Five forgotten forts of Telangana – A Travel Shot

Many travellers from the far-flung lands visit Telangana mostly for Hyderabad, a city full of historic sites like Golkonda Fort, Charminar, Qutb Sahi tombs etc. But if you are a history buff then Telangana has more to offer you and some places get hardly any mention in the guidebooks or history books.

Also, Read Here:

Badshahi Ashurkhana – A Qutb Shahi Salute to Imam Hussain

From Golkonda to Hyderabad – An Architectural Journey

Rachakonda is a huge fort, positioned in the magnificent hilly landscape near Nalgonda. Built by the Racherla royals around 14th century CE, this fort was later ruled under Qtub Shahi dynasty along with other forts like Golkonda and Koilkonda. One has to climb many steps through the jungle to reach the top. In between the arched boulders, there are still few stone gateways left with unique ancient designs. Its wilderness and the breathtaking views from every twist and turn will truly fascinate the visitors.

Rachakonda surroundings

The View of Ranchakonda Fort

Also, Read Here:

Chandragiri Fort Museum – A Photo Story

Koilkonda is another forgotten fort on a hilltop and was renowned as the outpost for the Qutb Sahis. Surrounded by jungles this fort has many intact structures to give it a castle-like formation. An easy 125 km drive from Hyderabad towards Madhuban Nagar can take you to this fort. Though not yet maintained you can hike till different levels and explore the essence of erstwhile Deccan Plateau.

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The majestic view of Kolikonda Fort

A three and half hours’ drive from Hyderabad will take you to thousand years old Khammam Fort which is situated in the middle of a city. It is believed that gold coins were used as the fund to make this fort.

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The view of Khammam Fort

Also, Read Here:

Kakatiya Dynasty – An Architectural Sojourn

Located in a very scenic hilltop of Karimnagar, Elgandal fort was controlled by five major dynasties – the Kakatiyas, Bahmanis, Qutub Shahis, Mughals and the Nizams. It still has huge walls, twisted steps and geometric gates but yet hardly known to broader communities of travellers. At the highest point, one can find “Dho Minar” or the two tall pillars. From a certain angle, they look almost like the ‘Charminar’ of Hyderabad. The 180 Km drive from Hyderabad to Karimnagar is simply incredible due to the well-maintained roads and picturesque countrysides.

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The view of Elgandal Fort

The last one is our favourite Bhongir, mostly known as ‘Bhuvanagiri fort’ to locals. Formed by a gigantic monolithic rock, this fort is an epitome of the Chalukyan rulers since the 10th century. However, later it was taken under the Bahmani kings and renovated in Islamic style. The 180-degree view from the top proves its strategic location as a defence base. We visited Bhongir a number of times but it still attracts us to explore some of the other corners. The serenity of Bhongir can be best enjoyed from the top, especially when the sun rolls down and the city lights pop up one by one.

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Bhongir Fort

Author – Mangalika Ghosh

MangalikaA travel photographer and a travel blogger by passion, Mangalika is currently working on various personal photography projects. You can always find her at Happyfeet
https://mangalika.com/happyfeet/

Kulpak Ji – An Ancient Derasar in Telangana

The ramparts sketching a thick line in the distance told us that we were somewhere in the vicinity of Bhongir Fort on the outskirts of Hyderabad in Telangana. Sheer steps hewn out of basalt on one among the innumerable boulders scattered along the timeless landscape of Deccan Plateau seemed both difficult yet alluring. But our hearts lay elsewhere, 80 kms away precisely! In a quaint village called Kolunapaka, named so after its huts and lakes; kolanu means lake and paka is the word for huts.

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We alight in front of a large gate where watchmen ask us to leave our cameras and anything made of leather behind. Such things are prohibited in a Jain Derasar (place of worship). One look at the Kulpak ji temple and I was overcome with Deja Vu. The style of the temple, the pink sandstone, the gleaming marble and the pretty parchinkari… there were glimpses of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Agra in a village tucked in Telangana!

Kulpak ji did not look wee bit like a 2000 year old structure that we were expecting and the sense of Deja Vu continued. This temple being one of the oldest known Jain worship sites in Telangana enjoyed patronage from various dynasties right from the Ishkvakus to Chalukyas who donated generously to the temple for its maintenance and upkeep.

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The temple finds mention in many old Jaina texts and is home to Manikya Swami; the green stone idol of Rishabh Dev or Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara. Besides this, the marbled interiors houses idols of 8 other tirthankars including the 51 inches idol of Mahavira made of a single jade stone. Legends state that Manikya Swami housed here was worshipped by Ravana’s wife Mandodari who then immersed it in the sea. It was found by King Shankar of Kalyan and it is believed the idol chose this temple as its abode.

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One of the smaller shrines beside the main temple

If Jaina texts are to be believed this is one of the temples that was built by Chakravartin Bharat himself. Bharat was the son of Rishabha Dev or Adinath Bhagwan and it is on his name that this country gets its name as – Bharat Varsha. Rishabhanatha has two wives, Sumangala and Sunanada. Sumangala bore 99 sons and 1 daughter of whom the eldest was Bharat. Sunanada bore 1 son and 1 daughter and he was known as Bahubali as he was tall and had strong arms.

After ruling for a long time, Rishabha Dev divided his kingdom among his 100 sons equally and left for forest to attain Kewal Gyan or omniscience. While Bharat got Vinita (Ayodhya), Bahubali got Taxila. After his coronation Bharat embarked on an ambitious voyage to conquer the world and he did so becoming Digvijay. But he could not fight his brothers so sent the messages to accept him as their King. All his brothers, knowing his might, decided to join their father in the pursuit of knowledge and became monks forsaking their kingdoms.

Now only Bahubali was left who decided to fight it out with Bharath. Knowing this could be a battle that would claim many lives, the kings decided to go for an individual duel. In all the decided 3 fights (eye, water and wrestling) Bahubali prevailed over Bharath. Enraged at the defeat, Bharath broke rules and used his Chakra (he had a chakra ratna, a deadly discus that could kill anyone and that is why he was known as Chakravartin) but the weapon just encircled Bahubali and halted in front of him. Bharath had forgotten that the Chakra would never attack anyone who has the same blood as him. Bahubali bundled up Bharath in his arms but instead of throwing him to the ground, gently placed him there. Disgusted by what he might have done, Bahubali decided to forsake everything and meditate where he was standing.

Bahubali not only became a shruta kevalin but also a kewal gyani and Bharath, an able ruler. Kulpak ji is thus a part of the first legends of Jainism. Many inscriptions of various eras talking of grants have been found on the site and it still remains a prominent place of pilgrimage for the Shvetambar Jains of the country.

After 12th century Jainism saw a major decline in Andhra desa and its activities started reassuming from 17th century onwards. Bringing marble and sandstone from Rajasthan and 150 stone sculptors and artists from Gujarat and Agra, the temple was zealously rebuilt by devout Jain traders some 50 years ago. The temple complex provides accommodation and food for visiting Jain pilgrims. The trust has built a water tank for the village and also maintains cows and buffaloes.

This peaceful oasis built with much love and devotion is not be missed whenever in Telangana and also the nearby Sri Someshwara Temple which is both a living temple and an ASI museum.

 

Author – Zehra Chhapiwala

She can be reached at zchhapiwala@gmail.com

Kakatiya Dynasty – An Architectural Sojourn

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” ~ UNESCO

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The stellate form of Sri Erakeswara temple, Pillalamari village, Kakatiya dynasty

As I sat down to read the books and various journals that I had bookmarked in order to write on my recent heritage run in Telangana, I would sometimes pause to wonder on the fact that when I had started my journey, how ill prepared I was to meet the grandeur of the Kakatiyan temples, with almost no idea about the dynasty that had built them. While north Indian temples have always figured in my travel itineraries, and many a time I have stood in awe at some of their exquisite craftsmanship, I was still unprepared for the sculptural magnificence of the innumerable temples that dot the southern parts of India. It was my first foray into South Indian temple architecture, technically termed as Dravidian temple architecture, and the beauty and splendour of it is indescribable.

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The most magnificent jewel in the Kakatiyan crown of temple architecture is the Rameshwara temple within the Ramappa temple complex, in Palampet. The beauty of this temple is mesmerising; like a beautiful verse carved in stone, frozen for posterity.

