Weekly Photo Challenge: “Windows”

My entry for this week’s photo challenge would be this picture of a window at Lymond House, Ooty offering a very romantic view of the garden. This was almost four years back and I relish memories of my stay here.

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Late Post: Beach hopping at Mangalore – 2

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There wasn’t enough time to explore Surathkal Beach because we had to save some time to visit the more famous Panambur Beach which is a short drive away.

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The Panambur Beach was a picture in contrast to the Surathkal Beach. It was crowded and noisy with almost all the space on the shores taken up by visitors and businesses of all sorts.

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The ship of the desert was the cynosure of all attention. It was funny seeing him on a beach though, that too amidst the hullabaloo. His owners seemed to be lost in a conversation.

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Amidst all the noise, one dog seemed to be enjoying a sand bath.

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A man was offering rides on a horse cart and was desperately scouting for customers.

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Motor boats were a big draw with lots of adventure-seekers heading for them.

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I have for long been nursing dreams of taking pictures of the sun setting on a beach and was hoping to fulfil it that day. Alas! That was not to be. The clouds spoilt my party :( . Mercifully, I managed to take some pictures of sunny boy long before he sank into the sea.

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Once dusk fell on the shore it was time to move. Someday, I wish to return here, spend more time and take better pictures.

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Late Post: Beach hopping at Mangalore – 1

It always feels great visiting my place of birth. A sea of happiness engulfs me at a mere mention of the name. Sadly, all my visits to Mangalore have been fleeting ones. When I got an opportunity to visit the port city in early April I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy although this was going to be another short stay.

The occasion was a family function and my stay was cut short from two days to one owing to my niece’s dance exam coming in the way. I left Bangalore on a Sunday night (April 10) on a sleeper bus. It was the first time I was travelling by one and I was wondering how the journey would be. All my doubts were put to rest in the next one hour.  I thoroughly enjoyed the bumpy ride. It felt like sleeping in one big rocking cradle. It being the holiday season, the bus was not surprisingly packed with all seats (or rather sleepers) occupied.

It must have been around 5.30 in the morning when we reached our destination. We took a rickshaw to the hotel which would be our residence for part of the day.

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When we got to our room I immediately headed for the large windows. My eyes caught sight of  a beautiful Cannonball tree in a courtyard. As it was pretty dark, I  couldn’t get a good picture of it. Much later I finally got a picture. It turned out that the place was an educational institution.

The function at a nearby hall must have taken up most of the morning. Some of my cousins agreed to my idea of visiting the beach in the evening. After a quick round of shopping, I and my cousins hopped on to the van we would be using for our beach trip.

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Our first stop was the Surathkal beach. A major draw here is the Light House which allows visitors. It turned out to be quite a climb. There was a lot of machinery at the place and it was quite dark inside. Finally, when we got to the top of the tower, the aerial views we got to see of the beach and the surroundings were beautiful. The sands looked white and the beach looked spotless clean. Even as we were awestruck by the views, a gentle breeze from the sea caressed our faces and wiped off every trace of sweat caused by the climb up the flight of stairs. Nature’s Towel I would say! And there was enough time for some aerial clicks  :)  Have a look:

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A rain-soaked trip to Nuggehalli

A Sunday trip (15 Nov) to Nuggehalli organised by INTACH turned out to be a rain-soaked picnic with showers of knowledge thrown in for good measure.

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Entrance to the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple.

The rain gods showed no mercy and everyone in the group had to unfurl their umbrellas shortly after reaching Nuggehalli. For one man though, the rains hardly made a difference. It was the walk lead Prof. Raghavendrarao Kulkarni. A walking encyclopaedia on temples, he braved the rains sans an umbrella as he spoke about the history and sculptures first at the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple and then at the Sadashiva Temple both of them iconic temples built in the 13th century AD during the reign of the Hoysalas.

 

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The original structure in soapstone is in the foreground and the brick and limestone tower in the background.

