Architecture

Shrines of Old City

There is something pleasant about being in Pete in the early part of the day. For one there is no crazy crowd that you see in the mid-afternoons or evenings. And another is the chime of temple bells at the various shrines of Pete- signaling that the early morning prayers to the numerous idols of Shiva, Vishnu, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Shanmukha are in progress. The myriad lanes of pete be it Aralepete, Cottonpete, Cubbonpete, Nagarthapete, Tigalarapete are full of temples. And an interesting thing about these! There are some 44 plus temples that are associated with the old communities of Pete. Don’t believe me? Then here is a brief overview of some of these shrines and their backgrounds.

Take for example the Chenigaraya temple at Ganigarpete. It is a temple belonging to the community of Ganigas. Ganigas are oil-pressers who used to reside in Ganigarpete and extracted oils such as castor, sesame oil manually. With the demand for such cold-pressed oils disappearing, this community has slowly moved out and has taken up other businesses in the city. What remains today after their profession is the stone oil press –gana in Kannada in front of the Cheluvarayaswamy temple. This gana is said to have belonged to an oil merchant-Doddana Setty. Both wooden and stone presses were in vogue. The last of the oil presses disappeared some 50-60 years ago. The only memory of this once thriving community is the temple of Cheluvarayaswamy -their patron deity.

A couple of minutes away at Nagarthara Pete is the famous Nagareshwara temple for the city merchants or the Nagartha community. Nagareshwara happens to be their patron deity. The temple of 1884, has an idol of Shiva installed in the shrine. The linga is said to have been brought from Kasi. An inscription outside the temple declares this. There are beautiful idols of Nataraja, Shanmukha and the blissful idol of Annapurneswari made of Saligrama stone. Another interesting fact about this temple is that the Tigala community and the Ganiga community visit this temple when they want to start the auspicious process of writing a wedding invitation for marriages in their communities.

A temple closeby the Kamateshwara Kalikamba temple is a shrine that sees the followers of Vishwakarma community-craftsmen, goldsmith, carpenter, etc. When I entered the shrine of the goddess a priest was predicting the future looking at a persons’ horoscope. Apart from the beautiful idol of Kali there is also a statue of Nandi at the entrance of the temple. Another attraction here for foodies is the Lakshmi Nataraj Refreshments that serves smooth idlis with equally delightful red and green coconut chutneys. It has an interesting history behind it but that’s for another day.

Just a few minutes away is the Dharmaraya Swamy temple of Tigala community that specialized in agriculture and horticulture activities. It is a beautiful Dravidian style temple dedicated to Pandava brothers and Draupadi. The famous city festival-karaga begins its festivities from here when a male priest dressed in a saree carries the Karaga pot and weaves his way through the narrow lanes of Pete. There is also the idol of Potharaja- the brother in law of Pandavas who plays the important role of cleansing evil from the earth and has a day dedicated to him in the eleven-day Karaga festival.

There are shrines dedicated to Ganesha and goddess Muthyalamma as well. A lady draped in silk saree forbids me to enter the shrine inside. When I look inside the sanctum I realize that just adjacent to the inner sanctum of the Muthyalamma there are the idols of Yellamma,Uyallama-swing goddess kept in the room and equally revered by the community.

At Balepete main road, you have an interesting temple dedicated to Sugreeva. Sugreeva is the monkey king who helped Rama during his battle with Ravana. The idol is six feet high. Next to it is a  shrine for his brother Vali.

Incidentally, it is said that the idol of Sugreeva was rescued from the Kempambudhi tank and brought here. Opposite to these idols is the Venkateshwara idol. This temple is patronized by the tank diggers of the Woddaru community. Though there are no inscriptions the temple plaques mention that the time period of this structure is 1680.  The priest community resides inside the temple. Their tiny homes are neat, clean and in religious piety with numerous frames of gods and goddesses tucked inside their prayer room.

As you go towards Chikpete there is another special temple endorsed by the Jain community-the Adinatha temple. It is a beautiful marble structure but when the temple started out in 1918 it was a wooden structure. Inside the shrine, there are blissful idols of Adinatha, Parsvanatha, Mahaveera, Neminatha, etc. The ornate work of the temple is stunning, so are the marble inlay work and the figurines of dancers and musicians carved on the numerous pillars of the temple. In contrast, the Jain devotees are plain- in a posture of submission and prayers- some chanting on beads and some hymns.

Pete is thus a vibrant community full of colorful stories. Be a part of this enriching experience by booking our Life in Pete Walk.

