Wednesday 30 October 2013

This temple opens for a few days only

Hassan district is known as the cradle of Hoysala Kingdom and of course much earlier that of the Gangas. It is in this district that we find that Chavundaraya commissioned he magnificent monolith 60 feet or 16 metre statue of Gomata or Gomateshwara or Bahubali, one of the Jain Thirthankaras or prophets in Shravanabelogala.
It is also in Belur and Halebidu that we find the incomparable Hoysala temples. Halmadi is a tiny village in this district where the earliest Kannada inscription dated 450 AD was discovered.
Hassan is also known for its coffee and black pepper. It is veritable paradise of Nature and it has emerged as the favourite destination of tourists, Nature lovers and pilgrims alike.
However, the district has one peculiarity that few know of. The name Hassan comes from the deity of Hassanamba, which is the guardian of  the city.  
Hassan boats of at least 50 temples of historic and archaeological importance but the Hassanambha Temple is unique in the sense that it opens only for a few days and it is otherwise closed for a major part of the year.
The Hassanambha Temple is dedicated to Goddess Shakti and it has its own importance.
The temple structure, as it stands now, is believed to be of the twelfth century. This was the time when the Hoysalas were ruling from Dwarasamudra or today’s Belur which is 31 kilometres from Hassan.
The city of Hassan itself was founded in the eleventh century and the Hassanambha Temple is a Hoysala style structure. The temple is easy to find as it stands on the busy Bangalore-Mangalore road.
The Goddess Shakti or Amba is the main deity here and the inner chamber of the temple housing her statue is open for only two weeks, especially during Deepavali and it closes three days after  Balipadyami.
The goddess is sculpted on an anthill or hutta in Kannada which resembles the deity of Hassanamba as Goddess Parvathi. When the temple is closed, people keep water, bags of uncooked rice, a lit lamp and flowers in front of the goddess.
Devotees believe that when the temple is opened the next year, the rice remains the same and the lamp too burns without going out. The inner chamber also has an idol of Ravana and his nine heads. This is a rare idol as we see Ravana playing the veena.
Hassanamba is believed to be a smiling and ever merciful Goddess. When the temple doors are opened during Ashwayuja (October), thousands of  devotees flock to have her darshana. The devotees fell that it is during this time that the Goddess bestows her mercy and grace to them.
There is an interesting legend about how the Goddess or Shakti came to the place. Several thousand years ago, seven women or Maatrukes or Sapta Maatrukes as they are called in Kannada came floating towards south from Varanasi where they were residing.
The women were Brahmi, Maheshwari, Kumari or Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamundi. When they saw Hassan, they fell in love with the beauty of the place and the calm and serenity that the place exuded.
All of them decided to stay back in and around Hassan instead of going back to Varanasi. While Maheshwari, Kaumari and Vaishnavi took up residence in the three anthills inside what is the Hassanambha temple, Brahmi stayed back at Kenchamma's Hosakote, while Indrani, Varahi and Chamundi chose the three wells in Devigere Honda or Devikere Honda.
The temple has another amazing legend but this is as true as the stone which is connected with it.
There is a stone within the temple. The stone is believed to move less than an inch every year towards the deity in the inner sanctum. Once the stone reaches the deity and touches the Goddess, the world is supposed to come to an end and Kali Yuga too ends.
Well, how did this legend take birth.
According to the priests of the temple, several centuries ago, a woman used to visit the temple every day. She sued to pray every day before Hassanambha and seek her blessings. One day, her mother-in-law threw a stone at her and the woman started bleeding.
The woman was petrified and she cried out to Hassanambha for help. The Goddess manifested herself before the woman and transformed her into a stone. She ordered the stone to remain within the temple so that she could guard her every day.
The stone has been moving towards the deity inch by inch as if to seek protection from the Goddess.
There are four other stones in what is called  Kallappa Gudi. The four stones represent the four robbers who came to the temple to burgle it. When they saw the jewels on Hassanambha, they tried to steal it. They ended up becoming cursed and turned into stones.
The construction of the temple is also ascribed to Malik Kafur, the renowned general of Ala-ud-din Khilji.
Kafur had completely devastated Dwarasamudra and he came to Hassan where he and his troops took rest. His soldiers cooked meat near an anthill where three of the devis from Varanasi had stayed back and made the place their home. Angered over the manner in which their habitat had been desecrated, the devis cursed the soldiers and they began dying one by one.  
A panic stricken met the priests of the devi temple but to no avail. Hassanambha then appeared in Kafur’s dream and asked him to build a temple for her. When Kafur did so, he earned the forgiveness of the devis and the soldiers stopped dying.
Kafur then went on to conquer the rest of south India.   
Locals, however, insist that a palegar, Krishnappa Nayaka, built the Hassanambha temple.
Once the temple was completed, the devis ordered the archakas and others to ensure that it was opened for darshan only once in a year and that too during the lunar month of Ashwayuja.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

The Koira stones

An earlier post had dealt with a massive rock from Koira which was transported from Doddaballapur to Udupi for the sculpting a huge statue of Madhwacharya, the pioneer of Dwaitha philosophy and one of India’s most important saint-philosophers.
Koira is a small village near Doddaballapur. It is an almost insignificant dot on the map of Karnataka and it is almost non-existent in the map of India.
However, what makes people, particularly builders, construction engineers and now politicians, come to this village is its granite. The granite mined or quarried from Koira village is called after the village name and it has been extensively used to sculpt statues all over India.
Infact, the first big construction after Independence using the Koira rock, came up more than five decades ago and this was the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore.
Kengal Hanumanthaiah, the then Chief Minister of Mysore State, had dreamt of  an imposing Indian style building to house the seat of  Government. Hanumanthaiah scoured many quarries and finally chose Koira for building the Vidhana Soudha.
More than seventy per cent of the stones used for the construction of the Vidhana Soudha are from Koira. The same kind of Koira stones were used extensively for the construction of the Vikasa Soudha, which now adjoins Vidhana Soudha.  
However, the very first big construction to use Koira rocks and boulders was the magnificent KRS or Krishnaraja Sagar dam near Mysore.
Sir M. Visvesvaraiah, who meticulously planned the construction of the dam, selected the Koira granite for its quality and its stand alone character.
Since then, Koira has been supplying its granite to different parts of India. The ISCKON Temple in Bangalore has used Koira stones extensively as has the Suvarna Soudha at Belgaum.
Situated near Devanahalli, Koira stones and boulders are so famous that they are exported to foreign countries too.
The hills towering above the village of Koira is the main supply point for these granite. The rocks and boulders are available in all sizes and shapes and this is what makes the Koira granite unique.
There is an interesting legend about how Koira got its name. Locals tell us the legend of King Surangadhara and his Kingdom. The King once committed a mistake which left the people annoyed and angry.
The mistake was so glaring that the people decided to take the law into their own hands. They forced the King to the top of the hill and cut off his limbs. Since then, the village and the hill are known as Koira. The word Koi is a corrupt form of the Kannada word Kui or Koiye which means to cut off  or to severe.  
The Koira rocks has been the only major source of livelihood of the villagers of Koira. Therefore, quarrying is common here and it is resorted to by the villagers of Koira, Hosur, Jotipur, Ramanathapura, Managondanahalli, Aruvanahalli and Chikkahobdenahalli.
Quarry owners and building contractors prefer Koira stones as they can be found in sizes and shapes ranging anywhere between 10 feet to 60 feet. If you visit the hill, you can see hundreds of villagers working in the stone quarries.
Koira stones are used for construction of buildings in Bangalore,  Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Even the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperambdur in Tamil Nadu is hewn from Koira stones.
Noted sculptor, Ashok Gudigar sculpted a 41-foot-high Bahubali idol from a single block of 400 tonne Joira granite Koira. The statue was transported to Gujarat where it was installed on a hill at Songadh in Sihor taluk of Bhavnagar district in Gujarat.

