Tag Archives: culture

A corridor of the hanging pillar- Lepakshi

On a weekend, my family planned to go for a day trip from Bengaluru. Since my dad wanted to visit Lepakshi since long, that was our destination for the weekend. There are several other small and major historical landmarks in a 50-100kms radius from Lepakshi; hence we had an initial plan to cover a few other places during our return as well. A super awesome NH7 from Bengaluru took us till Bagepalli, from where, Lepakshi was a small deviation away…

The belief is that, Jataayu- The vulture King (mentioned in the Ramayana) fell here when he was shot by Ravana’s arrow. Later, Rama is said to have commanded the bird to rise- Le Pakshi, and hence the name of that town. But not just its name, this entire place turned out to be a storehouse of history. Be it from mythology or the recent past history of the Vijayanagar Empire, every stone at Lepakshi had a tale to tell… We walked carefully reading every story that unfolded at every step

Although, I might advice you to take a personal guide while at Lepakshi who will be able to better put up all the stories and facts to you, here I would like to enlist a few noteworthy stories and art representations from Lepakshi.

  1. The main shrine of this architectural complex is the Virbhadra temple. The human figurines/ sculptures in its main hall are believed to be made up to the specifications to measure the beauty of a perfect man and a perfect woman.
Left: The perfect man; Right: The perfect woman

2. The idol of Nagalingesvara– Carved out of a natural boulder to the west of the shrine, is a seven-hooded Naga sheltering a black-polished lingam cradled in its ribbed coils. A saptamatrika panel is placed below to the right. History tells us that the sculptor had come home for lunch one day. His mother said she would be back soon with food for him. She was surprised with her son’s work when she returned and exclaimed “Oh my son..!! You have carved such a big and a beautiful statue in such a short interval.” Even before she completed, a big crack developed across the linga. This makes it un-worthy of any Pooja/ offerings at the temple.

3. The hanging pillar– Among the several ornate pillars that decorate the temple corridor, this one takes a special mention as an architectural marvel. The pillar doesn’t rest completely on the ground and hence a sheet of paper can be easily passed through the gap beneath it. The roofs of these corridors are also adorned with several ancient painting, however they are largely lost due to apathy. Another noticeable feature on these pillars are the certain designs engravings specific to this temple. These designs are said to be the inspiration for the traditional Lepakshi prints found on Sarees around this area.

4. Kalyana mantapa-This incomplete structure has been depicted as the site of the celestial wedding of Shiva and Parvati. Each pillar here is supposed to be installed in celebration of this event. Hence, one can notice that there are depictions of drummers and musicians, gods and goddesses among others engraved in these pillars. A similar place is believed to exist in Kailash and it was therefore pronounced that a place more beautiful shouldn’t exist on the earth. And hence, this Kalyana mantapa was left unfinished.

The Kalyana Mantapa

5. History says, the place could have got its name referring to the two brothers- Veeranna and Virupanna, under King Achutaraya of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Virupanna got this temple built as a tribute to the Lord as his mute son regained his speech while he was playing near the Udbhava Moorthy of Shiva on this hillock. It is said that Virupanna spared no expense while having this temple constructed. However, since he was the treasurer of Penukonda province (today’s Anantapur), the money he was splurging lead to suspicions from the king about embezzlement of money. It is said that, Virupanna plucked out his own eyes and threw them against the wall in grief and in anticipation of royal punishment. And thus, lepa-akshi (blinded eyes). Till date one can find those blood stains on that wall. The locals say that it has even test have proven that the blood stains are indeed real..!!

6. The Natya Mantapa– This is an arena where the celestial dances are believed to have been performed. Besdie it, one can see a large footprint embedded on the ground and beleived to be the footprint of Sita. It is so large that is hard to imagine what it could have been or imagined to be when it was made.

Clockwise from top left: The Natya Mantapa; The idol of Chowti Ganesha; The Sita Paada; The bloodstains of Virupanna’s eyes

7. The statue of Basava or the Nandi is the largest monolithic Nandi in India. It is built facing the Naga Linga within the temple complex. However, this is half a kilometer away from the main temple.

