photography


Langkawi is an archipelago of about 99 islands, we visited only two besides the long walks and leisurely times spent on some beaches.

The first island cum marble geo park was Dayang bunting island and marble geo forest park. From a point on beach side we rode on boat and what a ride it was. Waters green blue to the limit of eyes, green forest covered islands standing in the middles of waters and the speed, it was thrilling, it was fun. We all shouted with child like enthusiasm whenever a wave under the boat bumped into the boat with force and pushed it upward.

 

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Dayang Bunting island is said to be the second largest island in Langkawi. It is uninhabited island though various tourist activities, stores and hoards of boats keep it alive and buzzing during day time.

The literal meaning of Dayang Bunting island is island of a pregnant woman. It is said that one of the dominating hills surrounding the island is in the shape of a pregnant lady lying on her back hence the island is named so. While others relate to some folk lore related to a princess, who met her love at the lake. Their son died early and they decided to let him rest in peace in the lake. However local belief is that a couple aspiring for a baby get their wish fulfilled if they visit  and take a dip in the lake.

 

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The area of the lake and hills surrounding it where boats drop passenger for a walk into geo forest park.

 

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As our boat dropped us at island

 

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Though the surrounding area was full of green dense forests this tree in particular attracted us. It was standing at the starting point of the wooden platform leading to a view point deep into the waters . In fact it were the birds on the tree that made it beautiful. Their chirping sounded like a welcome song.

 

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A walk that not only took me to that shaded structure at the end of path but like a bird made me feel soaring up in the blue sky, over those green hills and then with outstretched hands coming down to touch the crystal clear water playfully with all the songs of joy in my heart.

On the opposite side of this, the concrete path where we landed from boat took us to dense green jungles. The path goes up and down. Amidst the tall trees are various rock formations. At the end of this path is lake Guillemard lake. This lake is a fresh water lake. The most unique part of this lake is that it very close to sea still it is a fresh water lake. Surrounding area is a part of Dayang Bunting geo forest park.

 

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The Guillemard lake 

The lake too is called as pregnant woman lake. The lake is formation from an underwater lake whose surface collapsed and the area is filled with water to form lake.

 

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A view of lake from the structure on the bank. Down are shops selling various souvenir and other essential items. 

 

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Another view of lake. People enjoying boating, bathing , swimming. Nature is amazing. In between it’s destruction too lies creation.  The faults, the plates trembles, shudders, shake, rocks rumbles down and in between those rumblings, trembling and stumbling features change and something beautiful emerge.

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resting on way back from the lake

This area has many rocks big and small. Shady trees and shades built provide respite on a hot, sunny day. But one needs to be a bit cautious of monkeys. They tend to snatch things if you are not careful. But then sometimes they entertain too. Look at this one. Somebody threw a beer can to him and he started enjoying it.

 

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“Devang bunting marble geoforest park that host the endemic palm is made of two main limestone formations the Setul- 490-370 million years and Chupina 285-250 million years formations with Singa formation in between. The tectonic movement….. brought up the entire Setul formation in the eastern part of langkawi to overlap  the much younger chuping formation in the west is among important evidence of the major tectonic event in the south east asian region during the period between late permian and late triassic-250-220 million years in langkawi, these two minor blocks collided along a plane called the kisap thurst fault dividing the pulau dayang bunting into two halves. this event was followed by the emplacement of the dayang bunting granite intrusion -220to 210 million years that transformed the limestone into one of the world’s best marble . Due to these faulting and intrusion the limestone had undergone severe fracturing thus facilitating ground water to penetrate the weak zone and dissolved it along the way. it is the combination between the ground water dissolution and have erosion under the influence of sea level changes that are responsible in the development of the complex island and terrestrial thrust landscape including the tasik dayang bunting.”

Above paragraph I took down from a rusting board from the site, I don’t know much about Geology and related phenomena but as the text written on the board was getting eroded due to climatic conditions thought of preserving it.

All pictures copyrighted by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands on Malaysiya’s west coast. Oohh! 99 islands, yes and that makes it an amazing place to enjoy sun, sand and waters. The beaches with silky sand and swaying coconut trees with ample number of comfortable hotels dotting the shore line tempt tourists to visit Langkawi.

Langkawi also has hills decked with virgin forests. The jungles are exotic, dense and extend to limits and locations which is very difficult to reach in normal way but then the authorities there have created the miraculous wonder like Sky Bridge to make it possible for the people to breath in that fresh air, to feel the closeness of those remote hills and jungles.

Sky bridge, as the dreamy name suggests is  a bridge which hangs about 100 meter high from the ground. The bridge is suspended over the hills and jungles from 82 meter high single pylon. This 125 m long  sometimes slightly swaying steel bridge is the longest free span curved bridge in the world. The bridge takes us deep into the hearts of otherwise unreachable hills and forests. Walking on the bridge provides with such a multidimensional experience that one feels free from all the confines, enjoying a feeling of floating in the free space.

For reaching the sky bridge, we need to purchase tickets for sky cab at the base. various combo tickets are available at different prices as many activities are available at the base like three dimensional movie and four dimensional dinosaurs island visit.

