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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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 .


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.



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.


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.



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


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.



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.


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

AJANTA ABANDONED...... Legacy Lives

Prolouge :

A man continues to enjoy himself in paradise as long as long as his memory is green in this world “ declares the patron Harisena on cave 26 “ One should endeavour to build a memorial on the mountain ranges of Sayadhri that will endure for as long as the moon and sun shines

This is what Harisena along with his hired artisans along with the Buddhist monks strived in the Ajanta valley till 477 AD, when it was abandoned with a sudden loss of motivation beyond comprehension.

Our Trip to Ajanta :   One scorching summer in May 1998 we decided to venture out in a Tata Sumo on a circular trip to Trimbakeswar,  Nasik, Shirdi, Ahmednagar,  Paithan, Ajantha, Shani singnapur, Aurangabad,Ajanta, Ellora, Daulatabad,  Bhimashankar, Shivneri, Malshej, Vajreshwari and back to Dahisar on a five day trip.  Our halts were at the following places, Nasik, Paithan, Aurangabad,  Ellora & Bhimashankar.  Just check out the broad route map besides, you may get an idea of our trip undertaken. We missed out on Pilhotra Caves and did not climb the Shivneri caves completely.  Getting drenched in hot spring water at Vajreswari was like adding fuel to fire Lolz....thank god we escaped mishap and live to tell the story of Ajantha..


Why Ajanta was abandoned is a mystery explored by many a historians. The entire Ajanta complex was probably inhabited by Neolithic mankind prior to Buddhist monks discovering the safe den for their monastic living. They began construction of the famous 30 cave complex in early 2nd Century BC. For almost 350 years they were surveying the area and laying the basic foundation for a grandiose plan for building an edifice eulogizing Lord Buddha. In 450 AD in Harisena they found a willing sponsorer to trigger the building activity and completing the cave viharas and chaityas. The lovely mural paintings were completed using the locally available vegetable dyes and other binding materials such clay etc.

During the final years of Hiresena betrayal by his feudatories, who scorned the effort of building the now famous Ajanta caves because of dying influence of Buddhism. It was primarily because Buddhism was on the wane and it was leading to revival of Hinduism and beginning of Jainism. Harisena who was involved in building of the Ajanta caves seems to have been poisoned by his feudatory king Asamaka. Thus the entire workmen shifted from the Ajanta complex leaving the incomplete edifice and shifted to Ellora and other parts of the country. The persecution theory of Buddhist monks goes for a toss, and there was no moghul or islamic invasion of this region during that time fearing which an exodus has taken place. Another valid reason maybe there was an attempt to alter the Buddhist legacy evidenced in cave 15 A which may have prompted abandonment of the entire valley by the monks to preserve its heritage.

In 1819 AD John Smith, a british army officer on an hunting expedition trying to hunt a tiger, spotted in the area was lead by a young boy into the cliff opposite the Ajanta complex. Smith spotted Cave No 10 with a huge arch which ultimately lead to the discovery of the paradise lost to civilization for nearly 1400 years. This helped in conservation of the mural paintings which were earlier considered Frescos erroneously.


Ajanta is basically a tribute to Lord Buddha, ( 400 – 480 B C) who renounced his family life at the age of 29. and attained nirvana. Buddha discarded the yogic way of living to adopt a middle path. At a sexually active age he abandoned world pleasures and took to preaching the middlepath.

1. To refrain from taking life (non-violence towards all life forms)
2. To refrain from taking that which is not given (not committing theft)
3. To refrain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct
4. To refrain from lying (speaking truth always)
5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol)
6. To refrain from eating at the wrong time (only eat from sunrise to noon)
7. To refrain from dancing and playing music, wearing jewelry and cosmetics, attending shows and other   performances
8. To refrain from using high or luxurious seats and bedding

Location :

Ajanta is located 107 kms from Aurangabad. The nearest railway line is Bhusawal or Jalgaon, Aurangabad on Hyderabad route. There is an airport at Aurangabad connecting Mumbai and Poona. We approached by an unconvential route travelling through Nasik, Shirdhi, Bheemashankar, Ahmednagar, Paitan and landed in Ajanta on a summer day. The best time to visit Ajanta is during the monsoon without any doubt. One find the nature in blossom along with water falls and river bed flowing with water. Winter is the most preferred time to visit Ajanta in lieu of the cold climate.  The first time when we visited Ajanta was post rainy season the pictures we shot we so full of colours.

Historical Background :

In all 30 caves were excavated in a horse shoe valley. The valley houses a small stream known as waghora. Each and every cave was connected by flight of steps to this stream for monks and artisans to utilise for drinking and other daily chores. There are five caves which were Chaitagrihas ( 9, 10, 19, 26 & 29 ) and the rest of the caves are viharas. The caves can be divided into Hinyana period ( formless, when stupa was revered ) and Mahayana period which worshipped the statue of the Buddha.

All other caves were sponsored by the Vakatakas King Harisena and his ministers. The grandiocese plan to be associated with an edifice, during the contemporary Gupta period, enamoured the relatively unkown King in Indian History. Some even claim the rule of Vakataka as the golden age equvalent to Gupta period. The reign of Harisena ( 450 AD to 477 AD ) is subject of many conspiracies and blood bath after he got associated with construction. Nevertheless the work on completing the mamoth task was taken up earnest with artisans, sculptors, and painters imported from all parts of the country.

Varadeva, the minister of Harisena dedicated cave no 17 to the buddhist Sangha and cave no 16 too was dedicated by his son to the Buddhist cause. A description of Ajanta caves was furnished by Huien Tsang, who visited the country during the first half of the 7th century, even though he did not visit it personally because of its inaccessability due to the abadonment.

