temple


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.

 

IMG_8957n

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.

 

IMG_8792n

 

The idols spreading cheers and adding colours

 

IMG_8985n

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.

 

IMG_8946n

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

 

IMG_8936n

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.

IMG_8969n

 

 

IMG_8965n

 

IMG_8834n

The main hall of temple

IMG_8823n

Another view of the same hall

IMG_8842n

Another hall

 

IMG_8982n

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.

 

IMG_8860n

 

IMG_8919n

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.

 

IMG_0107nnW

 

IMG_0403nfaW

 

IMG_0279nfaW

 

IMG_0409nnW

 

IMG_0239nW

 

IMG_0295nnW

 

IMG_0223nfaW

 

IMG_0184nfaW

 

IMG_0166nnFAW

 

IMG_0297nfaWIMG_0261nfaW

 

IMG_0422nfaW

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—–

 

IMG_8502nw

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.

IMG_8728nw

 

IMG_8734nw

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.

IMG_8505nw

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.

 

IMG_8559nw

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

that’s what it conveyed to me.

 

IMG_8672nw

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.

IMG_8553nw

”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.

 

IMG_8533nw

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.”

 

 

IMG_8570nw

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.

 

chinesetempleW

 

IMG_8691nw

 

 

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.

 

IMG_8516nw

 

IMG_8760nw

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.

 

malaysia_3nW

And the hut itself.

malaysiaa-w-bord

 

 

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.

 

IMG_8400nnW

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.

IMG_8454nW

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.

 

IMG_8406nW

 

IMG_8411nW

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.

jettyW

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

IMG_8441nnWW

 

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.

malaysia_13 (2)W

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.

IMG_8429nn-paint-tex-crop-w-bord-new

 

malaysia_8W

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

malaysia_15 (2)W

 

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.

 

IMG_8462nW

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.

IMG_8456nW

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_8178nw

 

 

IMG_8186nw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_8189nw

 

IMG_8200nw

 

mariamman_4w

 

mariamman_7w

 

mariamman_8w

 

mariamman-w

 

 

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.

hampi_56nnw

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.

hampi_44nw

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.

hampi_24nww

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

hampi_68n-w

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

hampi_69n-w

 

hampi_85nw

 

hampi_86nnw

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.

 

hampii-nw

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.

 

hampii_3n-sharpw

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.

hampii_4n-sharpw

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.

hampii_2nw

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.

hampii_1nw

Another view of the outer wall.hampii_7nw

 

hampii_5nw

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.

 

hampii_6nw

can you spot the Dhanush Bhang scene?

 

hampii_8nw

 

hampii_9nw

hampii_10nw

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?

 

hampii_11nw

hampii_13nw

hampii_14nw

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.

hampii_16nw

The goddess

hampii_15nw

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

hampi_2wwww

 

 

hampii_12nw

 

hampi_65nnnww

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

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vittala temple at Hampi is another magnificent imprint of the extraordinary craftsmanship of the sculptors of the Vijayanagara Empire. The temple is said to be built in 15th century during the period of Devraya 2nd, one of the ruler of the Vijayanagar empire . Many extensions were done and new structures added to it by Krishnadev Raya, the most famous ruler of Vijaynagar empire. The sprawling campus of Vittala temple consists of many halls, mandapams, gopurams etc but the stone chariot and the hall with musical pillars are two of it’s crown jewels.

 

chota_5n-w - Copy

The main entrance of Vittala temple on the east side. It appears that the primary building material of this gopura was red brick. It is very likely that the same was partially destroyed after the fall of Vijayanagara empire in the battle of Talikota.

chota_15nw - Copy

Images carved on the floor of the gate of the temple…devotees.

chota_6nw - Copy

An overview of Vittala temple complex, just after entering through the east gate.

The iconic stone chariot of Vittala temple now finds it’s place in recently printed fifty Rs. currency notes. It is said that initially this stone chariot was the shrine dedicated to Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, the Vittala. It appears that this chariot is a monolithic structure but it is not . This was built by many giant granite rocks and the joints are hidden under the carvings and other decorative patters. Such amazing was the skill of the craftsmen that even stones as if turned into silk when in their hands. The chariot does not rest on wheels. As a shrine it was built on a high rectangular platform but the wheels on the sides are set in the manner as if they carry the chariot. The wheels are complete with axis, shafts and brakes etc.

 

Untitled_HDR5nnw

The iconic Chariot at Vittala temple, Hampi. The clouds above and behind it painting the perfect background for Garuna’s shrine …imagine Garuna floating through azure expanse, wings wide spread with spirit so determined.

 

chota_7nw - Copy

 

Another angle of Garuna’s shrine – the Hampi chariot.