The sky cab takes us to middle station. While reaching that point the cab on rope way  slowly walks over dense forests giving a panoramic view from height. This ride is considered to be the steepest sky cab ride in the world. Steeped in green when you land on the platform of middle station , you get an opportunity to soak in the exhilarating natural elements from a stationary position. Watching the other cabs running on the rope way one can fathom what height and length one has covered. Looking at those tiny dot like figures in the distance slowly moving, I am sure you are bound to gasp and suck in your breath imagining that few minutes ago you yourself were there.

There are two ways for reaching the top station from the middle station. One can line up again for sky cab to go to the top or walk through the sky trail to reach there. We preferred cab and reached the top station.

Top station has a number of viewing platforms which provide panoramic views of Machinchang mountain, cenang beach etc. From here there are two ways to reach Sky Bridge either walk or descend via skyglide. skyglide is a kind of lift cum tram. While returning from Sky Bridge we used the services of sky glide but while going there we walked through the jungles. It was a well paved path through jungles. Various birds chirping and calling in woods and sight of occasional ones makes up for the serpentine path climbing efforts.

and then we were there, on the most spectacular pedestrian bridge I had seen so far. The curved structure offers different views of surrounding as one walks on it. The hills, the green jungles, the clouds floating in the valley and the sky above head and midst all this we ourselves though walking but not on ground enjoy a kind of floating experience.

The bridge definitely an engineering marvel. I don’t understand technology and engineering hence would not talk about that but am thankful to the people who thought of it, designed it and then placed it here.

 

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On the way, the varying moods and shades of nature

 

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The green jungles below

 

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Thousands of these locks on Sky Bridge proclaim, technological developments, engineering innovations might travel on newer paths but love reigns supreme.  Lock fastened, the key is thrown deep down in jungles with a faith and wish that like this padlocked entity their love too would go strong for ever. The bond would remain fastened.

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On the way to Sky bridge, while going we walked through jungles instead of going by Sky Glide

 

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On Sky Bridge platform at two or three places these glass squares are fixed. Watching through these, feeling the undulating green jungles swaying and floating below is an amazing experience.

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All pics copyrighted by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While roaming on the streets of Penang, our cab had passed once or twice through the side street of this temple but then at that time the destination was somewhere else. Then we made a point to visit the temple specifically.

At that particular time free distribution of some food items and cash was being done by some one under the big tree in temple premises. People were walking in to collect cold drinks, packets of noodles etc. It was like the BHANDARAS conducted in our home towns on different occasions. That, once again asserted the point that basic principles and sentiments of every religion are same. Sometimes we humans tend to distort certain things for our own limited selfish interests.

 

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People in queue for receiving the distributed eatables and cash . Devotees in their own world.

This temple dedicated to Goddess of Mercy is said to be the oldest temple of Penang. The temple is a very valuable chapter in the history of Penang. It has withstood the tests of time and many attacks by foreign forces on Penang. The temple has undergone certain transformations too accommodating itself to the changing requirements and sentiments of the inhabitants of the place. But despite certain changes outside and inside the temple this place of worship holds a very special place in the hearts of the devotees even today. May be because it gives a feeling of being attached to their ancient roots or may be the belief that this alter really is blessed with certain super divine powers as it stood unharmed during the some very ferocious attacks and bombing by foreign forces.

It is said that the temple was built by early Chinese settlers in Penang and was initially devoted to guardian goddess of seafarers — Mazu. Goddess Mazu appears to be counter part of Devi Ikbira here in India. Koli tribes in Maharashtra who traditionally used to depend on sea for their livelihood, worship goddess Ikbira. I saw her temple near Karla caves.  It is said that this temple in Penang was built somewhere near 1728. However the present main deity of the temple i.e. Kuan Yin Teng or Goddess of Mercy had been elevated to it’s place somewhere near 1824 or 25. The temple is sea facing and perhaps when it was built the sea could have been seen from this temple. Now ofcourse the development and construction of buildings have changed the landscape.

The street on which the temple stands was previously known as Pitts street. Still it is referred to as Pitts street but the present day name of the street is  Masjid Jalan kapitan Keling. The temple is located on the section of Pitts street over it’s intersection with Chulia street.

The open space in front of the temple has few very unique features. There is a big shady tree with a raised  circular platform nearby. The platform was full of many small idols of gods and goddess. This scene too was similar to the one found in our country. In our country after certain festival is over the idols of Gods and Goddesses installed in individual homes are kept under various trees in premises of temples or are floated in streams of rivers.

 

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The idols spreading cheers and adding colours

 

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Pigeons and joss sticks

Pigeons in large number were trotting on the ground, pecking at grains thrown by devotees. It was beautiful to see them walking fearlessly midst human being . They seem to be assured of their safety and well being.

 

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The idols, the joss sticks and the tree , all in one frame

 

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caged birds outside this temple are for sale. People pay for them and release them to let them fly free. It is said to be done to add good karmas.

 

Another feature of that  open space was the big sized Joss sticks. These sticks were about three to five feet high and quite thick. Lighting of sticks inside temple is prohibited. Designated circles, places are in the open space to light and put the sticks.

There is a well also near the old tree where idols are kept.