–Usha

Devanahalli – A fort town

Just 40 kilometers from the city, Devanahalli is a city steeped in history. The town is reeking of fort, ruins, temples and Bazaars. Choose to drive or take the public transport you will reach this city of fort in just an hour or so. You can quite comfortably spend half a day here. Here is a brief history and the list of attractions in this place.

History of Devanahalli

The earlier name of Devanahalli was Devanadoddi and was under a chieftain known as Devegowda. Sometime in 1501, Kempegowda’s ancestors RanaBhairegowda’s son Mallabairegowda wished to build a fort and a temple here. So he sought permission from Devegowda promising to develop the city and give it his name. After doing this he passed the baton of the fort to his brother’s son Sanna Bhairgowda who ruled the city. His family continued ruling till 1749. After this, however, the fort was attacked by Mysore army under a chieftain Nanjaraja and the fort fell into his hands after a prolonged battle of eight months. Hyder Ali was a part of this army and his son Tipu Sultan was born here in 1750.  The mud fort was strengthened using stone by Hyder and his son Tipu Sultan. Later the fort went in to the hands of Lord Cornwallis in 1791.

Here is a list of places that you can see.

Devanahalli fort:

The fort envelops the small town of Devenahalli. And as you walk inside the town, you can see the crumbling fort walls everywhere. The town can be entered through the west gateway or through the east.

The oval-shaped fort is 300 meters high and 185 meters wide. The fort was rebuilt using French military techniques. The wide rampart, the twelve semi-circular bastions, the musket holes make you wonder at the grandness of the fort. If you look carefully there is a moat surrounding the fort. Once there was a wooden drawbridge as well. Small tunnels and pathways throughout the fort ensure that water does not stagnate inside the fort and cause it to break down.

Venugopala temple:

There are more than 100 temples in this town. However, Venugopala temple is quite a popular one. The deity Krishna is flanked on either side by his wives Rukmini and Satyabhama. The temple is of Vijayanagara style with a Dravidian style tower. At the entrance of the temple, there are two idols of Vishnu said to be from the Ganga period. The outer walls have stories etched of Lord Rama and Krishna. You can see Krishna’s childhood antics like stealing of butter, getting beaten up from his mother, dancing on the head of Kalinga-the poisonous snake… Interestingly there are also childhood phases of Rama depicted on the walls. Rama and his brothers being taught archery by their guru Vishwamitra, their adventures in the forest as they accompany their teacher, etc. Inside the Navaranga of the temple, there are four pillars beautifully carved. There are figures of Hayagriva, musicians, a picture of a huntress removing a throne from her leg etc. Every year during Brahma Rathotsava- the idols get decked up in jewels that have been donated by Mysore kings,Tipu Sultan, and various other chieftains. The gods are decked up in silver, gold, and jewels made from precious stone and taken out during processions.

Explore town, Bazaars and other shrines:

There is plenty to see inside the town. Apart from Venugopala Swamy, there is a temple of Shiva- Nanjundeshwara temple said to be from Chola era-however there is no evidence to this. It is the oldest temples in the town. The pillars are carved with beautiful Vase and creeper designs and have the shrines of Shiva, Parvati, Bhrama, Saraswati etc. Then there is Chandra Mouslishwara temple-albeit in not a great condition. It has the idols of Shiva, Ganesha, and Parvati. The courtyard is of Vijayanagara style.

There are various temples belonging to different communities- Siddeshwara temple of Veerashaiva community, the Gangamma temple of fishermen community, Vasavi Kanika Parameshwari temple for traders, etc. The main bazaar enveloping the town is worth checking out-printing presses, ayurvedic shops, dance and music schools- all chockablock and lively.

Check out the Pomelo:

Today’s Devanahalli is synonymous with Airport, but eons ago it was famous for its chakkota or Pomelo, a juicy fruit. No wonder you see it plenty-in shops, stalls and interestingly growing besides many a home in this quaint little fort town. The history of how the tree came to the town goes back 350 years ago when this bittersweet fruit was said to have been introduced during Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’s time.

The soil and the water of this town have given the fruit a zippy taste. However, beware. If you are buying from the innumerable shops near Devanahalli you might end up buying bitter ones too. Your best bet is to sample a cut fruit, or perhaps buy from a farm which is harvesting this juicy fruit.

Apart from this, there is a small plaque at the entrance of the fort which announces Tipu’s birthplace. There is also a small tank built by Diwan Purnaiha towards the right of the fort.

The Devanahalli town and the fort enveloping it take you back in time. And you never realize that you are so close to Bengaluru yet you find yourself in a timewarp. If you would like to experience this  and get to know the history of the town a bit then do reach out and book a walk with us.

