May 27, 2016

Bhoganandeeshwara Swamy Temple, Nandi Hills



The magenta sari of the bride made a stark contrast against the dark grey outer walls of the inner sanctum. The newly wedded couple with beaming smiles posed for photographs after taking the blessings of Bhoganandeeshwara. Despite being a crowded day, a marriage entourage was the least of the expected visitors at this beautiful temple at the base of Nandi Hills.

Nandi hills is one of the popular short getaways from Bangalore with winding roads, panoramic vistas, Tipu's history, fort walls and Yoganarasimha temple. However, Bhoganandeeshwara temple tucked away at the base of the hills is frequented more by pilgrims than travellers. With exquisite architecture, sculptures and ornate pillars, this temple is a perfect example of Dravidian architectural style. Built in 810 AD by Ratnavali, consort to Bana king, Vidhyadhara, The temple has had many additional contributions later by Chola, Hoyasala and Vijyanagara rulers and their styles are quite evident. 

I strolled along gazing at the line of pillars with figurines carved on them and the huge Nandi structure facing the inner sanctum. In addition to the main shrine of Bhoganandeeshwara, there are two more, namely, Arunachaleshwara and Umamahehwara, all adjacent to each other on an elevated dais. I circumambulated the inner sanctum along the wide corridor to notice that the outer wall too had no dearth of fine art work and designs. 




 
Pilgrims were in a rush, scurrying past me. With offerings closely held, they were neither keen on the art work nor the pillars. All that they wanted was to enter the inner sanctum to have a glimpse of the well sculptured shrine, not to admire the creation but to cry out for blessings. I did not enter the inner sanctum, nor did I ask for blessings. All that I did was to gaze in admiration at the skill work of the innumerable creative unknown craftsmen. 

 

The corridor further lead to the adjoining mantapas (halls) such as Vasanta Mantapa and Tulabara mantapa. Hardly a crowd there, but the huge stepped tank, Shringi Theertha with cloister walls enclosing it had children splashing waters and selfie lovers in various poses and angles. I walked along the long steps and the farther I went, feebler became the laughter of the children. I wish I could sit at the farthest corner of the tank in tranquility, staring at the beautiful steps in oblivion. Peaceful. There are claims that South Pennar river flows out from this tank.



I walked out back to the corridor to see the bride still smiling for poses against the beautiful backgrounds. Wish more marriages were held amidst such gorgeous and historical surroundings. Adorned with intricate carvings, chiseled pillars and numerous sculptures, Bhoganandeeshwara temple is definitely an architecture lover's paradise. The best aspect is that it is very well maintained and has a charm that takes you down the history lanes. 



Getting there- The temple is 55 km from Bangalore. Take the NH-7 from Bangalore and the detour to Nandi hills. At the base of the hills where the road forks, take right. Left leads to Nandi Hills. Public transportation is infrequent.

Food and Accommodation- There are a few eateries and shops just outside the temple. For proper hotels and lodging, Nandi hills is a better option.


May 9, 2016

Lepakshi- A Testimony to Vijayanagara Architecture


The sun rose slowly and splashed a deep orange hue over the horizon as we left Bangalore and its cluttered traffic behind. The Royal Enfields thumped their way across the barren brown vast lands of Karnataka- Andhra border into Rayalseema on a fairly cold morning to Lepakshi. It is known for its 16th century Veerabhadra temple built on a hillock during the Vijayanagara empire. Lepakshi is believed to be the location where Ravana and Jadayu had a tussle in Ramayana.

Shortly after the border at Bagepalli, we detoured onto the village road. The green surrounding was a delight from the brown landscape on the highway. The road snaked its way past tiny villages, smiling onlookers and small shops before being welcomed by the huge monolithic Nandi (bull) sculpture just before the temple. The place was crowded with visitors, pilgrims and locals.

Climbing the steps, we entered the massive entry door, and beautifully lined pillar with chiselled sculptures which runs all along the outer courtyard welcomed us. We ambled along gazing at the wonderful art work to the assembly hall or natya mantap. A huge dance hall during the golden times, what remains now are numerous pillars, many of which are free standing ones. Every pillar has a figurine or a mythological character chiseled on it. From one wonderful creation to another, we walked further along the pathway to the huge carving of Ganapathy and then to the massive hooded naga with a shivlinga beneath it. The naga structure is absolutely a marvelous creation carved out of a single rock.



Natya mantapa or assembly hall





Further ahead lies the ante chamber or the ardha mantapa. A relief from the scorching sun, this mantapa undoubtedly holds the best of the creations at Veerabhadra temple. Numerous pillars with exquisite chisel work adorn this mantapa. Every pillar here has large magnificent sculptures of dancers, musicians, mythological characters, saints and figurines. There are pillars where scenes from mythology are portrayed through the carvings. The ceiling of this mantapa has huge frescoes depicting 14 avatars of Shiva. Though most of it has faded, the detailing is still visible. These frescoes are considered to be the largest in Asia and is a wonderful testimony of Vijayanagara pictorial art work. The biggest attraction here is the hanging pillar, a free standing pillar which does not touch the base floor and happily hangs from the top. Many tourists were seen sliding their towels beneath the pillar to test the same. Though the story behind this is fairly unknown, the technicalities taken into consideration even during those times does need an applause. The ardha mantapa faces the inner sanctum where the presiding  idol Veerabadra sits in full grandeur.

Ardha mantapa






The hanging pillar

View of inner sanctum from ardha mantapa
We walked down from the ante chamber to circumnavigate the inner sanctum and get back onto the outer courtyard with more pillared walkways by the side. There is no dearth of pillars with sculptures at Veerabhadra temple as they are present all over the temple premises. This temple at Lepakshi is soaked in architecture and it is an absolute delight to gaze at the magnificent creations and go back in history. Had a short pit stop by the huge monolithic Nandi structure (the largest nandi structure in India) before riding through the meandering village road back to the highway.

Outer courtyard
Nandi structure

Getting there: Lepakshi is 125 Kms from Bangalore. Drive on NH-7, cross the Karnataka- Andhra border and a take a left at Kodikonda after Bagepalli. There are regular buses from Hindupur to Lepakshi. Closest railway station is at Hindupur.

Food and Accommodation:Though there are small eateries in Lepakshi, Chikballarpur and Hindupur has better options.

May 3, 2016

Shaniwar Wada: Through the Lens


Built in 1732 by the Peshwas, this is a landmark structure in the heart of Pune town. It was occupied by the Pehawas until 1818 when they lost the Anglo- Maratha war to the British. The fort has five entrance gates and Dilli Darwaza is the main one.The fort had many important structures inside such as the reception hall, dance hall and mirror hall along with wooden pillars, doorways in teak wood, chandeliers, paintings and rugs, most of which were gutted in a fire in 1828. Presently it has a nice garden, the palace fountain and ruins of various structures. This historic fort is claimed to be haunted by the ghost of Narayanrao, the fifth Peshwa ruler who was murdered by his guards.










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