Thursday, December 25, 2008

MADURAI , ATHENS OF THE EAST






Madurai is popularly known as the Athens of the East, because of its antiquity and historical importance.
It stands tall as the premier temple of Tamil Nadu in the opinion poll conducted by NDTV for seven wonders of the state. The temple complex is filled 12 gopurams or towers. The most famous of the gopuram on the southern part of the complex stands tall @ 52 meters ( 170 feet )

HISTORY :

The original Meenakshi temple seems to have built during the reign of Kulashekaran Pandyan ( 1268 – 1308 ). A rich merchant by name Dhanajaya was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, discovered a forest temple where he spent a night. He found sings of regular worship during the night times and inferred it must be work of gods. He narrated his experience to the Pandya king Kulashekara, who ruling Manavur, near present Madurai city. Lord Shiva as Sundareshwar appeared in his dream. He dreamt that drops of nectar was falling on Lord Shiva’s matted hair. A serpant coiled around the boundary of the town. Based on this legend a temple was dedicated to the Lord. On account of Madhu ( nectar ) which fell on the Shiv Linga, the place was known as Madhupura or city of nectar, which was later abridged to Madurai.

According to the Myth, the Pandyan king and his queen Kanchana mala performed Putra Kameshi Yagna for begetting a child.

The temple town was subject to invasion by Malik Kafur in 1309, who literally razed the temple to ground. All the wealth was plundered by the armies as booties by the infidels.

The initiative to rebuild the temple was undertaken by Arya Natha Mudaliar, who was the PM of the Nayaks ( 1559 -1600 AD ), the feudatory of Vijayanagar Empire. The building of the temple complex was completed by contribution of Thirumala Nayak ( 1623 – 1659 ) He is credited to have completed the vasantha complex inside the temple.

EPIC & MYTHOLOGY :

According to legend Lord Shiva descended on earth to marry the princess Meenakshi. During the wedding ceremony grand arrangements were made from the bride side to display the pomp and glory of their wealth and status. Lord Sundareswar ( bridegroom ) had a small retinue, along with dwarf “ Gundodhara” Meenakshi after seeing a small group of members remarked that a grand arrangement with all the food preparations would go waste. The groom was confident his small retinue would ensure that all the preparations would be consumed. When the dwarf started polishing of all the preparations, he single handedly exhausted all the food preparation, when there was nothing left, he asked for water. All the water in the well too was exhausted by his unquenching thirst. This left the bride’s family members bewildered and invoked the blessing of Annapurneswari to fulfill the hunger and thirst. He thus invoked the blessing of mother earth and placed his thumb to spring the Vaigai river banks on which Madurai is located even today.



The epic also narrates that during the procession towards the wedding venue Lord Vishnu, brother of Meenakshi was tricked and delayed by Lord Indra . He was supposed to preside over the biggest marriage on earth . This angered Lord Vishnu and he swore never to enter the city. Lord Vishnu settled on the outskirts which is known as Alagar Koil. He was appeased by the devotees and other gods to bless the couple. This occasion is celeberated as Chithrai Tiruvila or Alagar tiruvila.

The above wonderful theme of marriage was taken as an inspiration by the sculptures and painters. The walls of the Meenakshi temple are adorned with various scenes from the fabled marriage between Shiva and Parvathi.

TEMPLE COMPLEX :

The temple is located in area of 45 acres. A massive structure measuring 254x237 meters. The temple is surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which is the southern tower which is raised to the height of 170 feet.

The centre shrine is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, it contains the unusual statue of Lord Nataraja, who is on the left foot. The famous posture of Lord Nataraja is to have the left foot raised standing on the right foot. But here the posture is reversed according to the request of the Pandyan king who is deemed expert on dancing.

The Meenakshi shrine is on the left of the Shiva shrine, and sculpturally less valuable than the Shiva shrine. There is also a Ganesh Shrine adjescent. The hall contains 995 pillars instead of 1000 pillars.

In the midst of the temple there is a small rectangular pond with lotus around the water. There is bronze pillar and bronze lotus in the an enclosure right in the centre of the pond. There is no marine life in this pond. The pond measure 165x120 feet in size. It is considered auspicious to enter the lake and wash one’s feet before entering the temple, which is given a go by many piligrims. The legend has it that a literary work is judged for its purity by placing it on the pond. If it is blessed than it floats otherwise it sinks down under.




EASTERN TOWER :


It is generally accepted according to Hindu custom of Vaastu that one enters from the east and exits from the West, but in this temple it is considered to be a taboo. A temple employee seems to have plunged himself to death during the reign of Chokkanath Nayak as a mark of protest against the unjust levy. This is one point to keep in mind when one visits the temple. On hindsight I myself was not aware of this custom. However I think I entered from Western enterance If my memory serves right. Vistors are advised to enter by Ashta Lakshmi Mandapam.



TEMPLE MUSEUM :


The beautiful artifacts of the era are preserved in the form of paintings, coins, statues, weaponary, ivory, bronze statues, etc. An enterance fee is collected and camera fee of Rs 50 is common for visiting the museum and the temple. It is one of the important must see places in the temple to get the feel of the era.


FESTIVITY :


Months of Thai ( Jan 15-Feb 15 ) and Aadi ( Jul 15 – Aug 15 ) are popularly celeberated. Along with Shivaratri and Navarathri.

Temple Timing :

Morning 6.15 am to 8 am
9.00 am to12pm
4.00 pm to 8pm
The main temple is closed at 7.15 am, it is better to complete the dharsan before that or better to have dharshan at 9 am.



TIRUMALA NAYAK PALACE :

The palace is built mostly like a darbar hall for meeting the public. It can be safely assumed that the King never stayed in this place except on occasion of official function. This palace is supposed to have been constructed during 1626 by Thirumal Nayak. ASI sign board states that the remains of the palace is only 1/3 and 2/3 was moved to Trichy, which seems to be highly unlikely. The pillars of the palace are so massive that no earthquake or vandalism can easily destroy this palace. It is constructed with robust architectural knowledge to last 1000 s of years. The roofs of the palace are beautifully painted with bright colours signifying the royalty. The ventilation for the place is given prime importance. The palace is currently under renovation and is likely to be completed by 2009 year end. The adjescent portion has a garden in which the various statues are to be housed from the museum. Further on the back of the palace lot of shrubs needs to cleared. In front of the palace there is landscaped garden which is generally locked. A ticket of Rs 7 has to be obtained for entry with a camera fee of Rs 30/-




GANDHI MUSEUM :


This premise was a place built during the time of Rani Mangammal as evidenced in a communication in 1700 AD. Then it was occupied by the East India company. Finding the house in the Madurai Fort unhealthy, Samuel Johnston requested the Nawab of Arcot to occupy Tamukkam Bunglow as his residence in 1782.

Mr Johnston spent 6000 pagodas in clearing the jungle surrounding the palace and he turned it into habitable residence. He lived in this palace till he shifted to Trichy in 1787 AD. After that Johnston requested the premises be converted into educational place. Subsequently the premise was used as court house in 1838 it was shifted to Thirumala nayak palace.



In 1877 AD this place was occupied by district collector C.S. Crole. Since then it became a permanent place for District collectors. It continued till 1956 AD. In 1956 the government of India renovated this place and handed over to Gandhi Memorial for honouring the father of the nation. This memorial contains the original cloth of Gandhi, when he was shot dead.

ALAGAR KOIL :

This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and it seems to be of earlier origin than Meenakshi temple. The temple seems to have been constructed during the reign of Hoysalas along with Pandya Kings. It is credited to the reign of Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan ( 1251-1268 ) which coincides with the reign of Narasimha III ( 1254-1291 ) of the Hoysala empire.

It seems to be originally a beautiful fortress with a massive arched gateway enterance which now lies in ruins needing urgent repairs. The entire complex is so huge and so magnificient but hardly maintained either by temple authorities or department of archaeology. The temple is surrounded by Alagar Hill. The entire complex is more than 50 acres.

The TN forest department is maintaining a herbal forest on the hills. The enterance to the garden is restricted to the students and researchers. There is temple dedicated to Lord Kartik on the hills which 3 km away from this temple. It is closed before sunset in view of the forest area.

Majority of the architectural grandeur of this temple complex was completed during the reign of Vijaynagar emperor Krishna devaraya ( 1309 to 1329 ). The gopuram to the temple is similar to the Dravidian architecture. There is a kalyana matap and inside the beautiful shrine of Lord Vishnu in all its grandeur. The temple is opened according to the whims and fancies of the priest.

The inscriptions found in the temple premise and also in the caves of the hillock throw light on the antiquity of this place. Some of them date back to reign of King Ashoka. It is believed that the renowned Jaina teacher Ajjanandi and his disciples were staying in the caves on the hillock.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rajaraja Chola's Big Temple



Brihdeshwar Temple has been declared as world heritage site in 1987 AD. The temple is located in the rice bowl district of Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur. It is close to the railway station and old bus stand. The nearest city is Trichy which has an airport and railway junction.


HISTORY


Raja Raja chola ( 985 – 1014 AD ) was one of the greatest emperors of the Chola dynasty. By birth he was known as Arulmozhi Verman, the third son of Parantaka
Sundar Chola. He was trained to be a warrior to lead the cholan army in conquest against the Pandya and Sinhalese kingdoms. Aditya Chola II, the eldest son was murdered under suspicious circumstances. The theory is that he was murdered by the concubines with snake venom while engaging in an orgy session. This was a conspiracy hatched by the vanquished Pandyan King ( Vira Pandya )supporters, whose beheaded skull he paraded on the streets as a victory sign. He was succeeded out of turn by Uttama Chola ahead of Arulmozhi. This was under a explicit understanding that the paternal uncle will be succeeded not by his son but by Arulmozhi ( Raja Raja Chola ) But eventually blood turned out to be thicker than water, as years went by the promise was conveniently brushed aside. When he came to know regarding the conspiracy, he adopted the same trick with the help of his guru Bradbahu. The uncle and nephew were got rid of by the concubines dishing out drinks laced with poison.

VISION :


Raja Raja Chola was constantly engaged in battle with Chalukyas in the north, Pandyas in the South and Sinhalese across the shore. One day while he was engaging in the battle in Sri Lanka, he saw huge statues of Buddha. He was inspired by this beautiful statue to dedicate the Brihdeshwar Temple to his family deity Shiva @ Thanjavur. He commissioned the construction of the huge temple in 1004 AD. Since the scale of construction was unparalleled in the history of temple construction of the times, it took almost 3 decades and it was completed by his Son Rajendra Chola in the year 1034 AD. Rajendra chola I ( 1014 – 1044 AD ) credited the construction of the temple to his dads name even though majority of the construction was undertaken by his patronage. He in turn looked to leave his imprint on the sands of time elsewhere in Gangakonda Cholapuram.