Usha

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

Heritage structures in Lalbagh

Last year the Krumbiegel hall was demolished. It was a lecture hall used by Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, the eminent superintendent of Lalbagh. The handsome colonial building that was witness to numerous lectures and session on gardening and Botany was razed to the ground. Though the 100 year old structure was a heritage building, yet it was pulled down- No laws to protect it you see. However Lalbagh is dotted with plenty of such structures. Before they too bite the dust here is a brief overview of some of them.

Pigeon House:

This structure near Siddapura Gate of Lalbagh is a structure of 1893 constructed during the time of John Cameron. The cylindrical shaped structure, 15 feet high has holes all around it for pigeons. Around 100 pairs of pigeons can dwell here. The Pigeon House also has a watchman’s quarters within.

West Guard Room:

This beautiful guard room near the West Gate of Lalbagh was once part of Diwan P.N Krishnamurthy’s House. When his house was getting dismantled the then Director of Horticulture- H.C Jayaraya got it here sometime in 1940’s. The granite structure, shaped like a lantern with glass windows all around it, is beautiful sight when lit. It glows like a lantern in the dark.

Directorate Building:

This building was constructed in 1920 when G.H Krumbiegel was the Superintendent of Lalbagh. He wanted to set up a college of Horticulture here with a library,museum,lecture rooms etc. This dream however did not come true. Today the building contains the offices of Directorate of Horticulture.

Lalbagh Library:

This colonial building was the house of Superintendent of Garden. The structure exists from 1839. When Lalbagh was under the Agricultural Horticultural society,  secretary William Munro mentions expenses incurred for construction of a house for Superintendent of Lalbagh. This structure had a number of rooms like drawing room,store rooms,halls etc. Today it houses the Lalbagh Library.

Other structures:

The Glass House, Band Stand, Aquarium building, Deer Paddock are other structures. The Deer Paddock was a tiled free standing structure that once sheltered deer. The Band Stand once used to hold flower shows before the construction of Glass House. The Victorian styled Band stand existed prior to 1870. The Glass House got constructed during the times of John Cameron and its foundation stone was laid by Prince of Wales in 1889. The construction was done by MacFarlane and Company, Glasgow. They were also responsible for designing the Cameron Gate of Lalbagh sometime in 1891.

The next time you visit Lalbagh do spare these heritage structures a glance. They form a valuable part of history. Do join our Lalbagh Walks if you wish to know more.

–Usha

A glimpse of South Kanara Temples

South Kanara is scattered with temples some 5000 of them infact. You cannot escape one even if you want to. You head to the seashore and along with the roars of waves you will hear the clang of temple bells somewhere in the distance.

Photo Source:hpkodancha

You trek a hill and lo you will notice a small structure- a mantapa of sorts and an idol inside. You go on a shopping spree but you cannot help but see a shrine tucked in one of the saree by-lanes. So I have given up and instead I have started focusing on what type of temples these are whenever I have visited Dakshina Kannada.

The temples of South Kanara look modern on the outside yet they are very much ancient some dating back to 6th century and even earlier. Just take a look at the inner sanctum , the Mukha Mantapa, the ornamental balustrades leading to the sanctum and you will know what I am talking about. The temples, be it atop a hill or on a highway confirm to certain structural parameters. They are either square,circular or rectangular. The Jain temple which South Kanara is famous for are generally of granite, located amidst scenic locations-top of hills, amidst greenery ….

So a question arises, why so many temples and Jain Basadis here in the land of Tuluvas or Tulu speaking community? The answer in part lies with the rulers who ruled this part of the country from ancient to modern times. The temples had great patronage of kings be it Alupas,Vijayanagara Kings, Keladi Nayakas or local rulers like Chautas, Bangas,Bhairarasas,Ballalas and Heggades ruling South Kanara.

Presence of Jains:

Jainism especially had strong presence especially in 10-11th century as it was having support of Bhairarasas of Karkala and Chautas of Moodbidri. The Gomata structure at Karkala for instance was installed in 1432 by a Bhairarasas king- Veerapandyadeva. The 1000 pillar Basadi in Moodbidri was built in phases and its first phase was constructed by Chautas of Moodbidri and Ballalas in 1429.

