Posted by Admin on May 24, 2012
Magical Hampi – Blissfully lost in a time-warp
Hampi, the medieval capital of the Vijayanagara Empire (14th to 16th century AD), is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its boulder-strewn hills, stunning jewel-box temples and the Tungabhadra River that runs among them make Hampi spectacular. Stories abound in every nook and corner, making this land of ancient legends a photographer’s playbook. The little town attracts tourists in droves, and the fact that almost everything is in ruins doesn’t seem to matter at all; in fact, it only adds to Hampi’s charisma. Strolling through the ancient markets and temples can throw you in a time-warp, says photographer, traveler and wildlife enthusiast RADHA RANGARAJAN as she shares these telling images that tempt you to clamber onto the roof of a bus and head to Hampi.
Photographer, traveler and wildlife enthusiast RADHA RANGARAJAN loves to wander, camera in tow. An aesthete, her forte is creative and offbeat compositions. Radha has presented her images in many forums and publications. Faces intrigue her and she loves to tell stories through her photographs. Birds, butterflies, leaves and shafts of light fuel her imagination. Besides nature and wildlife photography, she enjoys traveling and making images of people and places. Enjoy more of her work at her blog.
The Virupaksha temple is one of the most recognized structures in Hampi. Located at the Hampi Bazaar, it has an iconic 160-foot tall ‘gopuram’ or tower at its entrance. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Though the city was destroyed in 1565, worship in the temple has persisted over the centuries.
Hampi attracts a wide variety of people – backpackers, pilgrims, tourists, history enthusiasts, photographers… The locals add to this wonderful mix and what you get is a very intriguing array of faces. Sit on a step by the Hampi Bazaar or walk around the temples for some absorbing people-watching.
An Indian Nightjar sits pretty by the side of the road. Hampi’s birdlife is very rich. Hoopoes, Sirkeer Malkohas, Indian Eagle Owls, Yellow Wattled Lapwings and Painted Spurfowls are some of the species one can sight in and around the town.
A threatened species like the Yellow Throated Bulbul or our friendly neighborhood Green Bee Eater, they are all around. Matanga Hill is probably the best place to sight the very shy Yellow Throated Bulbuls. Watch out for groups of them flying from tree to tree, twittering all along.
On an evening at Hampi, turn left into the narrow lane at the entrance of the Virupaksha temple. A short walk up Hemakuta hill sets you up to witness a memorable sunset.
One of the best sunset spots in Hampi, Hemakuta Hill attracts a lot of people in the evening. Get there early, choose a good vantage point and settle down for an evening you won’t forget for a long time.
The early bird gets the best sunrise! A steep climb up the Matanga Hill before the break of dawn can give you one of the best sunrise experiences of your life. With a rocky landscape on one side with a view of the Achyuta Raya temple and the river on the other side, the rising sun has a beautiful canvas to paint. It is advisable to take an experienced guide along if you want to walk up the hill before dawn.
While the sun rises, the early morning mist fights a losing battle and eases away, revealing a breathtaking view of the hills on the far right of the Matanga hill. Green fields at the banks of the Tungabhadra River and a lone ‘mantapa’ on a rock complete this view.
The ruins of the Achyuta Raya temple look so serene and beautiful that one can only wonder how grand the temple must have looked 500 years ago. It rests at the foot of the Matanga hill. This is the pillared ‘Mahamantapa’ and two of the three ‘Mahadwaras’ in the temple complex.
A ‘Kalyana Mantapa’ – a marriage hall for the annual wedding ceremony of God and Goddess – is at the northwest corner of the Achyuta Raya temple. Beautiful stone carvings adorn stunning, tall pillars in the Mantapa. When light seeps through the hall, it is a sight to behold.
A market street, or what is also known as the courtesan’s street, leads to the Achyuta Raya temple. The ruins add to the serenity of the place. Also, the street and the temple are hidden snug behind Matanga hill and attract fewer tourists than the rest of the temples.
Intricate stone carvings of mythical wars, pillars that create music when tapped, massive monolithic pillars and a huge temple yard – the Vijaya Vittala temple is an architectural extravaganza.
Need souvenirs and gifts to remember Hampi? Wander around Hampi Bazaar and you are sure to find trinkets like these, mostly made by local artisans.
