Sep 28, 2019

Ramthirth Pushkarni of Santhebennur

A visit to this historical tank was due several years. Enough I'd driven countless times on Bangalore-Davangere road, a visit never materialized. Finally, it was on the itinerary of our Dharwad visit. Besides Santhebennur, we had plans to visit Kalleshwara Devasthana near Davangere and few temples between Haveri and Hangal.

We left Bangalore early around 5-30 AM. This was our first drive on a highway in the New Wagon-R, I was still getting to understand the car's behavior at speeds over 90 kmph. We stopped at Chitradurga for breakfast and reached Santhebennur by 10-00 AM. Its a small town, the historical monument was easy to locate. Situated on the outskirts, its a peaceful place. There was the caretaker and his assistant besides few other visitors.

At the entrance is a board which reads as follows:
Musafirkhana and Honda
The large pond (Honda) has its sides veneered with granite steps. Out of eight towers at the cardinal points, only six are intact in various stages of preservation. The most striking feature of the pond is its ornate pavilion built on a square plinth with an arched entrance which has a flight of steps leading to the first tier. The first tier is an open pavilion with slender pillars at the periphery and austere railings in between. Towards the cardinal directions are elegant arched pavilions supported by heavy stone, Pushpa Potika, corbels. The second tier is repetition of the first one over which moderate eaves support a heavy parapet with slender minarets. The inter-spaces pierced with arches topped by foliate merlons. Two rows of elephants, swans and Gandaberundas (mythical twin headed bird) adore the pavilion. The ribbed dome jutting out at the center is topped by a final and its neck is decorated with lotus petals bordered by Guldastas. The Musafirkhana built on the western side as a spacious structure of granite having a large pillared hall with pointed arches probably as a prayer hall as well.

Wondering why the board doesn't state Honda and Musafirkhana?

It is said that Paleygar Kenga Hanumantappa Nayaka, ruler of Santhebennur under the Vijayanagar kings, built this Pushkarini in the XVI Century CE. The tank was built for the temple dedicated to Lord Rama hence it was called as Ramthirtha Pushkarni. The tower at the center of the tank is called Vasanta Mantapa was built to mark Kenga Hanumantappa’s victory over the Adil Shahis of Bijapur.

The construction is precise. Due to its superb design and workmanship the structure has stayed intact for centuries. Of course, efforts by ASI has preserved with wonderful monument.

The tank has totally 8 Mantapas. Five around the perimeter wall, two on its steps and one in the water. The grandest of all is the central Vasanta Mantapa.

Perhaps, its ten because one Mantapa on the steps is a double Mantapa.. each of the Mantapas can be accessed separately. Probably these two Mantapa were used to perform rituals.

The architecture is Vijayanagara as seen in many more tanks across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. After the great battle Rakkasgi-Tangadgi, the Muslim rulers modified many Hindu monuments by installing their symbols and designs. I think, the masonry atop this Mantapa is the modified version.

Some say that the Vasanta Mantapa as made to appear as though it was floating in water. It is said that Theppotsaava was held here. The deity is placed in a coracle with all the decoration and paddled around. Usually that's a evening ritual, oil lamps light up the place creating a dramatic effect.

A closer look at the crown of double-decker Mantapa.. brick and mortar. Of the nine Mantapas, six have crowns, the remaining three are flat topped.

Another view of the double-decker Mantapa. The arched building in the background is Musafirkhana, the guest house which was later added by Muslim rulers. They conveniently placed it between the temple and its tank, cutting out the temple's view completely. Now it looks as though the Musafirkhana and Pushkarni were built together. Perhaps, it won't be wrong to call it cultural invasion.

Pushpa poses with the monument.

In the background are two large trees, close to the tree on the left is Sri Rama Devasthana. Now you get how the new rulers inserted their guest house to cut off the temple's view? And, newspaper carrying an article on this place says there was religious harmony back then!!

View of the tank from northeast corner Mantapa. Every Mantapa is unique in design. Back then builders rarely built duplicates.

Pushpa hugs a pillar to get respite from the heat. Though it was cloudy, it was quite warm.

This is the northern Mantapa. The pillars have unique sculptures just the temples and Mantapas seen at Vijayanagara. Check out the mural work on the crown.

A pair of entwined serpents shown artistically. Every such face of every column carry images of Gods, warriors, animals, birds, floral or geometric forms.

Image of Lord Hanuman.. has to be present where Lord Rama is.

Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles has to be present. Vijayanagara temple builders must have standardized this design so that it helps educate people.. they get to see the different forms of life, flowers, creative designs, legendary characters, and puzzles too.

View of the tall Mantapa in the background of straight lines formed by steps. Amazing workmanship from stone dressers and masons laying them perfectly.

Having gone around the tank, we come to its main entrance.. this is where people entered the tank coming from Rama temple. The simple Mantapa is the caretaker's post, he gets a view of the entire place.

Besides the Pushkarni are these remains.. seems like a feeder tank. Rainwater must be flowing into this pit which was then fed to the Pushkarni. May be they were two two independent tanks.

Vijayanagara builders had their own water management technology. You can see some examples at Hampi like the Queen's bath and the Octagonal water pavilion.

Having seen the Pushkarni, we enter the Musafirkhana.

Sep 21, 2019

Hazrat Malik Rehan Dargah, Sira

Right from the days when Bangalore-Pune road was called NH-4, I wanted to see this monument closely. Back then the highway passed through the town, the Dargah was a stone's throw from the road. I've passed by this monument countless times but somehow I could never check it out closely. Finally, on July-31-2019, Pushpa and I were traveling from Dharwad to Bangalore, I decided to take out time. I parked the car under an old tamarind tree, nice shade. Pushpa decided to stay in the car.

Here's the beautiful domed tomb of Malik Rehan, the governor of Sira from 1638 to 1650 CE. Sira was the capital of Suba province during the Mughal rule. It is said that Malik Rehan was revered by his subjects as a holyman so he was known as Hazrath Mallik Rehan Rahmatullah Alai and his tomb is considered as a Dargah. It seems to be a popular religious place, people come here with wishes and prayers, seeking blessings of this Dargah.

This building sits on a 5' high platform which has two flights of steps, one each on northern and eastern sides. In plan, its a square. All the four sides have five equal sized arches. Take a closer look at the overhang, it seems like Hindu temple architecture though the dome and minars are Islamic.

The pair of lotuses accompanying every arch are copies from Hindu temples. Anyhow, the builders have done a good job, the building has withstood centuries.

Behind the arches is the sanctum with a perambulation around it.

As I climbed the flight of steps and crossed over the threshold, I happened to notice this strip of steel embedded into the stone blocks. Such strips can be seen right back in Chalukyan temples.

The perambulation is quite wide, three people can walk side by side comfortably. Notice the arched door way and the colorfully painted door. The sanctum has three such doors, I think. The east facing was kept open. Inside was a grave covered in silky green cloth and lot of peacock feathers.

More lotuses on the walls. I have a feeling this was either built by temple builders or a temple originally.

Besides the Dargah is mosque-madarasa. A class was in progress, few kids were distracted by my presence.

What a lovely tamarind tree! Most temples and mosques in northern Karnataka have tamarind trees close to them. Sira somewhat has that ambiance.

On the southern side of the Dargah is this half built structure which is a temple, quite sure of that. Notice the door frame on the left side, its rectangular. Looks like the structure was being modified when the work was abandoned for some reason.

On the northern side is another tomb, flat top but has four minars.

The white domed structure seems like a Mantapa. On its left is a roofless structure with a mesh screen which is typically seen in Hindu temples. Well, we never know if this was a temple-mosque-tomb complex once upon a time like the one at Alampur near Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.

The other tomb, probably of some high ranking state official.

The minar design is interesting, lot of detailed sculpting on it. Sadly the minars have been covered in lime.. Sunna. People are crazy about covering stone with lime, enamel paint, and what not.

Lastly, close to the entrance is this roofless tomb. Architecture is inline with other structures.

This Dargah being a protected monument, probably because of the status its being kept well.

Sira is also known for its fort- Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka fort. Also, on the outskirts of the town, on Sira-Mahugiri highway is an ancient temple known as Aytihasika Anjaneyaswamy Devasthana. The temple has Kannada or Telugu inscriptions dating back to Vijayanagara times.

Sep 14, 2019

Utsav Rock Garden - part 2

..continued from Utsav Rock Garden - part 1.

The rural life gallery starts with this space which is like a village square. At the center is a cast iron light pole. That's Amma and Pushpa. In the background is a typical village house door with a colorful frame. Flanking the gate are idols of children playing cricket.. wondering why these idols here?

On this streets are models of houses which are almost real. There are so many scenes, the only way to show them was to make collages. An elderly man relaxing after his morning chores. The village astrologer. Women pounding grains. The living room of a village home.. the old woman is making wicks from cotton for oil lamps while children are practicing lessons. I guess the old man reading the newspaper is the children's Guru. Notice the little details like the lantern, woven lacework, traditional sarees, cane baskets, etc.

