27 December, 2011

Bhuvaraha Narasimha temple at Halasi

"Works of art indeed are not made entirely at random from inspiration; there are almost always discoverable some methods, principles and irrevocable canonical rules. Whatever may be the originality of a work, it is connected with contemporary works; it is explained by anterior works. The author belongs to a school, the work belongs to a style"
- Dr. Jaouveau-Dubreuil in Dravidian Architecture

Temple architecture in South India
The temple architecture that started in South India was generally classified into groups according to the names of the dynasties of kings. It is usually said that the Pallava period (AD 600-AD 850) is that of sculptured rock, the early Chola period (AD 850-AD 1100) that of grand Vimanas, the later Chola and Imperial Pandya period (AD 1100-AD 1350) that of the most beautiful gopuras and of the Vijaynagar period (AD 1350-AD 1600) that of mantapas and pillared halls and the Nayak period as also the modern period after 1600 as that of corridors.

Temple architecture in Karnataka

The Architecture of Karnataka can be traced to 345 AD with that of the Kadamba Dynasty. The Kadambas were the originators of the Karnataka architecture. Kadamba's architecture and sculpture contributed to the foundation of Chalukya-Hoysala style. Vijayanagara architecture is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries

Salient features of Kadamba architecture

The most prominent feature of Kadamba architecture is the Shikara(tower), also called Kadamba Shikara. The pyramid shaped shikara rises in steps without any decoration and is crowned with a Kalasha on the top. Occasionally the pyramids had perforated screen windows.

Kadamba temples were an improvement on the Andhrabhritya structures. The latter we may presume, were like all ancient monuments, mere halls, as yet not separated into partitions. With the rise of the Kadambas, however, the temples came to consist of two distinct parts, namely the garbhariha and the sukanasi.

BhooVaraha Narasimha temple

A popular legend narrates that the Pandavas, while in exile, built Narasimha temple overnight at Halasi to worship Lord Vishnu.

Historically, the temple has been dated to 5th century AD when the Kadamba ruler Shivachitta were ruling over this region. Inscriptions inside the temple also support this.

The Varaha-Narasimha temple at Halasi shows further evolution in Kadamba architecture. The parallelopipeds in the stages of the tower are here more numerous than in several other temples. But as these stages are not so minutely divided or marked with profusion of ornamentation as in the later temples, the vigorous and purposeful lines of the tower are still maintained. The tower is arranged in eleven tiers. On the 10th tier there are four panels each crowned by a kirtimukha, or the grotesque face of a monster, apparently a lion.

The sukanasi which is surrounded by walls is lighted by pierced stone windows inserted above the overhanging eaves. Unlike the earlier Kadamba temples that have one window, Bhoovaraha Narasimha temple has three windows.

Originally, the temple had only one Garbhagriha where a crude idol of Narasimha having two hands was installed. It was later replaced with a seated Narayana. This shrine has a shikara built in the Kadamba-Nagara style which was renovated later.

A second garbhagriha facing the first, was added to the temple several centuries later. Vijayaditya III installed a 5 feet standing idol of Varaha carrying Mother Earth (or Bhoodevi) in his mouth in 1186-87 AD.

25 December, 2011

Yellamma Gudda

This popular pilgrim destination is situated at the foot of the scenic hills known as Sidhachal or Ramagiri overlooking the beautiful river Malaprabha which enchances the richness of the region.

A temple dedicated to Goddess Yellamma also known as Goddess Renuka, the consort of the mythical sage Sri Jamadagni and mother of Lord Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, forms the sacred crown of the beautiful hill. It is learnt from the legends that a part of the corpse of Sati fell here when it was severed by the Chakra or the 'Holy Wheel' of Lord Vishnu.

Although not usually a village guardian deity, Yellamma is represented somewhere in the pantheon of most villages in this region. She is also the "house deity" in a number of households from all castes in the social heirarchy. Equated loosely with Parvathi, all the prominent female deities of the region are considered her younger sisters; and the prominent male deities of the region (except Basavanna and Shiva) are her elder brothers.

