Friday, 13 November 2015

Udupi – What’s on the Menu? Special Surprise of Karkala

Day 1 – Second Half: Chaturmukha Basasdi and Bahubali Gommateshwara of Karkala

After some great Udupi lunch at the little restaurant where you have been feeding yourself since last night, you walk back to the bus stand to go to Karkala. Come what may, without visiting some built heritage leaves you a little empty in there; even with all that uthapam and upma. You are sure Karkala will hit that spot.

Lord Bahubali of Karkala, Udupi

It is raining as you walk to the Udupi Bus Stand; the kind of dancing and swaying rain you have been experiencing all through the Konkan and now you have started to love it. You take your seat in the bus and leave the wet umbrella in the overhead luggage rack.

The bus is making its way to Karkala about 35 kms south east of Udupi. Karkala is known for its Jain basadis and the huge statue of Lord Bahubali. The town probably gets its name from the Kannada word kari-kal which means black stone or black granite that is abundantly found here.

The Beautiful and Unique Chaturmukha Basadi at Karkala, Udupi

The plan is to visit the Chaturmukha Basadi, a Jain temple and Statue of Bahubali. You missed seeing the Shravanbelagola Gommateshwara when you were visiting Hassan district. But you do remember seeing some Jain temples like the Ganagitti Jain Temple outside Hampi built during the Vijaynagar times and a beautiful basadi complex complete with a pushkarni in Halebidu built during the Hoysalas reign.

Chaturmukha Basadi set on top of a hill is the most impressive of all Jain temples you have seen so far in Karnataka. The temple was built by a later king Immadi Bhairava in 1586 and took 30 years to complete. In the inscriptions the temple is referred as Tribhuvana Tilaka Jina Chaitalaya and Ratnaraya Dhama.

The South Doorway to the Chaturmukh Basadi

Stone steps built into the hill side lead up to the temple on the top. Rain has relented leaving the surroundings wet and dewy fresh. It seems rain has been following you during your temple excursions. You remember last year’s trips to Gyaraspur in MP and Lakkundi in Gadag as you went around the temples soaking in the atmoshere literally and figuratively. And then you waded through the waters at Virupakhsa Temple in Hampi after a particularly heavy downpour.

The decorated Southern Doorway with the caretaker

The Western Doorway with Portico and Eaves - The temple has four doorways leading into the garbhgriha on each side and therefore called Chaturmukha Temple

You can feel there is something special about this temple. There is no sign of shikhar and the roof is built of granite slabs. But this temple is definitely quite tall and wholesome compared to the Halebidu temple. In addition to its majestic setting on a hillock with woods all around, it is the four doorways on the four sides that lead into the garbhgriha which makes this temple unique. These four entrances or faces give the name of Chaturmukh to the temple. All doorways are identical and have their own pillared porticos; the only variation is the carved deities that decorate the door jambs.

There are more surprises waiting inside the hall. Stepping into the garbhgriha, you find three upright statues of Aranath (18th Tirthankar), Mallinath (19th Tirthankar), and Munisuvrath (20th Tirthankar) as the main deities. The statues in Kayotsarga or standing posture are life-size and about six feet tall. These idols are sculpted out of black stone and polished, the likes of which you probably saw inside the Hoysalas temples in Hassan. The images have almost mirror like finish.

The circumambulatory path around the garbhgriha, called Namaskara Mantapa, is wide and airy. Usually this path in Hindu temples is quite constricted and dark. As you go around you notice that each side has its own similar set of three statues! The idols on opposite sides are so placed that light can pass from one end to another. You don’t think there would be another temple with this four-time repeat of identical idols on all four cardinal points; though other temples here in Karkala have the four-face feature. On the eastern side, there are more idols on either side of the trio of statues belonging to Ananthanath, Parshwanath and Chavvisa Tirthankars. There are two niches on either side. The left niche has the stone idol of Goddess Padmavatidevi and on the right is the idol of Kshetrapala Brahma Yaksha.

The wide Jaguli running around the mantapa with the portico in front of Western doorway - watching the rain falling - at Chaturmukha Basadi in Karkala
A decorated doorway leading into the garbhgriha - there are four such identical doorways on all four sides

Carved Pillars

Wait a minute - a person climbing a rope? And an elephant and a bull in a duel?

Though the Mantapa is square, the Adisthana or the foundation is star shaped like most of the Hoysalas temples. Star shaped foundation and star shaped granite roof with these tall 18 feet pillars all around make this temple truly beautiful and unique. Outside the mandap walls, the Jaguli runs around supported with beautifully carved pillars. The granite pillars are huge and embellished with carvings. In all there are 108 pillars in the temple – 48 inside the garbhgriha and 60 outside. There are more reliefs of Jain and Hindu deities on the walls. Each doorway has a portico or extended plinth with its own eaves and supported with more pillars. This feature replicates the star shaped foundation. Doorways have reliefs on the door jambs. Eaves (slanting roof panels) or chajjas extend from the roof of the mantapa to beyond the jaguli to provide shelter to the devotees. Today you watch rain drops falling dreamily just beyond.

