Author: pdasharathi

Kaidala- A hidden treasure

During the reign of Hoysala king Narasimha-I, a chieftain named Guli Bachi ruled Kridapura. Guli Bachi seems to have been a secular overlord and he patronized all religions-Jainism, Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism building temples and Basadis. In honor of his father and grandfather, he built the temple of Gangeshvara and Chalavaneshvara respectively. Another temple for Krishna- the Chennakeshvara was also said to have been constructed by him.  Can you guess the identity of the place?

If you cannot, here is another interesting tidbit. The idol of Chennigaraya inside the Chennakeshvara temple is said to have been sculpted by the famed Jakanacharya who is also credited with Chennakeshava temple at Belur.Any guesses?

It is Kaidala- a place just five kilometers away from Tumkur and rather popular. It was here that Jakanacharya’s hands or kai were restored back to him by the grace of Chennigaraya. Hence the name Kaidala,Kaydala. Though no one knows whether Jakanacharya was just a legend or really a master sculptor, this town was said to be his native place.

At first glance, Kaidala does not seem impressive. Mud roads with fields on either side lead to the Chennakeshvara temple,Kaidala. The temple is simple. It has a garbagriha-inner sanctum and a hall-Navaranga. There is rather a modest gopuram at the entrance and the outer walls are bare, unadorned except for a few carvings here and there. However, looks can be deceptive.

The black stone idol of Chennigaraya carved from saligrama stone is impressive. Five feet, six inches high it is flanked by Sri Devi and Bhoodevi his consorts. The idol is a masterpiece in itself and is a tribute to Hoysala craftsmanship. Behind the idol, there are the carvings of ten incarnations of Vishnu.

At the entrance of the temple, you can see a figure with a dagger and folded hands. It is the figure of chieftain Guli Bachi. Some opinion that it may be the figure of Jakanacharya as well. The gopuram of the temple was built during the Vijayanagara period. The walls have scattered carvings of riders, yalis and some figures from Ramayana as well.

In the east of Chennigaraya temple, there is the Gangeshvara temple. It is a Dravidian style temple dedicated to Shiva. The outer stone railings of the temple have the carvings of elephants and flowers. The Navaranga inside has four black stone pillars of the Hoysala style. An inscription slab inside the temple in Hale Kannada credits both these temples to Guli Bachi, time period 1150 AD. There are six hero stones at Kaidala and one of them can be found in the temple vicinity.

So many treasures and stories abound in the dusty hamlet of Kaidala.

Come join us on Devarayanadurga day trip and uncover them one by one!

–Usha

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Legends of Talakad

Talakad, the once flourishing capital of the State[350-1000CE] has a lot of amazing tales surrounding it. Here are a couple of astounding stories that we unearthed when we visited this place.

Photo Source

Naming of the town Talakad:

This desert town filled with mounds of sand has a fascinating tale behind its name. Tala and Kada were two hunters who struck a tree with an axe only to find blood gushing out. The axe had stuck a Shiva Linga and blood was coming out from the wound. On seeing this scene, they fainted. Shiva then appeared before them and told them to prepare a paste from the leaves and roots of the Shalimar tree and apply on the wound. When they did this, the blood stopped seeping and the wound got healed. As Shiva cured himself the Linga got the name Vaidyanatheswara and the town got the name of the hunters Tala and Kadu-Talakad.  Even today the Vaidyanatheswara temple is the main diety of the town and devotees pray to the deity to ward off all diseases. You can see the images of Tala and Kada in front of Veerabhadra Swamy temple of Talakad.

Gajaranya to Talakad:

Skanda Purana mentions this town as Gajaranya. What did this town have to do with Gaja or Elephants? There is a story here too which was narrated to me by a priest of a nearby temple at Talakadu.

Eons ago an ascetic named Somadutta did penance in Kashi to attain Moksha[attain liberation from cycles of rebirths]. Shiva appeared before him but told him to travel further south to the banks of river Kaveri towards the Ashram of an ascetic named Ruchika. There he would attain Moksha. Somadutta along with his disciples thus traveled south. However, misfortune struck them when they reached Vindhya mountains. A herd of elephants attacked and killed all of them. As the last thought of the saint was about elephants he and his disciples were reborn as elephants. The elephants wandered off to a forest near the ashram of Ruchika. However, they were still devotees of Shiva and so their daily ritual was bathing in the river Gokarna, holding water in their trunks and worshipping a tree nearby. It was this very tree that the hunters struck and wounded. It is said that after this incident the ascetic Somadutta too was blessed by Shiva and granted Moksha.

