Wednesday, November 16, 2011



Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) is a sleepy town closer to Chennai on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. The name Mahabalipuram is derived from the Pallava kings offering “Maha Bali” to their family deity Durga. You can see a sculpture of goddess Durga with a beheaded animal in front of her. It appears that Mrs Indira Gandhi renamed it as Mamallapuram, meaning maha malla (warrior) puram. It was the second biggest city and the biggest port of the Pallavas. It is now famous for sculpturing, beach and resorts. It draws tourists from all over the world. I was surprised to see quite a few French tourists there. They might prefer this place because it is closer to the erstwhile French colony of Pondicherry and you can find local guides speaking French here.
We stayed at a beach side resort. The beach here is very sandy. There are warnings against swimming. I did not like the humidity as it was 85%! The town depends on tourism and sculpturing. Sculpturing was supported here from the days of the Pallavas. They have a sculpturing college here and the main road is teaming with the handicrafts workshops and shops. They transport different types of stones from Rajasthan and the sand stone from the east coast. High density black granite is available locally. They follow what they call as “South Indian Style” of sculpture.

The Pallavas ruled the South of Tamil Nadu from the middle of 6 th to the middle of 8 th centuries AD. They were not the descendants of the Pahlavis, the Persians. Their kingdom extended from Orissa in the North to the Southern Ponnar River in the South; from the Bay of Bengal in the east to Salem and Bangalore on the West. They were defeated frequently by the Chalukyas of Karnataka. They were eliminated by the Cholas of Tamilnadu.

They were not interested in wars, but in building temples. The shore temple has been reclaimed from the sea recently and adjacent to it is a moorti of blend of elephant, varaha and Nandi which they excavated in 2003. The British and the Indian Archaeological Society have found the palace submerged under the Bay of Bengal recently.
The main attraction is the chariots of Pandavas. Anything numbered 5 here goes with the Pandavas! The tourist guide told me that the first king of Pallavas started the construction and he could not complete it as the Chalukyas of Badami invaded and destroyed it. When I asked him why not his descendents could complete it, he had no answer! I also found it hard to believe that the Chalukyas had actually destroyed it as they were also Hindus. The whole complex of 5 temples is carved in a monolithic stone. It is barely 300 m from the sea. The British excavated it 200 years. The first one is dedicated to the goddess Durga and is called Draupadi Ratha.The second to Lord Shiva and called Arjuna Ratha. The third one is a huge Bhima Ratha, dedicated to Vishnu. The tallest is the Dharma raja Ratha and the fifth, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, dedicated to Indra. You can find a blend of different styles like the Dravidian, Buddhist, North Indian, Roman, Greek and the Chinese! It shows how well connected and influenced these Pallavas were. I was also amazed because they had deities of Shaivism and Vaishnavism of Hinduism as well as nature Gods like Sun God, Indra, etc. However, each chariot is unique by itself. They were supposed to have wheels; but could not be completed because of the defeat. Pallavas seem to be the originators of the South Indian style of sculpture, later perfected by the Cholas.
The next stop was at the Arjuna’s penance place. The motif has no carving of Arjuna on it. It is a series of carvings on a huge boulder depicting Gangavatarana by Bhagiratha. It shows how plagiarism exists in our society for ages! Adjacent to this is a group of five caves They are again named after the Pandavas! They are unfinished. You can find carvings of Govardhanagiridhari Krishna here. It is dedicated to Krishna’s leelas. I found a carving of a face resembling the zorastrian style! There are carvings in Egyptian, Roman and other styles as well.
Krishna’s butter ball is very interesting. It is nearly a rounded rock balanced on a hillock. It is amazing how it has withstood the test of weather.
I asked the guide to take my picture against the backdrop of the backdrop of butter ball pretending to lift it. A few tourists gathered around me to see what I was doing. Some of them continued to grin at me the whole day whenever we met! The guide took me to the unfinished temple behind the Caves. There is no need to make any special mention about it. What is so important is the emergence of the Dravidian temple architecture. The symbol of the Pal lava dynasty, simha, is nicely carved here. There are carvings on the ceiling which you can see in Kanjeevaram sarees even today.
Our next stop was the shore temple. It is called so because it is on the sea shore. Mrs Indira Gandhi had visited this temple and took special interest in developing it so that mahabalipuram is now one of the World Heritage centres. These are twin? Temples, the style resembles that of konark temple in Orissa.
I found mahabalipuram quite humid, it was 85%! And I cannot stand it. I did not find many tourists lazing around on the sand either. The hotel i stayed in was very luxurious and anyway, these things do not impress me as long as basic necessities are taken care of. One can spend a day here for sightseeing and another for lazing around. There are a series of resorts along the east coast. The resort I was staying in had swimming pool and bikes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ಉಡುಪಿ ಶ್ರೀ ಕೃಷ್ಣ RATHAS

