temple


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

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

Main shrine in chennakeshava complex at Belur

I walked upto the steps leading to Jagati, the star shaped platform with 32 angles over which the temple stands. Even before one raises foot to climb on the first step the miniature temples on both the sides of step invite one to stop.

The entrance to Garbhgrah and a view of smaller temple outside

I too was tempted but after stopping for a fraction of second, looking up and around, I inhaled deeply and went directly inside. I decided to come out later and let the art pieces carry me into their world but first I thought to have darshanam of Keshava and convey my gratitude for calling me to His doorstep. As I crossed the threshold and stepped inside, the darkness in the chamber made me stop. I looked straight over the heads of other devotees and the lamp in the Garbhgrah beckoned like a guiding force. From exterior to interior, it was like body to soul and at the farthest end Keshava smiled like the blue light at the deepest core of our soul. It was such an amazing experience that for few minutes I was rooted to the spot. And then gradually the eyes became accustomed to the dark and the unparalleled beauty inside started captivating me. But first I headed directly to sanctum, paid my obeisance to Lord and then moved back to get subsumed by the sculptural beauty around.

That source of light, the supreme being

The interior of temple is divided into three parts – Garbhgrah (sanctum), Sukhanasi(vestibule)navaranga (central hall). On both the sides of the door of sanctum stand dwarpalas – Jay, vijay. Above the door hangs an intricately carved Torana with many embleshiment. Above that stand a band of musicians and dancers and then are two makaras on both the sides with garland like, arc shaped finally carved image coming out from their mouth under which sit gracefully Laxami Narsimha. It is not easy to see every detail there as it is quite dark inside but then who is in a hurry to come out. Stand there inside for some time. Let your heart soak in the aura and eyes ready to be able to focus and the wonders start unfolding.

Have divine Darshanam and then enjoy every intricate detail

Navaranga mandapam, the central hall has many pillars but out of these the four pillars close to the dancing floor stand out due to their exquisite carving. These pillars and the ceiling between them is mesmerizing. The pillars are smooth, shining so much so that even though black in colours they sparkle in the darness of hall. Of course, for absorbing the finally carved details we need to throw some light. One of these four pillars is known as Mohini pillar.

An overview of central hall and vestibules with exquisitely carved pillars.

Navaranga and one of the vestibule

Mohini pillar depicts Vishnu in His Mohini Avatara. Her serene facial expression, stance of standing, the curves of body and with that swaying effect of intricately carved jewelry is astounding. How could such fine detailing be done on stone! And when it comes to detail these Hoyasala times artists and sculptors have surpassed all the limits. Take an example of this Mohini image. Along with various items of jewelry like necklace, anklets, waistband there is a thread hanging from left shoulder to waist. What is that? An Yagopaveet, the sacred thread and what that thread is doing on a woman image? Perhaps, the artist wanted to establish that this is Vishnu, a male deity in a woman form. What a flight of imagination and what a way to manifest that!

Mohini pillar

Another pillar here is Narsimha pillar. The entire body of the pillar is studded with fine filgree work, images of Gods and goddesses and various mythological episode. Besides this the shape of the pillar too depicts the ingunity of the sculptors. The rectangular base on which rests a circular end of the pillar, again a rectangular portion and then a circular portion with many horizontal layers and at the top the pillar gradually becomes narrow. I have not witnessed it but heard that this pillar has this specific structure as it was made with a purpose to be rotated on its axis. May be like those big prayer bells in Buddist temples and monestry the artists had something in mind. This pillar is very near to Garbhgrah.

The ceiling above these four pillars too is very intricately carved. Above each pillar is a bracket figure. These are Suk Bhasini, Gandharva dancer, lady drying her hair and Queen Shantala. These bracket figures are specialty of Chennakeshva temple, Belur and the outer wall of the temple has many specimens of this type.

Shukbhasini, a bracket figure
intricately carved ceiling over central hall
ceiling with two of the bracket figures.

The dancing floor on three sides leads to vestibules with doors opening to platform on east, north and south side. The platform with pradakshina path has flight of steps on these three sides touching the open temple compound.

From Garbhgrah now we are out on platform ready to enjoy the extravaganza of art and sculpture, a wonder world of masterpieces created by the artist and sculptors.

I love the symbolism in this picture — the body, the soul and the light source at the farthest end.

All the pictures @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

 

 

 

The Tiruvengalanatha Temple was built at Vijayanagara[ Hampi] during the reign of Achyutraya, younger brother of the most famous king of Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadeva Raya. Though like most of the temples at Hampi this too has Lord Vishnu as it’s principal deity but it has come to be  popularly known  as Achyutaraya Temple.

The temple complex is between two hills Gandhmadana and Matanga hills. There are two routes to temple one is to climb the steps behind the Nandi at the east of Hampi Bazar and another is from King’s palace path.