According to one legend, Yellamma was born in Yellappagoudar's house in Haralakatti village. She married an ascetic Jamadagni who lived in an ashram on the hill outside Saundatti against her parents' wishes.

According to another legend, Renuka Devi also known as Yellamma, daughter of Renuka Raja married Sage Jamadagni on the advise of sage Agasthya

She would fetch fresh water for her husband from Malaprabha river every morning for his daily rituals by making a water pot with riverbed sand. She used a live cobra to cushion the pot on her head. One morning she saw gandharvas bathing in the river and she was momentarily lost in thoughts about her husband. She could neither make the pot nor catch the cobra as she could not concentrate. She returned home empty handed to face the wrath of her husband whose curse turned her to a leper.

Yellamma left the ashram and wandered far and wide. She came across two yogis, Ekayya and Jogayya who guided and helped her with the sacred waters of Jogalabhavi and cured her of leprosy. When she returned to the ashram, Jamadagni ordered his sons to chop off their mother's head. Three of their sons refused and finally Parasurama cut off his mother's head. The pleased Jamadagni granted Parasuram a wish and he chose to bring back his mother to life.

According to another legend,Jamadagni told Parasurama to bring his mother's head, but he couldn't find it. A woman Yellamma belonging to untouchable caste was passing by. Parasurama cut off her head instead and Jamadagni placed Yellamma's head on Renuka's body and she came back to life.

According to a third legend, Renuka fled to a low-caste community when her son parasurama was coming to kill her. He found an beheaded her along with another woman belonging to the low-caste who tried to protect her. When he later brought them back to life, he attached the woman's head to Renuka's body and vice-versa by mistake.

There are as many interpretations of the Renuka-Yellamma legend as there are varieties of the story. Since devadasis are invariably drawn from Dalit castes, the most obvious seems that it takes away the stain of sex with an untouchable: their heads (symbolised by Yellamma's) may be low caste, but their bodies (symbolized by Renuka's) might be used by upper caste men without defilement.

Sugandavarthi (Saundatti) - Capital city of the Rattas

Sugandavarthi, now popularly known as Saundatti was the capital of the Ratta chieftains during the period 930 A.D. to 1230 A.D. The founder of the Ratta dynasty of Saundatti in the Belgaum District is stated to have been raised to the position of a feudatory chieftain by a king named Krsna who has been identified with the Rashtrakuta emperor Krsna III (939 - 67 AD). An inscription of 1218 A.D. represents the said Rattas as the descendants of the same Krsna, called Krsna-Kandhaara, while in another record of 1209 A.D. from Hannikeri near Sampgaon in the Belgaum District mentions the same king as Krsna-Kandhara and represents him as Kandhaara-pura-varaadhishwara, 'The supreme lord of Kandhaaarapura, the best of cities'. The Rattas of Saundatti, used to represent themselves as lords of the city of Lattaloora.

Saundatti was popularly known as Sugandhavarthi, Saugandhipura in the krutayuga. Jayappa Desai II of Navalgund - Sirasangi built the fort at Saundatti. He ruled Sirasangi- a prominent dynasty from 1734 A.D - 1758 A.D which was recognised as the "Golden Era". He was a clever administrator. He was humble, Religious, generous and sympathetic to his subjects. He was a great scholar and a poet. He composed poems in several languages and was also a patron of art . He translated the Sanskrit work "Deekshitara kuvalayaananda" composed by Appayya and "Rasamanjari" composed by Bhaanudatta to Kannada.

He paid prominence to the safety of his dynasty and constructed forts on elevated lands. He constructed forts at Kusugal (Hubli taluq), Sirasangi and Saundatti at a total cost of 8.5 lakh Rupees. He started the construction of Saundatti fort in 1743 and completed it in 1751 at a total cost of 2 lakh Rupees. The fort is spread over an area of 10 acres and is built of red sand stone. The bastions, stone walls, stone arches, moat and watch towers enhance the beauty of this fort.

