Tag Archives: South Indian arts

Madurai (Part 2) – Centre of arts and culture

There is no existence of a place without the people, And with civilisation exists the culture. Madurai has its own share.. Here goes the list:

Art:
* The temple art- the sculptures on the temple towers and the wooden vahanas that are used to carry the temple idols.
* Handicrafts- accessories used for decorating Devi idols, that are made of delicate sequins, etc.
* Mural paintings from the Pandyan era adorning the temple walls (The famous Madurai paintings)

Food:

Breakfast – Idly & Sambar, Pongal + a cup of filter coffee

11.00.a.m – Jigarthanda(it’s more like a combination of falooda & kulfi)

Lunch- Puliyogare @ the temple store, curd rice, Sambar rice(similar to Bisibele bath)

4.00.p.m.- Karupatti(palm sugar) coffee
Dinner- Anything after 7.00.p.m is called meals. Must try is the ghee roast & rava Masala dosa
Costume:

* Sarees for women & Dhotis for men

* Madurai cotton sarees with simple prints and zari borders with temple designs are famous
Jewellery:
Among the locals- particularly those belonging to the Thevar cast, it is believed that women are prettier with bigger earlobes. Hence, the girl child born in this community is made to wear a particular traditional earring called the ‘Thandatti’ when she is young. Each piece of this weighs 27 gms and is made of gold. This is particular to Madurai. The thandatti is said to evoke the 3 levels of our world: terrestrial, astral and divine and these levels are associated with Mandala.
Shopping:

Shopping at Madurai is all about wholesale vendors… and there are specified streets for each of them.

* Cotton sarees/ dress materials- shops are all around the temple complex
* Steel utensils- plastic beads & girls’ accessories, gold plated imitation jewelery to name a few.
* Pooja related accessories & crafts- particularly inside Pudumandapam
* Varieties of plantains / bananas and green groceries among the others.
A brief intro to a city full of life and activities.. Justice yet to be done.. Signing off with a hope that it has helped someone somewhere in some form who is seeking for some info on this Pandyan city….

Madurai (Part 1)- The city of Pandyan architecture

An overnight bus journey took us to Madurai at 6.00.a.m.

Day 1:

We found a decent lodge to stay for the day-freshened up there and left for the main part of the trip- The Meenakshi temple- An abode of the Pandyan architecture. The entire temple complex is fortified by walls, with 4 entrance towers towards the 4 directions. The sculptures on each of these towers are out of the world. Once inside the complex- you start to wonder which world of wonder you have stepped into.. It took us about 3-4 hrs to finish a quick rounr, admiring the beauty of this place and also get blessed with the darshan of Meenakshi Amman and Lord Sundareshwaran. There are a lot of stalls inside the complex selling various handcrafted articles.

The finely decorated interiors of the Meenakshi Temple
The finely decorated interiors of the Meenakshi Temple
A portion of the temple near the lake
A portion of the temple near the lake

The temple art museum within the same premises is a must visit. The central sculpture of Natarajan, or the dancing firm of Shiva is believed to be one of the Pancha Sabhas of the lord. This place representing the Silver hall where Shiva is believed to have performed the ‘Sandhya Thandavam’ dance firm. Also, there are 1000 pillars- all decorated with intricate pieces of sculpture. The dim light used for each pillar adds up to the beauty of the place.

Inside the Temple art museum
Inside the Temple art museum

A small walk through the narrow lanes took us to the Thirumalai Nayyakar Mahal built in the 16th century. Fine architecture with elegant paintings on the roofs and vaults is neatly presented in a simple combination of off-white and velvet red colour combination. There is sound and lights show every evening conducted here. However, we could not make it.

The interiors of Thirumalai Naickar Mahal

The interiors of Thirumalai Naickar Mahal

We took a local bus to Vandiyur. This is where the annual event of the famed Teppotsavam / Float festival takes place to celebrate the birthday of King Thirumalai Nayak in January. This tank is supposedly the biggest of its kind in the state. With the float festival just 2 months away and monsoon season just passing by- this tank still remained dry. When enquired how the event is going to take place in a dry tank, we were told that the water will be fed in January from the Vaigai river through artificially laid underground channels. This is truly amazing how such a concept was laid way back in 16 century. But for a new-commer like me, the dried lake was an eye sore as it was used as a watering hole by many vandals.

