Friday, March 29, 2013

A Trek to Nowhere

One Saturday early morning, we woke up to an idea of trekking in Charmadi, the priced possession of the Western Ghats. Our plan was to climb up to the nearest peak. We reached the base of the hill, and hereon had to walk up to start our trek. The trek begins on a seasonal dirt track meant for jeeps, which had become unusable due to the heavy monsoons during our visit. The driver instinct in me only forced me wish that, some day, we could do this route on a vehicle.
Charmadi Ghats
Curvy Roads of Charmadi Ghats
 Twenty minutes into the trek, we realized our jackets which meant to protect us from rain, were not of much use, as the chances of rainfall at that time were meager, and it only made us uncomfortable wearing one. We removed our weather gears and walked further, through tall green trees, bird songs and millipedes crossing our way.  After a while of nature trek, we reached a small human habitation, with few houses and even fewer people. The home was situated amidst tall green trees and we were welcomed by the owner of the house, an old man and his wife. While we walked in, a group of young boys just walked out, to start their trek. The elderly person very kindly offered us water so we could quench our thirst .Water never tasted this good, by the way!
Lucky Home
The Happy Family and the Little one 
 While we shared our interests to visit a certain peak and requested for a guide, we were told to join the group of boys who had just left, as they were already being guided by a person, who fairly knew the terrain. He then showed us directions to the trek route and also cautioned us about rain any moment in the woods, which could continue for days. We also inquired about the movement of elephants there and the reply assured their presence deep inside the forests and that there were no immediate signs of threat of any kind from them. The atmosphere there was cool and humid.  It was greenery all around. We wished to remain there all through the day, even before starting the trek! We rested for sometime and put our feet down to start the trek. We also had to catch up with the guide along. We temporarily bade good bye to the lovely family and moved on with a lot of vigor and excitement.
Initial Trek Route

Grazing Cattle
Trek Company

Tall Green Trees
Rock on Edge
Trekking along the directed route, we walked past a cattle group who were busy grazing and looked equally excited as us! Not quite far away, we spotted the group of boys and picked up pace, so we wouldn’t miss the route. The vegetation was quite dense as we walked along, at a few places. Very soon, we were at a high altitude and looking down, we had a beautiful view of the curvy roads of Charmadi, which disappeared often due to the moving clouds. After a few clicks, we went further and reached a lone rock standing at the edge, in the background of the charming Charmadi, though not sure of the name it carries. The view from here was fascinating and hard to miss. As we moved further, we were accompanied by two cute puppies having anklets around their necks. Wagging their tails and sniffing us, they refused to let go, until their owner forced them his way. A boy from the group got lucky while he spotted a snake, though it was too late for the rest of us.
Slippery Path


Germinating Seeds
Underside of The Purple Leaf
We were stuck at a junction as nobody was sure about the route from here, and since the person serving as our guide was not very well versed with the terrain, neither did he, nor us wanted to risk it, going too far and inside. As we had come a long way, we rested for sometime and started our trek back to the starting point. We reached the house and thanked the family for their support. We made friends with a little cute girl and enjoyed conversing with her. The family exchanged a few words with us and told us about how their timely guests, the elephants, entered their fields and created havoc after drinking the locally prepared liquor! With all smiles, they told us to come back again. We were touched by their kind gesture and just as we were leaving, the girl’s mother brought us a plate of freshly cooked ‘Anabe’ (Kannada word for mushroom) fried with onions and turmeric. Mushrooms thrive here during monsoons and are widely available. The art of picking the edible ones though, is attributed only to the experiences hands.  We enjoyed it to the last bit and bade the final good bye. We had to walk back to our vehicle and while driving back, had a few clicks of the beautiful Charmadi. A lot more waits to be explored during our next visit to the Charmadi.

Charmadi surely has an inherent quality to it that makes it so magical and enchanting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dolmen Megalithic Structure

   Answer to guess the structure post is a 'Dolmen', locally called as Pandavara Gudi. Deepak Amembal (magic eye) got the closest to the answer.

