Dec 30, 2015

Water tank and Basava well at Penukonda fort

October 10, 2015
This was my second visit to Penukonda this year, During the first visit I could not see the inside of Gagan Mahal because it wasn't open yet. After seeing Gagan Mahal, we headed towards Thimmarasu Jail. On the way we happened to see boards pointing to two more relics- Water tank and Basava well. A stone's throw from the jail is the water tank, in the background is a Gopura.

The water tank is a simple structure, cube shaped and built over a platform. The tank measuring about 8' wide, 8' long and 8' high is made of granite blocks for foundation, bricks and lime mortar. There are no pipe lines to be seen.. probably vandalised long time back, I think water to this tank was fed from Bhoga Samudram Cheruvu, a lake about 400 meters south.

Further down the road, a minute's walk is the Basava well.  Its an ancient stepped well carrying Vijayanagara signature. However the bull seen here is a rare addition, its made of stones, bricks and lime mortar. To enter the well one has to pass under the bull. I think this bull was created in memory of a real bull which had served its master for a long time.

That's Pushpa looking at the expression on the bull's  face. Close to the bull's leg is a slab with inscription in Kannada or Telugu.

The well seems pretty well maintained but unfortunately its dry.. thanks to scanty rains and dropping water table.

 The bull is well made, notice the large hump behind its neck and the bent tail.. bulls usually do that to swat a fly off their backs.
Adjoining the well is a pillared hall. Going by the pillar design it was constructed during Vijayanagara times.

Penukonda, having served as a capital of Vijayanagara has several such monuments hardly cared for. Wishing government takes steps to preserve the places heritage for the generations to come.

Dec 26, 2015

Yogi Rama Swamy Temple, Penukonda

Jan 3, 2015
Yogi Rama Swamy Devasthana is one of the temples built during Vijayanagara times. The temple is situated within the walls of Penukonda fort, between Gagan Mahal and Kashi Vishwanatha Devasthana. The temple has a Mukhyadwara ~ gateway. The simple gateway has no Gopura on it.. probably a Gopura was planned which didn't happen for some reason.

Inside the gateway are two niches facing each other, each containing a sculpture of Hanuman and Garuda. The sculptures are definitely ancient and some brilliant mind got them painted colourfully.

The Mukhya Dwara as seen from inside. The temple is being maintained am elderly couple.. they really strive so keep the temple premises neat and tidy,  Their simple abode is right within this campus.

That's a stypical Vijayanagara style Stambha and the temple with a modern touch looks more like a house. The Mukha Mantapa has been walled and grilled probably to keep out birds and more importantly vandals.

On the Stambha base are sculptures of Hanuman, Narasimha and a cow with three heads. The cow's neck and head are shown in three positions- raised, bowed and turned backwards. Hanuman's palms are joined.. something I haven't seen often.

The temple's side wall and the looming peak in the background. On that peak are ruins of a fort and close by is a ruined Narasimha Swamy temple. The temple's side wall looks simple from a distance but when you see it closely, you'll find its covered with sculptures depicting scenes from Hindu legends.

Lot of trees are seen here. One of the figures show a chariot ridden by a charioteer and two couples seated comfortably. These are scene from Ramayana but I cannot tell which part of the legend.

I guess most pictures on this temple are related to Ramayana.. here we can see an image of Rama shooting an arrow through seven Saal trees to prove his power to the monkey king Sugreeva.

One of the corners of the temple. Keerthimukha staring down with popping eyes.

On this wall is one little sculpture that's easily recognizable.. Sri Krishna in his signature pose.. playing a flute.

Krishna playing his flute to his cattle and girl friends.

The stories of Sita seeing the golden deer, Lakshmana chopping off Shoorpanaki and Rama fighting the Rakshasa king Ravana.

Here's a close-up of Rama axing Ravana's arms.

Young Krishna dancing on the ten headed serpent Kaliya's head while the serpent's wives pray to Krishna for sparing their husband.

An amazing creation! A fluted drain for the Garbhagudi. Excellent workmanship on this particular piece.

Here we can see Hanuman / Garuda and baby Krishna slaying Putana among other scenes.

This picture shows pictures of various avatars of Vishnu.

Some inter interesting scenes..

Dancing Vishnu
Garuda worshipping Shankha
Hanuman worshipping Sudarshana Chakra

Dec 22, 2015

December 22, shortest day of a year

Two years back on this day I was with Ramadasa atop Hiregudda near Bellary. Hiregudda is one of the important Neolithic sites of India; though quarrying has damaged the site there's a lot that still remains for an archaeological eye - petroglyphs, Neolithic stone implements, prehistoric ash mounds, cairns and what not. Our presence there on Dec 22 2013 was a coincidence. We could not catch him early morning because he was off to mark position of the hill's shadow. For the last 2 decades or so, on this day Ramadasa goes to the plains on the western side of Hiregudda to mark the position of a pillar rock. He's been studying its shift every year. Like wise he tracks shadow positions on summer solstice days i.e. June 22, year's longest day. Here's our man, Ramadasa the man of archaeology and astronomy.

Dec 19, 2015

Kashi Vishwanatha temple, Penukonda

Penukonda was an important place in Vijayanagara empire. It is said to be one of the capital cities. Within Penukonda fort, which covers a large area on plains and hills, are several monuments of Vijayanagara period.. Gagan Mahal, Thimmarasu Bandhikhane, Kashi Vishwanatha temple, Yogi Rama Swamy temple, Pasirakkari Bavi, Narasimha Swamy temple, Narasimha Swamy temple on the hill, ruins of fort walls, ruins of Muslim tombs.. to name a few. At the fort's eastern are several inscriptions of the walls, language could be Kannada or Telugu. A good portion of Penukonda town is within the fort. Even the civil court building seems to be a heritage from British times.