Hyder Ali attacked the fort during 1777 - 1782. There are records stating that Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan not only received large amounts of wealth from the Desais and but also looted the kingdom.

The rulers of Navalgund - Sirasangi were Veerashaivas. KaaduSiddeshwara of Siddhagiri was the Rajguru. Kaadusiddeshwara was the family deity of the Sirasangi rulers. The ancient temple of KaadaSiddeshwara was constructed (1635 A.D. - 1638 A.D.) prior to the construction of the fort by a farmer Kallappa who belonged to Saundatti village.

Jayappa Desai II remodelled the temple while constructing the fort. The temple is constructed with white stones and is 430ft in diameter. 59 steps lead to the temple. There is a vast navaranga and the beautiful idol of KaaduSiddeshwara sculpted in black stone is magnificient.

Jayappa Desai constructed a beautiful palace within the fort walls. 40 feet Darbar hall, teak wood door, windows and pillars were very artistic. The palace was burnt down in 1942 during "Quit India movement".

The historical palace and the KaaduSiddeshwara temple within the Saundatti fort also have Educational importance. An Anglo vernacular school popularly known as the "Palace School" was being operated in the palace between 1918-1920 A.D. K.L.E. Society started the Shri KaaduSiddeshwara Middle school in 1935. The school was shifted to KaaduSiddeshwara temple when the palace was destroyed during the Quit India Movement. The school was relocated to an independent structure attached to the fort in 1951. Few classes were still conducted in the Kaadusiddeshwara temple until 1965.

Godachinmalki Falls, Ghodageri and Gokak Falls

Most of North Karnataka's rivers originate in the Western Ghats. The Krishna and its tributaries-the Bhima, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha and Tungabhadra-cover a length of about 700 km. Krishna's basin covers 13 districts and about 60% of Karnataka's geographical area!

Rivers, elevations and rains create spectacular waterfalls in North Karnataka. Belgaum district has more than six big waterfalls, of which the Gokak and Godachinmalki falls are the most magnificent and most popular with tourists.

Godachinmalki Falls

The Godachinmalki Falls also known as the Markandeya Falls located in a rugged valley enjoys a beautiful and exotic setting. Located within a green valley, it is approachable from Godachinmalki village by a short trek through an irregular forest route. Another route is from Pachhapur via Mawanur, which is about 6 kilometers.

Instead of one dramatic steep drop the river takes two gentle descents. Markandeya river takes a first fall from a height of about 25 metres and flows into a rocky valley. After a short distance from the rocky valley, it takes the second fall from a height of about 18 metres. After this double fall, Markandeya river joins Ghataprabha river near Ghodgeri.

Ghodageri Hanging Bridge

Inspired by former president A P J Abdul Kalam’s belief that “physical communication between two places paves way for development.”,Girish, the 60-year-old mechanical engineer has constructed as many as 84 hanging bridges across the rural landscapes of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala to keep the villages connected during heavy rain.

The idea of building a hanging bridge came to Girish when residents of his village prompted him to build a hanging bridge across the Payaswini river at Arambur village in Dakshina Kannada district in 1989. He is confident that with proper maintenance, the bridges he built can survive for more than 100 years. The bridges are built according to the conditions of the place. Girish’s repertoire includes bridges with supporting cement pillars and huge tree trunks used as anchors.

The engineer along with his colleagues from Ayyashilpa Company Sullia, visit the spot where a bridge is needed, and go about their jobs.

