History

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

 

 

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