However, there are many variations of this story with some claiming that Shiva had appeared before Somadutta and granted him liberation from rebirths much before the hunters arrived in the town.

The curse of Talakad:

ತಲಕಾಡು ಮರಳಾಗಿ; ಮಾಲಿಂಗಿ ಮಡುವಾಗಿ, ಮೈಸೂರು ದೊರೆಗೆ ಮಕ್ಕಳಾಗದೆ ಹೋಗಲಿ

This is a famous curse of Talakad which translates to – Let Talakad become sand, Malangi become a whirlpool and let Mysore Kings never beget offspring. It is a curse uttered by a lady Alamelamma on the Wodeyar king.

Alamelamma was the wife of Srirangaraya who was appointed as the supervisor of Srirangapatna by Vijayanagara Kings. Srirangaraya, however, died of carbuncle. Raja Wodeyar of Mysore took this opportunity to conquer Srirangapatna. He also sent soldiers behind Alamelamma to get the precious jewels from her. An angry Alamelamma jumped into the river Malangi with her jewels uttering the above curse. As if to make her curse true Talakad has sand, sand everywhere.

However, there is a scientific reason to Talakad being sandy. And to know more about this and to hear more such surprising tales you will have to book a Talakad tour with us.

–Usha

A Glimpse in to Three Generations of Modern Sculptures

The Itihasa exhibition at NGMA, Bangalore was a revelation. It showcased the work of 22 sculptures who were the first group of modernists in Indian contemporary art. The work of Devi Prasad Roy Chowdary, Ramkinkar Baij, Sankho Chowdari, Pradosh Dasgupta, Amarnath Sehgal, etc were displayed and they gave an interesting perspective on modern art scenario in the country. Metal, wood, marble, stone the sculptures were done in various mediums-each vying with one another in precision and details.

History of Modern Sculpture

Unlike the art movement in Indian painting that began in the late 19th century and ushered in Bengal School of Art, Santiniketan School, etc the modernism of Indian sculpture began much later. Before the advent of the British, the sculpturing was purely traditional.

In the colonial period, it was influenced by European styles and popular with the nobility. There was not much deviation towards individual expressions or styles-rather it confirmed to the academic art schools and the patron’s preferences.

After the 1920s however, sculptors began experimenting. Newer styles, techniques, and mediums started getting adopted. The early modernists of this period were Deviprasad Roy Choudhury[1899-1975], Ramkinkar Baij,[1906-1980], etc.

Deviprasad Roy Choudhury

Deviprasad Roy Choudhury was influenced by the French sculptor Rodin and some of his notable works are ‘God of Destruction’,’Triumph of Labour’, ‘When Winter Comes’ etc. One of his temple sculpture ‘After Bath’ done in bronze kept in the exhibition showed great form and details.

Triumph of Labour

Photo Source: By RasnaboyOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Ramkinkar Baij

Ramkinkar Baij was a pioneer in the realm of sculpturing. He had joined Santiniketan and initially was influenced by miniatures. Later on, he went on to pave his own path choosing to paint in oil and sculpting. Some of his notable works are ‘Lamp Stand’, ‘Santhal Family’, ‘Harvestor’ etc.  26 of his works are displayed at NGMA event like the plaster works of Yaksha, Yakshi, the bronze of Tagore, Gandhi in cement, etc.

The Santal Family

Photo Source: By Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0, Link

Other sculptors:

Other popular sculptors who came in 1940-1950 were Pradosh Das Gupta, Dhanraj Bhagat, Amarnath Sehgal, and Chintamani kar.

Pradosh Das Gupta was trained under Deviprasad Roy Choudhury and later under Royal Academy of Arts, London. There is rhythm and beauty in his forms. His works ‘Fallen Figure’ and ‘Twins’ are displayed at the museum. Dhanraj Bhagat another notable sculptor of the times used unconventional mediums like metal, wood, ceramic, papier-mache, etc. His styles evolved towards cubist and geometric forms. Some of his works are Standing figure and Flute player, Monarch Queen… His work ‘Standing Woman’ in copper is graceful and feminine.