Chaturmukha Basadi

Photo Source: By Anoopratnaker [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Hindu Temple Architecture:

The Hindu temples too are plenty.  The worship of Mahishasuramardini,Krishna, Janardana,Mahalinga and Ganesha is quite common here. South Kanara temples are generally surrounded by a big compound or Prakara made of Laterite bricks- these bricks abound in plenty.  Inside the temple you will notice a Balipeeta and Dwaja Sthamba-a flag mast made of wood,covered with copper plates. You will also see a Mukha Mantapa- a hall at the entrance, then a Navaranga and then the inner sanctum. Most often rectangular temples do not boast of an inner parikrama passage while Square temples do not have Mukha Mantapa. Shiva temples on the other hand are most often circular temples.

Udupi Temple

Photo Source:

The rooftops of temples are generally thatched in villages. In some places they are covered by stone slabs and in some places they are covered by copper plates. They are generally sloped to protect against heavy rains that are quite common in the coastal areas. And chariots are generally present as every temples celebrates its annual procession and its fair in style.

Faith and Hope:

These structures are just not temples alone. They are part and parcel of South Kanara heritage and culture. Festivities and functions are planned keeping in mind the temple calendar of events. Partake of certain foods is restricted during monsoons, fasting is observed most often in the community near temples and faith has seeped itself in to the daily activities of the South Kanara People. Here temples are not just inanimate structures but represent faith and hope of the Tuluvas community.

–Usha

Bhoga nandeeshwara temple

The first thing that impressed me about Bhoga nandeeshwara temple is that it has a huge temple complex. This is a rare phenomenon. In the city of Bangalore, we have very few temples that boast impressive entrances, tanks not to mention huge courtyards. So this is a relief, even if it meant travelling outskirts for an hour or so from the city. The next thing you notice are the various peaks with varying heights forming a background finale for the temple. A sense of calmness descends on you, as you go nearer and the feeling compounds when you sight a Peepal tree filled with the talk of Parrots. Ha ..where else but outskirts of Bangalore can give you this kind of feels.

Bhoganandeeshwara-entrance

As I trudge forward, I encounter a vijayanagara style pillar inside the courtyard. There are numerous temple shrines inside the complex of Bhoganandeeshwara. And the surprising fact!  Five dynasties have put their energies in building this temple. But it looks like a single structure.Bhoganandeeshwara-temple

Make a guess to as to how old the temple could be. 500 years? 1000 years? Might be, as the  Arunachaleshwar temple in the Bhoga nandeeshwara temple complex has been built by Gangas . Arunachaleshwar, Bhoga nandeeshwara, Yoga nandeeshwara all are different names of Shiva. While Arunachaleshwara represents the childhood phase of Shiva, the Bhoga Nandeeshwara – a house holder and Yoga Nandeeshwara at Nandi hills that of a renunciate.

Arunachaleshwara Temple:

The temple of Arunachaleshwara is quite calm and as you sit down in front of Linga, you know you are viewing a 10th century Linga of stone. And you feel humble almost spiritual, in the small but earthy shrine. The local lore mentioned that prior to being a Shiva temple this held a statue of Keshava. But a Chola king shifted the Kesava idol from here and installed a Linga. Inside the shrine there is the statue of Simha Ganapati and below on the floor you can see the figure of Bhaire Gowda, ancestor of Kempe Gowda paying respects.

Outside the shrine a lone stone Nandi, pays obeisance to Arunachaleshwara.I exit out and head to the shrine besides it- the temple of UmaMaheshwara.

UmaMaheshwara Temple:

Built by Hoysala dynasty it is a beautiful stone structure. The pillars, walls and ceilings have beautiful carvings inside the shrine and the Navaranga outside it. Notice the four pillars inside the shrine, you will see not an inch of space left free. They depict thousands of birds, creepers, animals and gods in their spaces. The priest explained that this shrine is popular for solemnizing marriages- UmaMaheshwar who are the embodiment of Shiva-Parvati are a happy couple. As if it to lend proof the walls of the temple have Shiva and Parvati’s marriage scenes depicted.

Bhoganandeeshwara-carvings

Right next to this temple is the BhogaNandeeshwara.

BhogaNandeeshwara Temple:

What a beautiful temple said to be built by Cholas.  The Linga is impressive and you are filled with a sense of wonder gazing at it. A statue of Chola king is installed inside the shrine. However looking at the neck and especially the ear ornaments it looks like the statue of Jain Thirthankara. Much before the Cholas, this region was in the hands of Gangas. And they gave patronage to Jains and the religion flourished during their times. The famed Saravanabelagola was constructed by a Ganga Chieftain. So a local book mentions that perhaps Bhoganandeeshwara and the Yoga nandeeshwara above Nandi Hills were Jain Basadis that were later converted to Shiva temples by Cholas.