I had visited the Sri Krishna Temple of Udupi before. But I had not taken any photos there. This time, when I had to chair a session on difficult cataract surgeries at the State Conference at Udupi in Oct 2010, I did not want to let go the opportunity. This time, I focussed on the Chariots (Rathas).

Udupi is a very quiet and cute town. Yet all kinds of amenities are available there. Surprisingly, even after it became a district head quarters, I did not see many new administrative blocks. All roads appear to be washed nice and clean everyday! Contrary to what I had expected, I did not find too many restaurants! Looks like they are all serving Bangaloreans! May be that is the reason why we do not see many overweight individuals in Udupi. Of course, constant sweating also helps in shedding calories any way.

The street leading to the Sri Krishna Temple is called the Car Street (Ratha beedi). It is named so because the cars (chariots) are pulled along this street during the Car festival. It was amazing to see seven chariots in one place! There are three wooden rathas namely Brahma Ratha, Madhya Ratha and Sanna Ratha, a Silver and aGolden ratha. I could only get the glimpse of these chariots by peeping through the window of the car shed. The latest addition, the Nava kanaka rathna chariot is parked next to the Anantheswara Temple. The golden and silver chariots are next to the Sri Krishna Temple.

The Nava kanaka rathna ratha (chariot) is the first of its kind in the country built of gem stones laid on intricately carved gold. It has been built using 12 kg gold, 18 kg silver and 500 kg bronze besides 1.25 kg precious gem stones. The cost of construction was approximately Rs 7 crore. The main architect behind the marvellous craftsmanship is Madurai Tangadorai. A team of 150 members have worked on it, sometimes in three shifts.1

The Navartathnas are Diamonds, Pearls, Emeralds, Opels, Ruby, Coral, Yellow Sapphire, Blue sapphire and Hessonite. The ratha has nine ridges around it, five on the bottom and four on the upper Mukuta; each circle has been studded with navarathnas. Rubies are in larger number which gives the glitter, while diamonds are placed in cluster between the navarathnas as mukuta. All other gems cover the rest of the area of this nine foot chariot. 2

The first one is the 500 year old Brahma Ratha, the biggest one. It is getting ready on the car street for the car festival. The second one is the Garuda Ratha. It is parked right in front of the Temple main entrance.
The third one is the Pushpaka Vimana parked next to the Ananteswara temple.All these are carved in wood while there are Golden and Silver Ratha also.3 The latter are parked beside the Sri Krishna temple. The other rathas are Mahapooja ratha (madhya ratha) and Pallakki.
There is also a pile of fire wood arranged in the shape of a chariot (kattige ratha) made on the day of Paryaya, on which the the right to worship Sri Krishna changes every two years. Looks like everything in Udupi resembles a Ratha!

The cars are pulled on several occasions. One of them is the day of Makara Sankramana, on which Sri Madhvacharya installed the idol of Sri Krishna. It is a seven day festivity. Two cars- Madhya ratha and sanna ratha are pulled during the night on five days previous to Sankramana. Three cars are pulled on the night of Sankramana and the following day. 4 I have decided to visit Udupi the next year. How about you?

Anantheswara temple: Legend has it that Sri Madhwacharya disappeared to the heaven from this temple. The locals say it has been existing for the last 2000 years.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

On a Kempegowda tower trail what the kids say all the time during the summer. This summer, when my nephew visited us, we did something very interesting and unique. That was to locate all the towers built by Kempegowda in Bangalore.

