29 September, 2013

Patwa Haveli - Tajmahal of Jaisalmer

In the early 18th Century, the Patwas were struggling to set up their trade and business in Jaisalmer. The priest of Jain temple advised them to leave the city and explore options elsewhere. The Patwas left Jaisalmer never to return. Legend has it that the Patwas became immensely rich as their business became successful. The business of Guman Chand Patwa, head of this family, expanded up to Afghanistan in the west and China in the north. Their business spanned across banking, finance, silver, brocade and opium trade.

The Patwas were invited by the rules of Jaisalmer to finance the state deficit. This brought the clan back to the city that they had decided never to return to. Ghumanmal Bafna , the head of the family decided to gift each of his five sons a separate and elaborate haveli against the advise of the priest. Haveli is the term used for a private mansion in India and Pakistan, usually one with historical and architectural significance. The word haveli is derived from the Persian word hawli, meaning "an enclosed place". They share similar features with other mansions derived from Islamic Architecture such as the traditional mansions in Morocco called Riads.

An intriguing asset to architectural history, the special quality of the haveli stems from the fact that it is not a single haveli, but a cluster of five havelis. The first of the five Havelis known as the Kothar's Patwa Haveli, named after the present owner, is most opulent and extrordinarily preserved. It gives a glimpse of the rich lifestyle of the erstwhile Patwas.

The haveli has rich artistic work in each corner like the gracefully carved pillars, fa├žade or the balconies (jharokhas), expensive decorated items imported from various coutnries, murals and interiors that have derived inspiration from the Rajputi, Mughal as well as the Victorian architecture. Jaisalmer had different forms of architecture in different eras. The ancient times saw Rajputana architecture dominating the area while the medieval period saw a fusion of Rajputana and Islamic architecture. Most havelis were constructed during this era.

Patwa haveli exhibits an elaborate filigree work on stone. The dexterous fingers of the stone carvers have created masterpieces of art, better and minute than those found on the Taj Mahal. It also houses a museum, where various rooms used by the Patwas, along with their household items, have been kept intact to provide a glimpse of their lifestyle. Besides exhibiting the lifestyle of the Patwas, they also hint at their aesthetic taste.

Mohini Vilas (Mirror Work)

Widely considered as the ‘Taj Mahal of Jailsalmer’, the haveli was mentioned in Lonely Planet (2009 edition) as the most magnificient of all the havelis.

"Most magnificent of all the havelis, its stone work like honey-coloured lace, Patwa-ki-Haveli towers over a narrow lane. It was build between 1800 and 1860 by five Jain brothers who were brocade and jewellery merchants. It's most impressive from the outside. The first of the five sections is opened as the privately owned Kothari's Patwa Haveli Museum, which richly evokes 19th-century life. Next door is the forlorn and empty (apart from pigeons and bats) government-owned haveli. "

The Patwonji ki Haveli is an interesting piece of architecture and is the most important among the havelis in Jaisalmer. It was the first haveli erected in Jaisalmer. The first among the cluster was constructed in 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa and is the biggest and the most ostentatious. He ordered the construction of separate stories for each of his five sons. These were completed in 50 years, indicating the sophistication and vastness of each structure. All five houses were constructed in the first 60 years of the 19th century.

The havelis are also known as the "mansion of brocade merchants". This name has been given probably because the family dealt in threads of gold and silver used in embroidering dresses. However, there are theories, which claim these traders made considerable amount of money in opium smuggling and money-lending. Keeping in mind the climate of Jaisalmer, the floors are made of mud and wood has been used for the roofs so that the havelis remain cool in summers and warm in winters. Each haveli has a diwankhana, guest room, kitchen, basement, staircase, safes etc.

Munim's chamber

The haveli has a Munim's chamber within it. Munims worked as accountants and secretaries to big businessmen. The Munim was the real interlocutor for the official business. He was not only the mediator and spokesman, but also a key personage who could both read and draft materials and who had a grasp over the realities of the trade. Besides, a Munim was also required to be discreet and virtuous.

The furnishing of the room was simple, the Munim would sit at one end of the room with his paraphernalia of typewriter, ink pen and ink stand, bahi khata (official business accounts), scrolls and scroll keepers to seal in confidential papers and record the proceedings of business meetings, make and receive payments and oversee the balance sheet of the business. At the other end would be a small seating area where the Patwa seated at the center entertained clients with hookah, food and drinks and engaged in business dealings. In one corner would be a safe to store cash and valuables and in the other a picture painting of Goddess Lakshmi worshipped by all who seek material wealth and fortune.

