Nov 30, 2016

kneeling goat of Rajan Kollur

This picture was shot at the megalithic site of Rajan-Kollur on November 26, 2013. This picture remained in my archives unpublished. There was a herd grazing here but this particular goat was kneeling down while feeding. This probably was the first time I ever paid attention to a kneeling goat. I guess its nibbling at dry grass stalks. Loved its dark coat. Lovely creature!


Nov 26, 2016

Manik Prabhu Temple and Usukina Hanumappana Gudi, Raichur

December 2012
Raichur was our base 3 days during our tour of Raichur and Yadgir districts. We visited several forts near Raichur including Maliabad fort. A e-friend from Raichur had mailed me about Usukina Hanumappa temple, though it was on our list time did not permit a visit. When I heard about the temple I had imagined that Hanuman's temple would be surrounded by sand. Usuku means sand in North Karnataka Kannada, its southern counterpart is 'Maralu'. I kept wondering if the temple was surrounded by sand or if the deity itself was made of sand. I'have to wait for another year.. another day..

July 8, 2016
After a short vacation at Dharwad, Pushpa and I were driving back to Hyderabad. We made good time, we were on the outskirts of Raichur city by noon. It was a spontaneous decision to skip the bypass road and enter the city.. plan was to visit Usukina Hanumappa and lunch at Shivayyana Khanawali. We passed by Raichur Agri University.. entered the city, drove on the bridge and took right... in general direction of the Manik Prabhu Gudi and Usukina Hanumappa . We found our way through the unfamiliar parts of Raichur.. passed by LVD College.. one straight road to Manik Prabhu Gudi.. The temple stairway seems like its stretched a pair of hands.. welcome!

This old temple is situated on the city outskirts, on a hillock. Manik Prabhu was a saint of XIX Century CE. People believe he is the fourth incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. Sources mention that he was born in 1817 and attained Samadhi at the age of 48 years that's in 1865. He was contemporary of Shirdi Baba and Akkalkot Swami Maharaj.

The temple has a peaceful ambience. The whitewashed stone structure, the arched gateway and the Neem tree creates a serene atmosphere. The temple entrance was manned by a teenage boy who seemed physically challenged. Visitors have to enter name and phone number in a register.. there's a school inside for disabled children hence this system of monitoring visitors.

The gateway opens to a wide courtyard. At the center is an ancient temple. We did not get to see the deity as such. My friend had mentioned there's an underground passage leading into the temple. I missed checking it out.

The temple premises is kept clean and tidy. Care-takers have done their duty well :) Around this courtyard are several small rooms of the school. There were students dressed in white listening to their teachers. Lucky for them to be learning in this peaceful place.. unlike the schools located in busy localities of metros.

This seems like a house of the administrator of this temple and institution. The structure must be a hundred and fifty years old.. Liked its twin stairways and the three arches.

This is not the only temple of Manik Prabhu. The other temple is at Hunmabad in Bidar district. That temple premises is huge and it runs an educational institution which is popular in that region.

We learn that Hanuman temple is about a kilometer from Manik Prabhu temple however the dirt road was not fit for a car. We drove about half kilometer, the path was really bad now, bikes can go but nor a car. We walked rest of the way.. here's the temple, sadly the gate were locked.

We looked through the gates... the temple is not as I'd imagined.. no sand here. It seems these tiles were laid recently.. probably it was all sand before. In fact when we walked down, the soil seemed little sandy. Also, opposite the temple is a small lake, not much of water though.

Well, we found the temple but could not see Hanumappa, it not time yet :( I researched and found an image of the deity.. Usukina Hanumappa.

One last look at the temple.. hoping to come back again and get a darshan of Usukina Hanumappa.

We drove back into the city, we took a different route.. the narrow streets of old Raichur. Close to the fort we passed by the Ek Minar Masjid. Less than a year ago, I'd seen a picture of the mosque on social media. The picture clearly showed a temple existed there upon which this mosque was raised. Well, this is nothing new in North Karnataka districts. There are several places where you can clearly see demolished temple parts used in mosque walls and steps.

We were hungry know, managed to reach Shivayyana Khanawali on time, We were the second customers of the day. had a satisfying lunch :) From Shivayya we learned that the bridge across river Krishna was closed for repairs. The alternate route would be Raichur-Gadwal-NH44. If not for my friend here, we would have driven towards Shaktinagar and back.. saved us 45 kms of distance and time.


Nov 23, 2016

lighter side of prehistoric life

Pink Panther is one of my favourite characters.. of all his videos, two are special because they connect with prehistoric life. Here they are..

"Extinct Pink" is about competition for food.  Pink Panther, a human, two dinosaurs and a crocodile compete for one bone. The video is fast and unpredictable, hardly a slow moment. Watch it, you'll like it!

