Jun 27, 2015

Chalukyan temples at Alampur

Kurnool was a regular business destination through out 1990s and early 2000s. Mid 1990s was my first trip to Alampur, with two colleagues. That day it had rained, the sand-stone structures looked beautiful. Back then I hardly paid attention to who or when these temples were built. years later having seen countless Chalukyan temples, I realized the Chalukyan connection with Alampur. During my first visit, besides the temples and sculptures there's another object which caught our attention; the black granite bowl with Arabic inscription. The presence of a Dargah within a temple complex was something I'd never seen until then. I also remember two more sculptures- a large coiled serpent and a woman in birth-giving position. It was rather embarrassing to see that sculpture in women's presence... ancient social life was a lot different. Then it was pure Hindu tradition.

December 23, 2014
A college day friend and I were driving down towards Bengaluru for a vacation. Our plan was to visit three historical spots on the way- Alampur, Belum Cave and Ashokan rock edict near Gooty. As drove down NH44, the first historical spot was Nizam Konda, an island fort in river Krishna. This is one fort on my list for a long time. Alampur village is about 200 kms from Hyderabad, 20 kms from Kurnool and 12 kms from NH44. By 8-30 we had reached the village, parked close to the museum.

The main attractions are  are Nava-Brahma Gudi the nine Chalukyan temples dedicated to Shiva and the Jogulamba temple. These nine temples were built by Chalukyan rulers during 7th Century CE. All structures are similar, made of similar looking sandstone, built on platforms and having a Rekha-Naagari Shikhara i.e. curviliner towers. One of the temple's Shikhara is missing. Architecture of these temples are exactly the same as of Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami in Bagalkot district of Karnataka state. Accoring to Chalukyan inscription found here, Alampur was known as Hatampura.

The nine temples of Nava Brahma complex are-
  • Vishwa Brahma
  • Veera Brahma
  • Arka Brahma
  • Kumara Brahma
  • Bala Brahma
  • Garuda Brahma
  • Taraka Brahma
  • Swarga Brahma
  • Padma Brahma

We started with Kumara Brahma Gudi, bang opposite the museum. Its design is similar to Huchimalli temple of Aihole. Built on a 3' platform the temple has a Mukha Mantapa, Sabha Mantapa and one Garbhagudi. The outside walls are plain; it has windows only on the side walls. This temple has signs of being restored recently.
Kumara Brahma temple
To the left are Bala Brahma and Garuda Brahma temples, they are enclosed in one premises. Rituals are performed in Bala Brahma temple. The temple is completely surrounded by material such as wooden stands, metallic barricades and other stuff which create an eye sore.
Bala Brahma and Garuda Brahma temples
This must be Garuda Brahma temple Mukha Mantapa.
A slab with Kannada or Telegu inscription is found close to Bala Brahma temple.

Next is Swarga Brahma temple. The very look of the temple made this my favourite here. Probably this is the most grand of all temples here. The Mukha Mantapa looks solid, its eight ribbed pillars create a rich look.
Swarga Brahma temple
The pillars are unique in design, their tops and bases are cubical. The entire pillar is decorated richly with flower vases and floral art.  The rectangular block between the column and pillar have fierce looking keerthimukhas, they are staring our with popping eyes; expanded nostrils indicate the degree of anger.

Unlike the other eight temples, Swarga Brahma temple's exterior is completely decorated with art of various forms- temple models, sculptures of gods and goddesses, images depicting stories of Hindu stories and even humans. A set of man-woman couples shown standing in various positions are simply beautiful, especially the one with a palm tree. On the right hand side of this picture is the scene depicting the story of Indra hiding in lotus stem.

Padma Brahma temple's Shikhara is missing. This temple might have had a Mukha Mantapa in its original form. Since other 8 temples are all east-facing, even this temple must have doorway on its eastern face. If this, probably this is the only temple with more than one doorway.

Padma Brahma temple
Taraka Brahma Gudi is probably the smallest of nine. Its a stubby little structure with a Mukha Mantapa; its Shikhara is missing. The extra pillar in the Mukha Mantapa is an extra support to the beam above it.

