Jul 25, 2015

Battle Tanks at Bangalore

Sometime 1979 or 1980.. memories of my father telling me about this enemy tank are fresh.

May 18 2015.. during an early morning cycle ride, I stopped to take a good look at the captured machine. Even this machine is treated with great respect by Indian Army.

Captured M-47 Patton Tank
Battle of Assal Uttar
10 Sept 1965
This M-47 Patton Tank was captured at the Bhikiwind village in the Khem sector in 1965. The tank battles of 1965 find their place in annals of military history as the most intense since World War-II. The offensive by the Pakistanis was blunted in the battle of Assal Uttar on 10 Sep 1965.

May 21 2015
I'd noticed this tank recently, its on public display at ASC Centre and College entrance on Old Airport Road.
Main Battle Tank (MBT) Vijayanta
MBT "Vijayanta" meaning "Victorious" is the first ever tank produced by India. It was introduced in the Indian army in 1966 under licensed production agreement with "Vickers" of UK. Total of 2200 MBT Vijayanta were produced by Heavy Vehicle Factory, Avadi (Tamil Nadu) till production discontinued in 1983.

MBT Vijayanta has the best balance between armour, mobility and fire power. Weighing approximately 40 tons, it is armed with 105 mm rifled gun, 0.3 inch co-axial machine gun and six smoke dischargers. Four member crew consisted of commander, gunner, loader and the driver.

Safe guarding our national borders for nearly four decades, MBT Vijayanta was deeply feared by the enemy. It proved it's mettle in Indo-Pak war of 1971 and destroyed many of the famous Patton tanks of the enemy. The old war hero will always be remembered for the yeoman service in the defence oh the nation.

Though MBT Vijayanta was phased out in 2004, some of it's variants like Kartik Bridge laying tanks and 'catapult' self propelled artillery are still in service.

Another MBT Vijayanta on Ulsoor Tank bund.

Jul 18, 2015

Sangameshwara temple, Alampur

March 20, 2015
Sangameshwara temple is another fine example of  Chalukyan grandeur. It is said that Sangameshwara Gudi was constructed by Pulakesi I (540 to 566 CE). The name Sangameshwara is derived from the word Sangam meaning confluence. This temple was original location was near Kudavelli village, at the confluence of two mighty rivers- Krishna and Tungabhadra -which is pretty close to Alampur. Hence the temple is also known by the name Kudavelli Sangameshwara. The name sounds similar to Kudala Sangama the confluence of Krishna and Malaprabha rivers.  When Srisailam Hydro Electric project started, Andhra government decided to shift the temple to a location outside the reservoir limits. The project of shifting the temple was entrusted to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). ASI documented the temple design, dismantled it block by block, moved the material to outskirts of Alampur and assembled it and restored it to its original form. Thanks to ASI staff who carried out the project.. thanks to their effort.

Quoting the temple's description from ASI website:
This sandstone temple faces east and measures 68 x 41 ft. It is a sandhara temple comprising a gudha mandapa, an antarala, and garbhagriha with ambulatory. The gudha mandapa entrance doorway features Ganga Yamuna at the base while firures of Sanghanidi, Padmanidi flanked the door way. The gudha mandapa consist of four rows of four pillars each and are mostly decorated with full blown lotus. The antarala doorway has four sakas decorated with patra latha, pushpa, stambha and rupa with Ganga and Yamuna a mithuna at the base. A garudha adorned the lalatabhimba. The garbhagriha has a short square linga pita. The external wall faces on all the four sides are highly ornate with nine niches (Khattakas) five on the western side and four on the eastern side. The niches are broad and the nich pediments display a variety of toranas like makara torana and hamsa torana, sala and chitra toranas. The niches carry Siva's various forms, Sankhanidhi, Padhmanidi, Ganga, Yamuna etc. The sikhara is of dvianga class and distinguished by karna amalaka sila capped by kalasa stupi of stone.
The temple is enclosed by a prakara wall of 4.00 mtr high and is unique in having the sculptural scene of elevational mouldings. It consis of an adhistana like that of a main shrine decorated with boldly carved relief panels inside niches framed by pilasters. The sculptured panels depicts Didhyadaras, Ghandarvas, Dikpalas, Ganas playing on musical instruments. The hara of kuta, sala, panjara models seen over this prakara has further accentuated an external elevational grandeur of the temple. A sopana of 8 steps at the central axis of the prakara on the eastern side of the prakara connects to a nandi pavilion. On the basis of the label inscription found in the temple - probably a sthapathi guild of pre-Pulakesin-II undoubtedly make this temple anterior of all the Chalukyan temples at Alampur.

