It’s raining heavily . Outside the glass-pan of window the down pour has created a hazy screen.No wind is blowing at all. The single tree visible from my seat stands facing the lashing silently. It was a green, blooming tree few days ago. The green wide canopy interspersed with bright yellow delicate bunches of flowers filled the heart with dream and romance. With every wisp of air the hanging chandelier like flowers danced rhythmically. Some times few flowers from the bunch came down dancing softly with the wind and on a really windy day the ground below was carpeted yellow. The tree was a source of joy to us. but that day people from electricity department arrived and cut all it’s outstretched arms as those reached the high voltage wire running above. Now the stem with few butchered branches and leaves hanging desolately stand bare . But the tree has not lost it’s dignity. Under the incessant lashing rain it stand firmly holding it’s ground as if bearing with equanimity it’s fate and look there is this small bunch of three-four fresh green leaves peeping out from that bleeding crevice. To me they feel like angels of hope…..if calamity falls upon, the bright time can’t be far behind.
September 14, 2016
September 11, 2016
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In Hindu Mythology Shivalinga and Nandi are inseparable. Wherever there is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, an idol of Nandi is sure to be found inside the temple complex.Nandi at Lepakshi is a bit different in the way that it is outside the temple enclosure, say about five hundred meter away on the road side. But then so is the big majestic Shivalinga in the temple. Infact the main deity of this temple is Veerbhadreshwara, a form of Lord Shiva only and the very artistically carved Nagalinga is in the open courtyard of the temple outside the sanctum. The Nandi faces this Shivalinga.May be during the time both these were sculpted there were no high buildings in that five hundred meter stretch and Nandi even from that distance was able to continuously gaze his beloved lord and master.
This splendid Nandi bull is of gigantic dimension, approximately 4.5 meter high and about 8 meter long.This monolithic bull is a spectacular example of prodigiously talented artists of the Vijayanagar empire period.The massive Nandi bull like a guard presides over the entrance of Lepakshi town.
The exquisitely carved details of ropes, belts and bells over the body of Nandi are one of the finest example of stone craftsmanship.
For ages it sits elegantly under the open sky rapt in the bhakti of the supreme Lord.
Look at those intrinsically carved details of all the ornaments…and the expression of Nandi Maharaj…I can almost see a delicate smile lingering on His face. Are you able to make out the mythical bird with an elephant in it’s claw, hanging as a locket from the chain? Well, it is said to be an insignia of Vijayanagar kings.
Like me do you too find a Ganesha reflected here?
The green lawns. shady trees and rocks here and there… a perfect setting to set you on pondering mode about our rich cultural heritage…the bygone times….almost tempting you to jump into a time machine and live that era for some time.
The lotus ponds and the rocky terrain stretched around makes it a perfect spot to spend leisurely time.
Nearby this spot is Andhra Government guest house with fooding and lodging facilities.
All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.
September 9, 2016
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Sri Dakhinmurthy is the form of Shiva that depicts Him as cosmic guru, imparting wisdom which enlightens and enriches. The iconographic depiction of the form though not consistent mostly illustrates Shiva in a seating posture, under a Vat Vriksha, His right leg stretching down resting on a dwarfish demon.This demon symbolically represents lack of knowledge. In the fresco at Lepakshi though Shiva’s foot does not rest on demon but he can be seen near His foot. As Dakhinmurthy extolls Shiva in supreme teacher form, His one hand is shown in gyan mudra. Normally Rishis, munis are seen sitting on the ground near Him imbibing the divine words.But in this mural at Lepakshi the artists have mingled the prevelent local cultural influences. On Shiva’s head rests a cap like Sufi saints. Jana receiving/ arriving to receive the Gyan are seen dressed like Sultans and Muslim saints. Creatures from Hindu mythology too can be seen and near the demon is perhaps standing goddess Parvati. The creative liberty mixed in right dozes with mythological references makes this mural an interesting document of history, culture, spiritual beliefs and interpretation.
Kiratharjuniyam is a sanskrit Mahakavya composed by Bhairavi narrating the story of severe penance by Arjun to obtain weapon Pashupatha from Lord Shiva in order to defeat Kaurava in the battle and the in between incidents till he finally becomes successful in his mission.