Taraka Brahma temple
Next to Taraka Brahma temple is the stone bowl with Persian inscription. The boat-shaped bowl is about 4' long x 1½' wide x 2' deep. The bowl's overall height above the ground is about 4'. There's no info as to when or who installed it. This bowl is taken care of by the Maulavi of a Dargah here. The Dargah building is also painted in the same green/red combination.

Stone bowl with Arabic inscription
Besides the nine temples, there are several other structures of the same period. This gateway like building is known as Kanchi Kamakshi temple.

Kanchi Kamakshi temple
Other side of the gateway is a fort like wall.. wonder if Alampur had a fort. While the gateway is is a sandstone structure, the wall is a relatively new structure built of Shahabad stones.

A small temple with stepped Shikhara used as a garbage dump. The tamarind  tree besides it seems pretty old, perhaps 300 to 350 years.

Close to Taraka Brahma temple is an open ground with a tower in the center. It is built of the same stone as Chalukyan temples, so I guess its of the same period. I did not bother to check the other side if it had a staircase leading to its top.

Alampur Burj
Adjoining the open ground are the last three temples. All these temples are similar in design, size and built on platforms. None have Mukha Mantapa. I guess Arka Brahma temple's Shikhara has gone missing.. that brings the total to 3 missing Shikharas. Opposite Arka Brahma temple is a badly damaged Basavanna.

Arka Brahma temple
Veera Brahma temple's exterior has more number of niches modelled like temples.
Veera Brahma temple
Vishwa Brahma temple has even more number of niches than Veera Brahma temple. This structure seemed to be well preserved. The Shikhara's lotus shaped crown is intact. Of these nine temples rituals are performed in may be five.
Vishwa Brahma temple
Jogulamba temple is a new building, probably the old structure was replaced with the new one. In fact most tourists' intention of coming to Alampur is for Jogulamba temple. It is considered as one of the eighteen Shakti peethas. Jogulamba is also known as Yogulamba or Yogamba.

Jogulamba temple
Done with temples. The historical museum wasn't open yet and we were not ready to wait. We had barely driven 200 meters from the parking, I saw a small eatery "Hotel Padma." I liked the place by the first look. Guru was hesitant, I urged him to try.. yes, food and service was good. Guru was surprised seeing the bill :) In the restaurant was a photo dated October 4, 2009 showing the place submerged in flood waters.

My plan was to see Sangameshwara temple on the way back towards the highway but we completely forgot about it. This picture below was shot during another trip. During my maiden visit, the care-taker had told this temple was relocated. I guess it was situated near the confluence of Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. Since a dam was constructed and the reservoir would submerge the temple, it was dismantled moved to Alampur. Great job by those who carried out the project.

Sangameshwara temple
Our journey continued.. towards Belum Cave.

Jun 20, 2015

Krishnae Ficus at Lalbagh, Bengaluru

December 27, 2014
This was the third consecutive morning at Lal Bagh. This morning I was to meet up with my VII standard classmates for a walk here and then we had plans for breakfast at NMH canteen. I parked my car at the KH Road entrance and started walking towards West Gate. Instead of going via Glass House I took right and walked down the mango avenue and then left at the junction. As I was walking a tree caught my attention; it wasn't light enough; even after a long look I couldn't recognize the tree. I continued towards our rendezvous. Few minutes later I met Subbu and Shyam; Prashant was yet to arrive. As we stood chatting about our good old days, I suddenly asked Subbu/Shyam if they knew Lalbagh had any Krishnae Ficus trees. Answer was no, they had not seen such a tree. Back of my mind, the thought of Krishna's butter cup remained- such a big garden with so many varieties of plant life and no Krishnae Ficus? There has to be one.. Few minutes later Prashant joined us.

We walked towards Main Gate and then took the same path I'd walked earlier. The tree which had grabbed my attention was visible clearly now and lo it was Krishnae Ficus!! What a surprise! I'd spoken about it few minutes ago and now I was looking at the tree :) I introduce the tree to my friends; took few snaps and made a video; we picked few leaves as souvenirs.
Shyam, Prashant, Subbu
This tree has at least five trunks i.e. the aerial roots have transformed into trunks. This ficus must be atleast 150 years old. The Krishnae Ficus at Dharwad is about 80 years and has only trunk; it covers a small area probably 1⁄10 the area covered by its counterpart at Lal Bagh.

