September 2009

Any trip to Mysore and its vicinity cannot be without developing a relationship with the mighty Kaveri,revered in the south on par with the Ganga maiyya of the northern India. For us who started the whole trip by landing at the Royal Orchid hotel situated inside the Brindavan gardens right behind the mighty wall of Krishnasagar Dam it was to be a total love affair with the sacred river.I post a photo blog of Kaveri in its various moods and of the lands that it nourishes with its bountiful waters (even now,inspite of the obstructions in its way via dams and the resultant TN/Karnataka water disputes).

The hotel Royal Orchid that provides awesome views of the Brindavan gardens.


This picture is taken from our hotel balcony.You can see the Brindavan gardens nestled at the foot of the mighty wall that holds back the restless (to flow on) Kaveri.

The water that the wall holds back.It being the monsoon season the dam was nearly full and seeing all that water it is hard to understand the wrangling between Tamilnadu and Karnataka over Kaveri water.

The water makes gentle lapping sounds on the side shown in the picture above but on the other side its is a different story.The mighty roar of the water is unbelievable and you can get an idea from this video:
We had climbed up from the hotel precincts on to the dam.Once up and busy taking pictures we were intrigued by the lack of tourists on the wall.The last time (1997) we were here it was a virtual mela on top.Then a friendly young man whizzing by on his motorbike stopped suddenly and told us to go down back to the hotel immediately as it was forbidden by security agencies to be on the dam.He and the few others who travel on it have special photo IDs that allows them to be there and that too only because their villages are in such a place that they need to use this road atop the dam to get to town and back.He also informed us that the whole area is monitored by CCTVs.Apparently about 8-10 years ago the late LTTE chief (Prabhakaran) had issued a threat against the dam and thereafter the public is not allowed. Hmm, needless to say we beat a hasty retreat and hoped like mad that no one would come looking for us after catching us on camera footage.Fingers crossed still.

The water then flows on and behind the wall to the left was the dining room of the hotel.We could see the water rushing past with an unbeliveble roar as we sat at our table.In fact the roar is a constant companion if you are staying in this hotel.It used to be the guest palace of the Maharaja of Mysore.
A view of the dam from the other side.

A shrine to the river .Sree Kaveri seems to be guarding the dam.The stairs on the two sides lead up to the top of the dam.In the evening a priest is at hand to help those who want to perform pooja here.

A statue of Sree Kaveri getting sprayed with the waters of Kaveri, inside Brindavan Gardens.

The waters nurture man and animal alike. Paddy sowing in full swing.

The Ranganathitu bird sanctuary is on the banks of the river Kaveri and because of  the many islets provides many species of migratory birds with ideal breeding grounds. It is a world within a world where the silence is broken only by the flap of birds’ wings and their calls.

Life on the banks of the river.
The intriguing round boats that are used to cross the river.I missed my ride due to lack of time.
Devotees visiting the Nimishambha temple throng to the river for a quick blessing of the sacred waters.
Another temple along the river.Notice the small idols including a ‘shivalinga’ on the rock and in the river waters.

I have posted the pictures of the river from a very small portion of its journey from source to mouth.How much more mesmerising it must be in many places along its journey,I can only wonder about.
EVER SINCE Pranab Mukherjee set the cat amongst the pigeons by asking ministers (Shashi Tharoor and SM Krishna) to move out of five star accomodations into state bhavans or other cheaper accomodations, the talk of cost cutting measures by and in the government has been at full throttle.

While a ‘large sized’ minister’ like Sharad Pawar refused straight away to travel by economy by pointing to his ample girth, SM Krishna told the media hounding him that he would continue to make similar arrangements ( five star) for his accomodation till the official residence has been renovated to his liking.

To try and stem all the talk about indifference in the government about tightening purse strings in times of economical downturn, Sonia Gandhi travelled to Mumbai by economy class. She earned flak for her efforts from Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena who questioned the wisdom of such a move given the security arrangements that have to be made for VVIP’s when they decide to rub shoulders with the ‘aam aadmi’. He also raised the question of the inconvenience caused to fellow travellers due to stringent security arrangements made for the VVIPs.

