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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Talakadu ...... the city buried in sand

       Mysore beckoned us once again, this time with a different story, and we were soon on the way to land  of myths and tales .......About a three hours drive ,away from the hustle of the city of Bangalore,on the outskirts of Mysore ,lies this small desert like town of Talakadu.

    The road had been green so far  since we had taken  the deviation from the highway . Then the sign boards slowly started getting  visible . We were the first people to visit the place that day as we reached there at about 9 in the morning.We sighted a temple  close to the parking and  decided to visit it later. First a temple and then a pond in an enclosure ,we had not yet caught up with the barrenness of the place. But  a few metres of walk and we realised why Talakadu is said to have turned into a desert town.

       ..As you walk to the other temples all you can see around are sand dunes .Our feet sank into the sand as we walked The path to the other temples all within the radius of 1 km ,was covered with an asbestos sheet . ,The scene around us, I felt was quite  a mismatch ..sand dunes with eucalyptus and cashew nut trees !!!!!!


History and folklore

  Talakadu has since a long time attracted many tourists due to the folklore it is associated with.It is said that a vibrant city once existed at this place  ,as it was the capital of the Ganga dynasty.Power changed hands and Talakadu was ruled by the Cholas and the Hoysalas before it was taken over by the Vijaynagara kings .

     When the  minister  of the Vijaynagara  kings, Sri Ranga Raya  who was in charge of Srirangapatnam  fell ill the Wodeyars of Mysore established their stronghold over this place .Sri Ranga Rayas  wife ,Alamelamma possesed some jewellery which she did not wish to hand over to the Wodeyars .She was chased by the soldiers of the Wodeyars ..when she ultimately threw the jewellry into the river Cauvery and  jumped into the waters .As she gave up her life she laid three curses ..on this land .  The first one being "Let the land of Talakadu , which they wished to posses ,become a desert" .The second "Let the river Malangi become a whirlpool ."and the third "Let the Wodeyars remain heir less in every generation". Ironically ,the place got filled up with sand in due course of time ,the river Malangi has very strong currents flowing,  and the kings of Mysore bear a lineage of many adopted heirs.

     Our long walk had almost come to an end (walking through the sand made it appear longer than what it actually was.)We could see the tip of the shrine of a temple from a distance as the temple was excavated out of sand .The major part of the temple was below ground level.

 In fact this was the case with all the temples here,...the temples which were centuries old were all excavated out of the sand ,and were barred from getting buried once again with walls around them. The archaeological department  is doing a commendable job ,by making every effort to keep these temples from getting buried .Efforts of the afforestation department could be seen ,the place now has a good green covering ,even though they are  trees growing on sand.
There were five temples in all,each of which was a Shiva temple ,but the one which was the best in terms of craftsmanship and sculpture was the Vaidyanatheswara temple

The   Vaidyanatheswara temple

A stone chain carved out of a single stone at the Vaidyanatheswara temple

   The Vaidyesheswara temple was the one which had  mixed features  of the Ganga ,Hoysala ,and  Chola  dynasty and was the only temple which was not covered by sand.
All the five temples are Shiva temples that are excavated are in worship  and a  fair named Panchalinga Darshana takes place here every 12 years.It is said that there are nearly thirty more temples that lay buried in here

    No matter how appreciable the workmanship of the temples were, I could not keep myself away from the fascinating   folklore of this place. Researches had told that in the fourteenth century one of the ministers of the Vijaynagara kings had built a dam on the  river  flowing adjacently,thus changing the course of the river, consequently exposing the river bed .Over a period of time the strong winds have blown the sand to the neighboring bank,gradually burying the place under  metres of sand.
  Another theory says that a geological fault line runs across the Cauvery here.The east side of the river subsided resulting in a pool, which explains the whirlpool as cursed by the queen.So with these facts, myth takes a backseat and rationality wins.However the third curse by the queen could not be  explained and so the mystery of Talakadu remains unresolved.Though I heard the explanations and was convinced to a large extent ,but deep down, I still wanted to believe that the curses were responsible for Talakadu's fate.

      In a nutshell ,Talakadu is a place where one can visit temples , go for a coracle ride in the Cauvery and enjoy birdwatching,  ,gaze at the amazing craftsmanship of the people of the bygone era or simply stroll with your feet deep in the sand ,and listen to stories of an unrelenting widow ,whose cries still resonate among the sands of Talakadu

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Somnathapura Temple,Karnataka

     #temples in South India #Hoysalan architecture#Somnathpura#Incredible India#Karnataka#ancienttemple

   A general of the Hoysala king Narashima III, builds  a temple and  dedicates it to lord Krishna or Keshava in the  Mandya district of Karnataka. He does this  probably to prove the architectural deftness of the Hoysala period apart from the military prowess , which they were already so acclaimed for.And thus was created another masterpiece!!!!.The Kesava temple at Somnathpura (Somnatha Dandanayaka being the name of the general) is merely another example of the Hoysala architecture,....one of the many gems that are strewn all over the Deccan.

     It was my third visit to a Hoysala temple,the first two being the Chennakesava temple at Belur and the Hoysaleshwara temple at Hallebedu.if the other two were awe inspiring in terms of ornate carvings ,the Kesava temple at Somnathpur surely  did not fall behind.

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      We set out for our visit to this place early (at around 5 in the morning) to avoid the heavy traffic on the Mysore Bangalore highway,and took a deviation at Mandya .Mandya district  , the sugar capital of Karnataka,.greeted us with  sugarcane fields on the way.The drive to the temple after crossing the town of Mandya is beautifully pleasing.With the Cauvery meandering nearby and the land iirigated from the K.R.Sagar reservoir, it was lush green all the way.We crossed the many bridges on the Cauvery on our way ,since the river Cauvery splits into two here,forming the Cauvery and the Kabini.,and also forms huge meanders all its way.Whatever be the reason we enjoyed the drive.The day was little cloudy with intermittent drizzles,and a huge lake (the Malavalli lake) on the way made it all the more soothing.

      We had   an unique experience before reaching the temple There were many of these all along the road. Jaggery making is a cottage industry in this area.We actually stopped by to watch this process at one of those units.

Colonel Bailey's Dungeon,Srirangapatnam
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Mayura River View Hotel, Srirangapatnam.......the beautiful lung space near Bangalore
A walk in the HImalayan Village of Batseri,Sangla (Kinnaur visit)

And finally at the temple........

     The temple is a welcoming place to visit with well maintained lawns at the entrance. You can actually spend some quite moments there if the weather is good.

    The Hoysala rulers came from the Malnad region of Karnataka ,Malnad is  a hilly region between the Belgaun and the Coorg plateaus of Karnataka,and had gained prominence between the 11 th to the 14 th century. they are now remembered primarily for their architecture kept alive by the numerous temples built during that period  in the Deccan.

      That is the best capture I could get ,waiting for quite sometime for the crowd to disperse,but as you can see there were many people inside the temple still. The temple is no longer in use unlike the Chennakeshava temple ,the crowd inside were only busy clicking the inner walls which is equally intricate as the outer walls.The entire structure is carved out of soapstone like all other Hoysala temples

        According to the Hoysala architecture the very characteristic feature is the vimana or the tower which is  a blend of the North Indian shikara and the South Indian vimana style...and as a result is called the vesara  style of architechture . The picture above of the carvings on the outer wall of the temple reiterates the same where the shikara and the vimana styles are both carved side by side thereby stating that this is  a blend of the two forms of architecture.
    Another very important characteristic feature of the Hoysala architecture is the jagati or the elevated path made for circumambulation (pradakshina) around the main shrine. This was very prominent in the Somnathapura temple ,though it was quite noticeable in the Chennakeshava temple at Belur too. The jagati at the Somnathapura temple was beautifully star shaped,encompassing the  three garbagrihas.The picture below shows the temple from the western end ,or from behind ,as the temple faces east.

The picture above shows the three towers from behind the temple.

