History

Vijayanagara through the eyes of Abdur Razzaq

Abdur Razzaq was an ambassador sent to India by the Sultan of Persia- Shah Rukh. His narratives are rich and colorful and gives a detailed description of Vijayanagara times. However he was an unenthusiastic traveler. He did not like the sea and left Herat in 1442 only because of the Sultan. He faced the perils of sea, landed in Muscat for safety, reached Kariat and was seriously  ill due to the heat and finally managed to recover enough to undergo 18 days of voyage at sea to finally land in Calicut. He was not impressed with the natives of Calicut either whom he describes as scantily clad and who practiced polyandry. His stay at Calicut was limited as the Vijayanagara King sent for him. And he passing through Mangalore,Belur reached Vijayanagara.

Here however he is enthusiastic. He describes the city teeming with temples,gardens and palaces. Governed by an able king its territories extended from Ceylon to Gulbarga and from Bengal to Malabar. There were 300 harbors and 1,100000 warriors. The city was well fortified and its markets were teeming with wealth. He describes the Royal Center of Hampi and mentions that several rivulets and streams flowed through channels of cut stone.

Photo source

When he met the Raja – Deva Raya II he describes him sitting in a forty pillared hall surrounded by Brahmans. And goes on to add that the king had an olive complexion and wore a collar of king pearls. He was rather tall and youthful with no hint of beard or mustache. On meeting the king, he was given a Chinese fan and money,camphor and betel. His accommodation was at high ground near the King’s palace and he was daily sent two sheep,four couple of fowls,rice,butter and two gold varahas.

The skirmish between Deva Raya II and his brother:

It was during his stay that the incident between the king and his brother occurred. The king’s brother had constructed a new palace and invited the king and other nobles to a feast. The guests were made to sit in a large hall. There were drums,trumpets and horns on the occasion. From time to time the guests were invited to check out the banquet and celebrations. As each guest came out he was ambushed and swiftly murdered and when all the victims were killed, the brother then went to the Deva Raya’s palace and approached him with tray of betel in which a dagger was concealed. He managed to wound the king and leaving his accomplice to kill the king,he declared to the court that he was the king. Though Deva Raya was wounded he manged to kill the accomplice and reappeared in the court. The crowd seeing the rightful king alive murdered the tyrant brother.

Hearing this news the ruler of Gulbarga-Allauddin Ahmad Shah ordered the Vijayanagara King to pay 700000 gold varahas. He assumed the wounded king would be very weak and unable to defend himself. The king however laughed at this and went to war with the Bahmani Sultan. This was in 1443-1444 and he managed to conquer Raichur,went till Bijapur and overtook the fortress of Mudkal. However the war resulted in a truce and the Vijayanagara forces were forced to retreat and driven back to Mudkal.

And what of Abdur Razzak? He set out from Vijayanagar on November 1443. Rumors had spread around him that he was not a bonafide envoy of Shah Rukh and so he left the city, reached Mangalore after 18 days, then went on to Kalahat,Muscat,Khurfakan and finally to the port of Hurmuz. He was in sea for a total of seventy five days. And after this never ventured out to travel again.

–Usha

 

 

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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

Dasara walk- A glimpse in to History and Culture

The streets in the city are full of dolls this Dasara. They are innovative not to mention beautiful. The dolls are varied- while some are figures of gods and goddesses, some depict rural life, animals, birds…. Head to the city’s markets and you will be spoilt for choices. 

It is not just the streets. The temples too are part of this grand celebrations lasting 10 days till Vijayadashami. The idols inside the temple are decorated with full splendor. The goddess dons her different manifestations -Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandra Ghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kalaratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri  representing the Navadurga of the Navaratri celebrations.

 

She is decorated with flowers,fruits and even vegetables. Devotees string such garlands and they get offered to the goddess.

Vendors take full advantage of such situation and set up stalls outside the streets and generate a good business. Some of them come as far as Bijapur and sell their specialty snacks.

 

Traditions get revived too. This Dasara some homes have opened their doors to strangers so that the culture of gombe habba is understood and hopefully preserved. One of the homes in Malleshwaram that has been doing this ritual for 20 odd years explained their traditions to us.