Before Sonia could mull over the appropriateness of her travel, Rahul decided to travel like the rest of us, by train, to Ludhiana. The TV channels gave non stop coverage to this and many passengers on the same train were heard grumbling about the difficulties caused to them by Rahul’s decision to travel with them.The station seemed to be swarming with commandos and other security staff.

But before the train could even reach its destination has come the news of stones having been thrown at the (Shatabdi) train somewhere near Panipat. The stones thrown were of fairly large size and broke the windows of coach C 2,C 4 and C 7. Rahul was in C3 and escaped unhurt. Other passengers were not so fortunate and a few got hurt when the rocky missiles entered the coaches after shattering the thick window panes.

Given this incident, one wonders at the wisdon of ‘economy’ travel by VVIPs. It seems that such symbolic gestures increase the difficulties of ordinary people, give security forces sleepless nights and the expense is considerble. Now that the Gandhis have made their point, could they please go back to their special jets and convoys so the rest of us can get on with our travels. After all if the government is serious about cost cutting there are surely many other areas where gross financial mismanagement is rife.


As we drove from Mysore towards Halebidu we were still going by our travel brochure and referring to the place as Halebid.Sounds very anglicized,doesn’t it? The guide later told us that the local name Haalu beedu actually means -the destroyed city.

The drive was through lush green countryside and to a Gulf resident all that green was bounty enough.When the taxi came to a halt I wondered if we had reached.There was the usual clutter and run down chaos of a small Indian town.Trinket and picture postcard sellers swarmed momentarily but gave up quickly.Quite unlike the persistent (and annoying) hordes at tourist places in the North.
Where was the famed temple I wondered. I caught a glimpse of it from the side and it seemed like a stack of blackened stone.I felt a small sense of disappointemnt.Then the guide came along and took us inside the temple complex.The photo below captures what I saw then and was floored.That ‘stack’ of stone turned out to be an epic poem in stone. Have a look.


The most impressive, in the beginning, were the two Nandi Bulls that guard the two adjoining temples.I was stumped.So much evocative beauty in these two gentle giants.The carving itself is so fluid,so life like, down to the minutest detail of how a bull sort of slumps to a side when sitting in this posture. Unfortunately I was not able to click it from that side as it started raining.The carving of the bells,ropes and tassles around the Nandi’s neck are flawless and have escaped the damage inflicted on the rest of the temple.

This is a view of the main vestibule of the temple and it is awesome.I got goose bumps just standing there. I felt I could literally reach back in time and be one with all those who must have frequented it during its hey days and subsequently through the ages. Right in the middle, where a samll nandi is visible, is a circular dance floor that w as used for temple dances and it is like a mirror due to its age worn sheen.All around are the viewing stands for the audiences( lower right corner of the picture) that had steps of stone to climb on to.The edges have cavities carved out in the stone.These are the oil lamps that were lit at the time of the dance performances. What an awesome sight that must have been.I hope they organise some dance festivals there in future.The pillars of the entire temple are of varied designs…….all beautiful.There is something about age worn stone………..that warm sheen that enchants me everytime I am anywhere near it.

India’s ancient history,mythology,festivals…all are carved here with spellbinding effect.
Ganesha can be found in various moods here including the rare one of him in angry mood.According to the guide the trunk in that case is to the right side!

Almost all important dieties can be found in that part of the temple that is devoted to the spiritual part.The other half is devoted to worldly things like dancers,animals,trees etc.
The ‘trimoorti’- Brahma,Vishnu,Mahesh



The eternal lovers
 Shiva – Parvati

Krishna holds up Mount Govardhana
Lord Vishnu’s third avatar,Varaha, who appeared in the Satya Yuga 
The scenes of war from Mahabharta and Ramayana.This one shows the ‘chakravyuh’ that Abhimanyu did not know how to exit.

Lord Ram slays King Bali.Bali had a boon that he would acquire half the powers of who ever confronted him in order to kill him. It was because of this Ram stood behind trees to kill Bali.Look at the beautiful detail of the arrow piercing the trees…..800+ years and the picture is still so clear.