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The highly ornate Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is symbolic of the excellent craftsmanship of those days. The original structure was built with soapstone procured from HD Kote around 1246 AD by Bommana Danda Nayaka, an aide of the Hoysala king Vira Someshwara. He is believed to have constructed the temple for the deities Lakshmi Narasimha, Keshava and Gopala on the behest of his guru Sri Pundarikaksha Somayaji. The temple stands at the spot were long time ago, sage Rushaba offered penance to Lord Lakshmi Narasimha who mighty pleased with his devotee is believed to have appeared in front of him in disguise. Around 1249 AD, Bommana Danda Nayaka also constructed the Sadashiva Temple in the vicinity of the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple. During that period, Nuggehalli was known as Vijaya Somanathpura and was famous as an agrahara (or place of learning). The name Nuggehalli came into existence somewhere during the reign of the Vijayanagara kings. ‘Nugge’ translates to ‘enter’ and ‘halli’ translates to village in Kannada.

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The brick and mortar wall of the extended temple built using dry masonry.

Like most Hoysala-period temples, the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is constructed on a star-like (or stellate) platform. Though the key deity is Keshava, the temple is named after Lakshmi Narasimha one of the secondary deities. The other secondary deity is Gopala.  The temple was expanded in the 17th century AD during the reign of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Unlike the Hoysalas who favoured soapstone, the Vijayanagar dynasty chose to go for lime and mortar. The extended temple in the form of a large hall is in lime and mortar and dry masonry was employed to construct the walls. In contrast to the highly ornate soapstone marvel, the extension is as plain as can be. [Oops! I just realised that I did not click a picture of the entire temple. How embarrassing! ]

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Lathed soapstone pillar.

While the original temple only had one tower, the Vijayanagar architects went on to add two more towers over the secondary shrines of Gopala and Lakshmi Narasimha. But the beauty of the original tower makes it stand out to such an extent that the other two towers go more or less unnoticed. The inside of the vimana (or main shrine housing Lord Keshava) has four lathed cylindrical soapstone pillars.

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The stunningly beautiful sculptures on the outside of the vimana were the works of Hoysala sculptors Mallitamma and Bhaichoja. Mallitamma was the chief sculptor and he decorated the north side of the temple. He started his career at the tender age of 16 and went on to work till he was 72. All his carvings at the temple bear his signature in Kannada. Signing below sculptures was a practice during the Hoysala period. Bhaichoja on the other hand decorated the south side of the temple and his signature can be found under a grand sculpture depicting Lord Vishnu in a relaxed posture.  Bhaichoja was a very young man at the time of this assignment possibly in his 30s. Many art historians find his sculptures more creative and beautiful than that of the senior sculptor. Mysteriously, Bhaichoja never worked on any other assignment in spite of his immense talent. The Lakshmi Narasimha temple project was his first and last. Was he murdered by jealous rivals? Did he commit suicide? Was he maimed? There are no records supporting these theories.  When I narrated this at home, my mother came out with another theory. Bhaichoja in all probability was Lord Lakshmi Narasimha himself in disguise. A point to ponder about!

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A little boy dressed in typical Iyengar attire watches the proceedings.

Like all Hoysala temples, the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple does not have a path for circumambulation on the inside. Circumambulation has to be done either on the platform or around the temple. It was a co-incidence that our visit was on the same day as the kalyanamahotsava (an important festival) at the temple. Many devotees had flocked to the temple dressed in traditional Iyengar attire. The temple is a principal place of worship for the Iyengar community who are all Vaishnavites. Idols of the deities were being taken around the temple by groups of worshippers.

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After a visit to the inside of the temple, Prof. Kulkarni took us through the narrative panels on the outside of the vimana. The Hoysalas believed in the concept of Bhagvatham which allowed the presence of sculptures of deities other than the presiding deity. Thus, in the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple which is a Vaishnavaite temple there are 24 forms of Vishnu including Keshava, Gopala and Lakshmi Narasimha; there is a Shiva sculpture too in the form of Harihara (half-Shiva [Hari] and half-Vishnu [Hara]); there is Ganesha; there is a sculpture of Brahma, the creator; Kama, the God of Love and his consort Rathi, the Goddess of Love to name a few. Goddesses Lakshmi and Parvati are depicted as dancers.

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The six frieze panels.

