Aug 30, 2014

Rural sights: scarecrow, charcoal making and ox carts

November 28, 2013
Seen near Kanaganhalli, Chittapur taluq, Gulbarga

From a distance I actually thought it was a man. These scarecrows are keeping up with current fashion trend, especially the second fellow, dressed in tight jeans and slim fit shirt.

This is a charcoal making set up. In the foreground is dry wood, this is jaali katagi. The smoking mound is a tightly packed heap of dry wood covered by thick coat of earth - effectively this is a one time use kiln. The kiln has vents to draw in fresh air and let out smoke. Inside the kiln wood is heated under pressure for several days. It is allowed to cool naturally and then the kiln is broken. The treated wood is not black charcoal ready for sale.

Ox carts with solid wheel. Most Indian bullock carts have 5' spoked wheels but some places are exceptions like Chitapur taluq. Carts with 3½' solid wheels are quite common - these are slightly smaller than the spoked wheel carts. There's a third type too- carts with automotive wheel - steel disc and rubber tyres - very common in southern districts of Karnataka.


Aug 23, 2014

Chandrala Parameshwari temple, Sannati

November 28, 2013
Sannati is a village on the left bank of river Bhima in Chittapur taluq, Gulbarga district. At Sannati is Chandrala Parameshwari temple, an important pilgrim place for Dasistha Brahmins. A fort also existed at Sannati.

Following information is sourced from Wikipedia. The story behind this temple goes like this- Goddess Chandrala Parmeshwari is an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. Chandrala Parmeshwari's Paduka (feet) was brought from Hongunti Hingulambika temple (near present day Shahbad town) to Sannati to free her devotee Chandravadani who was held captive by an evil king named Setu Raya. From the goddesses' Paduka emerged five bumble bees which drowned the evil king in river Bhima ending his life there i.e. at Sannati.

With this tale its clear that Chandrala Parmeshwari temple has a long history. However the temple we see today could be 600 to 1200 years old. The temple has a tall Gopura similar to the temples of Hampi. Besides being a pilgrim center Chandrala Parmeshwari temple is the place where an inscription of emperor Ashoka was found. The discovery is recent and accidental. In 1986 the roof of the Kali temple in Chandralamba temple complex collapsed destroying the idol under it. The disturbance revealed slabs with inscription in Brahmi script and Prakrit language. One of the slabs was used as a pedestal for the deity's idol. The inscription was classified as a major rock edict of emperor Ashoka . Sannati inscription is the only major rock edict discovered in Karnataka. The slab with inscription was shifted to nearby Kanaganahalli excavation site.

slab with Brahmi inscription used as deity's pedestal at excavation site
With Archaeological Survey of India stepping in several artefacts such as tablets, sculptures, and terracotta items were discovered. During excavations a very important discovery took place; few kilometers away from the temple, near Kaganahalli numerous Buddhist sculptures in limestone were found. These sculptures lead to the discovery of ruins of two Buddhist Stupas, one large and one small. The larger stupa is said to be ruins of a 'Maha Stupa' or Adholoka Maha Chaitya ~ the Great Stupa of the Netherworld).

Once through the gateway under the Gopura, this aisle  leads to the shrine inside. Columns are ancient but the flooring is quite new.

That's the main temple, inside is the shrine of Chandrala Parameshwari.

To the left- a courtyard.

Pair of ancient pillars.

Egg-shaped Shivalingas on pedestals.

a painting of the deity
temple and reservoir as seen from Sannati barrage
I had heard about presence of an ancient university near Sannati which was on the scale of Nalanda university. While researching I stumbled on a informative article titled Buddhist System of Education on Kamat Research Database. Do read the aritcle to know how areas of today's Karnataka was connected with the Mauryan empire, to be precise the connection with emperor Ashoka. Also the article clears the present day identity of the ancity place Suvarnagiri. Quoting that sentence: "Sannati," according to some scholars, is the modern name of Suvarnagiri, which is mentioned in Ashokan inscriptions. So Kanakagiri near Koppal is not Suvarnagiri but its Sannati.

