Oct 31, 2015

Narasimhaswami temple at Penukonda fort

January 3, 2015
Driving from Bangalore to Hyderabad, I decided to venture into Penukonda town to see the fort. As I drove through one of the gateways, I realized a good part of the town lies within the fort walls. Having served as one of the capitals of Vijayanagara empire, Penukonda has its share of historical monuments.. fort walls & bastions, temples & wells, a palace, a jail, tombs, shelters for travellers.. The fort walls are not just on plain land but also on hills. One of the town residents suggested me to visit Narasimhaswami temple on the hill and it has a motorable road right till the temple steps. I thanked him and left, drove past Penukonda fire station towards the hills.. the road started climbing, curvy and deserted.. metalled road ended and dirt road started.. as I went higher, hairpin turns came frequently, ruins of forts walls came into view. At the highest point of the road was a gateway which opens up to a small plateau.

Close to the gateway is the temple complex occupying a large area has lot of structures... Gopura, Mantapas and a Kalyani (stepped well).. however, most structures are in bad shape, some in the verge of collapsing. Unlike other creations of Vijayanagara which usually are in good condition, this particular monument's condition is terrible.

The main temple is built on a high platform with a broad stairway leading to the Gopura. Definitely builder of this temple had a grand vision. It seems the temple was built hurriedly... probably not a well funded project.

This is the Mantapa opposite the temple entrance. As you see even this structure is built on a platform. While the Mantapa's base and midsection are made of dressed granite blocks, the Shikhara is a brick and mortar job.

The inside view of the temple gateway. Looks like the shikhara was vandalized by treasure hunters. A close look at the dressed stones; pillars and beams look rough cut - does this indicate a rushed job or a low cost project?

One of the mantapas, probably used for open air rituals.

The temple's mukha-mantapa. Coconut leaves tied to most pillars could be an indication of a fair here some days back... probably the annual fair.

A glimpse of the temple interior. I did not venture inside.

I went around the temple, the exterior is pretty plain. Every bit of the structure has been vandalized. Dressed blocks have either been disturbed or removed completely by treasure seekers :( The Garbhagudi Shikhara look good in this angle.

To the rear of the temple. Blocks spanning the entire width of the structure have been used here. I think this is the original temple, the front portions are all extensions.

I walk back to the temple gateway, standing under its fallen Gopura I look at the sight ahead. On the right side is another peak of this hill on which is a bastion. In the shallow valley between the two peaks is a stretch of rampart wall.

The temple complex was designed to accommodate hundreds of people, shelters were created where travellers could stay. Thinking of facilities for travellers.. Krishnadevaraya was an ardent worshipper of Tirupathi Thimmappa. So would the kingdom'd subjects be. It seems lodging & boarding facilities were made available on all routes leading to Thirupati. Shelters built about 500 years ago are still being used.

I walked along the shelter but little away, right next to the wall of dirt, boulders and bushes. The place was silent, only sound I could hear was pebbles crunching with every foot fall. The silence was suddenly broken by noise in the bush next to me.. I turned towards the noise.. a large pig or a boar was startled by human presence took off deeper into the bushes, out of sight. I was shaken for a moment. I composed myself and walked towards the Kalyani. Water seems fresh and deep.

Looks like originally the entire perimeter of this stepped well had shelter. For some reason some parts are missing now. Also some part of the steps has collapsed.. probably the foundation of the steps must have given away.

A close look at the hill's peak, on it is a bastion, a good sentry point for the plains and the town below. On the left hand side of the picture you can see rampart walls. From here is a foot path on the hill slope leading straight down to Penukonda town on the plains below.

View of the temple complex from the plateau end. Was there more time, I might have explored the peak and reached the rampart wall and bastion.

I walk back towards the main temple and take a last look at the shelters and the peak in the background.

I get into my car and drive down slowly, stopping on and off to check out the fort walls. About three-fourth way down, I stopped on a gentle slope, freshened up and had breakfast.. I still plans to go back into Penukonda town with hopes that Gagan Mahal gates were open..


Oct 24, 2015

Saluva Thimmarusu jail, Penukonda

Jan 3, 2015
1990s I'd travelled between Bengaluru and Kurnool countless times and those days Penukonda did not have a bypass road. The highway passed right next to the fort wall yet I never ventured into the town to explore the ruins :( Today, driving alone from Bengaluru to Hyderabad I stopped at Penukonda with an intention to see the fort. At the fort entrance, on the wall's granite blocks were a bunch of inscriptions in either Kannada or Telugu. Driving in further I saw several temples and a palace named Gagan Mahal. Right opposite Gagan Mahal is Thimmarusu Bhandikana ~ Thimmarusu's jail. I realized Penukonda fort occupies a vast area both on plain land and on hills.Today within the fort are temples, wells, tanks, watch towers, a palace and a jail - all built during the empire's glory days. Without doubt Penukonda was an important place of Vijayanagara empire.

