Of Poets and Nature

We were at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, one of the early homes of William Wordsworth, a poet known worldwide, amongst his other works, for ‘Daffodils. The Keswick lake nearby was what inspired him to write the poem.

I had taken my parents, who love poetry and nature, to Lake District & Dove Cottage tour of the famous man was on the list.

After the tour of the cottage, my father’s first reaction was that while there were many who visit this place, not many know the birthplace of Kuvempu, a brilliant 20th century poet back home who lived in a equally picturesque place in the Western Ghats.

IMG_20150829_124817_HDR.jpgA time when English was taught in all public schools, he became a Kannada Poet (ironically advised by an Irish poet to write in the native language). He was awarded the country’s highest literary honour, Jnanpith Award for his magnum opus ‘Ramayana Darshanam’ – a poetic version of Ramayana. Through his creativity, one gets to know the native language’s depth and vastness.

His poems strike a chord in our hearts and are part of every school child’s text book. His home in Tirthahalli is one of the most scenic places in Western Ghats.

However back then, I was taken aback by the remark, as I had never thought of it or visited the place. Years later, we made a point of visiting Puttalli, his hometown, where the huge ancestral home stands and is now converted into a museum.

Nature brings out the best in man I guess, as I have never seen such a perfect setting. His home is the land’s end beyond which the forest tales over. A bus driver nearby told me that peacocks come out in the evenings on the street, especially when the visitors are gone.

His home itself looks like a work of art. The laid back home offset with a huge garden is picturesque. The house has slanted tiled roof and is built in the traditional style with rooms all around and an unroofed centre with a pit that drains the rain water. The kitchen looks like a century old with traditional pots (madike) & copper utensils (patre) some of which have disappeared from our modern kitchen homes.

What I liked most however was the poems sung as songs as we entered the gallery that showcases his works. Poems like ‘O nanna chetana agu nee aniketana’ (O my soul, roam free, untethered) and ‘Bagilolu Kai Mugidu, Olage baa Yatrikane’ (Salute the home and come inside traveller), there were many others that were lovely to hear for the first time.

Clutching a few of his books that I bought there, I walked out hoping to get a glimpse of the shy peacocks on the street.

For those who cannot visit his home at Western Ghats, the flower show at Lalbagh, has his home as the theme this time.

-Poornima Dasharathi

(featured image by: manojsaldana.blogspot.com)

Reviving Bavadis as water source

Amazing isn’t it? Vijayapura  is turning towards its 500 year old ancient open wells to overcome water scarcity in the city. Taj Bavadi, Chand Bavadi- the wells of Vijayapura that were hitherto mere tourist destinations and were mushy, filled with garbage are now fulfilling their original purposes- that of providing water to this water scarce city. The city requires a mammoth 65 million litres per day.

Bavadis, vaav, pushkaranis, keres were some of the ways that ancient India dealt with water shortage. The dry, arid climates of Gujarat and Rajasthan led to the creations of step wells or vaavs. Similarly the  frequency of droughts led to water harvesting schemes like bavadis in Bijapur. While some were built in the memory of the beloved, some were just constructed by the rulers to replenish water sources and as a cool retreat. For instance the Rani ki Vaav at Patan, a 11th century vaav was built by queen Udaymati in memory of her husband Bhimdev. The fine architectural works on the columns, walls of the well has earned it the UNESCO world heritage tag.

CC:Bernad Gagnon

Similarly the 1549 Chand bavadi in Bijapur was built by Ali Adil Shah for his queen Chand Bibi while the biggest well Taj bavadi , a 1620 structure was built in honour of Taj Sultana- wife of Ibrahim Adil Shah.  The city of Vijayapura boasted about 1030 wells in 1830 out of which 700 were stepless.

The astonishing thing about these wells is that it served as water sources even during the harsh summer  months.  While bore wells have to be dug very deep say 200 feet or more , the water in these bavadis can be found around 50-60 feet. Not only that the presence of wells significantly improves the ground water levels. A win- win situation all around if the wells are kept in good condition.