There is some trace of Rashtrakutas involvement in trying to revive Ajanta heritage during the the 8 and 9th century with statue of Buddha being installed and paintings with theme of Buddha as its epicentre. The main theme of the paintings are inspired from the jataka tales and different episodes from the lifestyle of Buddha. During this period contemporary lifestyle and geometric and floral patterns are explored on the ceilings.


Ajanta paintings were earlier claimed to be frescos but disproved by present day historians conclusively. Fresco painting involves usage of limestone and in wet condition painting. This is mural form of painting which involves elaborated preparation of smoothening the rocky surface and chiselling it with rough patches to embedd the layer of clay with granules of sand with rice husks, grass, cowdung to form a base or canvas for painting. The second coat of similar mixture was given to firmly embedd the foundation for the final painting. A small coat of limestone paint was given to create a canvass. An outline of the potrait was drawn using the peacock feathers and twigs. A rich blend of vegetable dyes were prepared from Mango bark, Indigo, Jamun, Saffron, Lamp black, etc was used to sketch the potrait associated with jataka tales. The chief bind agent in the form of glue from the sapodila tree was used to bind the colours in all its richness.

Black tar-like bitumen, incidentally, is a naturally occurring ‘thermoplastic polymer’, the ancient equivalent of Superglue may have been used as a base for binding the material on the rock surface. Sapodilla resin may well have been used in the mortar sticking together the great canvas, which was known in Aztec times too. No wonder the growth of sapodilla in the adjacent area testifies support to my theory.


Michelangelo, was originally commissioned to build the Pope's Tomb, which he slowly lost interest and got permission to paint the 12 apostles of Jesues. Later he modified the concept to include creation of Adam and Eve,Garden of Eden,Great Flood, Creation etc. He completed the paintings from 1508 to 1512 under the patronage of the Pope and with all the resources at his disposal.

Whereas the little known sculptors turned painters had to churn out the magnificient mural paintings under difficult light condition and work with crude and experimental binding material and natural vegetable dyes. The names of the artists have been buried in history without recognition. It took them almost 40 years to complete the series of paintings, with different themes on Jatakas with a semblence of eroticism creeping in later stages due to influence of Chalukyas and Rashtrakuta artisans. Only one alleged artisan Banoti's name is featuring in some epigraphs along with the King Harisena.


RS 10/- per adult for Indians and SAARC citizens.
Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head
(children up to 15 years free)

Basically a rectangular monastery with 14 cells with a verandah flanked by cell on each side. There is a statue of Buddha seated and preaching sermons to his disciples. There a number of mural paintings which are in various shades and hues, Padmapani and Vajrapani. There are no of scenes from the Jataka tales depicted on the façade of the cave. Photography is strictly prohibited with flash, one may have to pay penalty if caught using a flash. The paintings are datable to 3rd and 4TH century AD.


This extensively painted cave is also rectangular in shape. The paintings are datable to from 1st to 5 century. The Buddha statue is enshrined in preaching posture. There are two other sub cells containing two Yaksha figures ( Sankhanidhi & Padma ) The paintings record scenes from Jatakas, such as Sravasti, Ashtabava avalokitesvara and the dream of Maya.


It is an incomplete cave with only basic foundation plan laid and aborted due to structural non compatibility. Only the pillared verandah exists.


This is the largest monastery among the 25 other caves. It is a rectangular shaped monastery measuring 35 x27 sq meters size. The doorway is exquisitely carved and flanked with a statue of Buddha, the reliever of eight great perils. The cave paintings have vanished, traces of it can be noticed. This cave preserves a natural volcanic lava flow.


Once again an aborted cave, which reminds us of the unfinished agenda. There is a richly carved door frame with female yakshas on the pillars.


A double storeyed monastery containing a hall and various cells for monks to live. It contains Buddha in various postures and meditative mood. There are some mural paintings with temptation of Maya, Miracle of sarasvathi, and tales of Jatakas.


This is a medium sized rectangular monastery with a oblong hall. It contains Buddha in a preaching mode, with other sculptures of saraswathi and Buddha seated under the serpent hood.


It is an unfinished cave, located at the lower level. It is was designed as a monastery of medium size with major portion being swept away by landslide or floods too.


This cave dates back to 2nd century BC. It belongs to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism, with a stupa surrounded by 23 pillars which can be circambulated. The stupa is the object of worship.

There are two layers of mural paintings dating back to 1st century and later additions in 4th century. The stupa is finished in the form of wooden sculpting, with usage of wooden frames and beams. This prayer hall was used in later stages with image of Buddha being embedded on a later stage.


On a hunting expedition this magnificient cave lead to the ultimate re discovery by John Smith, in 1891 on a hunting expedition. Instead of hunting a tiger he unraveled one of the finest mystery of a hidden Buddhist legacy. It is one of the earliest chaityagriha dating back to 2nd century BC.

This cave consists of a open hall, with 39 pillars and a stupa at the end of the hall. This stupa served as the place of worship as per the hinayana tradition.

It contains mural paintings undertaken during the earlier times and later during 4th century AD. Two jataka tales are embedded in the mural paintings referring to Shama and chadanta period. The latter period paintings consists of Buddha in various moods and postures embedded on the pillars.


This medium sized monastery can be dated to fifth century AD. The hall contains six cells with a lengthy bench. Buddha on sermon mode is sculpted over an unfinished stupa. Few insignificant paintings of different Buddha postures are in faded condition…


This cave is datable to 2nd and 1 century BC. It is constructed and dedicated by a merchant Ghanam Dada to the Lord. This revealed by an inscription on the back wall of the cave. This may have prompted the king Hirasena to contribute his might in subsequent construction as a matter of prestige.


It is a small monastery without much adornment, the only unique feature is that the cells are provided with rock beds which were used for sleeping and rest.


This was built on top of cave 13 but remains unfinished. There was a grandiose plan with doorway being artistically sculpted. Due to withdrawl of royal patronage, the work has been abandoned.