A village store. A coconut wrapped in cloth hung fro the door frame to ward evil spirits. Food items are realistic especially the jaggery blocks. Notice the paper decoration and lamp put up during Deepawali.

A glance of cattle room. In traditional north Karnataka homes, the living space for men and cattle were same. Cattle were considered family members and required equal treatment. Even to this day, oxen are given proper burials. In the recent past, life has changed, especially in the age of mobile devices. Earlier there are hardly any homes without cattle but now cattle are gone, priority is TV, bike and mobile phones.

On the side is another modern art alley. Lets take a look at it and then resume rural life scenes. The most eye-catching is this artwork depicting religious harmony.

Here we are looking at a model village.. is it imaginary or the artist created a copy of his or her village.

Tiled houses, fences, electric poles, and windmills.

I have no clue what this painting is about. Wish I could hear its description from its creator.

Cricket alley. That's Sachin Tendulkar, isn't it.

There were other idols, like the characters seen in comic. Modern art tires me out, I prefer to be with real life. So we are back at village scenes touching various professions. A washer woman driving her donkey loaded with a bundle of clothes while her husband presses washed clothes. A man attired in traditional costume for seeking alms at a village shrine. A cobbler couple making footwear. The lad is waiting for his slippers to be mended. A village school. Then there were home scenes with whole family together, women grooming, etc.Also there were carpenters, a barber, two men playing a board game, a village temple and so on.

From the rural life gallery we move on to the jungle.. idols of wild animals.

Here are few examples- hippopotamus, zebra, giraffe and stags. Then there were elephants, tigers, wild pigs, and many more. Well done sculptures.

Having done with wildlife we come back to village life, this time the grain, vegetable and cattle, markets. First is the grain merchant. Vegetable market.. one can easily identify onions, tomato, potato, cucumber, brinjal, carrots, etc.Next is the ox-shoe fixer doing business at the cattle market.

Halli-santhe are weekly markets where one can find all kinds of goods and services. Utsav Rock Garden team has done a great job recreating it. I've covered a few here. Knife sharpener. Gaana - the village oil mill.. oil sellers are called Gaangyaar. Puffed rice seller. A family manning their lime kiln.. this community is called Sunnagaar. The market scenes also showed scenes of deals being struck, peep shows, etc.

Done with the market we move on to sports side. Here's a scene of a crowd watching a Kustee Pandya.. a wrestling duel. Then there's a beautiful model of gymnastics. Village gym is called Garadi Mane and the wooden pole on which gymnastics are performed is called Malla Kambha. The challenge is to climb the well polished, oiled pole.. that's the show of strength in the form of grip.

Village girls playing merry-go-round and hopscotch. The sculptors have a great sense of anatomy.. they know how to create sexy looking girls :) Earlier I mentioned Garadi Mane.. here are a two Pehalwans practicing weight lifting. Traditionally wrestlers used wooden or metal clubs to train arms and wrists. For show of overall strength, they lifted stone balls weighing 150 to 180 kg if not more.

We come to the end of our tour. Close to the exit is a scene of a present day restaurant.. tables, chairs, life size models and vacant seats for visitors to take pictures with the idols. Pushps chose for a picture with the Sheikh and his Begum. This reminds me of our visit to Chowmahalla Palace where we met a real Arab attired in traditional gear. Pushpa has a picture taken with the Arab.

The tour was nice though I would've preferred to have started earlier in the morning while it was still cooler. Anyway, it was good.

Besides Utsav Rock Garden there are similar gardens-

  1. Graama Samskriti Park, Someshwar Waadi, Paashana, Pune
  2. Siddhagiri Museum, Kaneeri Matha, Kolhapur
  3. Bareed Shaahi Park, Bidar
  4. Revolutionary Freedom Fighter Life History, Interior - Exterior Art World, Sangolli
  5. Shaalmala Park, Chipagi, Forest Department, Sirsi
  6. Nature Camp, Dandeli
  7. August-15 Garden, Hadagali
  8. Bellary Cultural Complex, Bellary
  9. Kunte Gadde Garden, Bellary
  10. Bheeshma Kere, Gadag
  11. Singataaluru Park, Mundargi
  12. Heritage Village Park, M.G.R.E.D Jakkuru, Bengaluru
  13. J.P Park, Bengaluru
  14. Jaanapada Looka, Raamanagar

Long Live Artists!