Of Forts and Defenses- a Photo Story

Kalasipalyam -a place busting with people, traffic, not to forget cows! Not an inch of space at this crowded site, yet bang in the middle there is silence. A silence that astonishes you, for you don’t expect to find it in this cacophony. Yet it is there, thanks to the strong stone fort 500 years or older standing here. You enter the fort, pass the huge wooden gate and lo- a sense of calm descends. The thick walls of the fort reflect the outside sound – only silence and an inherent sense of peace greets you inside.

From ancient times forts have been defensive structures protecting the city and its inhabitants. The kings used it to mark boundaries, protect treasury, royal family; the powerful zamindars used it for protecting their property … They served as excellent places to hide as well.  It was difficult to enter these premises- the surrounding moat, ditch or bush of thorns around fort making things tougher for such attacks.

There were different categories of forts. The one at Kalasipalyam and the interconnected fort for the old city or Pete was a city fortress surrounded by a moat and had thorny bushes all around it making the city invincible. It was a mud fort before transforming in to a stone fort, complete with bastions after Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan came in to power.

But not all forts were built like this. At Savandurga, Nandi hills,Shivganage outside the city –the forts were parvat durg or giri durgs.

The forts were located on high hills- the boulders, the rocky outcrop making things tougher.

Battlements, bastions, loop-holes were other strategies to make the fort invulnerable. Even today the walls, bastions and towers remain on the durg perhaps telling the stories of sieges and battles. A trek at Savandurg or Shivgange makes you aware of this. The slopes, the steep ascents, the bastions at regular intervals- makes you aware of the planning gone behind building such forts.

Srirangapatna –the harbour of Tipu was an excellent Nadi-Durga/Jal durg. The city was on an island surrounded on all sides by Kaveri.

And during monsoons when the river was in full, the fort would become impregnable. Natural and artificial defence strategies were effectively used here as well.

There were other fort types as well- dhanva durg, vana durg, nara durg etc. While dhanva durg was protected by desert, vana durg was surrounded by forests, nara durg by strong men etc.

The toppling of fort was not just victory to the enemies or the replenishment of supplies. It also meant breaking the morale of the enemy camp. The capture of Bangalore fort by the British was a blow to Tipu’s army. Most of the forts came in to the hands of the English after this decisive victory.

Today what remains of this oval fort that once protected the palace, armoury, treasury etc. is just two and a half bastions and a gateway. But it does its job- retelling history effectively.

–Usha

 

Advertisements

CITY HERITAGE – or the lack of it?

 

IMG_20150314_095449

Telugu Church Office, Richards Town

(Image Courtesy: Poornima Dasharathi)

Bengalureans are usually surprised when I say the city is very old, at least a thousand years old! Many continents and countries weren’t yet discovered when our city was a big bustling place!

So why do we think Bangalore isn’t old ? The answer is usually ‘the lack of heritage structures’.

Heritage Law

Many countries have a robust heritage law for both public & private buildings. These include

  • proper identification, planning and conservation of structures
  • interaction & encouragement to private owners through tax reliefs, higher property value and certain structural change restrictions.

I was also told that in some places in London, there’s a law that certain city views cannot be altered!

In the News

Two recent events by individuals or organisations have raised this fact.

One is a fellow heritage enthusiast, Udaya Kumar’s research on Inscription stones & his experiences of the process – the interaction with the locals and their pride when they came to know its significance.

The other is heritage building demolition inside Lalbagh by the Horticulture department as it was ‘beyond repair’ and heritage organisations & Individuals’ protest.

While this is just one known demolition compared to several others that have gone or will go unnoticed in & around the city.

Since the last decade, many public & private structures have gone down drastically. Here’s some statistics by INTACH (a heritage awareness organisation), Bangalore.

Those who do raise our voice for heritage awareness feign helplessness when our own heritage homes are demolished to create a plush suite of flats or worse still sold to be used as a commercial structure!

Problems & Solutions

So what is the solution? It’s a very complex answer. Here are some  points and observations through various discussions with travellers, experts, civic planners, fellow bangaloreans on problems & solutions to preserve heritage structures.

  • The government has to create awareness of heritage and preserving old buildings to the common man. For example, how old is ‘heritage’? Is a 100 year old building heritage while a 90 year old one is not?
  • It has to create a robust heritage bill – however ‘no government will to create one due to rising real estate prices in Urban cities’ is the opinion of many.
  • With public structures, money is not an issue as government funds are surplus. Usually it’s just ignorance or just flippant attitude to an ‘old building’.
  • Instead of tax reliefs and subsidizing the cost of maintaining a heritage home, most private ancestral home owners also have the burden of a huge property tax. Some preserve for the love of it while many demolish it for an easier to maintain home with modern facilities.

(I personally know many owners who complain that the walls ‘just give away’!)

  • Joint families going nuclear and shared ownership also results in division and demolition of properties.
  • The lure of real estate value for both middle class and upper class families is one of the biggest reasons for private buildings going down.

Awareness is the first step I feel. Awareness and the will to maintain goes a long way. Ours is an old city, an important city, let’s preserve it. That will be a real tribute to Kempegowda!

 

 

Unraveling the secrets of Srirangapatna – Photo Story

This weekend Unhurried had a fun bike trip with TVS group of Mysore.  The City trails event organized by Sona Motors, TVS and Autosense India, for their customers was a fun filled episode to unearth Srirangapatna’s history and and discover many of its untold stories. Unhurried along with On a Pedal  team went about organizing this in quite an innovative way.

Unlimited masti, fun quiz and a gripping treasure hunt followed by a sumptuous lunch were the highlights of the day. Here is an overview.

23 participants assembled at Sona Motors,Lakshmipuram around 10 in the morning. The event was flagged off at 10:30 by Rudra of TVS Motors.