At the entrance of temple there are huge doors with fearless deities  painted on it Or they are guards. In Hindu temples too outside the sanctum of deity on both the side are placed images of Dwarpals/ guards.

The sloping roof of temple is that of typical Chinese temples. It’s interesting to note that similar kind of roof is found in many old age temple in certain southern parts of India.

Red pillars adorned with golden coloured dragons make the temple  very beautiful. The architecture of temple displays many chinese elements and includes certain fengsui principles.

There are many deities in rows in the front hall alter. Alter of the jade emperor is in the inner courtyard.

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The main hall of temple

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Another view of the same hall

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Another hall

 

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Lotus shaped candles— Lotus holds a very significant place in Taoism and Buddhism. lotus is symbol of Buddhist purity and enlightenment. An enlightened soul that like lotus rises above the murky and chaotic world all around.

 

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Prayers give us strength to stand here and face the unknown beyond this realm. Prayers are strength.

 

All pictures copyrighted by sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the moment I heard about this temple I was very eager to go there but then we often say that you can’t touch the threshold of a temple till the deity there wants you to. In this case it appeared to be true. The temple is just at a distance of two hours drive from our home yet for years we could not go there. I can’t attribute any particular reason to this delay but it just didn’t happen. During that period we travelled to many places in and outside country but somehow a visit to this place couldn’t happen. And then last week the outing materialised. Though a day in the June month of scorching heat was not an ideal one for a day time trip but then whatever God plans always turns out to be the best for every one. For us too despite the initial hiccups like not turning in of the cab we booked, our day was just perfect and the temple was definitely more of a marvel than I thought of.

The temple is located in Oel village, about say 12 to 15 Km before Lakhimpur Khiri on Sitapur – Lakhimpur highway, near about 104 Km from Lucknow. The temple is unique in it’s architecture, structure. It is said that the temple was built under the guidance of a Kapalik Tantrik and is based on some yantra described in Tantra Vidya. I am not sure about the authenticity of this fact but the structure and the carvings, images on the walls of temple and other structure in the premises definitely suggest that this belief hold some truth.

The entire temple structure is erected on the back of a big frog. That is why the temple is popularly known as Medhak Mandir and Manduk Mandir. Big open mouth of the frog faces the main gate of the  premises with it’s back portion and all the four legs clearly visible in respective directions.

Near each of the limb of the frog is one double storyed tower with carving of Gods, Goddesses and other images on the outer walls. The doors leading inside the towers were locked though we could have a glimpse of some coloured murals on the walls of second storey from out side. These towers are on the ground level

In the center is main temple at the height of about 100 ft from the ground level. The steps leading to the temple from the base are in three tiers and are in the shape of Havan Kund or Yagna Vedi. The three tiers are said to represent the three Suksham Elements – Satva, Tam and Raj, Above these yagna kund like steps there are structure of lotus with eight and sixteen petals respectively and in the middle of it stands the main temple housing the main deity– Narmadeshwar Mahadeva.

The dome of the temple too is very unique. entire dome is filled with petal shaped carvings and in every petal is an inverted triangle with a dot inside it. Spiral of dome consists of metal kalash , from the side of which faces of cows with horns are clearly visible. On the top of Kalashes is a small metal flag and a half OM structure. It is said that originally it was a complete Om but vagaries of nature with passing of time damaged it.

It’s not only this Om but many images, carvings and other parts too are damaged and destroyed though restoration work too has been done and the premises is neat , lawns, plants well maintained. Considering that the temple is personal property of the royal family of Oel, the maintenance is definitely praise worthy.

Outer walls of temple and the four towers are engraved with many images. Some of these images are very intriguing. Some of the images are that of Goddess Durga, Lord Ganesha, Hanumana , Kartikeya, brahma but many images are of Yoginis, Bhairavis, Bhairav, Batuk Bhairav, some engrossed in sadhna sitting on shavas while others appear to tell some story. The animal forms in images too are strange. There are dogs on the steps as if guarding the premises. some look like jackals while others are snakes.

In the sanctum sanctoram at the center stands a vedi of about three ft. in height. It is made of what marble and in the center of  vedi is placed black coloured Shivlinga. Not in front of Shivalinga but slightly at a diagonal position stands, yes stands Nandi made of white marble. No where else have I seen a standing Nandi prior to this. Normally in almost every Shiva temple I have been so far, I have seen Nandi sitting  calmly, personifying patience but here Nandi in standing posture comes as a surprise. The ceiling of the sanctum displays many colourful murals.

Just outside the entrance to the sanctum there is a well. Yes, the well is on the height of 100 Ft from the ground but the water is at ground level only. The water is clearly seen and devotees take out water for washing hands and feet before entering the sanctum. It is said that since inception that is almost 250 years this well has never been dried.

In all the four directions of the temple structure there is open space having many shady trees, flowering plants, Bel Patra trees, Shami trees. There is a well and a handpump also in this area. the plants are well maintained.  In all the four directions in the middle of boundary wall there are thakurdwaras. Earlier a door from each thakudwara used to open towards temple and these were used as resting places for ascetics, saints and other pilgrims. Now except the thakudwara on the wall of front entrance all other three are in dilapidated conditions.