This monastery is medium sized with a hall containing eight cells, an antechamber, with sanctum and pillared verandah. There are sculptures of Lord Buddha in various postures, including the Lord on a throne. There traces of original paintings which seems to have vanished with times.


This happens to be smallest of caves in the ajanta group. It has chaitya format, but later some vedic pattern is noticed. The front hall inscriptions seems to have been obliterated deliberate to suppress the controversial move to change legacy of the Buddhist pattern. This move to alter the buddhist legacy may have triggered the exodus of monks to preserve their heritage of Ajanta.


This cave work was commissioned by Varadeva who was minister in Vakataka Kingdom. ( 475 – 500 AD ) This cave is built as a monastery with 14 cells on 3 sides with a verandah. The sactum contains the image of Buddha.

Mural paintings depict themes from Jatakas, they are Hasti, Mahamagga, Maha-sutosoma, Maya’s dreams, Saraswathi’s miracle and conversion of Nanda. There are incriptions in praise of the King Hirasena.


According to the Bramhi inscription found on the temple, this cave was commissioned by a feudal king Upendragupta under King Hirasena. This cave is a treasure of paintings which is well preserved. One mural painting is of a giant wheel represent the wheel of Life or circle of Life. Flying Apsaras, Taming of a wild elephant and Buddha in sermon to a huge gathering of disciples. There are numerous other paintings illustrative two different period of jataka tales.


An insignificant cave, leading to another cell, the hall has two pillars with moulded base, which gives an impression of an unfinished agenda after the death of King Hirasena or probably during the Rashtrakuta period.


This chaityagriha can be traced to 5 th century. The stupa at the centre is sculpted with image of Lord Buddha in standing posture. The sculpting elegance and grandeur is exhibited with images of Yaksha on the archway. The hall contains paintings of the Lord in various style.


This cave was gifted by Upendra a merchant according to the inscriptions in the verandah. This cave does not have pillar unlike most of the caves. Image of the Lord accompanied by entrouge of attendants is important panel in this cave.


Traces of paintings can be noticed in this monastery cave depicting the Lord preaching a congregation. This cave contains twelve pillars and twelve cells. The Lord is sculpted in a preaching mode at the sanctum.


This unfinished monastery contains a hall with four unfinished cells, there is a narrow verandah. Lord Buddha is carved on the façade of hall. There are images of Buddha in different postures, and paintings display with Buddha and Maitreya.


Once again an unfinished monastery with a hall and sanctum. This cave contains pillars with verandah. The pillars are enriched with designs and door keepers image.


This cave is one of the second largest cave after cave no 4. It contains a hall with pillared verandah. The sanctum contains Buddha in meditative posture. The hall contains pillared verandah which are engraved and incomplete.


An unfinished cave with a hall and pillared verandah. The hall is devoid of any image or stupa. There are two cells on left side of the verandah.


This vihar is similar in construction to cave No 19. An inscription on the verandah refers to commissioning and gifting of this premise by Buddhabhadra, a friend of Bhavviraja, a minister from King Asmaka ( vidharbha) There is a rock stupa with image of Buddha. The aisles and side walls are carved with image of Buddha and one depiction contains the assault of Mara trying to disturb the penance of the Lord.


This cave was designed to be part of 26th cave with a dual storey. The upper storey has partially collapsed. This cave contains a hall with 4 cells. Buddha is teaching his disciples in the sanctum.


It an unfinished agenda with pillared verandah.


This is once again an unfinished vihara located between 20 and 21st cave in the preliminary stage of construction.

Some of the notable inscription s are :

“ Victorious is he who is known as Buddha, saint among saints, teacher among teachers, immortalized among mortals, the scholar among eminent, a store of marvels, one who attained enlightenment by abstinence from worldly pleasure


Victorious is the muni, who applied his mind to people welfare, and strove for it…accomplished …happiness.. who had realized the ultimate realization, who possessed all the three magnificent virtues, who knew no fear, whose compassion beamed forth as the very moonlight…..

Buddham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dhammam saranam gacchami
I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Conclusion :

Ajanta continued the tradition of religious enclave for pious group of monks, who chose the silent horse shoe valley which was conducive to further their learning and dedication to the Lord Buddha. The natural grottos sheltered them from heavy monsoon and sunshine. During the rainy season painting which started as a hobby, became a serious obsession painting religious motifs. Slowly it turned into a huge monastery hoisting over 200 monks and a temporary shelter became a permanent residence for these Buddhist monks.

The imported artisans responsible for the carvings of the basaltic rocks observed the structure and carefully chiseled the contours to form Pillars, Columns, beams, staircase, ceilings, carvings, image and sanctum, They kept the flow of the theme on Buddhist chaityagrihas and monasteries intact.

It is sad that suddenly after the demise of their royal patronage Hiresena and his tormentor Asmaka, Ajanta was abandoned like a ghost town in 477 AD. For a short period there was some resurrection activity under the Rashtrakuta emperors, but it was again aborted due to decline of Buddhism in general. Further the looming warfare among the kingdoms and shifting of the monks base from Ajanta triggered it to be a forgotton legacy, only to be discovered during a hunting expedition. One can relive it s golden age when there is full blown monsoon in the valley. Buddhist patronage has contributed to the rich legacy of architecture which is unparalleled in the world. The peaceful co-existence was forgotton by the kings of the times and middle path was disbanded.

The fine art of sculpting was experimented at Ajanta by the artisans was perfected @ Badami and Excelled @ Kailashnath temple, Ellora and Immortalised @ Pattadakal.

Acknowledgement :
ASI Chronicles, End of the golden age Walter M spink,Google search and original ideas from the author.
National Geographic Link with photographs and audio link by Benoy k Behl.  MTDC.