Thanks to the iconic stone chariot the Vijaya Vittala temple is the most popular spot in Hampi. This chariot is the emblem of Karnataka Tourism. From the marks on the platform, where the wheels rest, it appears that the wheels were once free to move around the axis. It has and probably will always be the flag-bearer of Hampi’s relics.
Posted in Ancient Architecture, Hindu Empire, India Forgotten, Picturesque | Tagged: deccan plateau, Green Bee Eater, Hampi, Hampi Bazaar, India, Karnataka, Shiva, south india, Tungabhadra River, Vijayanagara Empire, Virupaksha Temple, World Heritage Site | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on May 24, 2012
From Tunganath, the highest Shiva temple in India, a trail leads up the hill towards the peak of Chandrashila. On a clear day, this unique vantage point offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. This, truly, is Lord Shiva‘s kingdom. This is the second part of the slideshow about Tunganath by Travel Editor BIJOY VENUGOPAL
The peak of Chandrashila, cloaked in fog on this autumn morning, looks out at a panorama of mountains. Chandrashila is 13,000 feet above sea level.
The Tungnath temple has withstood the continuous assault of the elements.
A bell rests against the stone wall of the temple.
A relief of Ganesha carved on the temple wall.
Continuous exposure to wind, rain and snow has left scars.
Shopkeepers and mule drivers make conversation outside the small snack shops, which double as lodges. Most have one or two tiny spare rooms, rented out for the night. Common toilets are available but they are terrifying.
Our room at Devloke Hotel, with a view of the mighty mountains, was not uncomfortable. For safety and warmth, we tucked into our sleeping bags. At night, we heard rats on the roof. Our host Naveen assured us that they were harmless.
Two sadhus joined us at breakfast and began to smoke a chillum, after which the younger of them began to stare at the mist in silence. The elder sadhu proceeded to sew a tunic from a length of sack. They told us that they were on their way to Badrinath, 140 km away by road, on foot. When we expressed our surprise they told us about an old path through the forest that a few sadhus still frequent. We saw them seven days later on the road to Badrinath.
Inspired by the story, we decided to go looking for the trail. From Akashkund, believed to be a source of rivers, a stream meanders downhill towards Chopta.
Along the trail we came across a simple farmer’s hut set in a forest glade beside a brook and with a cucumber vine bursting with bright yellow blossoms.
There were no dangers along the way. We were told to watch out for Himalayan Black Bears but none came to meet us. However, a herd of grazing cows and buffaloes showed interest and we had to hurry on quickly.
We scouted the foothills of Chopta for the ancient pilgrim route. It was a footpath, and most of it was overgrown with vegetation. Yet, remnants of it were still to be seen at this meadow in Dugalbitta.
The pilgrim trail intersects the road at various points and through a lot of hard climbing we were able to return to Chopta to spend the night. From the trail we saw these cattle return home for night.
We made haste and arrived at Tungnath to watch the sunset. The next day, we planned to explore the peak of Chandrashila.
Above Tungnath is a small rocky path leading to a peak called Chandrashila, about 13,000 feet above mean sea level. There are no trees here, only rocks and grassy meadows called bugyals.
The trail offered us fleeting glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of Kedarnath and Chaukhamba but the mist quickly veiled them.
We saw a shape move in the dim light of early dawn. It’s a Monal pheasant, the state bird of Uttarakhand. When it steps into the sun we see its colors — dazzling violet-blue, green and orange. It surely stole the peacock’s thunder.
We climbed for nearly 40 minutes, catching our breath every now and then. Finally, a rusted, wind-battered signboard announced our destination.
For an instant, the mist cleared and we were offered the breathtaking view of Chaukhamba, its four snow-capped crowns gleaming in the morning sun.
Exploring the peak, we came upon stacks of stones arranged in cairns. Someone was already here, and praying hard.
Ahead of us, on the edge of a cliff, a South Korean gentleman aged about 50 meditated on the morning sun. He was shirtless in temperatures that hovered around zero degrees Celsius. Small huddles of chrysanthemum flowers adorned the cairns.
