Lepakshi Attractions

Lepakshi is a wonderful weekend destination from Bangalore. Located in Anantapura district it is around 120 km from the city. There are plenty of intriguing things to see here.The hanging pillar, the red blotches on walls said to be bleeding eyes,the unfinished wedding hall, Lepakshi paintings with their colors still intact,the footsteps of Sita … Here is a quick summary of the attractions present at Lepakshi temple built during Vijayanagara times.

Watch out for Monoliths:

The temple Lepakshi is on a plateau surrounded by granite rocks and boulders. The Lepakshi sculptors have thus used the abundant rocks to carve out huge monolithic sculptures that are one of the highlights of Lepakshi. For instance the Nandi at the entrance of the temple is six feet high and eight meter long. Inside the temple complex is another sculpture- a seven meter high Naga statue carved out from a boulder-the Linga however is a polished black stone. Behind the Linga you see carvings of spider,hunter and elephant worshiping the Linga- perhaps the legend  of Srikalahasti itched here.

Check the inscriptions out:

On the walls of Virabhadra temple are some old Kannada inscriptions. One of them is dated to the period 1531 and talk about the Vijayanagara king Achyutaraya giving grant of village to Virapanna, a governor of Penukonda for services of gods Virabhadra, Raghunatha and Papavinasa of LepakshiVirapanna’s reliefs and paintings inside the temple vouch to the fact that he played an an all important role in construction activities of the temple. How did Virapanna get the king to donate? George Michell in his lecture on Lepakshi mentions that Virapanna was from Veerashaiva community. During the Vijayanagara times they were involved in long distance trading and that perhaps explains their influence. Virabhadra was their patron deity.

Lepakshi sculpturing on walls:

On the mandapa there are beautiful dancing figures-male and female both, exquisite yalis. The walls of Virabhadra shrine have two sets of carvings each going in the opposite direction. One tells the tale of Siriyala-one of the greatest devotees of Shiva who offered the cooked flesh of his only son to Shiva who had come disguised as a mendicant. In the opposite direction is the tale of Kirātārjunīya-the story of Arjun and Shiva disguised as Kirata. They  both simultaneously strike a boar and end up fighting.  Finally Arjun gets defeated and realizes whom he is fighting with and surrenders to Shiva.

Lepakshi paintings:

The paintings are a revelation. The ceilings of mantapas have paintings of Virapanna and his wife worshiping Virabhadra, story of Markandeya, Shiva as a wandering ascetic etc. The colors brown,black,deep red are still surviving and that’s what makes these masterpieces exciting. The Natya Mantapa or the dancing hall too has figurines of five headed Shiva,musicians,Bhringi -a sage with three legs etc. The ceilings too depict paintings like the story of Manu Needhi Chola- a king who killed his own son for the sake of justice to a mother cow whose calf was accidentally killed by Manu Needhi Chola’s son. Then there is the painting of Shiva as Bhairava with skull bowl and dancing deer. What makes this painting interesting is that in-spite of the frightful nature of Bhairava, the face of Shiva is calm. George Michell mentions that the fluidity found in these paintings is amazing. The later paintings after Lepakshi lack this aspect.  The paintings also give a fair idea of the textiles and costumes present then. There are cotton prints with Kalamkari work on them, conical hats,dhoti, tops,sarees etc. giving a glimpse of society prevailing then.

Apart from these attractions there is an unfinished mantapa known as the wedding hall with divine figures and sages sculpted on the columns; a hanging pillar that does not rest on the ground, the blotched red marks on the walls- said to be the plucked eyes of Virapanna who was  charged with embezzling funds from the king’s treasury. Anger at being accused he blinded himself.

The stories,the depth and details of paintings and relief figures will transport you to a different world. Lepakshi is a place worth visiting and makes for a good one day destination from the city.

–Usha

 

 

Lalbagh walk -Republic Day Pictures

Don’t miss the republic day flower show at Lalbagh happening till the 26th  of this month. With clear skies and warm sun it is a great time of the year to explore this 240 acre park. With colorful marigold,roses, chrysanthemums,lilies,hibiscus greeting you everywhere it is sheer joy to be present in this green space.

The theme of the 209th flower show this year is a tribute to Gandhi- in remembrance of his 150 birth anniversary. There is a 12 foot statue of meditating Gandhi, combined with his ashram, his glasses made of millet, Dandi March etc. The Sabarmati ashram at the center has been decorated with 2.4 lakh roses,3.2 lakh chrysanthemums and 80000 orange roses. There are also organic stalls,gardening section, stalls selling seeds and nurseries. Miniature garden models,composting and vertical gardens are certain highlights of the gardening section.
Here are a couple of snapshots from our Lalbagh Unhurried Walk that took place on the 20th of this month.