According to some historians the chola King was suffering from leprosy and he requested his Guru Haridatta to find a solution. The cure recommended to atone the sins included building of Brihadeswar temple,with a tall gopuram. Accordingly a search was launched to locate the linga. The search team managed to find a phallus shaped stone on narmada river bed which has shipped back to Thanjavur. This very statue started gaining height and therefore it came to called as Brihadeswar.

The temple seems to in all probability built in phases, in his final year of reign, an incomplete temple seems to have been commissioned since Raja Raja chola was on his death bed. There are some historians who claim that the temple was completed during his time, but historical evidence points out the complete structure had taken more time. In fact some additions were even made during the time of the Nayaks.

The unique feature of the gopuram is that its shadow does not fall on the the ground at any part of the day. There is also enough space on the khalasa area that a Maruti can can go around it in circular fashion. A painting of Raja Raja chola has been discovered recently with a Jamician rustafero type of hairdo along with his Guru, which is probably the only available picture of the great King.






TEMPLE COMPLEX :


The temple complex was built on the banks of the river cauvery, with its water diverted to the moat. The walls around the temple was constructed in the form of fortress, to protect the temple from invaders. Even today the temple has one of the highest gopuram ( 66 meters – 216 feet ) in India. The Kalash ( shikara ) which is installed on top of the Vimana weighs a massive 81.5 tonnes. A ramp was constructed from 6 kms away from the temple complex to roll over the huge shikara on to the gopuram. The entire temple is built with granite which was not available in the area. Probably it was transported from Trichy Rockfort area which is located 40 kms away. The inspiration to create the magnificient edifice seems to have been inspired by the Chalukyan architecture with local aritisans. The gurus advice to atone for the sins in the form of bloodshed of his rivals to the throne, by building an edifice to Lord Shiva.


The temple complex consists of pillarared complex surrounding the massive temple, with small enclosures, where the mural paintings are sketched. Incidents from the Nayanars family are depicted in the paintings, pertaining to their ceremonies and daily lifestyle. There are also paintings displaying 108 postures of Bharathanatyam dances.

There is a pillared matap containing a Bull or Nandi before the main temple. This Nandi seems to bless the women with fertility and the rumour has it was cordoned off by instruction of highly influential leader, so as not to promote population explosion.

There are two subsidiary temples built behind the main temple which is now closed for public visit. One more temple which is under renovation contains mural paintings on the ceilings of the wall. By ths side of the main temple there are serveral smaller shrines are located. One of them is dedicated to Lord Subramanya or Kartikeya,son of Shiva. Another shrine is dedicated to Brihannayaki, the goddess is situated between Nandi temple and the main shrine. A shrine of Vinaygar ( Ganesh ) is located on the south western corner, another is of Nataraja on the north eastern corner, and chandikeshwara on the north western portion of the temple complex.

Bridheswar temple which is dedicated to Lord shiva is built on six tier level construction. On the first floor there are mural paintings on the edifice and walls which is restricted to public visit. The secret enterance is blocked for public entry, which can be accessed with permission.

TEMPLE ADMINISTRATION :


Currently the temple is under the ASI, which is declared a World Heritage Monument in 1987. Thankfully it has saved the temple for total modernization with mindless painting. The old heritage is maintained under strict supervision from the ASI. It is however surprising though why are poojas being allowed in the temple which is supposed to maintained as heritage structure.

Originally the Cholas introduced an elaborate system of administration of the temple. The major part of the expenditure of the kings revenue collection and plundering of the enemies, wealth went into maintainence of temples. The priests, artisans, accountants, actors, dancing masters, flute players, jewelers, singers, dancing girls, washermen, guards and various other staff were part of the paid employees of the king. It is alleged there were 400 dancing girls under the role of the temple. The source of funding was from donations from public and merchants and through contribution by the king.

ARCHITECTS :


The architects and workmen who were engaged in making of bronze castings were used to construct the temple. The Vishwakarma Brahmins were employed in sculpting the statues, which are similar to the Bronze statues produced by them in ancient times. The Master craftsman's name is SOMA VARMA. Many of the artisans from the Chalukyan area were used to complete the fine carvings on the temple façade due to their expertise. This was possible due martial alliance forged with Chalukyas, with marriage of Raja Raja Chola’s daughter Kundavai with Vimal Aditya of Vengi.

FAMILY :


Raja Raja Chola had number of wives, chief among them was Loka Maha Devi who occupied the centre stage. The official son of Raja Raja Chola was Rajendra Chola who is progeny of Vanavan Maha Devi. He was blessed with 3 daughters as per record, they are Kundavai, Mahadevigal who adopted Buddhism and remained a spinster. The number of official wives mentioned in the inscription are 8 in number. The unofficial concubines in form of dancing girls may outnumber them. However, Raja Raja chola seems to be influenced by his elder sister, who seem to have influenced his character and decision making.

EPILOUGE :


Luckily the temple of Brideshwar had survived the Islamic invasion of Mallik Kafur, Thuglak, Aurangazeb and Tipu Sultan may be because of the abandonment of the territory. Rajendra Chola shifted his capital to Gangaikonda Cholapuram from Tanjore. The 400 dancing girls may have once again played an important role in protecting the chastity of the temple.

Location :

Brideshwar Temple is located at Thanjavur which is 58 km away from Trichy. One can reach by train from Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai. The nearest airport is Trichy.

Timings :

8.30 to 12 pm
4.00 to 6 pm

Free Entry, No camera Fee, Only parking fee is charged for vehicles. No barrier of visitors, foreigners are welcome into the sanctum too by eager priests.

Thanjavur Palace :


A renovated palace of the Chola Kings was undertaken by the descendants of Marathas. Serfoji reign lasted from 1798 till 1832. During his reign he had built Chattrams, Saraswati Library, which contains 4000 books from different parts of the world. There are number of ancient manuscripts in this library.

Various collections, artifacts which are collected across the globe are available in the palace museum. The number of entry tickets and camera fees is more than 4 which seems to expose the greediness. The palace premises are maintained in absolute shabby condition considering the amount of fees collected. An ancient tower with a bronze bell, museum with whale bone, and secret tunnel from the palace are the highlights. There is also a palace antique selling counter, which sell copy of the various artifacts. There is a government museum in the adjacent premises, which has lot of artifacts collection.


Monday, December 22, 2008

TRICHY TRAVELOUGE


Prolouge :

I land from Rameswaram by train in the midnight @ Trichy and quickly check in for a slumber. I get up early morning and quickly shower and start proceeding to Srirangam by Bus. Well my co-passengers enquires where am I from I tell him I am from Bangalore. He exclaims “ Super city “. I wonder whether the concrete and glazed buildings is a term for a Super city. However I find Trichy railway station has a look of neat city. Now imagine if they just have a mono rail along the banks of the river cauvery and connecting the airport and tourist spots, Trichy too will become a fabulous city.

SRIRANGAM TEMPLE :

A checkered history of Srirangam is dished out by various historians. Who is to be credited to have constructed this massive temple which can be equated almost to Angkor Wat which was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman II in Cambodia.


The temple has 7 massive enclosures, wherein the main shirne is of Lord Vishnu in his majestic avatar. The first enclosure is credited to have been built by Raja Mahendra Chola ( 1060-1063 AD ) but the contradiction here is that in 924 AD Parantaka I ( 907-953 AD ) had gifted a silver lamp for the diety.



My surmise is that the original temple seems to have been built by feudatories of Pulekesi II ( 608-642 AD) from the Chalukyan Empire. Then the temple seems to have expanded and renovated by the Chola King Mahendra Chola ( 1060-1063) adding the local elements of architecture. The Pallavas too seem to have contributed to construction of the temple, based on Mahaballipuram style. The Cholas had been for several years under the Pallavas and their domination began once Raja Raja Chola ( 985-1014 AD ) emerged on the scene with construction of the great temple at Brideswar Tanjore.

There have been many intrigues and conspiracy dominating the rulers of the time. The city of Trichy had been under constant sieze from times immemorial. There are interesting stories that Raja Raja chola had to shed blood to succeed the throne and in repentance he built the great temple. The idea of creating his own identity seems to have inspired Mahendra Chola to renovate and build some portions of the temple. Pandyas took over from Cholas along with the help of Hoysala Kings. Since Hoysala were great builders they seem to have contributed by sending their artisans to lend expertise. However due to lack of availability of soapstone in the area they seem to have compromised on the artform. The influence of Hoysala style is seen in the form of Sala slaying a tiger on some of the pillars.




There has been influence of Vijaynagar Empire in the main gopuram. This portion was left incomplete by the builders. The completion of the massive arched enterance was obviously aborted in 1565 when Vijaynagar empire fell to the invasion of Bahamani sultans. Thereafter Nayaks who were feudatories of Vijaynagar empire seems to have contributed to construction of some portions of the remaining enclosures. The biggest proof for the influence of Vijaynagar empire architecture is the installation of Ugranarashima in all the gopurams of the temple. Ultimately the biggest gopuram in the world which stands tall @ 236 feet tall which was completed on 25/3/1987. It is known as Rajagopuram.

RAMANUJAM INFLUENCE :


Ramanujam who is one of the greatest exponent of Vedanta philosophy settled at Srirangam and propounded his theology. He was actively engaged in temple activities and teaching in the school, after taking a vow of bramchari. As soon as the Moghuls from Malik Kafur ( 1311 ) Muhammad Bin Thuglak ( 1323 ) invaded he vacated the temple and traveled across India. When he returned he was again subject to humiliation by last Chola King Kulottunga I ( 1070-1120 AD) This forced Ramunja to take refuge in Mysore state in Melkote and Sringeri area. The temple seems to have mired with controversy of Saiva and Vaishnav traditions, which shows inconsistency and architectural changes.

During the invasion of the Muslims most of the statues, jewels and treasures were taken away and hidden in Tirupati where they remained till 1371 AD. There seems to other hideouts too wherein huge treasures were hidden and probably never returned to Srirangam temple. The muslims luckily did not destroy the temple and used it as a military garrison where they stored the food grains and parked their horses and elephants in the huge complex. The Vijaynagar rulers regrouped and vacated the temple from the infidels from unauthorized occupation of the temple.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SRIRANGANATHA TEMPLE :


The temple is located on an isle formed by the tributaries of Cauvery. The northern arm of the Cauvery is known as Kolroon, which is artificially created to protect the temple from annual river water flooding. The temple is built in seven rectangular enclosures. On each enclosure there is an enterance and exit gopuram. The main enterance of the temple is facing South, which may explain the misfortune visiting the temple. This is against the hindu tradition of Vaastu. The temple covers a vast area which is bigger than any religious place in the world. The actual area might have been larger than Angkor Wat ( currently largest non functioning temple) which is encroached upon by commercial and residential area.