A look at our history will show that architecture and sculpture were two distinctive forms of art, and developed as such from the ancient times. The two became intertwined during the Buddhist era; and as Buddhism declined, in the southern parts of India the intertwining continued, as beautiful figures were sculpted on temple walls during the Pallava and Chalukyan period, a practice later adopted by the Chalukyan vassals: the Kakatiyans. As the Kakatiyas declared their independence and slowly turned into a dominant ruling dynasty of the Andhradesa,  their architecture and sculpture, which evolved simultaneously over the three centuries of their rule, merged seamlessly into each other. This is evident in their various temples, which are filled with exquisite figures covering each pillar, wall, door panel, door jamb, lintel, and ceiling.

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Beautiful sculptures fill the door jambs and pillars of Kakatiyan temples

Who were the Kakatiyas? A rather complex history

There are no clear records of how the Kakatiyas got their name or their caste, and few theories make the rounds. From two stone inscriptions it is learnt that the Kakatiyas got their name from a place called Kakatipura, which is a place where the Cholas once ruled, and where the temples of Ekavira devi and Kakati devi or Kakatamma (Chamunda of the saptamatrikas) stand. It is also believed that the Kakatiyas worshipped the Kakati devi, from whom the family name may have been derived. Some epigraphical evidences suggest that the Kakatiyas belonged to some Ratta (Rashtrakuta) clan,  hence they were Sudras (Chaturdhakulajas), with claims to Kshatriya-hood based on their warrior like activities.

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Devi Chamunda or Kakati devi (Kakatamma) from whom the Kakatiya dynasty was likely to have derived its name, 13th century, Kolunapaka

Trying to decipher the Kakatiyan lineage:

870-895 CE – Gundaya’s reign as Rashtrakuta vassal

895-940 CE ~ Ereya’s reign as Rashtrakuta vassal

The Mangallu inscription in 956 CE  shows  Kakatiyan Gundyana fighting under the Eastern Chalukya king; hence likely their vassal (noticeably the inscription doesn’t place the prefix Rashtrakuta before Gundyana’s name showing the disconnect with the clan)

973 CE ~ Collapse of Rashtrakutas

996-1052 CE ~ Beta I installed as king of Annumakonda or Hanamkonda by Erana and his wife Kamaseni (Beta I’s sister)

1052-1076 CE ~ Prola I rules as Kalyani or Western Chalukyan vassal under king Trilokyamalla Someswara. The latter gave the official ruling rights of Hanumakonda to Prola I (which was already bestowed upon him by his aunt Kamaseni), after Prola  fought a successful battle against the Cholas.

1076-1110 CE ~ Beta II rules as Kalyani Chalukyan vassal of king Tribhuvanamalla Vikramditya

1110-1158 CE ~ Prola II rules as Kalyani Chalukyan vassal

1158 CE ~ As the Western Chalukyas fall from power, Rudradeva  or Prataparudra I declares his independence, and becomes the first independent ruler of the Kakatiyan dynasty. He rules as the first king of the Kakatiya dynasty until 1195 CE. 

1195-1198 CE ~ Mahadeva rules. He dies in a war in 1198 CE and his young son Ganapatideva is imprisoned. Later Jaitugi of the Yadavas set him free, and Ganapatideva comes under loyal guardianship of his faithful vassal Recherla Rudra.

1199 -1262 CE Ganapatideva rules. In 1262 he hands over his throne to his daughter Rudrammadevi. In 1269 Ganapatideva dies.

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The painting represents the court of Rani Rudramma of the Kakatiya dynasty meeting Marco Polo, who was representing the Mongol king Kublai Khan (13th century CE). Marco Polo is shown accompanied by Chinese and Mongol representatives, and they are carrying gifts of silk and Chinese pottery. 
Here the Rani and her throne has been painted based on the image of Indrani in Ellora, while the two huge gold makaras are based on the two makaras seen on top of Yamuna in Ellora. The queen’s crown shows the Nataraja carved in emerald, which depicts her as a Shaivite. Marco Polo‘s clothes have been painted based on old paintings of Venice people, and the Chinese and Mongol dresses are based on old paintings of those places. The court has been based on pictures by Fergusson of Warangal temples and of Chakukyan temples.
Painter is Prabhat Mohan Bandyopadhya (1904-1987).

In 1289  Rudrammadevi dies in a battle along with her loyal Senani Mallikarjuna Nayakudu.

In 1289 Prataparudra II starts his rule. He was Rudrammadevi’s grandson (daughter’s son), brought up by the queen herself and trained as her successor.

In 1323 CE after a fifth time invasion of Kakatiya kingdom by Mohammed bin Tughlaq, the capital of the Kakatiyas, Warangal finally falls. Prataprudra II was taken a prisoner, and while being taken to Delhi he commits suicide by drowning in the Narmada river.

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Remains inside the Warangal fort. Standing prominently is a Kirti thorana of the Kakatiyas. The fort was completely destroyed by Mohammed bin Tughlaq’s army in 1323 CE.

In 1323 CE Kakatiya rule comes to an end. 

As the loyal vassals of the Kakatiyas, the Nayakas, snatch power back from Delhi and take over. Prataprudra II’s brother Annamdeo moves to Bastar with his army and carves a kingdom there, which is held by his  successors until 1947.

All five Islamic invasions faced by the Kakatiya kingdom took place during King Prataprudra II’s rule. The deadliest attack was launched during the second attack by Alauddin Khilji’s army under Malik Kafur in 1309, when different Kakatiyan cities, including Hanamkonda, were brutally destroyed by Khilji’s army. It was during this attack that Prataprudra II offered the Koh-i-noor diamond to Khilji in exchange for peace.

Remains of temple parts inside the 1000 pillared temple complex in Hanamkonda. The temple complex was started by Rudradeva (1163 CE), and later completed by Ganapatideva (1213 CE), and it is believed that Rudrammadevi came here everyday from the Warangal Fort to pray. Parts of this temple and the entire city faced massive destruction under Malik Kafur’s army (1309 CE).  

Did the Kakatiyas rule well?

The Kakatiyas emerged as the most powerful rulers during 12th -13th CE,  in the entire Telugu land. Their rule ushered in many new bearings in politics and administration, agriculture (especially in terms of irrigation), religion, literature, architecture, and arts. While it is believed that originally they might have been Digambar Jains, their temples predominantly show their Shaivite beliefs. The many conquests and good maintenance of their vast empire by the Kakatiyas; while encouraging growth of arts, literature, and temple architecture; and simultaneously defending their kingdom from constant onslaughts of invading armies, place them foremost amongst the ruling dynasties of modern Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They united the Andhradesa and bought all the telugu speaking people under a single umbrella thus establishing a unique identity of the telugu people and its language.

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Many such large tanks for facilitating irrigation were built under royal patronage during the Kakatiyan era

During their three centuries rule, the Kakatiyas focused on developing the three Ts : Town, Temple, and Tank. Keeping the basic monarchical form, the Kakatiyas gave great importance to decentralisation of authority by distributing power horizontally to their subordinates (thus creating central, provincial, and local levels of administration). Owing to their continued policy of developing widespread tank irrigation, the kingdom at this time saw unprecedented economic prosperity. This led to large-scale trade activities, and development of many new trade guilds. Motupalli at that time was a well known sea port of the Kakatiyas. Marco Polo, the famous traveller visited the Kakatiya kingdom during the rule Rudramma devi, via Motupalli, and in his travel diary praised the prosperity of this kingdom.

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Owing to the relentless focus of the Kakatiyas on building innumerable tanks for irrigation purposes, the arid region turned fertile and remains so even to this day. Extensive farmlands stretch across to the horizon that are green and yellow with the growing crop-heads of paddy, cotton, lentils, maize, and sugarcane

Most of the temple and tank construction projects took place during Ganapatideva’s rule, while his successors Rudrammadevi and Prataprudra II spent their lifetimes fighting invasions. Innumerable majestic temples were built under the supervision of Ganapatideva and his loyal general Recherla Rudra, which included the well known Ghanpur temples and tank, Ramappa temples and tank, Laknavaram tank, and Pakhal tank, amongst many others. The Kakatiyan temples predominantly are dedicated to Shiva, and follow the Ekakuta, Trikuta, or Panchakuta plan. The sculptural art of this time gives us an idea of the socio-religious atmosphere of that era. A favourite  theme in  temple sculptures of this time were stories from various epics, such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavat Gita, and the Puranas. The artisans would take inspiration from these texts and transfer their imaginations onto stone sculptures on temple walls and panels, making it easily available for the viewing and understanding by the common people. The Andhradesa society during the Kakatiya era also saw some religious movements associated with Jainism, Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism.

From an overall perspective, the Kakatiya rulers provided their citizens with stability, security, and economic prosperity; while ushering in art and architectural growth, and literary development, which was unique and unheard of previously. The cultural roots sown by the Kakatiyas can still be seen and felt in the innumerable tanks and temples built by them that still dot the area.