The carvings of mythological characters on the outer walls of the temple

Few of the many defaced statues as a result of the future invasions

The intricately sculpted walls with stories from the epics which I cannot resist sharing

           As already mentioned the inside of the temple was as elaborate as the exterior ,but  two things captured my attention inside .The first one being a small lamp carved out in a pillar , reminding us of the no electricity days  ,when evening prayers were held with probably these oil lamps lighted.The inside was pretty dark even in broad day light and all these clicks of the interior were taken with the  flash on .
The other interesting thing was the small carved figure with folded hands 
  on the floor at the entrance  ( I am still curious to know what that it stood for)

 The many carved facades on the roof inside each one having a different pattern

     Temples formed an integral part of life in those days ,where every ceremony in ones life revolved around it . Religion was the one of the very few forms of entertainment or recreation a few centuries ago . The huge courtyards tells the story of the number of people who gathered here very often..So one can well estimate the importance of temples then ,and that probably explains the time spent and the pain taken for these humongous works of art.

    The idol no longer exists,but this temple continues to lend an aura of grace which makes it stand apart from all other temples.  It does not cease to pull crowds ,history buffs or not alike.  

    Temples are not always visited out of religious pursuit,I silently reaffirmed this inference once I was on my way back from the  temple.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Colonel Bailey's Dungeon,Srirangapatnam

   A stone's throw away from Srirangapatnam railway station lies Colonel Bailey's Dungeon.This is perhaps the least noticed and least visited place of the many places of interest in Srirangapatnam.
     Srirangapatnam is an island formed by the Cauvery as the river bifurcates forming this island and again meets at Sangam. The entire place of Srirangapatnam is dotted with such monuments which speak about the life and struggles of the Tiger of Mysore and it also urges us to know more about our struggle for freedom.
   The small town of Srirangapatnam was once the capital city of the great Tipu ,and is also the place which witnessed the 4 Mysore wars.  It goes without saying that it was the  hub of many political activities in the 18 th century ,  many scars of which are still visible,at this place...Colonel Bailey's Dungeon is one such place which was used to keep  British prisoners of war captive during the four Mysore wars.

     Hyder Ali and then his son Tipu Sultan both  had tried to bar the British extend their empire to the south.It wasn't an easy task  though  ,as the British had already joined hands with the Nizams and the Maratha.
In the war of   Pollilur   , Colonel Bailey and his troops were defeated by Tipu ,and the British officer was held captive here till he breathed his last in 1782.  Later many more British high ranking officials were held captive here like   Captain Baird and Rulay and Colonel Sampson  and Frazer.

   The dungeon, as you can see in the picture above are built a few metres below the ground level ,this was probably so ,to keep it away from view and to make it easier for the sentries to keep watch over the prisoners.  Every effort was made to make the place completely inaccessible to any outsider ,as the stairs we used to go down to the dungeon also did not exist then ,it was made only for the convenience of the tourists. The  four stone slabs that can be seen at the distance on the wall were the  ones used to enter and leave this place

  Once inside, it looks like this with domed archways and walls on all sides. The clean interiors do not speak much of the morbid state it used to be in the past.This place used to be filled three fourth with water in those days ,with captives chained to the walls. It was only in the recent years that the place was cleaned up and painted before a visit by the President Sri Abdul Kalam Azad

That's my husband giving a demonstration of how the captives were chained to the stone blocks and dunked in water for hours 

The picture above shows the holes on the stone blocks through which the captives were chained to the walls. When observed closely ,the place is full of such small details  which substantiate the purpose of this place, that it is not difficult for one to get illusions of prisoners chained and tortured here during the wars.

  The most interesting thing inside the dungeon is the huge wrought iron canon lying right at the centre of it. There are many theories explaining its presence there ,according to some ,the canon rolled out of its place and fell through the roof while Tipu was waging a war against the British,while other theories explain that the canon was always kept there but during a bombardment a bomb fell straight through the roof and chipped off a portion of it .Very aptly, for both explanations the roof has an open portion just above it.

The mark left on the canon probably by the bomb

It is so said that the bomb was actually targeted at Tipu ,as the British had expected him to be here at that time ,but fortunately he was not  present in the dungeon.

The above picture shows an opening
 in one corner of the dungeon,which was later discovered as the entry to a secret tunnel connecting the dungeon to the palace. Secret tunnels have always fascinated me,and this one could not stop me from thinking that Tipu made surprise visits to this place through this tunnel.

