Posts Tagged ‘Bangalore’

3 January 2016

Chithra Santhe is an annual exhibition of paintings organised by the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. However, it is no ordinary exhibition; it is not held in any air-conditioned gallery but is an open air event held in a location created by blocking off the Kumar Krupa Road! You can see paintings everywhere you look and the variety is just incredible. You can find anything from abstract to Tanjore paintings and murals. Most people are likely to find a piece of art that attracts them and also fits their wallet.

I had visited the event four years back and had the good fortune to be at Bangalore while the event was on this time. However, we had not factored in the growth and so, were a bit short on time. While walking around, I heard an announcement that about 1,300 to 1,500 artists are participating in this year’s event. The crowd had also grown as compared to our last visit and I was very happy to see that even if it meant constant jostling and shouldering to cut through.

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Most of the paintings were well crafted with most of the subjects being traditional. There were only very few works that could be classified as modern art as most paintings were focused on being pleasing to the eye. I do, however, feel that such events are very important in developing a culture of appreciation for the arts. The Chitrakala Parishath deserves a huge round of applause for organising the event. This is the 13th year of the Santhe and I would recommend this as a “must visit” event.

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1 May 2014

I had been intending to visit Lepakshi for a few months but had not been able to make the trip. So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to make a visit even though it is not very advisable to visit this location in summer as the mercury will climb over 40 degrees and since it is a stone temple, it can become a fire-walking exercise. I left early in the morning to beat the heat and as it is only 125 kilometres from Bangalore and along very good roads, I got there in about an hour and a half.

My interest to visit the place had been fired up because of some of the stories I had heard. The village itself is very small and the temple was not crowded at all when I arrived. The temple itself is on a small hill and the entry does not look very imposing or grand, unlike some others that take your breath away at the first sight itself.

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This temple falls under the purview of the Archaeological Survey of India and as usual, they have limited their information providing to one small board at the entrance. It is a matter of constant frustration for me that ASI has never bothered to provide more information to help the tourists. This temple was constructed in AD 1538 and is a jewel cast in stone. Yet, ASI feels it only merits a badly written board. In contrast, even a very small monument is so well projected by westerners. They provide so much information about the place, audio guides etc. Here, we are left at the mercy of the local guides and their colourful and fertile imagination to learn anything about such wonderful monuments.

I think I was a bit early as I could not locate any guide and I wandered around the temple taking random pictures. I could not locate any of the marvels that I had read about, in the internet. The temple itself is gorgeous with wonderful stone carvings, but for me, the stories make a place come alive. Fortunately, just as I was about to lose hope, I was able to get a guide. As is the case with these local guides, they are rely more on their beliefs, myths and what they think will impress the visitor, rather than facts.

The main deity here is Veerabhadra, who was created by Shiva from locks of his hair, in anger, to slay the king Daksha – his father-in-law. Hence Veerabhadra is considered to be a god in an angry mood so, unlike in many temples, you cannot see the idol from the entry point. The door is set a bit to one side so that the angry gaze of Veerabhadra may not fall at the entrance. The temple was finished in AD 1538 and the construction was overseen by Virupanna, a Treasurer of the King Achutharaya of the Vijayanagar empire and the architect concerned was a person by name of Jakkanna Hampanna. There are three enclosures (prakaras) to the temple – the first has lodging quarters for guests and in the second is the dance hall and the innermost one houses the sanctum sanctorum. The guide told me that there were seven prakaras originally but there is no evidence of that currently.

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As soon as I entered, what I noticed were the long corridors that stretched on the four sides of the temple. This was where people who visited the temple stayed. Today, these long empty corridors present a nice sight with wonderfully carved stone pillars in neat rows.

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The dance hall is a very beautiful structure with 70 stone pillars that have wonderful carvings and some very nice murals on the ceiling.

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The actual space for dancing appeared to be a very small space set between 10-12 pillars. On one of the pillars, the apsara, Rambha is dancing and on the other pillars, various gods and other celestial beings are carved out as musicians and on side, slightly hidden, Bhringi the three legged dance teacher of the apsaras is shown. The carvings are all very nice and beautifully done.

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There is also a carving depicting the “Bhiskhatana” – Shiva’s begging to atone for having cut off Brahma’s fifth head. The guide had got this story totally wrong and mixed it up with the Daksha-Sati story and left me confused. I had heard the Dakhsa story from my grand-mother who was very knowledgeable in all the epics, when I was very young. Fortunately, a quick search on the internet cleared up the matter for me.