I had two experiences of Achyutraya temple, one while visiting it, roaming through it’s vast open spaces and mandapas with intricately carved pillars and the second one looking at the vast spread temple complex from the top of Matanga hills.

When we walked in the premises of the temple it was almost mid day. The day outside was bright, sunny though it was not hot. Walking towards it from a distance I could see the tall, wide imposing gate.  Reaching there I stood on the gate taking in the architectural grandeur spread before me and seeping in the serenity, the quiet, the peace of the moment. At the moment there were not many tourists in the premises, at least not in the range of our eyes and ears. From gate a well laid path led to another gate  and on both the sides of that path were open green patches of grass. In the middle of open space of one side there lay a big boulder with flat surface. A lone figure sat on that boulder, a soft golden light filling the space with ethereal feel. In the background loomed the pillars, pavilions and other structures, writing the testimonials for the time bygone. It was such a beautiful moment that I am incapable of putting it in the words. A moment when heart is filled with the mixture of diverse emotions, awe for the magnificent creations spread before, joy for being able to witness those, pride for being one from the land of those master craftsmen and a tinge of sadness for the end of that golden era of our history.

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The way which led us towards Achyutraya temple. On the right side  a bawali [ step well] was being excavated and being arranged. How much could be restored and how much has been lost.

The long lost path, rediscovered, re-travelled, an attempt to treasure the glory, to water the roots, the past cant be reconstructed, future can’t be predicted, ‘The moment’ to be lived in all it’s fullness.

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Imposing, magnificent first gate of Achyutraya temple. The second gate can be seen in the background. This is the outer side of the temple gate.

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The inner side of the first gate, one of the mandapam at the far end, the lone figure on the boulder.

Silence whispered tales from days bygone

figures on stone stood eloquent in their muteness

sky leaned over to caress the wounds of earth

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Every pillar, every gallery, every corner has a rich heritage tale of art and culture to narrate.

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These two pictures show the view of Achyutraya temple complex from Matanga Hills.

Entire plan is so grand and magnificent. This is said to be the last grand project before the fall of Vijay Nagar Empire. The temple was consecrated in AD 1534.

All the pics by Sunder Iyer

Hazara Rama temple is the only temple situated in the center of the royal enclosures – residential and ceremonial. Due to it’s location it is inferred that this was the private temple of royalty. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama.

This temple can be said small when compared to other temple enclosures in Hampi like Krishna temple, Vittala temple, Virupaksha temple etc.. The reason can be attributed to it being the private shrine for royalty. The temple premises displays very well maintained green lawns.

The unique feature of the temple is sculpted friezes depicting the story of Ramayana in three tiers all around the outer wall enclosing the main shrine area. Due to this extensive depiction of Rama’s life sculpted in stone, the temple is known as Hazara Rama. Besides this there are sculpted narratives related to Lav- Kush and Bal Krishna too.

The temple has a flat roofed Dwarmandapa.

 

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Dwarmandapa

crossing the Dwarmandapa one enters Rangamandapam. High pillars made of black stone with attractive carvings of God and Goddesses like Hanumana, various avataras of Vishnu. Lord Ganesha and Goddess Durga adorn the Rangamandapam.These intrinsically carved black stone pillars glistened in the semi darkness of Rangamandapam. In the entire pink colour scheme of the temple these black pillars stand out magnificently.  Why this temple only in entire Hampi we rarely find any sculpture in black stone. Whatever might have been the reason of placing these black pillars in the Rangamandapam but in that quiet afternoon when the sun shone brightly outside in the cool darkness of mandapam the black pillars as if invoked a deep solemnity.

 

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Most of the time we fail to reach within, to realize that deep down inside us is that part of the supreme being which when reached imparts the blissful state of being at peace with self.

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Silence is the most important part of communication.

The Rangamandapam has doors opening to north and south side.

 

 

The outer walls of the temple are decorated with various  relics of Rama, Krishna, scene portraying festivities, processions of horses, elephants, dancing women etc.

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This richly ornate outer wall of the temple too is a unique feature of Hazar Rama temple. The panels beautifully portray the abundance, the prosperity of the period.

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Another view of the outer wall.hampii_7nw

 

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can you make out the scenes from Ram’s life? I felt that the story started from the lowest panel. It went all around the temple the the middle panel and then the top one. here is just a part.  Is that Dasharatha getting boon from Rashi, Dasharatha with three queens? In the middle one it appears that there are scenes from Ram Vanvas.

 

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can you spot the Dhanush Bhang scene?

 

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In the middle panel are you able to make out Sita haran scene.Ravana , pushpak vimana, kidnapped Sita. In the third one is it  wounded Jatayu meeting Rama and Laxaman?

 

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Two of Krishna’s images on the walls of temple. There are many others. I specially loved this one. The ornaments, the lovely face, the eyes.

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The goddess

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The gopura, the ruined and destroyed still holds an undeniable charm

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The stillness inside synchronized with serenity outside and the moment stayed with me for ever.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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