Inside-Bhoganandeeshwara

After all that musings I head outside. A walk around and you realize that there are more structures. Two more temples dedicated to wife of Arunachaleshwara- Apita Kuchamba  and of Shiva – the Prasanna Parvati- are present here. Once again the walls of Apita Kuchamba depict marriage scences. The other structures like wedding hall-Vasantha Mantapa, Tula Bhara, pillars were developed later by Vijayanagara rulers.  As you go around take a look at the lattice windows, some 10 in number that provide the necessary ventilation for the temple. They are beautiful filled with intricate figures and shapes. Bhoganandeeshwara-walls

Shringa Theertha:

Just ahead is the Shringa Theertha- the temple tank. There are various reasons why it has got the name Shringa. Some say a saint Shringa meditated here. And some say that Nandi the bull pierced his horns- Shringa and brought out the water of Ganges at this spot. Whatever might be the reasons behind its name- the tank is beautiful surrounded by stucco figures-some in ruins, some disfigured. The distant peaks, the setting sun created an ethereal glow on the waters and the ruins-the memory of which lingers with me even today.

Bhoganandeeshwara-tank

A sign board mentions that this tank is the source of South Pinakini river.

How to get to Bhoga nandeeshwara temple?

Take the route towards Nandi Hills. Once you reach Karahalli Cross take a right towards Nandi grama. The temple is in this village.  This is one of the nearest and best places to visit near Bengaluru. Or join our Temple Trails tours.

–Usha

 

A glimpse of Indian Colonial architecture

A tiger skin hangs majestically in the drawing room, the column at la Martiniere,Lucknow is a fitting tribute to the surrounding landscape, the card room of Faluknama Palace, Hyderabad gives you a glimpse of the British aristocracy … These were some of the displays at the ‘Shadow of the Raj’ exhibition by photographer Derry Moore who had captured some of the Colonial scenes in mid 1970’s. All set in monochromatic tones, the architectural scenes, the landscapes and the portraits succeeded in ushering you back to the colonial era. Derry Moore had mainly toured Calcutta, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chennai, Mushirdabad,Mumbai and captured the British colonial scenes back then…

The exhibition prompted me to explore a bit about the colonial architecture in the country and here is what I found..

The ancient Indian scene:

The Indian architectural scene had been rich and diverse even before the arrival of the European powers be it Portuguese, French, Dutch or the English in the country . Just take a look at the ancient Indian architecture – Sanchi Stupa,Mahabodhi temple, cave temples ….

Sanchi Stupa

Photo Source

Or the medieval architecture that saw Mughal styled structures- Tajmahal, Fatehpur Sikiri to name a few.

Fatehpur Sikiri

Photo Source

The foreigners who arrived initially came with the sole intention of trade. So these European powers began building ware houses, offices, churches in the beginning. Their architecture styles especially churches predominately revolved around Roman, Gothic, French influences etc.

A church in Goa

Photo Source:

With the political dominance of English in the country there was a fusion of European architecture with Indian buildings. The initial structures were the barracks, residential buildings of the cantonments. There was a influence of local element too especially in the officers residences. The Bangla of Bengal was adapted to suit the tastes of the European officer and so it became the vast free standing Bungalows of today. 

Before the 1857 revolt the construction of colonial buildings depicted the imperial power of the English. The official structures be it the post office, police stations or administrative offices were modeled to showcase this aspect. Often they followed the European classic style or the Gothic style revealing the superiority of the buildings of the west.

Victoria Terminus

Photo Source

After the revolt the structures built were to showcase solidarity between the British and India. Thus European buildings now started adding Swadeshi elements. Thus the resultant style was often Indo- Saracenic found in most of the buildings in Chennai- Senate House, Courts, Post offices etc. Bombay however retained its Gothic style. Victoria Terminus is a fine example of this.

tipu-summer-palace

tipu-summer-palace

With the shifting of capital to Delhi in 1911, the British focus was to showcase the imperial strength of their empire. The planned city incorporated a fusion of styles- Mughal, Buddhist symbols… You can still see domes, arches,lotuses and symbols like Elephants in the buildings of the new capital. A glimpse of this type of building can be seen in many of the city’s strutures- prominent one being the Rastrapathi Bhavan.

Rastrapathi Bhavan

Photo Source

With the British leaving the country, these colonial structures remained in remembrance of their rule. Alongside these heritage structures mushroomed skyscrapers, apartments,corporate housing and the shiny glass and chrome buildings that we see today. Yet these yesteryear structures say many a tale of the days gone by. And these are the very stories that we explore in our British walks be it the Bungalow Walk or the Cathedral Walk in our city. Come join us to hear more of such interesting tales.

–Usha