Visitors would be entertained in the drawing room, situated on the second floor. At present the drawing room attracts the viewers' attention with the huge elegant 'surahi' (wine/water container). The furniture - the superbly carved sofas, chairs, centre table and the side tables - are characteristic of 19th C rich houses and is marked by heavy forms and intricacy of design. The office table could be used to read, write or sign documents while engaged in socializing and entertainment.

Gold Ceiling in chamber

A chess board is nearby if the party wanted to play a friendly game. Collectors' items of decorative and functional value play a great role in the image of the drawing room. Of particular note are the antique clock, old fashioned cameras and the real master piece is a large music box. Pictures on the wall enliven the mood of the room, and the mirrors enchance the light from candles during the evening. A bottle of scented water was kept handy to be sprinked in the room to refresh the air and create an ambience.

Chess table in Jivan Vilas

Silver Crafted bed

Dressing Room

The courtyard had a kitchen in one corner with a large trough of water constructed in the adjoining room. This was filled through an opening in the outer wall of the room by a camel driver carrying casks filled with water. In the evening, family members would sit there on cots and gossip.

The dining room was usually used for private meals in a narrow circle; not infrequently friends and people of importance were invited. Traditionally men and women in Rajashtan ate separately, with women usually eating after men finished. Sitting area is sparsely furnished with gaddis (cushions) laid out for everyone to sit on the floor (and an occasional chair) with their thali (plate) in front of them. Food was then served from the large pots and bowls brought from teh kitchen by the women of the house, and when finished they would leave their thali in place to be collected later by the women or the servants and proceed to wash their hands. Also displayed in the room are large tiffin boxes perhaps carried by the men to their workplace, which are unusually interesting.

In terms of food choice, as in all other spects of living the geography and the availability of food ingredients has major influence on the Rajasthani cuisine. Lack of agricultural area means lack of green leafy vegetables, therefore lentils, pulses and legumes are the major food of choice. Scarcity of water means use of milk, curd and buttermilk in place of water in the gravy. Add to this a liberal dose of spices to add colour and taste and what you get is the essentials of any Rajasthani food preparation.

Ornamental ceiling of Jivan Vilas

The havelis give us a peep into the rigid lifestyle of that society. Social norms and cooling dictated the architectural style of these mansions. Usually there were two courtyards — an outer one for the men and inner for women and children. The first floor balconies, overhanging the streets, had latticed windows enabling the women to view the outside world without being looked at. The front of the haveli has 60 latticed balconies so finely carved as if they have been created from wood than from stone. It has exquisitely carved pillars and extensive corridors and chambers.

Fans, Locks and betel nut cutters on display

The fortunes of the Patwas started dwindling and consequently they had to abandon the city again to seek new fortunes in distant lands. They left the havelis at the mercy of the care takers. Eventually the care takers became the owners and sold the havelis. The first of the havelies was purchased by Jeevanlal Ji Kothari, a native of Jaisalmer who like the Patwas had left the city to explore better opportunities.

Havelis are mysterious - there is much more to what is revealed to the naked eye! But if one really researches their history, relevance to the world of culture and the message that these empty mansions shout out, it is no wonder that many have trekked to India to see for themselves what they have to offer. It is a mesmerising experience one shall never forget!

17 August, 2013

Joger Gerusoppa - Jog Falls - Shivamogga

"Who can stand over this mighty spectacle, says one, and disbelieve in a Creator? No, says another, the most cogent position-topographically as well as theologically speaking-is below, in the pool. One man has been tapping the dark-gray rocks with a little hammer and hints at geological possibilities. Another laments the huge waste of "uncaptured" power. A third promises excellent fishing a certain number of feet above, or is it below? The Falls. One brave Englishman has, somewhere in the nineteenth century, made a perilous crossing on foot, through a merciful barrage of rocks, and . . . "how he perspired"!

- Essay on Gersoppa Falls by Late Armando Menezes

Considered on a global basis, waterfalls tend to occur in 3 principal kinds of areas -

(i) along the margins of high plateaus or the great fracrures that dissect them

(ii) along fall lines, which mark a zone between resistant crystalline rocks of continental interiors and weaker sedimentary formations of coastal regions

(iii) in high mountain areas, particularly those that were subjected to glaciation in the recent past.

The most spectacular fall-line waterfalls, include Churchill (formerly Grand) falls, Labrador - Canada, Jog Falls (Gerusoppa Falls) and Paulo Afonso Falls - Brazil.

Jog Falls created by the Sharavathi River falling from a height of 253 m (830 ft) is the second-highest (after the Nohkalikai Falls with a height of 1100 feet (335 metres) in Meghalaya) plunge waterfall in India. Located in Sagara, Karnataka Shivamogga District of Karnataka state, these segmented falls are a major tourist attraction. It is also called by alternative names of Gerusoppe falls, Gersoppa Falls and Jogada Gundi.