Ceiling Carvings over the doorways

Relief Carvings on Walls

There are elephants, monkeys, sheep, kirtimukha, deities and much more happening on the walls of the mantapa
The old caretaker who is partially blind provides a running commentary of the history of the temple and the idols in a surprisingly strong voice that rings across the hall. You are not sure how this frail old man can look after this temple with these gorgeous images. It is about five in the evening and the man has to close the temple.

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View from South West - Chaturmukha Basadi - almost looks like a pagoda

Karkala forms the part of Tulu country. Tulu country or Tulu Nadu is a Tulu speaking region spread over Udupi and Dakshina Kannada of Karnataka and Kasaragod taluk of Kerala. Karkala’s history is reported with the rule of Alupas who were feudatories of Kadambas in 6th century. They were in turn followed by their feudatories Santaras. Karkala or ancient Pandya Nagari became politically and culturally important from the time of Kalasa – Karkala kingdom that was established by Bhairarasa Odeyas between the 13th to 16th centuries. This era coincided with Hoysalas first and then later with the mighty Vijaynagar Empire, probably ruling as feudatories. It is believed the Bhairarasa Odeyas were descendants of Santaras. The kingdom was ruled initially from the Ghats but later the capital shifted to the coastal area in Karkala. During these 300 years of Jain rule a large number of basadis were constructed.

Looking East from the doorway portico

See the hill in the distance? That is where you are headed to the Bahubali statue

On the top of the hill, it is tranquil and heavenly. The wet grass in the compound, the greenery of tress all around, mist rising in the distance; all this combines to give a special vibe to the temple. There is another hill in the South where you can discern a statue rising above the walls. Outside the rain falls gently. The sky has turned dark. There will be another bout of heavy rain. You can predict the nature of Konkan rains now. You are looking for your umbrella. There is no umbrella. And then it dawns – you forgot to pick your umbrella from the overhead luggage rack in the bus! This is Code Red situation. You don’t like getting wet in the rain. You need to find yourself another umbrella. You scamper down the hill and then under the shelter of trees towards the second hillock hoping to find a shop that sells umbrellas. This is your lucky day. The tailor shop guy keeps a bagful of umbrellas. You are back in business!

Stairway to Heaven

Rock cut steps

What a View - the first sight of Lord Bahubali - Karkala

Fortified with the umbrella in your hands you are ready to take on the rains of the Konkan world again. Two hundred rock cut steps brings you to the top of the second hill. You feel the divine and serene gaze of Lord Bahubali directed towards you from just beyond the wall of the complex. Bahubali was the son of first Tirthankar Rishab and is a revered figure among Jains. Bahubali abandoned his kingdom to become a monk. He is also called Gommateshwara because of a statue dedicated to him in Shravanabelagola.

The Majestic and Divine Lord Bahubali Gommateshwara in Karkala Udupi

There are two mantapas in the complex - one behind the statue that houses small statues of Tirthankars and this mantapa on the left

The compound is enclosed with high walls as you step inside the courtyard. On both sides of the northern entrance extends a pillared porch where devotees can rest. Under the sky that is a mix of blue, grey and dark, the 42 foot Bahubali gazes divinely over the town. The statue carved out of a single piece of granite was installed by King Veera Pandya on February 13, 1432. This statue is second only to the massive 57 feet monolith at Shravanabelagola. The statue standing in the kayotsarga posture bears all Mahapurush Lakshans like elongated ears, palms stretching upto knees, curly hair, anthills formed on feet, serpents hissing and creepers climbing up the legs and intertwining both hands.

Time for Some Reflection

Tirthankars at Gommateshwara, Karkala

View towards North and the town - The porch at the entrance and the glinting stambh

Behind the statue is a mantap that has idols of the 24 Jain Tirthankars. On the right there is another mantap built of the standard granite pillars. In front of the north facing statue is a tall copper Dhwajstambh that catches rays of the setting sun. The rain has left puddles on the stone floor that reflects the shadow of Bahubali.

Towering Symbol of Renunciation

Standing below the statue you feel dwarfed. It is not just the size of the statue that makes you feel small; it is the whole idea of meditating standing in the Kayotsarga posture for an year to give up physical comfort and body movement. So much so that you don’t feel any sensation as ants crawl up the legs and creepers climb up to the hands. Even then the eyes are serene and smiling. This process of meditation and renunciation is what makes this yogic posture so remarkable. A flower is blessed as it rests on the feet of the king who became omniscient and attained moksha and was finally called a Siddha.