The Nameswara temple in Pillalamarri village

During the rule of Ganapatideva, many tanks were constructed using the irrigation bund system,  large forested areas were brought under cultivation, and many Shiva temples were constructed. The first tank was likely to have been constructed in village Pillalamari by Namireddy. He also constructed the Nameswara temple in Pillalamari in 1202 CE. The temple has a stone prakara and a tall dhwaja stambha in front. The temple has a large mandapa which is entered by 6 steps. The door to mandapa has dancers sculpted on the door jambs and six dwarasakhas, each intricately carved, while the lintel holds a gajalakshmi. There is  a garbhagriha, antarala, and a square mandapa with a circular dance-mandapa at the centre (nritya mandapa). The temple has a small shikhara with later modifications. The mandapa has a kakshasana, with aasanapatta and mattavaarana, running all around it on the inside. The roof has a jutting out cornice, with tiny shikharas raised at the end on the inside of it. The door jambs to the antarala also have exquisite dancers carved on them, and there are chowrie bearers, yalis, eight handed Shiva, dancers, Brahma, and Ganesha to complete the line on the antrala door panels. The mandapa pillars are square with circular discs, and each pillar is a marvel with intricate carvings of dancers and musicians.

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The temple wall with the jutting out cornice, and thick cross beams for supporting the mandapa roof. The tiny temple shikharas are seen at the edge of the cornice on the inside, which were likely built for supporting the cornice. The main shikhara is short with many small turrets, and the bull in front of the shikhara is likely to be a later addition.
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The door to the mandapa. Dancers are seen on the door jamb and lower panel part, while the lintel has a gaja lakshmi
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The kakhshasana; and square mandapa pillars with discs that are intricately carved with dancers and musicians. The dhwaja stambh is seen outside.
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ceiling patterns
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Door to antarala. Dancers, yalis, among others, adorn the shakhas and panels. The Shiva lingam can be seen inside the garbhagriha, and it is one and half feet in height and and breadth.
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Two dancers in large square panel and two below. it is said there are 32 dancers in total in the nritya mandapa. There are two apsaras on the cross capitals of each pillar. Along with the other figures, is is said there are altogether 100 figures sculpted in the temple.

At night it is believed that here in this temple (as in Rudreswara temple too) when the world falls asleep, Lord Shiva on the antarala door panel lifts his feet, and all the dancers come alive, along with the apsaras, and the drummers. Then the heavenly dance starts and goes on until day break. 

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Pillar panel depicting dancers and drummers
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Pillar on kakhshasana supporting the ceiling and cornice of the mandapa. Square pillars with discs, and cross capital. Animal motif and floral patterns visible on panels
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An inscription pillar kept in the courtyard
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Beside the main temple is a smaller trikuta temple with less ornamentation. It is also a Shiva temple with a beautifully ornamented nandi in front. There is  a third smaller (double celled) Shiva temple at the back with various sculptures of Kakatamma, Kumara, etc kept inside the mandapa (shown in the slideshow below)

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Sri Erakeswara temple in Pillalamarri village

Pillalamarri village was once the fief of Recherla Rudra’s  family, a powerful vassal under the Kakatiyas. This temple also has a dhwaja stambh in front, and stone steps lead up to the mandapa. The main deity here is Lord Shiva. As per an inscription plate, Sri Erakeshwara temple was built in the year 1208 CE under King Ganapatideva’s rule by Recharla Rudra in memory of his wife Erasanamma. Another inscription mentions the rule of Rudradeva (1195 CE) and both are seen in this temple. The pillars are similar to that of Nameswara, with square blocks and circular discs, and have dancers and musicians sculpted on them.

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In this temple the mandapa is partly broken (the broken pillars are still standing) and large dancers on the temple pillars all gone with just their stubs remaining, reminding us of those grim days when Malik Kafur’s army attacked the Kakatiyan empire during Prataprudra’s reign. 

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The temple has a stellate form and stands on a high platform. The temple pillars show floral motifs, elephants, and beautiful pushpalata mandalas that are often depicted for protection or beneficence.  

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The temple walls and a part of the shikhara. The shikhara has little turrets (urushringas) attached to it. The cornice, like the Nameswara, shows tiny hanging little temple shikharas.
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The nritya mandapa. The yellow circles marked on pillars are the places where the dancers once stood. The base stubs just remain now.

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slideshow —–> Pillar sculptures in Erakeswara temple.

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slideshow —–> Door to the antarala: a female figure holding a child and dancers are carved on door jambs, while the pilasters show the dwarashakhas with dancers, floral motifs holding tiny human figures carved inside vines. The lower panel of the doorway also has female figures, likely to be dancers.  The deity inside the garbhagriha is a Shiva lingam.

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Gaja lakshmi on the lintel of the mandapa entrance

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figures on a stone panel above the mandapa door

Kakatiyan temples : Thy name is beauty

In terms of architecture, the Kakatiyas followed their former masters, the Chalukyas, in form, but managed to create a distinctive feature of their own by bringing in more indigenous forms of art, such as paintings (Cheriyal paintings) that once adorned the temple walls and still survives in various manifestations. The artisans used granite, basalt, and sandstone that were locally available, while lime and bricks were used for making superstructures. Black granite and basalt were used for making pillars, lintels, jambs, ornamental motifs and figures. One must not forget that these were hard rock and not particularly easy to carve. The perfection of the edges and shapes of the lathe turned pillars especially those that adorn the Natya Mandapa speak eloquently of the skill of the artisans and the technology that was developed by them.

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The various Kakatiyan temples show a gradual evolution of their unique style

Kakatiyan sculptures, from what remain, show a focus on kirtimukhas, dancers, Anna pakshi

A broken panel from a temple jaali of the Kakatiyas, with their distinctive Anna pakshi motif. Anna pakshi is a mythical white bird that resides in Devalok and is the symbol of purity and honesty. It has the ability to separate milk from water when given mixed together. It is a popular symbol down South especially in Andhra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.

Kakatiyan temple architecture show high levels of sophistication, and one can see the gradual evolution of their style starting from basic temples having a simple mandapa, antarala, and garbhagriha, with pillars lacking sculptures; to the complex trikuta and stellate form of the Thousand-pillared temple; and finally reaching its climax in the exquisitely carved Rudresvara/Ramappa temple.

Author – Monidipa Bose

She can be reached at monidipadey@rocketmail.com and at monigatha

Travel Shot – Cheriyal Art of Telangana

It was that time of the evening when all had gathered to listen to stories. The stories of ancestors beyond what granny knew or could remember, stories of heroes that made them proud, stories that they would sleep with and dream about. Today, the Kunapulis were coming to perform Markandeya Puranam for the Padmasalis and the show will go on anywhere from 3 nights to 20 nights. Later, the Dakkalis will come to perform Jamba Puranam for the Madigas and this cycle of performances will continue till genealogies of 7 local castes (the barber, toddy tapper, washerman, fisherman, leather worker, weaver and farmer) have been recited by bards from their sub-caste.

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The perfomers paraphernalia consisted of large scrolls that were 3 feet wide and 40 to 60 feet long on which the stories were painted and sometimes colourful masks for the days when story telling would turn into play acting. Over the years these wandering minstrels diversified their repertoire and included stories from the other Puranas and epics educating the unlettered rustic folk.

 

As a preparation, the story tellers would go to the ‘Nakaashs’ and recite their story that would be painted scene by scene, character by character onto a scroll. The earliest reference to this tradition dates back to the 12th century; the Kakatiya times where Ekamranatha in his literary text Pratapa Charitram indicates the presence of 1500 painter families living in and around Warangal. Even today the Nakaashs live in Cheriyal, a small village with winding alleys about 85 kms from Warangal city.

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A non-descript village like any other in rural India and crowded with houses that has pretty wooden doors, Cheriyal is easy to find but not the Nakaashs. It took a lot of asking around and negotiating through narrow streets where one led to the other like a never ending maze to finally reach the humble house of an artist. Once inside his living room cum showroom cum godown, Mallesham carefully unwrapped the colourful frames of Cheriyal paintings depicting both the deities and the everyday life of people in the region.

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The processes still remain the same wherein the canvas is prepared after coating and drying a handwoven cloth (mostly khadi cotton) with  boiled rice starch, white clay, gum and boiled tamarind seed paste in layers. Every coating is allowed to dry thoroughly before the next is applied. When the canvas is dry and hard, an outline of the painting is made using indigo on an essentially red background and later colours are filled in. The colours used are natural derived mostly from seeds, flowers and stones like black from lamp soot mixed with gum from the thirumany tree, white from sea shells, red from tamarind seeds, brown from geru. The frame is marked by a floral border indicating the end of a scene on a scroll. Now, it is merely ornamentation as the scrolls have miniaturized into frames meant for hanging on a wall. Yet the scenes retain a strong local flavor as it follows the tradition of oral story telling.

