Apr 30, 2016

sights at Midigeshi fort

December 30, 2104

yawning monster
rust stains
lichen circle
knots on grass - winds make these knots
living in harmony
lolly-pop flower

Apr 23, 2016

Grinding Stones and Oil Tanks of Chitradurga

March 16, 2014
My third visit to Chitradurga fort. Primary objective of this visit was to see the spots where scenes of Kannada movie Hamsa Geethe were shot. However, I made it a point to see the awe-inspiring device for manufacturing gunpowder. I was seeing this again after nearly 14 years.

Description of the monument on the signage:
This is the most important and much visited spot of the hill fort. The somewhat subterranean four huge circular grinders of granite have been erected with a central circular rotating space set on massive beams. Located in the cardinal directions of North, South, East and West. These huge grinders have their top rotating half of the grinder teethed at sides to fasten them to the mechanical device of a rotator, fixed to the central pole of the circle. Each grinder below has independent chambers to receive the gunpowder. The gunpowder was shifted to the magazines near the palace.

The central circular space has provision for animal or man driven power to turn the grinder fastened to the central pole through yokes. A flight of steps at north west and south east descend to the well of the grinders which even now stand as a mute testimony for the engineering skills of those times.

photo shot some time 2001 (before renovation)
I believe the yoke and other parts of rotating mechanism were made of wood. If this device was powered by oxen then the yokes had to be up here and not inside the pit. To turn 4 grinders simultaneously, the levers have to be long which happens only on ground level. Also, there must have been an upper floor to stock raw material and feed them into the grinders. So what we see is just the remains of an pretty sophisticated mill.
photo shot March 2014
Each grinding stone is approximately 3½ feet diameter supported on tick beams. Among all the fort walls, bastions, turrets, temples, palaces and other regular structures this mill is an unique creation. The builders had to be wary of precision because of moving parts.
Raw material flowed into the grinder and powdered matter fell out from the sides into the pit below. It is possible that baskets were hung from the beams to collect the powder. The end product of this mill would be transported manually from here to store room.

The signage says this gun-powder was produced here but its also possible that food grains were milled here to produce flour. My imagination is based on the info that two granite tanks close by were used to store oil and ghee. Its quite possible this was a food processing centre. Here's one one tank, rectangular shape measuring approximately 6' x 8' x 6' deep that would be 6000 litres.

The second tank is oval shaped and covered with slabs and mortar.

Chitradurga fort was planned such that it would remain self sufficient for long siege.. probably it had enough food storing capacity to last a year or more. It had am efficient rain water harvesting system and springs too. For man to bring such powerful self-defence system imagine how much dangers prevailed in those days.


Apr 16, 2016

Prehistoric Artefacts

Between 2008 and 2014 my journeys touched some of the oldest inhabited places in Northern Karnataka. While most sites are on rocky hills, few are on plain land. The ones on rock hills had natural rock shelters.. homes of ancient people. Those ancient people left their marks in many forms.. right from dwellings to stones tools to stone drawings to music to inscriptions to anthropomorphic statues to tombs. In between is something which many today are not even aware of - stone alignments to predict seasons.. the ancient calendar system based on positions of shadows. There's one thing common in these all these artefacts one thing is common - stone. Here we go.. lets check out samples of the ancient artefacts..

Rock shelters and Cave dwellings
In the rock hills of Chitraduga, Bagalkot, Koppal, Bellary and Raichur are many a shelters in which ancient humans refuge from sun, rain and animals. Those shelters must have been occupied for generations. Yes, they lived free.. no rent or taxes to pay :) Of all rock shelters, the largest is know by the name Sidlaphadi. The word means lightning stone in Kannada.. however the name is given recently but for sure it was inhabited by humans several millennia ago. This picture below is Sidlaphadi, a bridge like rock formation. In the roof are three openings which are believed to be caused because of a massive lightning strike. This spot is situated in a depression on the plateau of Hiregudda (Big hill) of Badami. Besides this shelter, there are several smaller caves in the vicinity separated by plain land. During my visit I noticed one side of the cave's plains was sandy.. indication of flowing water. I looked for stone implements found none. Few kilometers from here is hill of Kutkankeri, a place of many shelters with rock paintings.