Basavanna- Guarding the entrance
The largest monolithic Nandi in the world- Facing the Veerabhadra temple

Jataayu is believed to have died at another place which is located at about 2 kms from the complex.This is quite sad that a place of such importance is not maintained or highlighted anywhere in the map. It didn’t have any walkable road to the exact spot. But, by this time we had already spent more than half a day at Lepakshi which we hadn’t anticipated. It was also very hot and dry and we were feeling all exhausted. Hence, decided to save all the other places for another day and returned to Bengaluru.

Conclusion: A wonderful place to visit if you are a history and art buff and looking for a place located at just about 120kms from Bangalore..!!

A Weekend Drive to Belur and Halebeedu

It was a Sunday morning and our family outing was fixed. We decided to take a day trip to Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola. These are places that I can NEVER get bored of visiting and can go over and over and over again. I prefer to write less in this post because I choose the pictures to speak for themselves.

Karnataka- is One State, many Worlds’.

-KSTDC, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation

As a part of an endless list of things that Karnataka has to offer to every traveler, are its unending list of historical and architectural monuments. With several kingdoms ruling over Karnataka at different points in history, the temple architecture in Karnataka doesn’t fail to get a ‘WOW’ even from a person not interested in art and history. And one such place that has always and always mesmerized me are the temples built by the Hoysalas. These temples are not as big in size as the grand Chola temples but aesthetically BRILLIANT and I run short of adjectives to describe their grandeur.

With the Hoysala style of architecture evolving over centuries, I take it quite seriously to visit and explore as many of these structures as possible.The erstwhile capital towns (now located in Hassan district) of the Hoysala empire hold the finest surviving examples of the Hoysala style today. Out of 900+ temples built across Central and South Karnataka, only around 400+ remain now many of which still need restoration and maintenance. Most of the now inexistent temples are believed to be destructed by the Delhi Sultanates in the 14th century and the remaining smaller ones bit into the dust due to apathy and negligence.

Our first place of visit for the day was Belur, or Velapura as it was called back in the time when it was the capital city of the Hoysalas. The Chennakeshava temple complex is a group of temples and the epitome of this style of art. This complex is located inside a walled fortress and has a tall Gopura at the entrance. For someone visiting it for the first time, the first look of the Gopura from the outside is quite deceitful of what is in store inside.

The Belur Chennakeshava temple complex
Hoysala structures within the Chennakeshava temple premises at Belur

Salient features of the Hoysala temples:
• Although the earliest Hoysala temples were made with the local sandstone, their finest temples are made by carving one of the hardest materials for making stone sculptures- the granite stone.
• The ceilings of the Hoysala temples have extremely intricate and multi-tiered mural designs.
• The pillars are lathe machined and mirror finished.

Murals at Chennakeshava temple complex
Friezes and murals at Chennakeshava temple, Belur

Fun Facts about the Hoysalas:
• Jakanachari is the revered master craftsman behind most of the marvelous temples of this era. Legend has it that he was however challenged by his own son, Dankanacharya about a possible flaw in the sculpture made by his father. Jakanacharilost the challenge when a toad and water emerged out of an idol made by him after which he cut-off his right hand as a symbol of submission to his son’s skill.
• Shantala, the wife of King Vishnuvardhana (One of the most prominent Hoysala ruler) was so mesmerised by the Sculptures of the dancing ladies carved here in different postures, it is believed that she used to dance with these Madalikes or ShilaBalikas in her dreams.

Art at Chennakeshava temple

The capital of the Hoysalas was shifted from Belur to Halebeedu, then called Dwarasamudra. The Hoysaleshwara temple is the most prominent among all. The monolithic statue of Nandi here, is the sixth largest in the world.

The Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebeedu
Hoysala sculptural Art at Halebidu

Although our next destination is not a Hoysala hotspot, we decided to include it in our itinerary as it was just around. We headed towards Shravanabelagola, one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the Jains. Shravanabelagola has two hills- Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. The twin hills offer a panoramic view of the surrounding plains. Chandragiri hill gets its name from Chandragupta, one of the greatest emperors of India who converted to Jainism, gave up all his worldly pleasures and is believed to have passed away on this hill. The statue of Bahubali/ Gomateshwara located on the Vindhyagiri hill is the largest monolithic stone statue in the World.