The temple encompasses an area with a perimeter of 8 km and covers an area of 6,31,000 sq meters. ( 156 acres ) The seven enclosures have 21 gopurams with enterance and exit archways on all sides. One of the enclosures contains 1000 pillared hall ( actual count is 953 ). Foreigners and other religious visitors can visit upto the 6th enclosure and are prohibited in the main sanctum sanctorum which is adorned with Gold Gopuram. Photography is prohibited in this area.

The three outer enclosures are filled with shops, commercial establishments and houses inside the temple complex. Generally the outer enclosures used to be occupied by priests, artisans, servants for cleaning the temple and shop keepers who sold flowers and coconuts essential for pooja. There were more than 10,000 people housed in these enclosures.

SEVENTH ENCLOSURE :


This contains the Rajgopuram which raises upto a height of 236 feet, the highest temple gopuram in the world. It was completed in 1987 with concerted effort of the local administration and temple management. The unfinished edifice was interrupted by French invaders in 1751-58 according to some historians, but it seems to slightly older dating back to Vijaynagar empire who were great temple builders. The original plan was to build the gopuram to around 60 meters, but with modern technology the height was enhanced to 72 meters.

SIXTH ENCLOSURE :


This enclosure is known as Chittiral or Kaliyuraman. The construction of this enclosure is credited to Hoysala artisans and Pandayan rulers. The eastern gopuram is most impressive of all the four gopurams. It bears inscriptions of Twelfth & Thirteen century characters. The construction seems to have been undertaken during the Veera Bhallal II ( 1173-1220 AD) The processional chariots are housed in this enclosure.

FIFTH ENCLOSURE :

The fifth enclosure is inhabited and is known as Uttara. It contains the shrine of manavala mamuni in the traditional Chola style.



FOURTH ENCLOSURE:

Non Hindus are allowed free to move around in this portion of the temple. There is Venugopala temple, which has pillars beautifully decorated. The period of construction is approximately between 1240 to 1330 which is obviously close to the reign of Veera Bhallal II or his successor Vir Narasimha II ( 1220-1235 AD ). One can witness the magnificience of the entire temple complex by visiting the terrace which manned or regulated through the information booth. One can buy various books associated with the temple.

This enclosures contains a museum with interesting artifacts, such copper plates, ivory sculptures and number of bronze cast statutes and ancient coins. A courtyard contains eight pillars with rearing horses and soldiers battling the tigers in typical Hoysala style.

Opposite this mantap is the thousand pillars hall which leads to the northern portion of the temple. A huge pandal is erected whenever there is festivity in the temple. There are other enclosure which are barricaded to the visitors. A group of enclosures contain inscriptions dating back to Vijaynagar empire.

On the western wing there are kitchens and five storehouses ( kottaram ) which are in the form of large cylindrical towers. They acted as grain storehouses for storing rice and lentils used for preparation of food. Inscriptions state these were destroyed by Infidel invaders and later restored.

THIRD ENCLOSURE :


On the eastern wing once again there are some abandoned mantaps which dates back to Vijaynagar era. There are shrines which date back to chola period in this enclosure. There is a sacred tank which is barricaded for visitors. There is shed which houses the materials used for procession and palanquins for statues.

SECOND ENCLOSURE :

One has to reach the second enclosure ( Kulasheran) through the Aryabhattal Gopuram which was re- built during the first half of the fifteen century, which was burnt down by infidels invasion of the temple. The whole of the second enclosure is narrow when compared to other enclosures.

The flagstaff is said to have been installed by Sundara Pandya ( 1251-1268 ) It was destroyed once again by invaders and replaced in 1461, by Mallikarjuna Raya of the Vijaynagar dynasty.

FIRST ENCLOSURE :

This is the main place where Lord Vishnu is in reclining position. He is known as the Lord Ranganathaswamy. The Lord is well ornamented with Golden crown, pendants, necklaces, and bracelets. The statue of the LORD is 21 feet in length which and blackened like carbon black, which anointed specially every year to preserve its structure. At the feet of the Lord there is a Pink Lotus.

The roof of the temple is golden Vimana, which non Hindus can witness from the terrace. There are four golden Kalasas rising from the corolla of a lotus. There are engravings of Lord Vishnu South, Achyuta to North, Ananta to the East and Venugopala or Krishna to the west.

All these jewels are renovated from time to time. One needs to pay special enterance fee of Rs 50 to have dharshan or Rs 20 and Rs 5, which goes to upkeep of the temple and helps in tracking the number of visitors to the temple.

There is an ivory painting of the donor Vijayranga Chokkanatha Nayaka ( 1706-1732) his wife, son and daughter-in-law which hangs on the wall of the temple. Golden vessels were donated by future King Edward VII in 1875 and also necklaces which were inlaid with gold, precious stones which were used to deck the Lord.



INVASION OF THE TEMPLE BY INFIDELS :

During the invasion of Malik Kafur ( 1310-1311) raided the Srirangam temple to loot the treasures in the Ghazni style, but majority of the idols and jewels were secretly pirated to safe haden. No ruler worth his salt was able to protect the temple and hundreds of priests laid down their lives. The temple corridors and river was flooded with blood stains much more gory than Jallianwala Massacre.

The infidels took away the main statue Namaperumal to his capital as a booty and sign of victory over weak resistance. In a daring move the remaining priests regrouped and took a procession to plead with Muslim invader to return deity to its original place. They narrated miracles and curse to scare the invaders to compel him to return to its rightful abode. Moved by the dramatic revelation of the powers of the deity Kafur decided to gift back the Lord to the priests. One of the daughters of Kafur fell in love with iconic statue and she decided to travel to Sri rangam along with the deity. Surathani, the princess seems to have prostrated in front of the Lord and collapsed in front of the Lord. However this seems to highly unlikely masking of history, some localities would have sought revenge and poisoned the princess and a concoted story was dished out once again to Kafur. This enraged him no end, and he invaded the temple once again in 1323.

The priest realizing that this time the destruction will be unleashed with much more intensity, they hid most of the statues of the deities. The anticipated reprisal took toll of more than 13,000 brahmins were slaughtered with blood flowing into the river cauvery. After the man slaughter Kafur’s men occupied the temple and used it as a fortress. The devadasis decided to showcase their talent to save the temple from destruction. Hundreds of devadasis engaged the infidels in orgy and sexual pleasures day and night for more than 6 months. Kafur was forced to recall all his men looking into their meek pleasure seeking routine, which would make them unfit for future battle. He recalled his entire troop with a decree. Thus the tribute for saving the temple from total annihilation should go to the 100 odd devadasis who entertained the soldiers with their dance and sexual favours.


TEMPLE TIMINGS :

OPENS @ 6.15 am for one hour and again there is a break and it reopens for dharsan @ 9.00 am and closes 1 pm. Again re-opens at 4 pm. So one has to be careful not to land in between. Most of the temples follow a similar pattern. Vaikunta Ekadasi is celeberated in a grand manner.

ROCK FORT TEMPLE : ( Malai Kotai )

The original temple is attributed to have built during the reign of the Pallavan king Mahendravarma in the 6th century ad inspired by the cave temples of Badami and Aihole. There are several inscriptions on the façade of the temple and rock cut caves. This temple is a small replica of the grandeur of Badami Cave temple. One can see the posture of Lord along with his consorts and numerous animals surrounding his dancing posture. There are as many as 5 other temples in this massive rocky edifice.

One has to climb into 3 different phases. The temple which is located on the ground floor or the presiding diety is known as Arulmigu Thayumanswamy temple. At the enterance one finds Manika Vinayagar.

Legend of Chetti Girl :


In epic times Lord Shiva gave solace to one devotee. Ratnavathi was married to Dhana Guptan in Trisirapuram. She prayed to the lord to bless her and she became pregnant. As the normal tradition she kept praying for normal delivery of the child daily. But when on the appointed day when she was about to deliver there was flood in the river cauvery, her mother could not return with oil and medicines. Lord came in the form of her mother gave solace and ensured normal delivery. From that onwards Chevvanthinathar is known Thayumanavar. Devotees come to the temple for normal delivery and offer banana and milk to the Lord after delivery.

Vasantha Mantapam :


From this location one can have a good view of the town below. The French and the British used it as watch tower to track enemy movements. There was a telescope too installed to view the town below. It was built by Trinelveli Dalavai Mudaliar in 1630.

Manimandapam :

It was built in 1918 enroute to the hilltop. There is big copper bronze bell weighing 2.5 tonnes with 4.8 feet and 4.6 breadth. It was manufactured by Railway industries in Nagapatinam. Everyday it rings at 4 am 6 am 10 am and 12 pm. 6 PM AND 10 M.

Ucchi Vinaygar :


After the incarnation of Sri RAMA, Vibhisana took leave. Lord present him with an idol of Sri Ranganatha which was worshipped by ancestors. It was given to Vibhisana with a instruction wherever he desired to settle he can place it on the earth. Enroute to Sri Lanka he wanted to take bath in Cauvery river, he handed over the statue to a small boy. The boy unable to bear the weight and ran out of patience and he shouted for vibhisana, who did not return. He therefore placed the statue on the ground, which Vibhisana was unable to uproot. He gave a strong stroke on the head of the boy who turned into Vinayaka, till today one can notice a deep gash on the head of the Lord. One can see the foot prints on the rock of Vibhisana.

TIMINGS :

Morning : 5.30 am – 12.00 pm
Evening : 4.00 pm 8.30 pm.

