May 29, 2011

Varavi Siddeshwara Temple and Waterfalls, Yekkeri

I was not sure what to expect when Ningappa suggested Varavi Siddeshwara Kolavi but I felt I would see something special. Shankrappa Megappa Kumbhar the pot-maker of Hooli agreed to accompany us. The drive was a short one- Hooli > Hoolikatti > Yekkeri -less than 10km. The last one kilometer was dusty dirt track. As we neared our destination the path was just wide enough for one four-wheeler flanked by Honge trees (Derris india, Pongamila pinnata), rock hill to our left and a stream on the right. The road ended where it met the stream, we left the car under the tree and went by foot.

The stream, at this time of year barely flows but there is enough water for cattle to take a midday dip. We were entering a gully between two rock hills, packed with trees, mainly Honge trees. We were greeted by a herd of cows, buffaloes, few boys and women.

Buffaloes are pretty sensitive and were alert at the sight of strangers, especially urbanites. The honge shade relieved us from the heat radiated by the blazing Sun.

Do watch the video.

A waterfall would dominate this place between June and December and we would have very less place to walk in this valley-stream bed.

That's the temple, right next to the falls. The temple is actually a narrow gap in the rocks. Walls with a gate were made to keep monkeys away from the temple. Surely they would relieve pilgrims of their pooja stuff like coconuts and bananas.

Lord Ganesha.

This little cave temple has three Shivalingas of which two are definitely ancient and the third one looks new to me. This one is enclosed in four walls.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Its rare to see twin Basavannas.

Outside, we look at the way we came. It's a paradise!

Walking on the rock strewn stream bed demands effort.

Shankara climbs up a rock face and I follow him up. Ningappa is worried about me, kept warning me that the rocks could be slippery. There we are; bird's eye view of the valley.

And that's where water from the hills dives down. My mind is made up to visit again sometime August or September this year.

Ascending is easy but descending is dicey. With my two cameras, it was a circus, I had to squat down couple of times.

We approached a herd of sheep. As I was trying to get a shot the herdsman offered to show his best ram and sheep.

The one holding the ram is Sangappa Bhimappa Yergatti, the boy in white is his son, the man in all white is Sangappa's brother and boy in blue shirt is Sanpappa's nephew.

When I promised to send this picture, Sangappa said "please send the picture, we'll frame it and display it at home. We'll remember you..." It'll be a crime if I did not keep up with the promise.

One last look at Onge before we leave Yekkeri.

Varavi Siddeshwara Coordinates: 15°49'6"N 75°9'37"E

May first week I posted two copies of the picture, I hope they've reached Sangappa and his kin.


May 22, 2011

Hooli's potmakers

The art of pot-making is fading from rural society- I realized it after seeing Shankrappa's workshop. Thanks to Ningappa Yellappa Gulgangi, my guide to Hooli Fort, for insisting me to visit the potter's workshop. It was long pending dream to see a pot-making in real.

That's Shankrappa Megappa Kumbhar showing me pots ready for the market. In the background, to his right you can see two red colored flower vases made by him few years ago.

That's his wheel. I asked if the wheel is wooden. No, its fiber. Plastic everywhere!

Shankrappa learnt the art of spinning clay from his grandfather Mallappa Shetyappa Kumbhar. Yes, that's Mallappa, the old man of Kumbhar family. He's busy ramming pot's base to uniform thickness.

The pots you see here are not entirely spun, only the top half is spun while the bottom half is hand-made. Its a job which demand lot of patience and concentration.

I think it was Ningappa who came up with the idea of having a demo. Shankrappa ad his brother Suresh ready things, even the kids lend hands. Check out in this two part video how Shankrappa makes a flower vase in minutes. I miss out a minute in between to change my camera batteries.

There it is!

Its not ready for use yet. It will be allowed to dry and then baked in a kiln to harden the clay.

