Aug 25, 2018

Nagarjunasagar and Nagarjunakonda - part 1

Dec 24, 2017
It was around 3-00 PM when we reached Vijayapuri North, we checked into Telangana government tourist resort Vijay Vihar. The resort is on the banks of Nagarjuna Sagar, the reservoir formed by the dam across river Krishna. The resort was packed with weekend tourists, crowded and noisy. By 6 PM the crowd had cleared, just a dozen or so cars left behind. The resort is situated away from the town, with plenty of trees and open space it has a peaceful ambiance. It was a long time since I'd listened to complete silence, thoroughly enjoyed it. We hit the sack early looking forward to the boat ride to Nagarjunakonda.

December 25, 2017
We rose early, went for a walk, had tea at a roadside stall close to the resort entrance. The roadside stall also served fresh idli. We got ready and headed back to the same stall for breakfast. Pushpa said there was no cafeteria on Nagarjunakonda so we had few plates idli packed for lunch.. much better than dry snacks in the warm weather. We drove down to the ferry station, about 2 kms away, situated at northern end of the great dam.

Tickets were issued around 9-30 AM, ₹150 for adults and a separate ticket of ₹50 for museum. We boarded the boat, around 10, our journey to Nagarjunakonda started.

Like our co-passengers, we too were excited about the boat ride, an acquaintance had told it was almost an hour's ride. Isn't it nice to just sit and do nothing. Yeah, there were lot of amazing sights.. the gushing water form the propeller, the boat trial, waves, shoreline, hills, islands, little fish jumping out & in and common terns flying about looking for breakfast. The terns sweeping turns, dives and take offs was entertaining. There were little rocky islands, 15 to 30 feet diameter, that's where terns rested. At one point our boat had left a long trial..

It was close to 11-15 when we docked. Ruins of fort wall welcomed visitors to this historic site. Just as we walked across the wall, ruins of a Mantapa or a temple is seen, only few damaged columns remain standing (see inset).

On this island, the only shop for dry snacks and cool drinks is situated under this tree. And, this is where people usually wait for the boats. Close to this tree is a board with a map of this island for tourists. Its quite helpful.

So here's that map which tells you what to see-
  1. Pyramid
  2. Temples (three)
  3. Museum
  4. Fort wall
  5. Megalithic Tomb
  6. Simhala Vihara
  7. Chaitya Griha
  8. Temple
  9. Chamtasri Chaitya
  10. Maha Chaitya
  11. Peepul tree plants by Dalai Lama
  12. Ashwamedha site
  13. Swastik Chaitya
Here we go, the circular stepped pyramid. Its base diameter is 90 feet and approximately 25' high. There's no signage about this monument hence no idea who or when this was built.

Next we stop by the temple. This sight gives a feeling the temple is the middle of a jungle. During rainy season this would be completely green. In fact this island is covered by plenty of vegetation, so its a jungle. With no humans here after dusk, this place is ruled by wild life. There were several spots with wild boars' digging with their snouts. They stay hidden during day and prowl around during nights. I'm guessing there are plenty of rabbits, wildcats, and porcupines. Its quite possible that boars swim across to other island in search of food.

The structure is interesting. Solid walls made of dressed blocks. It has a single doorway, no windows whatsoever. Its pyramidal shikhara is made of red bricks.

A closer look at its Shikhara. Notice how the wall and shikhara are joined. Builders must have a special cement to join stone and brick. Going by the age of other monuments here, this structure is 1600 years old.

A distant view of the well maintained museum building and its surrioundings. In the foreground is a present day sculpture of Naga.. the serpent god.

This island was originally a hill with river Krishna flowing next to its base, in the valley. The valley was inhabited, a very busy place actually. Archaeologists had identified close to 80 independent structures in the valley. Only some selected monuments were relocated to two sites- Nagarjunakonda and Anupu. The museum has a large scale model of the valley & hills marking those monuments. Lot of hard work has gone into preserving these monuments. So this hill had a fort and few temples including a Hanuman temple. The fort was built here to guard the valley from enemy forces.

It was a proper fort with bastions an gateways. The fort wall is made of stones sourced locally hence smaller blocks.

Close to the fort are several heaps of stones which were originally some kind of structure. This terrain reminds of forts of Bagalkot district, though not exactly same.

Besides trees and grass, there are plenty of cactus, a variety I'm seeing first time. Individually they do not have a common shape as such but the similarity lies in the pattern formed by thorns. See the randomness in just one plant.

The next monument we are looking at is a prehistoric tomb. This seems to be originally located here. A signage describes the monument..
Megalith (Circa 2nd century BCE)
This is a cist burial representing the methods of disposal of the dead in pre-Christian era it is marked on the ground by unworked boulders arranged in a circular form.