Enterance Fee : Rs 2
Camera Fee : Rs 25
Video Camera : Rs100






EPILOUGE :

The Ranganathaswamy temple follows the Vaishnava tradition and is handicapped by inhabitants who have encroached the temple premises. The grandeur of the temple can only be resurrected with co-ordinated endeavour, which needs clearance of encroachments in front of the temple. The entire temple complex needs a circular ropeway transporting the visitors on the banks of cauvery river and maybe even a monorail traveling at safe distance so that piligrims and visitors are reminded of the grandeur. It is said that more stones and bricks were moved than Pyramids to construct this magnificient temple. The temple complex is so huge that it can house more than 50 Taj Mahals. Now it is for the government & people to undertake a co-ordinated effort to resurrect the past glory. Just imagine each and every day people paying respect to Lord Ranganatha in a semi circular motion from on a mono rail East to West reversing the bad effects of South enterance.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

RAMESWARAM, an epic destination

PROLOUGE:

The cyclone Nisha struck the coastal T.N. in Nov 2008, particularly Rameswaram and its surrounding wrecking untold misery on the livelihood of the fishermen and localities. The scene on the seashore huts reminded me of the Tsunami, with water flooding into their homes. The incessant rainfall for over a period of fortnight has stalled the fishermen venturing out to sea. I land into the town at the godforsaken hour ( 3 am ) into the town, to find myself an unwanted guest by many a hotels. Never in my dream could I imagine, that a single individual, will be refused a room for the fear of committing suicide or being suspected as a terrorist who has come to blow up the temple. The only option in front to me seemed to visit the temple and pray to the Lord to bless me with Shelter from the brewing storm. At 4.00 am I enter the Ramnathswami temple and find the Ayyappa devotees swarming the premise to have the holy darshan. I opt for a special darshan shelling out Rs 50/- and quickly frisked into the queue with a group of fairer sex swarming, for which I had to exhibit etiquette by offering them to bypass, and I enter last, which was my undoing. As soon as this batch finish, I was offered darshan once again and this time to my hearts content. After darshan it was hardly 4.45 and I decide to stay put at the temple complex till 5.45, when the dawn breaks out. I approach a tout, who says he will get me a slot in the open hall @ black, which I found repulsive. I decided to approach a Gujarati boarding, initially he refused to offer me a room, I requested him to allot me a common hall, which he willingly obliged looking at my plight. I was glad to have a place which was so neat and I decide not to lie down and waste the precious hours. I quickly rushed to have a cold water bath in a stormy weather, which was refreshing and energizing. My tired shoulder was literally caressed by soft water and lather of clinic shampoo. After my bathing, I ventured out to explore the ravaged town.



RAMESHWARAM :

Historically, Ramnathswamy temple is one the 12 Jyothilingas in India. Epically the isle was visited by Lord Rama in his expedition to rescue his kidnapped wife from Sri Lanka. The name is therefore derived from Lord Sri RAMA who installed one of 12 linga ( phallic symbol ). A pilgrimage to Kashi is incomplete without a visit to Rameshwaram.

Lord Rama inorder to repent for his slaying of thousands of demons in the war, he wanted to make amends. He sent his messenger Hanuman to fetch a Linga from Mount Kailash, but he took his own time in returning. Rama is said to have commissioned the installation of Linga made out of sand by Sita. The Shiv Ling was henceforth named as Rameshwar and is worshipped as the presiding deity of this town.

When Hanuman returned with two Atma Lingas, and he wanted to replace the sandy Shiv Ling, he forcibly tried to uproot the linga, but it would not budge an inch. Inorder to please Lord Hanuman, Rama installed one of the Lingas on the northern side of the temple known as Kashi Viswanath. He also gave priority of worship over other rituals. This tradition is continued till today in the temple.

Strangely, the history of this temple apart from the epic is shrouded by mystery. According to historians, an ancient insignificant temple was expanded by Lankan King Parakrambahu during the 12th Century. Further extensions and pillared structure were added by the Nayaks who were feudatory to the Vijayanagar Empire. Further additions to the temple are credited to Sethupathi who were kings of Ramnad region.

The main temple edifice is credited to have been built by Udyan Sethupathi with the help of Sinhalese Prince Para Rajasekhara in 1414 AD. The western gopuram is credited to Udyan, the southern to Tirumalai and eastern one to Dalvoi.

The corridor of the temple is impressive standing tall with more than 30 feet in height, and 15 feet in width. There are nearly 30 pillars in 340 meters length, with paintings on the roof. A breath taking spectacle of the grandeur in unleashed with carved pillars of lion, apsaras and and dwarpalikas. However there are large portions of the boundary wall which are under collapse, which needs urgent repair to restore its splendour and grandeur.

There are 22 theertams inside the temple or ponds wherein piligrims bathe in reverence to their forefathers and departed ones. The mineral quality of the water refreshes ones body and mind, one after another piligrims undergo the ritual, some may be exploited in the bargain. I avoided this ritual due to wet conditions, and I preferred to be drenched by intermittent rainfall.

Mahashivarathri is celeberated for 10 days in this temple. The temple opens at 4 am with Palliyarai Deepa ardhana and later Spatika Linga Abishek. Many devotees bring the ganges water from hardwar, rishikesh and badrinath for Abhisheka.

OTHER PLACES OF VISIT :

DHANSKODI
: A beach located 18 kms away from the temple town, it is pencil shaped peninsula with three sides covered by water. Enroute one can find plenty of sand dunes and back waters flowing. On reaching the beach one front one finds a small fishing settlement, which surprisingly is not so fishy may be because of strong winds. The beach is filled with silversand, one can walk till one’s heart is contented, but swimming in this turbulent water is avoided at best, even the best of swimmers have drowned due to strong currents. The Indian navy has a post.

The fisher folks claim that after the boxer Tsunami in 2004, the fish catch has dwindled beyond economic recovery. They risk their life and cross into the Lankan boundaries to salvage. Sometimes they are shot at by the Lankan Navy or even captured, punished before being released. The main grouse of the Lankan army is that fishermen are LTTE sympathizers. I was given a first hand account of the same by a fisherman in one of the eating joints. I went to eat fish but was dished out a fishy incident, which robbed me of interest of having a fish. It was mainly due to the Sabrimala season most of the joints have stopped serving fresh fish.

On clear days on can see the lighthouse of the Lankan waters, which is located 40 kms away from the tip of the Dhanskodi Beach, the Adams bridge is located just away from this point. It is otherwise known as the controversial Sethusamudram point. Instead of building a bridge across to Sri Lanka, the govt. would do good to develop tourism to bring relief to the fisherfolks, by constructing a good concrete road and developing backwater tourism. The point where Rama is said to have built a floating bridge is known as Sethu Karai which is located 22 kms from the Isle.

PAMBAM BRIDGE :


The lengthiest bridge spanning over 2.3 km connecting Rameswarama isle with the main land was first constructed in 1914 for railway commuting, which is used to allow passage of 10 ships in a day. A road bridge is constructed parallel to the railway bridge. The adventure of traveling in rough with waves lashing out from the bridge has to be experienced in all its glory. Check out the video.

AGNITEETHAM : A dip in the shallow water spread of the sea which hardly 100 meters in front of the temple is considered to be sacred. A dip in the sea helps to get rid of the sins. A Kanchi Mutt is located right opposite this point wherein the piligrims can visit after a dip.

RAM THEERTH : A hillock located 3 kms north of the temple is supposed to be highest point on the isle. A huge TV micro tower is located to receive the radio and TV signals. One can witness the footprint of Rama installed in the temple located in the temple.

HANUMAN TEMPLE
: A small temple dedicated to Hanuman is located enroute to Seetha and Lakshman Teerth. Another Hanuman temple is located just away from this spot, which houses the floating stone, which is actually coral stone. Sometimes one is tempted by the priests to purchase, which should be avoided by the pilgrims, since it is punishable under bio-diversity prevention act.

LAKSHMAN TEERTH :

A small temple in honour of Lakshman is built just close by to Hanuman teerth. This temple is dedicated to Rama’s brother who served him without any axe to grind.

ACQUARIUM : Just opposite Rameswaram bus stand one can visit “ sea world acquarium” This acquarium houses exotic species such as Octopus, snake fish, parrot fish, sea lizard, squid, crabs, lobsters, prawns, Star fish, Sharks etc. This is one of the unique acquariums in India.

EPILOUGE
:

The dream of the fishermen to have alternative livelihood in the form of adventure speed boat ride on the backwaters ferrying tourists would an ideal awaiting realization. The ride on the sand dunes of the beach front, like a desert ride in the middle east. A camp fire and stay in the tent enjoying the night skyline and listening to the waves pounding the shoreline. A massage and sun tan, on the beach would a world beyond imagination. Travelling distances on a concrete road and returning reluctantly to work station would a dream of forced lonely traveler yearning to be fulfilled may be a decade later.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NATURE AND WILDLIFE TRAIL IN COORG

Coorg or Kodagu is famous for the coffee estates along with Pandi Curry ( pork ) as their prime cuisine. The terrain is blessed with excellent nature trail and wildlife. The entire district border Kerala and Tamil Nadu is filled with forest cover ranging from 200 to 300 kms. Three main forest ranges in Kodagu are well maintained by the forest department. They are Nagarhole, Dubbare and Nisargadhama.

Nargarhole :


One of the oldest reserve forest in India from the time Wodeyars is well preserved despite wild fire almost 2 decades ago. The forests are under the govt. control in order to prevent de-forestation with lot of tribal people relocated outside the forest limits. The conservation of wild life has been of prime importance which have been realized by all the 3 governments. In the bargain it is fetching the departments revenue. Luckily the forest guest house does not have accommodation to house many a individuals or tourists. Many of the forests are close to main towns such as Mysore, Mercara, Kalpeta, Virajpet, etc. Elephants and Deers are found in plenty in Nagarhole forest.

Safari :

There are routine safaris conducted by the forest department in the early morning and in the evening. This is basically because of the fact that the animals are up and early for catching their prey and quenching their thirst. They are used to nature’s cycle of sunrise and sunset. Normally they rest in the noon except maybe during the summer months when they roam around for prey. The safaris are under conducted @ 7 am upto 9 am and in the evening around 4.30 pm. The safari costs Rs 100 per head approx in a mini bus, or jeeps can be hired according to budget.

The spotting of wild life during safari is a matter of luck, because we humans are uninvited guest into their domain. Invariably one can spot plenty of deers, which are used as prey to lure the tigers and cheetahs. Deers feel safe in the umbrella of human habitation. During winter season they are more prone to be seen around the accommodation in lieu of deer taking shelter near the human habitation. There is a lurking danger of venturing out while staying in forest guest house due to this fact.

Nagarhole forest is home to Tigers, Cheetah, Bison, Wild Elephant, Boars, Peahen, Peacocks, Mongoose, Pythons, Cobra, etc. A variety of bird species home in on the reserve forest. The roads are barred for motor cycle and other open form of transportation. Unlike ooty route, here the heavy truck movements too are banned. In fact the forest is closed to road traffic after 5 pm.