The statue of Gomateshwara at Shravanabelagola
The Gomateshwara Monolith statue

With this, I wind up with Part 1: of visiting the Hoysala temples. To put it in my words, I survived an ‘Art attack’ at Belur and Halebeedu.

Please do find a day to visit these places and you will not regret, trust me!

A day out at Kaiwara

Our company has recently changed its working calendar and now, we have our weekly off on Wednesdays instead of Sundays. When I woke up this Wednesday morning, a weekend for me and when the rest of the world is working their asses off, halfway through their week… I sat wondering how I was going to kill the rest of the day amidst the four walls of my house, all jobless.

Then suddenly, I remembered a place that a friend had told me about, long ago. She had done her internship at ‘Kaiwara’ during the final year of her MBBS course. I jumped out of my bed and began to google for it. With lot of information available online, I was able to jort down a list of places to see in and around Kaiwara and with a quick route map. I dragged my mum along, pulled the car out of the garage and zooommm we went…….

List of Places covered:
Narayanapa Mutt; Bheemeshwara temple; Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta; Tapovana; Vaikunta betta; MahaKailasaGiri Betta; ChenaKeshava Cave Temple; Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

The details:
It was around 09.00.a.m. when we started from Bangalore. We reached Devanahalli from where we took the Vijayapura bypass road. At an average speed of 60kmph, a drive of a good 45min from the Bengaluru airport is what it took us to reach Kaiwara.

As soon as one enters the Kaiwara town, a small lane on the left leads you to the Narayanappa ģMutt. This is where Saint Narayanappa attained ‘Jeeva Samadhi’ and the mutt is currently being managed by the M.S.Ramaiah trust. Half a kilometer away from the Mutt is the ‘Bheemeshwara temple’. This is where the mythology has it that Bheema killed Bakasura while the Pandavas were in exile. There is a group of small temples there, each named after the Pandavas within the same premises. Overlooking the Mutt is the Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta. We thought of skipping our visit there, considering the number of steps we had to climb up. Maybe a hike that I can plan for some other day.

Entrance to Vaikunta betta
The Entrance to Vaikunta betta

We drove for one kilometer further and reached ‘Tapovana’, the place where Saint Narayanappa used to meditate, back in the days. There is a small garden around there, which can be given a miss if you wish. Few yards uphill from there, we reached the ‘Vaikunta Betta’. At the base of the hill is the ‘Amaranareyana Temple’ dedicated to Lord Vishnu built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. With our climb upstairs, we reached the ‘Yoga Narasimha Temple’. The structure seemed to be ignored by the visitors. But we enjoyed the calm in this cave temple, believed to be the place where the Lord appeared in front of Narayanappa. The temple terrace had an excellent view of the entire town. A word of caution though: With too many monkeys around there, it was no monkey business.!!

A view from The Vaikunta temple
A view from the Vaikunta temple

We then commenced the best stretch of the drive. After an uphill drive of 5kilometers, we wondered how beautiful Mount Kailash (in the Himalayas) could be if the lesser known ‘MahaKailasaGiri Betta’ in Kaiwara was this beautiful. Atop the hill, is a set of newly chiseled man-made caves that houses 3 temples.

Enroute to Kailasa
Enroute to Kailasa

Unlimited food is provided to every pilgrim/visitor at KailasaGiri temple and the Mutt between 12.30.p.m and 3.00.p.m. So, we decided to hog some yummy temple food at Kailasa Giri itself. By this time, we had covered all the places I had enlisted in Kaiwara. But it was still 2.30.p.m and we had a lot of time left. While coming downhill, we decided to follow a signboard which indicated the way to ‘ChenaKeshava Cave Temple’. But it was quite a disappointment after reaching there. We could’ve probably skipped the visit to this place.

I then remembered someone mentioning about ‘Venkateshwara Temple’ in Alambagiri, located about 10kms from Kaiwara. The place is supposedly famous for Paper made handicrafts. So, we decided to explore this place too. But some renovation work in this ancient temple was in progress and there were absolutely no shops in that place (forget handicrafts stores). We were disappointed again by the unfruitful drive until there.

Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple (1)
Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

As per google, there was ‘Ambaji Durga Cave temple’ 7kms away from Kaiwara, and we tried to enquire with a few locals about the place. But nobody seemed to have heard of it and hence, we thought of giving it a miss too. With this, we thought it was time for us to return back to where we belong to- The Bengaluru city.