In "Prehistoric Pink" the idea of wheel takes birth followed by evolution of wheeled vehicle. I won't say much but ask you to watch it.

Hope you enjoyed!

Nov 19, 2016

What to see in and around Gulbarga city?

Gulbarga, now officially known as Kalburgi, was the capital city of Bahamani kingdom. The city is located on black soil plains and popular for 'Togari Bele' ~ toor-dal. Gulbarga is also known for its notorious summers, usually the highest temperature of Karnataka state is recorded here. When Bahamani's moved their capital from here to Bidar better weather was one of the motives. Gulbarga district along with Bidar, Raichur and Yadgiri was part of Nizam's kingdom. The city is marked with lot of ancient structures, may in two days one can visit all these spots.

SB Temple, B N Dargah, Jamia Masjid and Gulbarga Kote
 Here we go..

  • Sharanabasaveshwara Gudi - the most popular temple of the city dedicated to Saint Sharanabasaveshwara. It is located close to Gulbarga fort and Appana Kere. Within the temple premises is Sharanabasaveshwara Mahadasoha Peetha which manages several educational institutions.
  • Appana Kere - This is the largest lake of the city, its situated right besides SB Temple.
  • Gulbarga Kote - Gulbarga fort was originally built by Raja Gulchand. Later when Bahmani kingdom was formed, Gulbarga became the capital. Alauddin Bahmani strengthened the fort by adding a moat, increasing the rampart walls' height and constructing strategically placed bastions. Close to the entrance, within the fort is a massive turret with 3 cannons on it. Cannons can be found also on few other bastions. Less then 200 meters from the turret is Jamia Masjid.
  • Jamia Masjid - situated within Gulbarga Fort, is said to be built on the lines of the Great Mosque of Córdoba in Spain. The structure is simple but has an interesting design. In plan it measures 216' x 176'; has a great arch over its only entrance facing North. The roof is covered with an array of domes; the largest dome is close to its western all, 4 big domes one at each corner and about 75 smaller domes arranged in a matrix. Overall the mosque is built in Persian architecture. The mosque's floor is glossy white; about 250 arches create a lovely maze; overall effect is a peaceful ambiance.
  • Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah - is the tomb of a famous Sufi Saint Syed Mohammad Gesu Daraz, popularly known as Kwaja Bande Nawaz who came to Gulbarga during the rule of Bahamani Sultan, Taj ud-Din Firuz Shah. The tomb complex is built in Indo-Saracenic style, has two large structures with large domes. Thousands of people from different religious communities participate in Dargah's annual fair.
  • Haft Gumbaz - This is a necropolis of seven royal tombs belonging to members of Bahamani dynasty.
  • Government Museum - The museum is housed in a pair of Gumbaz of Bahamani times. The artefacts include ancient Hindu sculptures brought in from different parts of Kalburgi district, cannons and household furniture and other items of the British agent Meadows Taylor.
  • Sheik Rouza Dargah - this is the tomb of Hazarat Shiek Zunaidi. He was born in Peshawar in 1271 CE; came to Indi with Muhammad-bin-Tughluk; around 1330 CE during the rule of  Muhammad Al Wali he came to Gulbarga where he was appointed as a courtier and served until his death in 1381.
  • Shor Gumbaz
  • Chand Bibi Gumbad or Kali Gumbad
  • Upli Gumbad
  • Ambar Gumbad
  • Hirapur Wells

Buddha Vihar, Shiekh ka Rouza, Haft Gumbaz and Government Museum
Around Gulbarga are several interesting historical and nature spots-

  • Buddha Vihar - was inaugurated in 2009. The centre is about 20 kms away from the fort. The spirit of a spiritual centre is truly kept up here by strict rules for visitors. People entering the campus have to take off shoes, must be dressed in simple attire, switch off phones, no photography and have to converse in low tones.
  • Martur fort and Vijnaneshwara Bhavan - Vijnaneshwara was a prominent jurist of XII century. He authored Mitakshara, a legal treatise in Hindu law about property inheritance. Rules stated in Mitakshara have been adopted by courts.
  • Malkhed fort - the seat of Rastrakutas and Bahamanis
  • Jayateerth Matha on the banks of river Kagini near Malkhed - this is the 700 year old shrine Madhwa Saint Jayateertha.
  • Haralayyana Paduke at Bijjanahalli - in this little village is a 800 year pair of shoes made for the XII Century Saint Basaveshwara. His disciple couple, Haralayya and his wife Kalyanamma, tanners by profession, cut their own skin and made the pair of shoes. The shoes was never worn by Basaveshwara out of respect, instead he returned it asking them to keep the divine pair. The ancient shoes somehow made it way to a family of Bijjanahalli. Samples of it were tested and proven it is human skin.
  • Deval Ghanagapur in Afzalpur taluk
  • Firozabad fort - off Gulbarga-Jevargi road
  • Nagavi near Chittapur - a Hindu university existed at Nagavi several centuries ago. Now the place is complete ruins which includes Nagavi fort, Sanjeevini Hanuman temple, the 60 pillar temple, Yellamma temple and few other temples.