Amarnath Sehgal’s ‘Cry’ is a figure depicting agony. His art is candid, impassioned and depicts human expressions vividly. Chintamani kar’s[1915-2005] work ‘Flight’ in mahogany is graceful and has traces of European influences. Though he was trained at Indian Society of Oriental Art run by Abanindranath Tagore he also studied in Paris and worked with stone, metal, vitrified clay, etc. His work ‘Skating the Stag’ won an award at the 14th Olympic exhibition in London.

Post Independence:

Post-independence with advancements in industrialization, art mediums were impacted too. Machines and tools were integrated into the field.

Sankho Choudhury, was one such artist. He was the student of Ramkinkar Baij. He used unconventional materials; metal, planks, employed welding, etc integrating industrial tools and giving rise to abstract forms. His work titled toilet’ in marble and Two Heads are displayed at the event. Another popular artist was Adi Davierwalla(1922-75)who experimented with glass, aluminum, lead, plastic, etc. He was self-taught and his works Icarus and Man in iron are displayed at the event.

In 1970, Pilloo Pochkhanawalla was a name to reckon. She has worked with different mediums like wood, copper, steel, etc and has used scraps in her works.

Many artists over the year have contributed significantly over the years towards Indian sculpture. And some of them like the nudes of Jitendra Kumar, the works of Uma Siddhanta who was the student of Prodosh Dasgupta, the abstract works of Kewal Soniare are displayed at the event. One of my favorites is the bronze beauty ‘Win Min Than’-a Burmese beauty with flowing hair and chignon done by Shirin Jal Virjee. The model was an actress in the 1954 movie The Purple Plain.

The curated figures try to showcase the history of Indian sculpture in a concise way. So if you would like a glimpse then head to NGMA. The event is on till the end of the month.

–Usha

 

Raja Ravi Varma and his paintings

Critics have called Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings by many names- kitsch, vulgar naturalism, not real art etc. The artist was also termed as a historic failure when it comes to the progress of modern Indian painting. His meeting with Theodore Jensen is termed as a catastrophe- modern Indian painting did not progress instead it got set back by fifty years.

Yet none of these come to mind when you gaze at the divine figures in his paintings. In fact, you glory over its beauty and splendor. His paintings of Lakshmi, Saraswati, his tales of Shakuntala, Damayanti, Sita, Radha, his realistic colorful paintings of Kerala ladies renders you speechless. None of the paintings may depict reality yet for a moment you are lost-lost in the moment, submerged in the painting in front of you.

The Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation at Lavelle Road is one such place where you get immersed in the artist’s works. The foundation was established in 2015 by Ravi Varma’s great-great-granddaughter Rukmini Varma. It works to spread awareness about the great artist, his life and times[1848-1906] and immortalizes his paintings through various events. When I visited the place a couple of lithographs were on display. There were plenty of books about the great artist and about his paintings.

The paintings of Raja Ravi Varma didn’t go cheap. Recently one of his paintings, Damayanti was auctioned at 11 crores in New York. His collection of 14 paintings was brought by Raja of Baroda for 50000 Rupees back then in the 19th century. No wonder then that the artist established an olegraphic printing press in Bombay on the advice of his friend, the Diwan of Baroda so that his paintings could reach the masses.

There are a couple of places where you can order Ravi Varma prints for your home. The online Art Print store is one of them. Since 2008 it has been selling Raja Ravi Varma’s prints on canvas. The prints rendered on canvas using the latest printing technology make art affordable.

Some of the art prints that are available here are worthy of grazing your homes. There are prints of Sita Vanavas, Hamsa Damayanti, Krishna as the envoy, Radha Bilas, Mahananda, Arjun-Subadra, etc.  Sita Vanavas is an 1880 painting of Sita lost in thought. The sage in the background, however, is confusing. The painting could also be that of Shakuntala. The painting Mahananda or titled ‘Belle of Malabar’ is a painting created in 1890. It depicts a Kerala lady with a traditional mundu on her head playing a musical instrument. She is also lost in thought. Then there is the popular Hamsa Damayanti who is enthralled with the swan who is the messenger from prince Nala extolling his virtues.

The Radha Bilas of 1890 shows Radha in a playful mood with Krishna. The oil painting of ‘women holding a fruit’ displays the mood of innocence with flirtiness; the ‘stolen interview’ depicts two lovers adjacent to pillars in different moods-one shy and the other intent.