There are many waterfalls in India that drop from a higher altitude than Gerusoppa. But, unlike most of such falls, Jog Falls is untiered, i.e., it drops directly and does not stream on to rocks. Thus, it can be described as the First-highest untiered waterfall in India. The waterfall database gives it 83 scenic points while Angel Falls is at 97.

Jog Falls consists of four distinct falls named Raja, Rani, Roarer and Rocket. The Raja Falls peacefully streams down; the Rani Falls follows a winding path, the Roarer Falls bursts out of a rocky stretch, while the Rocket Falls gushes out in high speed remaining true to its name.

Sharavathi river originates at Ambuthirtha in Thirthahalli taluk, flows north-west through the Western Ghats forming the Jog Falls before joining the Arabian Sea at Honavar. Discovered by British explorers 150 years ago, Jog Falls, which is three times higher than the Niagara Falls in the US, has always been an enigma.

Jog falls was officially discovered by the British travellers in the 1860s. The water inflow into the falls from river Sharavathi has decreased considerably after Linganamakki dam - one of the biggest dams in the country was built across the river in 1965. The splendid beauty of Jog falls reappears only during the Monsoon every year.

The falls surrounded by mist, deep valleys, hundreds of miles of virgin forest and rolling hills is declared as one of the top ten UNESCO ecological hot spots in the world. During the colonial days, Sharavati river separated the British province of Bombay presidency from the Mysore Kingdom of Wodeyars. The Mysore bungalow was illuminated with bright lights, thanks to the efforts of the great engineer Vishveshwariah while the British area was drenched in darkness.

The visitors book at the elegant colonial buildings British Bungalow (built in 1862, very close to the falls) and Mysore guest house (built in 1892 facing the falls) have the comments and signatures of British Viceroys like Lod Curzon, Lord Hardinge, Mount Batten, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Sardar Patel, Sir M Vishweshwaraiah, kings of Mysore, Indira Gandhi, Churchil, Khrushchev, Thatcher.

KSTDC has recently started a laser show at Gerusoppa which is a spectacular tribute to the glory of Karnataka and the rich culture of Gerusoppa. On the event of Independence day a special tribute was also paid to the nation that was received with a thunderous applause by the audience.

19 May, 2013

Bandhavapura (Bandalike)

Bandalike also called Bandanike although an uninhabited village now, was an important place under the Kadamba kings. The Kadambas of Nagarkhanda were another scion of the Kadamba dynasty. They claimed to be the descendents of Mayuravarma, the progenitor of the Kadamba family and in order to show their genealogical connection with the early Kadambas they styled themselves 'the boon lords of Banavasi-pura'. This was obviously a mere title, as they were never in continual possession of this city. Their capital was perhaps the city of Bandahvapura, since they claimed to be its boon lords. Their personal title seems to be that of Mahamandaleswara, and their family God was Shiva. The place was ruled by Navanandas from 911 to 1510 AD. It was also ruled by Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Kalachuryas, Hoysalas, Yadavas and Vijayanagar kings from time to time. The importance of the place is well attested by the lithic records of the Rashtrakutas (circa seventh-eighth century AD.), later Chalukyas (circa eleventh-twelth century AD.), Kalachuris, Hoysalas (circa twelth century AD.), Seunas (circa thirteenth century AD.) and Vijayanagara (circa fifteenth--sixteenth century A.D.). Bandavapura was a prosperous centre in the 11th and 12th centuries during the period of the Chalukyas of Kalyan and was the chief town of Nagarakhanda-70.

The ruins of the old city that covers an extensive area contains several dilapidated temples of large dimensions. The many ruins and temples narrate interesting stories. The inscription found here informs that it was ruled by the wise Chandragupta Maurya. It was a prosperous agrahara and a popular pilgrim centre for the Jains even from the beginning of the 10th century. There is big Jaina basadi on the right side of the tank named Nagara-kere or Nagaratirtha called Shantinatha basadi.

The Shantinatha Basadi in plan has a garbhagriha, an antarala; a four pillared mahamandapa and a thirty two-pillared mukhamandapa all in north-south orientation. The mahamandapa in its southern wall has the devakoshthas on either side of the sukanasi doorway which is also provided with perforated jalis, datable to the times of Rashtrakuta Krishna (Kannaradeva) the temple received endowments by one Jakkiyabbe who was ruling Bandalike in A.D. 912. This is for the first time we find women being appointed to such responsible positions. She was a pious Jain devotee and built a number of temples and basadis in Bandalike.

