Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Venkatappa Baavi, Kanakagiri

July 27, 2012

This beautiful monument of Kanakagiri reminds me of Musukina Baavi of Lakkundi. Kanakagiri formerly known as Suvarnagiri or Swarnagiri was the capital for the southern part of Mauryan empire and an important place during Vijayanagara rule.

The well-temple complex is situated within APMC premises on the outskirts of Kanakagiri, about 30m air distance from . To reach the monument we had to drive through KSRTC bus-stand to enter APMC. On seeing cattle we were wondering since when APMC started dealing with cattle. It was my uncle Mohan who told that this was a makeshift Goshaala; farmers had sent their cattle here because they had no fodder. Thanks to the prevailing drought conditions.

Venkatappa Bavi is a royal bath constructed by Venkatappa Naik during Vijayanagara rule. This stepped well is surrounded by an aisle on three sides. It also has a temple and shelter for pilgrims.

This  place is also called Queen's bath. There are four entrances to enter the well; three are stairways through narrow passages, almost like secret entrances. The fourth one is a regular wide and open stairway. Mohan mama is descending through one of the entrances.

There he is inspecting the pillars.
I take the regular entrance. The monument is preserved well expect for some damages. On my left is evidence of vandalism by treasure hunters.
I guess that is Nataraja. A three-headed serpent. I hope the looters went away empty handed.
Damages to the face and an arm can be seen. This sculpture looks as though it's been made by an apprentice.
As I reached the end of the stairway my nose sensed the odor of bat droppings, a sure indication that people rarely come here. On the left, behind the row of pillars is a open hall and an entrance of a temple. The hall was littered with used plastic tumblers, plates, carry bags with food and even liquor bottles. Some miscreants had had a booze and dinner party, probably the looters who had opened the wall next to the Nataraja.
I can see faint marks of water on the walls beyond the arch. Flanking this open space are pillared halls for pilgrims to camp.

Prancing horse theme pillars.

The pillars are simple yet beautiful, featuring geometric, floral and animal motifs. This pillar has a lotus on one face and on the other face is a seven-petaled flower enclosed in a hexagram. Pillar opposite the hexagram had a Swastika.

The Swastika.
The entire length of the complex, one long aisle.

Quite a complex design.
The royal balcony, its quite spacious in there.
The top-most part of the structure is designed for drawing water from the well.
The inside of the balcony. Walls are decorated in simple floral designs and birds like parrots. Queens like parrots. So this is surely a queens bath.
The ceiling.
Parrots and flowers.
A lotus?
I went up to check out the top-most part from where water could be drawn. the two projecting beams have circular holes, probably to fix the wooden frame with a pulley. A rope through the pulley would help draw water easily. What happens to the drawn water?
A canal linking to a small tank ...that's where the trial ends.
I do not remember seeing any board declaring this as a protected monument. I could be missing something. Wish ASI protects this Vijayanagara era monument.

We were all hungry. Neelappa and Malatesh fetched our lunch bag from the car. We settled down one the steps for home made lunch; jolada rotti, palya, palav, curds, pickle, and more. Thanks to Malatesh for another wonderful lunch :) Chewing Yeli-Adaki we headed towards Gangawati.

Venkatappa Bavi Coordinates: 15°34'30"N   76°25'15"E
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Memories from Mekedatu

I received an email from an youngster early in the evening asking options for one day trip place around Bengaluru, preferably a place with a waterfall. Bengaluru has a handful waterfalls around it, most are crowded. I suggested Mekedatu, Thattekere near Nelamangala and Thenginkalbetta near Ramnagar. Though Thenginkalbetta isn't a water spot, it's a wonderful hill with twin peaks, caves and fresh water ponds. While I thought over the places, my mind raced through the memories of my student years.

