History

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

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

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/

 

 

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

 

 

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