Fresco below depicts one of the scenes from Kiratharjuniyam.Perhaps a scene from the very beginning of the story where Vyas muni advises Arjuna to obtain weapon Pashupatha. Though fresco has suffered a lot through ages yet muni can be seen clearly.The lady in black can be Draupadi and the figure next to her one of the Pandavas.Or may be it depicts Arjuna asking permission of Yudhisthara to leave to forest for doing penance.Whatever it might be despite the damage due to vagaries of time the intricacies of human features, ornaments etc is very endearing.
This one is the boar hunt scene from Kiratharjuniyam — Arjun tried to attack boar from one side while Lord Shiva, disguised as Kirath attacked from other side. During hunt Arjun realized that it is not any ordinary Kirath and Shiva appeared before him in His real form and later on granted the boon of weapon Pashupatha.
Below are the scenes of Draupadi’s svayamvara. On leftmost side is shown Kala-Bhairava with eight arms holding a severed human head and a bowl and His vahana dog is depicted nearby. Two persons, one short and another tall are shown in front of him, one of them would be Drupad worshiping his tutelary God. Next on right is King Drupad , Draupadi, his daughter is shown seated on his lap.This made me remember a ritual of marriages in South India being carried out till date, where the bride sits on the lap of father while the bride groom ties the Thali [ Mangalsutra} and Kanyadan is performed. How deeply rooted and connected are our rituals, customs etc. Next on right, in front of Drupad, Arjuna is shown shooting the matsya-yantra (fish dial) with an arrow looking its reflection in the water below the dial. This follows by the marriage of Arjuna with Draupadi.
Here are shown Virupanna and Viranna worshiping their tutelary deity, Veerbhadra, with their family members.As per a legend, the Veerbhadra temple was constructed by Virupanna using the state treasury. The king came to know about it and announced the punishment that Virupanna be blinded. When Virupanna heard this order, he executed it on his own on the same spot. Local guides will show you the place inside the temple where they say Virupanna threw his eyes.
Here is Goddess Parvati with her friends and attendants. May be a scene before marriage of Shiva – Parvati. It is a lively piece of painting. The attires, the hair styles…variety is astonishing and reflects the skill of artist to capture trends of the time beautifully.
Parvati with friends and attendants.
This one next to the above one depicts the most favourite theme of the artists of yester years India….Shiva – Parvati marriage
There are many others mythological anecdotes painted there —a mural depicting King Muchukunda, the monkey-faced legendary Chola king who is attributed to have established Lord Thyagaraja at the Tiruvarur temple from the heavens, Shiva and Parvati playing Chess, coronation of Rama,Nataraja dancing while other demi- Gods played various musical instruments and a large panel depicting the story of the legendary just king Manunidhi Cholan etc.
Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi is one of the greatest treasure of murals and frescos .These jewels of art not only depict the mythological themes but also documents the prevalent trends of social life of that time.
All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.
September 9, 2016
Easy flow of expression . the deep connect it makes, the impact it left…….I loved the narration…..
The three of us sat on the wide stretch of sand. Everyone else had left already, But we had wanted to watch the sun go down. It was probably time to head back, but we had a few beers, and a few cigarettes left and, as the darkness wrapped its arms around us, we were quietly transfixed by the flashes in the sky, far across the lake – probably somewhere in America.
We didn’t speak much. A convivial evening had been spent, and now we were tiring and just enjoying the calmness and the light show in our own ways. Though the sun had put its head under the blanket, the night was warm, and felt like it was getting warmer as the dark monsters in the sky grew taller and stronger and began to rumble as they spoke to one another – rolling and lumbering in our direction.
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August 9, 2016
We started from Bangalore at about 6 A.M and reached Lepakshi by 8 O’clock.Lepakshi is a small non-decrepit town in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi is one of the finest example of artistry of craftsmen of that era.Grand, massive sculptures, delicate, intricate carvings on stone, ceiling adorned with murals depicting mythological tales…this temple has a lot to offer to leave us spellbound.
Standing below the high raised platform on which the huge splendid Shivlinga is carved, is a humbling experience.Three coils of Naga around Shivlinga led to its seven hooded magnificently carved head stretching over Shivalinga.Craning my neck as I tried to look at the topmost point of the entire sculpture, i had a sudden feeling as if the canopy of those seven hoods is descending directly from the bright blue morning sky overhead. The Linga transformed into that mythical pillar of light connecting the earth and the heaven, the manifestation of limitless Shiva energy. Perhaps it is not just the grace, the magnificence of masterpiece carved by the great artists of yesteryear but all their commitment and devotion which to this day start resonating in our hearts once we stand there silently with our heads bowed, imbibing the sacred spirit.The open courtyard bathed in soft morning glow gave the entire scene a haloed touch. Shadows in the covered verandah walking along the courtyard appeared to be harboring many untold stories. Such are the moments when you feel at peace with yourself.