Manastambha protecting the Temple - looking towards the entrance to the temple

Manastambh with the Stunning Brahm Yaksh at Gommeteshwara in Karkala

Outside the fort like walls there is a 25 feet tall Manastambh with beautiful and stunning Brahm Yaksh seated on top of the capital. The stambh is believed to protect the temple and the surroundings.

Pushkarni at Gommateshwara in Karkala, Udupi

From the East a group of kids emerge - they inform that they have been swimming in the pushkarni on the other side of the wall. Though the Chaturmukha Temple did not have a resident pushkarni, this Gommateshwara here has a small pushkarni but not as elaborate as the one in the Jain Temple at Halebidu. 

Chaturmukha Basadi - View from Gommateshwara in Karkala, Udupi

View of Karkala Town

Standing on the edge of the hill, the view into the distance is enchanting. To the east is the Ramasamudra Lake nestled in the Chaturmukha Hills and Kudremukh Range beyond. Coastal Karnataka in rains is beautiful. And right now you are being treated to some sublime views all around as the sun sets over the misty beautiful Udupi surprise that is Karkala. Karkala really hit the spot.

Getting There
Karkala is about 35 kms south east of Udupi district centre. Udupi is 60 kms north of Mangalore on the west coast of Karnataka. Best way to get to Udupi is by Konkan Railways either from Mangalore or Goa. Western Ghats are best enjoyed travelling from Goa to Udupi.

What else to see in and around Karkala
·        Karkala has about eighteen basadis and the Anekere Padmavathi Basadi is built in the middle of  Anekere Lake
·        Neminath Basadi at Hiriyangadi with a 60 foot Manastambha
·        Thousand Pillared Jain Temple at Moodabidri (about 18 kms from Karkala)
·        Lord Ananthashayana Temple
·        Anekere Lake and Ramasamudra Lake
·        St Lawrence Church of Attur which looks quite grand in the photos
·        Karnataka has five monolithic Jain statues – the biggest one is in Shravanbelagola, Hassan district, 275 kms east of Udupi. The other three are at Venur and Dharmasthala both close to Karkala and fifth one at Gommatagiri near Mysore.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Trippingg on Culture Smorgasbord of Delhi – Part II

October 2015

The cultural scene is just revving up as October gets more pleasant with each passing day. Newspapers carry announcements for more events. Trying to catch up with everything along with Diwali shopping is almost impossible. You try to do your best even as you prepare yourself for November when the culture scene gallops into the final lap as Diwali approaches.

Delhi has two main cultural centres. First is the Mandi House area that is chock-a-block with iconic places like Triveni Kala Sangam, Rabindra Bhawan, National School of Drama in the Bahawalpur House, Shriram Centre for Art and Culture, Sangeet Bharati, LTG Theatre, Kamani Auditorium, Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra. Mandi House is of course the hub of culture where you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere – theatre, performing arts, art exhibitions, films, Chinese food vans providing nourishment to ‘theatre kind’ artsy people. And then there is the Bengali Market serving Delhi’s street food at Bengali Sweet House and Nathu’s.

The second hub is the Lodhi Road and Lodhi Estate area. Lodhi Road is where the multi-crore residences on Amrita Shergill Marg coexist in leafy delight with government housing, and is the place where people of power go power jogging in Lodhi Gardens. Indian Habitat Centre together with India International Centre and India Islamic Cultural Centre is confluence of culture in this part of the city on the edge of Lutyens’ Delhi.

And this is when you have not even started on the international events held in the cultural centres of Britain (British Council Division), USA (American Centre), Germany (Max Mueller Bhawan) Italy (Italian Cultural Centre), Japan (Japan Cultural Centre) France (Alliance Francaise) and many more dotting the city.

Delhi International Arts Festival at Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi, 16th to 31st October 2015

DIAF continues to delight and this evening you find yourself in Kamani Auditorium treating yourself to Jazz & Blues, some Mexican Salsa and a trio of musicians playing piano, violin and cello.

A lively performance of Jazz & Blues by New York's Maya Azucena

Maya Azucena was invited by US Embassy for this gig and is known for her support to Human Rights

Cuatro Amigos of Nacho Sin Salsa group from Mexico

The Senorita tap dancing to Spanish music transports us to Spain of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara

Dos Hombres seem to have walked out of a Robert Rodrigues movie - waiting for Salma Hayek to emerge

Members of Collapse - from Cyprus & France

You are watching a live performance playing Piano, Violin and Cello and yes playing these instruments is a huge deal - great performances

Durga Immersion at Yamuna Ghat, Kalindi Kunj, New Delhi

Durga Maa with her children Ganesh Kartikeya leaves the mortal world for her home. Devotees throng to bid farewell to the Goddess.