Thursday, November 13, 2008



Cochin is the colonial name for Kochi. It boasts of A world class port city, and International airport @ Angamalli, connected to almost all parts of the globe. The roads are better networked when compared to the capital, and being centrally located it is also known as gateway of Kerala. Ernakulam is the business district of Kochi, and practically Fort Kochi,Angamally, Cherai, Ernakulam all form a part of the greater Kochi. One should not be surprised by so many other names of the suburb township such as Alwaye, Parur, Nayarambalam, Edapally, Town, etc which all refer to the base town.

The genesus of the word Kochi is subject of speculation some claim since the chinese had trading connection with Kochi, it was named after their homeland away from China as KO CHI or the reverse of CHI KO which phoenetically sounds chinese. Another theory in malayalam lingo Kachi means harbour which is chritianed as Kochi.

Kochi Harbour :
Cranganore is the original port town of which was destroyed by massive flooding of Periyar river in 1340, most of the foreign travellers had connection with Kochi due to this old port town. Kochi became a part of the British empire in 1814 after the defeat of the Dutch and a new port town of Wellington was created. The magnificient remanents of the Dutch Fort point to the systematic destruction to accommodate the new British empire. Now it is part of the naval base, airport and command.

Kochi Fort :
The permission to build the first european Fort was given by ruler of Kochi to Portuguese around 1530 AD and the Fort built was known as Fort Emmaneul or Maneul Kotta in local lingo. The Dutch built their own Fort known as Fort Williams and they succeeded the Portuguese in occupying the town.

Trading : When Vasco de gama landed here he came primarily for trading of spices which was grown in plenty in these parts with virgin soil. Pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves are all standards of spice world over. They still hold a high brand value in world market. Foreign travellers, Fa-hien, Huen Tsang, Vasco-de-gama, & Nicolos Conti have sung praise for this land of spices. ‘ In china one makes money and in Kochi one ends up spending ‘ No wonder Gods own country is the place to splurge.


The entire backwaters and beach front around Kochi is filled with ancient heritage of Chinese fishing nets. The majority of these nets are found in Fort Kochi and Vypeen area. Apart from china, Kochi is the only area where these peculiar fishing practise is carried out. Most of the fishes trapped in these nets are curry mean, sardines and other smaller varities.


This church was originally built in 1503, which happens to be the oldest European church built by the Portuguese. Francisco De Almeida was permitted by the Raja to reconstruct the wooden church into a massive church with masonary. In 1516 the current church was completed and dedicated to Saint Anthony. Portuguese were catholics and Dutch were Protestants, when the Dutch took over the territory, they destroyed certain traces and converted the church into a govt one. Later it was handed over to british in 1814 and dedicated to St Francis. On this third visit Vasco de gama fell severly ill and died in 1524 and he was buried inside this church. His body was repatriated to Lisbon on popular request by the natives to honour such a great adventurer. The gravestone marking of Vasco’s burial is still retain for heritage purpose. A centoph is erected as a war memorial for those who died in World war 1 erected in 1920. Today the church is under the control of ASI but managed by CSI for masses. Majority of the artifacts seems to be placed in the museum obviously.


This palace was orginally built by Portuguese and handed over to the local Raja Veera Kerala Varm ( 1537-1565 ) in 1555. The Dutch carried out renovations in 1663 and from thereon the it became popular as Dutch Palace. In 1951, ASI took over and it was declared a protected monument and undertook full scale restoration to maintain the original flavour. Still some renovation work is scheduled to be complete in 2009.

This palace contains many artifacts collected by the dutch, gifts from the Rajas, and all finds in the area during their reign. Mural paintings in rich colours are in plenty, along with the Dutch army personnel and the Raja of times. Paintings on the first floor contain Krishna lifting Govardhan Hillock, Coronation of Rama, Lord Vishnu sleeping, Lakshmi seated on Lotus etc.

There are two temples on either side of this Mattancherry Palace one of Shiva and other of Vishnu.


This Jewish synagouge was built in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan, and it is known as Paradesi Synagouge. Paradesi typically means foreigner in Indian language. The Mattancherry palace temple and Synagouge share a common compound wall. The Malabari Jews were prosperous traders, who may have been directly competing with the Portuguese, which might have been the reason for their persecution. The original Synagouge was destroyed and the present one seems to have been rebuilt under Dutch Patronage. In 1968 the syngaouge celeberated 400th year anniversary and today it is almost 440 years old. Maybe a full scale celeberation in 2012 for completing 444 years is overdue. The unique feature of this synagouge is that it is filled with different types of chandeliers and chinese ceramic floors. Photographs are not allowed inside which is strange, maybe with special permission from the priestess, who seems to managing the show.


Wellington Island being one of the Biggest Hq of the Naval command in India has a magnificient museum dedicated to its seamen, who fought valiantly battles for the British and help to safe guard our huge 12000 km coastline from Dwarka to Calcutta. The Naval strategic importance is being enhanced with Sea Bird. This musuem contains various exhibits including shell of cruise missile, uniforms, helicopter, various types of ammunitions and guns. There is an auditorium showcasing the achievements of our Naval staff and seamen during a bitter war with Pakistan and liberation of Bangladesh. The navy played an important role even in rescue operations immediately after the boxer day Tsunami in 2004. I was given a brief of the naval history by one retired wartime seamen, that is how I came to know the importance of Cranganore, which many localities too are unaware of. In modern times it is known as Kodungallore, where the famous apostle St Thomas Anthony landed in 52 AD.


This is currently under the jurisdiction of KTDC, it is run as a heritage hotel with a tariff plan equavalent to a 5 star hotel . The tariff plan during season is 10 K and off season is 6 K children will be charged extra @ 10%. We were unable to see this place due to barricading for a private wedding party. A ferry from marine lines of Ernakulam, near the high court can take one across to Bolghatty Isle. The route by road is long tedious. This dutch palace was built in 1744 by a dutch trader. Later the palace was leased to the British in 1909 and served as their residency till 1947.

