History

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

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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

 

 

Hill Stations during British India

I have often wondered about the presence of the odd colonial looking structures, random cottages, the presence of conifers at hill stations. Botanical gardens and lakes have always been a part of the tourist circuits of these hill stations. And I assumed it was always present, a part of their charm. Here and there I did hear about the forlorn structure that came up in 19th century and was the summer house of a colonel etc. But I didn’t give it much thought until one fine day I got my hands on a lovely Indian history book on the British India- ‘ The magic mountains: hill stations and the British raj‘.

colonial-structure in hill stations

All the lovely hill stations Shimla, Nainital,Mussorie, Ooty,Darjelling, Kodai,Ooty etc were inhabited by the British during the 19th century. So what was the need or role of these hill stations in the history of India? The author Dane Keith Kennedy quotes a couple of them.

Developing as sanitariums in British India:

The heat in the plains was not something easy on the British. They were used to the cold not this sweltry heat of the Indian subcontinent.  Hill stations located at 6000-7000 feet height provided this respite. So these stations were touted as the perfect place for recuperation and relaxation. Thus locations across the three presidencies were scouted for – the Himalayas, Nilgiris were targeted. Some of the early hill stations that came in to existence were Simla, Mussorie, Ooty.. Darjeeling though came a bit later due to it being a sensitive location. Reports were published, committees were formed to proclaim that health improved for Europeans sent here, the death rate significantly decreased.Malaria, dysentery, typhoid -the hills offered greater immunity to these.

As a getaway in British India:

This euphoria soon died out. With population increasing on the hills, the diseases of the plains caught up on the hills too. So now the stress was more on invalids who suffered from pressures of the job and needed a getaway. These stations were a means of escape, a vacation that afforded time to play and rejuvenate the mind and body. More importantly, it created a distance between the British and Indian subjects.

Initial Development of these hill stations in British history of India:

Creating a home away from home:

The hills reminded the initial inhabitants, the English of their wooded valleys, streams,lakes and mountain peaks.

British Raj-hill stations

Misty mornings in Darjeeling hills

Thus the experiments that began in the hills were related to growing of fruits, flowers and vegetables similar to their landscape. Roses, buttercups, dahlias,lilies flourished in the cool climate and so did British vegetables like cabbages, cauliflower and fruits like apples, pears, strawberries. Thus Nurseries and Botanical gardens were the places for experimentation for these crops. It was also a means of providing residents with seeds. Cash crops such as Tea, Coffee, Cinchona- the bark of which was used against malaria were also grown.

tea estates-Darjeeling

Tea estates of Darjeeling

So now you know. If you see a  botanical garden in a hill station like  in Ooty, Kodaikanal etc you know it was done to make the landscape more pleasing for its settlers.

Ahoy a lake too

Similarly lakes too were developed to mimic the English countryside. Some were natural while some were artificially built.

Lakes in hill stations-British India

Yeracud lake

The central element of hilly landscapes was a church. Post office, banks,malls, bazaars, long winding lanes, developed alongside. Mall Road, Promenade Road  and Cart lanes sound familiar?These were some of the lanes meant for pedestrians only, to window shop, to gossip, to saunter the hillside for its sheer pleasure.  And if you observe, most of these hill stations today still have these features though some of the ones I visited like Darjeeling, were overcrowded and like any other location suffered traffic jams during the peak seasons.

Soon the cutting began

The coming up of railways, the need for timber, development of tea estates and the wide spread notion that ‘diseases lurked in bushes and trees’ and needed to be cleared hastened the process of deforestation. However better sense prevailed in the mid century.

Nature teaches its lessons harshly. Landslides and erosion increased. Thus regulations, forest protection acts  started  appearing on the scene. The focus in certain hill stations like Ooty were to plant trees that were quick growers. This was when introduction of Australian species Eucalyptus, Cedar, Fir, Chestnut etc came in to the scene. Even today you see most of these conifer varieties.

conifers introduced by British

Thus the 200 pages book on  ‘The magic mountains: hill stations and the British raj’ explains a great deal on these critical aspects. It talks about how women and children were the major occupants in stations, then highlights a bit on the hill people originally living there like the Todas, Lepchas etc. It talks about how the stations served as places of amusement,picnics and pleasure mimicking the rules and etiquette of social life followed by England. For instance if a newcomer checked in to a hill station he was supposed to drop his card in the ‘not-at-home’ boxes. He did not have the privilege of announcing himself. The residents reserved the right on whom to include in their next invitations etc.All in all, the book provides a good perspective and introduces a slice of history of British India. Do read the book for more insights or check out our British Trails in the city.

–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

 

 

 

 

CITY HERITAGE – or the lack of it?

 

IMG_20150314_095449

Telugu Church Office, Richards Town

(Image Courtesy: Poornima Dasharathi)

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

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

Heritage Law

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

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

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

In the News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problems & Solutions

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

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

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

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

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