Durga Maa immersion in Yamuna at Kalindi Kunj, Delhi

Festival of Performing Arts (Music, Dance and Drama) at Meghdoot Theatre Complex, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi, 24th to 31st October 2015

A friend introduces you to Rabindra Bhawan, another gem in the Mandi House area. Rabindra Bhawan houses the Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Sangam and Sangeet Natak Akademi. The place has art galleries, library, book shops, and museums. The museums of masks and musical instruments are delightful and deserve a visit.

Now this place is buzzing as Sangeet Natak Akademi is celebrating the Festival of Performing Arts featuring recipients of the Akademi Fellowships and Akademi Awards 2014.

The main course for this evening is Nautanki - yes Nautanki! - and dance performances from Haryana and Mizoram set the stage for another surprise.

Lalit Kala Akademi at Rabindra Bhawan, Mandi House, New Delhi

The Art Gallery at Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan

Stage being readied for Festival of Performing Arts at Meghdoot Theatre

Voila - a week later! at Meghdoot Theatre

Meghdoot Theatre Complex

Some Haryanvi Twirl

The lovely Mizo Bamboo Dance

The tiptoe and the clap of bamboos

Yes this is a month of firsts – now Nautanki and then soon Opera!

Indal Haran (abduction of Indal), the Nautanki play in Hindi is directed by Ram Dayal Sharma who also plays the role of Udal and the play is presented by Brij Lok Madhuri, Mathura. Indal Haran is representative late 19th century Nautanki/Saangit. Authored by the Indraman Akhara of Hathras, the play is one of the dozens of Nautankis that depict the exploits of the famous 12th century Banafar/Chandela warrior brothers Alha and Udal. Chitralekha, a princess who has magical powers, sees Alha’s son Indal at a festival on the banks of Ganges and falls in love with him. When Indal takes a dip in the river, she turns him into a parrot and takes him to her kingdom in Central Asia. What happens next is an amazingly engaging tale of romance and bravery. (Source: Festival Booklet)

Now Nautanki uses both spoken dialogues and songs are sung live by the actors accompanied with musical instruments. The nautanki has a very earthy and hinterland feel and you can imagine the nautanki band going around the villages entertaining the country folks when there were no cinemas.

Indal Haran Nautanki at Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi

Nautanki is like a live movie playing out on a stage with dialogues and songs and music

Jin Zi, A Sichuan Opera at the FICCI Auditorium, 9th Delhi International Arts Festival, New Delhi, 16th to 31st October 2015

Curtains come down on the incredible October month with a rousing performance by Chinese Sichuan Opera.

You have never watched an opera before and DIAF is giving you chances that you cannot pass up. Opera is a drama set to music with singing, dancing and the dialogues delivered are sung.

Today you are watching the Chinese opera called Jin Zi, a Sichuan Opera adapted by Chongqing Sichuan Opera Theatre. The heroine or soprano Shen Tiemei, extolled as the Queen of Sichuan Opera, is also the chairperson of Sichuan Opera Theatre Chongqing and has been honoured with several national awards. This opera has won all performing awards in China. Jin Zi is regarded as a milestone in modern theatres and recognized as the most important work of Chinese Operas at the end of 20th century.

The performance is brisk and energetic with the performers singing, thudding around the stage and sometimes diving to the ground. Something you have never seen in plays is the concept of sword-hiding which is unique feature of Sichuan Opera – one moment there is a sword and next moment the sword disappears in the robe leaving no trace. The Chinese story seems typical Hindi movie like with a wife, husband and mother-in-law and then the lover making his entry. There is lot of crying, heart-ache and people dying. Of course Shen Tiemei is the queen as she goes through a gamut of emotions in this tragic love story. 

FICCI KK Birla Auditorium with the adjoining National Museum of Natural History

Jin Zi Sichuan Opera at FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi

The Soprano Shen Tiemei in the titular role of Jinzi

Jin Zi with her husband and lover

The cast of Jin Zi, Sichuan Opera at 9th Delhi International Arts Festival October 2015 being felicitated. With Prathibha Prahlad (black saree), the founder of DIAF

A trip through the cultural kaleidoscope of Delhi has provided you with a dazzling display of our country's myriad colours and people. This is so true for the city of Delhi, a city that has seen over the ages people come from across the country and across the borders, to adopt it and make it their own and which turned it into a microcosm of our country. The culture scene does provide enough clues to what makes the city so diverse and yet so inclusive. Delhi enriched with this fantastic concoction of cultures has continued to thrive through its people even as kingdoms and cities fell with alarming regularity. It is this set of people and their practises, their festivals, their beliefs that constitutes this great city helping it thrive and buzz with vigour and colour. 

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