Dolmen (wiki) is a megalithic structure which in olden days,  is believed to have been used for burials of the dead . The picture above shows the cross section of  a Dolmen . It consists of a cap-stone,  floor-stone and four vertically standing stones that form the covered portion . Out of  the four side stones, one is port-holed.  Some researchers believe that " the people who were about to die were placed in a dolmen, along with the required food, water and other necessary things and after their death, the cap-stone was placed above".
Port Holed Stone
Dolmen

  At some places, dolmens are found independently, while at many other, they are found as Dolmenoid Cysts, surrounded by a Stone Circle. Though the real use of these structures are still a mystery, our inferences are only limited to our imagination. First of all, why have a port-hole on  a side stone if it was being used as a burial structure? and what purpose does the floor stone serve? Some researchers argue that the pre-historic people believed in life after death, which is why they devised so many burial structures, in order to please the departed soul .
   The other structure (above the cap-stone) in the picture is of course a part of water lifting device, which many got it right.  There are many Dolmens, Stone Circles and Menhirs found lying in this region without any care.

With this post we have completed three years of blogging.
       

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lepakshi Chitra Katha

       The high ceilings of Lepakshi are bedecked with Murals (ceiling paintings), depicting various mythological scenes from the Epics and the Puranas. The Lepakshi Murals are a proof of the exemplary artwork of the Vijayanagar period. The paintings belong to the15th century and are quite well known among art lovers. The Fresco technique of mural painting was adopted, and the source of colors were the naturally occurring dyes present in vegetables and flowers. Though some of the paintings have retained its bright colors, most of them have become less vibrant and  lustrous or vanished. Sad but true, the paintings are failing the test of time and need some serious restoration measures.The panels are bordered by floral patterns, mostly in black, while  the background color of the paintings is orange red.
Builders of Lepakshi-Brothers Virupanna and Viranna (right)
Virupanna's Assistants and Advisers
The above picture shows the panel depicting the Builders and Patrons of Lepakshi worshiping Lord Shiva. Note their tall head gears (Kulavis) and the style of their Dhotis.
Vatapatrasayi - Baby Krishna sucking his toe and lying on Banyan Leaf
Marriage of Draupadi with Arjuna
Arjuna shooting the fish eye with bow and arrow

Draupadi on her father Drupad's lap and Kalabhairava
The above three pictures form the panel depicting the Swayamvara of Draupadi, the daughter of the Panchala king Drupada.Amongst all he contenders, it was only Arjuna, who shot the eye of the wooden fish fixed on a revolving wheel, while looking at the reflection in the water below and the consequent marriage of Draupadi with Arjuna.
Parvati (in green) with her maids getting ready  for the wedding 
Ashtadikpalakas





Sadashiva, Vishnu, Ladies, Himavantha and MeenaDevi
Shiva and Parvati with Brahma (priest) and Ashtadikpalakas
The above four pictures form the panels depicting Lord Shiva's marriage shows Goddess Parvati in the company of her maidens. The  hairstyles and costumes (clothing and ornaments) worn by the maidens are  worthy being noted. The maidens are bare on their upper half. The panel shows Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati,  Lord Brahma, the priest of the wedding and the Ashtadikpalakas.
Story of Manu Needhi Cholan
The calf is seen under the chariot (left)
Shiva and Parvati on the bull, King, Queen, the Cow and Calf
Lord Shiva in the form of Ardhanareeshwara
The above four pictures depict the legendary story of Manu Needhi Cholan, a righteous Chola king, who went to the extent of killing his own son in order to provide fair justice to a Cow. On knowing that a calf was crushed under the chariot of his son, the king ordered his son to be crushed under the same chariot in a similar way. The Cow was thus giver fair justice by this . who went on to punish his own son. Being impressed with this, Shiva and Parvati come down to restore the lives of the prince and the calf.
Ravana asking for Help from a Shepherd (Lord Ganesha in Disguise)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lepakshi - The Little Hampi