Nov 12, 2016

Ruins of fort Firozabad

Firozabad is situated 34 kms south of Kalburgi city, on the left bank of river Bhima, a tributary of river Krishna. It was founded by the Bahamani Sultan Taj ud-Din Firoz Shah in 1410 CE. It is said that the citadel served as a royal resort and also as army barracks. Another source says the city existed two decades until a great flood drowned the entire place. During the flood some 600000 Rupees were lost, after which place was abandoned forever.

January 29, 2016
We were driving from Dharwad to Gulbarga; had stopped at Kudala Sangama, Basavana Bagewadi and Muddebihal. After Basavana Bagewadi, we went towards Bijapur to see the ancient trees planted during Adil Shahi times. But our plan changed on by-pass road and we headed towards Gulbarga.. I wanted to reach Firozabad fort before sunset. No such luck it was dusk when we sighted the rampart walls. We drove into the fields, as far as my Santro managed, got few snaps of few bastions and rampart walls. With little light left we managed to drive further down towards the village and sighted a gateway. I tried reaching the gateway but finding a way through the maze of thorny bushes was a challenge.

July 2, 2016
Our journey started at Hyderabad early morning; we stopped at Sedam, Bijjanahalli and Nagavi to touch their historical monuments. Ai Nagavi I was little worried of time but the road from Chittapur to Shahabad to Firozabad cross was good. We reached Gulbarga-Jevargi road by 4 PM; another 10 minute drive to the village. On the way we stopped by the western gate I'd tried reaching last time. As you see the gateway is fenced, so the only way to enter the fort is from south. Pushpa shot this picture through the window with the telephoto lens.

We reached the south side where all the houses are situated. We stop at the entrance where a bunch of youngsters were playing cricket. When I began inquiring if anyone could accompany us to the fort, the game halted and village boys gathered. Finally four of them volunteered to be our guides. We left our car and followed our guides on a foot path. Barely 5 minutes later we came across these ruins. Two ancient structures; one with a pyramidal dome.

Immediately to our right was a mass of ruins. It seems like these are two ruinbs of two large buildings.. probably royal palaces. We could not venture into any of them because of thorns and foul air. These collapsed lumps reveal a lot about the building methods of those times. This is the early form of concrete technology. Mortar must be a mixture of powdered lime, sand, red-bricks and rough cut stones. It seems they used scaffolding and centring equipment while building the roof. There are signs of pounding to compact the wet mixture. This structure doesn't have any domes as such.

This neighbouring structure has five domes- the central hemispherical dome and four pyramidal corner domes. Approximate dimensions- central dome is 20' diameter and pyramidal domes are 10' square at base and 10' high. The building has a castle like look. probably this is a fusion of Indian and European styles.

A question pops up- why the ramp of dirt at the entrance? Probably there was an attempt to conceal this building in dirt. Perhaps there was some valuables inside and the rulers wanted to be safe. There can be other reasons. Next, I'm trying to imagine this building without the dirt ramp.. surely it would have a grand look. Nowhere else I've seen this spherical-pyramidal combination building design can be seen. Seems like an experimental design which never became popular.

Our guides decide to show us the southern part of the fort. Because of time constraint, we had to limit our tour. Well, we continue walking through cultivated black-soil fields.. farmers waiting rainfall after which sowing will start.. cotton, green-gram, jowar and maize are grown here. It seems last year was terribly hot and dry, villagers has severe scarcity of water. This year was better with some rains. We pass by another group of ruins in the distance (see inset) as we head towards a four-sided enclosure measuring 102 meters x 64 meters..

Within the walls are couple of stairways, we climb up to the top for better view. These walls are approximately 7' thick, In the walls are niches with doorways but most of the openings are blocked. This seems like a royal stable. Had it been intended for a palace, it would've built on a platform. Well, its not clear what is enclosure was for. On the eastern wall, at the middle is a square domed chamber - which might have been the administrative office of this enclosure.

We walk along the shoulder. Below this point is one of the entrances with an arch and pair of minars.

These walls are approximately 18' high. to have stood over 600 years in black soil, they were built by highly talented engineers. See how smooth the walls' plaster coating is.