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam - the island temple
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam – the island temple

Taking another bus from there to Periyar and a small walk from there through the stinking / dirty by-lanes, we reached the Koodal Alagar temple. A quick pooja and a walk around the temple was a nice boost up. The architecture here too, is similar to that of Meenakshi temple. 

Inside the Koodal Alagar temple
Inside the Koodal Alagar temple

We had to rush to The Gandhi museum as it would close by 6.00.p.m. However, we could not make it on time. This was once called the Tamakkum palace of Rani Mangammal. Today, the museum supposedly houses 14 articles that were used by Gandhiji, along with his sacred ashes and blood stained dhotis. Gandhiji is said to have visited the city 5 times. 

So, we then headed back towards our lodge that was located just infront of the temple’s west gate. But, on the way- we checked into Pudumandapam. This is a 1000yrs old shopping mall- supported by huge sculpture rich stone pillars. The stalls are occupied with tailors, handicrafts vendors, wholesale dealers of pooja related and general accessories. A good place for shopping traditional artifacts at Madurai.

Entrance of the Pudumandapam
Entrance of the Pudumandapam

Day 2:

We took a local bus from Periyar bus stand to travel 21kms to reach Alagar Kovil- the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu- Meenakshi’s brother. The village is surrounded by an old fort wall, it gives a good view of the green hills around the temple. The architecture is similar to Koodal Alagar temple in the city.

The Alagar Murugan Kovil
The Alagar Murugan Kovil

A trek of 3kms uphill though green forests and monkey infested walkways lead us to the Murugan temple. It is one among the six abodes of Lord Murugan and hence important among the pilgrims.  A walk of half a kilometer further uphill took us to Pazhamudhir Solai temple. A temple dedicated to Goddess Rakkaya exists close to a natural spring called Nuburagangai here, where devotees take a holy bath. But what seemed strange to me was that the place was probably the only temple I had ever been to, which charges an entry fee into the temple itself. This is where the famed Chittrai festival is observed during the month of April.

The stream at the Pazhamudhir Solai
The stream at the Pazhamudhir Solai

From there, we took the next bus back to Periyar, from where we had to take a bus further to Tiruppanakundram. This was a cave temple at the foothills of a rock hill. It is believed that Lord Murugan was wedded to Devyani, daughter of Indra at this place. Hence, this is also counted one among the 6 abodes of Lord Murugan. Up the hills, is the Dargah of Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah shaheed Radiyallah Ta’al anhu. Owing to time constraint and exhaustion, we thought of skipping the climb.

Entrance to the Tiruppanakundram Murugan temple
Entrance to the Tiruppanakundram Murugan temple

Other lesser known places we skipped due to time constraints were the Kazimar mosque and Goripalyam Dargah. At the centre of the city is the Kattabomman junction- This is where a part of the old Madurai fort exists. Today this is not more than a public library.

I don’t do this usually, but would make a special mention about the streets of Madurai. Every street in the city has a history behind it: This link to an article from “The Hindu” explains it all- ‘Where moats made way for motorways’ 

http://www.thehindu.com/arts/history-and-culture/article2653395.ece

This was all about getting around the place for sight seeing with bits of history. But, there is much to say and do..

To be continued……. Part 2 (Click here the read further) 🙂

Misty mountains and Madikeri Dussehra

Very few people know of the grandeur of the Dasara celebrations in Madikeri. Considered next to Mysore Dasara in pomp and celebrations in Karnataka; it is a 9 days long event.
 
