Posts Tagged With: Lord Shiva

Mahabalipuram

Bangalore – Tiruvannamalai – Chennai – Mahabalipuram – 3 days (Dec 2013)

The drive to Mahabalipuram was by far the best drive of the trip. The roads were wide, and very well-maintained.  The traffic too was not too heavy, making this a very fast trip. The road to Mahabalipuram runs right along the sea-coast during the latter half of the journey, making a visually interesting sight, and definitely kept the kids occupied by making them watch out for the next peek-a-boo view! 🙂

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a town in the Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu. This was a bustling port during the time of the Pallavas (7th Century CE). However, Roman and Chinese coins dating to the 4th Century CE have also been found, making this an active port engaging in trading even during the late Classical period. The place is today famous for the various sculptures dotting the Mahabalipuram coastline that were built by the Pallava rulers. The various styles of the sculptures and their themes (varying from Shiva and Vishnu idols to Buddhist influences) display the various influences brought by the visiting traders and craftsmen. The Pallavas had also brought back craftsmen as “spoils of war” from their wars with the Chalukyas during their reign. This is reflected in some of the sculptures that seem to echo those of Ajantha and Ellora.

The town was also referred to as “Seven Pagodas” by Marco Polo who named to such for the 7 Temples that dotted the shore. Today one 1 temple stands true, and is simply referred to as The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram now. The Shore Temple along with all the sculptures have been declares as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.

We reached the town around 1pm, and drove directly to the stone cravings and caves for which Mahabalipuram is so famous for. The caves are spread over a large area, and we couldn’t possibly cover it all, not with 2 kids in tow and a flight to catch in Chennai later in the day. So we decided to stop at the main open-air sculpture called the Decent of the Ganges.  The sculpture, made from 2 huge rocks placed side-by-side, shows the decent of the Ganga from Shiva’s tresses led by Bhagiratha. In fact there are 2 stories that seem to be connected with this bas-relief.

Bas-relief

Bas-relief

The first story is that of Bhagiratha (shown as an ascetic standing on one leg in penance) who preformed penance to Lord Shiva to make the Holy River Ganga flow over the ashes of his ancestors and release them of their sins. To break the force to the river reaching the plains, Shiva caught the river in his hair and broke it up into multiple rivulets. This was apparently displayed in a very graphic way in times part. there is a brick cistern at the top of the relief, and water was apparently let flow through the fissure in the relief to show Ganga flowing to the Plains.

Ascetic is placed on the upper portion of the rock on the left.

Ascetic is placed on the upper portion of the rock on the left.

Another story is that Arjuna from the Mahabharata performed penance to gain a weapon called Pasupata, Shiva’s most powerful weapon. Asuras had let loose a boar to kill him. Shiva took on the form of a hunter and stood next to Arjuna. Both shot arrows to kill the boar, and both claimed that their arrow was the one that killed the boar. They fought a duel to find who was superior, and Arjuna was defeated by Shiva. Shiva then showed Arjuna his true form and gave him the Pasupata weapon.

On one side of this bas-relief was a set of sculptures that depicted the agrarian life in (supposedly) the town. The sculptures were all life-sized, and were a treat to the eyes.

View of agrarian life of the time period

View of agrarian life of the time period

another view with lovely detail

another view with lovely detail

The other side of the bas-relief was an open lawn that led up to the other caves. Further along the lawn is a huge rock, seemly balancing precariously. This is commonly refered to as Krishna’s Butter Ball. It definitely makes for a great set of photos where one can pose as though they are either pushing or lifting the rock! 🙂 And no prizes for guessing who made that particular attempt! 😉

Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna’s Butter Ball

 

Krishna's Butter Ball

Krishna’s Butter Ball

By this time it was already lunch time, and the kids were getting hungry. So we found a nice tree to sit under, and feed the kids.

The next stop was the Mahabalipuram shore. The temple was shut till evening, so that feature in our to-see list. Along the way we saw a lot of lovely stone sculptures. They were so beautiful, we couldn’t resist taking pictures. Some were idols of various gods, while a lot of the others were meant to be as decor around a house or garden. It was a wonder to see the sheer talent of the stone sculptors.

various religious idols in stone

various religious idols in stone

 

amazing detail in the sculptures, and a small table of trinkets in stone too!

amazing detail in the sculptures, and a small table of trinkets in stone too!

The path to the beach was dotted with shops selling various trinkets, stone items and sea food. The last was a bit of a problem with the over-whelming smell, but otherwise we enjoyed the (rather long) walk to the beach. The beach though felt like an anti-climax after that walk. It was really small. Being a weekday, there were not as many people as on a weekend, but it still felt crowded! We let the kids enjoy the water for 30-40 mins and then made our way back.