There are three different areas Nagarhole, Kanhala and Murkal elephant training camp. Dubbare training camp too forms a part of the reserve forest along with Nisargadhama. The main trekking spot is the Bramhagiri hills. It is outside the forest range located near Iruppu falls which 15 kms away from the Nagarhole forest. There are other trekking camps organized by youth hostel too near Mercara.

ACCOMODATION :

There are various options for accommodation depending on individual affordability. One can find private accommodation in Kings County which is luxury personified after the forest gate. There are plenty of home stay options in Kutta and Srimangala on the other side of the exiting Nagarhole Forest. Accomodation can range from Rs 500 to 5000 per day with various package thrown in .

LOCATION :
Nagarhole is approximately 205 Kms from Bangalore. One can bypass Mysore city by traveling through the bypass or ring road or pass through the city or take a detour from Ranganthitu Bird sanctuary and join the BM road at Hunsur take a detour inside the town and get to Nagarhole forest. One can have a detour to tibetian camp



DUBARE ELEPHANT TRAINING CAMP :


Across the cauvery river Dubare training camp is located. The elephants for the world famous Dusherra festivity are trained mainly in this camp. Earlier 150 odd elephant training was undertaken for logging the wood slaughtered from the forest. Since the establishment of the reserve forest, felling of trees have been discontinued. The mahouts and elephants are now deployed for giving ride to the tourists visiting the camp and ensure participation in their lifestyle for a day.

Dubare training camp is utilized for trapping the wild elephants and training them along with trained animals. The elephant is captured in a typical hunting fashion with traps laid. They are chained and bought to the breeding point where they are fed with sugar canes and raggi balls cooked at the camp.




JUNGLE LODGES & RESORTS :

This is a premium product from the forest department established with an objective to provide an ideal experience for tourists interested in eco-tourism and wild life safari. This was established in 1980 and has spread its wings in a slow steady manner for want of logistic spread. Now under the franchisee route the concept is slowly catching up.

The safari ride is undertaken though jeep only for the residents of the jungle lodge. The cost per pax is Rs 2400 which will obviously mean Rs 4800/- for a couple. Day time package would cost Rs 700 per pax.   The cottages are well furnished and laid out on the banks of river cauvery, with power back up facility. There are hammocks laid out for looking into the treetops and feeling the noise of gushing river. The package includes 12 am to 11 am food along with safari ride, boat ride and detailing by the naturalist.

Motto of Jungle Lodge Resorts :

• Submit to Nature
• Be ecologically Sensitive
• Bring tourists closer to nature
• Support tribal & local community
• Create ambassadors for conservation


Some of the interesting facts regarding Elephants are :

• Elephants trunks can bear the weight of an elephant itself.
• Elephants can cry, communicate, be playful and even laugh.
• Elephants are sensitive in nature, take care of their infants like humans.
• Elephants express happiness on return of their clan after a break.
• Elephants grieve loss of infant or still born.
• Elephants don t drink with tusks, but use them to siphon water into their mouth.
• Elephants conceive upto the age of 50 or more.
• Elephants recycle food upto 80% which is returned to soil as manure, which can be used to enrich the soil.
• Elephants help in pollination and distribute small reptiles for maintaining eco system
• Elephants can be trained to carry out certain commands for example logging,Climbing, marching on, hunting expedition, etc.


Budget travelers :

There is a motor boat which is used for transporting the tourists across the river @ Rs 25 per head. If one is adventurous, one can walk across the river splashing the water. One needs to be cautious not to slip amidst slippery rocky terrain. There are some crocs investing this river and one is taken for a ride in rafting boat and through motor boat. The boat ride can cost from Rs 50 to Rs 100 per pax depending on the time consumed.

An entry ticket of Rs 20/- pax is charged for the tourists for entering the elephant camp. There are various elephant oriented activities which are charged accordingly. An elephant ride is charged at Rs 50/-, Bathing the elephants, Feeding the elephants, etc are all activities associated with elephants.

One more package is offered from JLRL which is day package @ Rs 700 per pax and Rs 350 per pax, which can be availed minus the cottage for those backpackers.

The splendour of nature with sky, water, and greenery with animals complete the package. No wonder Coorg is proudly proclaimed as Scotland of the East.

NISARGADHAMA :


A bamboo forest replica is created at Nisargadhama. One has obtain an entry ticket of Rs 10 per pax to enter this premise. One enters into the tranquil place ( Nisarga Dhama ) walking on a cable bridge, replacing the rope bridge across the cauvery river. There is a handicraft shop, eateries at the enterance of this place. The one has to trudge towards the tree top, visit the deer park, rabbit house and walk into the river bed. There are cottages available for those interested in experiencing the forest atmosphere. A double bedded cottage is charged @ Rs 650/-. Restaurant also serves food for the residents, otherwise they can visit the nearby town Kushalnagar for their food. It will be an opportunity to try the corgi cusine.

The river bed is quite a spot to visit in Nisargadhama. The water is pure and so tasty one is tempted to quench their thirst throwing the caution to the winds. One can experience the hunting virtually perching on the treetops. There is swing laid out for flaying across. Bamboo huts and seating space is created for a unique experience. An elephant boarding point is also created for tourists inclined to take a ride.

COORG PRODUCE and CUISINE :


The local produce of coorg is coffee, cardamom, orange, pepper and honey.

Chilly pork : Ribbed pork is a delicacy prepared in the corgi masala.

Kadambattu or Rice dumpling : It is eaten with chicken curry or veg dish

Bamboo shoot curry : Another specialty from coorg



Overall all the three destinations give varying degree of experience to nature lovers. For food lovers corgi cuisine will be altogether a different experience. A two day trip would be ideal to experience nature at its best. Looking for a break from the high decibel city life, away from pollution, head for coorg and witness the nature at its best amidst the coffee estates.

Brindavan, ideal picnic spot for families





KRS ( Krishna Rajendra Sagara ) as it is popular known as the Brindavan gardens and Dam is dedicated to the king of the times Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. The KRS dam was constructed under the guidance of Sir Mokshagundam. Visvesvaraya ( 15th Sept 1860 – 15th April 1962 ). Sir M.V was awarded the highest civilian award of Bharat Ratna in 1955 just a few years before he passed away. The KRS dam was completed in 1924 with automatic crest gates to control the release of excess water.

Prologue : The history of the reservoir ( KRS ) seems to futuristic thinking on part of the rulers to prevent flooding and harness the clean waters of the reservoir for drinking purpose. A group of villages surrounding Kannampadi was obviously relocated to higher plateau to enable construction of the KRS dam. The population of the villages may be around 2500 villagers or 500 families.





RELOCATION OF KANNAMBADI HOYSALA TEMPLE :

When we were just waiting for lunch after ordering, i happened to glance a news item which mentioned an ancient Hoysala temple was submerged while the KRS dam was being constructed. This temple was taken up for resurrection by the Khodays group. The temple is being redesigned to suit the landscape and availability of skilled manpower. Majority of the original pillars and stones have crumbled to a large extent. We were able to photograph some of the remains on the bank of the river cauvery.
The location of this temple under reconstruction gives a bird’s eye view of the expanse of the cauvery river and its expanse. Some of the old stones and pillars are being used to reconstruct this massive temple. Artisans have been working day and night for 4 years and it is scheduled for completion in its modern avatar in 2010. A visit to the new Kannampadi town is a must to unravel the beauty of nature and mankind. One thing which beats the mind of any common man why is that KRS was not harnessed for hydroelectric power generation.









Brindavan Gardens :


The concept of building the Brindavan Gardens goes to Sir Mirza Ismail, who was the diwan of Mysore. ( Chief Financial Officer ) . Brindavan garden has been fashioned in the footsteps of the Shalimar gardens in Kashmir. The work of landscaping began in 1927 with its chief architect, G.H. Krumbigal, the superintendent of Parks and Garden in Mysore Govt. The landscaping is an ongoing process, however the initial process was completed within 5 years.



MUSICAL FOUNTAINS

The garden is laid out in three terrace formation. One on, the right hand side garden, across the small lake houses the musical fountain. This can be crossed over by ferry or by walk on the small bridge constructed for nature lovers. The main tourist attraction is the musical fountains which played every day for 1 hour from 7 to 8 pm and on holidays an extra 30 minutes, wherein the light and sound along with water fountains dance literally to the music. Alisa Chinoys Made in India is an evergreen number which still continues to echo in the sound bytes generated.

SPREAD :





The garden is spread over 60 acres, with fruit orchards, two horticulture farms, Nagavana and Chandravana. The garden is laid out with various species of fauna and fountains. Some of the popular ones are Celosia, Marigold and Bougainvillea. There is a children playing area with small rides created for their entertainment. There are various dummy sized animals in the childrens area consisting of Seated Gorilla, Giraffe, Bison, Lioness, Grizzly Bear, Tortise, etc. The complex also contains an Acquarium which is charged @ Rs 5 per head. The speciality of this acquarium is a Malayasian breed of fish which is known as Arona ( costs Rs 40 K ).



The original passage of tourist from over the dam, has become a relic of the past. I remember distinctly the walking across the dam and going by the Police jeep sometimes, over the bridge courtesy my uncle. The pristine glory of the past can be relived by visiting the gateway in one has the time and inclination. The archway is a beautiful sight for photography. In view of the terror threats photography of the dam is prohibited. One can literally view how much water is stored in this reservoir, which is cause of heartburn between people of T.N and Karnataka for over a decade. One should silently pray to the Kaveri goddess, that people of both the states should be blessed with plenty of water flow, so that there is no scope of dispute.

Food Stalls :


There are plenty of food stalls in the enterance of the gardens, and inside the premises there is 5 star accommodation run by Balaji Group and a restaurant run by KSTDC. The KSTDC provides a reasonable option for budget family. The rooms of KSTDC are currently under renovation, wherein the tariffs will be subject to escalation.



The tourist inflow to Brindavan gardens has been affected tremendously causing heartburn to the organizers. On an average at least 5 thousands visitors used to visit Brindavan garden which was favourite film shooting spots for most erstwhile bollywood movies. The terror threats and recession has taken its toll on the tourist destinations. It is time for the organizers to sit and plan better facilities for the tourists who are bound to return in due course. The Cauvery Niravari Nigama and KSTDC are jointly managing the entire premises. There is unauthorized toll collection at the enterance, for vehicles, which I feel the govt should ensure abolition. There are some goonda elements involved in collection of Toll, I hope the cops arrest them for cheating the public.