The clay used has lot of effort behind it. Shankrappa hires a couple of tractors & few men, travel about 60km to a lake near MK Hubli, work on the lake bed and haul clay lumps to their workshop. It's a day's back-breaking work just to get the raw material. Clay lumps are dried in sun light, pounded & powdered and ran through a fine sieve to eliminate the tiniest of pebbles. Then water is added and kneaded till the required consistency is achieved. The ready clay is covered with a moist rag to maintain the moisture level and water sprinkled when required.

I hope Shankrappa has kept it. I plan to pick it up during my next visit.

Special pots for a wedding ceremony. He's supposed to deliver a hundred of such pots during that week.

Suresh never learnt to spin clay but he's the boss of making clay stoves. Most rural houses have clay stoves in kitchens. If I'm not mistaken old stoves are replaced with new ones during Deepawali.

Suresh shows the kiln. Fuel used is mostly wood and paddy husk.

Suresh mentioned that running business was getting difficult with prices going skywards while prices of pots remain same. Profits are going down every year. Even the government does not support the Kumbhar community. Running life is getting difficult. Its true. Suresh is not exaggerating.


May 15, 2011

Hooli Fort

First glimpse of Hooli fort was during my first visit to Hooli village, the day we visited Parasgad fort. It was after sunset I noticed a stone structure at the top of the rock hill... I guessed it must be a watch tower but instinct said there must be a fort. Somehow missed checking it with the locals. Ever since the day I wanted to go up the hill and check if Hooli had a fort.

April 2, 2011. I arrived at Hooli from Amminabhavi. I drove straight to Hari Mandir, a group of elderly people were chatting. I told them about my plan of exploring the fort. The friendly people appointed Ningappa as my guide.

That's one of the many temples we passed by with the hill in the background.

There's Ningappa posing in front of Nandikeswara Temple.

We went straight up, it was almost as good as climbing a stair-case. The entire hill is one huge rock-bed. Local people run a full time business of quarrying stones from here. You see the black patch in the picture below, that's rubber laid down by tractors.

That's Hooli lake. According to Ningappa, when the lake gets filled to the brim, it is capable of lasting for 3 years. The lake is fed by two streams flowing down from the hills. few years back lake water was used for irrigating agricultural land but some villagers jammed the sluice gates so that water is used only for cattle and people's needs.

We move up. That's the fort... I was told by village folks that it's just a heap of stones. Description is almost on mark.

This father & son duo were gathering firewood. They were thrilled to pose for the picture. The little boy was asking his dad why I was taking pictures. In the background are two bastions, this is supposed to be the main entrance. For local people into stone-business this fort was an easy source of dressed stones.

The inside is equally pathetic. A naturally formed water tank. A tank in which Ningappa played as a kid and teenager. He would come here almost everyday herding cattle to graze.

Google Map screen-shot

A - Main entrance
B - Water tank
C - Well
D - Palace ruins

It seems the fort was in a much better shape. Ningappa remembers taking shelter under one of the bastions during rains. Looking from the main door, the wall running East-West.

Again, looking from the main door, wall running South-North.

Remains of the palace and a bastion in the background.

The well. Notice the stone bucket in the fore-ground, that was for horses to drink water from. From outside walls look simple but take a look inside.

A pipeline returns spilled water back into the well. People back then used to conserve water.

Now we are standing on the remains of North-East bastion looking back into the fort. Terrible mess!

Looking along the Northern wall.

The Eastern wall. Young Ningappa's shelter at the end of this wall is in ruins now.

A portion of the wall still intact.

We walked around the fort... the outer part of the Western wall is in a much better shape.

That's it! No information about who built it or when it was built. But the look of the well is similar to the wells of Subapur fort. Hooli Fort could be constructed during Chartapati Shivaji's era.

We walked away from the fort towards Sivakasi, one of the temples where pooja is still performed on daily basis. On the way we happened to see this abandoned image of Lord Ganesha.

I could see signs of hectic activity all over the hill. At this rate ecology is at stake. Ningappa kept telling me to come again during Shravanamasa i.e. August-September, the entire hill would be green, scattered with fresh-water ponds and alive with streams, cascades, waterfalls, cattle and cowherds. As we spoke Ningappa suggested we visit Varavi Siddeshwara Temple... 30 minutes walk from here or we could take the road. I chose the road.