I am still to complete the series on Gods own country…maybe a trip or two I will be able to complete my dedication and travelouge. I am lucky to have a friend based in Kochi to guide me, which enables me to probe further into the hidden mysteries of the past.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Kerala is filled with Nature, Ayurvedic massages and Beaches. In a conservative land which is filled with strikes at the drop of the hat. One can never be sure when the market bandh is called, and many a times over frivilious reasons. No wonder, however mighty and influential industrialist, he would not stick out his neck to start an industry. Under such a circumstance Kerala’s economy is thriving on NRI income, Booming Real Estate, Retail including Jewellery and partially tourism.

Ayurvedic Massage :

The art of masseur seems to have been passed from generations and now perfected into a College or Vaidyashala. The root of ayurvedic treatment is obviously located @ Kottakal. One can find solace depending on their budget. Some of the treatments may be prohibitively expensive. Well I keep wondering how is the Bangkok massage different from kottakal one. Maybe the fingering technique is different. Lol.

Some of the well to do customers would not like to be seen in their own backyard getting a massage done. I knew a NRI and his family who preferred to get their massage done at Koramangala, Bangalore @ Rs 500/ per head. Even Gokula Ayush @ Ramiah hospital seems to have well developed facility. It is sad that they don’t have their own pharmacy, one has to depend on outside prompting me to send an email to their management.

The costliest treatment seems to be Piddichil in which can cost Rs 350 upwards plus the taila cost, inclusive can range from 800 to 1200 per day. This treatment involves dropping of the oil from a brass ware onto the forehead. Then soaking up the entire hair and body with oil. The logic of blocking up all the pores in the body and than steaming it does open up all the pores. One tends to sweat, and silently melt away the oil from the body. If one has a hot water bath it will drain all the traces of oil. Taking the course further one has to just mix cold and hot water bath to finally seal the effect of opening and closing the skin pores. It sounds practical solution, why not do the same at home some skeptics may question. No way I want to have great holiday to get it done professionally. Keep coming, we love you all says the masseur.

Nature may welcome many a visitors but men around are not very tourist friendly on the ground. In order to visit this picturesque state it is better to have a local guide, friend or an ethical travel agent. In fact I was surprised by the attitude of the local tourism KTDC personnel when I visited them. They were selling package to Munnar and Thekady at 5 k plus per day stating that it was American plan etc. When compared to KSTDC where the rental tariffs vary between Rs 100 for a dormitory Rs 264 for double room , Rs 1200 @ premium destination like Hampi, it is really dis heartening for any traveler to be let down by a Govt. Organisation. Of course for super luxury package of Golden chariot is available for foreigners and first class travelers at Rs 12 K per day. Basically the basket for tourism should vary from backpackers, budget, Middle class and First class travelers. Corporate clients of course get a bargain deal in terms of budget prices in view of their clout. Well the to my surprise when the man behind the counter told me that even foreigners do not much patronize their packages, except a select North Indian group, it was an eye opener.

Nevertheless if one is fond of nature and its beauty one does not mind getting his pocket pinched willfully. The duration of the program can be reduced according to the budget. Some the cuisine in kerala like currymeen,avial,duck fry,chilly beef, etc are delicacies along with puttu curry,iddiappam,malabar parotha etc.


Sri Padmanabha swamy temple renovation was undertaken by Marthanda Varma during his reign ( 1729 -1758 ). The original temple seems to have been built by the Chera rulers. Padmanabha swamy is an avatar of Lord Vishnu. The british govt. maintained the tradition of 21 gun salute during the British Raj times, which was abolished post independence.

The temple gopuram is seven tier and rises above 101 feet. There is small pond in front of the temple, which is usual tradition for most Hindu temples, wherein devotees used to wash their feet.

One cannot just enter this temple like a free bird. The male are subject to total transformation with dhoti, shawl etc. One is compelled to deposit their camera, cellphone, handbag, pant, shirt etc at the temple run security room. Depending on ones belongings one may get poorer by Rs 70. The funny justification given by staff is that many piligrims do not donate and this is a indirect way of ensuring collection for which they are proud. The temple can charge entry ticket and allow non hindus and followers to visit the temple, which may increase the collection rather than fleecing the Hindus in the name of tradition or indirect fund generation. Majority of the temples do not allow non-hindus, which is so tourist unfriendly.

The Lord Padmanabha or Vishnu is in reclining , sitting and standing posture. There are some traditions associated with these postures, and the procession of the Lord is taken out only in sitting posture. The main idol shows the Lord sleeping on the anantha or serpant. There are other deities such as Narasimha, Krishna, Ayyappa, Ganesh and Hanuman. There are 324 sculpted pillars. The entire verandah of the temple has different pillars embedded with postures of apsaras and menakas with full bust. These statues are wet with oil and other stains which are performed during some utsav.

There are number of mural paintings on the temple ceiling pertaining to Epic period of Ramayan and Mahabharat along with vedic times. Some of the paintings are still in good condition.

EAST FORT & Palace

The Eastern fort signifies the direction in which the enterance archway is built by the kings of Travancore. The palace is located within the premises. Outside the Fort an important bus terminus is located for buses plying to different parts of Kerala.

It was originally the residence of the Kings of Travancore. A number of artifacts, oil paintings, urns, portraits, gift items, household articles, etc are found in this museum palace. Majority of the royalty collections are stored in this museum. The kings later shifted their residence to more contemporary place in Kowdiar Palace.

The palace was built by Maharaja Swathi Tirunal Balarama Varma, the King of Travancore who was also a great poet, musician, social reformer and state man. This palace has wooden carvings in the traditional Travancore style. It is situated on the South East side of Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple

Apart from the architectural wonders, the premises conducts classical musical festivity during Jan and Feb months. The edifice is built in classical kerala style architecture, combining wood, high tiled roofs and red oxide polished floors etc.