 Right opposite the temple entrance is a Nandi Mantapa and a Stambha. The Mantapa is built on a 4' platform, has four square pillars and a simple flat roof.
 Sanghanidi and Padmanidi flanking the doorway. The door frame seems to be a recent creation, not sure though.

An aisle goes around the temple along its outer walls.

On the left is a sloped roof shrine with a narrow doorway flanked by grilled windows. The outer walls of the main temple have niches resembling pillared mantapas.

The side walls are adorned with alternating niches and grilled windows. Every niche and window is unique in design. This is a fish-window.. what looks like a flower is actually a convergence of eight similar fish. This window design can be seen at Lad Khan temple at Aihole.

Here we have a comparison of the fish window with a floral window. Every window is decorated with rich art... a pair of exotic birds bring their beaks together over a lotus. The shaft below the lotus seems like a maize cob but it could be something else.

At the first look it seems like a simple mesh but actually its an array of four petalled flowers.

 This is the northern wall. The standing figure could be a Jaina monk; his hair seems like a judge's wig.

Back to the temple's front wall; the main attraction is the statue of Ardhanaareshwara - physically and symmetrically half man-half woman. The statue's right half has male features while the left half has female features - right from feet to head. This statue reminds me of a similar sculpture at Mahakoota.

Lord Hanuman. This image is quite different than the ones seen in Karnataka. Ties t its tail's end is a Trishula.

Side view of Sangameshwara temple.

While looking for information about Sangameshwara temple, I happened to stumble upon a blog named "Highway - the only way" from which I learned about another group of temples at Alampur - Papanashi group of temples. Well, another visit to Alampur is due.


Jul 11, 2015

Belum cave - part 2

..continued from Belum Cave - part 1.

Another high speed tunnel. Its hard to imagine clear water carving stone. I think these grooves must be a result of muddy water flowing through at high speed. Natural color of these stones is whitish grey, matt surface. 

I love this particular block. Probably long time back it had straight edges, flowing water must have formed the rounded corners.

Yellow light forms a lovely shadow behind Gurudutt. It looks like meditating Buddha.

Of all pictures I liked this one most. We have a inverted key hole here. Notice the flat surface in the ceiling, a concave dome. Guru is on the right and our Reddy on the left.

This chamber must be the Dhyaana Mandir, I think. Notice the stalactites on the ceiling. To my eyes this chamber looks like its formed by a pair of cupped hands.

We have a false ceiling here with a holes. The false ceiling seems t be of the same material as stalactites.

We reach Kotilingalu Guha ~ Cave with countless Lingas. The ceiling is covered with thousands of small stalactites resembling Linga.

A closer look at the stalactites, they are tightly grouped together. Looks like an inverted ant hill.

Cross section of a stalactite; crust is of light colored matter, filling is dark and core is hollow. Concentric circles can be seen which is evidence of matter accumulating over thousands of years. They look like a sweet snack with sugar coating :)

Here we have stalactites resembling elephant trunks.

The hour glass arch.

Lines and grooves seem to intersect at right angle in most places.. how is that possible? Check out three surfaces of this rock; intersections are at right angle. Amazing!

This picture looks like a map, upper half is land and lower half is sea. Also, I can see a face... a face from left side.. a nose, small mouth, an eye and long hair. Got it?

Not finding the right word to describe this picture. Any suggestion?

Another grid. There's has to be an explanation for how these perpendicular grooves got formed. Vertical folds add beauty to this grid.

Our 1 hour 15 minutes tour as a rushed one, time was a constraint as always :( Time to leave.

These are the two holes I'd mentioned earlier. Through one descends the stairway into the cave.

A tourist group assembling at the hall, waiting for its guide to start the tour.