The epigraphs dated to 1200 and 1203A.D. record that the basadi was rebuilt by a merchant named Boppa Setti. The sanctum is bereft of Jaina images. However, a few mutilated Jaina sculptures are found inside.

Trimurathi Narayana Temple
Built in 1160 A.D., this is a Trikutachala (triple-celled) temple of the Kalyana Chalukyan period. The superstructure on the northern and southern shrines are intact and the western one has collapsed. Known for its elegance and symmetry, this temple in east west orientation has Shiva-linga in the the western and southern cells and the northern cell has a sculpture of Vishnu. All the three cells have vestibules with ornamental doorways flanked by niches. The western cell has well sculptured simhalata at its antarala doorway.

The Veerabhadra temple

To the north-east of the basadi stands the temple of Veerabhadra which appears to have been built in the 14th century. The image of the deity is well executed. It is in the pose of marching to the left, holding in his four hands a sword, arrow, bow and shield. To the west of the temple is a mound on which there is an image of Mahishasuramardini in a standing pose, with eight hands. there is a mutilated image of a four handed god, perhaps, Vishnu.

The Someshvara temple

In the north-east corner of the old Chalukyan town-site is situated the Someshwara temple, also known as Anekalsomayya and Boppaswara temple. This was constructed by Boppa Setti in 1274 A.D. This is an austere temple with a Garbhagriha, Antarala, and a pillared Mandapa with a proch in east-west orientation. The entrance doorway is ornate with as many as four door jambs which at the base has well sculptured Dwarapalas and apsara figures. The jambs are of ornate variety with creeper decorations. The lintle at the centre has Gajalakshmi. On either side of the door are artisticaly sculptured, peforated screens which are divided by circular small panels bearing relief figures of deities, yakshas, swans, lions, etc. Between the rows of perforations are the narrative freizes depicting episodes from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The sanctum is bereft of any images. Inside the Mahamandapa are six niches, tow flanking the antarala and three each in the northern and south walls of the mandapa, the central one being larger.

The following paragraphs in italics have been borrowed from "The Foreign Quarterly Review, Volume 19"

On the mountain of Kailasa, when Shiva was sitting in his court, Chandeshwara stood up in his presence, and saluted him with a single hand. Parvati Devi, observing it, said to Shiva "Oh, parameshwara, every one salutes us with both hands. What is the reason that this person salutes with but one?"

Parameshwara then became ardhanarishwara. Chandeshwara beholding it remarked "Although foul or fragrant odours may be wafted by the wind, or the shadow of the sun reflected from a jar of water, yet are they not one exitence?" So saying, he turned to the right half and saluted it alone.

Parvati, then being highly enraged, spoke thus "Chandeshwara, I am the material mask of the spirit; how can you refuse to acknowledge me? You are under my command as long as you are enveloped with a body." Chandeswara then became Bhringishwara with 3 legs, at which the Ganas were surprised, and called him Ganeshwar (the exempted from matter), Parvati, beholding Shiva said that she had conferred half of her body to him, and Brahma and Vishnu and the rest were concentered in her; which then was greater, Bhringishwara or Shiva himself?"

Shiva replied to her that she might send a part of her essence to the mortal world and he would send Bhringi there, and she might then examine its spiritual truth. Parvati accordingly sent a spark of her essence to be borne as Maya or Mohinidevi to the King of Banavasi named Mamakara Raya. This Maya became a harlot and associated with the musician of the temple of Madhukeshwara at Banavasi. The spirit of Bhringishwara or Nermaya Ganeshwar was born to Niranhankara and Sujnanadevi at Karure and his parents gave him the name of Allama Prabhu and nourished him.

When he grew up, he said to his parents that he was born to them for their faith to Shiva; and wished to teach the prayers of Shiva to the disciples in the different regions and he showed them the mode of attaining liberation. He went to Banavasi and subdued the musicians and Maya there and obtained the title of Niranjani.

Mayadevi seeks his hand in marriage, but Prabhudeva chooses instead to lose himself in dhyana or penance. Mayadevi looks for him everywhere, but eventually, a disappointed princess arrives at Bandalike. Allama Prabhu, the celebrated saint changes Mayadevi into a divine form. A temple at Bandalike is dedicated to Mayadevi or Banashankari. Local devotees worship the goddess as Maha Durgi. It is believed that in the olden days, this temple was the centre of tantrik rituals by a group of kalamukhas.

As a number of shrubs and small forest trees have grown around this shrine due to negligence over a long period, this goddess has gained the names of Banashankari, Bana Devi and Bandamma. Most probably, the village also came to be called after this deity as Bandalike.