#photography #nature #travel #travelogue # waterfall


Dodagaddavalli is a small village near Belur in Hassan distt of Karnataka. The village is famous for a very unique temple. This temple is perhaps one of oldest architecture of Hoyasala period. It was built in 1113 CE, i.e. even before the famous Chennakeshava temple of Belur.

We started for Dodagaddavalli by our cab quite early in the morning. The way from Belur to Dodagaddavalli offered green, beautiful landscape and the journey turned out to be a very pleasant one. The temple is located at the farthest end of the village. When we reached there though temple gates were open yet Pujari had not arrived by then. Only one person was there in the premises. he was a young man from some nearby village, who worked in Bengaluru and visited this Mahalaxmi temple every time he came to his own village. While roaming around the temple looking at the tall coconut trees and blue stretch of sky I felt a sense of peace and a curious thought too came in mind. Far from my place of birth and settlement I was standing there in that small village at that particular moment, how many journeys we make within our life journey and what is the significance of these journeys. Every moment of our life appears to be pre-planned. Who keeps the record of millions and millions of lives all over the earth.

Come. from my ramblings let us go back to the temple. the Dodagaddavalli temple has raised compound walls. In the corners of the compound walls there are four small shrines. Though the time we visited there were no idols of deities inside these small shrines, however many stone slabs, some with inscriptions and some remnants of certain idols were kept near the walls.

The entrance to the temple is through a pillared hall like Mandapam.

The main temple has four sanctum sanctorum. Dodagaddavalli is the only chatushkuta ( having four sanctums) temple in Hoyasala history. The four Garbhgriha share a common hall and entrance. The four sanctums were originally dedicated to Goddess Kali, Goddess Laxami, Shiva and Vishnu but when we visited Only Shiva and Laxmi were there. The doors of sanctum dedicated to Goddess Kali were closed. We came to know that few days earlier some miscreants tried to steal idol of Goddess Mahakali and on being unsuccessful in their attempt they damaged the idols.

This temple is unique in its aura. Due to low ceiling the temple hall is semi dark. We were not able to see Mahakali idol but the corroborating images and the ambience suggested that this shrine must have been associated with Tantrik tradition. on the door way and the upper jamb of the shrine Bhuta Mukhas were carved. on the either side on the walls were standing images of two full sized Bhutas, skeleton kind of figures. They appeared to be standing like dwarpalas. In the semidarkness that pervaded the hall these dwarpalas are capable of sending a shivering sensation down the spine. There is a Bhairava shrine too in the temple.

The Bhoota Dwarpala outside Mahakali Shrine

Shrines of Goddess Mahalaxmi and lord Shiva are in east and west, i.e. facing each other. in the original plan shrines of Goddess Kali and Vishnu faced each other. We were told that the dedicatory inscriptions found here declares that the temple was erected by the generous grant provided by a diamond merchant Kalhana Rautar. The saying goes like that the wealthy merchant was highly impressed by the Mahalaxmi temple at Kolhapur, Maharashtra, which he happened to visit during his one of the business trip, hence he built a similar one at Dodagaddavalli. The village which was historically referred to as Doddagaddumballe was even renamed as Abhinava Kolhapura.

Goddess Mahalaxmi
Lord Shiva

In comparison to very intricately carved temples of Hoyasala era this one is kind of non- ornate but it has certain unique features of Hoyasala temples such as lathe turned pillars and richly carved ceiling.

All the Shikharas except the one over Goddess Laxmi are of simple pyramidal style, Kadamba Nagara type. The tower over Goddess Laxmi is Dvitala Vimana topped by square shikhara and stone finial. All the four towers display the Hoyasala emblem, Sala striking a tiger.

Slowly walking in the compound of the temple , devoid of tourists and the usual clutter, I felt like being transported to an ancient page of history. A king, a merchant came together to build this unique temple and centuries after its inception I stand there to feel, to imbibe the spirit of the place. Was I there at that time too in some other form, known by some other name?