The festivities start off on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya with 4 karagas getting all set at a place called Pampina Kere. These Karagas represent the 4 Mariamma temples of the town: Dandina Mariamma, Kanchi Kamakshi, Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma and Kote Mariamma. The Vrathadharis or the Karaga holders travel across the town to all households through the 6 days of Navarathri. They dance and perform a balancing act with the idols on their shaved heads with a knife in one hand and a club(Bettha) in the other. 
Karaga: Starting at Pampina kere
Karaga: Starting at Pampina kere
On the eighth day: people decorate their shops and vehicles to celebrate Ayudha Pooja- Also, vehicles are decorated and assembled at Gandhi Maidan where the best one is awarded in each category.
A tableau outside one of the participant shops
A tableau outside one of the participant shops
A tableau on one of the participant vehicles
A tableau on one of the participant vehicles
The 9th night commemorates the last part of the Dasara celebrations where 10 temple cars or Dasha Mantapas- one from each temple depicting a story from one of the epics. Each tableau will be as long as 4-5 trailers connected to a tractor. This inturn will have separate trucks loaded with sound systems and other backup.
One of the DashaMantapas
One of the DashaMantapas
The participating temples in this grand finale of Dasara are: mantapa of Kote Mahaganapathy temple, Sri Kanchikamakshi temple, Pete Sri Rama Mandira, Sri Kote Mariamma temple, Dechoor Sri Rama Mandira temple, Sri Chowdeshwari temple, Sri Dandina Mariamma temple,  Sri Karavale Bhagavathi temple, Sri Kodanda Rama temple and Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma temple. 
Another tableaux in action: Part 1
Another tableaux in action: Part 1
Another tableaux in action: Part 2
Another tableaux in action: Part 2
Another tableaux in action: Part 3
Another tableaux in action: Part 3
These mantaps will congregate at the center of the town in late night hours and put up a great show of colour, light, sound and an amazing display of creativity.. people flock to see this splendous show of efforts of over a 100 dedicated minds behind every tableau. The best temple car is awarded each year.. Finally- all the 10 mantaps proceed towards ‘Banni mantap’ and this brings the curtains down on the festivities and marks the dawn of a new day..

The abandoned tribes and the abuses- Kunde Habba

I always wanted to witness this celebration but have been quite apprehensive about facing the wrath of the abuses that will follow with the joy.. And moreover, this happens in the southern part of Coorg and I get to know that the festival happened only after it has happened..!! 

But some wild wishes do come true- this time my encounter was unplanned and I’m glad it happened.. Occasion: “Kunde Namme” a.k.a. Kunde Habba or the “Festival of abuses”. 

The tribes belonging to the Jenu-kurubas, Betta-Kurubas, Yeravas, Paniyas, Kembetti and other sects all congregate in a common place- usually a town area to celebrate their festival of abuses and to make merry. By abuse- I mean abuse God, man, machine and everything that they come across on that day. This is a tradition that has passed on through generations among these tribes.

Kunde Namme- The masked men
Kunde Namme- The masked men

Legend has it that the main deity Aiyyappa had taken the tribe into a thick jungle for hunting. Deep in the jungle, he fell in love with Bhadrakali and eloped with her leaving his followers abandoned. Since then, the day is observed every year where these tribes abuse their god for betraying them. They find god in everything and every person they come across and hence abuse them in turn. 

The people are togged in weird clothes- some men dress up like seductress, some like ghosts, some like witches and some dress up just random and as weird as possible. 

They block every man(outside the tribe) on roads, barge into shops in the town and demand money. If you don’t pay them what they demand- you are abused; If you pay what you are demanded for- you still get abused..!! Remember.. God will not come to your rescue on that day as he himself is in soup 😛 (Kidding..!!)

Kunde Namme- Another group of well dressed men
Kunde Namme- Another group of well dressed men
Kunde Namme- Dressed up men all set to charge into a shop
Kunde Namme- Dressed up men all set to charge into a shop

Also, most of the members of this group belong to the labour class who work in estates, domestic helps etc. Hence, the day doubles as a good chance for them to vent out all the frustration on their masters..!!

A man dressed up like a girl
A man dressed up like a girl
Kunde Namme- The band set guys
Kunde Namme- The band set guys

But, at the end of the day- they all congregate in their common place of worship and surrender to their god, plead for his mercy and ask for his blessings for the rest of the year. A part of the total money they collect for the day is used to have a lavish dinner and the rest is religiously offered to the deity. 

This festival happens on the 4th Thursday in the month of May and is celebrated in and around Gonikoppal considering its proximity to the Nagarhole National Park where most of these tribes are based.

A corridor of the hanging pillar- Lepakshi

It is said that Jataayu- The vulture (mentioned in the Ramayana) fell here when hit by Ravana. Later, Rama is said to have commanded the bird to rise- Le Pakshi, and hence the name of that town.