The roads I traveled.

Hooli Fort Coordinates: 15°48'11"N 75°11'41"E


May 8, 2011

Amminabavi: one well & many temples

This visit was due pending ever since my visit to the Amminbavi Cave Temple. I'd heard that Amminabavi has a huge well and an ancient Basadi. The day finally arrived.

April 2, 2011. I left home morning 6-30, passed by Muruga Mutta... I could see early morning walkers going about their rounds. About a kilometer before Amminabhavi I stopped to a well to the left. Looks pretty ancient. People seem to use water but not maintained well.

As I entered the main street I got directions for the directions to the famous well of Amminabhavi... just go down the street, you cannot miss it. There it is.

Few women were washing clothes already. I'd never seen a well this wide. It could be anywhere between 40 to 45 feet in diameter. A stone tablet embedded into the wall states that the well was constructed under VWS scheme 1957. But I felt this well much older than just 60 years.

VWS Scheme
ಸಮಾಜ ವಿಕಾಸ ಯೋಕನೆಯ ನೆತ್ರುತ್ವದಲ್ಲೂ ಕಟ್ಟಿಸಿದ ಭಾವಿ

Sand stone is native to this region.

The well has seven or eight ports for people to draw water. Looks like this is a major source of water for this village.

A colleague of mine happens to live here- Chetana. I called Chetana, we planned to meet at the Jain Basadi. I drove further down the street, parked the car to a side and took the side street leading to the Basadi gate. Chetana was there already, she's my guide to the Basadi.

I was expecting to see a stone temple... the ancient structure certainly has got a modern touch. The premises is kept tidy just like any other Jain Basadi. Two ancient stone elephants watch the entrance.

We stepped in, two elderly ladies were performing pooja.

This painting is symbol of Ahimsa, the Jain principle of Live and Let Live. The painting depicts a cow and tigress existing together in peace, nursing each other's babies.

A laminated poster historical information of Amminabhavi and this Basadi.

ಅಮ್ಮಿನಭಾವಿ ಗ್ರಾಮವು ಬಹು ಪುರತನಡದು. ಕ್ರಿ. ಶ. ಹತ್ತನೇ ಶತಮಾನದ ಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಚಾಲುಕ್ಯರ ಅಡಿಪತ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಒಳಪಟ್ಟ ಒಂದು ಪಾಳೆಗಾರರ ಸಮೂಹವು. ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಸ್ತಲವನ್ನು ಆರಿಸುತ್ತ ಈಗಿದ ಗ್ರಾಮದ ಬಯಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಬಿಡಾರಬಿಟ್ಟು ಇಲ್ಲಿಯೇ ನೆಲೆಸಿದರು. ಅವರು ಜೈನ ಧರ್ಮಿಯರಗಿದ್ದರು. ಅವರೇ ಅಮ್ಮಿನಭಾವಿ ದೆಸೈಯರು. ಅವರು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ಬಸದಿಯನ್ನು ಕಟ್ಟಿಸಿದರು. ಹಾಗೆ ಒಂದು ಭಾವಿಯನ್ನು ಕಟ್ಟಿಸಿದರು. ಆ ಭಾವಿಗೆ ತಮ್ಮ ಕುಲದೇವತೆಯಾದ ಪದ್ಮಾವತಿ ಅಮ್ಮನವರ ಹೆಸರಿಟ್ಟು ಅಮ್ಮನವರಭಾವಿ ಎಂದು ಕರೆಯ ಹತ್ತಿದರು. ಊರಿಗೂ ಸಹ ಅದೇ ಹೆಸರು ಅಮ್ಮನವರಭಾವಿ ಎಂದು ಬಂದು ಮುಂದೆ ಅದು ಅಮ್ಮಿನಭಾವಿ ಎಂದು ಪರಿವರ್ತನೆಗೊಂಡಿತು.