Pujari arrived at 9O’clock. By that time a small group of visitors from some nearby village had also arrived. We eight people stood there with hands folded, as Pujari chanted shlokas. Glow of lamp lit by pujari filled the chamber with soft, benevolent light. I slowly closed my eyes. I felt a peaceful feeling of bonding, of assurance. I was not to meet any of those persons ever again in this life. I did not know even their names, we could not communicate due to language barrier but at that pious moment standing together before the shrine of goddess Laxami in that small village I felt connected. Benediction was being showered on us all. It was beautiful moment, etched in my heart for ever.

Later on We walked to the back of the temple where a very big pond was there. The village was slowly opening its eyes and daily chores were being started. two- three women were cleaning utensils on the steps of the pond. i met Bhavya there. She was a young girl, who never went out of her village but was familiar with the name of my city. We could communicate in monosyllables in English. She welcomed me to her village and felt happy to know that I came there from such a far away place. When I started to leave she said,” come again.” Both of us knew that it was highly unlikely yet her gesture touched my heart. With those two simple words she made me feel special and welcomed.

Pujari while talking to Sunder in Tamil asked about Kashi. He was a young man of say thirty five or so. He wanted to know how much money he had to save to travel upto Kashi. How many does would take to reach. He did not know how far it is but at least once in his life time he wanted to visit Kashi.

We proceeded back to Belur with a heart full of gratitude.

All pictures @Sunder Iyer

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Many mythological stories, episodes are engraved on the exterior walls of the temple. Most of us are aware of those stories. We would have seen them depicted in different art forms at some or other time. Besides the fineness of the art what I enjoyed most about the depiction there, is the way the artists have let their imagination take shape of their own.

Mahishasur Mardini

The story of annihilation of Mahishasur by Goddess Durga is well known. Mahishasur was born out of union of a Mahish (buffalo) and an Asur i.e. demon (did our people at that time conceptualized about mutation between two different species? Well, let us leave the question for another time.) Another remarkable feature about our mythology is that here the Asuras, the bad and negative forces have been depicted to be very strong willed and capable in performing arduous and difficult penance to get boons of various kinds. For getting the boons most of them worshipped Brahma or Shiva. Though both of them were on the side of Suras [ Devtas], i.e. those representing good forces, they never shied away from granting boons to Asuras if the arduous penances were done rigorously. Good deeds deserve reward, is the message here, I think.

So like many other powerful Asuras in our mythological stories Mahishasur also got boon by appeasing Brahma. He asked for a boon that no one other than a woman could kill him. In fact he first asked for a boon of immortality but Brahma said this boon could not be granted as every living organism has to die at some or other time, hence Mahishasur asked for the above boon and thought him to be as good as immortal. He was very powerful, strong and capable of changing many forms. Obviously he thought a woman could never overpower him. Well as the story goes after acquiring the boon Mahishasur started his reign of terror. He conquered Bhooloka, i.e. earth and then set Devaloka as his target.

Now Devas approached Brahma for seeking help as they knew all of them together also could not do any harm to Mahishasur. Finally all the three entities of Trinity came together and created a woman by vesting best of their powers. She was manifestation of Shakti. At some places I have read that this manifestation of Shakti had ten hands while others describe her as having eight hands. However in this particular sculpture, the sculptor has depicted her as having ten hands. So, Vishnu gave Her His Sudarshan Chakra, Shiva His Trishul, Brahmna His Kamandal, Indra His Vajra, thunderbolt and other Devatas too gave Her their weapons.

When the final battle between Devi and Mahishasur took place it is said that the Asura took form of buffalo. When Devi overpowered this mighty beast and cut its head, the Asura in human form started to emerge, but Durga’s lion pounced upon him and pinned him to the ground and at that moment Durga raised the trident, piercing his chest and slayed him. This exact moment has been sculpted by the artist to the precision — the buffalo, the asura coming out of it in human form, pinned by lion to the ground and Durga with the trident piercing his chest. All other hands of Devi are armed with different weapons. Just pay a little attention to the expressions of Devi and the lion. Devi’s expression clearly reflects the emotion of executing the final act for accomplishing a task, while lion is kind of in a joyful mood, satisfied with himself for pinning down asura to the ground, happy for being of assistance to goddess. Whatever it might be but creating emotions on stones! These Hoyasala sculptors did wonders and we compare a deadpan face with stony expression.