Kanaganahalli Buddhist center as seen from Sannati barrage
Bhima river flowing towards river Krishna

Aug 16, 2014

Kankumbi, birthplace of Malaprabha

journey of a river - Malaprabha was kind of incomplete, because Malaprabha's birthplace Kanakumbi was never visited. I had passed through Kankumbi several times while traveling between Belgaum and Goa, I did not get an opportunity to stop there. Well, river Malaprabha has called me there..

Feb 28, 2014
After a tiring ride from Nandgadh to Anandgadh and back, my hosts Kemani Patil, Tukaram and Sidddu invited me to attend a function, it was a pooja at a small temple in the midst of paddy fields, followed by a prasad. The pooja was over by the time we reached and bhajan had started. The bhajan would go on until all people of the town had gathered and then lunch would be served. The sweet melodies of bhajan distracted me from my hungry tummy. Finally it was time, rows of hay was  spread on the ground, we sat on the hay and leaf plates were distributed. Lunch was anna, sambar, palya... spicy but very tasty, I relished the meal. I thanked my hosts and left Nandgadh.

To reach Kankumbi, we had two routes. Nandgadh-Khanapur-Jamboti-Kankumbi was a short route but road wasn't in good condition. Nandgadh-Khanapur-Belgaum-Jamboti-Kankumbi was longer but good roads. We chose to take the good road. We reached Kankumbi by 4-30 pm.

Malaprabha's birthplace is about 2 kms from Kankumbi village. The road was narrow hilly road passing through a jungle. A kilometer after the village the scene changed drastically, I felt we had entered a mine. The massive open pit we were looking at was Kalasa Banduri project. The place looks terrible, very sad to seen the place dug up. Anyway, we reached Mauli temple believed to be the starting point of Malaprabha. The temple is typical Konkan style.

Most Konkan temples have a shelter like this one. Next to the shelter in the foreground is a stepped well.

This well water is said to be the starting point of Malaprabha.

The place is dusty, thanks to the ongoing work in the neighborhood.

That's the Kalasa Banduri trench - a project that is supposed to join Mahadeyi and Malaprabha.

A short video of Mauli temple-

Since there was not one board stating this as birth place of Malaprabha I inquired with one of the temple staff. The elderly person said the correct Ugamasthala is Sri Rameshwar temple about half kilometer away.. he pointed at the temple and asked me to check out the well there. Water from the well at flows down to Mauli temple, collects in the well here and flows again.

This is Ramlingeshwar temple.. looks like a church :)

Check out the pillar, its made of laterite blocks.

Besides the temple is another temple and a well. Inside the small temple is silver hand (see inset).

This well is supposed to be the correct Malaprabha Ugamasthala. From here water flows down to Sri Mauli temple, collects in the well there and then flows down into the valley..

Video of Rameshwar temple-

The 400+ kilometer journey of Malaprabha from Belgaum district ends by merging into river Krishna at Kudala Sangama in Bagalkot district.


Aug 9, 2014

Anandgadh fort

Anandgadh fort was one of the hard to reach type. Anandgadh is a hill fort situated in the jungles between Nandgadh and Halashi. The name Nandgadh is derived from Anandgadh.