She sell sea shells....

She sell sea shells….

Just outside the town was a large Adyar Ananda Bhavan restaurant. We had a quick lunch, and left for Chennai at around 3.30-ish. We finally reached the Airport at Chennai around 4.30 pm in the evening. After seeing off my Sister-in-law and the kids, we started off for Bangalore at around 6pm. The evening traffic on the Highway was pretty heavy, and we finally got home at 12.30 am.

The trip holds great memories of amazing locales and fun-filled memories, and was an amazing end to 2013!

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Categories: Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamalai | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lepakshi

Recently the In-laws and nephew, Gana, were at our place for the kiddo’s summer holidays. Since we didn’t want to go around to any of the malls (again), we decided to do out of Bangalore for a day trip. This would ensure that everyone got to see something new, and not make it very strenuous for the nephew and In-laws.

After a lot of deliberation, we finally zeroed on Lepakshi. However, the place didnt warrant an entire day, so we decided to combine it with Nandi Hills, timed so that we could catch the sunset. While most sites advised to catch the sunrise, considering we had a small kid in tow, we changed our plan.

Another consideration was that there are no restaurants at Lepakshi. As advised by various travel sites and blogs, we decided to leave a little late, after packing a hearty, and easily transportable lunch for everyone.

A bit about Lepakshi:

Lepakshi is a small village in Anantpur District of Andhra Pradesh. It is about 120kms from Bangalore. It is famous for its 16th century temple of Lord Veerabhadra, Siva and Vishnu. The temple of Lord Veerabhadra is built on a hill called Kurmasailam, meaning tortoise hill in Telugu after the shape of the hill.

There are a couple of stories regarding to the origin of the name “Lepakshi”. One of them traces the name to The Ramayana. It is said to refer to the place where the bird Jatayu fell. Jatayu had been injured after a fight with Ravana while he was abducting Sita. When Rama found him lying on the ground, he cried out in distress “le pakshi!” (rise, bird!)

Another, slight gruesome story is that the treasurer of the Vijayanagar empire, Virupanna, built the temple in the emperor’s absence. On his return, the furious emperor ordered Virupanna’s eye to be put out. On hearing the order, Virupanna himself took out his eyes, and hence the name ” Lepa Akshi”.

The Trip:

We finally left at 9am, and by the time we left the city it was almost 10 am. The route we took was the Outer Ring Road joining into NH7 Bangalore-Hyderabad highway.

Once we crossed Chikballapur, we came across Kamat Upachar. we stopped here for refreshing coffee and steaming hot puris. it also helped to give everyone including Gana break from sitting in the vehicle.

Once we got back on road, we kept a look out for the point when we stepped out of Karnataka and entered Andhra. I remembered from a previous trip, that Lepakshi was right inside the Andhra Pradesh border. Soon, we crossed the toll gate at Bagepalli, and almost immediately after saw the turnoff for Lepakshi.

The village is located 10km down the road. initially the road was ok, but further down it deteriorated and became narrow. The scenery though made up for it!

The first thing that we see on entering Lepakshi is a huge monolithic Nandi, called Basavanna here. The idol is a massive 15ft high and 27ft in length. The sheer beauty of the sculpture keeps one riveted. A truly beautiful idol.

Basavanna Idol

Basavanna Idol

profile view

profile view

We then made our way to the main temple which was located around 200mtrs from the Nandi idol. The first few steps were pretty steep. It wasn’t really a problem for the younger people, but may be a concern for older citizens.  we left our shoes outside and made our way into the temple.

The entrance to the main temple was pretty narrow. But on entering the temple, we were awestruck. The sculptures on the pillars and ceiling were done in granite, and were a visual feast. The sculptures were mainly of Gods, mythological creatures and scenes from The Ramayana, as well as intricate designs on each of the pillars.

intricate work on pillars

intricate work on pillars

scenes from mythology

scenes from mythology

Once we finished darshan of Lord Veerbhadra, we stepped out to the courtyard and moved to the back of the temple. Here we found a beautiful idol of Lord Nagalingeshwara (Lord Shiva in Linga form with a 7-headed serpent providing shade). The Basavanna idol that we saw at the beginning is directed towards this idol. The Nagalingeshwara too is made of a single stone.

Lord Nagalingeshwar

Lord Nagalingeshwar

With the temple gopuram

With the temple gopuram

Alongside the idol are carvings of SriKalaHasti worshipping Lord Shiva. Further on, there is also a huge idol of Lord Ganesh. It is difficult to image the creativity as well as effort that went into making all of these idols from a single rock.