January 3, 2015
On the way from Bangalore to Hyderabad, I stopped to check out the fort. However, once inside the fort I realised how vast it was and the number of monuments it contained. It would easily need few days of tour to cover it. I first stopped at Gagan Mahal, the summer palace and harem of Vijayanagara kings. The monument's gate was locked, no idea where the care-taker was. So I moved on to Thimmarasu jail, a stone's throw from the palace. After the jail, close by were the two temples dedicated to Rama and Siva. Here's the gateway to Kashi Vishwanatha Gudi..

The temple door was locked.. the priest must have finished morning rituals and left for the day. Probably the temple would open in the evening again. In the background is the hill on which are ruins of fort and Narasimhaswamy temple.

Shiva's vehicle Nandi positioned on the platform. Garland of bells and a chain adorns Nandi's neck.

The temple is quite simple but the external walls carry murals of Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Hindu legends. On the left side of the front wall are images of ShivaLinga-Nandi, musicians, warriors engaged in a fight,

The right hand side wall are images of fish, monkey, peacock and male and female dancing humans.

The temple has a conical Shikhara on its Garbhagudi, its made of brick and mortar.

Towards the rear of the temple are images of an elephant worshipping Shivalinga, Shiva-Parvati astride Nandi, Shanmugha on his peacock, an archer shooting a group of four people and other images.

On this wall are two images of the great Shiva Bhakta, Bedara Kannappa among other images. Kannappa's image has a palm tree too, this is something I've never seen before.

The quality of construction is not that good when compared to temples of Hampi. They seem to be done in a hurry or the sculptors were not highly experienced.

On this wall are images of Sri Krishna, a palm tree, a bowing ox, a four-wheeled chariot, a cow ringing a bell (i think this is linked to a story in which the king has installed a bell which can be rung by subjects of the land seeking justice), an elephant showering a Shivalinga with water from its trunk.

Shivalinga and a palm in wind.

This also seem to be a palm.

This wall shows images of Ganpati, a pair of plump men, Brahma worshipping Shivalinga, Brahma paying respect to Shiva-Parvati astride Nandi, and other images.

These are just few examples of sculptures on the outer walls. One day I wish to see the temple interior too. Perhaps in the month of October.

I head towards another temple, similar to this Kashi Vihwanatha temple, the neighbouring Rama Swamy temple.


Dec 16, 2015

mural at Roti Ghar restaurant, Gandhi Bazar, Bengaluru

This lovely scene of a Rajasthani family in desert can be seen at Roti Ghar restaurant in Gandhi Bazar, Bengaluru. The mural is wide, almost double the width of what's seen here. The unseen part includes other features of desert.. camels and all. Kudos to the artisans who created this lovely piece of art. Kudos to Roti Ghar owner to have encouraged the artists.

Dec 12, 2015

Gigantic Silk-Cotton Trees of Lalbagh

Lalbagh the oldest garden of Bangalore is home to some of the biggest and tallest trees of Bengaluru. The ones topping the list are silk cotton trees, eucalyptus trees, rain trees and Christmas trees. In terms of girth and spread, I think silk cotton rules are masters. There are about 15 silk cotton trees spread around the garden; 2 close to West gate; half dozen near Siddapur gate, and remaining around Glass house. The most popular giant is the one near West gate, this tree literally doesn't have a trunk.. its seems its roots transition into branches.

A board with a small message has been posted:
White Silk Cotton Tree
Common Name: True Silk Cotton Tree [Cabbage Wood]
Botanical Name: Ceiba Pentandra / Kopak floss
Family: Bombacaceae
Origin: India, China
A big soft wooded deciduous tree, grows to an height of 25 to 30 meters with buttressed trunk, pinnate leaves with 5-7 leaflets. Huge orange scarlet, fleshy flowers with five petals, overlaid with glowing crimson colour, blossoms during spring season. White silk cotton sticks obtained from fruits will be used for making pillows and beds. The wood is very light, hence used for making match sticks and packing cases. This tree is approximately 200 years old.

Thick roots form hollow spaces large enough for an adult human to hide..

I think this tree must have suffered a main trunk damage when it was young.. probably it broke off. Not willing to give up, branches must have shot off in all directions. I could be wrong..

Close by is another white silk cotton, slightly smaller then the one above.

This tree does seem to have a main trunk; few of its branches are as thick as the main trunk.

 Here's one which has a normal tree structure- a regular trunk and well arranged branches. This is situated between Glass House and Lotus Pond, near Devil's Tree. Take a closer look at its pinnate leaf with five leaf lets (see inset).

The tree starts flowering during March-April which turn into dark-green pods filled. The tender pods turn brown as they ripe. By mid-June the pods start bursting exposing the white silk-cotton within. Pods are shed by end of June through July.

Here are a pair of fully ripe pods and silk-cotton. Why is it called silk-cotton? Because it looks like cotton and feels like silk. As a kid we would light fire to dry silk-cotton.. its burns off in a second with a whoosh.

Lastly we come to the most beautiful silk-cotton tree of Lalbagh.. this is right next to the horticultural nursery. Its massive trunk is straight and its branches seem like massive arms.

Another view of the same giant, notice how small humans look next to it.

One tree Lalbagh should have had is a Baobab tree.. probably Bangalore cool climate does not suit it.