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Chandrashila – In the arms of Shiva

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2012

http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/photos/chandrashila-in-the-arms-of-shiva-1329741657-slideshow/

Chandrashila – In the arms of Shiva

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

Chandrashila

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.

Tungnath temple

The Tungnath temple has withstood the continuous assault of the elements.

Bell at Tungnath temple

A bell rests against the stone wall of the temple.

Ganesha, Tungnath temple

A relief of Ganesha carved on the temple wall.

Weathered exterior of the …

Continuous exposure to wind, rain and snow has left scars.

Lodgers chat over tea

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.

Devloke Hotel

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.

Sadhus at Tungnath

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.

Akashkund at Tungnath

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.

A farmer's hut in Dug …

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.

Curious Onlookers

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.

The old pilgrim trail

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.

Cowdust hour

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.

Sunset at Tungnath

We made haste and arrived at Tungnath to watch the sunset. The next day, we planned to explore the peak of Chandrashila.

Towards 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.

View from the path to Cha …

The trail offered us fleeting glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of Kedarnath and Chaukhamba but the mist quickly veiled them.

Himalayan Monal pheasant

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.

View of mountains from the …

Chandrashila

We climbed for nearly 40 minutes, catching our breath every now and then. Finally, a rusted, wind-battered signboard announced our destination.

Chaukhamba from Chandrash …

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.

Cairns and prayer stones

Exploring the peak, we came upon stacks of stones arranged in cairns. Someone was already here, and praying hard.

Meditating for mind contr …

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.

Cleaning up the mountain

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.

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Tungnath – The Kingdom of Lord Shiva

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2012

http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/photos/tungnath-the-kingdom-of-lord-shiva-1329732700-slideshow/

Tungnath – The Kingdom of Lord Shiva

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 Temple Uttarakha …

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.

Steeped in mythology

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.

In the "arms" of …

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.

The velley of Ukhimath

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.

Chaukhamba from Ukhimath

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.

Waterfall near Ukhimath

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.

The road to Gopeshwar

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.

Shack in Chopta

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.

Bhotia dog in Chopta

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.

The trail to Tungnath

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.

Pathway on the mountain

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.

Deodar trees

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.

Tea shop on the trail

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.

Never run out of gas

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.

Temple bells, Tungnath

Finally, we hear bells peal in the distance. And we see the spire of the temple poke out over a sea of mist.

Milestone, Tungnath

A milestone informs us that we have reached our destination.

Main street, Tungnath

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.

Ruined huts, Tungnath

The ruins of shepherds’ huts and old lodges line the main street. Most are uninhabited.

Shops near Tungnath

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.

Tungnath - Priest's c …

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.

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Kailasa Temple

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2010

Kailasa Temple

Introduction

Ajanta and nearby Ellora are two of the most amazing archaeological sites in India. Although handcrafted caves are scattered throughout India’s western state of Maharashtra, the complexes at Ajanta and Ellora – roughly 300 kilometres northeast of Mumbai (Bombay) – are the most elaborate and varied examples known. The caves aren’t natural caves, but man-made temples cut into a massive granite hillside. They were built by generations of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks, who lived, worked, and worshipped in the caves, slowly carving out elaborate statues, pillars, and meditation rooms.

Temple

Although all of the caves at Ellora are stunning architectural feats, the Hindu Kailasa Temple is the jewel in the crown. Carved to represent Mt. Kailasa,
the home of the god Shiva in the Himalayas, it is the largest monolithic structure in the world, carved top-down from a single rock.  It contains the largest cantilevered rock ceiling in the world.


Mount Kailash.
Within the courtyard is the massive multi-level temple, its pyramidal form replicating the real Mount Kailasa, the Himalayan peak said to be the home of the Hindu god Siva.

The scale at which the work was undertaken is enormous. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. It is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers 150 years to complete the project.

The rear wall of its excavated courtyard 276 feet (84 m) 154 feet (47 m) is 100 ft  (33 m) high. The temple proper is 164 feet (50 m) deep, 109 feet (33 m) wide, and 98 feet (30 m) high.

