travelogue


Edakkal caves are located in Waynad, Kerala, India. The caves are about twenty five kilometers from Kalpetta. the two caves are about 1200 meter above sea level. These are not actually caves in it’s traditional sense rather a heavy boulder straddling over a fissure in rocks form a cave. the main attraction of these caves are stone age etchings, writings, geometric figures and various scenes, activities of  neolithic times. The depictions on rocks is not limited only to one particular period rather it cover the span of many eras.
Besides being heritage repository these caves are also a good option for adventure and nature lovers. Though to facilitate climbing to caves steel staircases have been erected yet the rugged beauty of rocks and panoramic views all around is enough to leave it’s charismatic impact on you.
The caves were discovered by Fred Fawcett, the then superintendent of police of Malabar district in 1890.The caves are situated on western side of Eddakalmala and to reach there one has to trek through Ambukuttymala.
After leaving our vehicle in the parking area we started walking on the road to caves. The road rises gradually and after some distance becomes quite steep but shady tall trees , wild vegetation and lavish display of beautiful natural scenes on both the sides of road make the ride quite pleasant,

Soon the well laid road gave way to rocky terrain. Though slightly out of breath we kept on walking. When we started climbing up to some distance there were small shops of eatables and souvenirs on both the sides of road but later on after ticket window we were totally in company of nature. So, though we stopped in between to admire the beauty of nature and of course to catch our breath but we continued climbing. climbing over randomly piled rocks we reached a place where there was a very narrow passage between between the rocks. To pass through it we had to bend considerable and balance ourselves on precariously piled up rocks to haul ourselves on the other side. But it added to thrill and in spirit brought us nearer to the times bygone.

 

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Hoisting and balancing ourselves on the boulders we reached the entrance to first cave. The entrance has a steel gate. Only a limited number of people are allowed in the cave at one time. The gate perhaps has been put to regulate the traffic in and out of the cave as those few steps are the only way to enter and exit the caves.

 Picture by Sunder Iyer

In the cave on the rock wall was a gallery of carvings and etchings, animals, human forms, some figures looking like tribals with head gear and ornaments etc., some geometric shapes and drawings look like kolam drawings. Then there were animals, various symbols and scripts too. Everything was scattered all over the walls of caves.  How could they engrave so much on rocks? What were the tools used and such lasting imprints that centuries after we stood there agape with wonder and amazement.

The human figures with head gears, the wheel

Picture by sunder Iyer

Picture by Sunder Iyer

Writings on the rocks. What script is that? What had they said? Wish could know that.

 

Pictures by Sunder Iyer
Edakkal caves are said to be only place in India with stone age carvings.  These caves are said to have some links to Indus valley civilisation too. Recent studies have found certain signs which establish it’s link to Indus valley civilisation.

It was intriguing to see those imprints from centuries ago. With what instrument were those drawings made? The figures were all over the rock wall. The cave must have been different at that time and then this certainly was not an easy task. Why did they put so much labour into it?

Man has always had creativity inside him and urge of expression too. What do all these figures represent? So many questions floated in my mind. Look at the wheel like figure. What is it? A representation of time? One of man’s inventions? Can you make out those two human figures in the picture above? It looks like a tribal king and queen, hands up, in a dancing pose.The above image is definitely is some script. It is believed that these drawings and writings in the cave do not belong to any one particular period rather they belong to many spans of time. What have they written? Wish I  could read it.
So many thoughts fill the mind. I felt thankful to those unknown ancestors who left their signs in such non-erasable way . It is always good to feel connected.
All pictures by Sunder Iyer

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This was our interesting find at Hampi. In fact thanks to our autowalla cum guide cum companion Ramlee, he only showed this to us. If not for him we would have definitely overlooked these. These rectangular slabs of stone were placed in neat rows on both the sides of a dry narrow canal running towards the groves of trees at a distance. If I remember correctly it is somewhere on the road that connects Hampi to Kamlapur.

As told these slabs were used as dining tables by the soldiers of  that time.  An open community dining hall, interesting isn’t it. The slabs are of two types. In one , a round plate and four/six bowls are engraved while another type had a banana leaf and six/four bowls cut on it. What was the purpose of that narrow canal? I think at that time it must have been full of water for cleaning and washing the dining tables or may be even hands. Or may be the persons serving food walked in that canal to serve food to rows on both the sides.

nothing like Hampi grand temple architecture but an interesting and different kind of thing.

 

 

 

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

Creating any form of art transports you to a meditative state. The world around you as if does not exist, so engrossed are you in that process of creating. And I feel while carving shapes out of a stone slab one needs to be completely into it, at the highest and deepest kind of concentration level. You can not erase it, you can’t delete it, you can’t add a stroke of brush here and there to make it perfect.  Every stroke of hammer leaves a permanent imprint. No, I have never held a hammer to carve anything on stone but have enjoyed a wonderful experience of watching these artists at work in Hampi, prior to Hampi festival 2017.

Hampi is a magnificent open gallery of the architectural grandeur and sculpting magnificence. These artists were working on their pieces to participate in a competition to be held during Hampi festival. Themes mostly belonged  either to Vijaya nagar Empire or other temples, figures carved by the artists of the yonder years.

 

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Sculptors at work

 

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Badami cave temples taking shape

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This one was sitting a little away from rest of the artists, listening to music on phone, he was giving shape to a stone while few others peeped inside from window.

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He is etching image of Raja krishna deva Raya

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

 

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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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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.

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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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The guide at the temple.

 

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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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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

 

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Another look of the Kalyan Madapam

 

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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.

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

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

 

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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.

 

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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…)

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