Monday, 26 November 2012

Mysore, the heritage of the South


Mysore was the first trip we did after coming to Bangalore. At that time we used to stay at Majestic (near Kempegowda Bus Terminus). Since Majestic is both a big bus terminus and a railway station, so for lots of people entering Bangalore, Majestic is the gateway. This is also the reason why there are flocks of tour operators.

  We still had not brought our car(Sparky) from Kolkata; so we decided to check with some tour operators for some daily tour packages. They suggested the visit Mysore.

  As a child, I was always fascinated with Mysore more for the sweet smelling Mysore sandal soap that we used to get in Kolkata and which both me and my mom were very fond of because of the fragrance, rather than its historical significance.

  So that faint hint of the fragrance was enough to make us settle for a day tour of Mysore. The tour price was very cheap; it was some 300 Indian Rupees per head(exclusive of meals,guide,entry and camera charges). I suppose the price may have risen by now. After paying the booking amount, the operator told us to report to his office the next day not later than 8:30 AM, when our tour bus will start.

  So the next day we reached his office before 8:30 AM. He took us to the bus. It was a 20 seater Mazda. But alas, the bus did not start at 8:30 AM. It started after 9:30 AM. The reason for this delay was the set of vacant seats still to be filled, for which they were waiting for some last minute passengers.

 On the way from Bangalore to Mysore, there is a place called Channapatna that lies in between. This place is famous for wooden toys that are quite typical to this place. Though our bus did not stop but we still managed to see some toy emporiums that had these wooden horses, cradles, soldiers on display. The origin of these toys can be traced back to the reign of Tipu Sultan; he invited toy makers from Persia to train the local artisans in toy making. More can be found in this wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channapatna_toys .

 Our first stop was Srirangapattna. It was the capital of Tipu Sultan's Kingdom. We saw the Watergate, which according to history, is a secret gate from the fort to the river kaveri. Some also say that it was through this WaterGate that the British soldiers entered the fort and killed Tipu Sultan.

  Next we saw Sri Rangaswamy Temple. It has a mix of Hoysala and Vijaynagar style of architecture. There is also a chariot kept outside the temple.

 Next it was Mysore Palace, the crown jewel of Karnataka. This was the star attraction of our Mysore tour. This palace simply amazed us. It is such a beautiful and a fascinating piece of architecture. Photography is not allowed inside the palace but allowed in the palace premises. The inside of the palace is even more beautiful and, in my opinion, at least half a day should be allotted for seeing this palace. It is such a marvel. We also got to know that the palace is lit up every Saturday and Sunday from 7-7:30 PM.Maybe we will see that the next time we visit.

  Close to the Palace is the Chamundi Hills. The average elevation of the hills is 1000 metres from sea level. We could feel the air getting cold as our bus climbed the hill. We saw the Chamundeshwari Temple. One can also have a nice view of Mysore City from this place.There are lots of monkeys in the temple premises.

  While getting down from Chamundi Hills we saw the Nandi statue. This is a big monolithic statue some 15 feet tall. Also a statue of Mahishasura with a sword in his right hand and cobra in the left is an attraction worth seeing.

  In between, the bus stopped at an emporium. It was a Government Emporium where people can buy silk sarees, sandal, prfumes, soaps and  handicrafts.

  From there we went to St Philomena's Church. It is built in Neo-Gothic architectural style. It is one of the oldest churches in India. The Cathedral has two spires and that can be seen from quite a distance.

  The last spot for the day was Brindavan Gardens. Adjacent to Brindavan Gardens, there is also a dam built on the river Kaveri. This garden has varieties of flora.  Another major attraction is the light and music show that takes place every evening. A lot of tourists gather to see the fountain show. The garden is kept open all throughout the year.

  After seeing the light and music fountain show we were taken back to Bangalore. Both of us were dead tired.......so much to see yet so less time. Nevertheless the trip was enjoyable.

  Here are some of the snaps from the tour.
Mysore Palace

Watergate

Wooden souvenir shop at Sri Ranganaswamy Temple

Mahishasur

The city of Mysore as seen from Chamundi Hills

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Ulsoor Lake, Nature's Bounty


Our trip to Ulsoor lake on a lazy Saturday after noon was totally unplanned. We went to a camera shop on Saint John's Road and since Ulsoor lake is very close by we thought of making a quick visit.

  Ulsoor lake is situated at the heart of the city of Bangalore. Its spread across around 123 acres area. The lake is open from 5 AM in the morning to 7:30 PM in the evening, with a brief break during the noon.

 Since this was our first visit to the lake, we inquired the security guard for the ticket counter. Well, there wasn't any. He gently greeted us and showed us the way in. 

  City dwellers regularly visit this park for their morning and evening walks/jogs. Apart from regular crowd, we found a bunch of people practicing rowing on the lake. One part of the lake has a boating facility for visitors as well.

  The lake is very rich in flora and fauna. It was really easy to spot common heron, purple swamphen, brahmani kites, cranes, little black cormorant and myna. The bushes around the lake are filled with wild flowers and that is home to hundreds of different types of insects. 
  
  Here are some of the pictures that we took at the park.

Bug on the leaf.

Bug on the leaf

Lemon Pansy Butterfly (A good friend, Suman, correctly identified it)

White flower

Brahmani Kite

Purple Swamphen

Common Heron
Orange colured orchid

Dragonfly

Leaf of an orchid

Heron

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Halebeedu, Belur... the Hoysala Marvels

After visiting Shravanabelagola, the second phase of our photography workshop-plus-travel took us to Halebeedu followed by Belur. These two cities were the capitals of the Hoysalas during the Hoysala dynasty around thousand years back. Even now the works of art they showcase are some of the very best that can be found anywhere in the world.

  The Hoysalas ruled during the 11th and 14th century over some parts of Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Music and art were highly regarded by the Hoysala kings. The name Hoysala is derived from "Hoy Sala", which translates to "Strike Sala". Sala was the legendary head of this dynasty who defeated a tiger single handed and this act got immortalized by the name Hoysala.

  Halebeedu was the old capital city of the Hoysalas. During this period, it was called Dwarasamudra, after a huge artificial lake of the same name. The main shrile in this city is dedicated to lord Shiva. It was built during 11th to 12th century and took around a full century to complete. The temple depicts several Hindu mythological tales from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puran. However, after the repeated invasion of Malik Kafur, Mohammad bin Gughlak and Sultan of Madura, the city was heavily damaged and many parts were destroyed. It was then the capital was shifted to Belur and Dwarasamudra was renamed Halebeedu or "The old capital".

  Belur, which is around 20 kilometer from Halebeedu, hosts several other shrines which has loads of art work. The main shrine is dedicated to lord Vishnu and was built by the king Vishnuvardhana, his grandson and his great grandson, and took around a century to complete. All the temples of Hoysalas are usually built on a platform. They are pretty near to human proportions unlike many other huge and behemoth monuments in India. The main temple depicts different Avatars or incarnations of lord Vishnu. The stone pillar at the center of the ground is carved from a single stone and stands on its own weight. The ground in front of the main temple also has one statue of Garuda, the celestial vehicle of lord Vishnu. They are all facing the main temple. 

  When we left Belur, it was almost sundown. It was a day filled with sights of work of art that astonished us beyond imagination. No doubt these places were once called the "Heaven on earth". Although both the temple at Halebeedu and Belur are superb in portraying art, the figures at lord Shiva shrine at Halebeedu were carved more profusely. 

  Some suggestions that might help: It is a good idea to hire a guide at Halebeedu who can explain the stories behind some of the important figures. You can also go for a temple guide booklet which comes at round Rs.40/- and is full of information. You need to leave your shoes at a stall to enter both the temples; so if you are travelling in a car, its better to leave your shoes in the car. There is no entry fee for either temple. However, in Belur, there is a fee if you want to take shots inside the temple.

  So after a very enjoyable and very very tiring day full of travel, talk, fun and photography, we bid adeu to the 15 people who joined for the workshop and headed for a hotel in Chikmagalur. Chikmagalur is around 40 Kilometers from Belur. Our next morning plan was to visit Bhadra wildlife sanctuary and go for a jungle safari. 

  Here are some of the photographs from the Belur-Halebeedu trip. Hope you will enjoy.

  You can find all these pictures and more in the Picassa Web Album here.

The Pillar at Halebeedu.

Statue of Sala and the temple. Halebeedu.

The temple as seen from the garden. Halebeedu.

Broken parts of the temple. Halebeedu.

The garden at Halebeedu.

Broken parts of the temple in the garden. Halebeedu.

The main temple. Halebeedu.

Back of the main temple. Halebeedu.

Wall art inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Pillars inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Nandi and lord Shive inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Wall art. Halebeedu.

Depiction of Mahabharata. Halebeedu.

Wall art. Halebeedu.

One Nandi temple from the other. Halebeedu.

Nandi. Halebeedu.

Stone carving on the pavilion of the temple. Halebeedu.

