Big temple City

On the either side of the Highway are Lush green paddy fields far and wide, we are now entering the rice bowl of ‘Tamil Nadu’ and the roads lead to the ancient city of Tanjore. Named after an Asura who was killed at the place; this city even after a thousand years is bustling with activity and devotion. Tanjore is today identified for the Brihadeshwara Temple, a superstructure dedicated to lord Shiva.

Rice Fields of Thanjavur

 

IMG_0083

View of the Brihadeshwara dome as soon as one enters the city.

 

Thanjavur first came to prominence as the capital city of Rajaraja, the greatest of the Cholas. At his peak he ruled over an empire whose area spanned more than that of India, conquering many south east Asian countries. The might of conquests led to prosperity of the Chola kingdom, in turn sponsoring many a grand temples. There can be found Chola temples in places as far away as Bangalore. It was in Thanjavur that the most magnificent and spectacular of their temples Periya Kovil also known as the Brihadeshwara was erected. A high domed temple with beautiful carving on it walls. The temple today still lies at the heart of the city like it must have at its heyday. Most of the structures standing today like the surrounding walls were not built by the Chola’s. They were added much later by the likes of the Nayaks and the Marathas. They do not figure in the list of architectural marvels, instead it is pretty ordinary when compared to any other South Indian temple. What stands out is the central granite complex with its towering Gopuram(the dome). The Gopuram rises with a tapering end, with a 13 ft Vimana carved from a single stone at the top. The slant of the Gopuram is decorated with carvings of mini Vimanas(tip of the Gopuram right above the inner sanctum) on layers of platform like protrusions. It is as if these are sub structures or lego parts of the whole. The sight of the Gopura even from a distance evokes a surreal feeling. The architecture rivals the gopuram of Madurai in size and sculptures of Belur in complexity. one wonders how such a structure could have been erected at such a height at a time when technology was very primitive. The secret of Brihadeshwara’s construction is simple but definitely not easy. Gradually ascending roads from as far as 9km away were built so that artisans could work at the desired height and required building material would reach through carts and horses. Taking into account that all this feat was achieved ten centuries ago makes this architecture a wonder to ponder over. The base of the sanctum is decorated with an inscription of records, laws and tributes. Much of what we know about the Cholas come from similar writings found in the various temples.This is proof to how life during the Cholas revolved around the temple.

Raja Raja the greatest of the Cholas.

 

IMG_3832

Sun setting over the temple complex.

 

IMG_3819

An artist’s rendering, the construction of Brihadeshwara Dome.

 

Among the sculptures of the temples, an interesting one is that of the Buddha attaining Nirvana under the Bodhi tree. Something which immediately strikes as ‘out of place’. The story goes that RajaRaja built the Big temple after he had a dream when he was on a campaign in the Buddhist city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Hence the sculpture evokes the memory of the fateful dream. Dusk is the best time to visit the temple as the scorching south Indian sun would have calmed and the temple takes on a magnificent orange glow. To add to it are thousands of pilgrims who flock to the temple like their ancestors must have for a millennium. For them it is more of a holy site and less of a historical one. The center of their devotion is the 13ft Linga placed in the holy inner sanctum. The inner architecture of the temple follows a complete anti pattern of it external looks, made of plain uniform granite. As if intentionally kept blank to remind everyone that the all powerful lord would not care less for your grand structure of ego. Making way through a small crowd, one catches a glimpse of the Linga, the center of attraction in Tanjore for over a thousand years. It is at this moment one is transported back to the kingdom of the Cholas,and a city of Godliness and glory. Such is the Brihadeshwara that it is a place of spirituality interwoven with history with an almost mythical grandeur. With Vibes of Power, Ego and Tragedy, there is also peace to be found, if that is what one seeks.

 

Note:Thanks to Sharath,Ajay and Pai for the help with proof reading.

Advertisements

Vagrants on a highway

Vagrants on a highway

Far away from home after a three day ride, the trip meter read 1000 Kilometers. Somewhere in the middle of the vastness and chaos that is the Indian highway, a part of the trip  was digitized as a reminder to last for the years to come.

DSC02892

This picture was taken during a bike trip from  Bangalore to Aurangabad. This is one of my favourites, makes me viscerally happy every time I see it. Thinking back, it sure as hell was one crazy crazy trip.  In the photo, Kulkarni, Pawan and Gaurav. Who once with me were Vagrants on a Highway.

PS: I really want to write a post about it but my lazy ass doesnt let me to.

Riding through a Tiger reserve

CC image from Wikipedia

CC image from Wikipedia

On the Road to Ooty from Mysore, one will have to go through the Bandipur-Madumali
National park road. What got me so excited about the ride through the
Bandipur reserve was the minute possibility of being face to face with the majestic
creature of the forest. Although the name, Bandipur/Madumallai tiger
reserve is misleading, owing to the fact that your chances of meeting a
tiger is as slim as snowing in the thar desert, it still is an amazing experience.
The sight of lesser harmful animals and the feeling of a thinning
boundary between man and animal helps to keep you thrilled.Naturally speaking, Bandipur and Madumallai are
the part of the same forest, but the different names are on account of
different state governments(Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) being in charge of
the areas. It seems stupid that something which nature has ordained has
been divided by man. Coincidentally, the vegetation of the two areas are
much different. While Bandipur is populated with bamboo shoots and sparse
grass, in Madulmallai grows taller trees and the forest looks more
denser. Even the terrain is much different; While Madumallai has wider
roads with more of a highway feel, the latter has very narrow roads
with almost no space between the flora and the road. Entering into the tiger
reserve in a bike, we had a one point agenda, to spot a tiger or to
prevent dissapointment, at-least any other wild animal. The right and left
side of the road was divided between the two of us and we set out with
(expectations) in our heart. As soon we rode into the archway of
Bandipur, we started to feel a certain kind of calm. Although there were
considerable vehicles on the road, the chaos of a normal high way was missing and