Epilouge : Imagine if tourists are able to cruise across the cauvery river in a battery operated boats to the newly constructed constructed Venugopalaswamy temple. Maybe in future people will be served sumptuous banana plantain leaf meals with private canteen operators. Inorder to attract more tourists an artificial falls can be created with no soaps allowed like in Tirumala and recycling of water ensured. The current rush of tourist in the evening should be disbursed throughout the day with all day package. The park should be thrown open for sunrise and set points from 6 am onwards. There is scope for Solar power harvesting if installed intelligently. The state govt needs to generate revenue from current 5 crore level to 50 crore levels.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bekal Fort with a facelift



The transformation of Bekal Fort is amazing in terms of reconstruction to replicate the bygone era. The legendary defense citadel, When I visited the Fort in April 2005 I found it was absolute state of ruins and neglect beyond salvage. The facelift provided to Bekal Fort by ASI and district tourism board is commendable and requires special appreciation. I hope all other historical monuments are resurrected in similar fashion without too much modernity. Now Bekal Fort seems to be idyllic spot for picnic lovers, family outing, adventure and heritage tourists.

BEKAL FORT HISTORY :

The history of the Fort construction is shrouded in mystery. However considering the architecture and style of construction, the construction seems to have begun by the rulers of Tulunadu, the Ikkeri Dynasty. Hiriya Venkatappa Nayak ( 1586 – 1629 ) is credited to have begun the construction of the fort in 1620 and it was completed during the period of Shivappa Nayak ( 1645 – 1660 ). The Nayaks are credited to have constructed number of other forts too such as Chandragiri Fort ( Kasargod ) & Hosadurg Fort ( Kanhagad ) which are all in various stages of ruin. Basically these forts were built to protect the territory against invasion from the sea, by various foreign rulers. The Fort served to protect their territory which extended from Coorg to Bhatkal. The Nayaks ( 1499 – 1763 ) were feudatory of the Vijaynagar empire.



After the battle of Talikot in 1565 when Vijaynagar empire decline began, the Nayaks began to exert considerable influence in the Konkan coast. There was intense battle between the Kolatharis and Nayaks to dominate these territories under Someshekar Nayak ( 1664 – 1672 ). He captured the entire region from Majeswar, Thaliparamba, Payyanur, Kanghad, Bekal and Panayal under his suzerenity.

The Nayaks were defeated by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and their trace from this area was eliminated. The carnage unleashed by Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan, forcible conversion etc belie history being a tolerant monarchs. During 1766 to 1799 both father and son unleashed a reign of terror in the Region. Majority of the Nairs and Brahmins were forcibly converted under the name of Jihad. The bodies of slain people were laid across the landscape and the skull of the beheaded victims were displayed in the Fort. In the bargain many a temples were destroyed too as a symbol of elimination of Idol worship. The Sultan did not carry out conversion in Mysore territory which shows his jekl and hyde nature. He wanted to be seen as religiously tolerant tyrant. The details of
Tipu’s legacy is furnished in this link

http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/tipu/ch04.htm

Tipu Sultan has developed a number of escape routes from this Fort, due to his constant sense of insecurity. He had unleashed a reign of terror in North Kerala, which is hidden from the annals of history. The bodies of triators and rebbellers were hacked and thrown into the well. The barricading of the well resembles like the Jallianwalla bagh. I hope the ASI put up a memorial in commemoration of the innocent lives which were lost during the Tipu's reign.

British took over the Fort after the fall of Tipu sultan and formed the new taluk of Bekal under the South Kanara district. The British seem to have destroyed the insignificant palace located in the premise of Bekal fort and robbed all its antiques and riches. After India attained independence, Bekal was re-organised in the Kasargod district which was included in Kerala state in 1956.





CONSTRUCTION :



The construction and renovation of the fort has taken place from the time of Nayaks, reinforced by Tipu sultan with observatory tower, which gives a panoramic view of the entire landscape spread upto ullal and kanghad. The grooves for the cannons seem to have been installed by Tipu under the able assistance of the French with whom he had friendly relation, with their presence in Mahe, which is located in close proximity. The British subsequently fortified Bekal Fort only for military purpose without much administrative buildings. It served as a cantonment and strategic watch tower with a light house nearby which is almost similar to Kaup light house in construction.



The entire fort is constructed with Laterite stones and limestone combination. The fort has a moat surrounding with water jutting from the sea and exiting into the sea in a circular formation. It can be reasonably presumed that the waters were infested with crocs to protect the Fort against invaders.

Bekal Fort is surrounded on all three sides with water, and the balance through the moat filled with water. The Forth seems to be built on a hillock on two tier basis. The landscape inside the fort have been used strategically to locate the armory, elephants and horses.

A number of cannon slots are created pointing towards the sea, there are as many 14 watch towers in the forty acre fort. A well is now barricaded which served as fresh water source for drinking, collected from the natural rainfall. There are number of secret hideouts within the fort, which is well ventilated for survivors in case of Fort under seize. An armory is barricaded currently, traces of the palace destroyed is also seen, a modern rest house and small restaurant with seating space is located in the eastern portion of the Fort. The fort has been under renovation from 2005 and still to be completed to bring the original splendor.

FILM SHOOTING :


Many a Malayalam films, particularly song and dance sequence have been shot in this wonderful locale. The song “ Tu hi re “ from the Bombay movie has been shot in the Fort ramparts. A safe beach is located adjacent to the Fort for sea lovers to swim and bathe.



Landmarks :

There is a grave of saint located just outside the fort premise which can be approached through an opening leading towards the outer portion of the fort walls. There a Hanuman temple at the enterance of the Fort, another Mosque is located just opposite to the Fort, Bekal Resorts and Development Corporation is trying to beautify the surroundings with landscaping and accommodation facility. Kasargod has plenty of jewellery outlets and was famous for smugglers in pre 1990s.







LOCATION :


Bekal is located in between Kasargod and Kanghad towns. It can be reached by Air from Mangalore or Calicut. The nearest railway junction is either Mangalore or Kannur. The entry fee is Rs 5/- and Videography is charged Rs 25. From the main road it is just 600 meters.

Overall a visit to Bekal Fort captures the intrigues, conspiracy, diplomacy of the Nayaks, Tipu Sultan, French and the British Era.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

St Angelo Fort, legacy of 4 eras.


The legacy of Portuguese, Dutch and the British is seen @ Fort St. Angelo. It was built by Sir Francisco De Almeida in 1505, ( almost 500 years old ) on the shores of Arabian sea, for guarding the town against attack from the sea by pirates and subsequently foreign enemies. The fort signifies the first sign of colonization attempt by Portuguese who had essentially landed in India for trading of spices on the Kerala coast. It was built by Almeida with the permission the prevailing king of kolathiri Raja.

The fort has been constructed using the laterite stones which are available in plenty in the region. These stone are amenable for strong construction due to its easy chiseling and blends very well with the limestone. Currently ASI is upgrading the Fort to its original grandeur using the same materials and conserving this magnifcient heritage of 4 different eras. Some of the fallen edifices are rebuilt and numbered according to the sequence. The evidence of the same can be found is some portions of the fort, in particular when one climbs toward lighthouse from the inner ramparts of the fort.

The Dutch captured the fort from the Portuguese in 1663 and made some alteration to the fort. The epigraphical evidence is noticed on the tablet form of inscriptions on the walls of the fort. An ancient lighthouse was built to warn the ships of the shoreline which needed to sailed with caution due to prevalent rocky mass in the midst. This ancient lighthouse was later discontinued with the construction of a modern lighthouse by the british. The dutch sold the fort to Arrakkal Kings in 1772 before vacating the Indian shores due to trouble in their own country. The British captured the fort from the Arrakkal kings in 1790 and established it as the prime base shifting from Tellicherry fort because of the vantage location. They occupied the Fort and monitored the port of Mappila, which was essentially fishing and trading harbor after Kozhikode ( Calicut ). In 1947 when the british vacated India it was taken over by the ASI under the Indian Navy which has its presence in the huge complex. Maybe some of the old structures have been occupied from the British regime. The entire premise is very clean and well maintained by ASI and it is a wonder ful historical heritage and full of legacy of ancient strategies followed. The booming cannons are deployed all over the Fort at Vantage points.

One can find lot of videographers willing to shoot pictures of the family in a professional manner at a price. Some of them ape song and dance sequence in the locales. The fort contains the Barracks of soldiers and stables for the horses too. An armoury storing the gunpowder does not seem out of place considering the no of cannons.

LIGHTHOUSE

An Iron pillar like structure situated on the upper strata of the Fort ramparts was used as a Lighthouse to warn the ships sailing towards the the coast the dangers of the rocky coastline. The coastline in the entire belt is littered with such rocky formations which can damage and sink a ship into the Arabian seas. The Portugues used to light the same using candles and reflect the light vide a magnifying mirror, to warn the ships of the imminent dangers.

CANNONS

There are number of cannons which are preserved in it s pristine state, which gives us the real feel of the times. It transports the visitors that entire Fortress is ever ready for a battle. Very few forts in India have the weaponary displayed in their premises. Most of them are either shifted to muesuems or parks.

BARRACKS


A typical barrack of the Dutch era is seen in the fort premises, wherein the horses and soldiers lived side by side, guarding the entire fortress against the enemy attacks. The British may have used this place for their drills and flag hoisting ceremonies in all probability.

A beautiful painting of this elegant fortress and the fishing bay is displayed @ Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, Holland. The beheaded skull of Kunjalli Marakkar was exhibited @ the Fort premises by the dutch after his brutal assignation. There is museum of some of the exhibits which was closed at the time of my visit due to holiday I presume. May be I was so enamoured by the beauty of this fortress, I let go the museum.

One of the main high points of travel is in the form of Mappila cusine which is available in the restaurants @ kannur. The preparation in form of non veg delicacies with various spice mixture seems to be alluring. I just forgot to buy some authentic spices maybe next time around I will be able to purchase the same for domestic consumption.

Timings :
Fort visiting time is 8.30 to 6.00 pm. The fort is guarded by tourism police and one of their constable Satyam has published a historical treatise on St Angelo fort. A video fee of Rs 25 is levied otherwise there is no enterance fee to the Fort.

Location :
This fort is located approximately 3 kms from the Kannur Railway station, and autos generally charge double the meter ranging from Rs 25 to 40. The actual meter is only 13.60 exactly. Enroute one finds a small park maintained by the army which is full of antique weaponry used during the world war times. There is Mappilla Bay situation right opposite to the St Angelo fort and Arrakal museum located in parallel direction. Kannur has many other tourist attractions such as Payambalam Beach, Meenkunnu Beach, Snake park, Science Park, Folklore academy, Vallapatanam,Dharmadam Isle, Kunnimangalam, etc.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Namdroling, welcome home to Golden Buddha Monastery




The credit for converting 1000 acres of barren land donated by Karnataka Government to Golden Temple area goes to His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinponche. He arrived in India with only Rs 300/- in his pocket from Tibet and laid a foundation for Namdroling Golden temple in 1988.