Nearby, his companion collected plastic bags and trash left behind by other tourists. The men said they were here to practice mind control. Every morning, they would climb up to Chandrashila before dawn and wait for sunrise. We were moved beyond words. As we watched, more tourists came by, chatting loudly. One of them was eating a bar of chocolate. He suddenly discovered that his cell phone had received a signal and jubilantly announced it to his two friends. They shouted and laughed for a few moments and then the first chap crushed his chocolate wrapper and dropped it on the ground. As we watched them with embarrassment, the Koreans smiled at us and continued cleaning up the peak.
Posted in Ancient Architecture, Hindu Empire, India Forgotten, Picturesque | Tagged: Badrinath, Chandrashila, Chopta, Ganesha, hinduism, India, Lord Shiva, Religion and Spirituality, Shiva, Tungnath | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on May 24, 2012
Tungnath, at 12,073 above mean sea level, is the highest Shiva temple in the world, discounting perhaps the Amarnath Cave shrine near Srinagar, Kashmir, which is situated at an altitude of 12,756 feet. Tungnath is second in importance among the five mountain shrines collectively known as the Panch Kedar. The temple opens for worship after winter snows melt in June and remains open until late October when snowfall cuts off access to the temple. At this time the deity is moved ceremoniously to the Ukhimath, thousands of feet below. Besides its majestic location against a backdrop of cliffs, peaks and snow-clad mountains, Tungnath is also popular with trekkers, who make it a point to witness the sunrise from Chandrashila, a nearby peak at 13,123 feet. To reach Tungnath from Delhi, drive or take an overnight train/ bus to Rishikesh (236 km) and drive/ take a bus to Ukhimath (170 km/ 6 hours). Halt overnight and catch the morning bus for Chopta (17 km/ 1 hour), a roadhead at 9,500 feet. Tungnath is a 4-km trek from here. The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun (258 km). This is the first of a two-part series on Tungnath by Travel Editor BIJOY VENUGOPAL
Note from the Admin : – To The Great Lord of all The Lords.
Tungnath, a stately and serene temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the second of the five Kedars, the others being Kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Kalpeshwar and Rudranath. The legend behind the temples is rooted in the Mahabharata. It is said that the Pandavas, after the Great War at Kurukshetra, wished to atone for the sins of fratricide and the killing of Brahmins. They were directed to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. The Lord, however, was in no mood to pardon them as he was angry at the magnitude of their sins. Taking the form of a bull, the Lord hid from the Pandavas at Guptkashi in the Garhwal Himalaya.
The Pandavas caught up with Shiva. Bhima, the second of the brothers, spied a large bull grazing and recognized it as Shiva. He grabbed the bull by its tail and hind legs, but it disappeared into the ground. Later, various parts of the bull reappeared at different locations in the Himalaya.
The sacred bull’s hump appeared in Kedarnath, the arms at Tungnath, the navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar, the face at Rudranath and the hair and head at Kalpeshwar. In gratitude, the Pandavas, who were then in the Himalayas en route to their passage to heaven, built temples at each of these locations. It is also believed that some of the bull’s fore portions materialized at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Terraced fields overlook the valley at Ukhimath. The seat of the Omkareshwara Temple, this town is where the idol of Tungnath is worshipped after winter snowfall renders the mountains inaccessible. On clear days the town offers a breathtaking view of the snowcapped Kedarnath peak. The Mandakini River, a tributary of the Ganga, roars in the valley below. Eventually, it joins the Alakananda at Rudraprayag.
A short drive from Ukhimath is Deoriya Tal, a picturesque mountain lake surrounded by forests of oak and chir pine. A heart-stopping view of the four-pronged peak, Chaukhamba, is reflected in the placid waters of the lake. To get to the lake, which occupies a small plateau at about 8,000 feet, trekkers must walk a 2-km uphill trail from Sari.
A picturesque waterfall by the roadside near Ukhimath. Some parts of the road to Sari, a village from where the trek to Deoriya Tal begins, have been taken over by streams and waterfalls. In the monsoon, parts of the road may be washed off completely. Landslides and mudslides also block traffic.