Similarly, the statue of eminent Kannada poet, Sarvajna which was installed at Jeeva park in Ayanavaram was sculpted from Koira rock. 

Monday 28 October 2013

Moving a mountain

It is as massive as it comes. It is 32 feet long and more than 180 tonnes in weight. This is nothing but a huge Koira granite rock which has been transported all the way from a granite quarry in Doddaballapur which comes in Chikaballapur district to a village near Udupi.
The sheer weight and bulk of the rock is so much that it needed a 120 wheeled truck with pneumatic brakes and flat bed surface to transport it over road for over 460 kilometres.
The huge truck was the cynosure of all eyes and of course whosoever was using the road at that time as the massive rig wended is way slowly and surely along the National Highway to Udupi.
The rock is a single one and the massive three trailer train carrying it passed through the towns of Tumkur, Chitradurga, Davangere, Hubli, Yellapura, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavara, Bhatkal and Kundapur before finally reaching a small village eleven kilometers from the famous Madhwa temple town of Udupi.
The massive stone laid on three carriages or trailers, each with 40 wheels, left Doddaballapur on July 29 and reached Udupi on August 20, which was almost a month long journey.
The rock reached Kunjargiri Hill, near Udupi where it will finally rest. It was near Kunjargiri that Madhwacharya, the famous pioneer and propagator of the Dwaitha system was born (Pajaka Kshetra) sometime in 1197.
The Palimar Matha, which is one of the eight or Astha Mathas that Madhwacharya founded to look after the Sri Krishna Matha in Udupi had decided to install a 32 feet statue of Madhwacharya at the top of the Kunjargiri Hill.
The monolithic statue of Madhwacharya is being sculpted from a single rock at a cost of Rs. 1.50 crores.
Kunjargiri is the place where Madhwacharya was brought up and also where he spent his childhood and early years. The present pontiff of Palimaru Matha, Vidyadheesha Theertha, was instrumental in conceiving this  project.  
Before the rock reached its destination, it was given a ceremonial welcome at Karavali junction on National Highway 66 by Raghupathi Bhat, the manager of  Palimar Matha and hundreds of devotees.
Pooje was also done to the rock at the famous Anegudde Sri Vinayaka Temple in Kumbhasi. The monolith rock was then escorted to the hill in a procession comprising of hundreds of vehicles. It was first taken to Subhas Nagar and from there transported amid the playing of trumpets to the top of Kunjaragiri.
The statue would be installed atop a eight-feet-high and 80-tonne peetha that is being readied at Kunjargiri hill. The statute is being sculpted by national award winning sculptor Ashok Gudigar.
The statue would be sculpted as per the rules laid down in Tantrasara Sangraha, a work by Madhwacharya himself.
The Sangraha is an excellent book on worship. It has an exclusive chapter devoted to sculpture and installation of idols. It is a small work though comprising of 420 slokas.
(There is another book by the same name and it is by Abhinava Gupta, a Shaivite scholar  in the tenth century. It deals with topics such as: Tantric spiritual practice, the nature of the ultimate reality, consciousness, the creative energy underlying all manifestation).
Sri Madhwacharya was born in Pajaka Kshetra about 14 km from Udupi. He spent his childhood at Kunjargiri. It is at this place that  a 80-tonne peetha is being created for placing the statue and it is in final stages.
Initially, the stone was 300 tonnes its size but it had to be reduced to 180 tonnes to permit its transport. Ashok Gudigar from Sagar will be assisted by 20 sculptors to sculpt the statue.
By the way, the rock is called Koira as it comes from Koira village near Doddaballapur. The rock here is slightly grayish in colour. As far as Gudigar is concerned, he is an expert at sculpting statues.  Gudigar and his team plan to complete the work within ten months

Saturday 26 October 2013

A fish sanctuary across Cauvery

This is not only a pilgrimage centre but it also boats of a fish sanctuary. It has several temples, which were initially constructed by the Cholas and then renovated and repaired by the Hoysalas. Unfortunately, the temples are not as well known as the temples of Halebidu and Belur though this place too is located in Hasaan district.
Hasssan is native to many places with Hoysala temples such as Belur, Halebidu and Ganga style temples in Shravanabelogala. However, this town, though located on the banks of the Cauvery, is relatively unknown to both tourists and pilgrims.
This is Ramanathapura, a fish sanctuary and a temple town in Arkalgud taluk, located  about 50 kilometres from Hassan.
Ramanathapura is among the few fishing sanctuaries located across the Cauvery and fishing is banned in this area. This ban has helped a variety of fish thrive in the sanctuary.
One of the most well-known fish found here is Deccan Masheer, Black Masheer or Tor khudree, which belongs to the carp family of freshwater fishes.
It is considered to be the greatest game fish in India and has therefore, been almost fished to extinction. It is now listed in the IUCN Red list as highly endangered.
Other fishes seen here include Rohu or Rahu, which also belongs to the Carp family, and the Maithili Brahmins and Kayasthas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh treat it as one of their most sacred foods and they eat it on all auspicious occasions: Butter fish-these look like smaller versions of angel fishes and they are mainly classified as ornamental fishes: Katli Mahseer, which is also called copper masher and its is found in Krishna river too. In Karnataka, it is called Billi Meenu: Carnatic carp, which is a species of ray-finned fish. It is also called Barbodes carnaticus and it was first was described by Jerdon in 1849 when he came across this species in  Bhavani river, Nilgiris:   Spiny Eel, Freshwater shark and many other species are found here.
Pilgrims come here to visit the Rameshwara temple. This temple is generally classified as a Hoysala structure and there are five other temples. There is the Agastheswara, Durga Rameshwari, Lakshminarasimha, Subramanya, Pattibhirama temples also. All the temples are built in Dravadian style. The Lakshminarasimha temple was built during the reign of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar. The Subramanya Temple has an interesting tale. A local ruler,  Ballalaraya, was harassing people of the area. The then Swamiji of Kukke Subramanya Matha came to Ramanathapura. Ballalaraya and Narasa Nayaka, the palegar of  Holenarsipur,  joined hands in welcoming the Madhwa seer and they consecrated the  Subramanya temple.
To this day, pooja at the Subramanya temple is performed by Madhwa priests. This temple features Subramanya as a seven hooded serpent. The car festival of Subramanya is held on  Maragashira Shuddha Shasti  and a cattle fair and rural exhibition are part of the festival which draws devotees from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu apart from Karnataka.
The Agashteshwara temple has a beautiful shrine dedicated to Shiva. Apart from the Shiva Linga, the temple houses idols of Mahaganapathi, Parashurama, Lakshmi, Chamundi and other deities.   
The Durga Rameshwari  temple is an important Shakti Stala. The idol of the deity was installed by Shankaracharya. There is a Sanskrit Vedic patashala here
The idol of Pattabhirama temple is believed to have been consecrated by a rishi named Saubari or Soubhari, the son of Kanva Rishi.
Soubhari lived under water for twelve years when a king called Mandhata was ruling the area. One day, Soubhari came across the king of the fishes playing in the water with his children and grandchildren. This made Soubhari feel that he too should get married and that he too should have children and grandchildren. He then married all the fifty daughters of Mandhata.
The car festival of this deity is on Mrigashira Ramanuja saptaha.
The Prasanna Rameshwara Temple was built by the Hoysalas and subsequently renovated by the Vijayanagars. This is one of the most important temples in the area.