Feet of the lady. Halebeedu.

Depiction from the Mahabharata where Arjuna targets the fish with his bow and arrow. Halebeedu.

Lord Vishnu. Halebeedu.

Depiction of the Ramayana. Halebeedu.

Depiction of war from the Mahabharata. Halebeedu.

Pillars at Belur.

Belur Vishnu temple, during dusk.

Depiction of Sala defeating a tiger single handedly. Belur.

Sculpture of Garuda praying. Belur.

Intricately carved sculpture of a dancer. Belur.

Garuda praying towards the Vishnu temple. Belur.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Shravanabelagola temple visit

This time, our trip to Shravanabelagola, Halebidu and Belur was not just a weekend trip; it was coupled with a photographic workshop. In this blog post we will try to portray the details of our travel. However, if you are interested to know about the workshop, here is the link

  We really started early from Bangalore. It was around 4:30 AM when we hit the road. Till one and half hour, there was no ambient light. But the roads were clear. When we reached Shravanabelagola temple, it was around 8 O' clock in the morning. 

   Shravanabelgola is one of the major Jain shrines. However, apart from being religiously important, this holy temple does not fail to attract huge amount of tourists throughout the year. While we are on the topic, it's a good time to mention that once every twelve year, a special ceremony called "Mahamastakabhisheka" is held at this temple. During this time, the number of tourists multiply to around 100 folds.

  The temple is on a small hilltop which one has to cover on foot. There are around 600 steps up the hill. So getting up there was a nice morning exercise for us. However, there is an option of human-carried-chair. If someone has difficulty getting up stairs, he/she can opt for this. Parking is available just before the entrance to the temple. And you have to keep your shoes at a shoekeeper before entering. So if you like, you can keep the shoes in the car.

  Although the target was to get to the shot and see the cluster of temples on top, we had to stop during our walk up the hill; well offcourse, to catch our breath. But these couple of stops gave us one unexpected thing, a slowly changing perspective of the whole city around the temple. As you go up your view changes and you get a panoramic view of the city. And the view is really beautiful.

  There is one temple just opposite this main temple and that is also on another hilltop. When you climb up the steps, you get to see this temple more clearly.

  When on top, we quickly found some seats on a sidestep and relaxed for a couple of minutes. Now it was time to explore the actual temple.

  This first stop itself has a couple of temples. You actually have to go around them (from your right) to catch a small set of staircase(around 20 steps) to get up to the actual temple. When you are in this first landing, observe the scattered glass covering all around the stone that makes the floor. These are made by the government to cover the ancient scriptures which were carved on the rocks. 

  When you get to the summit of the hill, you get to see the figure of Gommateshwara. This figure stand on a lotus and is around 17 meters high. It was carved around 1000 years back.

  All around the temple there are several statues and carvings which were carved with precise accuracy. When you enter the main temple, you can directly see the statue of Gommateshwara. There are several ceremonies that continuously go on at this temple. You can soon find a man on the left corridor guarding a door behind him. If you approach him, he would graciously open the door which leads to a chamber where 24 different images are installed one after the other; all carved in stone. When you get out of this corridor, you basically get out on the opposite side of Gommateshwara statue. And the door keeper asks for some donation for this guided tour. You can donate anything you may please; we did not find much persuasion there.

  This morning visit of Shravanabelagola temple was really worthwhile. While coming down we took it slow again, enjoying the beauty of the surrounding. 

  While at the bottom of the hill, we quickly devoured coconut water from a nearby shopkeeper. It worked well filling up the water that we lost during this excursion. If you ever visit this temple, it is perhaps best to visit during early morning. Because the warm midday would really juice out your energy a lot.

  As we were done with this fantastic piece of art and holy shrine, we headed for our next stop, Halebeedu. Halebeedu is one of the finest temple of the Hoysala dynasty. It was constructed during the 1121 AD and 1207 AD. Its work of art is legendary. So more on that in our blog post on Halebeedu.

  Here are the snaps from our Shravanabelagola trip:

The human-carried chair that can take someone to the top of the hill.

The staircase to the top.

The temple on the next hilltop.

Thyagada kamba. The central pillar is hanging from the top.

Modern art. LOL.

Pillar at the main temple

Some Jain ritual going on at the main temple

A priest is bathing the small idol.

Gommateshwar.

Gommateshwar.

Gommateshwar

The bells at the main temple.

Tirthankara. A total 24 idols are there in this chamber.

The main temple

Wall painting.

Ancient inscriptions.
  

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