A glimpse of the pete

Narrow, gully style, often crowded, the streets of the city market can be harrowing for a first timer in the city. The gutter filled roads -traffic choked with zig-zagging vehicles does not make things easier. Yet appearances are deceptive as I discovered today. The old streets in the city is full of surprises that peels off layer by layer as you go deeper in to its interiors.

The BVK Iyengar road is a mess- road repair, widening , busy traffic, bustling crowds  everything happening at once. But if you can take a moment to pause and look around, you will see its vivacity beneath the dusts. The murukku or the chakli stands apt for the kitchen, the fern filled green glass bottles for home decor, the colorful handcrafted door hangings, never before seen herbs and the common kitchen spices and out of the blue- some pretty blue and pink dolls sitting on the pavement. Sure takes your breath away at the myriad colors in the streets.

A slight turn, a twist here, a bend there and I reach Balepet. In the cacophony of stores- some selling bedding,bags jewelry, clothes etc you can sense something different here. And when you halt for a moment you discover that this street has some oldest musical instruments shops in the area. Mridangam,tabla,harmonium, acoustic guitar.. So famous is the street that even CV Raman, the famous Indian scientist was a frequent visitor here to buy the instruments.  Stop to chat at these stores and you realize that the owners are multi talented. They are musicians creating music,  performing shows in the city, training youngsters… And surprise, they craft the musical instruments and repair them too! A big salute for these few artisans left in this old part of the city.

A few moments later I reach the Tawakaal Mastan Saheb Dargah at Cottonpet. The dargah is that of a Sufi saint and was built around Hyder Ali’s time. I hesitate a bit here as I have never been inside a dargah before but I have heard a lot about it and so I enter in. Instantly I am at ease. No one stops me and I see plenty of devotees  inside the shrine. I see a mother carrying a small baby asking the Muzaveer for blessings, another devotee silently sitting head bowed seeking solace, yet another making a wish and tying a thread. There are locks hanging in the window railings- wishes that need to be fulfilled, dreams that need to become reality and most importantly health and spirit that needs to be reinvigorated . Raghu from On a Pedal later tells me that the Hazrath Tawakkal Baba is famous for curing ailments and giving hope. And that perhaps explains the devotees of all religions fervently praying here.

The City Market and its narrow lanes are famous for innumerable things- silks, imitation jewellery, computer parts, electronic items, stationary  to name a few. This is no surprise as pete boasts more than 40 % commercial activity in its premises. The communities living here are diverse as well. You see Marwaris, Muslims, Jains, Gujarathis, Tigalas, Devangas and more doing business here. They have their own blocks, places of worship, meeting grounds, festivals and fairs. And so the pete is always busy; busy teeming with tradesmen, artisans, weavers, salesman and hawkers. To get a glimpse of this interwoven yet diverse identities come join us on our walk Life in pete happening this month end.

–Usha

 

 

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The splendor of Navaratri

PC:By Arulraja 

Dasara always reminds me of my childhood. Dressed up in red green pattu Pavadai(or langa davani in Kannada) , me and my friends used to go to metu mami’s home to sing.
Metu mami was a tall thin lady, hair tied in a bun and drapped in a traditional silk saree. Her customary greeting as we crossed her Kolam filled threshold would be ‘Vango Vango’ to all us little ones.
For a few seconds we would be mesmerized, for mami always had a fascinating Kolu display during Dasara days.   There would be tier of steps all covered in white. The steps were always odd in number- sometimes 5, 7 and if mami had help 9. And each tier would have a different theme. There would be Siva-Parvati dolls in one step and scenes from Ramayana in the next. Sometimes mami would have arranged an entire row of goddess Durga in her various avatars. The tiers also boasted of Pattada Gombe- royal dolls of sandalwood symbolizing the King and Queen.

PC:By Bootervijay

For me the fascination lay at the bottom of the steps- a tiny little farm complete with a pond,a garden and animals.
Mami had explained to us the significance of this. ‘ Our Gombe display is incomplete without the pond and garden.October is the harvest time for pulses. So pulses like Chickpeas, Moong and even Ragi, mustard are sprouted,’ she used to say in her sing-song voice. And she had even showed us how to do it.
‘ Take some ragi seeds and immerse them in water. Then drain the water and allow it to sprout. You can then take these sprouts and sprinkle them in the mud. ‘
Today I know Navaratri is not just remembering the goddess but is also a way of saying thanks to the harvest.
After our starry eyes could take all that , mami would ask us to sit cross legged and sing bhajans. We prattled away the songs of gods and goddesses learnt at our music school and were rewarded with sundal at the end of our power packed performance. Sundal is a salad of sprouted channa bean blended with roasted spices and a sprinkling of fresh coconut. Yum’s the only word for it.Till date Sundal happens to be my go to comfort food.

The significance of Navaratri:

In May I happened to attend a friend’s wedding in Mysore. The bride was given lovely gifts by her mother and one of them was this Pattada Gombe set. It was a male-female pair dressed in red and gold zari, decked up with jewels. ‘ It is to help her start her Kolu arrangement during Navaratri at her new home,’ explained the bride’s mother when I questioned the bride as to why she needs a doll set during her wedding day. Perhaps it signifies compatibility for the new bride in her new household.  On an other note Kolu means royal presence. And the Mysore Dasara has always been a State ritual boasting of Wodeyar’s presence. So the Pattada Gombe could be the symbol of Kingship as well.

The tradition of Dasara goes back to Vijayanagara times where Navaratri was an elaborate nine day ritual complete with entertainment, battle scenes and sacrifices. It was a public gathering with the King beginning the festivities after offering prayers to the goddess at the Vijayanagara capital. The Navaratri also saw the exchange of gifts and good will by the lower ranking chieftains and officials to their king. And these festivities also gave the chiefs an opportunity to display their power and wealth. They used to come with their troop of elephants,horses and men.

Many of the sixteenth century rituals have been carried out in Mysore Dasara rituals as well. The procession, the worshiping of weapons, the battle between goddess and the demon Mahishasura etc. to name a few.

However Navaratri is not just about royal presence . Navaratri is the worship of the goddess Shakthi in her nine forms. It is the triumph of good over evil when goddess Durga defeats the demon Mahishasura. Be it the Durga Pooja of Bengal or the Navaratri Golu/Kolu/Bomme Habba down south the focus is on worshiping the different forms of Shakthi on different days and incorporating her qualities.

The book ‘Kingship and political practice in colonial India’ gives a different perspective to the festivities. It mentions that these festivities reinforced the belief in the public that both the king and the goddess were the true custodians protecting dharma and maintaining peace and prosperity in the State. Together they slew the demon Mahishasura.

Navaratri in the city:

Things have changed now, yet most of the rituals still remain. The temples especially in South India are decked up-the goddess is worshiped in her nine forms- Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. The temples become a cultural hub showcasing  dance performance, yakshaganas and song orchestras.

The city wears a festive look. Durga Pooja pandals, Dandiya nights not to mention the Golu dolls spring up in the city. And for a moment the city forgets its dust,traffic and pollution inviting Durga with open arms.

To get a peek a boo of the city during Navaratri join us on our two walks, Basavangudi and Military coming up this weekend.

 

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 & the 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 his 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 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 open 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