I guess its an universal phenomena of water relaxing humans. Most people planning a picnic or a holiday would pick a hilly place or a watery spot or a combination of both. From what I've seen watery spots are fixed in most minds, be it a stream, river, waterfall, lakes, reservoirs or sea. Quoting Tao "Water is the most plaint of things..." Water simply captivates our senses, rejuvenates our bodies and minds with new energy. Makes you come alive and gives an awesome feeling ..alive and awesome. Well, the magic of water captures us and we surrender totally :) As a teenager, we had our share of adventures with rivers and waterfalls. Few of my visits to Mekedatu we wild trips, of course we were careful having known the perils of river Cauvery.

My first two trips to Mekedatu, I traveled in a truck- Allwyn Nissan Cabstar. During the second trip, I had driven the six-wheeled diesel engine truck all the way from Bengaluru to Sangama and back, with friends and a BMX in the cargo space. Sangama-Mekadatu was a 3.5 km trek on rough terrain.


I remember it was a warm day; during the return trek, plight of some friends who chose to come barefoot was pitiable ..the heated rocks literally roasted their feet :( It was a relief  when we neared the last bent near the Sangama; the sight of water gave them a burst of energy; dashed into water; pain and agony vanished :) Actually the ones with footwear weren't much better, the heat had sapped all; the entire gang got into cool waters of Cauvery. We had found a safe spot next to a patch of grass-covered river bank sloping down into the river. I got an idea! I pedaled as fast as the stretch allowed, came down the slope and dove into the water with a great splash. Yeah! that was fun!! I repeated the stunt several times and the pedal hit my shins few times. few others too dove in with the BMX. Not all had change of clothes but that wasn't a problem ...clothes would dry quickly during the windy ride.

These pictures were shot by dad during the first visit.

Cauvery flowing through a 70' wide ravine

The 70' ravine narrows down to 40'

Water squeezing through 25' S-bend

Water carved rocks

Quoting Tao again "Water is the most plaint of things and, yet it can erode away mountains and carve out canyons."

The next trip to Mekedatu was with my engineering friends, we were some 15 guys & several dozen beer bottles on four bikes, one Bajaj Super and one Padmini Premier. We had left our vehicles at the Sangama and trekked to Mekedatu. The sight of the water-polished smooth-curved rocks amaze us time and again. For many, it was the first visit here. On the way back, much before Sangama we spotted a stretch where water was shallow and it was safe to play around. We picked our way on pond littered sandy river bed and made it to the water. Good for us, the spot had a rock bed, no worry on picking up sand. We played in water fully bathed, beer bottles in water. Warm beer makes an waful drink. We dipped few into the water, hoping they would cool a bit. Water felt refreshing. If we had known the Cinthol expression, we would have screamed Alive is Awesome. I was lying down with a half empty bottle in  my hand. For a moment the bottle slipped and dipped, when I pulled it out it was more than half ...aaagh! Diluted beer tasted terrible, emptied the liquid into the river. Cauvery- hope you have forgiven that act of mine. The water party went on for a some time, until a responsible friend reminded us "get moving, we still have to ride 100km back home."

Those unforgettable days, memorable moments of my students days. Perhaps, we should gang up and enact those trips ...Sigh!

PS: Be a responsible tourist; know the limits, be safe, do not litter.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shri Kanakachala Lakshminarasimha Devastana, Kanakagiri

July 27, 2012

Kanakagiri is about 36km from Koppal. According to Koppal district website: Swarnagiri is the former name of Kanakagiri. Kanaka Muni performed penance here. The word Kanakagiri means "Hill of God". (However, I remember the place and its surroundings are quite flat, no hills in immediate vicinity.) Swarnagiri is believed to be headquarters of southern viceroyalty of Mauryas. This town has several ancient temples built by the Naiks of Kanakgiri. Of all the temples, Kanakachalapathi Gidu is the largest and known for its architectural beauty of Vijayanagara era.

There's the temple and two of three yellow colored Gopuras. This picture is shot standing under the main Gopura.
The temple complex is quite spacious.

There's shelter for pilgrims.