We used to visit frequently the tibetian refugee camp on business trip selling bubble gums which was favourite of the tibetians monks in 1980’s. The small shack owners were so innocent, they did not know how much currency to be given for their purchase. We used to supply stocks and had to literally help them to count the Indian currency and give them the change.

In turn we used to have Momos, beef momo is their favourite receipe along with noodles and fried rice. In those times we used to get chicken momo too. Nowerdays apart from beef momos one does not find other non-veg momos or even veg momos. One can get veg fried rice and noodles along with egg fried rice. Beef is common dish among the tibetian cuisine.

Once on our trip we found there was a small joint selling toddy, that too fresh toddy and we really enjoyed the same. If one looks around maybe one can find the same joint if one looks around.




Now coming back to the monastery, Namdroling was dedicated to the world by his highness Dalai Lama in 1999. The monastery contains huge golden statue of Buddha and his famous disciples. This monastery takes us back in times to ajanta in all its pristine glory with mural paintings. The fabled dragons are embedded on the pillars on both side of Buddha. The fresco paintings are all linked to characters of Buddha or some other diety, tibetian cosmology, astrology or medicine. The painting style is known as Thangka Paintings, which was slowly getting into endangered bracket after the occupation of Chinese. Some of the details are covered with pure gold, which stands out in all its richness.

There are 3 other monasteries added to the main monasteries and one practice hall for the monks to practice their chanting and prayers. The deep blood red or maroon robe worn by the 5000 odd monks stands in stark contrast and matches their mongoloid features. Some of the monks speak hindi, kannada and to a little extent English. The landscaping around the monastery is world class, filled with ducks, small ponds, palm trees and well manicured grass courts.


When we reached the monastery a massive preparation was underway for a winter festivity called Ghorpa. All the monks were busy preparing elaborate ceremony for a ten day festivity with chanting and music. The entire temple premise was cordoned off for the visitors. Otherwise one can go close to the main Buddha statues and witness the grandeur of the golden statues. It was the first time we witnessed his holiness moving around with BMW in all his humility at a slow speed. This was such a close encounter with of a different kind. I could not really click my camera, literally carried away by transcendental feeling of his holiness.
There is a huge shopping complex just opposite for the visitors to purchase various tibetian artifacts along with a small accommodation place, which is primarily reserved for the guests. There is no guarantee of booking furnished, according to the directives. Foreigners are required to apply for P.A.P ( protected area permit ) and apply for permit well in advance to the following personnel :

Mr. K. B. Singh
Government of India
Ministry of Home Affairs
Rehabilitation Wing
Jaisalmer House, Mansingh Rd.
New Delhi , INDIA

Send copies as follows:
Send original PAP form, 4 photos, 3 photocopies of the form, 4 copies of the photo page of the passport

It was really heartening to note that in a span of 2 decades Tibetian refugee camp has been converted from a rustic village into a paradise housing the golden statue of Buddha. It has become a heritage centre for Buddhists who in all their humility live in harmony. The ordinary beings are busy with carpet making, incense sticks, sweaters, pasta, breeding buffalo, selling momos, etc. In case one wants to buy pasta,it is better to buy from their co-operative super stone at Camp I where prices are fixed, private traders almost charge double. One can have a taste of Tibet, if one just visits Byalkuppa.



LOCATION : From Bangalore it is 190 kms via srirangapatna, via Mysore it will be 215 kms. One can visit it on the return from Mangalore. It is 180 kms via Madikere. From Hassan it around 90 kms via Ramnathpura. There is no entry fee to visit, except parking fee and shoe keeping charges.

Buddham sarnam Gachami.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ellora elegant & immortal







Imagine shoveling 2 lakh tonnes of rock surface and building an edifice to represent Mount Kailash which is the abode of Shiva. The grandeur of such scale has never been attempted by mankind after the Parthenon . A massive army of 7000 laborers and hundreds of master craftsmen focused for 150 years to complete the Kailashnath Temple @ Ellora. It is twice the area of Parthenon and 1.5 times taller. A scale and grandeur unrivalled in the history of mankind.

“ Where minds, hearts and hands worked in unison with consummate passion to etch an edifice as gigantic as Kailash temple “

The commissioning of the Kailashnath temple is credited to Krishnaraja I ( 753 -83 AD ) and completed during the reign of Krishna II ( 878 – 914 ). The matching of the names of the king is rare coincidence. Kailashnath temple was fashioned on the lines of Virupakasha temple @ Pattadakal which has dedicated in 740 AD by King Vishnuvardhan.

My theory is that after the abandonment of Ajanta artisans moved to next destination at Aihole and than again migrated to Badami and Pattadakkal and than shifted focus to Ellora to complete the grandeur spanning 4 centuries. Than once again they migrated to Belur &  Halebid and than finally to Hampi the Vijaynagar Empire. Thus the circle of artistic excellence came to attain its zenith at Hampi. The interlinkage of subject matter such as Shiva, Vishnu, Shiv Ling, Nandi, Lion, Elephant etc are all common icons of sculpture during this transmigration from one kingdom to another.

LOCATION


Ellora was located on the ancient trading caravan route of Paithan Pitalkhora, Ajanta and Nasik. It is locally known as Verul Leni instead of Ellora. Don’t be surprised it means the same destination Ellora in the local Lingo. It is located 30 km North west of Aurangabad which can serve as the base town in terms of accommodation. The visit to this magnificient location will be thoroughly enjoyed during the monsoon, when it is filled lush green all over adding colour to the grandeur. The next best season is the winter months of Dec to February.

Once upon a time Volcanic eruptions were frequent in these terrains. The volcanic Lava flowed during different periods in sands of ancient times. The lava flow created vertical and horizontal joints on the rock formation. It created a coarsed grain and fine grained texture on the rocks. The sculptures chose fine grained surface for structural stability and carving the rock surface. The sculptors minimized their labour by hewing rock face at vertical and horizontal joints. Thus the basaltic rocks were ideal for rock sculpting, they are soft during sculpting and when exposed to atmosphere they harden.

This region has been ancient dwelling place of Upper Paleolithic mankind ( 10,000 – 20000 years old ) Mesolithic ( Less than 10,000 years old ) and Chacolthic mankind. ( 2500 – 1000 BC ). It has been the region of continuous human inhabitation from time immemorial with traces of all their belongings cropping up in the area.

Unlike Ajanta, Ellora caves never went in oblivion since it was located on the ancient trading route. Ellora caves received patronage from various period ranging from Kalachuris from Nasik, Asmakas ( Vidharbha) Chalukyas, Sathavahanas and Rashtrakutas

IMPORTANT CAVES :


For time starved tourist these are important caves and rest can be missed for a later visit. Cave No 10 ( vishwakarma ) No 16 ( kailash temple ) 21 ( ramesvar ) 32 & 34 ( jaina temples ) are a must for time pressed visitors. This represents the summary of the three religious branches Buddha, Hindu and Jaina legacy. The cave temples are locate on a semi circle arch formation. The Buddhist temple ( 2,5,10, 12) on the right arch facing south, the Hindu group ( 14,15,16,21 & 29 ) in the centre and Jaina group ( 32,33,34 ) on the north.

ENTRY FEES : & TUESDAY HOLIDAY

RS 10/- Per adult of Saarc countries including India
Childrens below 15 are allowed free
5 $ for a foreigner
9am to 5.30 pm.

BUDDHIST CAVES :

The migrated artisans from Ajanta began excavating 12 buddhist caves. The date of excavation work spans over 3 centuries between 450 AD to 750 AD. During this period 12 caves can be sub classified into chaityagriha and monasteries. Cave no 1 to 5 refer to early period and 6 to 12 refer to later block. When compared to Ajanta the cave sizes are much smaller at Ellora except for Kailashnath temple.

CAVE 2 :

This cave is dedicated to Lord Buddha, and can be reached through small flight of steps. It contains a shrine for Buddha with pillared side galleria, many of the sculptures are unfinished, the sculptures are prominent particularly of the watchman ( dwarapalikas ) apart from Buddha image.

CAVE 5 :


This temple seems to be preaching area for the disciples and monks. The statue of Buddha is located at the centre and a bench for the Guruji, in the middle with benches on the sides for all the disciples to listen to the sermon and meditate. Budhham saranam Gachami. There are 12 ornamented pillars in the hall on both sides. This cave ( maharvada ) is a vihara ( monastery ) measuring 117x59 feet width.

CAVE 10 :

It is popularly known as carpenters cave or sutar ka jhopdi ( carpenters hut ). Otherwise it is named as Vishwakarma cave ( celestial architect ). The local carpenters and masons used to visit this cave and worship the Lord Vishwakarma ( Buddha ) as their chief almighty.

A large stupa 27 feet high with statue of Buddha 11 feet high is installed in this magnificient two storeyed cave. There are 14 pillars on each side of the aisle. The roof of this cave is like a ribbed wooden formation etched on stone. The bottom lintel of the ribbed portion is decorated images of Buddha with attendants.

The arch has an attic window for light to seep in to brighten the cave, and there are images of Manjushri and Avalokiteswara on the north and south respectively. The Stupa and the balcony is finished as if it is carved out of wood. The close imitation of carpenters moulding technique has been displayed to perfection in this cave aptly called the carpenters cave. The wooden pins and joints on the beam and lintel are perfect sculpting and imitation in stone.

CAVE 12 ( TEEN THAL )

This 3 storied monastery is magnum opus and locally known as Teen Thal or three different rhythm of musical notes in classical form. The ground contains a huge pillared hall like a courtyard. It leads to steps on the right towards the first floor. There are nine cells with images of Buddha and his consorts adorning the wall panels.

Again a stair case leads to the 2nd floor. The entire hall measure 118x34 feet width.
The hall is divided into three portions with 8 pillars. It contains 13 cells, with image of Buddha on the east with meditative posture. The entire scene depicts the eventful moment in Buddha’s life attaining enlightment. There 5 different postures of Buddha adorning the façade.



Third storey is again accessible through flight of steps from the second floor. There are representations of 14 Buddhas with 7 each on North and Southern panels. They are in different forms such as Vipasi, Sakhi, Visvabahu, Krachunda, Kanakamuni,Kashyapa & Sakyasimha. The sides of the antechamber are adorned by favourite deities Padmapani and Vajrapani.