The wonderful edifice was constructed combining Kerala, Italian, Moghul and Chinese style of architecture by the british chief architect Robert Chrisholm. The building with high roofing has natural air-condition which is pleasant even during summer months.

There are numerous bronze idols dating back to Chola, Chera, Pallava and Hoysala period. A number of ivory carvings, figures of kathkali dancers, a life size temple chariot, wooden model of palaces, coins and many historical collections are all stored in this museum. Majority are left over courtesy British benevolence.

The museum is named after the Lord Napier, Governor of Madras ( 1866-1872) in whose jurisdiction Travancore was falling. The Museum work began in 1855 and completed in 1880.


This art gallery contains maximum paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, who was a master artist, who wielded his brush to perfection. There are some paintings of Nicholas Reorich, Picasa and other famous artists of times. Some of the paintings of the kings and british general are 3 D which move as one cuts across the room. The head seems to literally follow.


One of the oldest established in 1857 as an annexure to the Napier Museum. The museum was originally set up for entertainment and re-locating trapped animals. Then it became a place for conservation of rare breed of animals and birds. In modern era Zoo has become a form of conservation of rare wild animals.

This zoo contains The Zoo has 75 different species of animals not only from India but from abroad also. It also has several species of animals and birds from Ethiopian and Australian Zoo geographic regions. The Lion tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Indian Rhino, Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopord are prominent among the indigenous endangered fauna. Giraffe, Hippos, Zebra, Cape Buffalo are the guests from African region.


The beach must have been a favourite visiting spots of the Maharaja of Travancore. Sea Loving Britishers discovered it as an entertaining place for swimming and spending some lovely moments with their family members in the 1930’s. In the 70’s the hippies swarmed this beach for a free run. They were captivated with the locale and freedom. It became popular as the first nude beach in India, alleged to popular as Topless beach with no invasion of privacy. Now it is banned, but it is still favourite for bikni parade and sun-tanning. The ayurvedic parlours are in plenty in and around the beach. The sand is partially black in nature due to presence of ilemenite and thorazite, which are used in pigmentation. Don t be surprised if you are bitten by mosquitos on the beach, so please carry mosquito lotion or spray to protect oneself in the evenings.

Update :  5000 crores treasure found at Padmanabhaswamy temple trivandrum according to press report in deccan herald dated 1/7/2011

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kanyakumari touring around

Bhagavathi ammal Temple

According to a legend, Banasura, the king of Demons, sought a boon from Lord Shiva that he could be vanquished only by a virgin. The Devas invoked Goddess Parashakti too redeem them, Unable to bear the harassment of the Asura king. Shakti came to kanyakumari as a virgin girl and did penance on the shores.

Lord Shiva of Suchindrum wished to marry the Goddess, and the wedding was fixed for an auspicious hour before dawn. Narada, realising that the marriage will spoil the end of Banasura, falsely heralded the break of dawn by assuming the form of a cock, even as the wedding party was on its way to kanyakumari. The Divine wedding did not take place, since the auspicious moment had bypassed. Lord Shiva returned to Suchindrum disappointed. The Devi also resumed her penance on the rock, now known as Sripadaparai, a few hundred metres offshore.

Meanwhile, Banasura heard about the beauty of the girl and came to request Her hand in marriage. When Devi rejected the idea, the demon king decided to win her by force. This led to a fierce battle, in which the Goddess killed the demon. The relieved Devas returned blessed the Devi and turned her into goddess Bhagavathi Ammal. The temple seems to have been erected during the Pandyan times.

The Sripadaparai is now known as Swami Vivekananda Rock, where the holy feet of the Goddess is enshrined.The tradition here is to take a holy dip at the bathing ghat at the confluence of the three seas. There are about 25 Theerthams on the shores.


In honour of our dear father of the nation a memorial was set up at Kanyakumari in 1956. Mahatma Gandhi’s ash was immersed in the sea @ Kanyakumari in 1948. An urn containing the ashes of the Mahatma is kept in this memorial for the public to pay homage. The monument is exactly designed to receive the sunshine through the roof on 2nd OCT miday on the memorial urn.

Enterance to this monument is free and it is open from 7 am to 7 pm daily.

The philosopher wrote Thirukkural which is published in three portions, the first book is known as aram ( the way or dharma ) the second one on porul ( which meant materialistic world or artha ) and last is inbam ( love or kama ). Thiruvalluvar has been recognized as the greatest poet and philosopher of TN.
The Mahatma commented on Thirukkural “ I wanted to learn Tamil, only to enable me to study Valluvars Thirukkural through his mother tongue itself…….only a few of us know the name of Thiruvalluvar. There is no one who has given such treasure of wisdom like him. It is a text-book of indispensable authority on moral life. The maxims of Valluvar has touched my soul."

A memorial statue has been constructed adjescent to the Vivekanada memorial. Thirvalluvar stands 95 feet tall and the pedestal is around 38 feet an overall height of 133 feet above the sea level, stands taller than the Vivekananda Memorial for obvious reason being son of the soil. The entire Thirukkural has been etched on the walls of the memorial leading to the Thiruvalluvars statue on the roof. There are 140 easy paced steps to climb to reach the footsteps of the great poet.

The chief sculptor of this edifice is Dr Ganapathi V Sthapathi, the vital statistics of this memorial can be brief summarized as follows :

Height of the statue : 95 feet

Weight of the statue : 2000 tonnes

Total gross weight : 7000 tonnes

Total steps one way : 70 steps

Chief Sculptor : Dr Ganapathi V Sthapathi.

Year of Inaugration : First January 2000

Kamaraj memorial & exhibition :

This memorial is dedicated to the great freedom fighter from TN. He was former chief minister of TN and President of the un-divided congress. He was popular as the Black Gandhi among the mass, and considered to be a king maker in the congress hierarchy. There are numerous black and white pictures of Kamaraj in this memorial. One of them is with his protégé MGR and another shows him wielding a cricket bat. He is shown along with Gandhi family moving to various constituency. His ashes are kept in the urn after immersion, which the public pay their homage even today from TN.