We heard two more unique things about the temple. It is said that the colour of Shivalinga changes with change in direction of sun, not in every short span of time but during the four Prahars of the day. We could not confirm that as we did not stay there till evening. It is also said that the  roof of the dome earlier used to appear to rotate with time but now that phenomenon occurs no more. It is said that with passing of time some damages has been done .

The temple was got erected by Rai Bakhat Singh, who was the Zamidar of the area. Rai Bakhat Singh expired in 1838. His successor Raja Aniruddh Singh was given the title of Raja by the Badshah of Awadh in 1849 and then later on British Government gave it a hereditary status. Present Raja of Oel Raja Vishnu Narain Dutt ji and his Rani Sudha Rani have their kothi in Oel and they visit there frequently.

According to popular belief Rai Bakht Singh ji got the temple made for the well being of his family and his subject. The temple was constructed under the guidance of a Kapalik Tantrik from Meghalaya. As suggested by Kapalik saint Rai Bakht Singh ji went on a pilgrimage to Narmda river and as predicted by the saint while taking a dip in holy river he found this Shivlinga. The Shivalinga was then brought here and was consecrated. That is why Lord Shiva of this temple is known by the name of Narmadeshwar Mahadeva.

The temple appears to have many unique features but no authentic explanation of so many things. There are many images which tell various stories but we can’t interpret those. May be because they are related to a particular sect and we in our society are not exposed to those stories. There are images of Gods and Goddesses, of Goddess Durga, Lord Hanumana, Ganesha, Brahma and Kartikeya and then there are images of Chausath Yoginis, Bhairavis, Batuk Bhairav, persons doing Sadhna sitting on dead bodies and various intriguing looking animals, animal- cum- humans. There are dogs, jackals , snakes etc.

The mouth of the big frog is wide open and the wholes on steps suggest that there must have been a time when the water poured on Shivalinga on the top travelled down and poured out of frogs mouth.

During Deepawali and Shivratri big fairs take place every year here.

The temple has got a vibrant aura, surrounding is calm . peaceful and it has a kind of mystique feel. So much is there to know and understand. Somehow you feel as if many stories are there to be heard, told and retold. It is a unique piece of our heritage and it needs to be preserved and protected.

 

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All pictures copyrighted by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

Kek Lok Si temple stands on a hilltop at Air Itam. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Penang or may be in Malayasia too. It is not just a temple but an entire temple complex comprising of monasteries, many gardens, prayer halls, souvenir , food and drink stalls, many idols, statues, ponds, pagoda, kings pavilions all laid beautifully at different heights and levels of hill. The construction is still going on and the construction is largely financed by the donations of the devotees and believers.

I think I will let the pictures talk more as I really find it very difficult to describe the entire magnificent lay out in words.

 

 

From afar we could see the ten thousand Buddha pagoda on the top of hill. Ofcourse we came to know that it was called so after reaching there only but the structure going high in the sky proclaimed the existence of the temple from very far and it draws one to it with an irresistible pull. After reaching the base of the hill we meandered our way through food and souvenir stalls and reached here—–

 

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This tower reminded me of the Deep Stambhs  found in Hindu temples, specially that of Maharashtra. From here one can gather a little bit idea of the magnitude of the entire temple structure.

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This hall with many Pink Buddhas on inside and  outside walls too is really very beautiful. This was my next stop . It was a peaceful experience to be in their company. Their hands posture appear to denote that in this world you receive from one hand and be ready to give out from the other. that is how the life should be. The cycle of gratitude is completed that way. Swastika on chest , at the place of heart perhaps symbolises that our thoughts, feelings should be of good for all.

“If you knew what I know about the power of giving you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.”

says Buddha.

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The fresh air, the serenity, the quietness and these disciples with Buddha on the seat. I felt like closing my eyes and sit there in august company, forgetting myself.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” 

Says Buddha. one needs to pave one’s path in one’s own way. We have to experience before believing.

 

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“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

that’s what it conveyed to me.

 

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This idol with sixteen arms appear to be of some female deity. I don’t know about the name and other details but to me it appeared that she surrounds herself with peace from all directions. Yes, the outside world is there. We need to accept it’s existence and respond to it too as that is a part of our duty as mortal beings but then need to create our own space of peace within. I would certainly like to know more about it. She appears to hold different weapons in her hands. Is she a representation of Shakti, the destroyer of evils?

“If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.

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”Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except your self.” Buddha

Inward , that is the direction every prayer hall with serene Buddha takes you to.

 

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Like these two there were perhaps nine images in this hall. To me it appeared that these represent different emotions, Not sure about their significance, though.

 

 

Incense sticks, lighted lamps, wishing ribbons and tiles, folded hands, closed eyes….. the bliss of surrendering, the strength of believing.

”Prayers don’t just change the things, they change us.”

 

 

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We climbed this inclined path in a lift, kind of a small funicular. It takes us to the topmost floor where 30 meter high statue of Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin is located.

 

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This pavilion of Goddess is gargantuan and shelters a very high idol of Goddess of mercy of Mahayana Bddhism. The pavilion from it’s base to tip is said to be about 83 meters high. the roof is supported by 16 pillars.