Picture@Sunder Iyer

Besides inscriptions the sculptures, the carvings on and around Chennakeshva temple too act like historical documents reflecting upon not only art and culture aspect but also the norms and ways of social life of that time. I feel the Shilabalikas of Chennakeshava are a powerful statement about the way the women of that period led their life. They pampered themselves, they pursued their interests be it dance or instrument playing or hunting. They appear to celebrate being woman and I think placing of these women as brackets supporting the roof, connecting it to walls too is a powerful statement about their importance and place in social structure, specially as a supporting force, an adhesive entity. Let me introduce you to as many as I can.

1 –Let us start with Darpan Sundari, the most famous shilabalika, as she is also the emblem figure of Karnataka tourism department. She is on the left side of the main entrance door. The Sunadari is engrossed in looking at her image in a mirror in her hand. Look, even the mirror is carved with minute details like the handle and frame etc. Head to toe decked up with fine ornaments, hairstyle, her posture, movement of jwellery and clothes in synchronisation with her posture, the grace and beauty reflected is simply mesmerizing.

There are two women figures on one side and one on other side of Darpan Sundari towards the lower side of the sculpture. It is interprted that these are the assistants, maids of Darpan Sundari. One of the figures is carrying a monkey in her lap and is the smallest among the three, while the woman on other side appears to be looking at tall standing Darpan sundari. The deatais of ornaments of these smaller figures, their dress and hairstyle too are chiseled with precision and is almost similar to that of main figure.

Darpan Sundari

2- This one has a Damaru in hand and is dancing. Look at the foot above ground, the tribhanga mudra posture. I have read a drum dance; a traditional folk dance called Dollu Kunitha, ows its origin to a tribal community, kuruba Gowda of Karnataka. It was performed as a ritual while worshipping Shiva. Is the lady performing Dollu Kunitha? Her facial expression, eyes half closed, that smile playing on her lips clearly spell that she is enjoying a blissful mental state. Isn’t it astonishing that these craftsmen brought out the emotions too so perfectly on stones?

3 – This Shilabalika is remarkable for its hairdo. Look at the stylist bun. The turns and twirls of hair are so distinguinshigly clear.Hairstyles of these Shilabalikas, each and everyone come as a remarkable fashion statement. No two hairstyles are exactly same. Focus at the monkey pulling the saree of the maiden. She is looking at the monkey a bit annoyed or that could be an indulgent smile,and she is trying to shoo the monkey off with a stick in her raised hand.Is it really a monkey only or the sculptor created it as a symbol. This Shilabalika is attired in a way different than other shilabalikas. I feel the artist wanted to convey much more than what is apparently seen here.

4 – Shuk Bhasini is another quite popular shilabalika. She has a parrot on her hand and her lips are carved in a way that she appears to say something, that slight protrusion of her lips. She is talking to her pet parrot.Minute detailings in these sculptures is mind blowing. Shuk Bhasini too is accompanied by three small figures with similar hairdos and jwellery etc.

5- I am not very clear what this Shiabalika is holding in her hand but the expression of this one and one of the smaller figures reflects as if they are in a kind of indolent mood. The rings in her fingers, the head jewelry, everything is carved meticulously.

6 – Here dance practice is going on. Instrument players are accompanying her. Look at the sole of one foot perfectly placed in a dance stance, not fully touching the ground.

7- Here too smaller figures are playing on instruments but the lead figure is not dancing rather singing and playing cymbals. Her feet are not in a dancing mudra, lips are a bit parted so this Shilabalika loves to sing. Music and song is in the air.

8- This one appears to stand waiting for some one. The most remarkable part of this shilabalika is her hair. Look closely at that big bun and then long, thick bunch of hair cascading down. Did you mark that the long hair is perfectly pruned in a straight line and the big bun is held with a long clasper?

9 – And here is another interesting depiction. The lady is standing on one foot. She definitely is not a dancer so to maintain her balance she needed to hold that creeper. Her assistant is putting toe ring on her one finger while in her free hand she has another toe ring ready. The joy of dressing up, getting ready is so apparent on her face.

10- Speciality of this Shilabalika is the artist’s attempt to craft a transparent dress on stone. Pay attention to the design of the dress at the back of the lady and on one of her leg and impressions on upper part of body.

11—This one appears to play an imaginary flute or is it a kite flying posture. I think she is playing flute and a sombre tune at that. Isn’t that what her expression tells?