Hassan is the city nearest to Ramanathapura and this village is well-connected by road.  

Thursday 24 October 2013

The Town of eight hills

It is a town that we come across when we go to Biligiri Ranga Hills (BR Hills) from Bangalore. It was believed to have been first established by the Cholas. Therefore, it was then called Ilamaraduru Nadu in ancient Tamil Scripts.
On their part, the Cholas called it Cholendrasimha Chaturvedi Mangalam. Kannadigas called it Hadhinadu Pranthya.
The town is also part of the smallest taluk in the district in which it is located. It is surrounded by eight hills of which Biligiri is the most famous.
The town boats of a couple of historic and unique temples. There is a temple dedicated to Varaha, one of the Dashavatars of Vishnu.
Varaha is the third avatar of  Vishnu and there is also a shrine of Ganapathi here at its south-west corner. This Ganapathi is growing every year.
The other temple is that of Gaurishvara.It a Vijayanagar style structure constructed around 1550 when Devabhupala or Singadepa was the local ruler. It was subsequently rebuilt during  1654 -1655 by Muddabhupa, grandson of Devabhupala.
The temple has a unique entrance called Bale Mantapa (Bangle entrance) which features some of the most exquisite stone carvings on the walls and pillars. These carvings depict mythological stories of the slaying of the demon Andhakasura, Lord Narasimha  in different postures, Vali, Sugreeva and Krishna.
The carved stone chain rings - 20 cm each- adorn the four corners and the door side of the entrance and this gives it the name of Bale Mantapa. The entrance was built by Muddabhupa or Mudduraja in 1654 (We can see similar stone chains in the temple in Talakadu).
During the Vijayanagar Empire, this town and its surrounding areas were known for its riches. Till Independence, it was the jagir of a former Dewan of the Mysore Kingdom. After 1847, the Imam properties were abolished and taken over by the Government and this town initially came under Mysore district.
A few decades ago, it became part of Chamarajanagar district. Today, it stands at the entrance to the busy BR Hills Road. However, only a handful of the thousands of tourists, wildlife enthusiasts and Nature lovers who throng to BR Hills give a second glance to this town.
Not many realise that they would have missed a date with history by not spending time here. This is the town of Yelandur, which once was the jagir of Dewan Purnaiah. The jagirship continued till 1947 when it was abolished and the place integrated with the rest of the district.
Yelandur is surrounded by eight hills: to the East rises the magnificent Shwetha Giri (Billigri), to the South-East is Mallinatha Giri, to the South is Suragiri, to the South-West Shankareshwara Giri, to the West Mallikarjuna Giri, to the North-West Shambulingana Giri, to the North Srisaila Giri and to North-East Nirmala Giri.
All these hills are accessible from this town which is an oasis of greenery. The town has produced several great personalities such as Narashima Bhatta, the Ayurvedic expert (1790), Sanchi Honnamma (1680) and Vishalaksha Pandit, the Jain Vidwan.        
Yalandur is the smallest taluk in Chamarajanaar district with just 33 villages. It is situated about 60 km south-west of Mysore and about 150 km south of  Bangalore.
In history days, the town was called Ramachndra Yelanbure. Later.  it became Yelandur. Today, it is known as the town surrounded by eight hills. 

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Mastering the 64 arts

In Indian religion and culture, we have sixty four distinct arts or kalas or arts and each is distinct from the other. The arts cover a wide spectrum of  talents and if some come under fine arts, others come under physical feats such as yoga, walking on water or the art of levitation.
Magic is also considered an art as is juggling and so is a task as simple as covering a bed and cleaning one’s teeth.     
Apart from these 64 kalas, our texts also distinguish fourteen different kinds of vidyas or sciences.
The credit for clearly distinguishing 64 arts goes to Vatyasayana. Many other writers have followed him in naming them. However, some have come up with numbers greater than 64.
In the Chandogya Upanishad, sage Narada tells Sanatakumara that he has learnt the arts and he mentions their names too. However, he admits that he has not been able to learn the atma vidya or science of soul.
    “Sarvam Nara Vara Sresthau  
      Sarva Vidya Pravartakow
      Sakrin Nigada Matrena
      Tow Sanjaghrihautar Nripa
      Ahoratraris Catau Shastya
      Samyattau Tavatih Kala..”

This is what the Bhagavath Geetha says in chapter 10. It says both Krishna and Balarama mastered the 64 arts in 64 says at the ashrama of Sandipana in Ujjain or Avanti. This ashrama can still be seen in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.
The 64 arts are:

          (1)            Geeta vidya or the art of singing.
(2) Vadya vidya—playing on musical instruments.
(3) Nritya vidya—art of dance.
(4) Natya vidya—art of theatricals.
(5) alekhya vidya—art of painting.
(6) viseshakacchedya vidya—art of painting the face and body with color
(7) tandula kusuma bali vikara—art of preparing offerings from rice and flowers.
(8) pushpastarana—art of making a covering of flowers for a bed.
(9) dasana vasananga raga—art of applying preparations for cleansing the teeth, clothes and painting the body.
(10) mani bhumika karma—art of creating the groundwork of jewels.
(11) sayya racana—art of covering the bed.
(12) udaka vadya—art of playing on music in water.
(13) udaka ghata—art of splashing with water.
(14) citra yoga—art of applying colors.
(15) malya grathana vikalpa—art of designing wreaths.
(16) sekharapida yojana—art of setting a coronet or crown on the head.
(17) nepathya yoga—art of dressing.
(18) karnapatra bhanga—art of decorating the tragus of the ear.
(19) sugandha yukti—art of practical application of aromatics.
(20) bhushana yojana—art of applying or setting ornaments.
(21) aindra-jala—art of juggling.
(22) kaucumara—a kind of art.
(23) hasta laghava—art of sleight of hand.
(24) citra Sakapupa bhakshya vikara kriya—art of preparing delicious food.
(25) panaka rasa ragasava yojana—art of preparing palatable drinks.
(26) suci vaya karma—art of needlework and weaving.
(27) sutra krida—art of playing with thread.
(28) vina damuraka vadya—art of playing on lute and small drum.
(29) prahelika—art of making and solving riddles.
(30) durvacaka yoga—art of practicing language which is difficult for others to answer.
(31) pustaka vacana—art of recitation.
(32) natikakhyayika darsana—art of enacting short plays and anecdotes.
(33) kavya samasya purana—art of solving enigmatic verses.
(34) pattika vetra bana vikalpa—art of designing shield, cane and arrows.
(35) tarku karma—art of spinning by spindle.
(36) takshana—art of carpentry.
(37) vastu vidya—art of engineering.
(38) raupya ratna pariksha—art of testing silver and other jewels.
(39) dhatu vada—art of metallurgy.
(40) mani raga jnana—art of tinging jewels.
(41) akara jnana—art of mineralogy.
(42) vrikshayur veda yoga—art of practicing medicine or medical treatment, by herbs.
(43) mesha kukkuta lavaka yuddha vidhi—art of knowing the mode of fighting of lambs, cocks and birds.
(44) suka sarika prapalana - art of maintaining or knowing conversation between male and female cockatoos.
(45) utsadana—art of healing or cleaning a person with perfumes.
(46) kesa marjana kausala—art of combing hair.
(47) akshara mushtika kathana—art of communicating  with fingers.
(48) dharana matrika—art of the use of amulets.
(49) desa bhasha jnana—art of knowing provincial dialects.
(50) nirmiti jnana—art of knowing prediction by heavenly voice
(51) yantra matrika—art of mechanics.
(52)mlecchita kutarka vikalpa—art of fabricating barbarous or foreign sophistry .
(53) samvacya—art of conversation.
(54) manasi kavya kriya—art of composing verse mentally.
(55) kriya vikalpa—art of designing a literary work or a medical remedy.
(56) chalitaka yoga—art of building shrines.
(57) abhidhana kosha cchando jnana—art of the use of lexicography and meters.
(58) vastra-gopana—art of concealing clothes.
(59) dyuta-visesha—art of gambling.
(60) akarsha-krida—art of playing with dice or magnet.
(61) balaka-kridanaka—art of using children's toys.
(62) vainayiki vidya—art of enforcing discipline.
(63) vaijayiki vidya—art of gaining victory.
(64) vaitaliki vidya—art of awakening master with music at dawn.