As mentioned earlier, in 1982-84 a team of German speleologists headed by H Daniel Gebauer conducted a detailed survey of  Belum cave and mapped its passages and chambers.

This map is a copy of the map displayed at the Belum Caves ticket counter. Since the paint had peeled off at few parts and unreadable, some parts on my map haven't been marked. I want to visit Belum Cave again and during that visit I'll carry a print out of this map and mark the spots properly.

Gautama Buddha statue at Belum caves
Approximate distance of Belum Caves from few cities.
Gooty - 65 kms
Kurnool - 110 km
Hydrabad - 320 km
Bengaluru - 330 km
Hubli - 360 km

Jul 4, 2015

Belum Cave - part 1

The first time I heard about Belum cave was from our vendor Zakheer, owner of a metal fabrication and machining unit way back in Y2K. We always spoke Kannada; he had told "Belum cave antha kelidira Saar? Anatapur hattra ide. guhe thumba doddadide, onduvare kilometer walage hogbek Saar." Here's the translation "have you heard of Belum cave? its near Anatapur. its a very big cave, its one and half kilometers deep." I couldn't believe his description but the curiosity to visit the cave had ignited. Though I planned couple times mid 2000, a trip never took off. It remained on my wish list. The day finally came.. Dec 23, 2015. My friend Gurudutt and I were travelling from Hyderabad to Bangalore. This was a good opportunity. I planned to visit 2 places on that day Alampur and Belum. We could spend the night at Gooty. The following day's plan was to see Ashokan edict at Yerragudi and resume our journey to Bangalore.

December 23, 2015
We left Hyderbad by 5-30 am, reached Alampur by 8-30 AM, spent 1 hr 45 min seeing Chalukyan temples and 30 minutes for breakfast, by 10-45 we were heading towards Kurnool. Getting our Kurnool took some time :( the town has grown! We took Nandyal road, about 40 kms from Kurnool was Banaganapalli cross where we turned right. Having driven on 6 or 4 lane roads, now I had to drive on a two lane road. The last time I drove this stretch was late 1990s. The terrain is interesting; roads pass through low hills and valleys. We drove through Banaganapalli and Owk. 15 kms from Owk is Belum cave entrance. It was 2 PM. The cave is open to public between 10 am and 5-30 pm. Entry fee for an adult is INR 50. Goverment appointed guides are available and they do not charge.

Belum cave is basically a natural underground cave, its entrance are a pair of 20' diameter holes in a rockbed. Through one of the holes descends a concrete stairway into a circular chamber which is used as a assembly point for groups. This is the last point where natural light is seen, beyond this point its artificial lighting.

Our guide Mr.Reddy gave a brief introduction of Belum cave:
Belum cave of Belum village in Kolimigundla mandal of Kurnool district is millions of years old. In the passages of this cave flowed an underground river. In this cave pottery  dating back to 4500 BCE were found which indicates the cave was inhabited by humans. It is also believed that Buddhist and Jain monks lived in these caves. The modern day existence of Belum cave was explored, surveyed and recorded in 1884 by H Bruce Foote. The cave was forgotten for a century. The latest exploration was done between 1982 and 1984 by a German speleologist Herbert Daniel Gebauer. His team explored and mapped the caves to an extent of 3 kilometers. In 1988 AP government declared Belum cave as a protected area and in 1999 APTDC took over for making it tourist friendly. A retired ASP M Narayana Reddy and few other local people had strived years to get Belum protected and developed. Belum cave is known for its stalactite and stalagmite formations. Belum cave's have long passages and spacious chambers makes it the second longest cave in the Indian subcontinent. Its deepest point known as Pataalaganga is at 150 feet from ground level.