February 28, 2014
The day started early; Dohara Kakkayya's Samadhi at Kakkeri being the first stop. Second was Anandgadh on the itinerary. At Nandgadh my inquiry for Anandgadh resulted in surprised looks. Then I said there's a temple in the jungle.. the hint worked.. Durgadi Mandir? Yes, yes! Road to Durgadi Mandir was not fit for Tata Indica, only jeeps or bikes can handle that road. How far?  About 10 to 12 kms. I thanked and went into the town, stopped at a shop and inquired again. Sources 1 and 2 gave more or less same information.. I told Prakash the cab driver to drive as far as his Indica could go. The dirt track was narrow and uneven, we crawled at less than 10 kmph. We had actually entered forest area, our path was flanked by paddy fields and woods.. no houses, not a soul around. Couple of kilometers later I saw a tiled roof farm house with signs of life. The house owner, a farmer told that our Indica was go another 500m, from there I'll have go by foot.. 8 kms. It occurred to him that two people had gone on a bike early morning. He pulled out his mobile phone and dialled a number. He spoke to a person called Kemani Patil, who seems to be well known person in Nandagadh. I was asked to wait, soon someone would be coming to pick me. Wow! I thanked the farmer and told him I'll keep walking and meet my guide on the way.

I must have walked couple of kilometers uphill dirt track, I heard a shrill horn in the distance. I guessed it must be my guide, couple of minutes I could hear a bike coming my way. It was Kemani Patil's son Siddu and his Hero CBZ. Siddu was an expert rider, he negotiated the rough terrain with ease. He said he was riding with a pillion here first time! The road went on and on and on.. 15 minutes later the fort hill and temple came into view.

Siddu and his Hero CBZ
I was imagining.. these hills and woods will be great during rainy season. However, it won'e be easy riding a bike on a wet track. Five minutes later we were at the temple. That's Durgadi Mandir, painted recently. Kemani Patil and Tukaram was relaxing in the shade. It seems they come here regularly, some times spend a night here.

Dugadi Mandir
The temple deity is embossed on a boulder over which the temple is constructed.

Just behind the temple are remains of fort wall, extending both sides.

Kemani Patil, Tukaram and Siddu
We went exploring the eastern side first. Kemani Patil and Siddu did not speak Kannada but Tukaram did. Kemani Patil's spoke only Marathi, since the topic was fort and kingdoms, I could catch what he told.

Most of the fort wall has crumbled away with few exceptions like this part. The woods have a variety of wildlife.. bears, rabbits, wild pigs, leopards, etc. On the ground I noticed red insects (see inset) with eye like spots on its back. Curry leaf plants were aplenty here.

Close to the fort wall was a sculpted stone about 2' tall. On the stone was a trident and pair of imaginary four-legged creatures. Kemani Patil said this belongs to Kittur Desai. That means Anandgadh was part of Kittur kingdom. I think it was originally built by Kadambas. Also it was under Marathas.

We came back to the temple, took the bikes and went towards western side of the fort. At one point we parked the bike and went walking. This is one water tank with stone-lined walls.

A little further we reach the fort boundary. Mound in the background is remains of the fort wall. We leave the bikes and walk beyond the wall.

We reach a group of massive standing boulders. Among these boulders is a shrine. Kemani Patil is religious person, he lit incense sticks at the shrine, a quick ritual.

Another view of the boulder.

Clear view of surrounding land. No wonder this site was chosen for a fort. On the horizon is Yellurgad, another fort under Chatrapati Shivaji.

We come back to where the bikes were and walk uphill for couple of minuted and reach a high point. Another shrine here, Kemani Patil and Siddu perform another quick ritual. Tukaram and I walk down the slope taking a short cut to a spot where we would regroup. On the slope were large lumps of manganese. Tukaram mentioned its high grade manganese.. I just wish these hills remain untouched.

A short distance away I saw a set of hooks grouted into the ground. Tukaram  noticed I was looking at the grouting, he said a cell phone company wanted to install a tower here but it was cancelled. Good for birds, insects and many other creatures here. A little further this nest caught out attention. It could be ant nest.

We came back to the temple, parked the bikes and walked towards south-western corner. This gateway is supposed to the original entrance of Anandgadh fort. This is the inside view of the gateway.

The gateway, as seen from outside. For some reason dirt has been heaped into the passage, blocking it partially. The granite blocks has cylindrical holes which once held door shafts.