Behind the stone chariot is Maha Mandapa. This consists of four halls but the unique feature of Maha Mandapa  is it’s exquisitely carved and sculpted musical pillars. There are fifty six such pillars. Every main pillar has seven small pillars around it. It is said that these minor pillars emit the sound of different musical instruments. I have not experienced it as some repairing work was going on inside.

chota_8nw - Copy

The Mahamandapa with musical pillars.

Even if we leave apart the unique music emitting quality of pillars the entire Mandap is  very graceful and magnificent. The exquisite carvings impart it a kind of delicacy. This Mandapa stands on very ornate platform which has bas reliefs of horses. Entire Mandapa is divided into four halls, each facing different directions. Each hall has it’s own steps and entrance. The front, that is east facing is the one with musical pillars.

 

chota_14nw - Copy

A closer look of East facing hall of Mahamandapa. The horses on the base and carvings can be seen. Repairing work was going on in this hall when we visited.

chota_9nw - Copy

The guide at the temple.

 

chota_12nw

This Mandapa is highly ornate . Pillars with mythical Yali are its special feature. In the picture with me are the guide and guard, Prashant. We had hearty chat about life at Hampi, the cultural heritage, art and creativity. Prashant is very passionate about photography. He showed me his photo gallery and he had many wonderful shots . It was really enlightening to talk to these two young men.

 

chota_10nw - Copy

 

chota_11nw - Copy

 

 

 

chota_13nw - Copy

I love those white clouds, sailing through the blue sky, inviting me to limitless journey to yonder lands where everything assimilates into ultimate.

chota_16-bw-w - Copy

We met him in one of the Mandapam. His mother was  sweeping the mandapam. The little bundle of energy became so fascinated by Sunder’s camera that he wanted to peep inside the lens from the front instead of posing for a click.

hampi-2-w

 

Untitled_HDR6nww

And the sun showered it’s blessings….

  1. All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

Hampi in Karnataka, India is an UNESCO site, a site of rich heritage of sculpture, architecture, culture and history. Hampi, the glorious capital of  the great Vijayanagara empire.The area of about 26 sq, Km. is studded with ruins of temples, small  and grand temples. Many of these are restored to great extent and others might have been buried under the ground completely destroyed.

Among this large bevy of magnificent temples Virupaksha temple holds a special place due to many reasons.

Virupaksha temple , we can trace it back to our mythological references. Hemkuta hills on which this temple is located is said to be the place where Lord Shiva was doing his penance[ tapsya, dhyan] when Kamdev, God of love disturbed Him in order to help the local girl Pampa who was deeply in love with the lord and wanted to marry Him. Pampa was ultimately successful in impressing Lord by her severe penance and deep devotion and He agreed to marry her but in the process Kamdev had to bear the burnt of Shivas anger and that too literally. Shiva opened His third eye in anger and Kamdev turned into ashes. So here Shiva opened His third eye. Does it have any relation with Shiva being worshiped here as Virupaaksha? Aksha means eye, Virup means formless- formless eye. In deeper sense it refers to consciousness — seeing without eyes, feeling without skin, means absorbing everything without the help of sense organs and that is the state of yoga samidhi. On these hills Shiva was in samadhi awastha.

The recorded history of this temple is from seventh century A.D. Inscriptions from ninth century are still there in temple premises. The inner sanctum of temple is older than the Vijayanagara empire. This temple has a history of active worship of more than 2000 years.It is believed that despite various attacks, destruction of mighty Vijayanagar empire, ravages of Hampi in the hands of time, the puja, archna in the temple continued uninterrupted. This in itself is very reassuring. It strengthens our faith in the Super being, the divine entity.

Exterior of temple-—The east facing gate is the main gate of the temple. In front of it is about one kilometer long bazar with shops on both the sides of wide path. The lines of colonnaded shop reflect on the great planning skills of the people in power at that time. At the end of the Bazar there sits a giant monolithic Nandi on high platform facing the temple. In Lepakshi too the big monolithic Nandi sits about a kilometer away from Virupaksha temple. What could have been the thought behind this? Why Nandis were not made just in front of the temples or inside the temples? In Brihdeshwara, Tanjore too the Nandi idol is mammoth but it is inside the temple. Though placed under a separate canopy, on a separate high raised platform but inside temple premises just outside the door leading to Garbhgrah but in these two Virupaksha temples they are placed at a distance. Does it have anything to do with this particular form of Shiva?

Gopuram of Virupaksha temple – The gopura on the bazar side was under renovation when we visited Hampi. However even the horizontally, vertically rods fitted all around the lofty gopura were not able to mar the grandeur, the majesty of the nine storied gopura. Another gopura is on the tank side. This too is built almost in the same style and grandeur. The progressively narrowing figure of gopuram is built of brick and mortar. there are exquisitely sculpted characters and figures on the lower tiers of the nine story Gopuram. In every storey in the middle is a small door like open structure. Somebody told that there is provision of going to the top of the Gopuram, May be there are stairs inside the structure. Not sure about that. just a thought. On the top of Gopuram there are two horn like projections at each end and in the middle is placed Kalash.