Before motorable roads made these hill shrines accessible within a day from Haridwar, pilgrims traveled on foot from the roadhead at Rudraprayag. Tired of many years of the government turning a deaf ear to their demands for a motorable road, the people of the region went on a hunger strike. The move paid off. Buses were introduced to connect Rudraprayag with the district headquarters at Gopeshwar through Chopta, a picturesque route that skirts the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary where the five temples are located. As a reminder of the protest, these buses are inscribed with the legend “Bhookh Hartal”, Hindi for Hunger Strike.
After visiting Deoriya Tal the previous day, we reached Chopta by the “Bhook Hartal” bus from Ukhimath. The tiny hillside village was cloaked in mist and we were hungry. Unable to see much further we followed our noses to a shack where parathas and instant noodles were cooking. The sign on the modest little eatery promised lots more, but we made do with warmth and passable food.
It looks quiet and peaceful in Chopta but one look at this sleeping Bhotia dog told us another story. Notice the spiked metal collar around its neck – this is intended to prevent leopards from killing it. Leopards are opportunistic hunters and frequently prey on dogs with a bite to the throat. The tough metal collars may be uncomfortable for the dogs but its spiky edges have protected them from many a marauding leopard.
Misty mountains tower over Chopta. After breakfast, we begin the 4 km-climb to Tungnath. The paved trail winds through a tract of dense forest interspersed with alpine meadows, known as bugyals in the Garhwali dialect. Ahead of us, walking in leather slippers and a thin saffron robe was a sadhu. How he defended himself against the punishing elements we do not know. But then again, centuries ago a young saint from Kerala, Adi Sankara, walked these very paths.
Through veils of mist we looked back at the road we had travelled. The oak trees wore shaggy coats of moss and fern. In the peak of winter, the trees will be bare.
Only the hardy, fragrant deodar trees will resist the snow. Their leaves are modified into hard, tough needles and their barks secrete resin that prevents the snow from freezing the sap.
It is the end of the season and most of the shops are deserted, but one teashop offers piping hot ginger chai. It is still early in the morning. As we stood there catching our breath and sipping tea, a red fox appeared out of the hillside and slunk away into the forest before we could bring out our cameras.
Most tourists choose to ride mules to the top but a few nature buffs, like us, prefer to walk the entire distance. However, people like this porter transporting a gas cylinder on his back have no choice.
Finally, we hear bells peal in the distance. And we see the spire of the temple poke out over a sea of mist.
A milestone informs us that we have reached our destination.
Here in the main street leading up to the temple, time takes a backseat. It’s like being back in the Stone Age. The huts have roofs of solid slate, weighed down with rocks. Only the waterproof plastic sheets are a reminder of modern times.
The ruins of shepherds’ huts and old lodges line the main street. Most are uninhabited.
Shops selling materials for puja do brisk business. The flowers, coconuts and incense are brought on muleback from Chopta, where they have arrived after a long journey from the plains.
The priest’s chair is placed invitingly outside the temple but we choose to sit on the cool stones in the small courtyard. The priests of the Tungnath temple are local Brahmins from the village of Maku, a few thousand feet below. In all the other Kedar temples, including Kedarnath, the priests are from Udupi or Kerala, a tradition dating back to Adi Sankara’s reforms.
Posted in Ancient Architecture, Hindu Empire, India Forgotten, Picturesque | Tagged: ancient temples, Himalaya, Kalpeshwar, Kedarnath, Lord Shiva, Mandakini River, Panch Kedar, Pandava, Pashupatinath Temple, Shiva, Tungnath, Ukhimath | Comments Off
Posted by Admin on May 24, 2012
The Timeless Temples of Thanjavur
Thanjavur, 342 km from Chennai and 56 km from Tiruchirapalli, is very much where Tamil Nadu‘s cultural heart beats. And not for nothing is its monumental shrine to Brihadishwara called a Great Living Chola Temple. Built by Raja Raja Chola I in 1011 to commemorate the victory of the Chola dynasty, this magnificent architectural gem has not fallen into ruins like other temples but remains a centre of worship where religious fervor and architectural grandeur coexist as they did centuries ago. Photo-editor AZHAR MOHAMED ALI returns enchanted from Thanjavur to share these captivating images.