Chiselled on the other side of the huge rock behind the Nagalinga is Ganesha, calm, quiet and peaceful.I love Ganesha idol in this form – the big belly resting on the ground, the legs denoting the sitting posture and his small vahan mouse in front. Various symbolical interpretations are available for His body parts and His Vahana but to me He radiates substance, faith, confidence and dignity, He always fills me with a kind of intrinsic joy, a kind of happiness you feel on being comfortable with your own being. And the tiny Vahana– more than anything else it’s our faith that make us traverse through the life.
The Natya Mandapam of Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi is a sculpted ode to the artistry of carvers and chisellers of sixteenth century Southern India.Impressive sculptures of divine dancers, drummers and other musical instrument players in half-reliefs on the granite pillars are so intense and alive that you almost feel them in actions. The rhythm in shapes, palpable emotions, glorious manifestations impart the stones a dream like feel. Early morning sunlight tip toes the mandapam from one side and the shadows in the pavilion simmer, the dark corners get suffused with golden dust and the bygone era as if awakens…..
This Natya Mandapam has about seventy pillars and one of these is an architecture wonder beyond comprehension.The hanging pillar– this pillar like all other pillars is attached to the ceiling but does not touch the floor below. Such heavy granite pillar…how can it hang ! Presently it stands a bit dislodged from it’s original position. It is said that during British times certain enthusiastic engineers tried to fathom the secret behind this marvel and in turn, the pillar suffered. However faith of people put it on divine pedestal. It is believed if you pass any cloth underneath it,the wish you sought will be fulfilled.
All pictures by Sunder Iyer
July 17, 2016
From the first floor verandah of Kumainu-Garhwal mandal tourist guest house at Gwaldam, hills beyond the market square buildings were clearly visible and slowly climbing file of stately pine trees was inviting. Slightly left to the hills, tiers of mountain and peaks were cloaked in thick grayish white clouds.We were told that on a clear sparkling day the snow capped Himalayan peaks under the blue canopy of sky offer a magnificently divine view from that point but that day we were soaking in the surreal mystique feel.While talking to the locals we gathered that at the farthest tip of pine adorned hills there is a small ,beautiful grass land.We suddenly planned to visit that. We finally could not make upto that point as we had started quite late and it being a cloudy day the darkness descended earlier than usual. However we enjoyed our leisurely ascent midst pine jungle.
The cab could take us upto the school building and from there onwards we climbed in the august company of lofty pines. .A kind of bitter sweet fragrance of slightly moist pine woods , ground carpeted with golden yellow needles of pine,stately pines adhering to earth with all their might yet appearing aloof to things around bearing a saint like equanimity….the conglomerated impact of all these elements of nature somehow takes you to an entirely different planes.The chains and burdens on your being start dropping one by one and sitting there with your back resting against one of the pines if your eyes stroll to the upper most tips of pines, you feel nearer to heaven than earth.
This ridge provides a beautiful view of valley on another side. Kosi river snakes through the valley. it’s silvery band shimmered midst the green, blue haze.
Pine needles dropped silently while tall, magnificent trees stood like powerful warriors with golden heart. Their sermons can be clearly heard by a keen ear and dedicated heart.I gathered some pine cones fallen on ground. Some were ripe and dried, some were small green and sticky.perhaps the untimely separation from parent branch caused the raw wound and heart bled .
We roamed around enjoying the picturesque landscape, the sylvan scenes, inhaling delicious fragrance of woods.The evening proved to be a perfect prelude to our Bedini trek.
All pictures by Sunder Iyer
June 28, 2016
World of Hindu mythological tales and folklore is very interesting, charming and varied. It is believed that about thirty three crore Gods and Goddesses occupy Hindu pantheon. Quite possible…in a culture where many plants, animals and almost all the elements of nature are worshiped, where every small village, hamlet has it’s very own guardian angle, reaching even that staggeringly high number is not out of bounds. With every revered place and deity are associated certain folklore and tales.The authenticity is neither questioned nor argued. It is simply accepted.