If we look at the list closely, the first one is music. This shows the importance that our ancestors attached to this art. In the Mahabharata, we find that Krishna has exhibited many arts at different times. Though the occasion in Krishna using these arts expertly may have been different, the end result was to enlighten the people that God is One and that He is the supreme being without whom nothing in the world  moves.
All these arts were taught at Hindu Universities and Gurukulas. The Nalanada University had experts in each of the field as was the university at Taxila. Several gurukulas and centres of education such as Ujjain, Benaras, Kanchi, Hampi taught these arts.  
Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts mention these arts and sciences frequently. Patanjali, the author of Mahabhasya and the compiler of yoga shastras, also mentions these 64 arts. The Sutras of Jains also mentions 64 kalas apart from mastery of 18 dialects, which they say one of their Theerthankara, Mahavira, was proficient. Gauta, Buddha was also said to be proficient in several arts.  Buddhist texts also mention the kalas, particularly those relating to
that a king has to master if he has to rule his kingdom efficiently.
Among our seers, the best known exponent of these 64 arts was Vijendra Theertha (1514-1575), the paramaguru of Raghavendra Swamy and one of the leading lights of the Madhwa parampare in the sixteenth century.
A renowned astrologer, this Madhwa seer could also foretell events. When he was invited to Vijayanagar at the invitation of Aliya Rama Raya, he foresaw the fall of the great empire and warned the Emperor but to no avail.
He prayed at the Brindavana of his Vidya Guru, Vyasa Raja, at Nava Brindavana and returned back to Kumbakonam and when he heard of the news of the defeat of Vijayanagar and the sacking of Hampi, he heard it with characteristic equanimity though he was deeply anguished and pained.
Vijendra Theertha also foresaw the decline of the Haridasa movement and the troubled time for Hindus that was to follow the defeat of Vijayanagar. He saw in young Venkatanatha the catalyst for revival of Madhwa way of life and the reemergence of the Haridasa movement. It was for this reason he instructed his disciple, Sudhindra Theertha, to hand over the pontificate of the Sri Matha to Rayaru after him.  
Just as Akshobya Theertha had poured his heat and soul in teaching Jayatheertha all the tenets of knowledge so also did Vyasa Raja strive to educate young Vishnu Theertha who later became Vijendra Theertha.
Many Indian Emperors, including the legendary Vikramaditya and  Bhoja were reckoned to be masters of arts.             

Sunday 20 October 2013

The sound of music

There has been a rather close connection between music and philosophy, at least in the Madhwa Parampare. The two has been  closely intertwined between the two right from the time of Madhwacharya (1199-1287).
Madhwacharya, the pioneer of  Madhwa Siddantha, sparked the first waves of  Haridasa Sahitya when he composed the beautiful and evocative Dwadashi Stotra. Soon, one of his four direct disciples, Narahari Theertha, followed his Guru and began composing poems in the name of Hari.
Though Narahari Theertha was a prolific composer, only three compositions of his remain. They are “Yanthu marulade nanenthu”,  meaning  how deluded have I become: “Hariye idu sariye” - meaning Hari is this proper and “Tiliko ninnologe neene,” meaning knowing within thyself. He wrote under the Ankita Narahari or Narahari Raghupathi.
The actual credit for writing in Kannada goes to Narahari Theertha and this was subsequently popularised by Sripadaraja (1404-1502) of  Mulabagal.  Some of his famous devaranamas with his ankita Ranga Vitala are “Ne ittahange iruveno hariye”, Kangalidyathako kaveri rangana nodada and Bhushanake Bhushana.
Sripadaraja wrote kirtanes, Ubhabhogas, suladis,Dandakas ands Vrittanamas and set them to music. 
It was Sripadaraja who taught Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539) all the arts and Vyasa Raja wrote under the Ankita Krishna or Sri Krishna. His most famous composition is “Krishna Nee Begane Baro” which today is ranked among the top songs of all times.
However, it is to the credit of  Vyasa Raja that he founded and nurtured the Haridasa or Dasa Koota and Vyasa Koota or philosophical school. He was entirely responsible for the coming of age of  several Haridasas such as Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Vaikunta Dasa.   
Vadiraja Theertha (1480-1600) was among the most prolific Madhwa seers. He wrote several songs and stotras which are popular even to this day such as Lakshmi Shibana, Dashavatara Stotra.
Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671) is among the best known Madhwa saints among non-Madhwas. He is also ranked as highly by Madhwas as by others and he inspired the second renaissance of the Haridasa movement.
There are more than a hundred dasas (infact the count is closer to two hundred) who have written about Raghavendra Swamy and most of them are from Raichur and north Karnataka. Some of the notable dasas who have written on Rayaru include Vijaya Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi who wrote Harikathamrutsara, Gopala Dasa, Guru Jaganatha Dasa (of Kosigi and Koutalam), Pranesha Dasa, Ibharampura Appa, Krishna Avadootaru and others. 
Historically, the earliest dasa is Achalananda of Haiganpura in Bangalore. He is believed to have lived in the 9th century. However what is amazing is that his compositions closely resemble those of the 16th century. He has written on Narasimha, his favourite deity.
He was the first Dasa to tour India and also propagate the Bhakti movement. His Ankita is Achalananda Vittala. After him, some of his family members or descendents such as Gopinatha, Haridasa, Mudduvithala, Timmannadasa, and Panduranga also propagated the Bhakti cult.
Unfortunately, most of Achalananda Dasa’s compositions are lost and there is also not much evidence of his exact period. All we know is that he placed Lord Narasimha in a palanquin or Pallaki and walked barefoot behind it. He travelled in this manner all over India and sang the glories of Narasimha.
He has been quoted extensively by Belur Keshava Dasa (1884-1944), the son of Belur Venkata subba Dasaru. He has traced his lineage to Vijaya Dasa.  
After this Dasa, the first trace of Haridasa movement is during the life and times of Madhwacharya and subsequently during the time of Sripadaraja and Vyasaraja and again during the period of Raghavendra Swamy and after the centuries after he entered Brindavana.
Another little known figure is Belur Vaikunta Dasa (1480-1555), a close friend and contemporary of  Purandara Dasa. He was also a disciple of  Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha and he wrote under the Ankita Vaikunta. He has many compositions on Hari to his credit. He is belibed to have been reborn as Venugopala Dasa and because of his earlier birth he was called Pangunamada Dasa.
Though Vaikunta Dasa was a Srivaishnavite by birth, he became a Haridasa. He never left Belur and whenever he did, he stayed at Hampi where he interacted with Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Krishna Deva Raya.
He was specially blessed by Lord Krishna who danced in front of him whenever he sang. It was Vadiraja who gave him the name Vaikunta Dasa. Both Vadiraja and Kanaka have praised Vaikunta Dasa and his compositions. 