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All the pillars in the natya mantapa have beautiful carvings and the roof in the central space has a beautiful flower with 100 petals. Of the 70 pillars, one pillar does not rest on the ground and is a “hanging pillar”. Supposedly, a British engineer tried to find the secret of the hanging pillar and damaged it a bit in the process with the result that one corner touches the ground now. Fantastic structural engineering from the days gone by!

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The roof has many beautiful murals and they look good even today. There were pictures of Shiva, Parvati and also Virupanna (the figure on the right in the first mural below) and various other stories from the epics. Overall, it is a very ornate and rich hall with beautiful sights everywhere.

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The main sanctum sanctorum or garbhagriha has many other deities in addition to the idol of Veerabhadra. The guide was insistent that some of these were commissioned by Sri Rama himself in Threthayuga, which would mean that those idols predate human civilization as we know it! The air inside was very smelly and when I asked, the guide said it was because there was no air circulation inside and hence the smell. To me, it looked like more of a matter of cleanliness as it smelled of animal waste and I did see a couple of cockroaches crawling over one or two idols. There is a nice mural of Veerabhadra here but since no photography was allowed inside this place, I could not capture any images.

Outside and behind the sanctum sanctorum is a huge statue of a seven headed snake protecting a sivalinga. The serpent faces the room that was used as a kitchen by the mother of the sculptor. The story goes that one day when the sculptor came for lunch, it was not ready as his mother had been engaged in some poojas, as it was an auspicious day. The mother asked her son to wait while she prepared food. The sculptor did not want to sit idle and this statue was what he made while he waited for lunch – must have been some superman sculptor to finish such a huge statue in such a short time. In any case, his mother came out, saw the statue and was very impressed by the beauty of it. However, her “evil eye” caused the statue to have two vertical cracks on the coils of the snake and the sculptor was quite saddened by it saying no one would ever notice his work. However, she advised him to put a sivalinga in between the coils of the snake and said people would then pray to it and supposedly that is the story behind this beautiful work. In any case, it is a very impressive statue and is one of the most commonly reproduced images of Lepakshi.

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Right behind the snake is a huge idol of Ganesha, which is slightly pinkish in colour. When I asked the guide whether this was made of some different stone, he said that people had been applying vermillion and oil on the idol and hence the colour change. This practice has been stopped by ASI now.

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Just beyond the Ganesh is the site of the unfinished kalyana mantapa (marriage hall). There are many pillars strewn about the place with fantastic carvings.

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The theme of the kalyana mantapa is the wedding of Shiva and Parvati and the images of all the main guests that attended have been carved on pillars that form a rough square, in the centre. The guests depicted are (left to right in image below): Viswamitra, Eeswara (Shiva), Shiva in wedding attire, Maina Devi (Parvathi’s mother), Parvatharaj (Parvathi’s father), Devendra, Agni, Yaman, Vasishta, Varun, Bruhaspathi, Dattatreya, Vishnu, Vayu and Kubera. The guide also told me that some of these people did not particularly enjoy the company of some others in attendance  (for instance, Viswamithra and Vasishta) and hence, has been placed opposite to each other in the square. It was curious that the sculptor did not feel a need to bring in Parvathi into this mix.

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Now comes the most interesting part of the Lepakshi legend. It seems that some vested interests convinced the then king that Virupanna was squandering the resources of the royal treasury and the king, angered by this, ordered for him to be blinded. Virupanna was standing at the site of the kalyana mantapa when he heard this news and he himself plucked out his eyeballs and threw them on to a nearby wall. On that wall, there are marks with small holes and long stains, to be seen. Supposedly, the eyeballs pierced the stone and the stains were caused by blood. The guide was adamant that recent tests have shown that it is indeed blood and all efforts by the British to wash it away with acid had proven futile.

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On one side of the kalyana mantapa is the “latha mantapa” which has about 36 pillars and each of these pillars have a unique design on each face of the pillar, thus making up 144 unique designs. Supposedly, Lepakshi is known for sarees and it is these designs that have inspired those saree designs.

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Folklore in these parts say that Lepakshi actually is “le pakshi”, which means “rise bird” in Telugu. Supposedly, this is where Jataayu (the legendary bird) fought Raavana as he was kidnapping Sita. Ultimately, Jataayu lost the battle and fell here. When Rama was searching for Sita, he found Jataayu, who told him the whole story and which direction Raavana had taken. Rama is then supposed to have asked Jataayu to rise and hence the name “le pakshi” for the place.

Right beside the kalyana mantapa, on the rock, is a huge footprint. Supposedly, this is Sita’s footprint. Going by the size of the footprint, she must have been at least 25 feet tall as this one was more than four times bigger than my size 10 foot. The foot print always has some water in it and according to the guide, no one knows where it is seeping from and tis aspectt must add to the mystique and attraction of the whole story. I saw several women touching the water to their foreheads and eyes, in prayer.