Saluva Timmarusu was a prime minister of Vijayanagara empire during the rule of Tuluva Narsimha Raya and Krishna Deva Raya. Timmarusu was instrumental in putting Krishna Deva Raya on the throne after Narsimha Raya's demise. Krishna Deva Raya addressed his mentor Timmarusu as Appaji (father). Appaji guided Krishna in taking Vijayanagara empire to its glory days. During the last years of Krishna's rule traitors murder his young son and the suspicion falls on Timmarusu's family. All members of Timmarusu's family were arrested and imprisoned. Krishna, though a great intellect was also known for fits of rage on occasions. Grieving his son's loss, Krishna Deva Raya loses his mental balance and orders Timmarusu to be blinded. Later realizing that Timmarusu was innocent Krishna falls sick unable to bear the agony. Krishna suffers and dies soon after which his step-brother Achyuta Raya takes over Vijayanagara empire. Thus was the sad story of how a great relationship of Saluva Timmarusu and Krishna Deva Raya ended.

Though a jail building, the structure is simply beautiful. The floor plan is square, the four walls are almost plain except for beam ends jutting out of them, All four walls have short arches at the middle with shutters; one of them will be a door while other three would be windows. For a door, the passage is really narrow and low. The roof is a eight-sided stepped pyramid. The roof has a balcony too.. wonder if it has a staircase.

The roof's summit  is a lotus-shaped creation. The piece is identical (in shape) to the cap-stones pieces of Chalukyan temples at Aihole and Pattadakal.

 The roof is held by an array of beams. Four beams are outside the walls supported by columns in the walls. Brilliant piece of engineering.

This is the Gagan Mahal, the summer palace of Vijayanagara rulers. In the background is the hill on which the ruins of fort can be seen. The palace gate remained locked well into its open timings :( Hope to see the inside of the fort some other day.


Oct 17, 2015

Tree Fossil at Lal Bagh, Bengaluru

March 26, 2015
Midst of Lal Bagh's greenery stands this ancient object which itself was filled with life long time back. Though lifeless, fossils are fascinating things. The only fossils I'd seen and touched were at the Geological Museum at Karnataka University, Dharwad. The museum's collection had fossils of wood, leaves, shells, and fish. Today, I was looking at the largest fossil I'd ever seen. Though I'd passed by this spot several times I'd not really paid attention, always thought it must be a trunk of an ancient tree of LalBagh itself.

A board in Kannada and English describes it as:
ಈ ಮರ ಪಳೆಯುಳಿಕೆಯು ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರೀಯ ಪಳೆಯುಳಿಕೆ ಉದ್ಯಾನ ತಿರುವಕ್ಕರೈ ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಆರ್ಕಾಟ್ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆ, ತಮಿಳುನಾಡು ಇಲ್ಲಿಂದ ಸಂಗ್ರಹಿಸಲ್ಪಟ್ಟಿದೇ. ಇದು ಸುಮಾರು ೨೦ ಮಿಲಿಯನ್ ವರ್ಷ ಹಳಯದೆಂದು ತಿಳಿಯಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಎಡೊಂದು ಶೀಲೀಕೃತ ಕೋನೀಫೆರಸ್ ಮರದ ಬುಡವಾಗಿದೆ. ಇಂತಹುದೇ ಪಳೆಯುಳಿಕೆಗಳನ್ನು ಮದ್ರಾಸಿನಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಗಿಂಡೀ ಉದ್ಯಾನ, ಕೇರಳದ ನಿಸರ್ಗ ಇತಿಹಾಸ ಸಂಗ್ರಹಾಲಯ, ಹೈದೆರಬದ್ನಲ್ಲಿರುವ ನೆಹರು ಪ್ರಾಣಿ ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ ಉದ್ಯಾನ ಮತ್ತು ದೆಹಲಿಯ ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರೀಯ ಸಂಗ್ರಹಾಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಣಬಹುದಾಗಿದೆ. ಭೂ ಸೈ ಹಿ ಯಲ್ಲಿನ ಜೀವ ವಿಕಾಸ ಕ್ರಿಯೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಬೆಳಕನ್ನು ಚಲ್ಲಲು ಇಂಥಹ ಪಳೆಯುಳಿಕೆಗಳು ಮಹತ್ತರವಾದ ಪಾತ್ರವನ್ನು ವಹಿಸುವುದೆಂದು ನಂಬಲಾಗಿದೆ. - ತೋಟಗಾರಿಕೆ ನಿರ್ದೇಶಕರು

This tree fossil is a collection from National Fossil Park, Tiruvakkarai, South Arcot, Tamilnadu. It is supposed to be 20 million years old. It is of petrified coniferous tree. Fossils of this park can also be seen at Guindy Park, Madras; Natural History Museum, Kerala; Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad; National Museum, New Delhi. This fossil tree trunk is bound to inspire us to develop a perspective for understanding the evolutionary process of life on Earth.