Saturday 19 October 2013

Of gods and seers

One of India’s most favourite Gods, Krishna, was a master of all the 64 arts that is called Kala in Sanskrit. His mastery earned him the title Chausath Kala Devatha.
Apart from Krishna, another God who had mastered these arts is Ganesha. Another God who was an expert in these arts was Hanuman or Anjaneya. Thus, if we have Hanuman in the Ramayana period, we have Krishna during the Mahabharata as exponents of such arts.
Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu and today scholars have been able to approximately date the period in which he lived. Even the Kurukshetra war has been assigned a time line.
Krishna mastered 64 arts in 84 days in the ashrama of Sandipana in Ujjain or Avanti. He is, therefore, also called as Yogeshwar or the master of all arts or siddhis or subjects.
Krishna is supposed to have left the Earth on February 8, 3012 and that day was the beginning of Kali Yuga. Interestingly, Durga has 64 yoginis.
In Hinduism, many Gods apart from the above-mentioned ones have been invested with the mastery of 64 arts and some heroic figures in the Mahabharata like Bheema, Arjuna, Yudhistera, Nakula and Sahadeva were known or their mastery over a particular art.
Yudhistera was a proponent of dharma and he was known for his mastery over political maneuvering. He was a master spearsman.
If Arjuna was a matchless bowman, he was also an expert dancer. Bheema was a wrestler and mace fighter apart from being a master chef. Nakula was an expert horseman and he could treat any illness of horses. He was also an Ayurveda expert.
His twin brother, Sahadeva, was an expert astrologer.  During the Vanavasa, he worked as a cowherd as he was a master in the art of  tending to cattle.  
Madhwacharya (1199-1287) too was an expert in so many arts that it defies description. Apart from being a brilliant orator, he was also a man of immense physical strength and he had mastered the art of levitation or making oneself as weightless as possible and also becoming so physically strong that he could not be pushed let alone moved.
He was also an alchemist and this was proved when he gave tamarind seeds to a money lender which later transformed into gold coins. The tamarind tree still stands at Pajaka Kshetra. He was a writer par excellence and his Sarvamoola Grantha are perhaps the most scholarly work by a philosopher.
An excellent debater, he easily defeated all the pandits who preached other forms of siddantha such as Adwaitha. His prowess as a gymnast are too well-known to be elaborated here. 
After Madhwacharya, we come across a long line of Madhwa seers who were experts in the arts. While many of them such as Sripadaraja (1404-1502), Vyasaraja (1447-1539), Vadiraja (1480-1600), Vijendra Theertha (1517-1614), Raghavendra Swamy, Raghuttama Theertha (1537-1596) exhibited their prowess and expertise in these arts at different periods of time, there are many others like Purandara Dasa (1484-1564), Kanaka Dasa (1509-1609), Vijaya Dasa (1682-1755), Jagannatha Dasa of Manvi (1728-1809) and a host of others seers and holy men who could perform to perfection many of these arts such as magic, composing music, playing musical instruments, engage people in conversation, debate and also play the role of the Pied Pier of Hamlyn by ridding people of their sins and leading them on to the path of Sri Hari.
Madhwa seers and they are so many in number that it would be impossible to name them, were experts in Ayurveda, alchemy, palmistry, astrology, astronomy, theology, philosophy and magic.
The Uttaradhi Matha seers were known for their master over different arts. Satyavrata Theertha showed his prowess in the art of transforming matter when the then King of Golconda, Abdullah Qutab Shah, gave him a plate full of meat. The seer sprinkled holy water and the meat turned to flowers and fruits. (Raghavendra Swamiji too did the same with the Nawab of Adoni, Siddi Masud Khan sometime in 1658-59).
Another Uttaradhi Matha pontiff, Satyanatha Theertha, held on to his life for five more days and asked Yama Dootas to wait so that he could participate in Aradhana of his Ashrama Guru, Satyanidhi Theertha.
Another saint of the Uttaradhi Matha parampare, Satyabodha Theertha, could survive a poison conspiracy on him and also prolong the life of his successor, Satyasandha Theertha. He was a master of telepathy and this is attested to by an Englishman. A Trikalagyani, he was honoured by Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all others. Tipu Sultan, the tiger of Mysore, revered him as did other kings and nobles. It would take several pages to detail the miracles attributed to him. A lot of information on this saint even today can be gleaned from the Bombay Gazetteer, Karnataka Dharwad district Chapter III. Page Nos 58-59 edited and published by James M. Campbell, which was compiled in 1863.
His successor, Satyasandha Theertha, has the rare distinction of giving mudra Dharane to Lord Panduranga Vithala who had come in the form of an old brahmin to see him. During one of his discourses, the Brindavana of  Satyavrata Teertha moved to and fro, indicating its approval.   
Vijendra Theertha of Raghavendra Matha was an extraordinary man and he had mastered all the 64 arts in such a manner that he defeated experts in all the fields be it magic, theology, composition, singing, gymnastics, sculpting, oratory and debate among other things.
Raghavendra Swamy was an erudite scholar and an expert veena player. He was also a writer par excellence and his magnetic personality drew people to him. He was also an excellent debater. He has performed so many miracles that it would take thousands of pages just to mention them. He is blessing people even today and his Brindavana in Mantralaya in Andhra Pradesh draws lakhs of people.
So we see that our Madhwa Seers were exponents of the arts. Yet none of them were keen on publicising it. The seers, cutting across all mathas and sub sects, were experts in different arts and this is a subject that needs a deeper and comprehensive study.       