Note from the Admin : – You will not find architectural marvels like these in any other part of this world’s surface. These buildings are extremely complicated in conception, architecture and construction. The beings who helped and inspired the great builders of these timeless monuments were higher dimensional beings from far off other worldly civilizations composing of core central worlds of our Galaxy, always bathed in the Rays of the Great Central Sun of the Milky Way Galaxy and therefore not prone to lower dimensional worlds’ entropic energies of degeneration, devastation and decadence in terms of spiritual and genetic substance.
The blueprints were literally inserted as downloads during dream-state and deep sleep in the architect’s head and the construction personnel would also see vast improvements and fluidity in their skill sets as synchronicity during the building phase of such projects and endeavours thereby making the construction perfect and swift.
At an even earlier and more primal period of the Great Civilizations that dawned and flourished on this world’s surface, the projects would be supervised by beings of pure consciousness manifest in material matter substance bodies manifest temporarily and even by ETs from origins mentioned previously, from their spacecraft in the lower atmosphere at the location of these testaments to Our Divine Origins.
Each of these physical buildings are far from just buildings since they are conceived first at the Astral Level and then drawn down to their physical copies by slowing down matter and changing the type of energy inherent in them. Each has multidimensional and multifaceted purposes, connected not only in exact and unnerving accuracy with constellations and the trajectories from which the Divine Rays of the Great Central Sun coincide with the planet’s surface as per the Grand Cycles of Planetary bodies but also match geographically and energetically key energetic nodals and ley line conjunctions of this Planet’s Grid Framework pattern of Sacred Geometry. They were also used to stabilise the rotation of the planet on its axis and its revolution around the Sun itself.
Holographically since Sacred Geometry is constant and recurring in all beings and bodies the Temples were not just places of worship of Higher Celestial beings but helped draw, funnel, refine and stabilize the Cosmic energies bombarding our world constantly and thereby alleviating the Consciousness quotient of the beings who partook in ceremonial, cultural, traditional, spiritual and at a later era of our evolution on this world, religious activities in such places at auspicious times as per planetary alignments and even altered their genetic makeup to hold and sustain more Light itself from our Sun within their bodies and suit the elevation of the Awareness of their Consciousness itself.
Each monument is unique in all factors of location, dimension, purpose and structural integrity and are vastly superior to pyramids and other plane, drab, ugly ziggurats built by more primitive, warlike and technologically oriented civilizations prompted by similar off world beings at later times of our history. These were used more to channel energies for power consumption through crystals and genetically modify a physical body in an inorganic and utmost artificial process gimmicking and mocking an organic Ascension process.
The Brihadishwara Temple, the cynosure of Thanjavur, celebrated a millennium in 2010.
Thanjavur, among India’s most ancient living cities, dates back to the Sangam period. Of the great dynasties that ruled it, the Cholas who built it outshine the rest. The Great Living Chola Temples, which include the Brihadishwara Temple, are located in the region of Thanjavur. The temple was built by Raja Raja Chola I in the first decade of the 11th century.
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Brihadishwara Temple at Thanjavur is the largest temple in India and is constructed entirely out of granite. The temple’s tower or vimana is 216 feet high. In 2010, Tamil Nadu Tourism marked the millennial celebrations of the Big Temple.
Temple priests at the Big Temple in Thanjavur. The massive Nandi bull made of smoothened granite stone is sanctified daily.
A view of the temple precincts.
Detail of stone reliefs in the temple precincts.
Sivalingams and idols of secondary deities.
The pillared hall is richly decorated with frescoes.
The Brihadishwara Temple, having stood the test of time for a thousand years, is a model for the enduring grandeur of Chola architecture.
The Tanjore Doll (left), a traditional bobblehead toy that wobbles when moved, is made of baked clay and painted in bright colors.
Handloom silks are one of the chief economic products of the district of Thanjavur. The town also lends its name to the Tanjore Painting, an artistic style unique to this region. The town is also known as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu for its significant contribution to foodgrain production.
The Big Temple by night.
Posted in Ancient Architecture, India Forgotten, Picturesque, The Esoteric Agenda of Humanity | Tagged: ancient architecture, Brihadeeswarar Temple, Chennai, Chola dynasty, designs, Great Living Chola Temple, India, intricacy, milky way, Nandi, Planet, Raja Raja Chola I, Tamil Nadu, Tanjore Doll, Thanjavur | Comments Off