OPEN : 7 am to 7 pm Enterance Free

Wandering Monk Memorial

This memorial is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. The life history of Swamis various achievement and his life style has been exposed in this exhibition. It is situated close the main town circle, wherein the free bus shuttles from the ashram to city at half an hour interval. Enterance fee is nominal, no photography is allowed inside.

Baywatch and Wax Museum :

It is a wholesome powerpacked entertainment park for an entire family. There are many fun loaded rides such as Sky cab, Bumping car, Columbus,Milky way, Giant wheel, Crazy chairs and kids pool are worth mentioning. India’s first wax museum on the lines of Madam Tussauds London has been established here.

Government Museum :

The government Museum is situated on the Beach road. There is a number of collection of artifacts from South Indian temples. This is one of the must see place in Kanyakumari. There is a lighthouse situated on the opposite side.

Holiday : Friday and Second Saturday : Fee : adult Rs 5 children Rs 3 and foreigner Rs 100.

Gunghanathaswamy Temple :

This temple is built by the king Raja Raja chola almost 900 years ago. The inscriptions point out to different periods in 1038, 1045 and 1048 AD. This temple is located close to the railway station.

Vattakottai FORT

This magnificient circular Fort is situated 7 km away from Kanyakumari. The Fort was built by Marthanda varma and strengthened by Dutch General De Lannoy during the reign of Marthandavarma ( 1729-58). The Fort has been landscaped beautifully by the ASI. A tunnel connecting to the palace of Padmanabhapuram was supposed to have been built for the royal to move around with maximum safety. However this has been closed due to vandalism. There is an emblem of the fish which obviously points to Pandyan Kings suzerenity over this Fort. One can have a beautiful view of the beach and a lighthouse in a distance. Cannons were place on the slots of the wall surrounding the Fort, which have been removed. Overall the Fort is so well maintained that it serves as a picnic spot for visitors. One more Fort nearby seems to have been destroyed by the British colonel Lee in 1806

Udaygiri Fort :

The Fort has been re-built during the reign of Marthandavarman of the Venad dynasty during 1741-44. Once again the Dutch general De Lannoy was commissioned to build the Fort. There is a memorial of De Lannoy situated in this Fort. Being a bio-diversity area, there are some deers, birds and animals in the zoological park developed. It has a neat Tank right in the centre. If one walks across one comes to a rocky hill, which can be used for trekking there is supposed to be a temple on the top. But we aborted the attempt for paucity of time


An elegant palace built with brick and mortar, along with liberal use of teak wood and brick tiles for roofing has been constructed by Marthanda Varma in 1744 AD after demolishing the mud Kaikulam Palace. The Kaikulam Fort and Palace was renamed Padmanabapuram palace as a dedication to Lord Padmanabha.

The Travancore Royal family followed matrilineal system of succession. The kings were succeeded by their sisters son. The old Princely state of Travancore was developed from the ancient kingdom of Venad which occupied western portion of Indian Peninsula. This kingdom formed as descendants of the ancient Chera Kings, whose celeberated capital is now known as Kodungalloor.


The entrance to the main edifice is controlled by another ornamental gateway with retainers for watch and ward. The gabled entrance has wooden ceiling profusely ornamented with lotus medallions. The most striking feature of the entrance is the clock-tower which is one of the oldest in India erected in 1832 A.D. and still continues to be in working order. The clocks chiming is heard around the surroundings as far 3 km in the night time.

The first floor the Poomuham has a council chamber or Mantrasala which is meant for holding discussions with ministers and prominent citizens. The floor off this hall, which is polished with the admixture of coconut shell ashes, eggs fermented in molasses and lime reflects the figure like a mirror. Next to the Mantrasala is the Dancing Hall which was used exclusively for the members of the royal family.

Adjacent to the Council Chamber and to the south of dancing hall is the dinning hall called “Uttupura”, with two floors (the ground and the first) each measuring roughly 78 by 6 metres and it would accommodate about 2000 people at a time. Feeding of about 2000 poor persons, it is said, was done here every day and so the king was called ”Dharmaraja”.

The most attractive building in the whole palace is the ‘Uppirika Malika’ which consists of three storied. ‘Uppirika’ is the abbreviated term of ‘Muppirika’ which means the residence of the eldest member of the family. A wooden cot is erected on the top most floor in the belief that “Lord Vishnu” the chief deity. The first floor contains a wooden cot made of 64 medicinal plants, on which Maharaja used to sleep. The medicinal cot was presented to Maharaja “Marthanda Varma” by the Dutch East India Company in 1750, as a mark of friendship. Entry to the second and third floor is not allowed due to structural weakness. Certain artifacts are alleged to have been stored here. All the staircases are wooden.

To the west of the Zuppirika Mandapa is the Navarathri Mandapa which is a spacious hall of exquisitely beautiful granite pillars with drooping pendants reminiscent of the Nayakar style of architecture. In the Navarathri Mandapa, performances of Bharatha Natya and musical recitals took place in the royal presence.

Famous Kings of Travancore ( Venad )

1. Ayyanatikal Thiruvatikal 840 – 860 AD

2. Ravi Varma Kulasekharan 1282 – 1314AD

3. Udaya Marthanda Varma 1578 – 1592AD

4. Marthanda Varma 1729 – 1758AD

5. Raja Ravi Varma ( painter ) 1848 – 1906AD

Currently the Palace is maintained and managed jointly by the Government of Kerala and TN under the administrative control of Govt of Kerala, being located in TN. Padmanabapuram palace is both beautiful and function designed to suit the humid weather conditions prevailing with high roofs. The building is always cool and quiet from inside. Most of the material used were domestic such as Laterite stones, Teak wood, burnt bricks, granite and Lime. The shiny black polish on the floor was created from a combo of charcoal produced from coconut shell, lime, white from egg and various other vegetable extracts. In order to preserve the polish visitors are not allowed to wear shoe or slippers inside the palace.

