Jan 31, 2018

standing rock of Ram Reddy Palli

December 24, 2017

Our vacation started early morning. Our plan was to visit Nalagonda to see the Baobab tree on Balachandruni hill and the mysterious shadow of Chaya Someshwara temple. Then travel to Nagarjuna Sagar and reach Vijayapuri by 4 pm. We left home around 5-30 hoping to reach Nalagonda early. We took ORR, cruised nicely and for some reason we exited at Nagarjuna Sagar road instead of Vijayawada road. i realized the mistake near the first town by when we were some 10+ kilometers from ORR. Well, rather than turning back, we decided to take the inner roads towards Nalgonda. So we entered the remote regions of Telangana on a misty morning. The terrain was uneven, roads were twisty and narrow. Lot of farmland with toddy palm (Borassus flabellifer) along the boundaries. Cotton plants were plenty. We could see paddy saplings being grown for the upcoming season. As we drove deeper, the terrain changed, we could hillocks with rock formations. Journey was slow because of poor road conditions. Around 8-30 a massive standing rock came into sight through the mist. It was a dark patch rising up from the horizon. The road went around the hills and we came to a point closest to the standing rock. It was still hazy when we took couple of shots. Here its is.. impressive isn't it?

Here's another shot few minutes later. The standing rock has been marked as "Devil's Tower" in Wikimapia. Also, there might be a Sri Narasimha Swamy temple on or near the hill. The hill is situated between Sivanna Gudam and Ram Reddy Palli.

Here's the picture from Wikimapia. its an independent hill, meaning not part of a range. The rock has shot up and its approximately 100 meters / 330 feet high. After seeing the rocks location on the map, I realized there were roads going around the hill. Had I ventured another kilometer further I would have got great views of the peak.

Couple hours back I was cursing myself for taking the wrong turn off ORR.. some mistakes end up with pleasant surprises :)

Devil's Tower Coordinates: 16°58'51"N   78°52'47"E

Jan 27, 2018

King's balance and few temples

August 14, 2017
After a brief visit to the ruins of Vysaraja Matta, I descended the slopes of the granite hillock and took the well trodden footpath towards the King's Balance. On the way I must have seen half a dozen temples, mostly ruins. This is the first one.. a temple with a wide Sabhamantapa and Shikhara.

This temple is quite different compared to the other temples here. Even the columns are not the typical Vijayanagara design. In temples, its unusual to build walls with dressed stones and mud. For some reason builders have built such a wall and also covered it with plaster and paint. Besides nature's forces, it looks like vandals have also wrecked havoc ..their intention would be seeking hidden treasure.

Here's a sweet little temple ..cube-shaped, its Shikhara missing or its incomplete, a proportionate Stambha. Such temples were built by Chalukyas too. Example can be seen at Aihole and Huligyammanakolla. One difference, Chalukyan structures were built of stone bottom to top. They were masters!

This temple is opposite the cube-temple. Typical Vijayanagara style temple. I did not venture inside, it looks neglected after an attempt at reviving it.

A minute's walk away from the third temple is the two-storey gateway to the northern-most part of Hampi. This part of Hampi consists several temples and market streets. Among all the monuments,  Vittala temple complex is the most important because of its musical pillars and the stone chariot. Then there are other smaller temples dedicated to Vishnu and other unknown gods. Notice the two cube-temples on either sides. I think the temples seen so far were built by (rather financed by) rich merchants or noblemen. Those days eminent people contributed to the society in such ways.. building temples, mantapas, shelters for travelers, wells, etc.

This structure is similar to the gateway on Hemakuta hill (near Sasivekalu Ganapati) and Vysraja Matta's Mantapa. This Mantapa's condition is much better compared to other two. Close by ruins of more temples and smaller mantapas. Those days priests had plenty of opportunities here.. the learned section of the society had to take care of the business community and vice versa.

Signatures of families having visited the place. The closer one shows a family of 3 and the farther one is a group of 5. The images depict people paying obeisance by lying down and hands stretched out ..Govinda Govindaaa. Such images are typically seen at temple built by Vijayanagara kings. One place I can recall similar images is at Bhoganandishwara temple at Nandi Halli.

And here's the King's balance ~ Arasana Tulabara. A weighing balance hung from the beam. During special occasions like a birthday or wedding anniversary, the royal family members would donate gold, silver or food grains equal (or more) equal to their body weight. I'm not sure who received the donations...

While we were here, a young Japanese couple came and rested under the tree. They were wondering what this structure was ..what King's balance? I suggested Pushpa to tell them what it is. Unfortunately they spoke little English and we don't know Japanese. Pushpa sat with them and patiently explained and they tried hard to understand. As we know drawings / pictures speak a thousand words.. I joined the group with a piece of paper and pen, made a rough sketch of this structure, hung a balance; put a man in one pan, called it King; put a sack into the other pan, marked it as gold. I think they got the concept of weighing. I'd to stick to words to tell the donation bit.. I'm almost certain they did not catch it. Had there been a signage, tourists will know the significance of such monuments. Its possible there was a signage which somehow went missing. So much for the King's balance.

 As you see there's another temple right beside the balance. Tulabara is normally performed by priests in the presence of some deity. This structure seemed to be a grand one during its heydays ..saying that because its ornamental crown.

Hampi is truly an awe inspiring place. Even after ten more visits, something would've been missed.

From here we went towards Purandara Dasara Mantapa, few minutes walk from here.