It’s not just the size of pavilion and statue but the divine grace emitted by the goddess, the fresh air, the spiritual aura that make being there an experience worth cherishing.

 

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And that is seven storey pagoda containing ten thousand images of Buddha, another landmark feature of Kek loksi temple. This pagoda ia a unique symbol of unity too as it assimilates different cultures in it’s design. The octagonal base is Chinese, the middle portion is Thai and the spiral top is Burmese. It is said that the foundation stone of this pagoda was laid down by the then  king of Siam, that is present day Thailand, King Rama VI.

While climbing those steps leading to pagoda I looked up to sky and the light filtering through fluffy white clouds showered it’s grace. I closed my eyes and mumbled a prayer….We mortal ones go on creating darkness but O! the supreme one , you go on showing us the path . Be with us.

 

All the pics by Sunder Iyer.

When we reached Chew Jetty , it was the time to wait for sunset. Infact it was the perfect time to be there. We were a bit tired from our day long excursion and sitting there on wood planks platform quietly seemed to be the best way to sum up the day. Water extended to the limit of my vision. Ships were anchored far away. Boats from shore were making rounds to and from like bridges on move, from shore to waters. Other tourists were there. some resting with their legs hanging from the plank seats, others lying down on their backs with eyes on the sky above. Of course few were busy clicking selfies while others focused their  cameras to capture the landscape around. Yes, activities were there yet it was not getting on the nerves and it was calming, that kind of special moment when you feel assured with the presence of the fellow beings around you, yet you let yourself loose to wander beyond, beyond those waters, beyond the sky, somewhere in distant horizon where waters and sky appeared to embrace each other.

Jetties in Penang are small wooden villages built on stilt by pioneer Chinese immigrants. These are known as clan jetties, each jetty representing a particular clan. we came to know that there were about seven jetties initially, however we visited only two of these. Tan jetty and Chew Jetty. These water villages were set up almost a century ago by the chinese immigrants , who were compelled to leave their motherland for various reasons like famine, poverty and other politically unsettling events. Now with the passage of time they are well settled  over here. They work as ferry operators transporting people and goods from shore to ships anchored in waters. Some of them have even joined in the main stream jobs on land while others have started their own small businesses.

Tan jetty had a kind of abandoned look on the time we visited. the houses were only on one side of the wooden way and doors were closed. We could not find any one outside. But at the end of this some what curved path was one colourful hut where some youngsters were having fun and view from that point was awesome.

Path of Tan Jetty that leads to that colourful hut at the end.

 

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And the hut itself.

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On the other hand Chew jetty was bustling with inhabitants, tourists and activities. It bore an alive, festive look. At the very entrance of Chew jetty is this bright colourful temple.

 

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I don’t know whether this one is a permanent feature or not but when we visited Chew jetty this colourful stage was set up in front of the temple. May be some show was about to begin.

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Almost every house in chew jetty has opened up it’s own business. There are small food stalls , shops selling souvenirs, books, even beauty products.

 

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This colourful boat kept in open space on jetty added brightness to surrounding. The inhabitants of jetty have done their bit to make jetty more attractive to tourists and then preserving cultural symbols always give feeling of remaining attached to roots.

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colours add power to soul, the belief that rainbow blossoms when both rain and sun meet.

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This one is a house on another jetty, clicked from Chew jetty. Man not only survives in all kind of circumstances, he is capable of creating his own little heavenly spaces.

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And the great mesmerizing expanse. How so ever high and mighty steps might man take, he still is a pygmy when faced with The Master himself.

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This was the moment I talked about in the beginning of the post………….the horizons slowly spreading within…..

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By the time we walked back through the wooden pathway, the temples lights were lit. The noises of bustling day activities were slowly drowning. Heart was full of gratitude and calmness slowly settled down.

 

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These flags fluttered slowly under the evening sky. I don’t know what exactly the significance of these flags is but to me at that moment these felt like the verses sung in praise of the one and  the only …………… sky showered it’s grace.

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The ethnic migrant communities of Penang add to it’s charm, be it Indians at Mariamman temples or the Chinese at the jetties. Displacement is an integral part of human history but then they can grow their roots wherever they find suitable climate and embracing earth. Ultimately we all belong to only one clan—– the human.

All pics by Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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These are the pictures of Mariamman temple at queen street, central George town, Penang. As the pictures of external facade and the inner campus of temple show, it is beautiful, colourful and adorned with lovely sculptures of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The temple is built in South Indian Dravidian style with an impressive Gopuram. The Gopuram is adorned with intricately carved, brightly coloured images of various forms of Goddess, holy birds. On the top of Gopuram are five kalasham.

The interior of temple too is highly ornate with artistic sculptures. Images of Ashta Laxmi adorn the eight pillars inside temples. On one wall of temple are Nataraja and Sivakami in dancing posture representing cosmic dance. On another wall nine sculptures of nine Shakti forms of Goddess can be seen.  Abode of Nav grahas also is inside temple. The over all aura of temple is peaceful, calming and full of positive vibrations.