This is the temple's sabha-mantapa. A ceremony was in progress.

I found the pillars extra white ...made me wonder if they are ancient or replaced with new ones. However, at the same time I was skeptical if such sculpturing could be in the present age. These pillars have received some kind of treatment.

We checked with one of the temple in-charges; these pillars had been sand-blasted. There you go! A layer has been removed thereby erasing some fine features in these sculptures.

The hall's top level has a series of plaster models of various gods, goddesses, saints and other heavenly characters.

Hanuman, Laxmana, Rama and Sita.

Ananthapadmanabha being served by Laxmi.

That must be the young Krishna and Gopikas.

A group of heavenly beings performing a ritual.

No idea what these scenes depict.


Lakshminarasimha Stotra.

I had read that one of Ashoka's edicts was at Swarnagiri. On inquiring a person pointed me to these three tablets besides the main Gopura. These inscriptions are Kannada not Brahmi or Prakit. I asked if there are any other inscriptions. Answer was no. Sigh!

Chakra and Shankha on one of the tablets.

Garbhagriha Shikharas.

That's the main Gopura...

...and the view as seen from the temple entrance. Ruins of fort walls can be seen here.

Just outside the walls is a stream-bed. We are on the bridge across the stream, not quite a stream even for the rainy season. About 300 meters to my right is a Triveni Sangama- confluence of three streams.

This once glorious place is in shambles today. This is the ruins of a Pushkarni, now it looks more like a trash pit.
In one corner of the Pushkarni evidence of quarrying can be seen.

Close to the Pushkarni are runs of two incomplete structures.

A five-minute walk from here is well designed royal bath constructed by Venkatappa Naik.

Kanakagiri Coordinates: 15°34'30"N   76°25'15"E
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Exploring Navil Theerth Gorge

While researching prehistoric sites and megalithic tombs in Karnataka I stumbled upon an article on Navil Theerth, near Saundatti. The article was about a meter high stone slab with etchings on it which was believed to be prehistoric art; the stone slab was discovered in 1978 by a well known archaeologist of Karnataka; the drawings on that stone slab were similar to drawings on tablets from Indus Valley. Impressive! The article gave out an approximate location of the stone. I guessed with that much info I should be able to locate it provided it's still intact and unmoved.
October 20, 2012. I left home by 6-30, a brief stop at Marewaad to pick up Malatesh and off we went. Unfortunately Dharwad-Saundatti road had not seen much progress in 7 months, with the tarmac stripped off, the road was in terrible condition till Inamhongal. Pointed stones with sharp edges lay scattered all over.. sharp enough to pierce car tyres. Inamhongal-Saundatti stretch was untouched the ride felt heavenly. Renuka Sagar was in view, we drove around it and climbed the ghat section towards Munvalli. At the summit of the hill is Navil Theerth Dam complex. We turned left into the road leading to the dam and started looking for a the stone slab.. nothing. We were about to park the car under a Neem tree at the transport office, we saw a person walking.. surely he must be living here. Perhaps he could help us.
I showed Mr.Shilledhar the sketch of the stone in my notebook and asked if he had seen this stone. He was suddenly alert- "what will you do to it if I tell you where it is?" I assured him the stone will not come to any harm, we just want to see it and take few pictures. He said it's in a tomb near the the reservoir bank and volunteered to take us there. We drove down hill, parked the car the locked gate across the road leading to the dam. After a short walk we could  see the tomb with a foot high black slab with Persian or Urdu letters engraved on it. No, this is not what we are looking for. Back the gate Shilledhar happened to meet his uncle Imamsaheb and cousin Hassansaheb. Imamsaheb, a cattle herd most of his life, claimed to have seen the stone atop the hill but he wasn't sure of the stone would still be there. On these hills are several dozen windmills. Construction activity might have moved stones. Even though this location did not match what was given in the article I wanted to check.
We were five of now, we scanned almost half a kilometer of the plateau's edge, no meter high stone slab with a round top. Imamsaheb said it might have got picked up by stone sellers who come here with tractor-trailers. Oh no! I wish we have missed locating the prehistoric monument... hope its standing some where and we rediscover it.
Thanks to the rain in Western ghats, Renuka Sagar is almost full. The day was cloudy but warm. up here with the wind blowing heat can't felt.