The biggest bridge that Girish has built is a hanging bridge of 280 metres connecting Avaragola and Ghodageri villages across the Ghataprabha in Belgaum district. He says that he is ready to teach the art of constructing hanging bridges free of cost to youngsters who are willing to devote time and energy for the same. (Girish Bharadwaj-9448123475)

Gokak Falls

Gokak falls also known as the Northern Mysore Falls and compared to Niagara Falls (because of their distinctive horseshoe shape)is close to Gokak town. Ghataprabha river leaps over sandstone cliff into a rocky gorge 170 ft down which is a beautiful sight to behold. In flood, the falls extend across 177 metres. A 201-metre long hanging bridge is suspended 14 metres above the river. Several temples and monuments, dating back to the days of the Later Chalukyas of Kalyana, are found on the banks of the river.

24 December, 2011

Shivalingeshwara Math at Savalgi

Karnataka, like several other states in India, has witnessed religious conflicts among Shaiva sect, Vashnava sect, Jaina and Islamic religions over the centuries. However, the Bhakti movement and the unifying forces by Sufis, mystics and ‘tattva padakAraru’ have worked ceaselessly to further communal harmony. Communal accord that prevails in almost all villages of Karnataka is an outcome of these endeavours. People respect Gods and saints belonging to all religions. Festive occasions are celebrated in the entire village cutting across castes and religions. In addition to this there are many shrines in Karnataka which attract devotees from all castes and religions. These shrines are managed by people belonging to different religious faiths.

Savalagi (sAvaLagi) a small town in Gokak taluk of Belgaum district contains Islamic style religious institution known as ‘sAvaLagi maTha’. The shrine of Sri Jagadguru Shivalingeshvara is six centuries old. People from both religions congregate here during the annual fair. There is regular interaction between the Swamiji of sAvaLagi and the seer of Bende Nawaj darga in Gulbarga.

The shrine is a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity and communal harmony.Sri Shivalingeshwar Swamiji, its founder, and one of his disciples - Sharane Marulamma -- became Jeevantha Samadhis (a concept wherein individuals voluntarily embrace death).

The basement houses the nirvikalpa (live) samadhi of Shivalingeshwara. There is a tomb in the first floor with four minarets. There is a stone bed and a cotton bed. Khwaja Bandenawaz was a contemporary of Sri Shivalingeshwar Swamiji was a great admirer of the swamiji and had visited Savalgi. In turn, the swamiji had attended a Muslim festival in Gulbarga on the invitation of the saint. It is said that Shivalingeshwara and the famous Sufi saint Hazrath Khwaja Bandenawaz Gesudaraz of Gulbarga sat in this room and discussed socio-cultural issues.

Certain incidents during the late 14th Century led to communal tension among castes and religions. The Shaiva saint is said to have resolved these conflicts by performing miracles.

The Sufi saint Hazrath Khwaja Bandenawaz Gesudaraz visited Savalgi and is believed to have held discussions with Shivalingeshwara. Subsequently, he ordered Muslims to make common cause with all religious communities and serve the math as servants of the Shaiva saint. Since then, Muslims became an inseparable part of the math. The devotees chant the slogan “Hara Hara Deen, Hara Hara Mahadev” during religious procession.

The head of the math participates in all the important rituals observed by Muslims and other religious communities in the village. If there is a death, he cannot perform regular puja until the last rites are performed and the community informs him about it.

Philanthropic activities of the maTha
Without seeking any financial assistance from the government, the Math is running a hostel for girls studying in schools and colleges in Dharwad. It has also set up an institution in Dharwad for imparting training in yoga for girls.

As per the reports in 'Deccan Herald' dated September 26, 2003 some of the future philanthropic plans of the Math included construction of a marriage hall, starting of a milk dairy, an old-age home, a health-care centre, a botanical garden for growing Ayurvedic medicinal plants and a yoga centre at Savalgi.The Math is planning to open an institution for the rehabilitation of beggars and a centre for the deaf and blind children belonging to economically weaker sections of the society, both at Savalgi.

We did not have sufficient time to discuss about the maTha's philanthropic activities with the swamiji.