And guess what is this ...probably the place in the wall which was used to fill the dungeon with water from the Cauvery ,at least that is how our guide put it.

The captives here were prisoners  of war and so security was very important,the openings on the walls above the dungeon to keep watch and to fire the canons from.

 The first picture above shows openings on the walls for firing bullets at any attackers but very interestingly   I got this  second picture when I placed the camera inside the hole.....it had three openings to shoot at different directions...hats off to the  military  ingenuity of those days.

 Kamru Fort ,Sangla(Kinnaur)....History along the Baspa valley
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Kalpa ..a complete guide to the mesmerizing hill station in the Kinnaur Valley
A walk in the HImalayan Village of Batseri,Sangla (Kinnaur visit)

 The dungeon was very strategically built,  the river Cauvery formed a natural moat behind the it .This river must have been more voluminous before the dams were built. The dungeon  which in itself was a small fortress was located inside the fort of the ruler ,needless to say the importance it had for the Sultan!
                Keeping Indian rulers and Sepoy captive by the British was a routine affair during the British rule,but a place built exclusively to keep  British prisoners of war  captive by  an Indian ruler somewhat induces  a sense of pride in us.
Tipu was well known for his valour and his military ingenuity   , his rockets had not failed to awe the British. The relatively simple  brick and mortar structure which we had just visited, actually stood in silent testimony to the same valour and the mettle that was so quintessential of Tipu Sultan.

Srirangapatnam is located about 14 kms from Mysore and 125 kms from Bangalore and lies on the Mysore Bangalore highway.It is very well connected by rail and road ,there are also buses plying regularly to Mysore from Bangalore.The dungeon lies very close to the railway station ,one can visit the Ranganatha Swamy temple ,which is only half a km from this place.The place where Tipu's body was found is also very well marked and lies very close to this place.  Srirangapatnam is generally visited from Mysore as a one day  trip, though there are very good boarding options here itself .We stayed at the KSTDC property ,Mayura River View about 2 kms away.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The ancestral home of the Tagores ......JORASANKO

     We walked from one room to another , in quick succession,eager to see more of the bits and pieces that made up the life of the great renaissance man ,who needs no introduction. We were at the Rabindra Bharati Museum in Kolkata,better known to the common man as the home of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, a place which saw him grow from a daydreaming child to the unparalleled stature he attained at a very early age.

                Photography is strictly prohibited inside the mansion ,but I must say that the look of it from outside was enough to keep me mesmerised.This mansion was made in the typical Bengali architectural style of the 19th century,and undoubtedly had an old world charm to it.

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   The house was known as the Thakur Bari...Thakur , as the surname Tagore goes in Bengali and Bari in Bengali means house.This place had been the nerve centre of the cultural renaissance of Bengal for over  a century and was frequented by the likes of Raja Ram Mohan Roy,Madan Mohan Malviya and many more. It was in 1961 that  the government of West Bengal converted this mansion  into a museum housing the memories of the great men of this family,and opened it to the public. 

Once inside, one gets to see  galleries where the works of Rabindranath Tagore,and articles associated with his life which has been preserved very well.  His works on art and literature,along with pieces of furniture and even clothing are all very well exhibited.I found it rather interesting to see an old fashioned kitchen used by Mrinalini Devi( Rabindranath Tagore's wife) at one end of the huge corridors.One can also get a glimpse of the rooms where Rabindranath Tagore was born and where he breathed his last, in this building.

      Walking down the airy ,pillared verandah or should I call them corridors ,I could not but feel privileged at the thought that it was somewhere here resting in those huge wooden chairs, the first Asian Nobel Laureate had penned down works like Dak Ghar or Chokher Bali ! One can see Lalbari,which in Bengali means the red house ,which is an auditorium where the plays written by members of the family were enacted and very often had famous dignitaries of those times as the audience.   