But with the advent of water pumps and pipes supplying water to the city the bavadis are also in a state of neglect. While the Chand bavadi has become a dump yard, the Taj bavadi has become a dhobi ghat cum a place to wash vessels. The Mukhari Masjid bavadi near to a temple sees devotees throwing flowers, coconuts , shells in the well.  However things are slowly changing. The Taj bavadi, Chand bavadi along with a couple of others are getting revived. Silt and garbage are getting cleared to hold water. When the bavadis are revived it is estimated that it can satisfy 5 million litres per day water requirement.

Finally the city is waking up to its ancient heritage and water wisdom. Hope our city with its 300 keres too soon follows suit.

–Usha

 

A tryst with Modern Art

The other day at a prominent gallery, I came across a painting titled ‘ Shades’. One half of it was sketched in a dark color while the rest was painted a shade lighter. It was priced above 20000 Rs. And I idly wondered -I could have done such a painting too.  As I walked ahead, I stumbled upon a beautiful  Mysore styled painting of a goddess. The rich colors, deep hues,intricate brush strokes – each detail was depicted to perfection and managed to convey a deep sense of divinity. The gold and silver works on the artwork further accentuated this feeling.  I was stunned for a moment and I realized I was standing in front of a masterpiece. This is what I would call ‘true art’ was the feeling I came away with.

A painting at Chitrasanthe

However a few days later I had an interesting conversation with a hobby artist- a senior citizen who had been dabbling in art for years. And he changed my perception on art.

Modern Art – a new perception

“Modern art by itself may not invoke any form of awe. It might not inspire you with its beauty,richness or take your breathe away,” he said. “However if it makes you pause,ponder and invokes feelings, then the piece has done its job.” he explained further.

I went back to the gallery and looked at ‘Shades’ again. I noticed a series of dark lines slowly growing a shade lighter , thinner, finally attaining a lighter tone. The  painting that I had previously dismissed as a smear job now took on meaning. It was the artist’s way of conveying that each person had a dark side but with effort he could move towards his positive side. Did the artwork inspire me now? You bet, it did!

Modern Art defined:

Just to put things in context, art created during the period 1860-1960s is called Modern art. It does not stick to any boundaries, styles or themes. The art forms during this period tried to break free from the traditional art practices and tried to create something new. The goal was to build something original, to challenge the existing norms, to depict reality as is. Sometimes it made you uncomfortable striking you with questions that had  no answers.

artwork

Paintings by Saikat Chakraborty

Or the visuals may have a deep underlying social and political message. For instance the ‘White on White‘ abstract art form by Malevich ,a Russian painter. The painting was done during the  1918s  – one year after the Russian revolution. The abstract talks about hope, freedom, change, the birth of a new society. In a sense it takes you back to the Russian revolution and the society then.

So while the classic pieces like Mona Lisa and the paintings by Vincent Van Gogh can evoke a different sense of emotions, the Modern Art with its abstract paintings, Impressionism etc takes a different voice. So as a lay person it makes sense to see these master pieces in that light and not compare and think- just a painting by a con artist. It might just have a deeper meaning, you never know!

–Usha

Photo credit- Usha Hariprasad

 

 

 

 

Unhurried walk with Nestaway

We had a gala time last Sunday with Nestaway. Some 27 walkers joined us  on a Sultan Tour to understand Tipu Sultan-King Of Mysore a bit. The half a day tour encompassed cycling and walking through some beautiful hidden places of Bangalore.

tipu-summer-palace

After a brief stop over at the Summer Palace where the participants came to know the life and times about  the ruler, his ingenious warfare methods like the beloved Tipu’s rockets ,they then headed out to Tipu’s armoury at Kalasipalyam.  Tipu built ten armouries during his time, most of them at Srirangapatna. The one in the city is more than 200 years old. Pity it is not in a great shape. “People were playing cards here. The yesteryear ammunition dump has now become a garbage dump with plastics, bottles all thrown around,” said Arman a Nestie.

PC: On a Pedal

The next pitstop was at Siddapura Nursery where the green thumb of everyone became visible. After a refreshing hob -nob at the nursery, some came back armed with saplings to tend them at home. We then cycled back to Lalbagh.