 

hampi_145

The shape of Gopuram always remind me of hands with folded palms. The entire structure as if speaks on behalf of us…. we send our reverential salutations to Almighty, up there.

hampi_146

 

hampi_117nnn

This is Kanakgiri gopura side of the temple, the holy tank side of the temple. I spent an evening on it’s bank. The still waters of the tank with reflection of Gopura nestled close to it’s heart appeared to say a clear heart is the abode of the sacred and pious entities. How pacifying and calming was it’s impact. Far and wide the distant blue horizon invited one to drop all the binding chains and soar high with stretched wings and light heart to pastures unknown. The deep waters of tank locked the gaze and took it deep up to the core of the being. These are the moments when I forget that I exist.

Kalyan Madapam

hampi_140n

This Mandapam in the temple courtyard with carved pillars and painted ceiling is an exquisite example of the impeccable skills of artists of the Vijayanagar empire period. This mandapam is said to be the contribution of one of the most famous king of Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadeva Raya. It is known as Kalyan Mandapam or Rang Mandapam. The mythological figures carved on the pillars, the carving on the panels above the pillars and the colourful depiction of various mythological anecdotes leave one spellbound.Such treasures of our rich heritage not only fascinate us but prompt us to explore more, to learn more, to go deeper.

 

hampi_141

A closure look of the paintings on the ceiling of the mandapam. The colours still retain their brightness though centuries have passed.

 

hampi_136

Another look of the Kalyan Madapam

 

hampi_142n

 

hampi_143

 

Second Courtyard

A small three tiered gopura leads us to the second courtyard of the temple. The outer and the first courtyard houses architecturally beautiful structures but this second courtyard houses the soul of the temple. Not only the main shrines of Virupaksha Shiva, the consort of the local goddess  Pampa[ pampa is associated with river Tungbhadra] but also many shrines are fitted in between the collonaded pathway encircling the courtyard. Even when the day is sparkling blue and gold outside certain niches and antechambers in this section are dusky with some sun rays filtering  in at some places. A small shrine tucked in the wall, a lone deepak burning steady, devotees sitting here and there engrossed in their own inside world– the entire area pulsate with deep positive energy. You sit quietly with your eyes closed for few minutes and the murmurs of tourists gradually turns into whispers and then a complete silence engulfs you and a little blue glow suffused your inside. The pervading energy makes you feel secured and protected , a feeling of being in womb.

hampi_135

 

hampi_43nn

 

hampi_72n

 

hampi_76n

 

hampi_134

 

hampi_133

 

hampi_132

 

hampi_130

 

hampi_128

 

hampi_122n

 

hampi_74n

Some other deities are Bhuvaneshwari, Pataleshwara, Navgrah, Nagas, and Ganesha, Hanumana

There are some shrines outside Kanakgiri Gopura, on the side of tank.

 

hampi_139

The inverted  shadow image of the gopura on the wall of one of the ante image is another attraction of the temple. The pin hole camera effect.The shadow falls on the wall which is close to the rear end of the temple, quite far away from the entry gopura.

 

hampi_131

 

Another special feature of the temple is a big kitchen and the water connectivity system here. Water from river Tungbhadra was carried directly to the the temple kitchen through underground canal system. I am not very sure whether the system is functional presently or not but the network of pipelines can be seen.

The annual chariot festival celebrated in February every year and marriage festivity activities of Virupaksha and Pampa too take place with great fervor.

 

Visiting Virupaksha temple at Hampi was an enriching experience for me in more than one way. It took me back to glorious pages of history of my land, my race and strengthened my being like that tree whose roots go deep inside earth and it faces the rough weather with  faith on bonds that hold it firmly.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer (more…)

.25.10.2017

The Sunrise

We decided to have a date with rising sun on Matanga hill. Started climbing the steps to top at about 5 A.M. It was quite dark. Though steps are there but not well laid down. Diversions too are there in between hence it is advisable to be accompanied by some local person while venturing on hills in dark. If possible take a torch with you. We had our auto wallah with us. The climb is not too high. We reached the top in about twenty five to thirty minutes time. Four persons — two girls and a young couple were already there with their cameras all set and ready to capture the majestic entrance of sun. We too settled down on the side facing valley and hills beyond.