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Another interesting sight is a lunch plate (thali) shaped sculpture carved into the rock. The guide said this was the lunch plate of the builder and when I pointed out the plate was at least four times larger than a normal plate, his replied that the builder was a man who was 16-18 feet tall as no ordinary person could have built such a temple! His argument being that if we need huge machines like mechanized excavators to demolish big buildings, how could they have built such a big temple and that too on rock, if they were not superhuman size, as they had no machines. It was an amusing thought and I overheard another guide tell his group the same story but he had cut the builder down to 9 feet!

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The sun was starting to get hot by this time and the fire-walk experience was looking like a real possibility. Even though I had spent about three hours in the temple complex, I was not in any hurry to leave. The place is so beautiful with so many rich carvings that it is such a visual treat!

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Within a kilometer or so of the temple is a huge bull (Nandi) carved out of a monolithic rock. It is 15 feet tall and 27 feet in length and beautifully carved. It faces in the direction of the seven headed snake with the sivalinga. I am not sure when it was made; to me, it looked a bit more recent than the temple.

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That was my final stop at Lepakshi and I started my drive back, satisfied and happy about a day well spent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 January 2014

Tucked away in a corner of Bangalore associated with the perishable goods market and a bus station, is one of the most important historic monuments of the town. Not many tourists actually go there and it took me 22 years of life at Bangalore to go there the first time. I was in love with the place from that visit and have been there two more times. To me, it is a fantastic visual treat and looks like a poor cousin of the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain. Of course, the Mezquita is far grander and is older; I guess it is the beautiful arches in the palace and the Islamic architecture that brings out the resemblance.

The construction of the fort was started by Hyder Ali, Tipu’s father, in 1781 and completed by Tipu Sultan in 1791. It is located within the old Bangalore fort (of which only a small portion is still standing), right next to an old temple.  After Tipu’s fall, the palace was used by the British as administrative offices and as can be expected, only a small portion of the palace is left behind.

The palace is built entirely with wood and has an abundance of beautifully carved arches. It was originally painted with vegetable pigments and some portions of the original work can still be seen. However, I was told that the current colour combination is attributable to the Archaeological Society of India, which has done some restoration work.

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View from the front

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Views of main durbar hall

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Pillars and arches

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Works in ceiling and wall

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Views of rear durbar hall

There is also a small museum inside, wherein some objects like a replica of the famous toy that Tipu had (of a tiger attacking an Englishman) and some rockets he used, are kept. It seems Tipu’s army had been able to make and use rockets that could travel a distance of two and a half kilometres, a remarkable achievement indeed, in those days.

There is an Arabic inscription in the palace which says it is the “abode of happiness and envy of heaven”. Even in this day, in its current condition, it is magnificent. One can only imagine how it must have been in its heyday. However, as I sat there among those beautiful arches, a sense of outrage kept tugging at my heart. Here I was in the palace of a very brave king, a truly patriotic king, who was the first in South India to stand up to the British and indeed, beat them in many battles – the only one in these parts of whom the British were truly afraid of. He was a visionary who was a very good administrator and who understood the relevance of international trade and relations and had envoys in faraway places like France and Turkey. He stands head and shoulders above the rest of the South Indian kings who mostly kowtowed to the British to save their power and riches. Yet, today, he is neglected in his own state. There is hardly any monument in his name (in a country where every Tom, Dick and Harry and their families get statues erected in their honour) and even this palace does not get the attention it deserves. It is definitely the most important historic monument in Bangalore. The answer to this neglect, most probably, could be found in the introductory words of a guide that I had hired during one of the visits. “This is the palace of Tipu Sultan, the Muslim king…….”. And thus, another Republic Day went by…


I started off a little before lunch in the Jeep and the destination was the Pegasus camp about 60 km away from Bangalore. This was the first time that I had dared to take my 1967 model Jeep outside the city since I bought it. So, it was with some apprehension that I set off and it looked others too had the same apprehension as Sandhya kept calling me in between to check whether all was fine. In the end, I felt I should have been more confident of the Jeep – it was a smooth drive all the way through. Driving on the countryside with a Jeep, which is partially open is so much more fun even in the summer. You felt a bit more in touch with the surroundings and not cocooned.

The camp is in the middle of nowhere with the nearest village being a small one called Kallukote. I have always been struck by how pronounced the change is between Bangalore and the rural areas surrounding it. Just 50 km off Bangalore and you are in real rural heartland. Probably I feel this more because in Kerala there is not that much difference between cities and the rural areas.