The term megalith is used because of large stones used in such tombs. There were at least two large shaped stones, one slab and another long stone (see inset).

The ground is hard here hence easy to shape the pit. In fact the soil is almost as hard as a soft stone. Also, this plateau has several rock beds with grass and cactus growing over the cracks.

Another view of the burial pit. Probably several bodies were buried in such pits. I'm guessing only leaders or warriors qualified for such an elaborate burial since they are so rare to find.

There's more to come in the following post.. Nagarjunasagar and Nagarjunakonda - part 2.

Aug 18, 2018

Bara Kaman, Bijapur

February 1996
My friend Gulveer and I were on a biking journey across Karnataka. We traveled on my Hero Honda Splendor. Back then NH4 was a simple 2-lane road and Chitradurga-Hospet road was single lane. Day-1 we visited one ancient temple near Hospet and TB Dam gardens. We camped at KSTDC lodge, near TB Dam, Hospet. Day-2 was spent at Hampi. Day-3 we traveled to Bijapur, reached there late afternoon. Whatever was remaining of that day, we visited Malik-e-Maidan, Upli Burj and Bara Kaman. This is Gulli posing below the arches of Bara Kaman, shot with Yashica aim-n-shoot.

August 18, 2017
Pushpa and I were traveling from Dharwad to Hyderabad, with a stopover at Bijapur. Again we reached late afternoon. This time we visited Landa Kasab Tope and Bara Kaman. This is the entrance gate of the incomplete tomb of Adil Shah II, his wife Chand Bibi and other family members. Had this tomb designed by Malik Sandal was to surpass Gol Gumbaz in size and beauty. It would be so tall that its shadow before sunset would reach Gol Gumbaz which is a good 1.8 kms from here. What a royal wish!

Gol Gumbaz was built by Muhammad Adil Shah as his own tomb. He didn't want another building to shadow the glory of his own tomb and has his son Ali Adil Shah II murdered. With that Bara Kaman's construction stopped for good. Well, that saved an immense burden on the kingdom's subjects which was mostly Hindu. It seems only Muslim kings had this craze to glorify themselves even in their death.

Whatever is the background, one cannot resist being amazed at the engineering skills of those days. The platform is 65m long, 65m wide around 20' thick. These arches are at least 35' high. The columns are approximately 8' x 8' and there are 64 arranged in a 8 x 8 square matrix. Gol Gumaz's overall dimensions are 48m x 48m x 51m.

The arches are designed to transfer the load to the pillars and into the ground below.

 This is the platform center, the resting place for the mortal remains of Ali Adil Shah II and family.

In Islamic tradition, the pointed tops mark a man's grave and flat-hollow tops  for women.

Looks like the plan was to create a central hall for the tombs. The stone used here are dark colored and hard usually found in Bijapur, Gulbarga, Bidar and neighboring districts of Maharashtra.

 Not all columns are connected by arches, there are gaps. Looks like they were never built.

 The structure's four corners have a tower each. Each of the tower has a builtin staircase. This staircase is enclosed unlike the open staircase of Gol Gumbaz

One of the towers.Just to raise this structure it must have taken 3 years.

Looking up towards a column and its arches aka Kamans.

Iron rings embedded into the walls. Such rings can be seen all around the structure.

There another incomplete tomb on the eastern side of the city, called as Jahan Begum's tomb. This and In-Ul-Mulk tomb are to be seen during my next visit to Bijapur.

In case you want to know.. what to see in Bijapur district - click this link.

Aug 15, 2018

Tiranga at Savandurga

Independence Day Greetings

Our Indian Tiranga brought back memories of Savandurga..

This picture was taken atop Savandurga. We were six of us; left to right- Dad, Kalappa, Murali, Praveen, Nagesh and me. For Murali it was a first experience in the wild, without shelter, remember him saying "I'll never ever go out with you guys again." I said to myself, one day he will boast to his kids about this trip. Dad and Praveen, it was their second overnight stay here. They had enjoyed thoroughly, together they had finished a bottle of Royal Stag :) rest of the group members were teetotalers. Nagesh and Kalappa, the enthusiastic youngsters had a good time too. Murali had brought bread, butter and jam, advance planning by our friend. This was our breakfast session warming ourselves in morning Sunlight, looking in the general direction of Bengaluru. In the background is the granite-brick-mortar structure built during Kempegowda's time.

26th January 1998
During another visit to Savandurga with Deepak and Vijay. It was rainy season, everything on the hill was wet, green and slippery. The trekking path on Savandurga touches the ancient structure seen in the picture above. The structure could withstand the forces of Nature but the meddling human hands have scarred it. Somehow the combined effects of nature and man had created something artistic.. it was like our flag- saffron, white and green.