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Celebrating the ‘Bonalu’ festival which is unique to Telangana just like Cheriyal art is

Drying on the sidelines were masks of gaily adorned men and women of Telangana along with an occasional parrot and cow. The masks, made from coconut shells, are layered with wood powder, gum and tamarind paste over a khadi cloth before finally painting them. From face fitted to fist fitting, the masks are available in many sizes. 

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The masks in various stages of preparation

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But if you thought the delight ends here then you have not seen the colourful dolls yet. Made with the same raw materials as masks are made of, these dolls are a lilliput version of the performers of yore. Relegated to the role of producing souvenirs, this unique art got a shot in the arm when it received a GI tag.

 

The traditions do not remain nor can we hit the rewind button but isn’t it wonderful that the artists have given us a chance to revisit those times. It was heartening to see a complex built on the periphery of the village which is not just used as a centre for showcasing and selling the Cheriyal art but also as a centre for teaching the art to those interested.

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Author – Zehra Chhapiwala

She can be reached at zchhapiwala@gmail.com

 

 

Pochampally Ikat – A Journey

What is common to the Patolas, the coveted sarees from Patan, Gujarat, and the Pochampallys that come from the eponymous village of what is Telangana today. Obviously it is the tie-and-dye technique one would say but it is also a story of migrations. If the Salvis from South India moved to Patan to make fresh silk Patolas for the king, two brothers Malliah and Venkiah from the traditional weaving community of Padmasalis moved from Chirala to Pochampally. Patolas, then as well as now is a matter of all silk, “pattu” as the name itself is supposed to indicate. Pochampallys were woven only in coarse cotton to begin with, as silk was added much later.

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Above left: Girl standing in a veranda wearing a Pochampally Ikat weave sari, by Hermann Linde (1863-1923). Pictures courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The story of migrations of weavers as perhaps art guilds across the country in ancient and medieval times is fascinating. While Patan has records of its Patola heritage from 11th – 12th centuries CE, Andhra Pradesh doesn’t seem to have that. One of the earliest evidences of migration is from the 5th century Mandasor pillar inscription that records silk weavers guild from Lata, Gujarat who migrated to Mandasor and built a temple dedicated to Sun. Movement of weavers within and outside the country established Ikat as a well-known and widely practiced craft from the eastern coast of Odisha to Andhra Pradesh, and on the west in Gujarat.

Also read Patan’s Patola – A Weaver’s Perspective

“Some of the weavers claim to have originally migrated from Saurashtra, and settled in Chirala, which formerly produced the finest weft Ikat in the form of rumals used by rich Muslims,” wrote Mrinalini Sarabhai in “Patolas and Resist-dyed Fabrics of India’.

Writing for the ‘The Journal of Indian Textile Industry’, in 1955 the veritable Pupul Jayakar says it was forty year ago that the brothers migrated from Chirala, already famous for the variety of fabrics called Telia Rumal. Telia Rumals, literally indicating the process the yarn goes through soaked in oil and the square cloth or the handkerchief. Telia Rumals with chowkas, diamond within a square patterns woven in cotton, was a famous export from the eastern coast to Arabia and beyond. They were made typically in three colours, white, black and red with geometric patterns and a single colour wide borders.

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Though Pochampally is a name that is generally used for all the Ikat that comes from Telangana today, it came to Pochampally, a small village in Nalgonda district only by the turn of 20th century. It soon spread across several mandals, covering many places like Puttapakka that makes intricate designs in double Ikat and Koyyalagudem that specializes in upholstery and bed spreads.

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Chirala’s Telia Rumals served the nobility as well as the fishermen. The cotton square cloths served as basic clothing and the royalty used the embroidered and Ikat woven with gold as dupattas. How then did they transform to full six-yard sarees is an interesting story.

It is believed that All India Handicrafts Board helped the weavers of Pochampally revitalize their craft of weaving Ikat sarees. But, writer Renuka Narayanan gives a dramatic account in Hindustan Times – “Nobody knew of Pochampally until Kamaladevi (Chattopadhyay), a wet towel tied over head in a trick learnt from Bapu, drove through scorched Andhra countryside to track down weavers. The first three saris together cost Rs. 120”. So, the doyen of crafts, textiles and heritage had a hand in bringing us the Pochampallys. During Jayakar’s time itself she records around 150 weavers practicing Ikat weaving at Pochampally village. Today it has grown exponentially and all of Nalgonda district is humming with the sound of looms.

 

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Picture courtesy: Shilpa Shankarnarayan Iyer

 

As per the geographical indication (GI) tag application, Pochampally comes from at least 40 villages within a 70 km radius of Hyderabad, capital of Telangana, in the adjoining districts of Nalgonda, and parts of Warangal, including Pochampally, Koyalagudam, Puttapakka, Elanki and Chautupal where Ikat textiles are woven. “In these villages, Ikat weaving is a way of life, with every member of a family from child to grandparent, being involved at one stage or another,” says the GI application of Pochampally Weavers Associations.

Pochampally Ikat or resist dyeing, involves the sequence of tying (or wrapping) and dyeing sections of bundled yarn to a predetermined colour scheme prior to weaving. Thus the dye penetrates into the exposed section, while the tied section remain un-dyed. The patterns formed by this process on the yarn are then woven into the fabric.

Pochampally Ikats can be single Ikat or double Ikat – single Ikat involves tying and dyeing either the warp or weft before weaving, double ikat means tying and dyeing both the warp and weft according to predetermined patterns and colours and then painstakingly matching them on the loom manually, a complex and time consuming process. There is also a combined Ikat where there are portions of warp Ikat, and weft Ikat and at places where the warp Ikat and weft Ikat overlap.

 

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Picture courtesy: Shilpa Shankarnarayan Iyer

 

With the popular demand for Pochampally increasing, weavers started getting silk from Bangalore and zari from Surat to produce silk Ikats. They added to their repertoire of designs, traditional motifs like parrot, elephant, and flowers. Pochampally weavers also experimented with jacquards and dobby techniques that is reflecting in the hybrid Pochampally with Kanchipuram border sarees in the market.

“Today Patolas of Patan are imitated fairly successfully … The basic difference between the double Ikat weaves of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and the Patola of Gujarat is that the Patola uses eight-ply silk while the imitations do not,” wrote Mrinalini Sarabhai. Though the copying of Patola designs continue at Pochampally, the weavers and their craft go much beyond the mere imitations.

 

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Picture courtesy: Shilpa Shankarnarayan Iyer

 

Copies they do, but the issue is also how some traders are taking copies of Patola made in Pochampally for comparatively lower price of Rs. 30-35,000 and selling it up to even a lakh. If this copy of Patola at Pochampally for a lower price is bad, worse is the fakes that are passing of as Ikats in many cities, as gullible buyers won’t be able to differentiate the Ikat prints passed off as Ikat weave. This is killing the Ikat weave and its trade – a connoisseur had recently mentioned how a printed copy of fake Ikat look alike on a shiny material sells for as low as Rs. 900/- in the markets of faraway Kolkata. A word of caution, always look out for the handloom mark and silk board mark on the fabric you buy as it is a stamp of authenticity and ensures you a verified product.

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Today, at Pochampally an invention that has brought a lot of pride and if followed to convenience to weavers is the ‘AsuLaxmi Machine’. Born in the family of traditional Pochampally weavers, Chinthakindi Mallesham won the 2015 Kamala Award for Contribution to Crafts in 2015 and Padma Shri in 2017. One of the processes involved in making of Pochampally sarees is the process of yarn winding called as “Asu” that involved 9000 arm movements consuming 5 hours for a single saree. Mallesham who used to watched his mother go through the painstaking Asu process created the AsuLaxmi Machine which in a day can prepare yarn for six sarees with little labour involved.

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The AsuLaxmi Machine. Refer the following website for more details

While the industry is picking up, the issues that the Pochampally weavers face are grave especially that of low wages. Younger generation has moved on to other jobs. Second, an inability to price the products for if they stick to the old practice of using locally treated yarn rather than all falling for the mercerised yarn the price is going to be steeper. For instance the Telia Rumal is made from a distinct quality of yarn that comes from the treatment of it in oil. Today, this practice is unviable and just one master craftsman accepts it on order and the price naturally hits the roof. Telia Rumal is still available on order, but the ones that are made of mercerised cotton.