We reached the temple on the day of Chithra Pournami It was a special day. Chitraparuvam is celebrated on the Tamil month of Chithrai, which normally falls during months of April/May. In Mariamman temple this festival is celebrated by taking out the chariot procession of Lord Subramaniamswamy. Since early 1970 this festival is celebrated for three days. The procession starts from Mariamman temple , passing through many streets and roads it reaches the waterfall Arulmigu Sri Ganesha temple. here chariot stops and deity Subramaniamswamy is carried atop hill to Arulmigu Sri Balathadayuthapani temple. After many religious ceremonies on third day deity is carried down, placed on the chariot and the procession walks back to Mariamman temple. When we reached the temple the chariot was in front of the main door of the temple. A group of people dressed in similar attires were busy in various preparations. These were people of temple committee. Idol of Subramaniamswamy was still inside the temple and was covered from all sides. It was not yet for public and priests were busy perhaps in adorning the deity and performing certain religious rituals.

We were lucky and blessed that the evening aarti started while we were inside temple premises. The musician took their place on the floor of verandah and the melodious harmony of mridangam and nadswaram not only filled the spaces but floated in our souls too. Priest performed the elaborate ritual of evening aarti starting from the sanctum to every devsthanam inside the premises.

Besides Chithra Pournami various other festivals such as Navratri, Thaipusam, Mahashivratri too are celebrated here with grand, elaborate rituals and functions continuing for days altogether. Besides these annual festivals, other monthly and daily poojas  like that of Poornima and Rahu kalam too are conducted.

Indians mostly from south of India came here hundreds of years ago mainly as port workers. They carried their faith with themselves. Gradually the community flourished. Traders, businessmen and in service sector too they moved forward . Presently the ‘ little India’ area of Penang gives you a feel of being in any southern  part of India. From sambhar, rice, curd, pickles , rasam on banana leaves to filter coffee in steel tumblers one can enjoy all the tastes and flavours.

Though we could not visit other Hindu temples in Penang but we visited some chinese temples there. I will talk about these in my next posts.

All the pics by Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

Besides Armenian Street, George town, some wall art specimens are in Hinn bus depot too, armed with this little piece of information we reached  the site of Hinn bus depot. The building, outside which was written Hinn Bus depot, was closed. We could not see any sign of entrance or gate and were thinking perhaps we have not properly read and the place had closed down it’s shutter. But then suddenly we saw this old model car embedded in the ground and started clicking photo, thinking that at least we got something unique there. Strolling down suddenly I saw this big open space  which was nothing like a formal gate but looked like there must have been a gate there at some time. This led me to big old hall where on one side antique items of various kinds were displayed and two young girls were working on the laptop. On the other side two young boys sat behind a large old table . I excitedly called others inside and after that we were face to face with the real personality of present day Hinn Bus depot.

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What does it’s expression say to you? I think it’s a bit puzzled, donning it’s new Avatara yet happy that it has not been thrown out rather preserved and cared. We all want that. Don’t we?

 

Hin Bus Depot site is located outside the main UNESCO heritage area of George town but it is equally interesting place exuding the local character of Penang. The building was erected as long back as 1947. It is in an art -decor style and was  a centralised repair, maintenance and storage site for Hin Bus Company.  Once  the Blue buses of Hin Bus Company were a popular transport for locals , who commuted by public transports. However between 1999-2004 bus companies here started closing down due to heavy losses. Hin Bus company too faced similar fate but fortunately the premises is  reinvented and Hin Bus Depo was established in 2014.

The place started  off as an exhibition space and an outdoor stage  but it evolved to represent the art nurturing , promoting traits of Penang. Now exhibitions, theaters, plays, music gigs, festivals, fashion events, are held and  dilapidated walls of the historical building display astonishing art pieces by local and international artists.

  We came to know that on Sundays a pop up market selling coffee, cakes etc happens here. I felt that it was good that we entered there on a quiet afternoon on a week day. We had the place almost entirely to ourselves.

 

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All these antique items, so diverse and different were not only for display, these were to be sold. I was a bit intrigued, who would buy these and to what use these could be put. May be somewhere in some kind of museum. Whatever might be the outcome , it was heartening to see youngsters devoting their time and efforts to preserve their heritage, the old way of life, scribbling some text of history in their own way.

crossing this hall we strolled to a big open ground dotted with green patches, trees, plants , portions of dilapidated structures . Here was this big platform. It was covered with sheets . This space is perhaps used as stage for performances etc. Rows of coloured chairs were stacked at one side of this platform. Two three benches were placed at another side. Pedestal fans were placed near these benches. I saw passers by entering from another end of the compound on their way to somewhere else stopping by to rest on the benches. Each of them put on the fan while they sat and put it off while leaving. What an admirable civic sense and responsible attitude towards public properties. A place survive and flourish when the inhabitants foster that feeling of belonging towards it. They own their share of responsibility and feel a pride towards it’s uniqueness. Two young girls , may be in their early twenties were sitting on chairs on one corner, talking, discussing and throwing soap bubble in the air. Some how their placid, calm way made me smile. In today’s time when everywhere youngsters lives are defined by a fast pace the girls were enjoying the forming and floating of soap bubbles. They definitely must have been carrying their own share of worries, problems and stress too but stopping by once in a while and enjoying little pleasures of life is a reassuring, soothing .