17th August 2011
A much recent trip was last year Aug-15, we were at Anegundi. We'd met a biker from Poona who was riding back home, with the Tricolor on his Dominor. The same morning we were travelling to Dharwad. Passing through towns and villages we could see school children dressed in white, little flags in their hands, going to their schools for flag hoisting function. The Indian spirit to celebrate Independence Day!!

Jai Hind
Jai Kisaan
Jai Jawaan
Vande Maataram

Aug 11, 2018

Nandi Mantapa, Hampi

August 14, 2017
This spot where I'm standing is the crest of the path connecting Achyuthraya and Nandi Mantapa at the eastern end of  Virupaksha Bazar street. At the end of this dirt is a gateway with a big Mantapa large enough to accommodate few dozen people. The path has been engineered to prevent soil erosion during rains.. slabs of dressed granite blocks reinforce the surface.

 Its a sixteen pillared Mantapa with a passage running through its mid section. The Mantapa offers a clear view of the Virupaksha Bazar street and the towering Gopura of VIrupaksha temple. The dirt heap on the Mantapa insulates the roof from sunlight and prevents it from heating. Also, prevents rainwater from seeping into the gaps in the roof.

Another Mantapa on the side. The floor inside seems clean, looks like its a regular resting place. Probably cowherds rest here as their cattle graze on the slopes here. In the foreground is an interesting artifact.. a rock with quarrying marks. When Hampi was attacked by enemy forces, construction work came to a standstill. Had the work continued, we wouldn't have seen this rock.

Lot of other rocks too bear marks of  quarrying activity around here, like the two in the foreground. These rocks were a convenient source of raw material for all the Mantapas, temples, tanks and what not. This street is a stright line of 730 meters, on its left is a series of long Mantapas which were used as shops. In fact many were occupied until recent times.

Virupaksha is a form of Lord Shiva and where Shiva is, there has to be Nandi. So Virupaksha's nandi is under this large Mantapa.

It looks like this is the natural position of the rock before it became Nandi. Then builders put a shelter over Nandi. This Nandi is big but not as large as the Nandi at Lepakshi.

Vijayanagara rulers worshiped both Shiva and Vishnu. In fact there's a Jain center as well at Hampi. Sri Krishnadevaraya was a great follower of Thirumala Balaji. It is said that he had donated money to Venkateshwara temple. Idols of Sri Krishnadevaraya, his wives Chinnammadevi and Thirumaladevi are installed near the Pratima Mantapa at Thirumala. It seems Sri Krishnadevaraya traveled to Thirumala and the road passed through Bellary, Guntakal, Gooty, Tadapatri, and Cuddapah and Tirupathi. Near Cuddapah is a village called Devunikadapa which is well known for its Lakshmi temple. The Lakshmi temple is considered as the gateway to Thirumala Balaji temple. I think if we travel this route we may find some temples, Mantapas and wells from Vijayanagara times.

Aug 4, 2018

Achyutaraya temple, Hampi

August 14, 2017
Our walk through the Courtesans street lead us to the northern gateway of Achyutaraya Devasthana. This is actually a temple complex consisting of at least two shrines, five gateways with Gopura, and mantapas.. all enclosed in high walls. This was one of the prominent temples of Hampi. It was partially destroyed by the invading armies after Talikota battle yet the structures remain standing.

A board planted near the temple's main entrance reads as follows-
Located at the foot of Matanga hill immediate to the west. this temple complex is known as Tiruvengalanatha temple from the inscriptions. The temple facing north with the bazar described as Achyuthrayapete was got constructed by Hiriya Thirumalaraja the Mahamandaleshwara under the Vijayanagara King Achyutaraya (1542-1599 AD) in the year 1534 AD.

The main temple consists of a Garbhagriha, Sukanasi, an Antarala, a Rangamantapa and a spacious pillared Mahamantapa. Within the complex to the south west of the main temple is the Devi shrine.

Particularly note worthy is that the temple complex is enclosed with two Prakaras and the temple is in the central area of the inner Prakara having there Mahadwaras. The outer Prakara has only one Mahadwara, most imposing on the north. The inner sides of the Prakaras, are series of Mantapas with pillars in the facade. From the front of the northeastern Mahadwara ruins the Achyuthrayapete with a series of pillared Mantapas on both sides.

This is the outer Mahadwara, beyond the doorway is the inner Mahadwara. This design is more or less the standard in Vijayanagara temple seen at Hampi and other places including Someshwara temple of Halasooru in Bengaluru and Virupaksha temple and fort, Mulbagal.