Whether it is the advent of swift powerlooms or the profuse availability of mercerized cotton, until we do not value a handmade product and the skill and artistry involved, we will loose an invaluable piece of our rich cultural heritage.

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Picture courtesy: Shilpa Shankarnarayan Iyer

Pochampally is not only a name famous for textiles but has an important place in the post independence history of the country. Bhoodan Pochampally, as the place is referred to comes from the Bhoodan Movement. It was at Pochampally in 1951, Vedire Ramachandra Reddy voluntarily donated 100 acres of land to Vinoba Bhave and began a movement that would leave a permanent mark on the social consciousness of the country. Thus was created Bhoodan Pochampally.

Also watch this video

 

Author – Vaijayanthi Chakravarthi

She can  be contacted at vaiju7@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

Badshahi Ashurkhana – A Qutb Shahi Salute to Imam Hussain

The Persian Blue has held me in fascination from long. There is no single reason I can attribute to it yet the genesis of this interest goes back to the mid- 1990s when I was a PhD student working on a medieval port site on Odisha coast. In a trial pit we had unearthed a Persian turquoise glazed pottery piece, the first of its kind found on Odisha coast revealing an evidence of contact with the Persian Gulf. My interest grew towards understanding India’s global connection throughout her history. In this process, I discovered the palette of magnificent glazed ceramics that adorned a number of monuments across India – from Agra to Bidar and from Gwalior to Hyderabad.

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Magnificent Persian Tile Work in South Asia

One such monument is the Badshahi Ashurkhana that I came across while leafing through the book ‘Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates’ by George Michell and Mark Zebrowsky.

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In 2015, I landed in Hyderabad and visiting the Ashurkhana was on the top of my list of things-to-do. Though at that time my purpose was to appreciate its Persian inlaid tile work but later what moved me was its deep spiritual connection with a branch of Islam that played a considerable role in shaping the history of Medieval India.

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Badshahi Asurkhana in Hyderabad

Badshahi Ashurkhana is a Shia shrine commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain at Karbala in Iraq. The shrine was erected in 1593-96 CE with tiles added in 1611 CE.

Built under the patronage of Quli Qutb Shah, the building is famous for its large fine cut tile mosaic decoration particularly the tear shaped medallions in a distinct Deccani palette covering its outer walls.

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Tomb of Quli Qutb Shah near Golkonda Fort

Ashura is the 10th day of the first month of Islamic calendar, Muharram. On that day, Imam Hussain and his 72 followers including his sons, brothers, cousins and companions were cruelly put to death. After being surrounded for ten days by enemy forces and cut off from food and water supply, they died fighting on the sands of the scorched plain of Karbala.

In 632 CE, Prophet Muhammad’s last year of life ended in crisis. None his sons had survived to adulthood. So a broad consensus of those present at Medina nominated his uncle Abu Bakr as his successor. But a number of others felt that the selection of the first caliph was inappropriate. For them Ali ibn Talib, who was both the Prophet’s first cousin as well as son-in-law was the natural choice. In 656 CE, Ali was raised to the position of caliph.

However, this decision was not well-received by all Muslims. Ali’s main opponent was the Muslim Governor of Syria, and a member of the Umayyad clan (founder of Umayyad dynasty), Muawiya. Ali was murdered by one of his supporters, a Kharijites in 661 CE because of his mutual agreement with Mu’awiya for attribution.

Mu’awiya became the next caliph in Islam, but his leadership was not accepted by all Muslims, especially in Iraq who hoped for return of Ali’s lineage. In 680 CE, Imam Hussain, Prophet’s grandson was made the third caliph by the Shiites of Iraq. At the same time Yazid I had succeeded his father Muawiya as the caliph among Sunnis.  Yazid having learnt of the rebellious attitude of Shiites sent his army to restore order.

Imam Hussain had set out from Mecca with 72 members of his family and followers for Kufa, a city in Iraq with an expectation to be received by the citizens of the city. However, on his arrival at Karbala, west of the Euphrates River, he was confronted by a large army. Imam Hussain and his people fought bravely but were defeated. They were all killed hungry and thirsty on the 10th day of Muharram.

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Battle of Karbala (Source – Wiki)

Shiites observe this day as Ashura, a day of public mourning.

Shia Islam and India:

India’s Shia population is second to only Iran in the entire world. According to Al-Shaykh-Al-Mutid, the Shia theologian of 10th-11th century CE, before the battle of Karbala, Imam Hussain and Umar ibn Saad, the commander of the enemy force had discussed in length about the former’s willingness to go to one of the border outposts of the rapidly expanding Muslim empire. Some historians believe that the border outpost was Al Hind or India. According to some Shia historians, Imam Hussain’s wife Shehr E Banu was a relative of Hindu king, Chandragupta. They further claim that a band of Indian soldiers known as ‘Mohyal Brahmins’ had gone to Iraq to help Imam Hussain at Karbala but reached late. They still fough with Yazid’s army and exacted revenge of Imam Hussain’s defeat. The Mohyal Brahmins mourn Imam Hussain’s martyrdom till today and thus are known as Hussaini Brahmins.

Even though Imam Hussain did not reach India, some of the Shias did migrate fleeing from Umayyad or Abbasid persecution. These refugees brought with them rituals which kept alive the memory and narrative of Karbala.

Interestingly, the martyrdom of Imam Hussain became an integral part of Indian belief. For centuries, the neighbouring Hindu communities have repetitively been drawn to the ceremony in honour of the beheading of Imam Hussain, venerating him as if he were an Indian ‘god’.

Muharram Procession in Hyderabad (Images 2, 3 and 4 – Source: Flickr – Rajesh Pamnani 2012)

In Hyderabad, where sizeable populations of Shias live, Muharram employs rituals and iconography reflecting Indic influence.

Qutub Shahis were the founding dynasty of Hyderabad in the 16th century. They were staunch Shia Muslims. During their rule, the Qutub Shahis sponsored public Muharram processions and built a number of Ashurkhanas wherein people gathered to mourn Karbala. The Shia Safavid government of Iran cultivated good relations with the Qutub Shahis. As a result there was cross-cultural flow of ideas strengthening the Deccani culture and civilization.

During the rule of the Qutub Shahis, Hyderabad had a number of splendid Ashurkhanas, replete with high exterior walls, spacious courtyards, carpets, tile work, chandeliers, and glass lamps. Inside each Ashurkhana are placed sacred objects that represent the battle standards used by Imam Hussain and his companions. However, in spite of its rich enamel tile decoration and strong historical connection, the best preserved Badshahi Asurkhana, is hardly visited by tourists.

The Badshahi Ashurkhana stands on the High Court Road of the old city of Hyderabad.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Chandragiri Fort Museum – A Photo Story

Chandragiri on the Tirupati – Bangalore highway has an unusual address for an ASI Museum- Raja Mahal; a Nayaka palace located inside the Chandragiri Fort. The fort It is located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Unusual because down South, fort palaces are hardly converted into museums, yet it is the perfect setting for displaying the excavated remains from the archaeological sites of Yaganti and Chandragiri and also of the bronzes and stone sculptures that are remnants of the artistic splendor of the Vijayanagara period (1336-1565 CE ). The empire at its zenith ruled most of South India and was considered its rule was marked with artistic and cultural advances among many others.

The address was once the palace of Chandragiri Nayakas, those very Nayakas who came to the rescue of Vijayanagar Rayas after the battle at Talikota. Chandragiri became  the capital of the Rayas. The fort has been attributed to Shivappa Naik of Yadava Naik dynasty and is more than a 1000 years old. Its most glorious period was under the Vijayanagara rule when it was made the capital of the mighty empire.

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The Raja Mahal is architecturally akin to the Lotus Mahal at Hampi. It is a three storied palace crowned with towers in Hindu architectural tradition. Arches are used to bring in a feel of space and lightness. It is constructed with stone, brick, lime and mortar devoid of timber. The floors are supported by massive pillars. The central tower that covers the durbar hall rises through the two floors. The floors are supported by massive pillars while the walls bear fine plaster and stucco decorations. The six tiered pastel hued Raja Mahal, built in Indo – Sarcenic style, set amidst manicured  lawns and surrounded by the Chandragiri mountains  is  an inspired setting to showcase  the rich legacy of Vijayanagara art and architecture.

ASI at Chandragiri is a modern day avatar  of the Nayakas. It  is restoring the glory of regional architecture much like it did of the Vijayanagar empire!