every one was hornlessly cruising at a leisurely pace, thanks to

the speed limit. But deep within I was mildly dissapointed, as I was expecting
this to be a dense forest where the tress would shadow darkness
during broad daylight. Forget tigers, no wild life would dwell close by
. Just when I was about to give in, on my patrolling side of the road
I glanced a group of deers proudly lying down dangerously close to the
road, as if they were totally ok sharing their space with the
disgusting humans. I quickly yet quietly poked at my friend who was
riding, but he seemed lost in the tranquility and took a good 10 seconds
to respond, the time by which the deers where out of sight. I swore at
him for not being attentive and we rode on with bamboo shoots towering
around us from both sides. Our entry into Madhumallai was marked with a
kind of forest office junction and a sudden change in the forest. Here,
we spotted an elephant near a water source, it probably was tamed by the
forest guards although I did not find any chains. Entering into
Madumalai, we came across a water hole besides the road, where stood an
antelope looking angrily at us. It was probably irritated at
the trespassing by the humans and in protest or as a sign of asserting
its territory stood motionless. I would have been fooled into thinking
it was a statue, If not for the slight tilting of its head just before I stole the last glance.
That was the last We had any glimpse of animals apart from a few
monkeys. On the return journey riding out of Bandipur, I was saddened as
I was not even close to spotting a tiger. But I had hope that won day I
would come back and be face to face with the Majestic creature of the
jungle.


			

On Scaling top 3 mountains in Karnataka

” Why do men climb mountains? May be for the simple reason that, they are there”

A little less then a year ago I had my first trekking experience in the first week of December. The experience changed my life forever and made me realize the joy of being close to nature. A few days back after reaching Tadiyandamol I completed the list of top three peaks in Karnataka. This deserved a blog post as a mark of milestone. So here goes.

Mullayanagiri. #1 in Karnataka. Although we didnt trek there i have promised myself, i will do it someday.

Tadiandamol. #2 in Karnataka. A short one hour treak to the peak.

Kumara Parvata. #3 in Karnataka and the one where i struggled the most. will conquer this one properly. some other time

Nectar of solitude

It was one of those IT weekends which was better spent lazying around at home, bitching about the general inconveniences of life. Instead, I was off on a trip to the royal city of Mysore. Having visited Mysore twice before, I was quite reluctant for taking up the invitation, But two  things helped me make up my mind, firstly, it was a bike trip and most importantly, i was promised some  good toddy, farm fresh.

So i set off to Mysore, pillion on a bike with a crazy driver in quest to quench my toddy thirst. It was not until late in the afternoon around 2:00 PM that the journey towards the farm really began. Four guys in two bikes hurried off to the outskirts of town, with worry that “If it becomes late the toddy will sour”. The Urban boy that i am, i was probably expecting to find a pub with Jimi playing and hot girls loafing around, but what i found quite suprising.

After around 12 Km’s  we reached a farm behind  a modest cottage and at the far end  a canopy made from coconut branches under which was kept cans of neera(Toddy) . Everything that happened thereafter was totally unexpected and delightful . I had always grown up knowing that toddy was  prepared on palm trees, but here there was a coconut groove dedicated for toddy( we were told once used for toddy,the trees did not yield). The toddy expert among us  had a gulp of the sample and declared it as  good toddy although a little sour, it was ok as we were late. I had my first sip of toddy when the sample was passed around for me. I was told that toddy was usually sweet so i was already expecting it to taste much like diet coke, but i was nowhere close. It tasted rather like sour coconut milk, the kind of sourness you know will get you high.

We ordered 8 liters of neera which was given in a vessel which usually is used to carry water in the village side , and instead of glasses we had water mugs used in bathrooms(the plastic ones with handles). The hygienic in me was already feeling awkward about vessels used, sensing my awkwardness one of them assured me that the vessels were clean and were used only for drinking neera and no other purposes, after a few gulps the hygiene really stopped to matter. All seemed right except that I did not see a place to sit, I wanted comfy sofas and high powered AC, instead we walked towards the end of the coconut groove. Under a banyan tree lied the walls a now dry canal beyond which were several trees on a slightly upward slope with a view of a beautiful mansion, the kind which you would plan to spend your retired life in.  The Sun was blazing and in no time( actually around half a litre) we all were feeling Niravana, high enough to open up. The thing about drinking is it lets you bond with each other, but if you drink with your friends the bond goes on to a different level.  Soon enough the talk was all emotional about life in general and love life in particular.

What enhanced the mood was the surroundings was so secluded that it was like our own personal space, we were the kings who ruled the toddy farm and were on a visit to inspect the produce of the  land. Suddenly one guy was up on one of the trees and in no time two others including me were high up on the same tree. By sober and civilized standards grown men climbing a tree is a totally stupid thing to do, but that moment it felt liberating like our childhood was given back to us although for a very brief amount of time.  Among other things, promises of returning to back to this farm some other day where made. As the sun was setting we devoured another 2 liters among us and were off to civilization on a pleasant(high) bike ride. Before that it was time to pay for the drinks. More surprises there 10 liters and 200 Rs, 20Rs/liter. By the far although the cheapest, the best drunken bawl ever.