BRAHMANICAL CAVES


There are 17 caves belonging to the hindu era excavated between 650 AD to 900 AD. These caves have obviously been patronized by chalukyan and Rashtrakuta emperors. They are gradual migration from the Buddhist viharas to sikhara type of construction.

The leading group of caves in this group are Cave 14 known as Ravan ka kai or abode of Ravana Cave 15 signifying Dusavatar of Vishn Cave 16 Monolithic Kailash temple Cave 21 Rameswara Cave Dumar Leni .



CAVE 14





RAVAN KA KAI ( Abode of RAVAN, king of Sri Lanka )

This two storyed structure signifies the graduation of art from simple Buddhist to complex form of Hindu architecture. The presence of Rashtrakuta emperors and their genealogy is mentioned in the inscriptions on the mantap. We find the names of the kings from Rashtrakuta clan mentioned in an order ;

Dantivarma the founder ( 600 – 630 AD )
Son Indraraja ( 630 - 650 AD )
Son Govindaraja ( 650 – 675 AD )
Son Kakaraja ( 675 –700 AD )
Son Indraraja II ( 700 – 725 AD)
Son Dantidurga ( 725 – 756 AD )
Krishna 1 ( 756 - 774 AD )
Govinda II ( 774 - 780 AD )
Dhruva ( 780 – 793 AD )
Govinda III ( 793 – 814 AD )
Amogavarsha ( 814 – 878 AM)
Krishna II ( 878 – 914 AD )

The artisans with their previous expertise started carving monolithic statues. Here one can see the depiction of Ravana lifting the abode of Shiva in penance and thereby gaining his blessings. This cave has sculptures of Buddha as well as Hindu gods.

The first floor contains images of various Hindu deities such as Ganesh, Parvathi, Shiva, Durga, and various other forms of shiva in aadhanarieswar and mahishasurmardhani.

The second storey chamber measures 109x95 feet width. There is a linga in the sanctum. The side walls contain various images of deities and Ravana. The south wall has representations of various forms of Vishnu. They are in boar avatar, trivikarma avatar and Narasimha avatar.

CAVE TEMPLE 16 :

KAILASA TEMPLE

It is the largest cave temple excavation undertaken in the world almost an inspiration to Angkor Wat in Cambodia in the 12th century. The rocky structure was hewn downwards separating it from the parent rock formation. Deep trenches were dug on all three sides separating a monolithic structure of 276x154x107 feet high super edifice.

Krishna I ( 756 -783 AD ) after subduing his Chalukyan Lords in a battle signaled the commissioning of this super structure. It was originally known as Krishneswar temple, but later changed after his demise to Kailasa temple. This temple is modeled on the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal.

Kailash complex can be divided in four parts, the enterance gateway, main temple, intermediate Nandi shrine and courtyard pillars and images.

The four lion sculptures on the roof of the temple seems to be guarding from the evil forces from all direction. This is a unique symbolism to invoke the blessings of the Lord to protect this monument from damaging influence of nature.

It is estimated that 2 lakh tonnes of rock surface was exhumed out one all three sides in a U shaped formation to design the archway enterance and the inner edifice of Kailash temple.

All the carvings are done in different levels. A two storyed gateway opens to an u shaped courtyard which was earlier connected by stone bridges, but these have collapsed subsequently due to structural imbalance. There are statues of huge deities of Ganga and Yamuna symbolizing the purity of the endeavour, in the front enterance literally welcoming the visitors.



The rows of elephants on the side walls of the main shiva temple gives an impression that they are literally holding the temple on their strong backbones.

The most prominent feature of the court yard are two monolithic elephants and pillars on each side of the temple premises. The pillar raises to the height of 45 feet and is crowned by trishul. The is decorated with various geometric designs and moulds.

Main temple is designed in a parallelogram with the principal shrine excavated at the first floor level. The principal shrine raises to a height of 23 meters over the plinth. There are 5 subsidiary shrines fashioned around the principal shrine. The interiors of the shrine contains pillared mantap with carvings similar to the virupaksha temple. The antechamber contains the garbhagriha. Remnants of the paintings are slightly visible which were undertaken during the reign of Krishna and Ahilya Bai Holkar.
The central figure of Nataraja executed on the ceiling of the shrine was delicately carved with artisan lying on his back and chiseling the image with precision. He was illuminated by oil lamp and had to cover his eyes from the falling debris of dust and stone. The ceiling at many places were similarly drawn using the scaffolding support. These murals have lost their lustre by lighting of lamps in the past. This is evident by carbon depositing on the murals.

Mantap is entered through the antechamber wherein the Linga is etched over the pedestal. There are two deities Ganga and Yamuna once again purifying the atmosphere with their presence. The respective vehicle of crocodile and tortoise is symbolic. The ceiling is etched with lotus, with the iconic Linga represent Lord Shiva. One is carried away by the grandeur of the architects imagination.



On circumbulation of the main shrine there are 5 subsidiary and including the main shrine there are two other independent shrines, wherein the images of the deities are missing which would mean ashta mandalam or eight constellations. The wall portion of the temple is carved with various images of Lord shiva.

After completing the pradakshina ( circular tour ) one enters into the Nandi mantap complex, The Nandi is the vehicle of Lord of Shiva, which has been finished outside the temple complex and hoisted into this complex. The interior of the complex is well painted with scenes from Ramayan and embedded with inscriptions from Rashtrakuta kings. After passing through this complex one can enter upper storey of the enterance gopuram. One can have peep through the window at the main temple gopuram and roof of the main temple. In this complex the tourist can find a courtyard for resting and heaving a sigh of relief and pause for breath and ponder at the artistic excellance of the monumental effort the artisan. This pedestal is used used for photography and videography.

Once the circular motion is completed on the Nandi complex one reaches a point at the ground floor from where the remanents of another stone bridge can be seen. It was connecting from south to the main building. There are unfinished portion on the south side of the edifice.

A visit is incomplete without a visit to the north of the temple complex wherein it is once again dedicated to Lord Shiva. One now keeps wondering where is the erotic or romantic episodes etched, there is a portion behind the temple which is dedicated to Kama deva, or goddess of Love. Check out maybe one find some romantic poses in this magnetic and awe inspiring incomplete edifice. If you are unable to locate the same please do get in touch. Lol. If you are able to locate them than do photograph and reveal it to the world.


CAVE 21

It is one the earliest hindu caves located midway of the entire cave formation. This cave too is dedicated to Lord shiva. A nandi is located in front of the cave on a raised pedestal. The entrance of the cave is flanked by sculptures of Ganga and Yamuna.

Inside the mantap sculpture of Nataraj on the eastern portion and Kali on the western portion is embedded. The northern portion is embedded with an image of shiva parvathi getting married. There are images of subramanya and shiva in mahishashvardini format.

On the enterance verandah one can find depiction of Ravangruha and Shiva & parvathi playing games. A pathway from cave 21 leads to cave 22 to 28.

CAVE 29

DUMAR LENI :





Dumar Leni or cave is situated next to sita ka nahana or waterfalls. A pool created by this waterfall is known as Elaganga. There is linga in this cave as the sanctum surrounded by dwarpalikas. The hall is filled with Lord shiva’s image in 6 different avatars. One depicts Ravana holding aloft mount kailash, another celestial wedding of Lord shiva with parvathi, Killing of demon antaka and Shiva parvathi playing chausar, Nataraja pose There are two pits maybe used for vedic homa during the times of prayer.

CAVES 30-34

JAINA CAVES :


The followers of Jainism left their imprint during the 11th and 12th century AD. Caves No 32 and 33 are known as Indra sabha and Jaganath sabha. Cave 30 is unfinished format and is also known as chota Kailash. The technique of rock excavation is similar to that of cave 16.

CAVE 32

INDRA SABHA :


This shrine is dedicated to Lord Mahavir and other teertankaras. They systematically arranged in the double storied cave. The main entrance is in Dravidian Gopuram style. A monolithic pillar with an elephant guarding it. The elephant resembles the Kailash temple courtyard elephant in a well preserved format. The monolithic pillar stands 28 feet tall, crowned with four teerthankaras seated in four direction.

The four teertankaras embedded in the shrine are : Rshabnatha ( 1st ) Parsvnatha ( 22nd ) Neminatha ( 23rd ) and Mahvira ( 24th ) are in different forms along with accompanying deities Indra on elephant and Ambica seat on Lion. The side walls display images of Gommateswara and Parsvanatha with a snake hood above his temple.

On the first floor it is a shrine dedicated solely to Lord Mahavir. One can see the remains of the vanishing murals. A huge Mahavir statue is installed in the shrine at the sanctum. The archway is elegantly carved.


WATER CISTERN :


There is an elaborate plan to harvest rain water to be preserved in water cisterns. This was used during the non monsoon seasons. This reveals the engineering skills of the artisans of ancient times. Even to this modern times one can find water filled in the cisterns during non season.

The elegance achieved at Ellora Kailashnath temple is unparalleled in scale and execution in Indian temple architecture. The grandeur and massive scale in which it was planned leaves one bewildered and wondering even after alleged 150 years of construction, it is still incomplete edifice and stands tall even in ruins after more than 1100 years of construction. Maybe the withdrawl of patronage and lucrative offers from Hoyasala kings lured the artisans away to better prospects in modern parlance. Maybe if all the edifices were completed it would have surpassed the grandeur of Angkor wat. The artisans literally moved mountains to build the Kailashnath temple.

Ack :  ASI, Wiki, and other sources from Internet, Photo courtsey from Wiki

avinash

avinash
cannons ready to fire

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Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Basically i am down to earth, take friendship to its logical end. It is my endeavour to create a wealth of co-operative ventures. Basically being a marketing man i have the acumen to spot winners. I am privileged to travel the length and breadth of the country, courtsey my father, who was with Indianoil, my employers such as Nutrine, Kurl-on, Hindustan Pencils, Prestige, Crystal, Bell Ceramics, Pentel, Sezal, Commander. Currently i am involved in Tourism, Booking Air Tickets, Agent for Jungle Lodges and Resorts Limited and Taj Group of Hotels and a numerous hotels across India. Depending on the needs of a traveller i would recommend the destination and accommodation best suited to their budget. Humour takes me on. Let us have a win win situation for all. I love travelling for sake of adventure, photography and discovering the heritage. Life is a journey and let us enjoy our drive. Come share your travel experience on indiabackpacker.