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The museum houses rich artefacts found in Andhra Pradesh. The findings displayed  are from Gandikota, Yaganti, Chandragiri, Guddimallam, Cuddapah district and Kurnool district. The idea is to showcase the rich regional and material heritage of the area whose history goes back to thousands of years. Although most of the exhibits belong to the 16th and the 17th centuries and are in the artistic Vijayanagara style , yet the subtle local influences are discernible. Walking down the corridors, reading the tags , barely  familiar with the sites the mind is suitably challenged and pleased at the same time.

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The arched corridors along which the regally robed Rayas once strolled , discussing war strategies with their commanders, now house stone sculptures discovered in the region . Who can tell what secrets these mute stones have heard and hold , sealed , within themselves !

 

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Pic credit – Jay Shankar

A single file of lovely stone icons salvaged from Gandikota and Renigunta is headed , auspiciously,  by a Ganesha from Renigunta

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Vishnu in lalitasana. Notice the fine details chiseled with perfection in stone. Pic credit – Jay Shankar

 

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Pic credit – Jay Shankar

Above : Soma Skanda and Parvati; Below : Details of the upper body and clothes of Parvati. The Vijayanagara rule saw a gradual transition from Chloritic Schist to Granite for sculptures. Though soapstone was still preferred but granite was being increasingly used leading to sublime pieces like the above one. Pics credit – Jay Shankar

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The Alwar saints sitting in calm repose.

The highlight of this floor is the Navagraha collection retrieved from the Uma Maheshwara temple at Yaganti

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One of the Navagraha to help you understand the depth of sculptural beauty of this region.

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Who else but Chandra, the  Lord of Chandragiri

The scene stealer of the ground floor or rather of the museum is the Bronze gallery. The Vijayanagara bronzes follow the tradition set by the Chola bronzes. These are panch kula or five metal icons; Copper, tin, zinc, lead and traces of gold and silver were used in casting these icons with most of them being Utsav moortis that were cast using the lost wax process.

The bronzes displayed at the Chandragiri museum belong to the later Vijayanagar period. These are classified as lesser Vijayanagar and closer to later provincial Chola bronzes.  Experts feel that these are more stylized, less natural and heavily cold worked as seen in the hatched designs.

But to the  untrained, uncritical eyes all look sublime, sensuous and supreme!

 

Vishnu in his many forms. Pics credit – Jay ShankarIMG_6140 (2)

Lakshmi Narasimha

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Bal Gopala

Although the Rayas patronized Vaishnavism, the local Nayakas were Shaivas. At Chandragiri we see this icono-eclecticism

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Soma Skanda and Parvati. Pic credit – Jay Shankar

_DSC6851 correctedPoet King Krishna Deva Raya with his consorts. Pic credit – Jay Shankar

The reservoir at the base of the hillock collected rain water and made the fort self – sufficient. Today, it is used for pedal boating. There is a light and sound show in the evening that gives a general overview about the history and cultural significance of this place. For both history buffs and art connoisseurs, the corridors and halls of the palace are no less enthralling as they are enlightening and educative.IMG_6306

One long lingering look as you walk out of the palace thanking the ASI DG Mr. Tiwari who gave the timely permission to take photographs and the Senior Conservationist Mr G. Srinivasulu who made the visit memorable.

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This  too is a teertha, a place of pilgrimage, albeit of a different kind.

 

All the pictures used in the post belong to the author unless stated otherwise. Cover pic credit – Jay Shankar

Author – Aparna Pande Misra

She can be contacted at aparna.anusha.28@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Godavari … Gautami … Dakshin Ganga

The Queen of Deccan Plateau, spanning Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, in length, second only to the celestial Ganga and in spirit ,the Ganga herself reincarnated at the Brahmagiri is the celebrated river goddess of peninsular India, the mighty Godavari.

Literally meaning ‘the one who nourishes cows’, Godavari is a giver in all respects. Flowing with abundant waters for nearly 1500 kilometres, she is the eldest and most capable daughter of Sahyadri. Godavari is revered as one of the seven important rivers of this land along with Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri from ancient times.

Gatha Saptashati, a collection of Gathas, with rustic emotions was composed by King Hala of the Satavahana Dynasty on the banks of Godavari. Though it is essentially love poetry; the lyrical anthology is an ode to the flora, fauna and rural life of Deccan. In the Gathas, the waters of Godavari have been used as a metaphor for the flow of love and desire.

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Godavari originating in Western Ghats near Nasik, flows through the entire Deccan plateau, aggregating waters of several tributaries and passing through Eastern Ghats, to meet the Bay of Bengal near Kakinada. A long, coast to coast journey, through hills and forests, civilizations both modern and ancient, of welcoming pilgrims and nurturing life

Origin

Tryambakeshwar, at the origin of Godavari is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, an important place of worship of Lord Shankar. Godavari starts her divine journey, through city of Nashik, one of the designated places for Kumbh. Godavari is also known as Gautami here owing to the legend of sage Gautam bringing the sacred Ganga river to the Deccan plateau and hence is known as ‘Dakshin Ganga’ meaning Southern Ganga.

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Trimbakeshwar Temple, Nasik, built with black basalt, was constructed by Shrimant Balaji Bajirao, the Nanasahib Peshwa, in 1786. The Shiva deity installed in the temple at that time was decorated with the world famous Nassak diamond. The stone was appropriated by the British during the 3rd Anglo-Maratha war. Pic credit Nirdesh Singh

Trimbakeshwar (Tryambakeshwar, Trambakeshwar) takes its name from ‘Trimbaka’, which means ‘The Lord Who has Three Eyes’. This is a place of Tri-Sandhya Gayatri, the birthplace of Lord Ganesha. Godavari forms the southern boundary of Dandakaranya in Ramayana whereas Panchavati, the place where Ram and Sita stayed during their exile is now a part of Nashik. Trimbakeshwar is also considered to be one of the holiest places to perform Shraddha. The Nirnaya Sindhu mentions Trimbakeshwar as the place where Sahyadri Mountain and Godavari River exist, purifying the entire earth planet.

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Kushavarta Kund at Trimbakeshwar Temple – The symbolic origin of the River Godavari. This is where the waters of the three streams Godavari, Gautami and Vaitarna meet to form Godavari. Pic credit http://www.holydham.com

Built between the 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE by Jain traders and Kings for Buddhist monks, the Trirashmi Leni are some of the oldest caves of Maharashtra. Though popularly known as Pandav Leni, the caves have nothing to do with Mahabharatha. Most of the caves are Viharas with one Chaitya and represent the Hinayana sect of Buddhism. The caves are a wonderful example of syncretism between Jains and Buddhists in spirit and Indians and Greek in stone and sculptures.

The richly sculptured Trirashmi caves or Pandav Leni near Nashik. Pic courtesy Manisha Chitale

On the banks of Godavari in Nashik stands the Kalaram Mandir with black idols of Ram,

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Kalaram Mandir, Nasik. Pic credit http://www.industrialtour.com

Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. Built in 1788 by Sardar Rangarao Odhekar after he had a vision of a black idol of Lord Ram floating in the waters of Godavari, this temple played an important role in the Dalit Movement. In 1930, Babasaheb Ambedkar launched the Kalaram Mandir Entry Satyagraha and stormed the temple thereby ending restriction on the entry of certain castes in the temple.

From right at its source Godavari waters seem to have witnessed pathbreaking movements leading to emancipation of the common people.

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Located in Niphad tehsil of Nashik district, this wetland was formed due to the silt and water accumulated from the nearby Gangapur and Darana reservoirs. It has been declared a bird sanctuary due to the presence of a large variety of avifauna. Pic credit Jitu Mishra

Meanwhile, downstream, the birds chirp, and flamingo flocks swing in blue skies at the Nandur Madhameshwar Bird Sanctuary.

The Deccan

Once past Kopargaon, through the parched lands of Marathwada in Maharashtra, Godavari provides the much needed touch of water.

Just before Paithan, she meets with Pravara. This Pravara-sangam is itself a visual delight. Pravara has a special place in every Maharastrian’s mind. Just before the confluence, Pravara passes through Nevase. This is the place where Sant Dnyaneshwar, the child prodigy of Maharashtra penned ‘Bhavarth-Dipika’, commonly known as ‘Dnyaneshwari’. One of the most revered and complete commentary on Bhagvad Geeta, since early thirteenth century.

Dyanenshwar, at the tender age of 16 was one of the most brilliant and accomplished Yogi. His life story with his three equally enlightened siblings, the arduous childhood, the unfettered faith in Vithal the God,  and attaining the difficult Sanjeevan-Samadhi  before touching twenty  years of age , he was the indeed the path breaker in the continuous tradition of Marathi  saints. There will be very few households in Maharashtra, who will not have a copy of ‘Dyaneshwari’ on the pedestal. Godavari is blessed to have the fortune of raising this extraordinary son of soil in her backyard.