PC: On a Pedal

A two hour unhurried walk at Lalbagh gave the walkers a glimpse of the times of Hyder and Tipu and their passion for horticulture. The once 40 acre garden due to the interests of these rulers and the vision of the British superintendents who came after them has today blossomed in to a 240 acre park with more than 1858 species of plants. While there was a sense of awe standing beneath the majestic Silk Cotton Tree, and amazement looking at the 400+ old Kempegowda’s watch tower, there were sniggers while passing by Rain tree, when the walkers understood how it got the name.

The walk was fruitful. The participants from all over India- Jammu,Allahabad,Kanpur,Nagpur,Kerala,Hyderabad etc got a glimpse of the Bangalore past. Mavalli Kere made them recollect the existing lakes in the city. When they realized that Bangalore hosted 262 lakes in 1960 and now it had dwindled to 34 lakes there was a sense of loss. Why was it called Pensioner’s paradise? What led to the unplanned growth in the city? These were some interesting questions that popped up after this.

After this action packed tour, we reached VV Puram Chat Street to fill ourselves. The yummy masala dosa,the spicy curd kodubale and sinfully wicked Gulkand ice cream more than made up for our tiredness.

If you would like to join in the fun then why not book a city walk with us?

–Usha

Mango and Jackfruit Mela at Lalbagh

Mangoes and Jack fruits have arrived at Lalbagh.

mango mela

The sheer range of varieties is mind boggling. Some I had heard of Mallika,Badami,Alphonso,Raspuri,Totapuri,Neelum to name a few. But the others -Lilly, Panchavarnam, Sendhura, Terpentine- never heard of them. So much of yellow and so much fragrance all around me. It was a sheer delight to the senses.

Quite a number of places in Karnataka grow mangoes. Kolar,Tumkur, Ramanagar,Mandya,Hassan to name a few. Good rains yield great mangoes as these fruits are essentially rain fed. Lack of water has been a concern for mango growth as well. ” Water has been insufficient and as we have 500 acres of farm near Kolar we have to call in tankers,” says a organic farmer from this district. She convinced me to buy a locally grown variety Sakkare Guthi.  It tastes like sugar was her argument.

Mangoes

There were numerous stalls. Farmers from Tumkur, Madugiri, Srinivaspura,Chintamani etc touted their wares proclaiming them organic and chemical free. The major varieties had huge demand especially the Alphonso and Bangaloreans tucked with Alphonso boxes was a common  sight.

Tumkur Mangoes

Near the glass house were the Jackfruit stalls. Chandra and Haladi Halasu(Jackfruit) were in high demand. The farmers I spoke to mentioned that the Chandra Halasu were slightly more in demand because of its red fleshed color. ” The taste of the common yellow variety is more. Yet the Chandra Halasu is the one people ask for as it is rare,” said a farmer from Doddaballapura. They are more expensive too.

Besides the Mango and Jackfruits there were pickles and chikki stalls too. The Mela is ongoing till the end of this month. So do visit and enjoy these summer fruits of the city.

–Usha

 

 

 

Mangalore styled Houses- Heritage that refuses to fade

All around me are skyscrapers. But I have hopes. I turn left and find myself on a narrow cobbled street with laterite stone bricked hedges and bougainvillea blooms. I walk down the street, find myself on a dead end and turn left again. More apartments, huge bungalows with manicured lawns greet me but I plunge on. Another dead end and lo just to my right I finally see it- a Mangalore tiled house nestled among coconut trees complete with a verandah, tiled roof and the red oxide flooring. The house is dilapidated, the clay tiles are broken, doors are in shambles but the house or what is left of it is still beautiful. The Tulsi in front of the home is thriving – no doubt some passerby continues to water this holy plant everyday.

 

Mangalore tiled roof 20071228

The house eerily  reminds me of my grandpa’s home now in the hands of a stranger who has plans to convert the place in to a seven storied apartment. Grandpa’s home was a delight surrounded by Jackfruit,Mango and Coconut trees and two wells. There was a spacious veranda- a pillared gallery with grilled windows and sit-outs  that opened out to them. I remember counting stars at night, swinging my legs out of these sit-outs.

The verandah led to a living room that had multiple doors. Each door led to a different room-bed room, storage but not the god’s room.The devarakone or the god’s room was at the center of the living room ,huge with miniature paintings of various gods and goddesses. There were various wooden boxes where my grandfather kept small deities and the sacred saligramas. Each morning the gods would be taken out of their boxes for the pooja and dutifully kept back -intact once the pooja would be over.