Stone tools
We have another hill called Hiregudda near Bellary. The hill has history dating back to Neolithic times, it was a tool manufacturing centre of that period. Even to this day we can find stone axes, spear-heads, pounding stones, and grinding stones. Our guide to Hiregudda is the one and only Rama Dasa of Sangankallu village which is approximately south-west of Hiregudda. On the northern-eastern side of the hill is another hill is Kappagallu; its name id derived from the dark colored dolerite dyke on the northern side of Hiregudda. During our second visit to Hiregudda, Ramadasa showed us the stone factory.. damaged & rejected stone implements and flakes formed during the process of manufacturing. Hiregudda is surrounded by vast plains of back soil. People back then practised agriculture and reared cattle. The stone tools manufactured here were also traded at Hiregudda, probably barter system had existed back then. Here are few pictures of ancient implements. In the bottom-right corner, Ramadasa was demonstrating how grains were ground into flour. The top-left picture is a grinding stone to sharpen axe heads. To read more about this visit open Prehistoric stone tools of Hiregudda.

One other place I'd seen stones which seemed like hand tools was in a riverbed next to Sonda fort.

Paintings on rocks
Now we are going to see the artistic side of ancient humans who at some point of time developed a delicate hands to create amazingly beautiful drawings of animals & birds including fish, humans, flowers, scenes of humans hunting wild beasts, group dances, battle scenes and abstract too. The paintings though mono-chrome have life to them, easily identifiable at the first glance. The largest collection of paintings were at Onake Kindi near Anegundi village, the city of ancient kingdom of Kishkinda. However the single largest painting depicting a hyena skin pattern was at Anepadi (meaning elephant stone) on the sandstone hill of Kutkankeri near Badami. Hire Benekal hill is better known for its megalithic tombs but it is said that hundreds of paintings could be found in the numerous rock shelters. Of all the paintings, the one near Ranganatha Swamy temple on Hiregudda of Badami is unique. The uniqueness is because of the fact that the animal and human forms seem unearthly.. they give a feeling they existed on a different planet. Personally I never felt such animals and human forms existed on Earth. Not just that, there are two drawings which are very much like an astronaut and a rocket in flight (see top-right picture). As you see the color used in all paintings is ochre, a shade of red

This is another form of drawings; stones scratched with stones. This is relatively rare to find,I've seen only two sites with ancient petroglyphs- Kappagallu and Maski. The name Kappagallu means dark stone in Kannada; the name has derived from the black igneous boulders of Hiregudda hill. On these rocks are hundreds of drawings of humans, animals & birds, and geometric figures. The most commonly seen animal is bull; one of the most lovely pictures is of a crane with a fish in its beak; and one a complex diagram of five pairs of bull & axe. The bull-axe-wheel has a deep meaning to it.. something which connects our earth with the space beyond the sky. In these pictures is Ramadasa, the person who knows Hiregudda by his heart. Maski in Raichur district is another place where I saw pictures of fish and elephants on a granite boulder.

Stone Alignment
This is something less known. Stones aligned in a huge matrix on plain land (spread over several acres) next to a twin peaked hill is one of the earliest known calendar system. The position of the peaks' shadow in the grid told what season it was. The only such alignment I've seen is at Vibuthihalli near Shahpur town in Karnataka.

Bell or Musical stones
Along with lovely sights, Nature produces captivating sounds... chirping birds, the sound of crashing waves, water gurgling through rocks.. well there's something else. Stones when struck produce clear sound.. like a bell. Through my journeys I've seen and heard four such rocks- two at Dolerite Dyke of Hiregudda and two at Mudgal fort. The top two pictures are from Hiregudda, these are igneous rocks. The bottom two are from Mudgal, a variety of granite local to that area. The bottom-right picture is a rock inside a natural shelter; that particular stone produces seven distinct notes... Sa Re Ga Ma... Amazing to hear the clear rings.. ting ting.

One another wondrous artefact is the kettle drum stone of Hire Benakal hill. This hemispherical stone is supposed to be created few thousand years ago. It is said that when the stone is struck with a wooden staff, it produces a booming sound which is audible as far as a kilometer! Well, I did not get a chance to check it out personally.. hoping the day comes.

Ash or Cinder Mounds
We all know ash is an end product of burning combustible material but here we are looking at rather big to gigantic ash mounds. In these ash mounds were found ancient artefacts like pottery pieces, grains, hair, bones, stone implements proving that they are ancient. Starting at top-right, going clock-wise direction- Hallur, Budihal, Kappagallu and Kudathini. Cinder mound of Hallur (Haveri district) is the largest covering approximately 30 acres and 30' high at places. Sadly this ancient monument is being actively destroyed by the village's own people. The next largest is at Kudathini. Kappagallu originally has three ash mounds however two have been flattened off by the land owner and one has survived the test of time. Lastly, Budihal ~ the name itself is derived from ashes. Budhi is the Kannada word for ash.

