Inspired by Birds ; Pictures from Kerala

I am inspired by my feathered friends, they teach me the essence of life, the lessons of life, they remind me how to exist and co-exist and to enjoy every moment. Everytime, I feel low, I think of them flying from Siberia to India year after year to escape the harsh winter and I immediately feel inspired !! No sun, no wind, no rain can take their song away, its always on their lips if you care to listen. The one high up on the tree inspires me to dream high, the one in the water inspires me to stay afloat at all times and have faith in myself, the one hopping from branch to branch reminds me not to be judgmental about what meets the eye; and the ones in a group inspire me about team work. These pictures of Kerala Birds where I spent a few days beside the back waters is a quiet reminder.

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History on the Wall, Hoysaleswar Temple, Halebidu

About 2 hours drive away from Bangalore, The Hoysaleswar Temple in Halebidu is nearly 900 years old and has survived many invasions and attempts of destruction and the ravages of time. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated in a large garden complex. It had just drizzled for a while when we reached the gates after a sumptuous South Indian thali in nearby Belur. The green grass was in sharp contrast to the dark stone.Halebidu Hoysaleswar Temple Karnataka

Along with the adjoining Kedareswar Temple this temple was built over a period of 86 years and attributed to the famous king Vishnuvardhan and his wife Shantala by their son. The walls have beautiful sculptures in the form of panels each unique in its own way.

Hoysaleswar Temple Halebidu KarnatakaHoysaleswar Temple Halebidu KarnatakaHoysaleswar Temple Halebidu Karnataka

Halebidu Hoysaleswar Temple Karnataka

As we went around the temple, taking a closer look at the sculptures on the walls, it was poetry on stone. The life and times of the Hoysalas came alive with the be decked rows of elephants, lions, warriors on horses and chariots and scenes from the battlefield. These were interspersed with floral motifs, motifs of chains and necklaces which have inspired jewelry designers over generations and some familial scenes depicting normal life in the court beyond battles and warfare.  The heavily decked woman admiring herself in the mirror is famously known as (Darpanasundari). The top panels are occupied by the large sculptures of divine deities (Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Krishna, Narsimha etc). The faces are pretty similar and seem to have been modeled on the Hoysala Royalty. of those times. With time, we have adopted modernity in some aspects of life but in others time has stood still ; we revere the same divine forms as we did several centuries ago and the art forms are perhaps lost for ever in want of patronage and encouragement.Halebidu Hoysaleswar Temple Karnataka

Nandi Bull is always facing Shiva and this temple was no exception. There are large Nandi Bull statues sculpted from soap stone in the adjoining enclosure guarding the temples. They were a little too large and the ears beyond my reach. I had to let go of my customary whisper in Nandi’s ears of my secret wish to be conveyed to Lord Shiva. After visiting the temple, sit around in the garden facing the temple and allow yourself to travel back in time, to be with the Hoysalas in spirit and appreciate the intricate stone art that has been left behind for us !!Halebidu Hoysaleswar Temple Karnataka

Travel Tip:

Day trip from Bangalore along with nearby Belur and Sravanabelagola. Hire a car or do it with KSTDC which will easily be a 12-14 hour long day.

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Glimpses at Night-Durga Puja in Kolkata

It is that time of the year in Autumn when Kolkata (erstwhile capital of British India) turns into a celebration of life, love and faith. The city turns into a grand art gallery by the day and appears to be a carnival ground by the night. It is a celebration of the Mother Goddess who is believed to be visiting her maternal home on earth with her family. Her homecoming is a community celebration in street corners by local area clubs and parks As I maneouver through the crowds across the city to visit the pandals (make shift canopy), humming tunes of joy while the dhaki beats connect me to the divine. I walked through bright umbrella lined roads, at times through the folds of a lotus to emerge into a lane celebrating music with different instruments. I watched in awe at the dragon face which had a compassionate streak and then entered a makeshift forest complete with all the audio effects that was absolutely close to reality.

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Ruins of Mandu, Enduring Time and Tide

Mandu is a city with mostly ruined monuments that are dated earlier than 16th century and have endured the ravages of time. I saw ruins nearly every 100 metres while driving around Mandu. Some Mandu Ruins were named and had a story and mostly flag bearers of unnamed unknown fragments of History. A few ruined places caught my eye and I decided to delve further.

Gada Shah Shop

If you thought that multi level malls and stores were a thing of the 20th century, think again !! Gada Shah’s Shop in Mandu is now a ruined monument but 5 centuries ago, it was a shopping hot spot. When I entered Gada Shah Shop, the high ceilings, arched gateways, arched windows, multi levels, and large display windows said it all.Mandu Ruins Gada Shah Shop Take any modern shopping mall, throw in some medieval elements and you will have something similar. As I walked in and out of the rooms, pretending to see, look and buy, I landed in the atrium which resembled a mini mud pool.Mandu Ruins Gada Shah Shop I did not hesitate to step on the mud and slush enjoying the monsoon downpour and smell of earth. There was nothing on display, nothing to buyout but the stones and bricks spoke in a muffled tone about their days of glory.Mandu Ruins Gada Shah Shop

Andheri Baodi and Ujala Baodi

A few metres ahead were the ruins of Andheri Baodi (Dark Well) and Ujala Baodi (Open Well).The Ujala Baodi or the Open well was a multi-storeyed structure with steps that went down into the well deep below. Mandu Ruins Andheri BaodiMandu Ruins Ujala BaodiI had to curtail my enthusiasm here since the steps were slippery after incessant downpour and I did not want to take a chance. Baodi’s are well common in this part of India, which formed the backbone of the water conservation system. It was perhaps an indication that this part of the Mandu walled city was densely populated or frequented by many people due to Gada Shah’s shop

Chorkot Mosque

Driving through the narrow winding roads, ruins can be seen everywhere and most of them are mausoleums. One such structure was the Chorkot Mosque which appeared to have seen days of glory but now lay in an open field surrounded by mud and slushMandu Ruins Chorkot Mosque

The the driver who took me around was lamenting the change of fortune of Mandu making me wonder if it had to do with the unfulfilled wishes of the many souls who lie trapped in the layers of Mandu or is it nature’s balancing act !! Will all our modern cities endure the test of time with all the glass and steel?

Travel Tip:

Mandu is about 80 kms from Indore and 40 kms from Maheshwar. The closest airport is in Indore. The roads are good and the green countryside is soothing to the eye. It is best experienced in Monsoon months though the weather is pleasant and charming through July to March. Plan to include Mandu if you are visiting Ujjain and Maheshwar. You can cycle around Mandu for sightseeing or hire a car for the day @ Rs 500-600.

Place to Stay:

MPTDC run Malwa Retreat and Hotel Rupmati are located next to each other on the road to Indore and pretty close to most of the sites. Both the hotels overlook a valley. A first floor room in Malwa Retreat will ensure a view of Jahaz Mahal. MPTDC run Malwa Resort is 3 kms away overlooking the Sagar Lake.

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