 

If you are interested in joining our walks take a look at the walks and tours we provide.

–Usha

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

Masti Venkatesha Iyengar

The bugle rock of Basavangudi is a scenic place filled with dense groves of trees , a 1.8 km cobbled stone path for walking and lovely stone benches for the occasional rest for the tired walkers. Inside the park is an old water tank- the outer walls have been re-purposed with murals of famous personalities of Karnataka. And in one of them stands Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, a prolific Kannada writer- recipient of the famous Jnanapita award. I knew nothing much about him, save this. So a bit of research – the google and a couple of books about Masti and I discovered a disciplined, honest, an able administrator not to mention a man with a creative streak in him that made him author 123 Kannada and 17 English books. Here are few tidbits about him.

Photo Source

Known for his short stories he was honored with the title Rajasevasakta. With more than 123 books under his belt, a D.Lit of both Karnataka and Mysore universities and prior to that District Commissioner of the State, you would think life would have been a smooth journey for him. But it was not so. In fact he suffered hardships throughout his childhood and growing up years.

He was born on June 6, 1891 in Kolar in a small village known as Masti. Son of Ramaswami Iyengar and Tirumallama, he was born in to a rich family. But the family suffered hard times, lost their land. Masti had to bear all this. The plague too had stuck by then. So Masti shifted from his village with his grandfather and moved to Hongenhalli village. His father and brother lost their lives due to plague. Masti had to shift homes,schools. He did his BA from Central College, Bangalore. After that he did his MA in English at Chennai. No matter where he studied, he always managed to stand first. In Madras too he was a gold medalist  and topped his MA.

For some time he worked at the Presidency College of Madras before sitting for the civil services exam at Mysore. And in 1914 he joined government services as Assistant Commissioner and soon rose to become the District Commissioner. However he was bypassed for the post of Minister and a junior got promoted instead of him. For this reason  he resigned from the services in 1943.

Masti’s writing journey began in earnest after this though his first short story was published way back in 1914. Masti wrote under the pen name Srinivasa and when he started out he wanted to write in English. But an encounter with a farmer changed this. During his tax collection rounds when Masti berated a farmer for not paying his dues, the farmer mentioned that he did not know the rules that were all written in English. This prompted Masti to shift to Kannada. His first story was Rangana Maduve and his last was in 1985 and was titled Maatugara Malanna. During his lifetime he wrote essays, short stories, novels, dramas, poems and social stories. His novel Chikkaveera Rajendra won the Jnanapita award in 1983.

His love for Kannada was tremendous. He headed the Kannada Sahitya Parishat and in 1929 headed the Belgavi Kannada Sahitya movement. It is said that he always addressed his talks in Kannada.

Masti died in June  6,1986 at the age of 95. The only memories of him today is the Masti Mane in Gavipuram that has been converted as the office of Masti Venkatesha Jeevana Kaaryalaya[MVJK] Trust. The Trust has preserved Masti’s books and his letters. The road where his 90 plus years home stands has also been named as Masti Venkatesha Iyengar as a tribute to the fourth Jnanapita award of the State.

–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.

Ganesha in Pete

The streets of the Pete wears a festive look. Colourful pandals are seen in the narrow lanes of Cubbonpete, Chikpete, RT street etc. and in the main roads of Avenue Road and OTC Road. The 500 year old Pete is always bustling with energy and even more so during the festivities. This Ganesh Chaturthi – the elephant headed God is in various forms at the Pete. At the weaving lanes of Cubbon Pete he shows off an all pervading self as Vishwa Roopa Ganapati, in a narrow bylane of Avenue Road he is as Sai Baba, in some he is immersed playing musical instruments.

The numerous groups at Pete- the Vinayaka group, Vidya Ganesh group, Ganesh group etc. have competed with each other to give their best. Some of the pandals are basic with excited children performing the aarati and distributing kesari bath while some are opulent with huge idols of Ganesh and engaging the services of priests to perform the religious ceremonies. Decorative lights, music and loudspeakers are found in most of the pandals.

The shutters of most of the shops are down. Most of the trading communities- Gujaratis,Marwaris,Devangas families are busy at the pandal ,participating in Chaturthi festivities full of vigour, immersed in prayers and distributing sweets.

The streets of Pete is full of temples for various communities. So there is an air of celebration in every street. The sweetmeat shops and the flower markets are making brisk business amidst the gaiety.

The celebrations will continue till the weekend and will then be taken out in processions to be immersed in designated venues. Join us this weekend as we show you this side of Pete.

–Usha