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India

It consists of a gateway, antechamber, assembly hall, sanctuary and tower. Virtually every surface is lavishly embellished with symbols and figures from the puranas (sacred Sanskrit poems). The temple is connected to the gallery wall by a bridge.

Described as Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple is considered
the pinnacle of Indian rock-cut architecture

The gigantic, 8th century Kailasa Temple at Ellora, Cave 16,
was chiselled from solid stone. Click for
bigger image

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
Dramatic sculptures fill the courtyard and the main temple, which is in the center.
It must have been quite a spectacular sight when it was covered with white plaster and elaborately painted.

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
© Courtney Milne

Unlike other caves at Ajanta and Ellora, Kailasa temple has a huge courtyard that is open to the sky, surrounded by a wall of galleries several stories high.

The Kailasa temple is an illustration of one of those rare occasions when men’s minds, hearts, and hands work in unison towards the consummation of a supreme ideal.

Caves

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta (more properly Ajujnthi), a village in the erstwhile dominions of the Nizam of Hyderabad in India and now in Buldhana district in the state of Maharashtra
(N. lat. 20 deg. 32′ by E. long. 75 deg. 48′) is celebrated for its cave hermitages and halls.
Located 99-km from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Ajanta encompasses 29 rock-cut rooms created between 200 BC and AD 650 using rudimentary hand tools. Most are viharas (living quarters), while four are chaityas (temples).

The Ajanta caves were discovered in the 19th century by a group of British officers on a tiger hunt.

Ajanta began as a religious enclave for Buddhist monks and scholars more than 2,000 years ago. It is believed that, originally, itinerant monks sought shelter in natural grottos during monsoons and began decorating them with religious motifs to help pass the rainy season. They used earlier wooden structures as models for their work.  As the grottos were developed and expanded, they became permanent monasteries, housing perhaps 200 residents.

The artisans responsible for Ajanta did not just hack holes in the cliff, though. They carefully excavated, carving stairs, benches, screens, columns, sculptures, and other furnishings and decorations as they went, so that these elements remained attached to the resulting floors, ceilings and walls.

They also painted patterns and pictures, employing pigments derived from natural, water soluble substances. Their achievements would seem incredible if executed under ideal circumstances, yet they worked only by the light of oil lamps and what little sunshine penetrated cave entrances.

The seventh century abandonment of these masterpieces is a mystery. Perhaps the Buddhists suffered religious persecution. Or perhaps the isolation of the caves made it difficult for the monks to collect sufficient alms for survival.

Some sources suggest that remnants of the Ajanta colony relocated to Ellora, a site closer to an important caravan route. There, another series of handcrafted caves chronologically begins where the Ajanta caves end.

Ellora Caves

Near Ellora , village in E central Maharashtra state, India, extending more than 1.6 km on a hill, are 34 rock and cave temples (5th–13th century).

Located about 30 Kilometres from Aurangabad, Ellora caves are known for the genius of their sculptors. It is generally believed that these caves were constructed by the sculptors who moved on from Ajanta. This cave complex is multicultural, as the caves here provide a mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions. The Buddhist caves came first, about 200 BC – 600 AD followed by the Hindu 500 – 900 AD and Jain 800 – 1000 AD.

Cave 30: Chota (small) Kailasa Temple, Ellora

Of the 34 caves chiselled into the sloping side of the low hill at Ellora, 12 (dating from AD 600 to 800) are Buddhist (one chaitya, the rest viharas), 17 are Hindu (AD 600 to 900), and 5 are Jain (AD 800 to 1100).

As the dates indicate, some caves were fashioned simultaneously – maybe as a form of religious competition. At the time, Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism regaining ground, so representatives of both were eager to impress potential followers.

Although Ellora has more caves than Ajanta, the rooms generally are smaller and simpler (with exception of Kailasa Temple).

Visiting Ajanta and Ellora

One of India’s greatest architectural treasures, the Kailasa temple attracts thousands of tourists annually.
Today, both Ajanta and Ellora are maintained by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation. The sites are open daily from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., with guides available for hire. Visitors pay a small admission fee to enter the Ajanta site and extra to attendants for lighting cave details. Entry is free to all caves at Ellora except the Kailasa Temple.

A good base from which to visit Ajanta and Ellora is Aurangabad, serviced daily by Indian Airlines and East West Airlines flights from Mumbai (Bombay). The city has a variety of accommodations, ranging from a youth hostel to five-star hotels.

At least a three-night stay in Aurangabad is advised, because Ajanta
(100 kilometres northeast by road) requires a full-day excursion and Ellora
(30 kilometres northwest) a half-day.

Cover N/A Cave Temple of Ellora
by James Burgess
The book contains cave by cave discussion of cave temples at Ellora which are reowned worldwide for their architectural planning and beauty.


Cover N/A The Ellora monoliths : Rashtrakuta architecture in the Deccanby K. V. Soundara Rajan

Cover N/A Unfolding a Mandala: The Buddhist Cave Temples at Ellora (Suny Series in Buddhist Studies)
by Geri Hockfield Malandra
Describes the 12 Buddhist caves at Ellora, India, and places them in the context of Buddhist art and iconography. The cave temples, dating from the early 7th to the early 8th centuries, are interpreted as three-dimensional versions of traditional mandalas, through which the devotees walked during their worship. The chapters describe the caves in chronological order, then interpret them as a peripheral center of art and devotion. Photographs and diagrams occupy nearly 200 pages.


Cover N/A Ellora (Monumental Legacy)
by M. K. DhavalikarThis item will be published in November 2002, however you may order it now.

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0195654587; (November 2002)


Great Architecture of the World
by John Julius Norwich (Editor), Nikolaus Norwich, Nikolaus Pevsner

Cover N/A Looking at Architecture
G. E. Kidder SmithNew York: Harry N. Abrams, Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-8109-3556-2. LC 90-30728. NA200.S57 1990.
Kailasa Temple discussion, p38. photo, p38, 39.

Great Architecture of the World
John Julius Norwich, editor.London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975. photo, p26.  An accessible, inspiring and informative overview of world architecture, with lots of full-color cutaway drawings, and clear explanations.
Book Description
A unique and sumptuously produced overview of architecture through the ages, with extraordinary one-of-a-kind cutaway drawings. Here is a brilliantly accessible chronicle of the greatest monuments created by mankind, told by fourteen of the most distinguished architectural historians and beautifully illustrated with more than 800 original diagrams, annotated drawings, and photographs-both a browser’s delight and a superb reference tool.


Cover N/A The Art and Architecture of India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain
by Benjamin RowlandPhoto of interior, Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, p311.

The Sacred Earth
Courtney MilneKailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India
Page 23
These two stunning collections of photographs should carry a warning: incurable wanderlust may result from examining either one. Although different in format ( The Sacred Earth is in color, while Planet Peru is black and white) and subject matter (Milne traveled the Earth to photograph places he feels to be special, whereas Bridges concentrates solely on aerial photos of Peru), both author/photographers present a sweeping panoply of landscapes that, through the ages, have instilled wonder in the beholder. The authors have a deep sense of appreciation and responsibility for the natural splendors of the Earth; both use the word sacred in its broadest sense, meaning the feeling of transcendence experienced by those fortunate enough to have shared the same vistas. Bridges’s book is a vertical exploration of Peru, consisting of starkly dramatic black-and-white photos that capture the eerie, timeless beauty of such places as Machu Picchu and the dead city of Pacatnamu. Milne’s book is simply splendid. Glorious color, sensitive prose, and marvelous images fill every page. The reader cannot help but be moved by the simple grandeur and majesty of these 140 sacred places, and there is more to come; this ambitious work is the first volume in a projected series. Either titles would enhance any general collection; to have both would be ideal.Judith F. Bradley, Acad. of the Holy Cross Lib., Kensington, Md.

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The temples were built under the late Chandela kings between 950 and 1050 AD in a truly inspired burst of creativity.

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