The Krishna as an emissary depicts Krishna as a messenger of peace sent to Duryodana’s court. He is however humiliated here and a devotee Satyaki is seen flashing a sword in Krishna’s defense.  The paintings of the master artist be it Krishna, Arjuna-Subhadra, Shantanu and Ganga, Sita Vanavasa, Yasodha, and Krishna bring the epics, Puranas to life.

So whether Raja Ravi Varma showcased Indian culture at its best or was he a painter who worked on portraits refusing to adopt the techniques and progress of the West is perhaps a matter of perspective. Personally, for me, his paintings have always been sheer nostalgia heralding me decades back when hanging a painting from Raja Ravi Varma in the homes was a matter of pride, the various Hindu gods occupying the prayer rooms majestically and his calendars with the Saraswati-the goddess of knowledge hung in the living rooms. Simplicity at its best!

–Usha

Photo Source:

By Raja Ravi Varma – Art UK, Public Domain

By Raja Ravi Varma – 6gF0Oy3EKSRBhg at Google Cultural Institute

 

Inspirations from Mirza Ismail

The other day I happened to search archives for a book on Mirza Ismail and I stumbled on one of his works ‘ My Public Life’. What an insightful page turner it was.

328px-Diwan_Sir_Mirza_Ismail

For those of you who have never heard about him he was the diwan of Mysore, Jaipur and for a short while, Hyderabad. For his astonishing work in the field of industrialization, irrigation, rural electrification, city development, the ruling Maharajas heaped praises, paid tributaries to him. The popular M.I road in Jaipur is one such road name after this diwan.

The reason why I feel this book is worth a read is this. His vision and farsightedness are astonishing. And his short book is inspiring.

Let me quote a couple of them here.

  • The State did not boast of electricity in the early 20th century. And when electricity did come in State it was provided to important places like the Kolar Gold Fields[1902], Mysore, and in Bangalore city in 1908. Mirza Ismail views were however different. He believed that electricity was not the purview of few. And he came up with rural electrification thereby 500 plus villages in Karnataka or rather Mysore State back then were electrified. Mysore was the first State in the country to do this.
  • To quote another instance Micro irrigation was given due importance during his tenure. The production of Ganjam figs had gone down due to lack of water. Though the village was near Kaveri, it was not getting sufficient water to irrigate the figs. These figs were delicious and were often sent to Palace and served to foreign dignitaries and officers. And they were being grown from Tipu Sultan’s era. Realizing this, the Maharaja of Mysore, Mirza Ismail was the diwan then, supplied pumps and gave lands to fig farmers. Thus the figs production revived. It is a different story however that it has a similar fate today.

His faith was broad enough to encompass all religions. He fervently believed that he would be nearer to God by serving people of all faiths.
He says,’ I felt that one please the almighty even more by serving other faiths than one’s own’

Sanskrit was given due recognition during his times, religious intuitions like temples and churches flourished.

Lastly, in his tenure as Diwan, he introduced the weekly sessions with common people. The common man could come and meet the diwan and tell him his troubles.

In the book he says

‘ It is a taxing duty as can easily be imagined-seeing dozens of people each with his request or grievance. But it was worthwhile’
Such was the level of his commitment that in-spite of having a tight schedule, he took time out to hear people out just to satisfy them.

Not satisfied with this he also used to conduct weekly inspections of the city. All this in the mid 20th century. Today’s leaders can take a leaf out of him.

There is more. His belief in a federation of India, his talks with Jinnah to dissuade him for campaigning for a separate Muslim nation, talks with  Nizam of Hyderabad showcases his love for the country.

The book is worth reading. It is freely available online in public archives. Along with his powerful ideas, you will also get a glimpse of the South Indian History especially life and times of Mysore then.

Top Five Dishes to savor at Iftar Walk

This month and the next, Unhurried has organized Iftar Food Walks. Here are five delightful delicacies that you can savour during this food walk.