The walls in the compound displayed various paintings, some small ones and some covering almost entire length and breadth of wall.

 

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I liked this lady in sitting posture and placing of that chair to complete it. This usage of real objects with the wall paintings is the unique feature of Penang street art. Such a simple way of drawing but so expressive. Admirable indeed. some pieces of wrought iron too are found in the campus.

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The little door has become so significant by the painting of lady in this posture and the entire frame says so much. one is free to make one’s own interpretations.

 

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And this one— perhaps conveying the message of wild like conservation, maintaining our ecological balance etc.IMG_8125nw (1)

a view of a portion of the compound.

malaysia_18 (2)w (1)”creativity is thinking new things..” and presenting the old in new way warms up the heart.

 

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Two young girls relaxing

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The cool corner and a perfect relaxing seat

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The restaurant in the compound.

 

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This sculpture piece is a powerful commentary on our present day way of life.

This sprawling open space with a shabby chic look, awesome paintings on the walls, sculptures scattered over the lawns, cool shady tree, a well furnished restaurant, shady green trees, creepers and plants, turned out to be a perfect place to dwell upon the art pieces, appreciate the creativity in a calm, relaxed way.

All the pics by Sunder Iyer

 

 

After street art, our next stop was Penang Perankan Mansion.

Penang perankan mansion too is located in George town. The mansion is a museum offering the glimpses of wealthy, opulent life style of Perankan and their many customs and traditions.  Glimpses... oh no, what you encounter there is a dazzling show of affluence- furniture, crockery, attires, jewelry, decorative pieces, antique items and what not and besides these, is the magnificent architecture.

Perankans, to whom does the term refer to. Frankly speaking before visiting this mansion I had no inkling of even the existence of this community. The perankans was a unique and prominent community of Chinese migrants from their homeland to Straits Settlements of which Penang is a part. They married local Malay women, adopted their traditions and customs too and when these territories became British colonies , Perankans imbibed some of their life style also. So perankans came to be a unique blend of Chinese, local Malays and European ways of life style.  Their extravagant life- style carved out of the amalgamation of different cultures and customs is an extraordinarily rich legacy of the region. The head of the family was termed Baba[ man] and the lady of the house was called Nonya.

This mansion was originally built by  Chung Keng Quee, popularly known as Captain China., a very prominent local personality. He was a wealthy businessman, invested into various kinds of industries and businesses. He was also very influential politically, had amicable relations with British during their regime and later on came to be known as a great charitable personality. He donated lavishly for local causes and to various institutions too.

This mansion was built in 1894 and was used as a regular family home. eventually passed on through the generations. However it was in disarray for some time in the mid. Then in 2000 it was purchased by a wealthy antique collector, who restored it to it’s former glory and then it was opened to public in 2004 as a tourist destination.

It is not possible to capture in words the charismatic personality of the mansion in all it’s glory . However I will try to touch few aspects, yes , only glimpses of the rich heritages can be shown here. It is to be seen to encompass the enormity and depth.

 

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The entrance itself appeared to be an unique example of blend of the three cultures, the Victorian style balcony, windows, sparkling golden and red colour paint of Chinese origin while two bright coloured cycle rickshaws placed on either side of entrance resemble those beautiful rickshaws running on Penang streets even now.

 

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Crossing the gate we faced an open courtyard with covered verandahs on the four sides. Few benches were lying there and it felt good to enter the cool place after the scorching heat outside. Sitting on the bench there, when you start taking in the rich sight of beautiful carved doors, curved staircases and embellished balcony fences while the sky peeps down from the rectangular open court yard,[ though now the courtyard is covered with transparent sheets yet sky can be seen and felt] you feel like entering into some different era.  The heart fills with mixed feelings of anticipation of what lies beyond the courtyard.

 

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In the verandah on one side of courtyard was laid a big dining table. There were various wooden partitions and mirrors placed at different angles. Heard a guide telling a group of European tourists that the mirrors were placed in such a way that Baba sitting at the head of the table could watch all the entrance points of mansions reflected in the mirrors, all at the same time.

 

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The mansion is two storeyed building. Before climbing the stairs leading to first floor , one is required to take off one’s shoes. This floor has unbelievably beautiful collection of crockery, other porcelain wares, bed rooms , bride chambers, traditional attires on display, beautiful writing tables, dressing tables, an antique camera piece.

 

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The ceremonial marriage bed of the newly-weds all decked up in bright red colours with exotic , intricate carving. Each room has unique pieces of furniture and each one is ornately carved.

 

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One of the side doors of the mansion lead you to a small open space with a water fountain. On the wall behind fountain are some Chinese wall hangings and green plants are kept in this open space. I think running water fountains are considered very auspicious by Chinese. Few chairs were laid down there. It sure must have been a very cozy, private resting nook for may be Nonya and other ladies of the family.

After this fountain we entered the portion where halls after halls were glittering with gold. It felt like venturing into Some Midas land. Perankans opulent life style at it’s peak. from pins and anklets to purses, from rings, earnings to headgear, You imagine it  and it is there , glittering, resplendent . enjoy only a fraction here…

 

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head gears, hair pins….Nonya used to put more than hundred special kind of pins on her hair on wedding day .