Amminabhavi's history goes back to 10th century AD, during the rule of Chalukyas. People back then settled down in the plains. They were followers of Jain religion. The present day Amminabhavi Desai is a descendant of those settlers. They built a Basadi and a well. The well was named after Goddess Padmavati. The well was commonly called as Ammanavarabhavi meaning Mother's Well. Amminabhavi transformed to Amminabhavi with time.

The columns are beautifully carved and polished.

The ceiling is also decorated with floral designs.

Danapal Upadyaya, the Archaka blessed me by pouring few drops of holy-water on my head. This was a new experience for me. When holy-water was poured on Chetana's head, she held her palm so that water does not fall down. I'll remember to do that when I visit again.

This is the idol of Chouvis Theertankara (Neminath Tirthankara). History is that the idol was taken away from temple and buried in Earth to save it from the destroying hands of Muslim rulers. Idols of Bhagavan Chandraprabha and Bhagavan Mahaveer were installed in the Basadi. Early 20th century, during British rule, while digging earth to close an unused well, the idol was found. The British government claimed the idol and wanted to shift it to London museum but the Jain community wanted the idol installed in the Basadi. A very famous barrister Champatarayar fought for the idol and eventually in 1935 it was reinstalled in the Basadi.

This idol reminded me of the idol at Kasamalagi. The idol, similar in color and finish, was found at Devgaon or Kittur while digging earth at a construction site. Chetana pointed out one characteristic which differentiates two idols; Amminabhavi's idol has an umbrella over the head while Kasamalagi idol has a seven headed snake and an umbrella.

Bhagavan Mahaveer.

Bhagavan Chandraprabha.

Basadi Shikhara.

A smaller temple and a collection of ancient stone-works.

A hero-stone.

Back at the temple front yard, we are looking at the Manastambha. This pillar was installed in 1999.

Jain community symbol.

The painting inside the Basadi depicted on the Manastambha's base.

With morning pooja over, the temple was closed. We went to Chetana's home, it's a minute's walk from the Basadi. I got introduced to parents, brother and sister. Though it was early, avalakki was ready, I relished it. Mr.Desai and I spoke about problems plaguing our agricultural community and other historical monuments of Amminabhavi over tea. Prashant would show me around the village.

First we visited Kalmeshwara Gudi, an ancient Chalukya style temple. Just across the street is Sri Jagadguru Rambhapuri Shanteswara Mutta. The stone arched gateway definitely looks ancient and it's just marvelous.

As we stepped in Lord Hanuman's idol caught my attention. The design is similar to idols I've seen at Parasgad and Gajendragad forts. What ever Hanuman is holding in the hand can also be seen in other places.

The mutta building could be one or two centuries old. Heavy teak pillars lavished with intricate art.

The balcony is elongated C shaped, decorated with lot of wood-work.

We step in, the inside is a quadrangle with a corridor running around. Again we see plenty of wooden pillars holding up the first floor of the building. An impressive structure. The mutta's swami run a school which is located right next door.

I couldn't resist shooting this picture hung on one of the corridor walls. The picture depicts the right method of holding Shivalinga while offering pooja to it. Text in the picture reads: Om Namah Shivaya, Lingamadhye Jagat Sarvam.


This is known as Gaddimani, rural gyms for wrestlers. Inside is rectangular pit with it's floor 6 feet below the street level. The pit is floor is mix of sand and brown soil. Four or five wooden clubs were placed in a small pocket in one of the walls. These kids were asking me to get down into the pit. Their smiles gave away the mischief they were up to ...they wanted to see me struggle back up. Cheeky characters!

Next door is Kalmeshwara Gudi, another ancient temple dedicated to Shivalinga. The designs would have been visible of the walls were not painted. Some of the sculptures were pretty neat. this Halegannada inscription seems well preserved.

For me it was a holiday but for Prashanth it was a working day. I decided it's time I let go of Prashant. If not for Desai family, I would've just seen the well and Basadi and left.

If you are ever passing through Amminbhavi do stop by if time permits.