Initially the plan took off with the idea of covering a lot of places along the way.. A super awesome NH7 led us straight till Bagepalli- From there a small deviation took us to Lepakshi.. But this place is a storehouse of history.. Every stone here has a tale to tell.. Be it from mythology or the recent past history of the Vijayanagar empire.. We walked carefully reading every story that unfolded at every step.. and that ended for more than half a day..

Left: The perfect man; Right: The perfect woman

The sculptures in the main hall of the Veerabhadra temple gives us the specifications to measure the beauty of a perfect man and a perfect woman.

Side entrance to the Natya Mantapa
Side entrance to the Natya Mantapa

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. She was surprised when she had returned. She 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.

The Nagalingesvara idol with two different views

Among the several ornate pillars that decorate the temple corridor, one takes a special mention in several architectural marvels lists- The hanging pillar. It doesn’t rest completely on the ground and hence a sheet of paper can be easily passed through the gap under it.

This Kalyana mantapa has been depicted as the site of the celestial wedding between Shiva and Parvati, and each of the pillars is a celebration of this – drummers and musicians adding to the atmosphere and lesser gods and goddesses blessing the couple. A similar place is believed to exist in Kailasa and it was therefore pronounced that a place more beautiful shouldn’t exist on the earth. And hence, this remains unfinished.

Sita Paada
Sita Paada

As the history says, the place could have got its name referring to the two brothers- Veeranna and Virupanna, under King Achutaraya of the Vijayanagara dynasty. The latter who was the treasurer of Penukonda province (today’s Anantpur) spared no expense to have the temple built the way he wished as a tribute to the Lord, as his mute son regained his speech after playing near the Udbhava moorthy of Shiva which was on this hillock, leading to suspicions from the king about embezzlement of money. In grief and in anticipation of royal punishment, Virupanna plucked out his own eyes and threw them against the wall. And thus, lepa-akshi (blinded eyes). Till date one can find those blood stains on that wall. It has even been tested and proven that the blood stains are indeed real..!!

Ancient paintings on the temple ceiling
Ancient paintings on the temple ceiling
The traditional Lepakshi prints found on Sarees were sourced from these pillars
The traditional Lepakshi prints found on Sarees were sourced from these pillars

The Basava / 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
We were told that Jataayu died in another place i.e. about 2 kms from the temple. But there isn’t any walkable road to the exact spot. This is quite sad that a place of such importance is not maintained or highlighted anywhere in the map..
But, overall- it was a wonderful trip with a lot of gyan on history and the epics.. that too at a distance of just about 120kms from Bangalore..!!

Art Attack @ Belur and Halebeedu

It was Sunday morning and our trip was fixed: to cover Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola.

I prefer to write less in this as I choose the pictures to speak for themselves..One among the very few well maintained monuments in Karnataka- The Hoysala Style of architecture is a treat for the art-buffs.

Wikipedia Extract for Hoysala architecture: Hoysala architecture (Kannadaಹೊಯ್ಸಳ ವಾಸ್ತುಶಿಲ್ಪ) is the building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries, in the region known today as Karnataka, a state of India. Hoysala influence was at its peak in the 13th century, when it dominated the Southern Deccan Plateau region. Large and small temples built during this era remain as examples of the Hoysala architectural style, including the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura.

The Hoysala Symbol- with founder Sala and the Tiger

We started at around 6.00.a.m from Bangalore to Belur in a KSRTC bus. Then to Halebeedu in a local bus. Then to Channarayapatna from where we took KSRTC to Shravanabelagola.. And back to Bangalore in KSRTC.

So.. Over to the photos to do the talking…@Belur- Chennakesava Temple

Belur
Intricate carvings on the temple wall

Belur (31)

LakshmiNarasimha Statue
LakshmiNarasimha Statue

Belur (31)Belur (31)Belur (31)

Madalike
MadalikeThe  Kesava TempleThe Kesava Temple

Shantala- the wife of  King Vishnuvardhana was so mesmerised by the Sculptures of the dancing ladies carved here in different postures, that she used to dance with these Madalikes or ShilaBalikas in her dreams.