Oct 14, 2015

Hero Stone at Lal Bagh

March 26, 2015
I was rather surprised to see this hero-stone (Veeragallu) and a broken statue of Nandi. Surprised because I don't remember seeing it during my countless visits to Lalbagh. The hero-stone and Nandi are partially buried in dirt at the base of the granite hillock, very close to the car parking area inside Lal Bagh.

Going by the remains of the Nandi, it must have been a large statue, probably 5 feet long.  It is possible it might have been created during Hoysala or Vijayanagara period.

The hero-stone, seems like a relatively recent creation, is a rough-cut job. The man attired in a kachche-panche and jewellery seems to be a warrior; he is wielding a spear; also a sword dangling from his waist-band. The woman is attired in a saree and jewellery; her hair is tied into a bun; she's is holding an object which looks like a dumbbell. Is she also a warrior?

Quoting a line from an article in Hindu:
..many veeragals (hero stones) have been found in various places of Bangalore. Hero stones found in Lalbagh and Kengeri (10th Century), lake in Krishnarajapura (11th Century), near Railway Housing Colony (13th Century), and near the band-stand in Lalbagh Glass House (13th Century) clearly show that the area was well inhabited and well settled.

During my next visit to Lal Bagh, one task would be to locate the hero-stone near Bandstand.

Oct 10, 2015

21 minutes magic!

6-13 AM
6-16 AM
6-17 AM
6-31 AM
6-33 AM
6-34 AM

Oct 3, 2015

Basavana Gudi and Kannada Shilashasana at Nidgal Betta

December 29, 2014

Nidgal Betta was found while scanning Pavagada area. From Google terrain I could estimate the height as 200 meters. Nidgal Betta is a stepped hill; roughly half way up is the step- a small plateau with ruins of a fort. Climbing Nidgal Betta's steep face was a tough task! The second bit was particularly difficult climb because of the slippery surface and few hand holds. My guides Thippesh, Nagesh and Naveen, teenage boys climbed effortlessly while I was gasping for breath and sweat dripping down my head and neck. At times its uncomfortable with the camera bag dangling from the shoulder. The struggle finally came to an end as soon as this shrine was in sight :) This little temple is dedicated to Basavanna aka Nandi, Lord Shiva's mount.

Its a small, beautiful  statue of a seated Basavanna. Its a sweet little calf. This statue is definitely ancient, probably 600 to 800 years old.

As you see.. there are two inscriptions. The grey tablet leaning on the wall. The second inscription is on the rock itself. There's a third inscription, also on the rock.

All inscriptions are in Kannada. The rock inscriptions must be the earlier ones while the tablet inscription seems recent.

The third inscription is on this boulder. You can see a rectangular outline, within it is the inscription.

The floral art on the tablet seems like Hoysala. Is it an age old custom to have Shivalinga, Sun and Moon accompany inscriptions?

These dressed blocks hint at a plan to build a temple here, for some reason the plan was abandoned. Today these blocks serve as steps to Basavana Gudi.

Right next to Basavanna temple is this rock, a small lamp pillar stand on it. My guides told every year a fair is held on this hill, that's when the lamp is lit up. Looking towards west.. Nidgal Betta is one of the many hills in this area, probably is the tallest.

And on the east is plain land. If not for this railing I might not have gone around the temple.

My guides spoke a mix of Kannada and Telugu. Naveen barely spoke Kannada.

Nagesh, Thippesh and Naveen,
Behind the temple is a sheer cliff. and these rock formations, they are part of Nidgal Betta. The standing rock is amazing. It looks as though the round boulder was placed there by some one.

Looking towards north from the temple. These twin rocks look like a pair or bullock heads.

We climbed down from the temple and stood close to edge of a rock.. the fort comes into view. This is the upper level of the fort. Ruins can be found on the lower levels too right until the base.

Do watch this video; I go around the the temple and then climb down to the neighbouring rock.

On the way up our guides take a taken a short break by clambering up to the ridge.

Nidgal Betta is a beautiful place. At the base of the hill is Nidgal a historic village. There are three other ancient temples; Narasimhaswami temple, Rama temple and I can't recall the third one. Close to Rama temple is a an Kalyani. Going by the looks of the temples and fort ruins, I think they were constructed during Hoysala and Vijayanagara rule. Even Chalukyas might have left their signature at Nidgal.