Saturday, July 26, 2014

Khasa Matha, Gurmitkal

The day which began with Buddha hill of Shahapur will come to an end at Khasa Matha of Gurmitkal, a Lingayath monastery. Buddha and Basaveshwara were both social reformers but of different time periods... more than thousand years between them. A book with the title "Buddha and Basava" written by Sri Kumara Swamiji of Tapovan, Dharwad has compared Buddha's and Basaveshwara's contribution to social development.

November 28, 2013
On the way back from Chandriki to Gurmitkal stopped at Khasa Matha. Generally I do not visit monasteries unless I'm asked to.. today my hosts Harisha and Papanna Alegar insisted on visiting this peaceful place. The Matha has a long history, it was established about 600 years back by Murugarajendra Mahaswami. The present seer of Khasa Matha is Sri Shantaveera Swami.

The Matha's main entrance has a richly decorated wooden door frame. At the lintel is a pair of leaping horses.

The gateway also has a balcony above the doorway. Probably that balcony is used by Swamiji to address disciples during special occasions. The balcony columns on the front is a unique work of sculpture fixed into it. It is a monolith sculpture; a 5" diameter cylindrical shaft about 3' in length with 3 grilled cages; each of the grilled cages holds a stone ball. However, only one of the shafts survives today.

Check out this video to see the unique sculpture. This boy, a resident of Khasa Matha shows the ball movement in the cage.

grilled cage and enclosed ball
Moments before sunset.. shades of gold and pink light up the cloudy sky. The matha had a peaceful ambience.. a group of kids sitting on the floor in a circle reading their school books.. matha resident boys running about doing their chores, preparing for evening pooja. Oh what a place!

A saffron flag flutters in the gentle breeze.  On the left is the gateway passage and on the right is shrine.. tomb of the founder Swamiji.

There's another courtyard which is much smaller. In the center is a stone cauldron, about 3' diameter and 2' high. Its hollow inside. The dent on outer surface gives it a special touch.. as though it fell down and got deformed. Probably thi cauldron was used to store water or oil originally, now its just a show-piece gracing the smaller courtyard.

Swamiji was yet to come out to for the evening. In the mean time I freshened up at the bathroom.. the cool water was refreshing. We waited few minutes in the open hall next adjoining the smaller courtyard before Swamiji showed up. This is Poojya Shri. Shantaveera Swamiji the present head of Khasa Matha of Gurmitkal.

Papanna being a regular visitor to this Matha introduced me to Swamiji and then I told about myself and how I happened to be sitting here.. thanks to Papanna. We spoke about the forts and weather among other things. One of the topics discussed was Kakalwar Samsthana. At the end of the discussion Swamiji presents Papanna a picture of Raja Lakshmanappa.

I told Swamiji about my plan to reach Shahabad tonight and requested to grant us leave. Swamiji and Papanna asked me to stay back for the night however since my plan was set and so was my cab's return to Dharwad, I had to leave.

The audience has grown with three other visitors, they were here to seek Swamiji's advice on something important. During this visit I did not get an opportunity to ask about Matha's history. Anyway, the moment I stepped in, I had a strong feeling my relationship with this Matha is going to be long one.. there will be more visits.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chandriki fort

Gurmitkal and Chandriki forts were discovered while exploring Yadgir district on Wikimpia. Both names are unique, very different from all known place names.

November 28, 2013
About couple of hours ago at Gurmitkal fort I met two locals- Harish and his uncle. They were friendly and knew some history of their place. Its because of them I got to see few spots in Gurmitkal which would have been missed otherwise. They along with another friend, Papanna Alegar agreed to accompany me to Chandriki. Just outside Gurmitkal is a Lingayath monastery called Khasa Matha. Papanna Alegar said we'll stop there but I insisted we see the fort first.

Between Gurmitkal and Chandriki there was a light shower, it ended as abruptly as it started. The road went up and down graceful slopes and soon we entered Chandriki village. The lanes were really tight, we could drive till a school. The fort was a short walk from there. Again we were walking through paddy fields, harvesting was over few weeks back. As the fort came into view, it was another surprise - another mud wall fort. Looks like forts in this region are of this design.

Chandriki fort covers a larger area than Gurmitkal fort, probably double the size. This fort might have a dozen bastions. Very close to the fort is a small lake.

A small gateway in the southern wall. We could enter from here because of thorny bushes.

According to Papanna, Chandriki belonged to Raja Lakshmanappa's kingdom which comprised of 184 villages. The Raja ruled from Kakalwar, about 6 kms northwest of Gurmitkal. It is said that Raja Lakshmanappa ruled independently, he did not pay taxes to Nizam.

That's our gang- a local boy, Mama, Papanna Alegar and Harish. In the background is the fort entrance. To enter the fort one has to take a curved path, a security measure to slow down enemies in case of a frontal attack.

This isn't the actual entrance. The wall on our right (a semi-circle in plan)is the there to conceal the fort's main entrance - perhaps, its ok to call it a curtain wall or a shield. The space enclosed between the fort and the shield is a place to trap enemy forces.

Different levels of the wall can be identified here- 6 levels are seen here. Builders have even made gun holes (see inset).

Close to the entrance is a small temple built into the rampart wall. I dont remember seeing any deity inside however close by was a little sculpture..

..of Lord Hanuman. Looks more like a running baby Hanuman.

That's the main gate of Chandriki fort. Looks like even this fort was taken over by Nizam's forces.

Within the fort is a stepped well, grand like other wells we saw in Gurmitkal. In fact we saw another well on the outskirts of Chandriki village. This particular well could be 400 years old. May God protect this region, may the water level remain this way always.

So much of planning and work have been done for water - and they have survived until now.

A mantap or a royal shelter. Over the well's water was a weaver bird nest (see inset).

We make our way to the fort's temple, its a big temple. The temples are high and have a fort like quality. This was no ordinary temple, looks like treasure was stored here for safe-keeping. This is the main entrance with a big arch.

The second gateway with a smaller arch.

The temple's mukhamantapa ~ verandah. Notice the detailed panel above the lintel.

In the Garbhagudi was this simple looking Shivalinga, lit by setting sunlight. Normally you see east facing temples but here at Chandriki we have a west facing temple. One other such temple is at Siddanakolla near Badami.

A large Basavanna in the Mukhamantapa. Within the temple walls was a pair of oxen taking a break after a day's work, they were feeding on hay. Those ox were just like the Basavanna here.

Isn't the stone ox similar to the flesh and blood ox, especially the head?

Again nothing much remains within the fort. With light fading we decided to leave. Back at the fort's entrance.I wonder if earth for constructing these walls was sourced locally.

Nearby in the field was a half buried ancient sculpture.

Back to the cab, we drove towards Gurmitkal. Papanna Alegar insusted we stop at Khasa Matha and meet Swamiji. Yes, Sir.

A week later when I was back home Papanna Alegar had called me to tell about the desecration of Shiva Linga at Chandriki fort. They said the miscreants had dug up the Garbhagudi floor in search of buried treasure and in the process Shiva Linga and its pedestal was disturbed and damaged. They said the news was reported in media and people were on looking out for those miscreants. This had to happen just after my visit! In their point of view- a stranger visited our temple and this happened. Is that stranger involved? Anyway, I'm in touch with my friends on phone and sent them pictures. I believe that incident has not colored my friends' minds.

Chandriki fort coordinates:  16°51'51"N   77°26'45"E