   "Lepakshi" village is located about 14 km from Hindupur in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh State. It is famous for the Veerabadhra Swamy temple, said to have been built by Virupanna during the 16th Century. The temple is known for its paintings of the Vijayanagar period which are named after the temple, as Lepakshi Paintings.The main features of the temple complex of Lepakshi are the Moolasthamba, Nandi Monolith, the Natya Mantapa, the Seven Headed Serpent, the Asampoorna (incomplete) Kalyana Mantapa, and the Latha Mantapa. Each feature being unique, has a different story to tell and true to its name.
Nandi or the Big Bull
         The 'Asampoorna Kalyana Mantapa' has a very interesting story behind its incompleteness. The reason is attributed to Virupanna, who was the treasurer, in charge of all the financial aspects of the kingdom. A few ministers and their sub-ordinates who were against Virupanna, falsely accused him of atrocities not committed by him. On listening to all these, and presuming them to be true, the king also suspected Virupanna of the same and decided to punish him. It was ordered that Virupanna's eyes should be plucked off. On hearing the king's verdict, Virupanna was shattered. He knew that he would never betray his king. He was true to his conscience and very firm about not committing any sin. Hence, as a sign of devotion, Virupanna himself plucked off his eyes and offered them to his king  The blood stains on one of the side walls, and the mark left on one of the walls while he threw  his eyes off against the wall is presumed to be linked to this story of Virupanna. The false accusations on Virupanna of not having taken permission from the king for building the Kalyana Mantapa and spending money unnecessarily, and the subsequent acts lead to the incompleteness of this Kalyana Mantapa.
Blood Stains of Virupanna's Eyes 
    Though the Mantapa is incomplete, it looks grand and one can only wonder how it would look if it were complete. The Mantapa was being built for the celebration of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. A huge pillar depicting the same, with the priest blessing them, welcomes us as at  the side entrance of  the Mantapa. On one the entrance pillars, there is a carving of two monkeys, which, by the skill and intelligence of the sculptor, is made to look like four monkeys. Also, there is a carving of a cow, with one body and three heads, which actually depicts three cows in three different forms.
Entrance to the Asampoorna Mantap 
Priest Blessing the Couple
Carving of the Cow
Guests attending Lord Shiva's Wedding
    The pillars inside are arranged in the form of a circle and depict the guests who attended the marriage. The list of guests is as follows, Meenadevi, Himavantha, Devendra, Agni, Vishwamitra, Varuna, Bruhaspathi, Brahma, Vishnu, Vaayu, Kubera, and Vashishta. The Lord guests came on their respective vehicles (various animals and birds) to bless the married couple.
   The pillar carrying the carvings of  Himavantha, shows him in a standing posture, while he carries a bowl of water in his hand for performing the Kanyadaanam ritual (The ritual of giving his daughter. Kanya means a girl, bride or daughter and  Danam means to give away, Gift ), wherein, the father entrusts his daughter to the groom by washing the groom's feet and gives custody of his daughter to the bridegroom.There is also a beautiful carving of Sadashiva with five heads and ten hands welcoming the guests.
Lord Sadashiva
   The 'Latha Mantapa', situated besides the Asampoorna Mantapa has 39 pillars carrying wonderful carvings of shapes and designs, unique in its kind, on each side of its pillars. The designs have long been used in making the borders of silk sarees. It is an amazing treat to the eyes.
Latha Mantapa
 Pillars carrying unique designs
 
    A little further away from the Kalyana Mantapa are seen the plates used by the sculptors for having their food. From the size of the plates, it can be easily guessed that the size of man at that time was pretty huge. There is a notion that these plates were also used for mixing colors, like a palette and used for painting.
  A few yards away is the 'Seetha Hejje' or the impression of Seetha Devi's right foot. The impression of her left foot is supposedly at Penugonda's Veeramma Betta. From the toe of Seetha Devi's right foot, water springs up and a small amount of it is always present, which is its specialty.
Seetha Hejje

 To be continued......

 


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