25 February, 2012

Mallikarjuna temple - BasaraaLu

Following text in italics has been borrowed from Indian temple architecture: form and transformation: the karnaata Draavida tradition 7th to 13th centuries
Adam Hardy

At the end of the first decade of the 12th C the Hoysalas began more than a century and a half of prolific temple-building in Southern Karnataka. At that time the Hoysala rulers were feudatories of the Later Chalukyas, and they remained so, nominally at least, until 1192 when BallaaLa II proclaimed himself emperor. Before Hoysala patronage the stone temples of the region, those of the Gangaas and Nolambas, had been closely related to the Draavida traditions of Tamil Nadu. But to establish their own school the Hoysalas looked North to the Chalukya tradition.

Inscriptions record that at first many artists migrated from both mainstream and non-mainstream centres in northern Karnataka. Alongside the migrants, large numbers of local craftsmen would also have been needed.Presumably they must initially have worked under sthapatis trained further north, and have transferred to soapstone, the material almost universally employed for Hoysala temples, the skills which they were used to exercising in other materials.

The Hoysala style changes relatively little over the whole period of its existence, from overall composition down to the shapes of mouldings. Naasi details and subtle differences in the character of carving point to different sub-schools.

Foundational inscriptions give much information about patronage. On the whole, patronage by the kings is rare, more usual patrons being generals, ministers and merchants, or their wives. It is known that artists would sometimes contribute towards the cost of a temple.

Shiva temples predominate. Vaishnava shrines are also numerous and Jain temples are not uncommon.

A record of Hoysala Narasimha II, dated 1234 AD refers to the grant given to the service of the god Mallikarjuna by a certain Harihara Dandanayaka, after causing the construction of the temple for the deity in the name of his father Mallikarjuna and a tank in the name of his mother Gujjavve at his birth place BasaraLu (referred as "Basauruvalu" in inscriptions and 4 records of different periods)

There are two general characteristics, commonly recognised as distinguishing Hoysala from later Chalukya temples. The first, in many but not all the Hoysala works, is an abundance of figure sculptures.

The second often cited characteristic of Hoysala temples is their ornateness. It is true that some Hoysala temples are much more ornate than others, in the sense that their surfaces have been overwhelmingly richly elaborated, in a way which fully exploits the possibilities of soapstone. But this is not to say that plainer examples are of a different style, as if style were determined only by surface ornament. As ever, there are temples in which every moulding and detail hs been taken to the final degree of elaboration that the style allows (now a higher degree than before), while others are partly or entirely in the smooth, blocked-out state. The style, in the sense of the imprint of a particular group of artists, may be identical in both cases: only the degree of elaboration is different.

Temple has polyangled basement and is on a three feet high platform. It has a main garbhagriha, antarala and two separate garbhagriha on either sides of the navaranga facing each other. The mukhamantapa has perforated windows on its wall. Temple has a beautiful Dravidian Shikhara on its garbhagriha, which houses a Balahari Shivalinga.

The garbhagriha in the navaranga houses a four and half feet tall, naga-nagini sculpture and a beautiful Sun God sculpture. There apparantely was a Vishnu sculpture on the pedestal of the present Serpent sculpture. Shaiva doorkeepers guard the door.

A record dated 1234 A.D. describes this temple as one with varieties of sculptures starting from bottom up to the Kalasa (Pinnacle) in the superstructure dispensing happiness through its panels of the episodes from Bharatha, creating such illusions that it stands like the offshoot of Merugiri.

Sculptures of couples and other several social scenes depict the contemporary society. Among them the fight between vali-sugreeva in ramayana, ravana lifting the kailasa mountain, the destruction of fish machine matsya yantra in mahabharata, kiratarjuna fight, the chakravyuha,Draupadi rushing forth with garland, krishnaleela scenes from the bhagavatha, govardhanadhari krishna are beautifully rendered.

The temple also has an idol of Lord Shiva with sixteen arms dancing on the head of demon Andhakasura. There is an idol of Goddess Durga with 22 arms and Goddess Saraswati both in the dancing posture.

The first layer between the two layers in the walls on the basement is decoraetd with sculptures of Gods and Goddesses. The layer above this has small superstructures and decorated pillars. On the walls one can see sculptures of samudra mantahana, shanmukha, kalinga mardana,hayagreeva (God with a horse head), dancing lakshinarasimha, yoganarasimha, abhayanarasimha, lakshminarayana, sun god, harihara, vishnu, vamana, bali chakravarthi, tripurantaka shiva, brahma-saraswathi, uma maheshwara, ganapa, nataraja, bhairava, vishnu riding on Garuda, rati manmata, devi and so on. In addition, parrot belle, maid servants holding fans are also seen.

Each of the friezes carries an array of decoration. Going from the bottom where the temple wall meets the platform, the lowest frieze depicts charging elephants which symbolise strength and stability, above which, in order, are horses for speed,friezes with lions which symbolise courage, depiction of Hindu epics, makara (beasts) and finally a frieze with hansas (swans).

The two main deities found in Hoysala temple sculpture are Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu in their various forms and avatars (incarnations). Shiva is usually shown with four arms holding a trident and a small drum among other emblems that symbolise objects worshiped independently of the divine image with which they are associated. Any male icon portrayed in this way is Shiva although a female icon may sometimes be portrayed with these attributes as Shiva's consort, Parvati. Various depictions of Lord Shiva show him in action, such as slaying a demon or dancing on the head of an elephant. He is often accompanied by his consort Parvati or shown with Nandi the bull. He may be represented as Bhairava, another of Shiva's many manifestations.

A male figure depicted holding certain objects such as a conch (symbol of eternal, heavenly space) and a wheel (eternal time and destructive power) is Vishnu. If a female figure is depicted holding these objects, she is seen as his consort, Lakshmi. In all the depictions Vishnu is holding four objects: a conch, a wheel, a lotus and a mace. These can be held in any of the icon's hands, making possible twenty-four different forms of Vishnu, each with a unique name. Apart from these, Vishnu is depicted in any of his ten avataras, which include Vishnu sitting on Anantha (the celestial snake and keeper of life energy), Vishnu with Lakshmi seated on his lap (Lakshminarayana), with the head of a lion disemboweling a demon on his lap (Lakshminarasimha), with head of a boar walking over a demon (Varaha), in the Krishna avatar (as Venugopala or the cow herder playing the Venu (flute), dancing on the head of the snake Kaliya, lifting a hill such as Govardhana), with his feet over head of a small figure (Vamana), with Lakshmi seated on Garuda, and the eagle (stealing the parijata tree).

There is a 20 feet tall Garuda pillar to the east of the temple. The identity of the Garuda Lenka of this memorial is not known.

An elite and well trained force of bodyguards known as lenkas (heroes) or jolavalis (indebted to the king for food) or velavalis (those who stood by the king at all times)protected the members of the royal family at all times. They served the king the way the mythical eagle Garuda served Lord Vishnu and hence were also known as Garudas. Those servants moved closely yet inconspicuously by the side of their master, their loyalty being so complete that they committed suicide after his death. The government erected Garuda pillars, or Hero stones (virgal) in memory of those bodyguards.

Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary Sikkim

Sikkim's original inhabitants are the Lepchas also called Rongtub (“the dearest people of Mother Earth”). They named their motherland "Ney Mayal Lyang" which means heaven . A visit to the tiny little thumb shaped pretty Himalayan state sandwiched between the kingdoms of Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east, proves that the Lepchas did not exaggerate. On its northern border towers the plateau of Tibet and it shares its southern border with West Bengal.

Being close to the Tibetan Plateau, the entire valley witnesses long winter seasons. During this entire period the valley receives heavy snowfall which further enhances its beauty. The snow capped mountains are like a fest to the eyes. The far-off mountains stand shrouded in mist.

Singba Rhodendron Sanctuary is located towards the North of Sikkim, in the famous Lachung Valley. The sanctuary is bounded on its southern pheriphery by the Yumthang Valley (dubbed as “Valley of Flowers”) known for its alpine meadow and hot springs. It is hemmed in on the east by high rugged Chuba - Sagochen mountain ranges and on the west by part of Chomzomei Tso extending upto Lava pass. The sanctuary is known for its unique abundance of Rhododendron trees and shrubs. In the months of April & May the entire valley is covered with bright colors of blossomed Rhododendron flowers. The picturesque Yumthang river silently flows towards its destination through the sanctuary.

This beautiful and diverse landscape makes it a trekker's paradise. It seems as if God himself spends his leisure hours in this less explored and un-spoilt serene land. Some of the most wild flowers fill up your senses and enamour you.

24 February, 2012

Tsomgo [Changu] Lake - Sikkim

Sikkim has 227 small and shallow high altitude lakes. Most of it are fed by glaciers and considered sacred. The lakes are popularly called as Chhokha or Tso or Chhona (in Bhutia), Chho (in Lepcha) and Pokhari or Jheel or Tal (in Nepali).

The ethereally beautiful kilometer long 15 m deep Tsomgo (pronounced Changu) lake is nestled at an incredible altitude of 12,400 ft. TSO means lake and MGO means head in Bhutia language. The vast expanse of crystal clear water is situated on the Gangtok-Nathula highway and is revered by the Sikkimese as sacred. The Nathula pass was part of the famous Silk route connecting the plains of Bengal with Tibet and from thereon China.

The lake is also of special significance for the Jhakris [faith healers] of Sikkim who congregate here annually on Guru Purnima from all over the state to offer prayers.

Around the picturesque Tsomgo Lake is woven a rich legend. Sikkimese folk-lore narrates that Tsomgo was initially at Laten, several km away from the present Tsomgo (lake). One night an old woman of Tsomgo dreamt that the lake at Laten would shift to Tsomgo. She was warned to leave the place as soon as possible. The old lady hastened to inform her other yak herder friends but they paid no heed.

She hurriedly milked her dri (female yak) and poured the milk on the ground for good luck and left the place with her yaks for Lhachungkar near Thegu. Just before leaving, she saw an inordinately fair lady with gleaming grey hairs, entering Tsomgo. Immediately the earth turned into water and formed Tsomgo lake. The two obstinate yak herders are believed to have been submerged in the lake along with their yaks.

In the times gone by, lamas (Buddhist monks) are said to have foretold the future by observing the color of the lake’s water. If the water had a dark tinge, it foreshadowed a year of trouble and unrest in the state.

Nathula area has three lakes - Memonchu, Kupup and Tsomgo - and out of three, reports have shown that the Tsomgo lake is heavily polluted. Tsomgo wetland is amongst the most productive & biologically rich ecosystems and also amongst the most endangered. This wetland is a lake complex joined by some other water bodies Manju I and Manju II.

There are several shops selling snacks, souvenirs, warm clothes and snow boots along the periphery of the lake. Basic sanitation and sewerage facilities are almost negligible, leading in all the human and yak wastes ultimately percolating down the lake. The experts have observed that due to low temperature, bacterial decomposition of the wastes is at a very slow process. Exhaust fumes from the tourist vehicles greatly damage the rarified air and water resources.

Tsomgo Lake Conservation Society president Chewang Norbu Bhutia has reported that when tourism in the state was not so popular, the lake water was pure and drinkable, but it had become polluted subsequently. The efforts of the society include sensitising the locals and tourists alike about maintaining the cleaniness of the lake and its premises, besides maintaining the tourist amenities and eco-tourism code.