Th inner Mahadwara and Gopura are almost as big as the outer one. While the outer Gopura is covered in plaster, this gopura is bare, its bricks exposed. Seems like construction was abandoned before completion. trying to imagine how much money was allocated for temple development. It seems construction industry and temples were major factors in Vijayanagara economy. While the construction created jobs and other businesses, temples were sources of income. Temples were where social events happened- be it thread ceremonies, weddings, anniversaries and what not. That's why temple premises were so spacious.

This is the sight on the right hand side of the inner Mahadwara.. the imposing Matanga Parvatha atop which is Veerabhadra temple. On the ground here is what seems like a partially constructed Kalyana Mantapa. And the elevated Mantapa is on the eastern perimeter of this temple.

A closer view of the Kalyana Mantapa pillars and the Dwara Mantapa. The path from the gateway leads to Nandi Mantapa, Virupaksha temple and Hemakuta hill.

View through the inner Mahadwara and Achyutaraya temple (see inset). Most religious buildings have high pointed roofs and the reason for that is to pull cosmic energy. So, people passing through this passage, which is directly under the Gopura, would be recharged. For some reason Vijayanagara builders places emphasis on Gopura but Hoysalas, Kadambas and Chalukyas preferred Shikharas. However, there's one Vijayanagara temple with a massive Shikhara- Anantasayana Devasthana.

On the Mahadwara walls are inscriptions in Kannada or Telugu. Talking about inscriptions, Chalukyans temples feature inscription slabs but Vijayanagara rulers preferred walls and even floors (rock beds).

Vijayamagara Mahadwaras feature the creeper sculpture, its can be seen in most temples. Here a couple of lovely damsels welcome visitors. The damsels decked up in jewelry are sculpted into niches.

The other damsel..what a sexy figure! Wondering if dancers of those days wore just jewelry. Anyway, coming back to the present, the face is damaged but remaining is OK. Its counterpart is badly damaged. Those invaders cared one hoot about art, no respect for others properties.. sad culture their's.

View of the inner courtyard. On the left is one corner of the temple, actually the Sabhamantapa. Notice the gracefully sloping roof edge.. designed for water to flow and land away from the base. All around the temple i.e. along the outer wall are Mantapas for visitors to camp.

Lets step into the temple now. This is the Sabhamantapa, part of the roof is missing. Not sure if it was damaged or work was incomplete. I'm leaning more towards unfinished because the columns and beams are intact. Also the inner columns are plain.. or are they recent ones which have replaced the ancient ones.

The Garbhagudi entrance has a pair of Dwarapalas, their pose looks somewhat uncomfortable. The pillar in foreground is more in focus.. is it a new pillar or an ancient one.

View of the Gopura from Sabhamantapa. Notice the little cubical temple which blocks the view from Mahadwara and vice versa. For some reason, many temples have such an arrangement. In fact, during childhood days, we visited a Ganesha temple regularly which had a plain granite slab was fixed opposite the door, it blocked direct view of the deity from the street. I think its to prevent evil eyes effect on the idol in Garbhagudi.

Vijayanagara temple pillars feature interesting sculptures. Here are few I could capture. This bearded man seems to be attired in some kind of robe with a cap. He's leaning on a long object which looks like a club.

A collage of three more characters. I've color-balanced the images for clarity sake. Coming from left- woman seated on a cushion, her headgear is some kind of crown; a man holding a large piece of meat; a fisher woman with a large catch, seems to be wearing a pearl necklace and bangles. These are my thought, would be nice to hear yours.

Coming back to the front side, this is the only way to climb into the Sabhamantapa. A pair of elephants greet visitors. Since the deity of this temple is a form of Vishnu, this little temple would be meant for his Vahana i.e. Gaurda.

Behind the main temple is another temple, smaller in size but equally grand. This temple Shikhara's conditionis much better. Was this temple dedicated to Vishnu's consort. Side view if the temple face (see inset). This seems to be a completely finished structure.

External walls of this temple are quite plain but they are inline with Vijayanagara architecture.

I think this is the eastern Dwara, much smaller than the Mahadwara.

Mantapa along the outer wall. This open space is called as outer Prakara in the temple description. I'm guessing that businessmen visiting this temple would camp at the inner Mntapas with their family members. And, their servants would camp in the outer Mantapas.

The tour of Courtesans' street and Achyutaraya temple would easily require 2½ hours. Would be a good idea to have an umbrella, water bottles and snacks. You'll need to recharge to trek back to the parking area which is a good 1½ kilometers away and the path goes across a hillock. One last look at the temple complex for the day.

From here we head towards the big Nandi sitting under a large Mantapa. On the way we pass by a temple dedicated to Hanuman but we missed it.

Next time I want to spend two full days here, rent bicycles and explore from sunrise to sunset.