Kempegowdas were the chieftains under the Vijayanagar rulers. Kempegowda I built Bangalore. His grandson, Kempe Gowda II, was the one to erect the towers at four different corners of Bangalore (Bangalore copper plate 1597). They were to limit the growth of Bangalore! The towers exist even today and they are located at Rajamahal Vilas Extension in the North, near Ulsoor tank in the East, inside Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in the South and between Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple and Kempambudhi tank in the West. The picture of these towers has become the insignia of the corporation of the city. The corporation has also built one at the Hudson circle in 2004(1).

We wanted to visit the Big Bull Temple (Dodda Basavanna temple) near our home as it has a significant legend and tradition.

Kadalekayi parishe
There was a farmer around who grew groundnuts in his field. One day, he noticed that a bull was eating away the fruits of all his labour. One day, he caught it grazing the fields and beat it up badly. The bull ran away to the temple and became a stony idol, the one that is present now. To his amazement, it started growing taller! They had to arrest the growth by striking a Thrishul (trident) above its head. Then the farmer realised that it was indeed Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. He did repent for beating up instead of worshipping it. Then on, he started offering groundnuts during every harvest. It has become a tradition for the farmers around Basavanagudi to offer monkeynuts to the Big Bull on the last Monday of the Hindu calendar month of Karthika masa. Eventhough there are no fields around Basavanagudi now, vendors set up their stalls on either side of the Bull Temple Road in this fair. This tradition is called “Kadalekayi parishe”.

Box 1: kadalekayi parishe

It is a place not to be missed in Bangalore, anyway. This temple was built five hundred years ago. The Nandi idol is huge, measuring about 15ft tall and 20 feet in long.

Picture 1: The tower near Basavanna temple

Everyone knew where the famous Kempegowda tower was at Lalbagh. What about the other towers? People around the Bull temple told us there was one round the corner. We went around the Bugle rock asking for directions. Not many knew about this tower anyway; including the youngsters playing cricket in front of the tower! It is next the APS College on the top of a rock, inside the premises of BMS nursing school (see picture 1). It has no pillars; neither has it any carvings of deities. Historians refer to not so known four more towers at Gavi Gangadhareswara temple, Nanjamba Agrahara, Basavanna temple, and near Binny Mills. This could be one of them (2).

Our next stop was the Lalbagh tower (picture 2). This was rebuilt in 1954. It is on the top of a rock overseeing the Lalbagh main entrance. The rock is nearly 3000 millions years old (3). You can have a great view of Bangalore from the tower.

Picture 2: The South tower at Lalbagh

Picture 3: The sign board at Lalbagh

We then headed towards the Ulsoor lake (picture 4). We had to make a few enquiries with the regulars and vendors around the lake to find the tower. This one also is on the top of a rock inside a defence property adjoining the lake. It is not so easy to find.

Picture 4: The east tower next to the Ulsoor lake

Then we headed towards the one in Gavipuram. We could not find the west tower and in an attempt to locate it, I entered a blind alley and broke my car’s bumper!! However, we watched the musical fountain around Harihareshwara hillock. I finished with that tower after my nephew left. It is on the top of a hillock behind a temple called Bande Maha Kali templein Gavipuram.

Picture 5: The west tower near Bande Maha Kali temple

There is another tower on the foothills of Harihareshwara temple. It is said to be built by Kempegowda in honour of his daughter in law. The story goes like this. One of the lakes built by him used to break the tank bund. Somebody suggested that it remained stable if a lady sacrificed her life. His daughter in law sacrificed her life and the tank bund remained stable. This tower is different as it has no carvings of deities on it and is situated at the bottom of a hillock rather than the top. It could be a cenotaph.

Box 2: Watch tower or cenotaph?

This tower is painted all over and we can not decide whether it is a stony or mortar structure (picture5). A recent scripture on the floor of the tower confirms that it is indeed one of the towers built by Kempegowda. You can have a good view of the deer park from there. I saw another similar tower on the way to Harihara temple (box 2). I visited the north tower while going to Nandi Hills, after my nephew had left India. This is located inside a park next to the Ramana Maharshi meditation centre near Mekhri circle, opposite the Palace grounds, on Bellary road, in Rajmahal Vilas extension (picture6).