At one point we saw a spot that showed signs of a burial site.. the area would be slightly raised and the stones partially buried.

 Left to right- Imamsaheb, Shilledhar, Hassansaheb and Malatesh. We discussed other possible locations. Imamsaheb suggested us to check out Ramlingesvara temple. We thanked the trio and said bye. We drove down to Navil Theerth dam parked the car close to the gate. For this early in the morning the visitors traffic was quite high.. ah, these are the people who are returning home after a visit to Yellamma temple. We had home-made upit for breakfast and climbed to the temple in the side of the valley close to the dam.

The temple is well kept. The temple is definitely ancient, perhaps Chalukyan. We explored the temple surroundings, Malatesh went inside too bit no sign of the prehistoric stone. I lost hopes of locating it.

We could see a group monkeys playing on the trees. Sandstone rock wall next to the temple.

Within the temple complex are 3 caves, one big and two small. Malatesh at the entrance of the main cave - Kalidevi cave. It's about 25 feet deep and 8 feet high. Obviously this cave is much older than the temple here. Archaeologists say that this is a early paleolithic site.. these caves might have been inhabited by humans long time back.

Also, much recently, Sri Kumaraswamiji meditated here many years and attained enlightenment. After which he moved to Dharwad and established Tapovan. Perhaps Swamiji had spent many of his days in this cave.

This the smallest cave. Though small it was spacious enough for 4 or 5 adults.

 We climb down into the valley.. its a scary feeling with the reservoir almost full behind that short span of concrete wall.

I told Malatesh "look we are going to walk across Malaprabha river now :) All gates of the dam closed tightly there was just a trickle of water flowing out. Water flowing between rocks creating gentle falls made soft gurgling sounds. In the distance I could hear a group of youngsters near the temple.

Having known this to be a prehistoric site I got busy looking for stone implements. Most pebbles were well rounded but to my surprise I got a chocolate colored cuboid shaped stone! That's something rare. The gorge is a straight kilometer before it turns left and then curves to the right towards Sindhogi-Munvalli.

 That's the group of ITI students from a village close to Murgod town.

 The flat stone next to the pool caught my imagination; that's a nice spot for a bath or relax there with feet in cooling off in water. Was that a prehistoric bathing spot? Quite possible.

Deep int this valley it was sultry, we could feel the humid weather. Hot weather affects Malatesh pretty quickly. There he is cooling off in fresh flowing water. It's my experience too; after a long trek in hot weather, dipping feet and hands in flowing water really takes away tiredness. The refreshing feeling  makes you feel alive.. something like the punch line- alive is awesome. I was trying to imagine a prehistoric ancestor in Malatesh's place bathing after a tiring hunting session.. couple of his tribesmen also bathing close by.

With a foot of water flowing here, it's a great place for kids to play.

I think the short break energized Malatesh. I asked if he was ready for a 4 km trek in hills to locate a fort. Yes came the reply. Back at the temple, as we came out we found two men, very much dam employees. We showed them the sketch in the notebook. One of the men said that one of the stones inside the temple could be it. Thank you so much. We scrambled back to the temple with the five ITI boys in tow and searched every corner of the temple with LED lamps. No, they were inscriptions. Disappointed, we decided to leave.

On the way out, we stopped by another possible burial site.

We must have asked some 10 people if they had seen a stone slab with etchings on them. I wonder how many thought we are nuts searching for some stone. I pray for the prehistoric monument; hope its protected and preserved, where ever it is.

We drove down the ghat section towards Munvalli, Tallur was our destination.

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