One of these is Latu devta of Wan. The folklore related to Latu Devta is very interesting and one of it’s own kind. Nanda devi is one of the most revered deity of Uttaranchal. She is considered to be Avatara of Goddess Parvati and Latu Devta is her adopted brother. Goddess Parvati nee Nanda Devi did not have any brothers. On one occasion she felt very sad about this and wanted someone to be with her at Kailash Parvat as her brother. She went to Royal family of Kannauj and requested the queen to send one of her two sons with her to Kailash. On the way to Kailash they reached Wan and here Goddess decided to take bath in the river Kali Ganga. While waiting for Her on nearby hillock Latu felt very thirsty. He went to nearby hamlet and asked women to give him water. Women folk were in a jovial mood and instead of water handed over the pitcher containing local drink to Latu. Unaware of their prank Latu drank the whole content of pitcher and became unconscious. On her return from river, Goddess became very angry with the women and conferred a boon on Latu that he will be worshiped by the inhabitants of the area but no one will be allowed either to enter the sanctum of his temple or see him.Till date the doors of the temple are opened only for one day in a year and then too neither devotees nor even Pujari is allowed to have a glimpse of Devta. The Pujari enters the sanctum blind folded and lights the lamp. Doors of the temple is closed by evening.
This temple is very different from any other temple. There is this massive Devdar tree at the place. It is the only Devdar found in entire region. Rest are centuries old Surai trees.There is another anecdote regarding presence of that single Devdar tree in the area. However I am not talking about that here as I am not able to recollect all the details narrated by the old gentleman, a retired porter, we met at Wan. So, the abode of Latu Devta is said to be inside the a chamber in the trunk of this Devdar tree.People of the area have great faith on Latu Devta. They visit the premises with their troubles and unburden their heart at His threshold and when the wish is fulfilled, the task done, they return to present a bell. Hundreds of bells hanging from poles are the testimony of people’s undying faith on the deity.The place becomes alive with massive crowd of devotees on the days of fair being organized there. People from far off villages come and stay in tents etc. Bhajans, Kirtans are sung in praise of Lord.
We first heard of Latu devta at Gwaldam.One local gentleman advised us that if we intend to go to Wan, we must go to Latu devta temple.During the day we spent at Wan village we heard His name many times from villagers and children.
While we were returning from Bedini, yashwant and Pushkar trekked upto Ran ka Dhar to meet us.In fact they knew we had to leave by evening and they wanted to spend as much time as possible with us.We too were delighted to have more of their company. With these two kids we went to Devta’s temple.Their enthusiastic company suffused enough strength into our tired limbs to trek upto the temple.
As we climbed towards temple we wished we had more time in hands.The Surai trees dotting the hill along the circuitous path leading to temple left us spellbound. Each one had it’s own tale to recount.They appeared so ancient as if they had witnessed all those mythological events unfolding. It is said that these trees have very long life. Don’t know much about their botanical characteristics but can definitely vouch for the enigmatic impact they imprint on your being. They look like wizened saint, lost in deep meditation.Their towering presence make you feel that they are the dwelling places of divine spirits. The secrets, the teachings, the lessons they have in their heart, one need to tune up to understand. Trees to me are one of the most sacred images of God.
Sonorous sounds of faith and devotion.
Behind us, under the tree is shrine of Latu Devta and these are the kids who brought us to temple. In fact before going to meet us at Ran ka Dhar they came here and kept incense sticks and match box…all set and ready …to be lighted by us when they brought us here. The little one Pushkar insisted that we should pray to Latu Devta for appeasement of our any wish. He had full faith that our wish will be fulfilled and then we would return to offer the bell. The faith, love and affection of kids filled my heart with sublime emotion. Kiddos, you are the harbingers of our hope and faith in all that is pure, innocent and selfless. We shall definitely love to return at least once.
This one was clicked by Yashwant, the elder kid, on their insistence ofcourse. That triangle like structure is where incense sticks are lighted by devotees.The outstretched arms of Devdar trees….bless us Lord.
There is a guest house of Garhwal mandal vikas nigam (tourism department) and another of forest department near the temple, on the hill. During Nanda Devi Jat Yatra, this is an important station for devotees.The time we were there the entire premises was very quiet, peaceful….kind of aura when you can feel nearer to God, more intimate to your best self.
View of Wan village and valley from temple.
Boys waiting for us to climb down from temple. They rush down speedily, said that going slow tire them.
‘A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.’ Hermann Hesse
Pictures by Sunder Iyer