Anthropomorphic statues
These granite sheet cut-outs is another rare artefact. It is unclear as to what they represent.. are they deities or grave markers or a type of hero-stone? Whatever they are, they are clearly ancient and beautiful. These large human forms located on flat land between Kumathi and Valase villages in Bellary district. Locals call them Rakshahsagallu meaning demonic stones. Incidentally, about 3 kms away is a port-hole chamber megalithic tomb made of granite. Ramadasa remarked that the statue on right looks like a bird in flight. The other statue seems like Jesus in a lose robe.

Megalithic tombs
These is an interesting topic. Local people believe there structures made of dressed slabs were homes of ancient dwarf people. Archaeologists say these are ancient tombs. I've seen such tombs at five different sites- Hire Benakal, Aihole, Bachangudda, Kumathi, Rajan Kollur and Raap village next to Brahmagiri hill. I've also seen destroyed structures at Kutkankeri. Hire Benekal is the largest site, originally around 300 tombs, now around 100 can be seen. Structure heights vary from 1½ to 10 feet. Some of the tombs have port-holes. The lonely tomb of Kumathi is destroyed but the workmanship is good. The tombs of Raap village are destroyed completely, some ruins have been fenced off by ASI. Aihole and Rajan Kollur sites are more or less size same but the difference is while the former is on a hillock,, latter is in a gentle slope next to a stream. Tombs of these two seem primitive; rough cut red sandstone blocks have been used; again heights vary from 1½ to 6 feet. The group of tombs at Rajan Kollur has been researched by Philips Meadows Taylor way back in 1850. His book describes the structures in detail including a map showing the locations. The book also mentions tombs at Yeemigudda hill near Kanakagiri and Hegaratgi villages.

Similar tombs are also said to be found on Koppal hill and one near Mudabidri in western ghats. Neolithic culture had its own way of honouring their dead.

Cairns or Stone Circles
This is another type of grave markers. The only one I've seen until now is at the base of Hiregudda hill. Meadows Taylor has mentioned seeing several cairns in the Gulbarga, Raichur and Koppal districts.

Burial Urns
Terracotta burial urns can be seen at historical museums. Government Historical Museum at Bangalore and Museum at History Department of Karnatak University Dharwad have some good collection of burial urns and other clay-ware items like pots, plates, jars and jewellery too. The largest urn at Dharwad resembles a four legged creature.. like an ox or a horse. The museum's collections includes stone implements like axes, spear heads, sling balls, pounders and grinding stones.

..there's still lot to learn about our past.

Apr 9, 2016

Gulmohars of Krishna Rao Park, Bengaluru

2015 December last week a gathering at Lalbagh was suggested for Republic Day. I'd plans of visiting Bangalore, told my friends that I had good chance of being present. Third week of January my trip to Dharwad-Bangalore confirmed but I wasn't sure if I would make it on Jan 26th. However, with the progress of work at Dharwad confirmed my trip to Bangalore but it would a short stay, few hours at the most. I left Dharwad by 10 PM, reached mom's place by 4-30 AM; messaged Daniel asking him to pick me on the way; slept till -6-45; woke up and got ready by 7-05 and met up Daniel on Richmond Road. On the way I learned that our meetup venue wasn't Lalbagh because of the flower show. Instead we headed towards Basavangudi's Krishna Rao Park commonly known as KR Park.

It was ages since I stepped into this park. Probably my last visit was late 1980s but I would see some changes.. the foot path for morning/evening walkers. Our walk began at the main gate; I was awestruck at the Gulmohar trees' unusually long and winding branches. These trees seem like a different variety than the Gulmohar trees usually found.

tree next to main entrance
Here's another one, this is the King of Gulmohars here.

Couple of laps around the park, few more friends joined in. I was meeting Venugopal (blue) and Bhaskar (red) for the first time after quitting Holy Saint English School. I'd met Dinesh, Subbu and Daniel several times already..

Remains of a tree :( Its trunk and branches must have become too weak.. man's safety is more important.. at least the park authorities could planted a replacement or two right here.

This tree on the left; its base seems like a frog with a human head.