Close by is another view point called Phadalphadi, most temple visitors relax here enjoying the pleasant breeze. Yellur is visible from here also. Western face of Anandgadh hill is quite steep, natural defence. However, some parts of the face is reinforced by walls.

Kemaani Patil has a practice of setting fire to grass. All that smoke rising from the ground is a result of his work. Tukaram watches his friend in action. To my right is remains of the western wall or.. incomplete work?

Back to the temple, we rest for a while. Kemani Patil asks me join them for lunch at a temple near Nandagadh. On the way back we also plan to visit Thatteshwar temple. Time to leave, we ride downhill. Kemani Patil is also an expert rider. He rode his Hero Honda Passion as if he rode on plain road. About two or three kilometers later we took a detour, this was a surprise. Kemani Patil lead us to an ancient well - this seems to be year round source of water on these hills. Walls indicate this well was created around the same time as the fort.

Back to the main track, we ride back towards Thatteshwar.
My heartfelt thanks to the farmer, Kemani Patil, Tukaram and Siddu. They were wonderful hosts :-)

Nandgadh fort coordinates: 15°33'33"N 74°31'27"E

Aug 6, 2014

Mahadeva temple, Thatteshwar, Nandgadh

February 28, 2014
This day I had a chance to discover two hidden monuments- a fort and a temple. Virtually unknown to people outside Nandagadh are Anandgadh fort and Thatteshwar temple. It was pure luck that I happen to meet a farmer whose one phone call did a great deal for me- I had a guide and also a motorbike for transportation. First we went deep into the jungle, about 8 kms of hill track to see Anandgadh fort where we met Siddu's father Kemani Patil and Tukaram, a friend. On the way back to Nandgadh Kemani Patil insisted we visit Thatteshwar's Mahadev temple, a shrine dedicated to a Shiva Linga. As it is the ride was tough but reaching Thatteshwar temple was even more tough because we had to ride through dry paddy fields.. the surface was an array of mounds and the bike tyre would get lodged between mounds. After paddy fields, it was a narrow stretch of dirt track which hit a deadend. Bikes parked, a short steep climb brought us to an ancient temple. It looks very much a Kadamba style temple.

The temple site is a slope on which a stone platform is created over which the temple is positioned. The temple is an assembly of dressed stone blocks. It has one entrance, a Sabha Mantapa, Antharala and a Garbha Gudi ~ a meeting hall, vestibule and sanctum sanctorum. Opposite the door on the platform outside is a badly corroded sculpture of a tortoise.

This is the Sabha Mantapa; between four equally spaced columns is a small Basavanna facing the Shiva Linga in the Garbha Gudi. The columns are similar, having various sections- square, circular and octagonal.

Besides the door, a pair of opposing grilled windows provide light and allow movement of air in the Sabha Mantapa. The vestibule is flanked by two shrines - one the left is an idol of Lord Ganesha.

As viewed from the other side.

Shiva Linga in the Garbha Gudi; rituals are performed everyday. Kemani Patil is a god fearing man, he had lit agarbattis and prayed with eyes closed and palms joined. Even though Sun was right above, it was around 12-30 PM, sufficient light entered the Garbha Gudi, however my Canon captured different shades of reflected light.

The Garbha Gudi door frame. A pair of elephants flank a floral mural. This flower is common to many temples. I remember seeing it at Ramtheerth and Bankapur.

Lord Ganesha and another Shiva Linga.

The rear side and the stepped Shikhara.

All four of us sat in the Sabha Mantapa, drank water an chatted for a while. The previous night being Maha Shivaratri, folks had performed pooja, cooked food and feasted here but they had left paper plates all over the place :(

We climbed down the slope. I turn back to get one last glance of Thatteshwar hill before leaving.

From here we go to Kemani Patil's house, had some refreshments and head to another temple to attend a pooja which a few hundred people would be attending. A simple meal would be served after pooja and a bhajan session.