I feel we can never appreciate the charisma of sunrise to it’s full extent if we have not waited for it in the darkness. The tranquility all around, the soft silky wisps of air, the mystique translucency of darkness and that expectant gaze fixed on horizon for the glimpse of the first hint of emergence of sun….every thing for the time being as if stood still. Slowly the sky behind the hills started changing colours. Just a hint, little bit of diffused light. Chains of hills, the boulders in the valley stirred slowly into existence.  The illuminated clouds were suffused with ethereal glow.Hearts set on prayer tune with batted breath we waited and then we felt it…. the red orb behind the clouds. Slowly the curtain parted and there was the smiling , big red sun on grayish blue sky. To hold an eye to eye communication with the celestial being was a divine experience. Slowly I let go my breath. The realization dawned upon me then only that I was holding it . With this descended a feeling of being burden free, a quiet strength to face to face what lies ahead.

 

hampi_98nw

 

2

 

6

 

 

I stood up to look around. Down there in the valley the entire  Achyut Rai temple complex lay spread. We have been to this temple day before but this aerial view presented entirely different perspective. The gopuram stood high. The temple enclosures spread wide but the entire complex mingled homogeneously with the surrounding rocky terrain. Not only this temple complex, ribbon like serpentine Tungbhadra, the roads meandering through the green trees, big rocks jutting out into the valley,each and every boulder scattered all around, the big tall trees, the tiny blades of grass… all looked like an essential part of a bigger scheme of thing. The scene before eyes filled the heart with all embracing emotions. The elevated perspectives do widen and deepen our thoughts.

 

12

 

13

View of Achyutrai temple from Matanga hill …. If one wants one can come down from hill and directly go to visit this temple.

14

Every boulder there has a story etched in it’s heart.

5

The Tungabhadra….

By this time the silky golden sun rays had descended on the earth. The delicate tufts of slender grass blades on hill top glistened with fresh beauty. Gentle morning zypher tickled the grass blades and they danced with mirth. I turned around and for the first time noticed a modest white colored top of temple on the rock.

 

3

 

 

Veerbhadra temple

This is Veerbhadra temple. In fact while coming up we passed through the courtyard of this temple and then ascended steps to reach the hill top. But due to darkness we couldn’t notice the arch of entrance, the courtyard .Most of the part of the temple is in ruined condition yet a long covered varandah with view to valley was kept clean by the Sadhu, who frequents this temple. In the niche of the verandah in a dark corner we found two idols too . The main shrine is of Veerbhadra. It is a cult of Shiva followers and it appears that during it’s prime time significant number of Humpi population followed this cult. Veerbhadra is one of the raudra form Shiva.

 

11

Gopuram of Veerbhadra temple.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

9

A view from covered verandah of Veerbhadra temple. Many such mandpam are found on hills ,on way to temple.

10

veerbhadra Swami…. The main deity of temple.

The sadhu in the temple informed us that still an annual fair takes place there and many pilgrims belonging to a particular community and cult gather here in large number.

 

16

The Sadhu we met in the temple. He was making these trinkets with thread tatting and displayed them for sale.

4

view of Virupaksha temple from Matanga Hills.

Mythological references

As per our mythological stories Matanga Rishi is one of the very first crusader against untouchability. By birth he belonged to  lower caste. Caste system at that time used to be very rigid. Once unknowingly he crossed the path of princess of the kingdom and was beaten for this so called offense. He protested against this injustice outside king’s palace and  later on attained a place and respect of a Rishi by his severe penance, knowledge and divine powers.

We find another reference of Matanga Rishi  in Aranyakand of Ramayana. Near Hampi on another side of Tungabhadra it’s Kishkindha Kshetra. The kingdom of strong,powerful monkey king Bali. The story goes like this.

Once a mighty bull named DunDubhi arrived at Bali’s kingdom and challenged him to fight. Bali could never ignore a challenge hence he fought with him. After a long and ferocious fight Bali killed Dundubhi. He caught the corpse of mighty bull with two horns, raised it high in air and threw it far. The corpse landed on Yagnavedi of Matanga Rishi at Rishyamuk parvat. Matanga Rishi cursed that who so ever has polluted his Yagna would be blown into pieces if he ever stepped on this hill. Indra informed Bali about this curse in presence of Sugreev and Hanuman and this curse of Matanga Rishi proved to be a boon to Sugreev.  When due to certain misunderstanding Bali was after Sugreev’s life, Sugreev along with Hanuman ran to this hill only as Bali could not dare to step on this due to Matanga Rishi’s curse.

I feel most of us know about Shabri. The lady who tasted every Jujuberry fruit in her basket before offering it to Rama, when during his fourteen year exile period he once happened to meet her. Shabri was disciple of Matanga Rishi.

And that was glorious start of the day for us…..divine sunrise, enriching emotions, panoramic nature specters, people we met, faith and belief. Matnga hills. I wrote this morning with sunrise colours, dipped in early morning scent and kept it deep in my heart.

 

8

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

17

All pictures by Sunder Iyer

.

 

 

 

 

.

Next Page »