The rooms on the ground level was mainly used for storage. On the first floor the main dwelling for the kings were prevalent. The bathrooms had sewage connection passing through concealed channels. Lighting of the palace during the night was provided by Lamps.

There are temples in the court yard of the palace, they are Ramaswamy temple, Subramanya and Sarasvathy temple. Ancient painting, Wooden cots and chars, along with visitors durbar, etc are beautifully erected. The ventilation is of high class.

A museum is also constructed by the ASI in keeping with the splendour architecture of the palace housing various artifacts.


Entry Fee Rs 25 for Adult & Rs.10 for Children.

Fees for Foreigners : Adult Rs 200 & Children Rs 50

Video and Camera Fee are Rs 1500 & Rs 25 Respectively

Separate fee for Car parking

Closed : Mondays

Mathoor Hanging Bridge :

This hanging bridge is the largest and tallest trough bridge in Asia. It is spread over 1 km in length with a width of 7 feet. It was constructed in 1966 under the instruction of Kamaraj, for bring succour to the people of the district. The bridge is constructed across the river bed of periyar. The water is transported in the canal over the bridge from one side of the hillock to the other side. A small childrens park and bathing platform is put up below the bridge. It is one of the tourist places.

Tirparappu Water falls :

This water falls is located 13 km away from Pechiparai dam. The water falls from a height of 50 feet, and the force of the fall can be tremendous. There are separate enclosures for men, women and children for bathing. There is a old Shiva temple with strong fortifications, but may be closed between 1 and 5 due to absence of the priest. This temple seems to built during the period of Cheras.

The lord after destroying the demon of dhaksin took the form of Veerabhadra and resided here. Veerabhadra is one of the fierce form of Lord Shiva. This temple is one of the shivalaya temples. There are many old inscriptions in this temple including the one of the pandiya king dated ninth century.


The celebrated St.Xavier visited the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu from Goa, he never missed the opportunity of visiting Kottar in Kanniyakumari district which was a celebrated commercial centre at that time. During his stay at Kottar, he used to worship St. Mary in the small temple. He was popularly known as “Valiya Pandaram” among the people of Kottar. While he was at Kottar, he averted the invasion of Padagas on the people of Venad which was appreciated by the king, who became closer to the Priest. In recognition of Xavier’s services, the king allotted a land to him for the purpose of constructing a catholic church at Kottar. There was already a church in 1544 in the same place, where the St. Xavier’s church stands now.

The church records show that the church was built in the year 1600 A.D. In the year 1865, the Church was enlarged and the shrine of our lady was also renovated and vaulted over. In 1930, the church was raised to the status of a Cathedral.

In 1942, in commemoration of the fourth centenary of the arrival of St.Xavier in India, a beautiful tower to the saint, a grotto to Out Blessed Mother and a small shrine to St. Ignatius who sent him to India were constructed in the Cathedral premises. In 1955, the church was further extended and the chapel of Our Lady was incorporated into the enlarged church.

The Church of St. Xavier enjoys a great fame as a place of miracles from early times. The annual festival is celebrated during the month of November – December lasting for 10 days.


There is a durgha named ‘Peer Mohamed Oliyullah Durgha’ at Thuckalay named after the great philosopher Mohamed Appa, who was born in Tenkasi of Tirunelveli District. After spending sometime in spiritual pursuits in Peermedu of Kerala State he came and stayed at Thuckalay. Being a Tamil poet of great eminence, he wrote many books on philosophy. He had intimate relationship with the Kings of Chera dynasty. It is said that he laid foundation stone for the Padmanabhapuram Granite Fort.

The Anniversary of the great philosopher poet is celebrated every year on a grand scale on the full moon day in the month of Rajap. Both the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu attend the celebrations on large numbers irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.


Chitharal is a small village situated at a distance of 7 Kms., from Marthandam and 45 Kms, from Kanyakumari. The village is accessible by road from Kuzhithurai on NH47 via Arumanai, a distance of about 12 kms. From Chitaral junction there is a cartable road (2 km) running upto the foot of the hill. A trekking path 2 to 3 m wide, winding up to a distance of half a kilometer lands the visitor at the cave temple entry point.

It is famous for the Rock-cut temple. Hillock at Chitharal has a cave containing Rock-cut sculptures of Thirthankaras and attendent deities carved inside and outside dating back to 9th Century A.D. It was converted into Bhagavathy Temple in the 13th Century A.D. Cars and Vans can go upto the foot of the hill. One has to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the temple. The Jain images have been preserved Central Archeological Survey of India


The famous beach at Muttom is located about 16 kms from Nagercoil and 32 kms from Kanyakumari. Muttom is famous for its beautiful landscaping and high rocks dipping into the sea at the beach-side. The sun set view point at Muttom is one of the most Panoramic view points in the district. Another attraction of Muttom is the century old light-house built by the British. However so far this beautiful beach has always been unsafe for the tourists since the rocks on which tourists go to see the sea view are slippery and a number of fatal accidents have occurred over the past few years. The district administration, decided to put protective stainless steel fencing across the entire dangerous areas and also to put up small open huts at the rock tops for the tourists to sit and watch the massive sea waves leisurely with protection from sun and rain. The fencing work and the small huts have already been completed to the delight of the tourists who mob the beach in hundreds during week ends. Sitting benches have also been constructed in a circle for the elders to chit-chat, relax and enjoy the sun set. Seeing the response of the tourists, the district administration has sanctioned for the construction of a toilet complex, a small shopping complex and a children's park at a cost of Rs.11.60 lakhs and there are plans to undertake sculpture - works across the rocks to add to the ambience of the area.

ACK : Kanyakumari website, Google search, Research articles


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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.