View from the entrance of the temple complex
View from the entrance of the temple complex

@Halebeedu: Hoysaleswara Temple

Hoysalas founded their dynasty with Belur as the capital initially. Later, the capital was shifted to Halebidu.

Halebidu (27)
World’s sixth largest monolithic Nandi statue

Halebidu (25)Halebidu (15)Halebidu (8)Halebidu (2)Belur (31)

@Shravanabelagola

This is one of the most important pilgrimage places for the Jains. Also, this is considered to be the largest monolithic stone statue in the World.  ShravanaBelagola has 2 hills- Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. The statue is on the Vindhyagiri hill.

The Gomateshwara StatueThe Gomateshwara Statue 

A view from the Vindhyagiri hills

A day out… at Kaiwara

Wake up….!! Wednesday morninggg…. A weekend when the rest of the world is working their asses off half way through their week.. n I sat wondering how I was going to kill the rest of the day amidst the four walls of my house, all jobless….

Some old place I was told about, by my friend who had done her internship at- popped in my mind- “Kaiwara”. I jumped out of my bed and began to google for it.. With lot of information available online, I was able to jort down the list of places to see in and around Kaiwara along with a rough route map.. n that’s it.. I dragged my mum along, pulled the car out of the garage n zooommm we went…….

We started from Bangalore at around 9.a.m and reached Devanahalli in a while. From there we took the Vijayapura bypass road. A good 45min drive from the airport at an average 60kmph speed is what it took us to reach Kaiwara.

I ain’t a good photographer, but definitely these photos might be of interest for those of you planning for a weekend exploration.

As soon as one enters the Kaiwara town, a small lane on the left leads you to the Narayanapa Mutt. This is a mutt managed by M.S.Ramaiah trust. This is where Saint Narayanappa attained “Eternal Bliss or jeeva Samadhi”.

The Narayanappa Mutt
The Narayanappa Mutt

Half a kilometer away from the Mutt is the “Bheemeshwara temple”. This is where the mythology has it that Bheema killed Bakasura during the exile period of the Pandavas. There is a group of small temples there, each named after the Pandava brothers within the same premises.

Bheemeshwara temple
Bheemeshwara temple

Overlooking the Mutt, is the Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta. We thought of giving it a miss considering the number of steps we had to climb up and the time we were left with, to cover other places around. Or rather, my mum thought it would be impossible for her to scale it up 😛

The Kaivara betta
The Kaivara betta

One kilometer further ahead, we reached “Tapovana”, the place where the saint used to meditate back in the days. There is a small garden around there, which can be given a miss. 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. Climb upstairs (which more looks ignored by vistors)- we reached the “Yoganarasimha Temple”, the cave temple, believed to be the place where the Lord appeared infront of Narayanappa. The temple terrace gives an excellent view of the entire town. A word of caution though: Too many monkeys around there.. it was no monkey business.!!

Entrance to Vaikunta betta
Entrance to Vaikunta betta
A view from The Vaikunta temple
A view from The Vaikunta temple

Then started the best stretch of the drive. 5kms uphill…. It surely made us wonder how beautiful Mount Kailash(in the Himalayas) could be if the lesser known “MahaKailasaGiri Betta” is so beautiful. Atop the hill is a set of newly chiseled man made caves, home to 3 temples.

Enroute to Kailasa
Enroute to Kailasa
Another view of the Kailasa giri
Another view of the Kailasa giri

Food is provided unlimited 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 googled to visit 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 once we reached it, it was quite a disappointment.

Enroute to Channakeshava guhantara temple
Enroute to Channakeshava guhantara temple

Someone had mentioned about “Venkateshwara Temple” in Alambagiri- about 10kms from Kaiwara. This 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) left us saddened.

Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple (1)
Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

Oh and by the way.. Kaiwara is famous for silk rearing & weaving. May be you should try to pick up some silk stuffs while you are there.

Google told me that “Ambaji Durga Cave temple” was 7kms away from Kaiwara, but nobody seemed to have heard of it. So we thought it was time we returned back to where we belong to- Bengaluru. It was still 4.00.p.m but done with the day’s outing.. Though it was a small trip, totally unplanned- it was worth the visit..!