Friday 18 October 2013

The Gulla with a GI tag

Vaishnavas or Madhwas are not expected to eat brinjal, which is one of the many prohibited items in their menu. However, a renowned Madhwa saint has a close and abiding connection with a local variety of brinjal and, infact, its origin can be traced to him.
This brinjal is still used in the matha of this Madhwa saint which bears his name. It is also used in the Paryaya celebrations which are conducted in Udupi when one of the eight seers of the Astha Mathas formally takes over the management of the Sri Krishna Matha in Udupi.
This is perhaps the only brinjal which has a lore going back to five hundred years and it has a religious connection. 
The origin of  this brinjal, called the Mattu Gulla, goes back to the time of Vadiraja Theertha, the preceptor of the Sode Matha and a renowned Madhwa saint.
Vadiraja (1480-1600) was a disciple of  Vyasa Raja (1447-1539) and he is ranked among the foremost Madhwa saints of all times. He was a devotee of  Hayagreeva or Hayavadhana and he prayed to him every day.
Vadiraja used to offer Hayagreeva, a sweet dish, everyday to Hayavadhana which used to come in the form of a horse and partake the Prasada. The horse kept its hoofs on the shoulders of Vadiraja and ate the Hayagreeva. Some people, who became envious of this, poisoned the Hayagreeva.
That day, the idol of Krishna at Udupi turned blue and the people who poisoned the Hayagreeva were shocked. They sought the pardon of Vadiraja who in turn gave them some seeds and asked them to plant them in the fields.
Vadiraja asked them to bring the Gulla to the temple at Udupi. He assured the that the blue tinge in the idol of Krishna would vanish as soon as the offering was placed before God. It happened as he forecast and since then Gulla is being used in the Sri Krishna Matha in Udupi.
The people, by then, began planting the seeds in the fields and this came to be known as Vadiraja Gulla. Since this was mainly grown in and around the village of Mattu, it was called Mattu Gulla. This tiny village is on the shore of the Arabian Sea.
Another version of the origin of this eggplant is that Vadiraja gave a fistful of mud to the people of Mattu and asked them to plant it in their fields. The mud transformed into seeds and it grew as Gulla. He offered the Gulla to the idol of Hayagreeva which then regained its original colour. However, a tinge of blue remained in the neck of the idol. This idol with the blue tinge can still be seen in the Sode Matha.
Even today, the first yield of Gulla is offered to Lord Krishna.
Mattu Gulla was in the news in 2011 when it received the Geographical Indicator (GI) patent. The Gulla is now grown in Mattu, Kopla, Innaje, Katpadi and Kaipunjalu in Udupi district and it has become an inseparable ingredient in Naivaedya offered to Krishna.
Gulla is classified as a secondary crop and it is grown in 250 acres. The Gulla cultivation starts after the paddy is harvested. This means Gulla is planted during November and December and the harvesting is in January. It is available till May.
Today, farmers growing Gulla have banded themselves into the Mattu Gulla Growers Association. Over a hundred families depend on Mattu Gulla farming as parallel and commercial crop.
By the way, the earliest reference to brinjal is in Ramayana, Jain and Buddhist texts. The Sanskrit text, Kashyapiyakrishisukti, an eighth century work on agriculture by Kashyapa, also has reference on brinjal. A copy of this work is in Adyar Library, Chennai. 
This book says white brinjal is poisonous.
Another textual reference is in Dharmasindhu, a work in Sanskrit written in 1758 by Kashinath Upadyaya.
Coming back to Mattu village, Gulla here is grown in 32 hectares and the production is 22 tonnes per hectare land. The annual production of Gulla in Mattu alone is 710 tonnes.
A similar variety of brinjal but without spines is the Perampalli gulla. Perampalli is also a small village near Udupi.

Thursday 17 October 2013

The silent killer

It is a silent killer and it kills as many people as do HIV/AIDS. In India alone, more than 2.5 lakhs people die annually because of this but the Government is yet to come forward with a policy to tackle this dreaded illness.
Sadly, one person in twelve is affected by this in the world. Yet, many nations have neglected it and they have treated it casually despite growing numbers of people succumbing to it.
In India, more than 500 million people are affected by the illness. Strangely, neither the Government nor the State medical machinery seems to be seized of the matter. What is more worrying is that there is no movement the lines of anti-AIDS and anti-HIV programmes or campaigns to tackle this dreaded illness.
This illness is hepatitis and more and more people are falling prey to it. Though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a day in July as World Hepatitis Day, awareness of this illness is meagre among victims and their nonchalance appalling.
Hepatitis is irritation, swelling or deformity of the liver.     
Generally, people associate hepatitis with viral infection. What they fail to realise is that there are different varieties of infection and though they are all generally classified under hepatitis, they are not all similar or related.
The most common causes of viral hepatitis are the five unrelated hepatotropic viruses hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Yes, the most common cause of hepatitis is viral but the inflammation of lover can also lead to several other illness such as Yellow fever, Herpes Simplex.
Hepatitis can be acute (here, the inflammation of the liver is for  less than six months) or chronic (inflammation lasts more than six months). This can be caused by hepatitis viruses, including A, B, C, D, and E or even other lesser known viruses.
Today, a major cause for hepatitis in India is due to alcohol and drug consumption. The third leading factor is due to the presence of highly dangerous toxins in the environment.
AA little more than 500 million people in India are living with chronic viral hepatitis in India, and a majority of them are affected by B and C virus which is the common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer. Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water and there have been reports of such cases in Bangalore.
In India, Hepatitis B, C and D generally occur due to contact with infected body fluids. Though approximately 3.5 lakhs people die annually from hepatitis C-related liver diseases, 70 per cent and above of people show no initial symptoms. By the time, it is diagnosed, it is invariably late.
Studies by medical institutions and organizations have tabulated that at least 20 million Indians carry hepatitis B virus and 8 million to ten million carry Hepatitis C virus. Shocking though, the Government does not seem to be too much bothered about these statistics.
The WHO itself has noted that there is no routine surveillance and also that deaths due to the virus are neither reported to a central registry nor recorded with a agency. Therefore, exact statistics about the deaths due to the illness is not completely accurate.
Hepatitis can be prevented but what is shocking is that the  number of  deaths due to this illness has been going up since 1990. There was 986000 deaths in 1990 and now the figure is an astounding 1.4 million. This matches the number of people killed by AIDS every year.  
More than 70 per cent f the worldwide deaths due to hepatitis occurs in the Asia Pacific region. This translates to a million people dying in this region and on average one person dying every 30 seconds.
Studies have shown that 65 per cent of people in Asia live with chronic hepatitis B and 75 per cent with hepatitis C, but a majority of these are unaware of the infection. In India, the most common reason for many hepatitis outbreaks are generally associated with fecal contamination of drinking water.
The earliest hepatitis outbreak attributed to HEV was the 1955 waterborne outbreak in Delhi which affected 29,000 people. The reason: contamination of city’s drinking water by raw sewage. India apart from Pakistan, China, Nepal and Myanmar regularly report hepatitis E outbreak. In India,  E was first recognized when it appeared in Kashmir in 1978.
Approximately, four in 100 Indians are infected with Hepatitis B and one in 100 with Hepatitis C virus. Studies have shown that 40 million people in India are infected by hepatitis B and blood donors are more prone to contact this illness. 