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Temple dedicated to Dnyaneshwar at Alandi, Pune.

All ancient key cities or capitals are on the banks of prominent rivers. Paithan , or the ancient Pratishthan is not an exception. Godavari, blocked at Jayakwadi, flows seamlessly around Paithan. Paithan, as some experts believe, was the capital of Satawahan, the original royal dynasty of Maharashtra. It finds mention in the navigation and trading bible called ‘The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea’. Paithan remained an important city of trade and administration even during the time of later dynasties such as the Chalukyas and Yadavs.  Paithan and its surrounding areas are of great archaeological interest, as it provides continuous settlement pattern over 25 centuries to say the least.

And Paithan is equally celebrated for that special silk fabric in beautiful bright colours

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Pic credit http://www.utsavpedia.com

and real gold or silver borders, famously called as Paithanee Sarees. Parrots and peacocks form some of the central motifs in this hand woven silk cloth. Handed down as a heirloom and a must-have in the wardrobe of every Marathi Mulgi, Paithanee is a much sough after saree and fabric both in India and the world.

River of Faith

Paithan had a long tradition of Marathi saints starting from Dyaneshwar, Eknath and many others like Namdev, Sant Janabai, Changdev and others in the vicinity.  These saint poets and thinkers of medieval times including Tukaram , Dasganu , Chokha mela, initiated the Bhakti  or Varkari movement which later flourished and is still in practice. A whole corpus of lyrical ‘Abhang’ and ‘Owee’ in Marathi language can be attributed to this tradition. Abhang are poetic compositions in Marathi, centred around worship of Vitthal or Vithoba, with philosophical message. These compostions actually brought the Sanskrit based ‘Darshanik’ knowledge to common people. Bhakti tradition literally got the Godavari of Indian philosophy to the doorsteps of everyone through this vernacular literature. Bhakti movement also insisted on removing the caste barriers and thus discarding the rigidity in social behaviour. It is almost like Godavari has blessed this Bhakti and Varkari sect with her ever nourishing waters.

The meandering stream of Godavari, traverses the Marathwada, taking in waters of Kundalika and Purna, flourishing this sacred land which also belongs to Nath Yogis.

Nath Sampraday a pan India sect of Shaiva worship, is one of strong branches of the tree called Hinduism. The banks of Godavari are dotted with Nath monasteries and temples right from its basin in Maharashtra to its delta in Andhra. Offshoots of Sahyadri in Nagar, Nashik and Aurangabad have several Nath places of worship. Nath Sampraday finds reference in several literary traditions and books. Disciples of this sect are termed as Nath, Siddha or Yogis. Gorakshnath, Matsyendranath , Gahininath are some of great sages of this lineage.

 Datta Sampraday another equally important faith stream, popular on the Deccan plateau also finds its important places in the Godavari basin. Datta sect is closely linked with Nath Tradition, but worships a Vishnu incarnation.  Mahur, Karanje are places of worship for Datta devotees which are in upper basin of Godavari. Mahanubhav sect which also finds its roots in the same region around Godavari is almost like a combination of Nath and Datta cults. Waters of Godavari have given life to these various streams of philosophies and cultures.

Reaching Nanded, Godavari prepares to leave Maharashtra and enters the present day Telangana. Nanded by itself is a prominent place in Sikh history. There stands the majestic Takht Shri Huzur Sahib Gurudwara reminding all about the bond shared by Punjab with Maharashtra. Around 250 years back, when Guru Gobindsinghji, the tenth Sikh Guru chose Nanded as his last abode. This is where he passed the authority to Guru Granth Sahib and put a stop to the human Guru Tradition.  Ever flowing Godavari has witnessed this transition with mute admiration.

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Takht Shri Huzur Sahib Gurudwara at Nanded. Pic credit Nirdesh Singh

Taking a sharp turn to south, Godavari continues till she meets her southern affluent Manjara. Manjara drains the passage between Godavari and Krishna, bringing in the flavours of Karnataka.

Godavari now a substantial flow, turns north, to pass through some of the holy places saraswatisuch as Basar and Dharmapuri.  Basar is famous for its unique Gnana Saraswati temple, one of the two temples in India dedicated to the Goddess of Learning and Knowledge. The other temple is in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Children are bought to this temple in Telangana to write their first letter, a symbolic initiation into the world of learning known as ‘Akshara Abhyasam’. Passing through Nizamabad and Macherial districts of Telangana, Godavari once again touches south eastern border of Maharashtra.

The Jungle Lore

Now entering the Mahakantar, the great jungle region, Pranhita river, the biggest tributary of Godavari meets her near Sironcha.  Pranhita carries with her waters of Satpura ranges and whole of Vidarbha to merge with the sacred stream of Godavari. Sacred town of Kaleshwaram is at the confluence.

Skirting the Maharashtra border, moving through Sal forests and  roars of tigers, Godavari receives her another major tributary. Indravati flows through thick forests of Chattisgarh, passing through craggy hills of Vindhya, and carrying the fading flute tunes of Gond tribals, is a force to reckon with.

Another tributary of Godavari called Sabari, which meets the main river further downstream also comes from thick wooded belt of Chhatisgarh-Odisha border. And interestingly, Indravati and Sabari are interconnected naturally through a ‘middleman’ stream !

From this point onwards, Godavari flows in southerly direction and enters Andhra Pradesh. Taking in waters from some more tributaries like Talperu, now at the confluence with Kinnarseni, stands Bhadrachalam, a prominent place of Rama Bhakti. This temple town has rich association with the river. Godavari’s enormous expanse here is awe inspiring.

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Sree Sita Ramachandraswamy Temple of Bhadrachalam built by Kancharla Gopanna, famously known as Bhakta Ramadas. The Bhadra Hills and its surrounding areas are mentioned in Dandakaranya as the place where Sita spotted the golden deer and got abducted from. Pic credit http://www.templediary.in

This lifeline of ‘Dakkhan’, has seen rise and fall of several empires on both sides of her banks. The Yadavs, Rashtrakutas, Vengy Chalukyas giving way to the Kakatiyas of Warangal and then with wheels of time turning, to the Islamic kingdoms of Bahamani, which further split into 5 Shahi sultanates.

Moving ahead, Godavari enters the Eastern Ghats, the mountain ranges close to the eastern coast of India. It takes a twisting and turning ride through the green blue Papikonda hills, gushing through the sloping hills, flanked by high rising mountains and carving a deep valley the river continues its eternal journey. On feeling the whiff of sea breeze, Godavari impatiently crosses the mountain terrain to come out in the open and spread at Rajahmundry, a prominent city of Andhra Pradesh. The massive bridge here on Godavri measures 4 KM.  This is third largest bridge in Asia and is an attraction by itself.

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Godavari at Rajahmundry as seen from the Godavari or the Rajamundry – Kovvur Bridge. This is Asia’s third longest road-cum-rail bridge. Pic credit Nirdesh Singh

The Merger

Moving past Rajahmundry, Godavari splits into 2 major branches, Gautami Godavari and Vasishtha Godavari, which further splits into 2 more branches each and with these four arms she embraces the Bay of Bengal. The delta region of Godavari is known as Konaseema. A scenic landscape with swaying palms and green paddy fields stretching across.

Gautami Godavari branch merges with the tides, at Kakinada. Yanam near Kakinada is an erstwhile French colony and part of Pondicherry union territory. Earlier in 18th century this area saw rise of several Dutch colonies doing Indigo trade. Later, the Dutch handed over this colony to the French.

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Sunset on Godavari at Yanam. Pic credit Nirdesh Singh

The Vasishtha branch meets the sea near Narsapur, again a temple town and former Dutch colony.

The silk thread of Paithan, finds a coastal counterpart here, on the banks of Godavari

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Uppada being woven on a handloom. Pic credit http://www.uppadapattusarees.com

again. Uppada , a small beach town near Kakinada, has made mark in the world of silk saris. The Jamdani style of weaving from Bengal combined with patterns and motifs of Andhra has given rise to Uppada Pattu, a distinctive fabric style. Extremely light weight, contemporary in design and style and its fine silk makes Uppada a great choice over other exorbitantly priced silks.

Epilogue

We have now traversed almost the entire south central India, from west to east with this river goddess, a journey through time and geography!

Over several towns, temples and traditions, Godavari banks also host several festivals throughout the year. The sacred and massive Kumbhmela in Tryambak to Godavari Pushkaram festival in Telangana and Andhra, from the Adishesh devotees gathering for Nagoba Jatra at Pranhita confluence to the Antarvedi fair, the cultural celebrations have bloomed in abandon on the Godavari water front.