‘ The mud dolls are carefully unwrapped from their majestic trunks 10 days prior to Dasara. We pray to the Raja-Rani gombe and then lay out all the dolls. We make sure that we do not displace the dolls after this ritual and dismantle all the dolls, only after we put the Raja-Rani dolls to sleep on the last day. ‘

Sweetmeats and snacks are generously served to us along with strong cup of coffee and we depart to see some more displays.

As you wander down the streets you notice one common feature of this festival- the colors-deep red,blue green,orange. The colors are embedded in the rangolis, the flowers used for decorations not to mention the  stalls displaying the dolls. There is a festive buzz and if you wish to be a part of this celebration join us this week and the next for a delightful Dasara Walk.

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

Fraser Town Food Trail with Gang Of Dusters

A 30 member team of Dusters gathered around Xavier’s Cathedral at 4:30 pm. The agenda was the most awaited Fraser Town Food Trail. The trail promised Syrian Christian goodies, Aflatoon cakes, Middle East Platters not to mention Biryanis.  Here is a brief glimpse of the Food walk conducted yesterday.

 

Gyan on Cant History

A little introduction, a brief travel in to Cantonment history at the Church, the motley group of family and kids set foot inside the church. The church itself is beautiful with Corinthian Capitals, stained glass windows but with a small wedding happening it was even more so.

A short glimpse of the wedding, we headed out in to the sunshine to savor some goodies.  The bubbly Vidya mesmerized the foodies through her short and long tales.

Finally with a satiated smile and a content stomach we dispersed. Here is a sample of treats that we gorged on.

If you would like to join the fun then register for our delightful and engaging food  and heritage trails.

–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

 

Do you own a Palm leaf Pattachitra?

There is a sense of pride in the artist’s eyes. He is explaining to me what it is to possess a Tala-Pattachitra.

It is a legacy you are acquiring madam, a priceless masterpiece that does not fade and which occupies a place of pride in your home. You will be proud to pass it on to future generations,’ he insists. He is talking about his creations, the Palm leaf engraving- Tala-Pattachitra from Orissa.

His pride makes me feel strangely happy. You see, he is talking about an ancient Orissan palm leaf art – perhaps a thousand year old heritage from Orissa and Indian heritage is something I am rather cocky about.

More about Tala-Pattachitra art:

The creations are all done on Palm leaves. The fine drawings are from manuscripts. The details could be from mythological tales like Ramayana, Mahabharata, tales of Lord Jagannath of Puri temple…. But what makes them striking is that a thin stylus made from iron called Lekhana is used to engrave these illustrations. The artist or the Pattachitrakar as he is called, definitely requires a skilled and steady hand!They are so fine and detailed.

I see the engravings dyed in a striking black color. And I ask him how they color these fine line drawings. To which he replied,’ Madam, we rub the palm with a  black dye or soot or charcoal powder. The areas that don’t require the color are rubbed with a piece of wet rag.’  The color now becomes a part of these creations. Soot from the hearth , straight in to the handcraft!

The engravings are done in a single leaf- more often in four to five leaves or even more and stitched together.The result could be a scroll with a flap that neatly show off the illustrations and perhaps even a verse or two.

tala-pattachitra

History of Pattachitra Paintings:

Orissa has a rich history. Though it comes in our history text books in the notoriously popular Ashoka- Kalinga war, it was an independent State before, that proved a formidable opponent to Mauryan dynasty. Over the centuries it has been ruled by various rulers -Samudragupta, Harshavardana, Gangas etc. It came under Mughals, the Nawabs of Bengal ,Marathas and the British too. Culturally it is a potpourri of various religions- Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and the heterogeneous tribal  religions as well. This is reflected in their arts and crafts. The Patachitra or the palm leaf art and illustrations depict this medley.

Originally the Tala-Pattachitra was created by the Nayakar community. They were astrologers and used such palm leafs to create birth horoscopes of newborns. Today this art-craft is seen in the state of Orissa especially in Bhubaneshwar, Ganjam,Puri and Raghurajpur regions. And it has adapted to the changing times. The palm leaf now sees itself as wall hangings, lamp shades, fans,bookmarks etc so that it gels in to a contemporary home theme.

If you would like to know more about this art-craft then  Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat is the place to be. Check out their art and craft section. Support the artisans by buying a piece of this heirloom.

–Usha