 Branches are almost horizontal and wavy; the tree has a style indeed.

 A look at the leaves. This time of the year leaves are well matured; they are thick and strong. Young leaves are tender both in terms of touch and color.

A group photo from my Moto G2.

A stone's throw away is another Krishnae Ficus, this is a single stem tree. Even this smaller ficus of Lalbagh is larger than the largest of three at Botanical Garden, Karnataka University, Dharwad.

For me it was a happy morning; feels great every time I see a Ficus Krishnae tree. This makes me wonder if there one or two at Cubbon Park. Need to check some time.

12°57′06.5″N 77°35′13.9″E

Jun 13, 2015

Team Outing at Deccan Trails - part 3

continued from Team Outing at Deccan Trails - part 2.

The cottage was quite comfortable, slept like a log for 3½ hours. Around 5-45 I was awake and so was Nanda. I headed straight to the bathroom (good 30 meters away from the cottage). In the next 15 minutes most of group was awake. I was through with my morning routine and ready for the trek. Avinash, Nagarjuna and Ramesh too were ready. Instead of hanging around the cottage we decided to climb to the plateau.

Morning ambience of the place was great.. mist laden air birds singing their morning tunes, everything looked peaceful. Avinash, Nagarjuna and I discussed spirituality; it was mostly about peace of mind - you have peace of mind, you have everything. Well, our discussion faded as the rest of the group appeared over the horizon. It was 7-40, weather was still cool, so the jungle walk will happen. Gaurav was half asleep, wishing the trek idea gets dropped. For this activity two guides were appointed, one to lead and the other would be at the end of the line making sure nobody left out.. if anyone get lost in the jungle searching would be a tough job.

First part of the trek was negotiating a narrow downhill passage flanked by throny shrubs and trees. We had to bend low at places, I would hear thorns scraping my cap. After a while the narrow passage gave way to a wider path.

Our path went across a dry stream, I was trying to imagine this spot during rainy season. Dark red water would be gushing down carrying things along the way.

Few shots of flora.. twisted stems, dry flowers, bunch of wild fruit and an aged leaf.

We must've walked 30 minutes or so before hitting this spot, a steep gradient ahead of us. The slope was treacherous.. loose red dirt littered with pebbles and barely anything to hold on to. How on earth are we going down that??
A quick snap of the team, yes we'll do it!

One of the guides descended followed by our gang. I was one of the last few to descend. I hung on to clumps of grass and bushes, barely lifting feet off the ground.

Our guides paused the trek for a while so that a group of 5 people behind us caught up with us. Yes, that's the slope we descended few minutes ago.

Game of cards while we waited :) Another group waiting with us couldn't believe what they saw - cards game in the middle of a jungle!?!

The trek resumed, now were climbing gradually..
..our path passed through another plateau. The dark patches seen here are laterite. It's now confirmed that laterite is available locally. Also seen are patches of dug up dirt.. those are wild boars or wild pig's work, usually after rains boars run their snouts through dirt looking for earthworms. Our trek lasted another 30 minutes or so, the path was again narrow and twisty just before reached the resort's plateau.. oh the last ½ kilometer was the same stretch we had taken when the trek began.

Few more shots- a leaf nest, a curvy stem, stick insect and a split pod. The insect was found by Tarun, he's holding it by its leg for the picture.

Back at the resort we had breakfast after which most of the team members rested in the cottage..

..while some of the younger folks went for the rope way ride.

It was time to leave, 24 hours had flashed by. Venkat offering olives,,

Last group photo before we dispersed.

Great place this Deecan Trails is. I would love to come here again someday.

Jun 10, 2015

Team Outing at Deccan Trails - part 2

article continued from Team Outing at Deccan Trails - part 1.

Part of the team in line formation lead by Venkat followed by Vivek, Vijay, Mogili, Nagarjuna, Gaurav, Hari and the back is Kamesh. Venkat made sure the team was in high spirits :)

Group rushing down the treacherous slope.. it looks pretty safe but it really was steep and slippery with loose dirt, pebbles and earleaf acacia leaves.

We had two activities here- Burma Bridge and Swinging Plank walk. That's Vara Prasad walking the bridge.

Coming to swinging planks, this is one tough activity. Moving from one swing to another is tricky but Nanda and few other guys made it.