Tuesday 8 October 2013

A Begum on a platform

A few decades ago, a Begum of Oudh (or Awadh) along with  her retinue, which included a son and daughter, seven servants and 13 or 14 dogs, resorted to perhaps the most unique form of protest. She stayed put in a tiny waiting room in the New Delhi railway station and no amount of persuasion or even force could get her evicted from the Railway station.
For several years, the Begum was a sight for railway travellers in Delhi and she was as much a sight as the trains. It was all just like the Old Curosity Shop of Charles Dickens. The only difference was that Dickens has set his shop in England and the Begum in India.
The Begum wanted to prove a point. She wanted the Central Government to return at least one of the many palaces that belonged to the Oudh royalty of yore. These palaces were first seized by the British in 1857 and subsequently they became the property of the Indian Government. The Begum’s last palatial residence, a 20-room estate in Srinagar given to the family soon after Independence by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was  burned down in 1971 and she had been rendered homeless.
She had then sought justice for herself and her clansmen. She wanted the Government to return one or a few of her estates, which she aimed had been seized.
Since then, for 16 months and more, the Begum and her family with retinue in tow lived in tents on the grounds while asking the Government for the return of another ancestral home in Lucknow. She railed against the government when it offered a modern house and a small palace that her father had gifted to his servants. Incensed by what she perceived to be a grave royal slight, she then moved bag and baggage and of course with the dogs to the train station.
The Begum decorated her tiny quarters on the railway platform with Persian rugs and set up a makeshift throne with velvet bolsters. The station was not the place for royalty. The continuous movement of trains drove everyone, including the Begum into a tizzy. However, the Begum had her sweet revenge for what she perceived was a deliberate slight by the Government. 
She ordered the Shahi cooks to cook the Royal meals on vessels or braziers put up on the platform. The Begum commandeered the second-class ladies’ rest room for a three-hour bath every day, leaving the Railway officials exasperated and the travelers, particularly women, seething with fury and anger.
She tied the dogs to the lampposts outside the station and when it rained she confined them on the platforms. Her servants pitched tents outside the station and lived there.
She later shifted to the VIP entrance and made it her home. She was imperious to every one and never failed to make it known that she was a royal and that they could not treat her like a commoner. Try as they might, the Railways failed to dislodge her from the Railway station.
The Begum remained firmly entrenched in the station. When the international media went to town about the Begum and her platform palace, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited the railway station and met the Begum. She persuaded the Begum and her family to shift to the nearby Malcha palace in 1984, promising to get it repaired and renovated.
This was almost ten years after the platform protest.
The Begum reportedly consumed poison on December 10, 1993. She laced wine with crushed diamond and drank it.  
The name of this doughty woman: Begum Wilayat Mahal or Vilayat Mahal. She claimed to be the great granddaughter of  the redoubtable Begum Hazrat Mahal of Oudh (1820-1879), the wife of Nawan Wajid Ali Shah.
This may sound unbelievable but it is true. During the Emergency, news about the Begum was banned by the Censors. 

Monday 7 October 2013

The many Thrones of India

Well, Mysore has been in the news for the last few days and much has been written and televised about the golden throne of  the Wodeyars.
An invaluable artifact, which according to legend goes back to the times of the Pandavas, the origin of the throne is shrouded in mystery.
What many do not know is that today, the golden throne is the most magnificent piece of its kind in India. There is no other throne that even comes remotely near it in terms of heritage, myth, legend or even beauty.
Of course, here we are only taking about thrones in India and not those which have been lost forever or destroyed such as the priceless Peacock throne of the Mughals and the golden throne of Tipu Sultan.
So let us take a look at some of the thrones of India.
The Peacock Throne of the Mughals was commissioned by Emperor Shahjahan and it has been described by scores of travelers and visitors to the Mughal Empire as the most magnificent throne of its time.
History tells us that the Peacock Throne was carried away by Nadir Shah after he sacked and looted Delhi in 1739.
Nadir Shah massacred the entire population of Delhi and took away the entire wealth of the Mughals, including the Peacock Throne and the Kohinoor diamond to Iran.
The throne was destroyed by assassins who murdered Nadir Shah. Today, there is no remnant of this throne but a replica made by Indian craftsmen exists in the Topkapi palace in Istanbul, Turkey.
This is also a Mughal style throne and it was also supposedly carted away by Nadir Shah, who gifted it to the Ottoman Emperor. This throne too is believed to be only a small part of the Delhi loot of Nadir Shah.  
The throne is on public display and it is in the form of a high-edged table with four legs. The cushion is decorated with pearls and a gold braid.
The Kohinoor, we know, is with the British monarch.
Apart from these two thrones, contemporary texts and accounts say that the Mughals had at least nine other thrones and almost all of them were in the red fort in Delhi and at the fort in Agra. There was also a throne in the fort at Lahore.
Nine of these thrones, including the Peacock Throne, were taken away by Nadir Shah.  
After Nadir Shah left India, a weakened Mughal Empire shrunk considerably in area and extent. The power they once wielded was almost gone. This is best represented by the throne they sat on. The throne was a crude replica of the peacock throne and it was almost entirely made of silver.
The last Mughal Emperor to sit on this throne was Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857. The British broke it up and carted it away to their homeland after the first war of Indian Independence.
The British also plundered the Red fort and took away rubies, diamonds, gold, silver, jade and all jewels and artifacts that they could lay their hands on.
The 20th century Pahlavi dynasty in Iran also called their ceremonial seat “the Peacock Throne,” though this throne has no relation to the original peacock throne.
Another throne that was Indian and held a lot of sentiment was the gold throne of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler. This throne was made by the goldsmith Hafez Muhammad Multani sometime between  1820 to 1830.
It was made of wood and resin core and then carefully covered with sheets of engraved gold. The base is two tiered and it is crafted with lotus, a symbol of Hindu purity. The throne today is an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Incidentally, the octagonal shape of the throne is based on courtly furniture of the Mughals. Since Ranjit Singh was renowned for his simplicity and dislike of ceremony, he rarely sat on this throne, preferring to sit cross-legged on carpets.
The throne was taken by the British in 1849 on the annexation of Punjab, after the second Anglo-Sikh war.
A throne that the British willfully broke up was the throne with the tiger motif that belonged to Tipu Sultan of Mysore. When Tipu died in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799, the British troops looted his treasury, mint, palace and broke down the throne. Today, only a few tiger motifs-three of the eight that were crafted on the throne-and the gold Huma bird which was perched on the umbrella on the throne has survived. The rest have been lost.
Similarly, it is believed that the Vijayanagar Empire had several thrones. Most of them appear to have been destroyed or broken apart when the Muslim states of the Deccan wantonly destroyed Hampi or Vijayanagar after the battle of Talikota in 1565.
The golden throne of Mysore was one of the many thrones that the Vijayanagar Emperors sat on. It was unearthed from a secret pit in Peunkonda by one of the founders of the Vijayanagar empire, Harihara, in 1348.
The then Rajguru of  Vijayanagar, Vidyaranya, helped Harihara excavate the throne. The throne was at Anegundi when the Muslim armies marched into Vijayanagar in 1565. It then was transported to Srirangapatna and from there it came into the possession of the Wodeyars.     
This throne, the Bhavishya Purana says, originally belonged to Indra, the King of Gods. Inbdra gave it to Vikramaditya, the second son of  King Gandharvasena of Ujjaini who belonged to the Paramar dynasty.
The Bhavishya Purana also portrays Vikramaditya as the first great Hindu King among the ten great kings. He received the throne from Indra as he settled a dispute between Rambha and Urvasi. In his judgment, Urvasi's dance was superior to Rambha's because Rambha lost confidence and her garland flowers became pale as she worried about victory while dancing.
The throne then passed into the hands of Bhoja Raja and later to the Guptas and finally into the hands of the King of Kampili, Kampiliraja.
 Kampili was a tiny kingdom on the banks of the Tungabhadra river in present day Karnataka state during the 13th century. The founder of the kingdom was a Hoysala commander, Singeya Nayaka-III (1280 - 1300) who declared himself independent and created a small chiefdom. He was succeeded by his son Kampiliraja who buried the throne at Penukonda when he was forced to take on Muhammad Bin Tughlaq in 1327.
The throne remained buried in Penukonda till Vidyaranya directed Harihara to excavate it.
Another throne of the Vijayanagar can be seen on festive occasion when the idol of Virupaksha is taken in a procession. Historians believe that the Vijayanagar Emperors gave the throne to the temple in 1565 just before or soon after their defeat in Talikota, which is a small town in Bijapur district.
We have descriptions of the thrones of the Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Chalukyas and even Kadambas but none of them exist. There is also no evidence of the throne of the Adil Shahs and the Bahamani Emperors.
However, we can still see some of the most unique thrones in India.  
The Salar Jung museum in Hyderabad today has a golden wooden throne used by the Nizam during the last silver jubilee celebration.
The Chowmahalla Palace or Chowmahallat (four Palaces), is also a palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad. It was the seat of the Asaf Jah dynasty and was the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad while they ruled their state.
The palace is even today held in high esteem by the residents of Hyderabad, as it was the seat of the Asaf Jahs. The grand pillared Durbar Hall has a pure marble platform on which the Takht-e-Nishan or the royal seat was laid. Here the Nizams held their durbar and other religious and symbolic ceremonies.
Another unique throne is in the Junagadh fort in Bikaner. It has the sandalwood throne. There is also a throne set on a swing. The silver throne of Jaisalmer is an added attraction of the city of Jaisalmer.
Similarly, the City palace at Jaipur housed the golden throne in the Diwan-E-Aam (Sabha Niwas) or the Hall of Public Audience.
The Golden throne, called as Takth-e-Rawal, was the seat of the Maharaja during public audience. It was mounted on an elephant or carried by palanquin bearers during the Maharajas’ visit outside the palace.
Indian royals have always set great store by the thrones that they sat on.
Today, we can guess what royalty was lie when we see the Durbar hall in the Red fort in Delhi and Agra, the Amba Vilas in the main palace in Mysore, the durbar room of the Marathas in Thanjavur palace, the durbar hall of the Lakshmi Vilas, Jai Vilas palaces and the many palaces in Rajasthan and Gujarat.  