The kitchen  was huge, the ceiling above made of wood with plenty of storage space to stock food items . I remember the storage room above the ceiling. It was always noisy at night, squeaking, perhaps due to mice foraging for food . So there was no question of sneaking in to the kitchen for Jaggery or milk powder at nights. Who wanted a mouse accidentally falling down on their heads ?

The wooden panels, the clay tiles,  the verandah, grilled windows,laterite bricks, the lime plaster finish – these features kept the house refreshingly cool. It was a delight to sleep on the cold red oxide floors. They were cool to touch and provided the perfect setting for the afternoon slumber. The Mangalore tiles overhead kept the sun out. If there was a slit, we kids knew about it immediately. The dark rooms would be lit with a small shaft of light pouring in from these broken tiles.

Structures like these are slowly disappearing from Mangalore giving way to multi storied apartments. But Mangalore still has some of these- the government colleges, schools and libraries.  They don’t scream for attention like the skyscrapers but they can be found in nooks and corners still. Go near them and you will be lured by their old world charm and simplicity. For a few seconds at least you will leave behind the rush life and embrace the slowness that only a clay tiled home can offer.

–Usha

Lake to a stadium- Sampangi Lake’s journey

The sports stadium near Cubbon Park, Hudson Circle entrance is named as Kanteerava. Kanteerava was a soldier who challenged the greatest of wrestlers in the city of Mahamallapuram -Rajaraja Chola and defeated him. I admired this story and was rather proud of it as well- a common solider defeating a royal wrestler and Bangalore stadium remembering the deed and naming a sports stadium after him.

sampangi

Things however changed when I went to the Kanteerava Stadium Walk organized by Neralu with walk guide Hita Unnikrishnan. I learnt that the stadium was once a 35 acre beautiful lake boasting of trees, open spaces. It was a source of water for the British Cantonment of Bangalore and for the Pete(old city)residents of the city during the colonial period. The story of how a splendid lake that supported different communities- fishermen, brick-makers,horticulturists,agriculturist transformed in to a stadium is an unfortunate one.

Prior to 1870 the lake had Ragi and paddy fields, the north and south spaces boasted of gardens. Kalyanis(tanks) were all around the lake, full of water as they were continuously recharged from Sampangi kere. The lake was protected as both cantonment and pete were dependent on it. The water channels from the lake fed Miller tanks that fulfilled the water requirements of  cantonment. The lake had religious significance too for pete residents. The Vanhikula Kshatriya community of pete used the lake during their famous 9 day karaga festival. The lake deposits were used in the creation of the holy pot Karaga.

After 1896 the Hesarghatta reserviour started supplying water to the cantonment and so the dependency of the lake ceased. Things slowly started changing.  The wetlands started getting used for institutions, playgrounds etc. A brewery had already come up in the area where once lush paddy fields thrived. The British were interested in maintaining the aesthetics of the lake. So any kind of digging, pits, excavation without the government approval was not allowed. They also drained a part of lake and used it as polo grounds.

On the other hand horticulturists,landowners  depended on the waters petitioned to the government of Mysore saying that they were not getting enough water as the water channels were either closed or diverted. They wanted to deepen the channels. Due to a slew of buildings not to mention a brewery in the lake vicinity, the British Civil and Military Station were opposed to this. The discussions continued, yet at the end of 1935 the hitherto 35 acre lake had become a small tank. I assume that the tank was not fully closed and let out because the Karaga festival still needed the lake.

By 1949 the lake had transformed in to an indoor stadium. The farms and kalyanis had given way to slums and layouts. Many of the communities migrated- Hita showed us a cattle rearing community still existing near the lake vicinity.There is only one dried up kalyani now- it is now being used for martial arts training.

If I close my eyes I can sense how this traffic filled streets and the stadium might have looked way back in 1900 with a lake on one side, cubbon park at the other end. Full of open spaces, trees it would have been a micro ecosystem by itself. Sigh… I can only hear the noise of development now. Guess good things do not always last.

–Usha

 

References:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/Sampangi-Lake-From-a-thriving-lake-to-sports-arena-today/articleshow/51677090.cms