 

1. Brain Puff: Unique to Bangalore this dish is not for the faint-hearted. A whole piece of melt in your mouth goat brain is stuffed with spicy masala inside a crispy puff shell and baked to perfection. This baked goodie is available at Albert Bakery during iftar. Other days only on Saturday.
2. Keema Samosa: The crispy and crunchy beef, mutton and chicken samosas with a hot cuppa chai is a hit among our customers. Packed with flavors the samosas contain pepper, onions, chilies and dill leaves, stuffed in a filo style wrap and fried to perfection. Best samosas in Charminar, Taj Tea Stall, and Rahamms
3. Dum ka Chai: Tea cooked in a dum vessel for 6 to 7 hours and the concentrated tea is mixed with condensed milk the rich and creamy tea is a hit with our customers. Tea lovers will enjoy this Indian style brewed concoction which originated from Hyderabad. It is also referred to as truck driver chai at Taj Tea Stall.
4. Kababs: One can find meats beef/chicken/mutton cooked on coals and stone. The smoky flavor kababs are always a crowd pleaser. People travel far and long for iftar just to taste this regional cuisine. Must try kababs are seekh, fried chicken kabab and pathar ka gosht (meat cooked on stone). Best kababs at Charminar, Taj, and Chichabbas.
5. Haleem: 5 lentils, barley, and wheat bulgur are simmered with beef, chicken or mutton for 6 hours. This rich porridge is tempered with ghee and fried onions and served with lime wedges. Wholesome and awesome tasting dish loved by our customers on our walk.
These 5 picks are popular and most raved dishes by customers. We also get to taste Harira, Sulaimani chai, Biryani, Keema roti, Phirni, caramel custard, double ka meetha, khova naan, shawarma and more at stalls.
–Vidya,Unhurried Team

Gayana Samaja-Oldest Cultural Institution

A couple of days back I had cause to visit Gayana Samaja at KR Road. The occasion was Nagaswara performance by Chinnamanur A Vijay Karthikeyan and Idumbavanam V Prakash Illayaraja. The refurbished building of 1962, one of the oldest cultural institutions is located at a rather desolate place. Located next to the Theosophical Society, the stretch of road connecting Gayana Samaja from KR Road was lined with many basket weavers- making and selling their wares. Perhaps because of white topping work going on for the road-it gave an impression of being deserted and vacant. However appearances are deceptive as I was to discover later.

The institution that is more than 110 years has been promoting classical music,dance,theater since 1905. However this site was not its present location. One of the founder of this institution was K Ramachandra Rao-the Head Master of London Mission High School-Bangalore and in its initial years the hall of London Mission school was used to hold concerts. Sometimes the events were held at Ekambara sahuji hall, Chikpete. It then shifted to old Sanskrit college building, then to Shankaraiah hall when the Sanskrit college gave way to Vani Vilas Hospital and finally in 1962 with funds from Centre,State,donations- the present site was selected as the venue for Gayana Samaja. The construction cost came around 2,60000, out of which 40,000 was derived from MS Subbalakshmi’s benefit concert.

As you enter inside, you will see pictures of yesteryear stalwarts  lining the wall. Some of the prominent ones being Sri Jayachamaraja Wodeyar- earlier patrons of Samaja, musicians and singers like Doraiswamy Iyengar,MS Subbalakshmi, T. Chowdiah,Diwan of Mysore, founder members and former presidents.In 2016,this building was renovated again;the columns and beams of the old building still being retained.

The 700 seater auditorium has improved acoustics, Led lighting and its new roofs are said to bring down the temperature inside the room by 2 degrees. When I went inside, the auditorium was jam packed,abuzz with activity in sharp contrast to the street outside. The concerts were in full swing and after the concert some 62 cultural institutions in the State were recognized and awarded with cash prizes.

There is a host of activities in the following months- award functions,vocal concerts and lecture demonstrations. The institution does not stick to Carnatic and Hindusthani music alone. Light music,folk,theater,dance are also given sufficient encouragement.  Most of these activities are live streamed at their FB Page- shaaledotcom.

In the initial years when the concerts had started out they were no mikes and were dependent on the acoustic properties of the room. In-fact the tiled roof of Sanskrit college provided the perfect acoustic environment. And there was also a screen like a ‘purdah’ in the Sanskrit college hall to seat the ladies who had come to watch the performance. Interesting isn’t it?The fact that a 115 year old cultural institution promoting classical music  has stood its ground in the city alongside Western music, pop groups and VJ’s  says something about the openness in our culture and love for music.

For more such amazing insights of the city join our Unhurried Heritage and Food Walks.

–Usha

References

http://www.gayanasamaja.org/