SriKalaHasti worshipping Shivalinga

SriKalaHasti worshipping Shivalinga

Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha

Further down from the Ganesh idol, we can see the  Kalyana Mandapa, the marriage hall. Most of the pillars are broken, though this does nothing to take away the beauty of the place.

Kalyana Mandapa

Kalyana Mandapa

 

It was already lunch time, and Gana was getting cranky. So we went through another doorway behind the Ganesha Idol that took us outside the immediate temple courtyard, but kept us within the premises. We sat here and had a lovely lunch of pulihora, rice and curds. What I did have to do constantly was shoo away dogs that lived in the compound. But I must say, they were pretty well-behaved for strays. At no point were they aggressive towards us, even when I went close to them to push them away. They kept their distance, though it was uncomfortable for us to eat with them close by. We gave them the leftovers of our food, which they all enjoyed.

Refreshed after our break, we slowly covered the rest of the temple.  After the Kalyana Mandapa, we saw a large idol of Sri Anjaneya Swamy. Later we doubled back here to see a large footprint, presumably of Sita Devi to make water flow from the ground and keep Jatayu alive till Rama came. Some people also claim it to be that of Lord Anjaneya Swamy, while other claim it to be carved by the artisans…

Lord Anjaneya Swamy

Lord Anjaneya Swamy

diya plates carved into stone

diya plates carved into stone

Sita Padam

Sita Padam

Also here are some large carvings made on the stone, mainly to light diyas around the idol.

Further down are a couple of lovely trees. On first glance, one of the trees was a raavi (peepal) tree, but on further inspection we found that a bilva tree, auspicious to Lord Shiva had emerged from within the raavi tree. At this point Gana pointed out a section of the emerging tree that looked like Lord Ganesha! It was a lovely view, and not something that we’d noticed ourselves!

Raavi leaves on the outer tree, and bilva leave higher up

Raavi leaves on the outer tree, and bilva leave higher up

Lord Ganesha, as pointed out by Gana

Lord Ganesha, emerging from tree trunk

Happy with these thoughts, we made our way back to the main temple mandapa, to take additional photographs and also to have a look at the Hanging Pillar. The Hanging Pillar is a unique structure that does not rest completely on the floor. however, it is slightly dislodged from its location as a British engineer tried to move it to discover its secret.

Hanging pillar on the right. Can make out that it's not touching the floor

Hanging pillar on the right. Can make out that it’s not touching the floor

paper pushed under the Hanging Pillar

paper pushed under the Hanging Pillar

Pulling the paper out

Pulling the paper out

Other Beautiful aspects of this mandapa that we’d hadn’t focussed on earlier were:

  • Bhringi:
    • This was an interesting story. Bhringi was an ancient sage, also the Dance master of the Gods, who worshipped only Shiva. However, this worship was to the exclusion of Shiva’s Consort, Parvati Devi. Parvati noticed this, and when Bhringi wanted to circumambulate Shiva, she sat to Shiva’s lap to force Bhringi to worship her too. However, Bhringi turned into a snake, and tried to move in between the two of them. Shiva then took on the form of Ardhanareshwara, half-himself and half-Parvati, to show Bhringi that Parvati and he were two parts of the same whole, and should be worshipped equally. However, Bhringi took the form of a beetle (or bee) and worshipped only Shiva. At this, Parvati got angry and cursed him to lose his flesh and blood. Bhringi became so weak, he couldn’t stand. When he understood his folly and sought forgiveness, Shiva granted him a 3rd leg with which he could stand. He is depicted as such with 3 legs in many paintings of Shiva.

    Bhringi

    Bhringi

  • Annapurna Devi:

    Annapurna Devi giving alms to Shiva

    Annapurna Devi giving alms to Shiva

  • paintings on the ceiling with scenes from Daksha Yagna, marriage of Partvati and Shiva, and the court of the Vijayanagar Emperor
Scene from Daksha Yagna painted on the ceiling

Scene from Daksha Yagna painted on the ceiling

 

Finally we moved out of the temple. Here at the entrance we found a couple of small sculptures that we hadn’t noticed earlier. One of (presumably) Anjaneya Swamy worshipping Shivaling.  This was right below the idol of Ganesh at the entrance.

Lord Anjaneya worshipping Shivalinga

Lord Anjaneya worshipping Shivalinga

Secondly was an odd image of a 3-headed bull. None of us understood the significance of it. But there it was.

3-headed bull

3-headed bull

We finally bid adieu to Lepakshi and made our way back to Bangalore, and Nandi Hills.

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Lepakshi | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments