Monday, 22 June 2015

Anegundi – Old Hampi

Now it is time to drive into the Anegundi village after experiencing the surprises of Huchhappayya Matt. Here in the village square, a wooden chariot occupies the place of pride. This is the Lord Ranganath’s ride and it gets the preferential parking spot – right in the middle of the road.  You have seen such chariots across Hampi – at Virupaksha Temple, and in a mantapa in Malpannagudi. The chariots are used to take out the deities on special days. Lord’s abode cannot be far from His ride.

The Magical Roads of Anegundi

Ranganathswamy Temple in Anegundi

Colonnades inside Ranganath Temple

The Ranganathswamy Temple is a big open complex facing the chariot to the west. Colonnades line up on the north and south sides.  Inside people catch up on their afternoon siesta. The pillar columns have a subsidiary pillar on the outer side. Such pillars or pilasters can be seen in the famous Vitthal Temple where some of these pillars produce music when thumped. You are not sure if the pillars here too emit music when tapped. The temple has been painted over – a fate that befalls most temples where worship still continues.

Vijaynagar Royal Insignia - Boar, Dagger, Sun and Moon

On one of the pillar you can see the four elements of Vijaynagar Royal Insignia – boar (Varaha), dagger, sun and moon. You are not sure if the insignia was carried from Anegundi to Hampi or these pillars were installed later during the Vijaynagar times.

Looking towards the Garbhgriha

Lathe Turned Pillar Fragments

A second gate leads into the open mahamantap. Garud stambh stands in front of the garbhgriha. Here in the courtyard, you see more of the black stone lathe turned pillars that you saw in the HuchhappayyaMatt just outside the village. These are the remains of possible Chalukya or Hoysalas temples that existed in Anegundi.

Adishesh and Ananthashayana or Reclining Vishnu at Ranganathswamy Temple in Anegundi


The Ranganathswamy temple was the temple of the royals. It is believed the Vijaynagar emperors came to Anegundi to worship the lord. Inside the locked garbhgriha, you can see Adishesh and Ananthashayana or Reclining Vishnu. Outside, in one of the niches, Garud sits in reverence.   

Krishna Devaraya's Statue at Anegundi's Entrance

The ambience inside the temple reflects that of Anegundi village – languidly quite except the breeze ruffling through the leaves; laid back and so peaceful. A dreamy languor pervades all through - life is unrushed and goes in slo-mo. It seems the village is caught in trance. Just outside, kids play in the village square.  You could get used to this life here.

Looking out of Ranganath Temple into Anegundi Village Square

Lord's Chariot

You walk out of the temple back into the village square. The chariot is stranded on the road. On a previous visit, the chariot was all decked up - probably it was one of the times when the deity was to be taken out on an auspicious day.  

Looking East towards Gagan Mahal

Gagan Mahal in Anegundi

On the east, few yards away to the left is the Gagan Mahal. Freshly whitewashed in yellow and white, Gagan Mahal has the most unique architecture in Anegundi. It reminds you of Lotus Mahal and the adjoining watchtowers in Hampi. The Mahal seems to be built of bricks, with projecting balconies and niches. One set of balconies has interesting looking lattice work. The main gate is pyramidal. On either side of the west facing fa├žade (looking towards Ranganath Temple) are minar like structures that look like the watchtowers in Lotus Mahal enclosure.

It is possible that after the battle of Talikota, the vanquished royal family came back to Anegundi and built this palace as their residence. Today the place is used as a government office.

Malgudi Days: Tungabhadra River at Anegundi

Going ahead towards east brings you to the banks of Tungabhadra. Here you can never be far from the river. At Talvar Ghatta, the river was to the south and here the river has taken a turn to the north. Stone steps are built on the ghat. The citadel walls you have come across the village and at Talvar Ghatta are seen here too as they join the ghat steps. This is summer time and the river is almost dry. Maybe the irrigation department will release water from upstream Tungabhadra Dam soon. Boats are docked as they wait for the water to flow. People hang out on the steps under the shade of trees. On your right, people wash clothes putting them to dry on the rock islands.

Wide Expanse of Tungabhadra with Boulder Hills and the Samadhi

Krishna Devaraya's Samadhi in Anegundi

Just beyond in the middle of Tungabhadra’s riverbed is the biggest mantapa you have seen so far in Hampi area. The structure is called 64 Pillared Mantapa. The only such structure you have ever seen or so named is called Chausath Khamba in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Basti. The mantapa here is the Samadhi of the great Vijanagar Emperor Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529). Krishnadevaraya is regarded as the greatest and most popular ruler of Vijaynagara Empire when the empire flourished. The king was a patron of art and literature and a scholar of 64 vidyas. The 64 pillars probably denote his knowledge. You are in no mood to wade through the water. You use the zoom to take some photos. Looking through your photos again, you seem to have caught his statue near Anegundi’s main gate looking resplendent in bright colours. Tenali Rama, the beloved smart alec whose antics are popular in comics was one of the Ashtadiggajs or the Eight Poets in the court of Krishnadevaraya.

Chausath Khamba in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Basti

Tenali Junction in Guntur District of AP

On your several train journeys from Kavili to Vijaywada, you have passed through the town of Tenali in Guntur district of AP. Tenali Rama is believed to be born in Tumuluru near Tenali.

Anegundi - The Citadel Fortifications

A Mantapa on the Tungabhadra

On the left, the steps merge into the fortification walls extending into the boulder hills in the north. In the river bed, little distance away you can see a couple of mantap like structures. Until the next time when you decide to go aquatic you again take some zoom photos.

Anegundi Roads, don't take me back home

Anegundi Roads

The list for next visit is already building up.  Nava Brindavan is a group of nine samadhis including the samadhi of saint Sri Raghvendra a little distance away in the middle of the river. Then there is the Chintamani Temple to your right where Ram killed Vaali and then offered penance for the killing. The more you delve deeper the more places emerge and that familiar yearning tugs at you deep inside to come back to Hampi and Anegundi.

Any Anegundi frame will have these elements - Lush paddy fields, lonely mantap, interestingly placed boulders and coconut trees

Whichever Way You Look Anegundi is a Perfect Frame

Anegundi Sunsets

On the way to Hospet you see more of the scenes you have grown to love in these visits. You can walk these roads all day. The Anegundi sunsets are mesmerizing. You want to come back soon - that yearning is getting stronger.

Getting There: Anegundi is about 15 kms south east of Gangavathi taluk of Koppal district in Central Karnataka. Or take a boat or coracle ride from Hampi side just beyond Vitthal Temple

Related Anegundi Links:

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Anegundi – The Case of Lathe Turned Pillars at Huchhappayaa Matt

After enjoying the view of Tungabhadra river crossing at Talvar Ghatta, you walk a few yards to Huchhappayya Matt. Huchhappayaa Matt is easily the most ornate of structures here in Anegundi. A matt or matha is similar to a monastery or an ashram. Vijaynagar sculpture is mostly characterized by the relief carvings on the pillars but the matt has more. 
Huchhappayya Matt at Anegundi Karnataka
The structure looks like the many mantapas you have seen here. But it soon gets interesting. The structure with a rectangular plan and plain pillars is two storeyed just like Talvar Ghatta. In the centre, the structure rises upto the first floor with a small mantapa on top. There are several nandis placed on a platform. They do not appear in-situ and were probably brought from different temples.

Looking up, you can see the four beam members forming the hollow on the top ornamented quite richly. It is not the usual Vijaynagar sculpture – the sculpture is fine and detailed. There are dancing figures of women – are they performing Dandiya? There are more male and female dancers while some play instruments. Then there are hunting scenes – you can see a prey hanging by its legs being carried on a pole. Battle scenes have warriors riding horses and foot soldiers carrying shields. You go through your Hampi photos – yes these beams are unusual and special.

The Lathe Turned Pillars

The surprise waits on the rear side. Here on the eastern side a colonnade has been erected, possibly at a later date, with surprise, lathe turned pillars. The pillars seem to be built of soapstone. These pillars look out of place among the standard plain granite Hampi pillars. Such lathe cut pillars are a feature of Chalukya, Hoysala and Kakatiya temples that you have seen in places like Lakkundi, Belur and Warangal, but never in Hampi or Anegundi. Hazaar Rama Temple in Hampi has black granite or soapstone pillars but they are not lathe cut. This is quite a mystery. Was there an earlier Chalukyan temple in the vicinity and these seven pillars harvested from it?
Talvar Ghatta, Collapsed Bridge and Tungabhadra River can be seen

View from road going to Anegundi Village
Before Bukka and Harihar moved south from Anegundi and across Tungabhadra to establish Vijaynagar Empire in Hampi, Anegundi was the regional power centre of earlier dynasties like Hoysalas, Chalukyas and Satavahanas. So it is possible that Anegundi had some earlier temples and these pillars were repurposed and used here. However in your several visits to Hampi, you don’t remember seeing any remnants of Chalukya / Hoysalas temples or soapstone / schist construction. Did Hampi too had some Chalukyan era temples which were brought down? This is highly unlikely. So while the Royal Enclosure of Hampi was totally razed by the combined armies of Deccan Sultanates, the temples like Hazaar Ram, Krishna, Virupaksh, Vitthal, Raghunath barely look blemished. Such Chalukyan temples probably existed north of Tungabhadra only in Anegundi.

Lets do Dandiya
Coming back to the beam with women doing Dandiya or Raas Lila; is it possible that the beam too is from a Chalukyan temple? Chalukyas later moved to Gujarat becoming Solankis - same Solankis who built the incredible vavs across Gujarat. And is this how dandiya dance migrated to Gujarat? Possibilities are endless and exciting.

Though the deity is missing, it could have been a Shiv temple since several nandis are seen and also because Huchhappayya means Shiv. It is also possible that the temple is named after Huchhappayya, a sage who meditated here. The setting and the missing deity gives it more plausibility. Also, since the structure uses recycled temple parts - had it been a temple or gudi, the structure would not have used repurposed pillars.
A guru surrounded by devotees, depicted in a wall painting at Anegondi, January 1801. ‘Painting on the Roof of the Jungum Mutt at Anagoondy.’ Latin verse below picture
Composite animal figures depicted in wall paintings at Anegondi, January 1801
Column in the math at Anegondi. January 1801. ‘Elevation of a Pillar in the Jungum Mutt at Anagoondy - All Sketches Courtesy British Library Online Gallery
Okay, there is another surprise now. While going through the online gallery of British Library you come across sketches made of ceiling paintings at this matt. Paintings on the ceiling! Now you again scour through your photos but you are just not able to discern any colour. The  description of one of the sketch says – “The Uchappaya Matha, a dilapidated two-storeyed structure to the south of the village, is of interest for the fragments of Vijayanagara paintings preserved on the ceiling beams. The major part of the paintings, though, no longer exist. This drawing depicts some of the figures from these paintings. In 'A survey of Painting in the Deccan' of 1937, Stella Kramrisch wrote, "The paintings on the ceiling of the Uchayappa Matha at Anegundi to-day present a black and white effect with some red lines of the preliminary drawing left. The colours have disappeared but for an eight petalled lotus with a yellow centre, surrounded by red, on a blue ground in a niche of the wall. Traces of the same colours are preserved in the spandrils and between the pilasters of the wall. Such a fresh blast of colour must be surmised also in the paintings of the ceiling, constructed of large stone slabs. These are covered with a thin white plaster. The entire ceiling, it seems, of the pillared Matha had been painted...In the Anegundi paintings, which can not be prior to the third quarter of the sixteenth century, the figures to a considerable extent adhere in body and movement to classical coinage. They have powerful limbs and vehement gestures...The faces however are almost always in profile or front view. Their firm outline conveys mediaeval rigour...".” Amazing isn’t it!
So with time the paintings are gone. You don’t remember any other Vijaynagar structure with paintings. This matha is full of surprises.
Amazing Anegundi

The matha has one of the best settings on both sides of the river. The temple enclosure sits in the middle of sylvan surroundings – lush paddy fields, swaying coconut trees and the boulders forming the backdrop. You can spend an entire afternoon here all alone. This is a piece of heaven. Anegundi and Hampi are blessed with far too many pieces of heaven. And this is just the beginning of their discovery.
Getting There: Anegundi is about 15 kms south east of Gangavathi taluk of Koppal district in Central Karnataka. Or take a boat or coracle ride from Hampi side just beyond Vitthal Temple

Related Anegundi Links:

Anegundi – Journey into Kishkindha, the Monkey Kingdom