All the sculptures are carved above six frieze panels with moulded figurines. The six frieze panels are divided into two sections. The bottom-most panel consists of elephants. Prof. Kulkarni mentions that elephants are always placed on the base signifying that they are the weight-bearers. In between some of the elephants you can notice babies too! Above the elephants come the horsemen and above the horsemen is a decorative panel of foliage. Now the panels of elephants, horsemen and foliage constitute the first section. Above this section is the second section which consists of three panels. The bottom-most panel consists of scenes from the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Above this panel is one of beasts each having a crocodile’s head and lion’s body; topmost is a panel of swans.

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Like most ornate Hoysala temples, every inch of this temple too is decorated. Even the corners are filled.

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Brahma, the Creator (by Bhaichoja).

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Kama and Rathi (on the left) and Krishna and Rukmini on a swing (on the right) both sculpted by Bhaichoja.

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Mohini sculpted by Bhaichoja.

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Krishna and Rukmini on the swing (left) and Dakshinamurthy (right) sculpted by Bhaichoja.

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Rathi’s vehicle Vasanta on the right.

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Works of Bhaichoja.

 

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Vishnu in Ardhasukhasana (or relaxed pose) by Bhaichoja. Notice the text in Kannada below the sculpture.

Notable among Bhaichoja’s sculptures are that of Brahma; Krishna and Rukmini on a swing; Kama and Rathi; Rathi’s vehicle Vasanta; the pièce de résistance being the sculpture of Vishnu in Ardhasukhasana (or relaxed pose).

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Sculpture by Mallitama.

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Shiva as HariHara (half Shiva [left] and half Vishnu [right])

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Lakshmi Narasimha.

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Notice the depiction of applique work on the apparel.

 

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Brihaspati, Mahabali and Vamana.

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Krishna surrounded by cows, gopikas and others.

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Arjuna shoots a wooden fish seeing its reflection in a bowl of oil (sculpted by Mallitamma).

Notable among Mallitamma’s sculptures are one of Arjuna shooting a suspended wooden fish seeing its reflection in the bowl of oil below.

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An unfinished sculpture.

 

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Gopala surrounded by cows, gopikas, a leopard (don’t miss the spots)

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Garuda carrying Vishnu and Lakshmi (extreme left).

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Krishna tries to kill Kaliya even as Kaliya’s wife asks for forgiveness.

The Lakshmi Narasimha temple is an ocean of sculptures each of them having a distinct anecdote behind them. Like Prof. Kulkarni said, it will take more than one visit to get a hang of all the stories behind the beautiful carvings. We couldn’t agree more!

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Before embarking to the Sadashiva Temple, we had generous servings of authentic ‘Pulliyodharai’ or tamarind rice prepared on the occasion of the kalyanotsava. As accompaniments to the ‘Pulliyodharai’ were dollops of delicious ‘Sweet Pongal’ another popular preparation made from rice and jaggery.

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Entrance to the Sadashiva Temple.

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The doors to the main shrine.

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The original structure in soapstone.

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The original structure and the extended structure (right) in lime and  mortar.

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As we walked to the Sadashiva Temple, the rain got worse. On reaching the temple premises, we realised that the temple was closed. Unlike the highly ornate Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, the Sadashiva Temple is non-ornate. When constructing this temple, the Hoysalas went for the North Indian nagara style with Bhumija structure. Like the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, the Sadashiva Temple rests on a stellate platform. Here too, the original structure was built with soapstone and latter additions were in lime and mortar using dry masonry.

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As the temple was closed we missed seeing the Linga in the main shrine, the Nandi and other deities.

Around 4pm, it was pack-up time. We said goodbye to rain-soaked Nuggehalli!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: “Depth”

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Depth.”

The 19-step temple pond at the famous Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple in Nandi village on the foothills of Nandi hills is a very tranquil spot; one of those places were one can sit back and spend a peaceful evening and maybe finish off a book in one sitting.

The 19-step temple pond at the famous Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple in Nandi village on the foothills of Nandi hills is a very tranquil spot; one of those places were one can sit back and spend a peaceful evening and maybe finish off a book in one sitting.