Some noteworthy spots:
Dhyan Mandir:  this chamber s said to be used by Buddhist monks to meditate. One of the rocks here resembles a bed with a pillow
Kotilingalu Guha: from this chamber's ceiling hang stalactite formations resembling thousands of Shiva Lingas
Mandapam: this chamber has magnificent stalactites on its sides creating a look of a pillared hall
Pillidwaram: pillidwaram means cat's entrance; an arch of stalactites in the shape of a lion’s head
Saptasvarala Guha: Saptasvara means the seven notes of music. Stalactite formations when struck produce musical sounds
Banyan tree: hundreds of stalagmite have taken the form of a tree with a large trunk having a wide canopy with aerial roots resembling a Banyan tree
Thousand Hoods:  a group of stalactites shaped like Cobra's hood.
Stalactite and Stalagmite pillar: this is said to be a rare formation. a pair of perfectly aligned stalactite and stalagmite of equal diameter and hieight have joined to form a pillar
Patalaganga: said to be the deepest point of  this cave at 150 feet. here a perennial stream disappears into the ground.

The other hole is directly above the entrance hall. A wall surrounds the pair of holes to keep people from trying any adventures.

The opening passage is wide and high. Sodium vapour lamps light up this part.

A limestone wall. These lines has been etched by flowing water millions of years ago.

This reminds me of a line from the book "Lao-Tzu's Whispers of Wisdom" describing water. "Water is the most plaint of things, yet it can erode away mountains and carve out canyons." I was not thinking only about these etched lines but the entire passage in these rocks.

The caves height increases to nearly 30' at this point. I was trying to imagine how it would be when water is flowing through this passage.. many forces and pressures.

With due respect to the engineers who installed the lighting system, I wish lighting was softer. Diffused light creates a uniform illumination. The cave is not entirely in its original form because of the changes made to make it tourist-friendly. Floors have to be levelled out, free from obstructions. But the caves ceiling are more or less original, I think.

A perfectly flat surface with a concave dome. Notice the perfectly circular perimeter except for a small notch? Amazing creation.

Another wall with predominantly parallel horizontal and irregular vertical grooves. Its simply beautiful!

Lot of rocks have been moved to a side to make way for people. Notice the criss-crossing grooves all over the rock's surface.

The wall looks as though it was built by arranging blocks systematically.

Deeper we went it got warmer, especially parts which did not have air vents. BTW, the cave has a number of air shafts connecting the cave to the ground level above us. Fresh air was pumped in through these shafts. The downside of the air shafts was noise, sounded as though we were in a mill.

This looks like a beasts mouth, the stalactite formations looks like fangs bearing down from the upper jaw.

Turning towards the walls again, we have a pair of French loaves here. I think water might have flown in right-left direction. Notice the parallel lines and one vertical line. What would be the cause for their formation??

On the ceiling- a concave dome surrounded by grooves.

Here we have a set of three concave domes.. they seem like nostrils of a demonish creature. If you look at the right side of the picture you can see gorilla face. As far as I remember such domes usually found only on the ceiling.

This is a good example of water carved tunnel. The horizontal grooves create an illusion of speed. In fact water flowing at high speed would have carved such grooves. Wonder what direction water had taken in this tunnel?

A tiny arch but large enough for a adult human to pass through.

Another high speed tunnel. Ever since water flow ceased dripping water formed a pair of perfectly aligned stalactite and stalagmite. Both grew and grew for centuries and then joined together to form a pillar. This stalactite-stalagmite pillar is a rare formation.

The spot from where we saw the stalactite-stalagmite pillar is a junction of three tunnels. We reached the junction from one tunnel and went into another tunnel. The third tunnel is where the pillar formation is and that tunnel is blocked - no entry. This tunnel below is very curvy, like a snake's path.

Here we have blocks.. The corner piece is missing.. probably fallen off long time ago.

Nature had its own way of producing dressed stone blocks. This is the fourth type I've seen so far. The first one was on the way to Srisailam, we could see stone quarries. In the pits we could see layers of slabs arranged neatly. Quarry workers had to break them into required lengths and widths, no need to work on the thickness. The second one was at the dolerite dyke on Hiregudda near Bellary. These are very hard stones exposed to Sun through the day. The cyclic heating and cooling had caused the stones to blast producing perfectly straight edged blocks. The third being lime stone blocks near Shahpur near Gulbarga. These are soft stones found in neat layers. Nature has produced spheres, cylinders, cones, squares and hexagons. We humans learn from Nature and turn against it :(

This is first half of  Belum cave tour. Do check out the following post - Belum Cave - part 2.