          Rabindranath Tagore  shared a lineage of very well learned men,scholars ,philosophers ,artists and even buisnessmen.His grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore was  a zamindar ,(a person who owns many estates),and was the first prominent resident of this mansion.His son Debendranath Tagore (Rabindranath Tagore's Father) was a very prominent religious and social reformer.who was instrumental in reviving the Brahmo Samaj after the death of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.He was one of the very first people to open the doors of higher education for women.This house therefore remained the centre for many important activities for a period of over three hundred years .Hence an entire  gallery is dedicated to Dwarkanath Tagore ,Debendranath Tagore,Abanindranath Tagore
( Rabindranath Tagore's nephew) and to other members of the Tagore family.

A separate gallery is dedicated to many other people who brought about the renaissance in Bengal during that period.

Rabindranath Tagore , is a name with which every child in Bengal grows up,and his works are synonymous to culture in the state ,even a century later   .A family which  gave birth to  such great men in every generation, only makes one wonder what made it happen.Though I do not know the answer,  I left this place with  deep admiration and reverence...for it was here that many reforming thoughts were first shaped.  Of the many ,women were encouraged to take up higher education,           all round development  with the help of co-curricular activities was stressed on in education,   and the method of rote learning was regarded with contempt for the first time. !!!!


OH!   Almost missed it ...the car used by  the family members,parked in a locked garage right beside the main entrance ,  seemingly in good condition  .(can anyone help me with the name of this
 model ?)

How to reach and other information
Jorasanko is about 2 kilometres from the Girish Park metro station of Kolkata ,and lies in the Dwarkanath Tagore Lane,M.G.Road Kolkata. Entry tickets are very nominally priced,and it is open on all days except Mondays(from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) A minimum of 3 to 4 hours should be set aside for a proper detailed visit to the place

Monday, 1 June 2015

Rohtang pass...a reason to revisit Manali

   Manali held promises for each one of us...for   my children ,the snow at Rohtang,for me it was the verdant landscapes and for my husband Ambar it was the fried trout,  fished  straight out of the river Beas  ...he has the capacity of hunting up non- vegetarian food at the queerest of places.
  As the car rode on the meandering roads ,Manali slowly receded from our view.The weather gods were benevolent on us ( the skies were clear).... we had experienced rainfall the night before. .We were on our way to the Rohtang La ,a pass in the Pir Panjal range of the inner Himalayas, which connects  Manali in the Kulu valley to Spiti  valley on the other side. The Rohtang La is a pass in the Leh Manali highway.,It was so difficult to pass through this pass due to its biting cold and strenuous terrain that name Rohtang  in the local language means a pile of corpses.

The river Beas on the way to Manali

    The sprawling green of the deodars around us slowly gave way to the barrenness of the mountains ,which soon turned white and whiter with each turn the car took in the winding roads.We wished to capture every moment through our lens but it was not a  good idea to halt in the mountain roads ,with so many vehicles passing every instant.So we had to satiate ourselves by clicking through the car glass.

  We had started quite early ,just after breakfast and the morning rays of the sun reflected on the snow on the mountain slopes.But we had heard that in the peak season it is visited by a large number of tourists at the break of dawn,.For this reason the traffic in the early hours moves slowly.,on these roads .Since we started at about nine in the morning ,we had a very smooth ride,both ways.

  All signs of habitation slowly faded from our view ,the only people other than the tourist vehicles were the people who had set up small shacks ,for renting out the outfits  for the snow.

 The mountains  no longer  seemed at a distance,and we suddenly found ourselves in a sea of ranges, each one mightier than the other.

And there we were at the top  ..the Rohtang Pass ...a road with two mountain  walls on either side,all covered in snow .The place looked somewhat like an uneven tableland to me.


 In Manali we stayed at the hotel Rohtang Manalasu,a HPTDC  property,and visited Rohtang the very next morning ,because  the weather seemed to be clear .We visited Rohtang in the same Indica we had hired from Shimla ,but one can easily visit it in buses or cars hired from Manali itself.. Information regarding vehicles and booking can be done from the many offices in Manali mall road.

One need not carry sweatshirts and warm clothing for Rohtang exclusively,as outfits and boots for the snow are easily available for hiring all along the way to Rohtang.While hiring them we must remember that haggling is a way of life in the mountains,so they can be got at half the quoted price.
 We had visited the place in the month of October,so there were no snowsports,but during season one can enjoy many snowsports and have a fun time there.