This picture is a bit out of focus but is the scene of Holika,the sister of the evil king,Hiranyakashipu, burning in the fire.Elsewhere,there are  beautiful scenes of people filling their ‘pichkaris'(water guns) from tubs of water to play the north Indian festival of Holi

Bhima slays elephants with his mace in the battle to capture Drupad,the King of Panchala.Their guru, Drona, had asked for the capture of Drupad as his tuition fees.Pandavas and Kauravas went together to this battle.

There are endless images in my collection. I went berserk with my camera but nothing can capture the feelings of awe and wonderment that one experiences when one stands in ancient places like this temple.The temple took many centuries to build and infact was never completed as the Hoysala kings were forced to move their kingdom due to the raids by armies of Malik Kafur.There are many portions of the temple that have incomplete carvings.It as though the workers had to move away from their labour of love and could never return again.

The temple was ransacked (for its wealth) by Kafur’s army sometime in early 14th century and thereafter fell into a state of neglect.
Since Hindus used to discontinue ‘pooja’ in temples once desecrated this temple fell prey not only to the initial muslim invaders but also to local vandals and the British (this is anecdotal but given the history of the stuff the British carried away,this could be entirely true) too are thought to have spirited away many of the sculptures that could be carted away. Below is my documentation of the plunder by various vandals.
The first place honor( in the hall of shame) goes to the Muslim armies who destroyed what they could, easily, at the lower levels.The free standing, delicate carvings at lower levels are all gone….smashed wilfully but the solid stone carvings are all there.These perhaps took too much effort to destroy.I can’t help but think that India must have been the Muslim invader’s ultimate nightmare. They were instructed by their Book/Prophet to hate idol worshipping and destroy idols.They then marched to India, to capture this bounteous land, only to encounter a veritable hot house of temples,idols and more idols. Ha!
The sculptures that have taken the most hit are actually the scene of “samudra manthan’. You can still see the ‘rope’ in the hands of the destroyed figures.

The next come the local bounty seekers,perhaps, egged on by the western world’s appetite for Indian antiques. The British could have been complicit in this trade.All around the temple are empty niches like this from which stupendously beautiful idols have been taken away.Mercifully, the nearby temple of Belur has all its idols intact and one can get an idea from there of what Halebid has lost.

Finally the modern day vandals who engrave their names on anything of antiquity that they visit. On the snout of Nandi which is like a polished mirror the name of one Khan. On the rump of the magnificient beast two lovers have added their graffiti.Thankfully, according to our guide,this ‘modern’ graffiti is some decades old and now the temple is more protected.I hope this is true.

This is already an epic post so I shall call a halt to image uploading and let you get on with sharing my wonderful journey through a small part of India’s glorious heritage

Those of you who are from Chennai would probably recognise the girl in the picture below. Those who do not, need to take a look and read the post below.You are looking at the Asian U-14 chess champion.She earlier became the national champion in the U-13 category in 2008.Meet J.Saranya



Photo source: Internet

This extremely serene 14 year old is seen in the pic sitting outside a temple selling plastic and clay items with her mother. Her family was abandoned by her father about 5 years ago and nothing is known about his whereabouts.Saranya,her sister and mother eke out a meagre existence from setting up this pavement stall.

There is nothing new about poverty in our country but what caught my eye was that on the day this picture and story was published in the paper there was also a picture on top right corner of the same page of a cricketer stuffing Yuvraj’Singh’s mouth with sweets.There was something about the stark contrast between the visage of the over valued,over cheered,over paid and over the top attitude -wala Indian cricketer and the absolute serenity and dignity of the almost uncelebrated chess champ

Life has thrown no privileges her way but she seems unruffled by the inequities of the world.She goes to school,plays chess and helps her mom the rest of the time.Some local good samaritans have been helping the family but its a crying shame that in a nation where the media gloatingly reports that Dhoni made 10 million dollars last year,it is left to Saranya’s school mates to arrange for the cost of her playing trips to other cities and overseas.

Read her full story here: