An Evening At The Beach

An unexpected trip to Mangalore during the long Diwali weekend led me to discover the Tannirbhavi Beach whose existence I never knew of till recently.

I was staying at my uncle’s place at the heart of Mangalore city. When I had a Sunday evening all for myself, I thought of visiting the Panambur Beach. It was then that my cousin suggested to me, “Why Panambur? Tannirbhavi is closer!” As I had never heard of this beach, I thought for myself why not.

Around 4.30pm on a balmy Sunday evening, I set off to Tannirbhavi Beach. I had just started walking towards the main road when I heard the sound of an approaching auto. I flagged down the auto and asked the driver to take me to Tannirbhavi Beach. The driver gave me a quizzical look and asked me why I had come looking for an auto in the direction I was walking when I actually had to walk in the opposite direction. In a surprised tone, I told him that I thought I was on the right track. He went on to add that going all the way to Tannirbhavi would cost me 300 bucks. I said, “What!! I thought it was close by?” Before I could say more he suggested that I go by auto till Sultan Battery and board a ferry from there which is what most tourists do.  This got me thinking. I had never travelled by a ferry. I had seen ferries only in Malayalam and in Bollywood movies set in a Bengali milieu.  Would it be wise to travel in one when I had a time crunch as I had to board a bus back  to Bangalore at 9pm? I was asked by my folks to finish my trip and be back by 7.30pm and it was almost 5pm. I contemplated going back home when the auto driver re-assured me, “Madam, there will be plenty of tourists going to Thannirbhavi. You will not face problems.” Encouraged by his words I agreed to his idea and told him to drop me at Sultan Battery.

The drive to Sultan Battery turned out to be shorter than I imagined. And the auto driver was right. I saw a lot of holiday makers scattered all over the large expanse of land in front of me. As I alighted from the auto, I spotted a raised ramp with a staircase leading to the top of it. As soon as I paid off my auto fare, I raced to the ramp. The auto driver called out to me and told me that I had to board the ferry from the opposite end. I replied saying that I wanted to check out the ramp first and I would go board the ferry later.

It turned out that the ramp was a watch tower built by Tippu Sultan to look out for English invaders during his time. In all my eagerness to get on top of the tower, I forgot to take a picture of it. The only picture I took of the tower was that of its staircase. The top of the tower turned out be some sort of a lovers’ meeting point. There were so many of them. Not surprisingly, I got funny stares when I walked towards the parapet of the tower. A vast expanse of a water body which I later learnt is the Gurupura river greeted me as I stood near the wall. I went click click click. Embarassed as I was by the presence of numerous couples around me  and not wanting to stay there any longer, I made a quick exit and raced down the stairs and walked in the direction of the ferry stand.

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The Gurupura river as seen from the watch tower.

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The flight of stairs of the watch tower.

At the ferry stand, I discovered that over there rules were a joke. People were stretching out their hands in all directions to get a ticket. Try as much as I could, I could not buy a ticket. People were pushing and shoving each other and I began to feel helpless and suffocated. It took me a good ten minutes before I finally got one. The ferry fare was just INR 5.

I joined a serpentine queue of people waiting to board the ferry. Luckily, people were following queue rules here. A ferry had just left the stand and made for a good click. I had to use my smartphone as I hardly had space to reach out for my camera. Another ferry arrived but I could not board it as I way behind in the queue.

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It wasn’t long before I spotted a very large and ornate ferry slowly make its way to the ferry stand. Unlike the earlier one, this one was extremely spacious and the seats aesthetically placed. Thanks to its large size, at least a hundred people including me got into it. I grabbed a most comfortable seat on the border and unzipped my bag to take out my camera. As the beautiful vessel moved I managed to take some pictures including one of a small freight vessel. A lot of people were taking selfies and groupfies. The air was vibrant with excitement. There were a lot of children among the passengers.

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A turn here and a turn there and we were at the Tannirbhavi Beach. After alighting, I joined the large brigade of tourists and holiday makers walking towards the beach. En route I noticed a church with a wide courtyard and stopped to take a picture.

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In no time, the beautiful Tannirbhavi beach and the Arabian Sea were in front of me. The sun had not set. I felt so happy and kept taking pictures of sun-ny boy as he began setting. The beach was filled with visitors and the air was drowned in noises of all sorts. Children were running across, many were flying kites, a man was offering rides on a horse and the shore was dotted with stalls selling all sorts of foods, toys, and what not.

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Unlike at Panambur Beach last year, this year at Tannirbhavi my picture of the sun setting turned out to be better thanks to less clouds. Here’s the best of the lot:

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And unlike at Panambur  Beach last year, when I had a  Nokia 2300, this time I had a Google Pixel. I was all too excited to update my status on Facebook. Ha ha. This was one of the rare occasions I got to travel and I made the most of it offline and online.

As the evening wore on and the sun had completely set I looked at my watch and realised that I had to rush. As I paced up the beach I looked at all the food stalls. The one selling diced raw mangoes tossed in salt and chilli powder made me stop. I love raw mangoes and couldn’t help buying a cupful. The stuff was yummy with just the right proportion of ingredients and melted in my mouth. If it weren’t for the time crunch I would have had more of the stuff. The picture of the mangoes got more likes on Facebook than the sunset at the beach.

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It was quite dark as I walked towards the ferry stand and yes there was a long queue. The same ferry on which I travelled to the beach arrived at the ferry stand and “yay” I was able to get in and grab the same seat that I sat on earlier.

A turn here and a turn there and I was at the same point that I first boarded the ferry.  It was quite dark and I made a brief stop to glance at a chariot on a raised platform. I could not figure out what it was all about.

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I walked to the auto stand only to realise that there wasn’t a single one in sight. I walked towards a lone bus only to get off as soon as I got in because it was headed for a different place.

I  checked my phone to see if I could book a cab and to my relief I got one in no time. The journey to home was quick and all night in the bus to Bangalore memories of the beach and the mangoes lingered.

 

 

 

 

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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!