byadgi Chilli

dsc_8536 (2)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 img_20181223_172012brought 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.dsc_8547 (2)

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.

Chili Bugs

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.
  • The last one, just soak in as much as you can.. 🙂
Sunset

India is beautiful

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:

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  • 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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NH4 Realisations!!!

DSC_3156It’s been a few years since I started exploring this beautiful country’s wilderness and ruins along with my partner in crime who drive me crazy, at time nuts and most of the time just “WoW”
During these travels, there are a few realisations that dawned on me and I think it will be great to share with you all these amazing nuggets that you would certainly connect with.
Realisation 1: When you are going for a long drive, at least spend 10 minutes to download few of your favourite songs. Never depends upon your partner, or else you could end up scratching up your head listening to God only knows what!!
Realisation 2: On the road and especially while exploring unknown roads, you will meet lot of Gyan gurus and local guardians. When they point fingers and start their gyans, better to say sorry (so what if it not your mistake) and just move on. Humbleness is a great weapon.. 🙂
Realisation 3: Do not solely depends upon your GPS blindly. Once in a while check with Human GPS. You have no idea what you could end up with. Mystery is a great thriller.
Realisation 4: Try to keep your co-passengers happy, hydrate and engaged. Please don’t discuss about your home/ personal unless you crave for a “Crocin or any other painkiller”.
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Realisation 5: Try to do few off-road driving. You will end up with discovering amazing and beautiful India. They say, “Learning is at every turn, you just have to peep around with care”.
Realisation 6: Have loads of fun and treasure it. When you look back, they will entice you to plan your next trip with more vigour.
Realisation 7: To explore this beautiful country never miss out on the local cuisine while taking care of  your stomach.
Realisation 8: Always carry soap paper, sanitiser and water. You have no idea when the need for these small things become too big to hunt. (Murphy laws always becomes a challenge at odd hours)
Realisation 9: Try not to be an impulsive buyer while on road. You might end up getting things which you would whack yourself for later. 😉
Realisation 10: Keep your cell phone and camera batteries charged. If not “keep calm and treasure the moment in your mind map”
Realisation 11: Last but never the least…. Enjoy your road not the rage.
You have any, feel free to share and make this a longer list… Till then, Happy exploring your newer places and discovering a new life!!
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