12 – This Shilabalika appears to be quite confident in her own skin, assured of her power and beauty. Look at that smug expression on her face and what her assistant is trying to do? Is it a mirror in her hand? Is she trying to show it to her and she does not bother even to cast a glance on that side? Is this gesture too has another symbolical interpretation?

13 – This Madanika is playing Nag-veena. One end of Veena is snake shaped.musicians are accompanying her.

14—here comes the drummer. An all girls band? She holds the stick to beat the drum and did you notice her second hand? She holds the drum at place with another hand and has placed it under the ropes of drum. Loved that detail. Each and every rope of drum has been carved so nicely and clearly. These minute details reflecting the imaginative power of the artists are the signature stamps of the sculptors of Hoyasala period.

15 – one hand of this lady is damaged and she is holding something in her other hand. Due to the damage its not very clear what she is doing exactly. However when we pay attention to her assistants, we find that one assistant is giving a tumbler kind of pot to the lady. Is the assistant giving her something to drink and the other one, what that assistant is doing? Two kind of interpretation is done for this frame. Some believe that it is depiction of holi playing celebration as one assistant is filling colour in pichkari. Other interpretaion is that the assistant is someone well versed with medicines and is preparing some potion or a kind of medicine to relieve the lady of her pain or ache. The other assistant has brought water to her. Looking at the facial expression of the lady , I incline towards the second interpretation. Don’t you think that she gives an impression of being in pain. Her half open eyes , drooping eyelids too seem to indicate that.

16 – here comes another special one. She is squeezing her hair dry after coming out of her bath. She is not yet ready hence not decked up with jwellery and is putting on only the minimum of ornaments.

17 – Another one with Damru and kartal in hand.

18 – this group is all ready for hunting or war. Bows on their shoulders are clearly stating their intentions.

There are 38 Shailbalikas as bracket figures adorning the exterior of the temple. I have talked here about 18 of them. Each of these graceful Shilabalika or Madanika stands under intricately carved creepers, laden with fruits and few of them having birds and insects too. These Madanikas are epitome of feminine beauty, grace; symbol of fertility, peace, prosperity and harmony. The splendid workmanship of the master craftsmen of Hoyasala period is at their magical best while giving life to these richly ornamented beauties with shapely eyebrows, pointed nails, graceful postures and varied expressions.

All pictures @ Sunder Iyer

On way to Munsiyari, Uttarakhand Birthi water fall  is one of the most spectacular sight to behold. The water plunging down with great force, the  droplets sprayed around the mouth of fall forming a white smoking screen, the sheer power and rhythm of gushing waters leaves one wonder struck.

Standing there on the road, my eyes roamed from the energetic rumbling fall,  to the silent, graceful mountains standing around it like somber, silent sentinels and finally rested on the azure sky overhead. I felt an irresistible pull towards the waterfall. Oh, how I wish to reach the top , the point from where the water plunges down. But that was not to be, so we chose the another best option available. We started climbing on the rocky, narrow path ascending from the roadside. It was not a smooth path with properly laid stairs  but  we could walk on it conveniently. On one side were multitudes of wild plants and flowers on the rocks and on the other side deep down water ran playfully among rocks and boulders.

We reached a point from where we could go down and reach the boulders resting in the water. We were also able to reach rocks lying low in the waters and could hold the cold water in our hands. It was a bright sunny day and after the climb the cool touch of crystal water felt soothing. In between the rocks the restrained flow of water murmured softly while the roars of tumbling cascades echoed in the surrounding and the symphony created by their duet performance slowly loosened the knots insides one by one.

birthi-

The waterfall danced like a dream….

birthiw

The journey from top to down can also be beautiful if you learn to take it with grace — message of waterfall.

birthi_2w

 

birthi_3w

 

On the side of mountains from where the fall was tumbling down we could see two tiny figures- a man and woman cutting grass or plants. It was amazing to see them working on such great height but then for these inhabitants of hills it was perhaps a routine chore.

All the pictures@Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthi fall is about 37 Kms from Musiyari. On the roadside options for tea, snacks and food are available. Two three small restaurants are there. People who are interested in staying at Birthi to soak in the enchanting beauty of nature can check in the Kumaon  Mandal guest house at Birthi.