The team on TVS vehicles reached Srirangapatna around 11. After a brief introduction to the city and its rich history, the participants were divided in to four teams.

A fun quiz session saw each team compete to get the maximum number of points. The team that won got a five minute lead for the treasure hunt and were given the clues first. The enthusiastic team breaking their clues headed off on their vehicles to their destination where the next clue awaited them.

After a gripping two hour hunt that saw teams zipping up past memorials, mausoleums, palaces and ruins the event ended at Hali Mane for a delicious lunch.

Here is a brief video.

 

Seven Must Have Experiences at Badami

The evening sun sets in. The last rays of sun hits the almond colored cliffs in front of me. And the sandstone turns golden. The view leaves me spellbound. And I forget the tiredness, the last eight hour journey has brought me. I have traveled 500 odd kilometers from Bangalore through traffics, highways and bumpy lanes to reach this lovely history rich city of Badami.

Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyan dynasty. This dynasty ruled most parts of Deccan Plateau and the areas around it between the sixth and eighth centuries.  Thus the city was an important historic center in South India then. Ancient cave temples, placid lakes, and ruins- the city is dotted with myriad attractions.  Here is a brief overview of some of them.

  1. Cave temples of Badami

Dated between the sixth and seventh centuries the four free standing rock cut temples are a revelation. The exquisite carvings, the designs, icons, reliefs and the artwork on the stone columns, ceilings, halls and inner sanctum deep inside the caves transports you in to a different world. The first cave temple is the oldest built around 543 AD and is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva. The second and third cave temple is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu. The last cave is of Jainism faith and it has the figures of prominent Tirthankara (saviours) of Jains.

Note: One of the key attractions in Cave-1 is the dancing figure of Shiva with 18 hands. The figure displays around 81 dance forms with the help of these 18 hands. While there take a look at the pillars too. There are around 83 types of jewellery designs carved on them. Various incarnations of God Vishnu, amorous couples, different costumes and hairstyles like Korean and Mongolian- the scenes in cave-2 and cave-3 depict the daily lives of the people then.

badami

  1. Archaeological museum:

Celestial gods, hero stones, narrative stone panels depicting mythological stories, pre historic exhibits-the archaeological museum is a gold mine of information about the history of Indian architecture and Badami.

Note: One of the key attraction here is the figure of goddess of fertility called Lajja Gauri (Nude Goddess) .Carved out of grey sandstone she is shown in the birth giving posture. Traditionally the fertility goddess was worshipped by women aspiring to become mothers.

  1. Bouldering:

Badami is a haven for rock climbers. The fissured rocks, the soaring vertical cliffs, the horizontal cracks provide a challenging bouldering experience. There are various routes graded 4a-8b+ suitable for both amateurs and professionals alike.  There are more than 100 bolted routes in this area.

Note: Beware of the heat. Badami is hot throughout the year. December-February months are slightly cooler though and can be a good time to rock climb early mornings.

  1. Trekking to Badami fort:

The hill opposite to the Badami cave temples holds a number of ruins, shrines and fort.  The climb is steep through stone carved steps and is full of delights. As you trapeze over the narrow winding path you see copper coated volcanic rocks towering around you. The stone fort, the observation posts, the dome like structures to store arms, the temple ruins –the one hour climb can be a novel experience.

Note: The view from the top is simply amazing and a popular haunt of photographers. The artificial green lake below, the vertical rock cliffs across with  its rock cut cave temples, the lone stone watch towers atop, waterfalls from the cliffs during the rainy months-all make for inspiring photographic shoots.

badami

  1. Taste the protein bar of Badami -the Karadant:

Karadant translates to fried edible gum in local dialect- Kannada. Similar to protein bars the Karadant sweet is high in amino acids, omega fatty acids and antioxidants. Prepared with either sugar or jaggery, the chewy textured sweet is full of cashew nuts, dry grapes, dates, peanut etc. Jaggery comes from either of these two villages -Amingad and Gokak. So the sweet is labelled either Amingad Karadant or Gokak Karadant depending on from where the jaggery came and the sweet was manufactured.

Note: Most of the sweet shops and small outlets near temple complexes store these sweets. They are a bit pricey, a 200 gram of this sweet costs more than 100 Rupees, but are worth every bit. If you are nut allergic keep away from these sweets.

  1. An enriching experience at Badami farms:

Sunflower, sugarcane, millet, cotton-these are some of the crops that the farmers of Badami grow.  Harvest season sees a flurry of activities here.  Reaping crop, threshing, winnowing, tilling of the land to grow seeds and sowing are some activities you can witness. The black soil, the harvest in front of you, the grins of the farm ladies as they welcome visitors can turn out to be an enriching experience.

Note: October is the harvesting season for Corn. So a drive towards Badami can be colourful with not only the harvesting activity in full swing but also for its dashes of colours. The yellows of Sunflower, the orange hues of Marigold and the clear white cotton blooms amidst the golden corn can be a beautiful spectacle.

  1. Visit the heritage sites Pattadakal and Aihole:

While Pattadakal is 22 kilometers from Badami and Aihole is around 36 kilometers both are worthwhile destinations for sightseeing. Pattadakal, a world heritage center was the place for coronation ceremonies of Chalukyan kings. Aihole was an architectural and educational center with more than 125 temples within 3-5 kilometer radius of the village. Aihole has some interesting prehistoric sites too at the Meguti hillock.

Note: Don’t forget to savour the corn bread with a dash of rich legumes or eggplant curry accompanied with cold yogurt in pots. The simple fare served by villagers here is actually very delicious and healthy. The corn after all comes from the nearby farms.

–Usha

 

 

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

 

 

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)