Sunday 6 October 2013

The Dung beetles of Nagarhole

They are classified as the strongest insects in the world. They can lift 1,141 times their own body weight. This is equivalent to a normal man pulling six double decker buses, each of them full of people.
They are a modern group as their fossils date back to 30 million years ago and as of now there are more than 7000 species worldwide.
They range in size from less than a millimeter to six centimetres or a little more. And they occur rather extensively in all the continents except Antartica.
They are the Dung beetles and India has hundreds of such species. Nagarhole in  Karnataka alone had nearly a hundred of these Dung beetles.
The Dung beetles found include Catharsius granulatus, Copris indicus, Oniticellus cinctus,  Onitis singhalensis, Onthophagus beesoni, Onthophagus ensifer, Onthophagus ranam, Onthophagus sp.107, Onthophagus tarandus, Picnopanaleus rotundus, Caccobius diminutives, Caccobius ultor, Copris furciceps, Copris sp,  Heliocopris dominus, Pseudonthophagus sp, Sisyphus neglectus, Caccobius inermis, Caccobius meridionalis., Caccobius torticornis, Caccobius sp, Copris sodalist, Onthophagus socialis, Onthophagus sp.301, Onitis phelemon, Onthophagus furcillifer, Caccobius gallinus, Onthophagus rufulgens, Onthophagus sp, Copris repertus, Pseudonthophagus sp.1, Copris davisoni, Onitis falcatus, Onthophagus turbatus, Copris imitans, Onthophagus quadridentatus, Caccobius vulcanus, Liatongus affinis, Oniticellus spinipes, Sisyphus longipus, Onthophagus dama and many others.
The Dung beetles live anywhere from three to five years. A researcher has found that a small 1.5 kilograms pile of Elephant dung on the African Savannah attracted 16 000 Dung beetles, who between them had eaten and or buried that dung completely in just two hours.
Research has also shown that one dung beetle can bury 250 times its own weight in a night. Most of the Dung beetles prefer herbivore dung, though many are not very particular and will use many different forms of dung,
Some species have a definite preference for one type of dung only.
Onthophagus caenobita has only ever been found feeding in human faeces. Similarly, the Zonocopris gibbicolis of South America feeds on the faeces of large snails on whom it rides around.
The female dung beetle lays a single egg into each ball of dung and then covers the nest with more dung and soil. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the fecal matter.
Dung beetles can be divided into three groups: Rollers, Tunnellers and Dwellers. Rollers make a burrow some way away from the dung they are going to use and then collect small to medium sized lumps of dung to roll into their burrows. Typhaeus typhoeus, the Minotaur Beetle, can dig burrows up to a metre deep. Generally the female does most of the digging and the male spends most of his time foraging for dung and collecting it for her.
Rollers dig their front legs into the ground and use their hind legs to push the ball of dung. Tunnellers fly until they find some fecal matter into which they straightaway dive. They then dig a tunnel and then drag as much dung as they like down into it. Again it is mostly the female who stays in the burrow sorting out the dung and the male goes out to get it.
Some dung beetles eat and lay their eggs on dung some other beetle has collected. This thief beetle often eats the legitimate dung-owners eggs apart from taking away or stealing their dung.
The females of many of the larger ‘Rollers’ stay inside their burrows and care for and protect their eggs and young. They can live for up to three years. Some of these larger dung beetles can move balls of dung (on the ground ofcourse) up to 50 times their own weight.
Not many know that Australia imported 45 species of dung beetle from various parts of the world to get rid of cattle dung.
In ancient Egypt the dung beetle was called Scarab and it was an important religious symbol. In some Indian tribes from South America, a dung beetle named Aksak is supposed to have modelled the first man and woman from clay.
Are dung beetles important to evolution. What is likely to happen if they are not there in the world. Without dung beetles, the Earth would be piled high with manure and dung.
The dung beetles  feed on dung and they spend quiet a time in a day eating faeces. They are, therefore, called as Dung beetles.
Since they spend their days eating faeces, their dungrolling led the ancient Egyptians to believe they were responsible for keeping the sun moving.
More than a hundred species of  dung beetles can be found in the Nagarahole (Rajiv Gandhi) National Park, which is ranked among the richest biodiversity spots in the country.
The  Heliocopris Dominus is the biggest dung beetle in the country and it was generally found in the north-eastern region. This species too is found in Nagarhole.
Watching the dung beetle is as fascinating as it can be. Want to check it. Then head for Nagarhole. You are sure to come across them wherever you find dung. And Nagarhole is home to one of the largest elephant herds in India. You can easily spot the Heliocopris dominus which breeds only in elephant dung and Onthophagus pactolus, a very rare species of dung beetle. Of course, you can easily spot Onthophagus dama, the most common dung beetle.