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A side alley leads you to the family temple, private temple of captain China. It is said that the temple was used as entertainment area by Captain. the temple is definitely of quite different type. It has no deity. statue of captain is exposed in the temple and no deity is there. It is quite interesting.

 

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These scenes carved on the walls of temple tell stories

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The door of the temple opening towards main road

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We visited the temple at the end of our tour of museum. Sitting there I was thinking where has all the members , descendants must be at present. I read when Captain China left for his heavenly abode the roads of Penang turned into as if sea of people. His opulence, power, people around of him…. Ah! it all comes to an end. The wheel of time move on relentlessly sparing no one. Yet, history must be preserved. History is our inseparable part .

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Just prior to leaving the premises I rested on the inner side verandah of the ground floor, taking in it all .

Pics copyright- Sunder Iyer

#photography#travel#travelogue#malaysia#penang#pinangperankanmansion#museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

the museum is open for the visitors daily from 9.30 A.M. to 17P.M.

Admission fee for adults is 20 ringet per person, children below 12 are free.

guided tours are available.

 

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We landed at Penang at about 9.30 morning. As the check -in time of hotel was 2 P.M. we had already decided that after having light breakfast we would directly be going to explore the town.

In the flight my next seat neighbor was a lady in her business suit, a professor who was going to attend some professional workshop at Penang university. In fact I had noticed her in the airport too, as besides me she was the only lady there with a red bindi on her forehead. In the flight she was seated next to me and we fell into easy chatting exchanging pleasantries and other tit bits. She was from Sri Lanka but told me that she was born in India. The gentleman accompanying her, her colleague, belonged to Kumbhkonam and that gave us common grounds of communication. After a pleasant flight we were ready to enjoy the island in an upbeat mood.

We directed our Grab driver to drop us at Armanian street as we wanted to enjoy the street art of Penang first of all. We had read that penang street art is one of the major tourist attraction. The few pics we came across on net has already fueled our imagination and we were eager to see the wonderful initiative taken by Penang municipal corporation.

Georgetown in Penang has an impressive history, art and culture to boast of. In 2008 UNESCO declared it a world heritage site and this led to the vision of Penang state government and Penang Municipal council to give it a unique identity. Thus began the modern history of Penang Island. Murals, sculptures from iron, 3D paintings on the streets of Penang is now defining the character of the island.

State authorities invited Luthenian  artist Ernest Zachirevic to make alive the street walls of Penang with painting reflecting the daily life of the inhabitants of the place. Later on other renowned names joined in the project. Presently scattered all over the streets of Penang are many art works expressing various ideas, thoughts and art forms of different artists, known and unknown.There are paintings, 3D and 2D paintings using real articles with painted figures and are iron rod sculptures.

While roaming from street to street we also came across a covered gallery kind of place which was full of wall paintings and a poster there invited random people with any beautiful idea to come forward, share their ideas with concerned people and if accepted , to take the paints, colours from authority and create their own master pieces on the walls of Penang.

Though we tried to cover as much art displays as possible yet we know we could not cover it all.

Let me share few of the wonderful pieces with you.

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Random writings on the wall might not be termed as a great piece of art but they sure bring smiles to you.

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An Indian lady in saree with head covered in traditional Indian way — Indians are an important part of Malaysian history. She looked solemn, a tad sad too perhaps. I wanted to add smiles.

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yes, I am there and happy too. This entire wall full of vibrant flowers and that cat face in between– interesting , isn’t it ! this filled the area with light.

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cats as subject of street art are seen at a number of places, but why cats ? Don’t know the idea, thought behind that but came to know about another CAT- central area transit, the free shuttle but that runs through the streets of Penang. This bus service was launched in 2009. It seems in 2008 another CAT concept was introduced by Penang government, governance based on Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

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These street art pieces made by  wrought iron rods are also found in good number in Penang streets. This one too perhaps has a thought of preserving the earlier ways of life in the island. A man carrying some two vessels hung from a rod on his shoulder. I remember from my childhood the street hawkers in my home town here in India carrying two earthen pots on his shoulder in the similar fashion. They used to sell curd and buttermilk etc.

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This is another example of wrought iron caricatures and words explaining the thought behind it.  It definitely needs time to grasp the full meaning and reference behind each of these art pieces.

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This was a wall size painting of the face of girl/ woman. It was so alive, the sadness really palpable. Shhhhhhhh, don’t bare your pains to strangers……….

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What better way to hoodwink a watching eye than to hold a position above it…

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Trying to share the untold stories of longings, pains and the memories of those left behind.

Thoughtful street art is like good fiction. every graffiti has it’s own story and every individual interprets in his own way.

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Waiting for the one on the other side of the window..

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This is one among the most popular and famous art pieces- The boy riding the actual bike. Come on boy, drive on, you have to just drop me few blocks away. i am not going to hijack your bike.

There are many captures of the street art of Penang but I would talk about that in next piece.

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The quintessential cycle rickshaws of Penang. Each of these was decorated with vibrant colour flowers and added their own bit to make the streets attractive.

 

All the pictures@ Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

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