Picture 6: The north tower near Mekhri circle inside a beautiful park

Things to do around the tower near Bull Temple
A. Places to see
1. Bull temple
2. Dodda Ganesha temple
3. Bugle rock
4. Ambience of Gandhi Bazar: One of the oldest areas of Bangalore.Still has a traditional market.
5. Karanji Anjaneya Temple
6. Mallikarjunaswamy temple
B. Places to eat
1. Vidyarthi Bhavan: Started in 1943. A must for locals. Famous for masala dosa. The newly renovated restaurant has portraits of the famous Kannada personalities who were regulars also.
2. Kamath Bugle Rock: Well known for Bijapur cuisine. Holds concerts by local young artists in its courtyard in the evenings.
3. Cafe Coffee Day at Gandhi Bazar circle
4. Hotel Dwaraka in N R Colony: Serves delicious khali dosa.

Things to do around the tower in Lalbagh
A. Places to see
1. Lalbagh
B. Places to eat
1. MTR: Delicious thali is served in silverware.

Things to do around the west tower
A. Places to see
1. Gavigangadhareshwara temple
2. Harihareshwara temple
B. Places to eat
Same places as around Basavanagudi as it is barely a km away from Gandhi bazaar.

Things to do around the tower near Ulsoor Lake
A. Places to see
1. Boating
2. Gurudwar
3. Odakuttur math
4. Shopping at the Commercial Street, Brigade Road and MG Road
B. Places to eat ?

Things to do around Mekhri Circle
A. Places to see
1. Ramana Maharshi Ashram
2. Palace grounds; to visit exhibitions and concerts

Itinerary: Depends on where you live. Start from Bull temple around 8:00 am, have breakfast at Vidyarthi Bhavan or Dwaraka Hotel proceed to the tower at Gavipuram and then to Lalbagh tower. Have lunch at MTR and proceed towards the Ulsoor lake tower; do boating. Finally finish with the Bellary Road tower.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Protecting your eyes during Deepavali

We all know how we can protect our eyes. However, there is a tendency to throw caution to wind during Diwali. Here is a reminder about the precautions.

How often are the eyes damaged due to fire cracker injuries?
Eyes are hit one in four of all fire cracker injuries. Rockets are the most dangerous ones- accounting for about 38% of eye injuries.
Why do we need to take precautions?
The extent of damage can vary from a trivial foreign body sensation to complete loss of sight. It can vary from infection to rupture of the eye due to the force with which the cracker or a stone hits the eye. ALL THESE CAN BE PREVENTED WITH PROPER PRECAUTIONS.
What are those precautions?

Always stay with the kids: Nearly 50% of injuries happen to kids under 15 years of age. We can prevent half of them if the parents keep an eye on kids all the time.
Do not ignite crackers in your hand: Be an example to your kids in bursting them safely. Keep the crackers at a higher level and burst. If you keep them on the ground, you have to get up and then run away. Then, the cracker may burst on the face.
Keep a safe distance: Ignite with a lengthy incense stick and keep the fuse quite long.
Bursting in an open area: Do not burst them in a crowded area or road. It is not convenient to run away. You can avoid injuries to others also.
Burst only one cracker at a time: And also, only one person should burst at a time.If kids are running around in different directions holding up the sparklers or incense stick, they may stick in the eyes of the other kid!
Keep a bucket of water handy: Do not approach a failed cracker; but throw water on it.
Do not ignite the powder only by peeling off the paper roll: The paper roll controls the force of explosion. You can get serious burns if the explosion is not controlled.
Wear cotton clothes: Synthetic clothes catch fire quickly.
Control the rocket: Launch from a narrow mouthed long bottle control the direction.
Goggles: Always wear goggles covered on the sides to protect your eyes.

First aid
Do not rub the eyes.
Removal of a dust particle: Pull the upper lid down and out and then close the eyes. This brushes away the particle from under the lid. If you do not get any relief, consult a specialist.
Burns: If the eyelids are burnt, wash thoroughly in clean water.
Bleeding: Consult a specialist immediately.
Consult a specialist: nearly 14% of need opinion of specialists. Do not self medicate.