I was driving along in good cheer and stopping to take photographs once in a while. The land looked well irrigated and most of it was under cultivation. It was good to see land being put to good use and not being barren. As I stopped for one such photo break, I saw a sight that I had not seen since early childhood – a man ploughing his land using bullocks. He was kind enough to allow me to take photos of him. His name was Vasanthappa and he said he grows maize in his fields. It was quite amazing that within 50 km of one of the largest cities in one of the largest economies of the world, a man was still ploughing his land using a technique which was centuries old. I guess a tractor must have been beyond his means.

Very near the camp is a Lakshmi Narasimha temple and there is a medium size hill (about 700-800 ft high) right beside it. There was a villager standing near the temple and he told me that they had another temple right on top of the hill. He showed me a post right on the top where he said a lamp was lit on particular days. I was curious and wanted to go up the hill.

So, I went to the camp, freshened up and came right back. There was a rough, rocky road cut into the hill side and my Jeep would have gone up that track, steep as it was. However, since I have no experience with such riding and as I was aapprehensive of causing some damage to the vehicle, I parked it near the temple and proceeded up the hill on foot. As I started walking, I realised that I was alone on the hill. It was a bit of an odd feeling, it was so silent and still all around. The path was reasonably easy, though a bit steep and I was at the top in about 20 minutes and what a sight it was!

The temple itself was a very small but what attracted me more were the steps that led up to it and a drawing of Hanuman done with charcoal or something like that, on a rock. The image, the steps and the tree beside it all combined to provide a nice ambience. The highlight of the whole experience was, of course, the simplicity of everything. Simple lives, simple beliefs, simple temples, simple gods…..

The post that the villager had shown me was driven into a rock and was almost at the highest point.

The views all around were fantastic with majestic hills looming in the distance. There were many small villages to be seen but most of it was agriculture land.

I sat there for sometime absorbing the stillness and the quiet. It actually takes effort to get used to that. One is far more comfortable with all the noise that one is surrounded with, in the city. It was a bit eerie to think that I was all alone on that hill. It was a very nice feeling and needless to say, was the highpoint of the day. I will be back here soon….

Art is often the preserve of the elite and most art related organizations also continue in that vein; but the Karnataka Chithra Kala Parishath (CKP) strives to be different by organizing an event called “Chithra Santhe” every year. A literal translation of Chithra Santhe means Picture Market and CKP calls it “Art for All”. This is the ninth such event happening at Bangalore. While we had heard about this a couple of years back, we had never visited it and so we were determined to go this time.

The event itself lasts for just one day and is organized in the road (Kumara Krupa Road) where CKP is located. The road, which is about a kilometre and a half long, is closed off for the day and art works are exhibited on pavements on both sides of the road. This road, incidentally, is where the Chief Minister has his official residence and it is all the more impressive that they manage to hold this event here.

The first thing that struck me as we arrived at Kumara Krupa Road was the crowd. The road was quite packed and I could well believe the press report that I had read in the morning which had said that the organisers were expecting around 200,000 people to turn up. There were people everywhere – some were buying, some just looking or some posing for portraits. I could also see some people with cameras. The most important aspect I noticed was that the crowd consisted mostly of ordinary people and not the elite or intelligentsia; so the event seems to have met the objective of the organisers.

The whole event was a riot of colours and was dominated by paintings. There were some handicraft items as well but those were very few. The paintings themselves were of many different types with sceneries and life-like depictions making up for the bulk of the works on display. An interesting item was a display of bottles with paintings on them. There were works from 800 artists or so and many seem to have come from places outside Karnataka as well. Sale prices for the paintings were very varied as well with a range from Rs. 300 to 75,000.

There were some abstract works also on display and some of them were quite eye catching. In particular, I like some pencil drawings and a couple of paintings – some of the themes were quite bold indeed.

One artist and his work stood out and I had a brief chat with him. His name was Bharath and what caught my eye was that his work was quite different from all others. The most prominent piece was the painting of a toilet and that reminded me of Duchamp’s work. I asked Bharath about the idea behind the painting and he said that he drew it today morning as he wanted to “shock” the spectators that come for the event. He had not heard of Duchamp’s exhibition of the inverted urinal and if he is to be believed, this is original thought from him. Another painting he had was done on a page of “The Economic Times” and this was done because he found it interesting that a businessman could use it to check his stocks while a street vendor could use it to pack “pakodas”. Brief as it was, I enjoyed the conversation with him.

Overall, the event was quite enjoyable and Sandhya and I left with a sense of satisfaction after spending a couple of hours. This initiative from CKP is quite commendable and I hope they keep this up!