Here we are looking at the domed main entrance of this enclosure. Pushpa, though tired, handled herself. She always game for adventure :) Actually weather was tiring us.. it varied between being sunny and cloudy. And wind, though it blows away heat, can be tiring at times.

Another view of the dome.

About 180 meters away is a two-storied structure which might have much higher had its dome been intact.

The southern wall. The wall is built of limestone blocks available in plenty in this region.

The western wall as seen from outside, this is just one half. Notice the two small doorways, there were two more in the other half. At the middle is a chamber sans dome.

We move towards another ruins of what would have been a grand structure. This would definitely be a palace.

And right besides is another multi-domed structure. Even these structures have sloped heaps of dirt around them.. attempt to conceal them? Our guides offered to show us the interior but I declined for the sake of safety. We climb up instead.

Here we are.. The domes have circular holes in them, unsure what the purpose is. Firozabad's building concept is unique :)

To the rear of this domed building is an extension with sloped roof. Talking of this structure, it has become  infamous after a girl child's body was found inside. It was a case of murder. The girl's father, a Muslim cleric had killed her with a belief that the sacrifice would lead him to a buried treasure in this fort. Sad story of greed (or need) blinding a parent's senses.

In above picture, on the horizon is a glimpse of river Bhima.

One of our guides wanted to show us a crumbling wall which has somehow managed to hold on, The collapsed portion of the wall has formed a heap at its base. This indeed is an amazing sight. I might not walk through this passage at all.. never known when it'll come down crashing.

So finally, at the end of the tour we reached the main entrance of the fort. Builders have used black stone here.. the west facing gateway might have been known by the name Kaalaa Darwaaza or Mecca Darwaza. I think it was a practice to use black stones for certain parts of building. There are two other examples- Kaala Masjid at Malkhed fort and also at Naagavi fort. Our guides on the left.. their names are Gautam and Krishna.

We reached the village by a different route. I liked the view through this alley.. Shahabad stone houses. Every part of the house would be built of these stones.. foundation, floor, walls, shelves, roof, bench, water tank.. See even the front yard of these houses is Shahabad stones.

Back at the village, I inquired if there was a tea shop. No. Felt bad that I could not treat our guides a cup of tea :( Anyway, we thanked them and noted their phone numbers. I have a feeling I'll be visiting this fort again.

So here we have a map showing river Bhima, NH-48, Shahabad-Firozabad Cross road and Firozabad fort. If you are at Gulbarga, its a easy trip to this fort. Early mornings of afternoon would be good time.

We reached Firozabad cross and stopped at a bus-stop. After a face-neck-arms wash we felt better.. we still had to endure a 3 hour journey to Bijapur. At Jevargi we stopped at a snack vendor for brinjal-bajji and continued our journey..

Firozabad fort Coordinates: 17°4'19"N   76°47'57"E

Nov 5, 2016

the one for all Shahabad Stone

'Shahabad Stone' is one of the wonders of Mother Nature. Slabs stacked neatly says it all. And its just below the top soil, not much effort required to haul them out. Here's one of the quarries we saw while travelling between Chittapur and Shahabad. It feels like some ancient civilisation made these slabs and stored them here for future use. This is the second time I'm seeing Shahabad stone quarry, the first time was 2013 while travelling from Maratur to Shahabad. There slabs were rough cut compared to these.

So, in Nature stone shapes are not random all the time. Here we have an example of how systematic Nature is capable of. 

Here's another stack. Amazing to see how large the slabs are.. they are easily 70' x 40'. And perfectly level. Now I regret for not getting off the car and taking closeup shots :( Well, next time I travel there I'll make it a point to explore as quarry.

Man wouldn't ignore something that's so convenient, would he? Shahabad stones have been used in construction since Ashokan times or even before. At the Buddhist site on the left bank of river Bhima near Sannati stood a Stupa which was made of these stones. Shahabad stones were used in every part of a building, right from foundation to roof. It wouldn't be wrong to say Shahabad stone is probably the most versatile of all stones. Probably there's one exception... I've not come across any inscription (long running text) on Shahabad slabs. However, this stone does have the honour of carrying Emperor Ashoka's name and picture.

Let's look at some structures of Shahabad Kallu.. Here's a multi-storey house. See even its roof is made of Shahabad tiles :) 
And here's a smaller structure, probably a temple once upon a time.

More houses.. if you notice closely, there's nothing that binds these stones together, they are just placed skillfully. Amazing!

I remember seeing fields with Shahabad stone walls along the borders. Without a doubt, these stones would be used to mark graves too.

PS: There's another variety of dimensional stone whose natural state is similar to Shahabad Kallu. That stone is native to Kadapa district and surrounding areas. I'd seen Kadapa stone quarries while traveling from Kurnool to Srisailam. I think the quarries were found around Nandikotkur and Atmakur.