Jan 20, 2018

Vyasaraja Matha, Hampi

August 14, 2017
After Varaha temple, we moved on towards the King's Balance. Enroute, on the slopes of the rocky hillock is an enclosure with a temple and 3 mantapas. This enclosure is said to be Vysaraja's Matha- a Vaishnavite monastery.

Vyasaraja (1460 to 1539 CE), also known by the names Vyasatirtha, Vyasaraya and Chandrikacharya was a Dvaita scholar and poet. He was the patron saint of Vijayanagara empire. Vyasaraja was received by king Saluva Narasimha at Chandragiri. During Krishna Deva Raya's rule, when Hampi became the empire's capital Vyasaraja was appointed as the Rajaguru. After the death of Krishna Deva Raya, Vyasatirtha continued to advise Achyuta Deva Raya. Vyasaraja's mortal remains buried at Nava Brindavana along with the remains of eight other Madhwa saints.

A flight of steps takes you to the portico and gateway to the enclosure.

The enclosure is bound by fort like stone walls. Builders made sure the religious center was well secured.

A stone's throw away is a Stambha.. not sure what to call it ..Garuda Stambha or Vijaya Stambha. In the background is a hill on the horizon, that's Anjanadri Parvata.

This is the only temple of the enclosure. The structure is aligned to south-west - north-east direction. It has two doors on its sides and a stepped Shikhara over its Garbhagudi. Its outer walls are quite plain except for images of Garuda, Hanuman and floral motifs.

The door frame is graced by Gajalakshmi and a pair of Dwarapala. 

The enclosure is closely packed with narrow paths to move around. On the other side of the temple is a mantapa on a platform and right besides is a flight of steps rising up to a two-storey mantapa.

View of the temple from the base of the Mantapa. Behind the temple is another simple mantapa. Lot of sheltered spaces were created for inmates' convenience. At the center of this picture is a shallow valley and a group of rocks. Few rocks are painted red and white - the cavern formed by the rocks is said to be Sugreeva's cave.

The two storey mantapa is quite similar to the mantapa on Hemkuta hill but much smaller. The mantapa offers a clear view of the slopes, the valley below and the neighboring hills.

This the hillock's peak. Lot of natural shelters created by the rocks. Naturally the caverns here would be home to wildlife like boars, porcupine, bears, and what not. That explains the need for walls around the monastery. Of course, the greater danger would be human beings.

The structural designs are same in their constructions ..be it Hampi, Penukonda, Midigeshi, Mulbagal, or any other place. Its amazing how the buildings across a wide area are same. Standard designs and processes are not modern inventions.

Among his achievements Vyasaraja is known for installing several hundred images of Anjaneya across Karnataka. The two I know of are at Hanumana Kote near Lalguli and Yantroddhara Hanuman at Hampi.

From here, we move on to the King's Balance which is close to Vittala Temple.

Jan 13, 2018

Akka-Tangi Kallugalu ~ Sister Stones, Hampi

Besides man created structures of Hampi there's one popular natural rock formation called Akka-Tangi Kallugalu. This Kannada phrase when translated to English means "elder sister-younger sister stones" or simple called "sister stones." The stones are called so because they seem to be embracing each other. The rocks had formed a upside down V-arch ..this is how they looked originally. The rock on right hand side has a horizontal crack. In March 2011, the rock gave away and split into several parts and collapsed.

February 1996
The collapsed sister ..that's the way of Nature. Everything will undergo changes.

August 2017
Close to this rock formation is a gateway marked as Bheemana Hebbagilu in Google Maps. There's one gateway with the same name close to Kamalapur-Bukkasagara road. So need to check if there are two Bheemana Hebbagilu.

Jan 6, 2018

Kallagasi, Anegundi

August 14, 2017
The second morning at Anegundi I went for a short drive and walk while Pushpa got ready at the home-stay. Barely 300 meters from Anegundi village entrance, I saw this ancient stone structure. A simple mantapa. What seems like a mantapa could be a temple gateway.

A stone sign calls this structure as Kallagasi. Kallu means stone in Kannada. No idea what Gasi means. Actually there are two structures here, one is the mantapa and the other is the door frame in the front.

Also, notice the image of Gajalaxmi on the door frame. Normally Gajalaxmi is present on entrances. So, this could be a gateway to a temple ..but there's no temple in the vicinity. Perhaps next time when I'm here, I'll explore the area beyond the coconut trees.

A closer look at Gajalaxmi.

 The Mantapa is has eight columns of two types, four of each type. Of the farthest columns, the left side one seems incompletely done. Looks like work was abandoned before completion.

Taking a peek at the mantapa roof which comprises of four layers. At the ceiling center is beautiful nine-pointed star with a lotus in full bloom. This definitely is not a simple mantapa, there was something grand planned which never saw came into being.

Taking a closer look at the star and lotus. The sharp lines / angles and the precision of the work is truly amazing. Wish I'd taken a shot standing directly below it. The precision would be better pronounced in that view.

Truly, our ancient builders and sculptures were extraordinary beings. Simple life, high thinking and amazing deeds.

Right opposite Kallagasi is this palm, peaceful looking isn't it? In the background is a rock hill named Ginger hill. A local mentioned that ancient people known as Ginger lived on this hill hence the name. It seems there are ruins of ancient houses. Something very interesting ..another reason to come back here.

Palms are among my favorites. As a child I'd dreamed of living in a desert growing date palm :)

Anegundi . see you again.

Jan 1, 2018