That's it for first half. We'll be taking a long break for lunch. The dining area was rustic too, pretty basic. Lunch was simple but fresh. Again Venkat made sure all of us sat together.

For group activities to start, the first step was to divide the group into two. Leaders were chosen- Nanda and Sasi. Hamid decided which member went into which group. I was in Nanda's team but would not be participating until required to - had my job to shoot. Sasi chose 'Tigers' as his group name. and Nanda/Venkat reacted with 'Lions'. So it was Tigers versus Lions now.

These are the Lions- Venkat, Mogili, Nanda, Ramesh, Vijay, Gaurav, Tarun, Naveen and Kalyan.

and the Tigers- Hari, Rudra, Nagarjuna, Vara Prasad, Avinash, Sasi, Kamesh, Sahityavarma, Vivek and Ravi.

The first activity was rope-walking. This was a timed game, the entire group had to walk the rope as quickly as possible but the catch is- no more than two members on the rope at any point of time. The contest began, each group did its best to distract the opposing group while they walked the rope. It was lot of shouting.. I think it was Tigers won it by a good 30 seconds. Lions 0 and Tigers 1.

That's Ravi offered his services as an object-keeper (members had to take off glasses for the next activity). Gangadhar, the chief organizer was temporarily handicapped by a leg injury.

The next activity was 'Passing the Ring', also a timed game. Each group had to form a circle with their hands held firmly. A ring had to be passed around the group without using hands. Teams were given two practice rounds before the live round. Tigers won this game and someone from Lions passed a remark "this is ladies' game." So the score was Tigers 2 and Lions 0.

Next in line was plank-walking, this would be a race. Group of 3 members standing on a pair of planks have to co-ordinate their feet movement as though they were walking as one. During the practice rounds, I think someone lost balance and landed on the ground. Not an easy activity. This interesting race was won by the Lions. Tigers 2 & Lions 1

Next was rolling the barrel, another timed game. Few of us had assumed the contest was to roll the barrels with hands :) No way! The activity was to roll the barrel while standing on it and holding on a rope overhead which slid along as you moved. If you stepped down from the barrel, another member from your team would take over. Here the trick was always to lean slightly forward as you rolled.. Vijay was the master on the barrel, thanks to him, Lions took another point. Lions 2 & Tigers 2 - a tie.

The final activity was tug of war this would be deciding the winner. Now, Venkat got into serious action. I had to join the Lions, handed over my camera bag to Ganga. Venkat kept charging us, he wanted the team to be primed up, he was in mood to lose. Sasi was also charging his team. Hamid the referee was struggling to keep the center cloth aligned to center line. The moment he uttered "GO"..both sides pulled with all their strength, the first few seconds were tight, but Lions had the grip and tugged real hard..

the Tigers were pulled like lambs. See how the Tigers let go the rope :) Victory to the Lions!

As usual, after a contest there was cheering and booing :)

Done with group activities, our co-ordinators took leave. We had a short break for high tea and the next 60 to 90 minutes was volley-ball. It was really nice to watch the game, both sides played well. The game was played well into dusk. End of the day.

We had checked into our two cottages earlier. The gang freshened up and assembled at TT court/shelter for a party..*@^!*&(*#(^#^($((%^#*(^($^(!^(@^(#$!@(#$(*^&..almost 11PM when we went for dinner. Post-dinner all were supposed to assemble for bonfire and dance but only half the group was present.. rest were in dream world, Music was not permitted so it was just sitting and chatting. I think. Ravi arrived late at the bonfire and he did something wild.. rather not describe his actions. With a mild breeze blowing. weather was pleasant.. it was almost midnight.. I was tired.. wishing I could stretch on a bed and shut my eyes but there was another 'activity' pending..

Game of cards in the cottage started with a group of 3 people which grew to 6 or 7 quickly. One of the younger members instantly found the game interesting. Wow, the magic of cards! Incidentally, the tee-shirt I'd worn had a anti-cards message on it. Cards went on and on,. it was around 2-15 AM when the lights were turned off.

A jungle walk had been planned for the morning. I was kind of worried if it would really happen.. would be sad if we missed it..

Check out the following post - Team Outing at Deccan Trails - part 3.