Conclusion:

  • Kaiwara alone is a nice place to plan a drive with family or a group of biking friends. Though it was a small trip, it was a pleasant one.
  • Kaiwara is famous for silk rearing & weaving. You will come across several houses stacking up the cocoon rearing trays for most of your way. Maybe you should try to pick up some silk stuffs while you are there or get hands-on working experience at silk rearing.

Snake boating in LOL- Kerala

<11-Aug-2012>

After a lot of last minute hiccups, the planning of more than 3 months had finally materialised.. And there we were… At Allapuzha.

At 10.a.m we were on the stands looking out for a nice place which would give us a good view of the river. The 60th Annual Nehru Boat Race was scheduled to start at 2.30.p.m. ‘The crowd had started to pour in from as early as 6.a.m., to get a good seat’, we were told.

Pam and I were sitting in the last row (We considered ourselves fortunate enough for getting chairs to sit).. Sam had ventured out of our stands to get some good photographs and to find a better corner seat for all of us.

Just then, this gang of 6 huge Malayali men dressed in their white Lungis came in and stood behind us.. They pushed our chairs forward so that they could accommodate a few more chairs on the already crammed podium. We barely had space to keep our legs and we were wondering what they were upto. Without knowing the language, we only ended up giving them some wild stares. Pam belted out a few words in Kannada.

Next thing we saw was: Each of these men placing biiig hand bags in between their legs, covered by their lungis and each- pulling out a bottle of local brew (the tags on the bottle indicated that it was pure-strong-local). They pulled out a glass from their bag and poured the drink and gulped it all down RAW in the blink of an eye (It was faster than that of one drinking water). And then… One of them started to utter something to us- From the fact that he had just finished a bottoms up and the tone of his speech, we knew for sure that we were being verbally abused. Although with my little knowledge of the language, I managed to understand a few swears, I instructed Pam not to react. We would surely be outnumbered by men there, in God’s own country. Like a call from God himself- Sam called us to inform us that he had found a better place for all of us to sit. We vacated the spot in the very same minute.

On the way, Pam walked upto a cop and said, “Those men in the last row there, are boozing; Each man is carrying at least a bottle which they are not supposed to possess in a public gathering”. The cop replied an apologetic “OK, OK Sir, We will look into it” and walked off as if Pam had just spoken to deaf ears.

We met Sam and just as we were narrating the scene to him- We saw 2 more men carrying handbags and settling down right beside us. And soon they pulled out a bottle each, bottoms up, gobbled up some minced beef and then started cheering at the water in front of them, where the race was yet to begin. Even before we reacted, Sam pointed at the platform onto our left. More than 10 men were repeating the same procedure- handbags covered by lungis- bottoms up- cheer out loud. And then we looked behind at the gallery- and we were like “What the F***…??”. Every lungi fellow had a glass in his hand..!!! And then we knew, the exact reason for getting such a vague response from that cop. The Policemen were clearly outnumbered by those drunkards and that seemed like quite a normal phenomenon to the cops to take any action. And we too quickly learnt to live with it..!! Soon, the crowd of drunkards increased and also the excitement.

Boat Race finals (49)

And.. The boat race had a roaring start with a lot of frenzy and madness.. We too were at the peak of our excitement.. And suddenly this scuffle started between 2 groups. The next thing we saw was random people being thrown into the river by random people… Typical to any Indian movie, the cops gave a late entry. They arrived in speed boats and pulled out a couple of them from the water and sped away..

The below picture shows:

  1. A hard core fan who watched the match sitting on a coconut tree from 10.a.m to 7.00.p.m.
  2. A drunk fan standing on a pole and cheering for his team whose limbs finally gave way into the water after 5hrs.
  3. Another bunch of fans seated in the gallery who are supporting themselves by holding onto the electric lines.

Boat Race finals (36)

This was definitely one hell of a maddening-superbly-awesomeness-crazy-experience that I am going to cherish for life.

Kerala: “The Land Of Lungis” is truly God’s own Country… L.O.L. 😀

Have you ever experienced any such psychotic crowds? Share it with me.. 🙂