Call this a pregnant tree?

Daniel, Bhaskar and Dinesh walked around briskly, he was particular about keeping up his morning routine. Venu and I were slow, chatting and seeing trees. In the middle of the park is a building which is used for a sports club, it has a table tennis court inside. Close to it a old Mantapa. Someone in our group mentioned that the legendary singer SPB used to practice in that Manatapa.

Few rounds later, Prashant joined in. Shyam was the last one expected to join in; he would leave his apartment as soon as the flag hoisting function was done.

Yellow lobed leaves of a silk-cotton tree.. ready to fall off.

Done with our walks, we all headed towards Gandhi Bazar for breakfast. First we checked out Vidyarti Bhavan but it wasn't open. Prashant suggested Roti Ghar.. in fact it was the most convenient option. As usual, Prashant took control of our morning diets, loaded us heavily with all varieties of South Indian items and fresh Badam Halwa. The breakfast session was lively, our school day crushes and romantic adventures had to be part of our talks. Before the session ended, it was unanimously decided that Bhaskar would have to walk some more rounds K R Park to burn off the extra calories :)

Here's Subbu, Daniel and Dinesh posing with Daniel's Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

 ..and the entire group of the morning.

Shyam, Subbu, Daniel, Prashant, Venu, Dinesh and Bhaskar
This green meetup, like the previous ones at Lalbgh will be part of good memories :)

For my friends who missed our earlier meetups..


Apr 2, 2016

Gavi Gangadareshwara Gudi

My first ever visit to this cave temple was some time mid 1980s, think it was it parents and few relatives. It was very exciting trip for me. It became even more exciting when someone from the group had mentioned that a tunnel connected this temple to Shivagange, another popular shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. I remember seeing the cave entrance, just behind the temple's Garbhagudi. The next visit was many years later; the four pillars caught my attention. Strange, I don't remember seeing them during my first visit. Then on I visited on and off. I heard about the sunrays falling on the deity on Sankranthi day. Incidentally one of the locals at Shivagange had mentioned that the lamp atop the hill lights up on its own on Sankranthi day. Remember the similar story at Sabarimalai, a divine lamp appearing on the hills.. no dearth for miracles in our world.

Some time 2015 I read an interesting article on Gavi Gangadareshwara Gudi which reveals the facts of the temple's history, design and its significance. The article unveils how people are lead into believing something false and how the fact is completely forgotten. The temple's original design is so badly altered that today the false has become truth. Here's how the temple looked like in 1792.

The temple was painted by Thomas Daniell an employee of the East India Company was in Bangalore after it was captured by the British. The painting now is a part of the collection at British Library.

October 10, 2015
220 years later the temple has changed so much, if not for the four pillars, the temple is unrecognisable. So much metal fabricated stuff, concrete, tiles and oil paint are nothing but eye sore. The peaceful ambience seen in the painting is missing, instead its so business like now.

The temple entrance is flanked by two large boards. Once you step across the doorway, there are steps which descends into the cave. Slightly to the left two Garbhagudi. The cave floor is granite but all the walls in sight are covered by ceramic tiles.. bathroom tiles. Such tasteless changes in the name of maintenance is pretty common in many ancient temples :(

Now coming to the four monolithic pillars in the temple front yard; two pillars are having discs ~ Chakra, their faces parallel to each other; one has a trident ~ Trisula and the last one has a drum ~ Damaruga. Historic sources say that these pillars and the temple structure were created during Kempegowda's rule. Before that the cave was used by Jain and Shaivite monks going back to Chola period.

The significance of the two discs is attached to winter and summer solstices. The two disc pillars named Suryapana & Chandrapana are positioned in east-west orientation. These discs are designed and positioned to mark the beginning of new year i.e. winter solstice and summer solstice. On the morning of winter solstice, shadow of eastern disc covers the western disc completely. Similarly on Summer Solstice the western disc's shadow is cast completely on the eastern disc. However, now due to the presence of trees in the neighbouring park, there's no chance of the eastern disc's shadow falling on the western disc.

Here are the two Shikhara of the Garbhagudi inside. Compare this picture with the temple's drawing in 1792. Tiles everywhere!

A small collection of sculptures places at one of the corners. Ganesha, Shanmugha, Shiva, Parvati and Nandi.

A serpent, a mouse and an inscription completes the collection.

A caged Nandi opposite the cave entrance.

Closer look at Trisula and Damaruga.