Godavari has marked the borders for kingdoms and helped win battles for the kings. She has devastated her banks with raging floods at times and has also blocked herself with dams to fulfil the quench of her children.Godavari has inspired sages, saints and poets and her tranquil waters have given solace to the seekers. But she is not without her woes.

Beginning of the End 

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Dowleswaram Barrage built by Sir Arthur Cotton. Pic Credit Wikimedia Commons

During the British Raj, Sir Arthur Cotton, an irrigation engineer changed the face of Konaseema in Andhra by building an Anicut, The Dowleswaram Barrage. This first-of-its-kind barrage was completed in the year 1885 and diverted the flood waters of Godavari to farmlands. He later built another barrage over Krishna River turning the delta into one of the most fertile regions of the country. Even today, the people of Konaseema in Andhra revere Sir Arthur Cotton as a deity. Unfortunately, only parts of the original barrage remain for it has been remodeled as the modern Godavari barrage. While the original barrage had fish lifts and passes, the new one does not have these features robbing the downstream people of not only the much needed silt and water but is also hindering the migration of the Pulasa / Hilsa fish, one among the 228 species of fish that swim in the waters of Godavari.

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The remodelled Godavari Barrage at Dowleshwaram near Rajahmundry. Pic credit Wikimedia Commons

While a few barrages and irrigation projects were much needed in the region, today it boasts of a slew of projects that has fettered the river over its long course. According to MoWR (Ministry of Water Resources), so far nearly 921 Dams, 28 Barrages, 18 Weirs, 1 Anicut, 62 Lifts and 16 Powerhouses have been constructed in the Godavari basin for irrigation, diversion or, storage purpose. The basin has 70 Major Irrigation Projects and 216 Minor Irrigation Projects. For how long will we able to squeeze the river of its resources and water, one wonders.

According to this disturbing report, about 20,000 people from 6 gram panchayats,

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Pic credit moonchasing.wordpress.com

predominantly tribal, in Malkangiri are cut off from the main land for several years, first by the Machkund Hydro electric project and then by Balimela Project. They hire a ferry to get to mainland and in 2010, this ferry was targeted and attacked by the Maoists. The biggest threat to these tribals and their houses is not from the naxalites but from the ambitious Polavaram project that plans to interlink the Krishna and Godavari rivers. If at all the project comes through which is stalled from past four decades then Malkangiri will be submerged along with few other tehsils of tribal Odisha. Just a few of the many devastating side effects of irrigation projects and dams. Siltation, loss of biodiversity, submergence of forests and most of all drying up of areas downstream are other major issues facing the people and its river.

From a surplus river to a deficit river, From clean swells of water to being critically polluted, From nurturing revolutions to facing massive conflicts; the Dakshin Vahini Ganga, Goda Mai as she is fondly called is fettered and frail and needs her sons and daughters today much more than ever before.

Authors – Manisha Chitale and Zehra Chhapiwala

Manisha can be contacted at manishachitale@hotmail.com

Zehra can be contacted at zchhapiwala@gmail.com

HiStory – Make Way for HerStory

There is no such thing as the voiceless. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard

Arundhati Roy

Gargi, the Brahmavadini, as the female seers those who had the Brahmagyaan were called, was not just heard but had an intellectual debate with Sage Yajnavalkya, the outstanding scholar and teacher in expounding the nature of God. Maitreyi, Yajnavalkya’s wife was heard, when she profoundly said ‘What should I do with that by which I do not become immortal’. The echoes of this question still rankles.

Spiritual predicament apart, this small example amply tells us of the exalted position women enjoyed during Rig Vedic Age. They had rights to education, could possess property, perform rituals like last rites in the absence of a brother, and most importantly they had a right to choose the life they wanted. They could speak, and they were heard.

After 2nd century CE Dharmashastras like Manusmriti were written that laid down the principles of a social order which gave primacy to the Brahmins and their orthodox socio-religious norms. From liberal, free entities, women suddenly found themselves being equated with sins and darkness. She was to be guarded by male members and did not have any rights over property. If she did happen to have an earning / property, it was for the one she belonged to.

A fine example of a woman of those ages is the feisty queen, Draupadi. Her dialogue with Yudhisthira, prior to a battle that he is reluctant to engage in, as presented in the 6th century Kiratarjuniya by Bharavi, begins thus –

For a woman to advice men like you is almost an insult.

And yet, my deep troubles compel me to overstep the limits of womanly conduct,

Make me speak up ……

From renowned scholars to reluctant advisers, the deliberate silencing had begun.

Among the silenced, in 1261 CE, rang a booming war cry bearing the name, Rudrama Devi. She is among the few Queens in India who was chosen to rule, and did not serve in the capacity of a regent. Being the only daughter of King Ganapatideva, she underwent the Putrika ceremony, an ancient ritual to anoint her as a son inheriting and having sole rights over her father’s kingdom. She was renamed Rudradeva I, the name that appears on inscriptions confusing many. However, Rudrama’s monumental presence is hard to ignore in Orugallu, now Warangal, erstwhile capital of the Kakatiyas.

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The Kala Thoranam was constructed during the time of Ganapatideva, father of Rani Rudrama Devi. This Kakatiya symbol represents the state of Telangana

Rudrama faced stiff opposition from her cousins, but she quelled the internal dissent with the help of loyal chieftains like the Kayastha chief Jannigedeva and his younger brothers, Recherla Prasaditya, and Reddy chiefs such as Gona Ganna Reddy. She strengthened the Orugallu fort by building more fortifications. She recruited soldiers who were not of royal descent and gave them land tax revenue rights in exchange for their support. This practice was later continued in the dynasty and also adopted by the Vijayanagar Empire that was an offshoot of the Kakatiya dynasty.

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Temple inside the Warangal Fort

Marco Polo, who visited Orugallu, was highly impressed with the riches of Warangal and the administration of Rudrama Devi. She not only ensured health of her subjects by opening medical centres in every village but also introduced new techniques of irrigation by building tanks and earthen dams. Members of Munnuru community were brought in to teach the farmers new methods of agriculture, ushering in prosperity.

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Tanks turned the arid Warangal into an oasis

Her short rule of 30 years was challenged time and again by powerful dynasties such as the Yadavas and the Eastern Gangas, whom she crushed forcefully enough for them to not come back. However, she could not defeat the friend turned foe, brother of the Kayastha Chief who was one of her supporters. She died fighting Ambadeva, leaving behind an inspiring legacy. The star shaped Thousand Pillared Temple in Hanamkonda, Warangal, stands as a stellar example of the zenith of architectural glory reached by the Kakatiyas under Rani Rudrama Devi.

Rudrama Devi set a precedent that was hard to replicate but was followed nevertheless. Many kingdoms saw fearless warrior queens defending their land and people. Notable among them was Rani Durgavati of Garha Katanga / Gondwana, who defeated  Baz Bahadur, King of Malwa. She took on the mighty Mughals with her small battalion taking advantage of the mountainous region. When she could no longer stave off the menacing Mughals, she plunged a dagger into herself and embraced a dignified death. Elsewhere, and in another century, the Mughals were given a tough fight by the regent queen of Bijapur and Ahmednagar, Chand Bibi. Fond of falconry and imprisoned for long years, hers is a story of deceit, courage, bravado, patience, and selfless love.

The Mughals were here to stay. They bought with them ideas and influences that changed the landscape and mindscape of the country. While the Sharia granted Muslim women property rights and widow remarriage was not frowned upon, its strict adherence to Purdah ensured that the women stayed away from participating in decision making. They were seldom seen and preferably unheard. In this context, Noor Jahan stands out as the lone Mughal Queen who wielded unequivocal power. Alexander Dow, writes, ‘Noor Jahan stood forth in public; she broke through all restraint and custom, and acquired power by her own address, more than by weakness of Jahangir’.

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Noor Jahan shunned Purdah and stormed many male bastions like trade, politics and military tactics with ease and superiority

Noor, born Mehrunnisa, was from a scholarly family and adept at languages, philosophy, painting and poetry. She was an excellent strategist, administrator, diplomat and architect. Her influences in cuisine, embroidery and jewellery patterns were revolutionary. Churidar, ancestor of the modern day leggings is the gift of Noor Jahan to the world of fashion and style. She wrote poetry under the name of ‘Makhfi’, ‘The Concealed One’. Despite her talents, she never failed to recognise that she needed the staunch support of a man, which she received in the form of Jahangir. Among the many reforms she bought, one was to ensure that girls received a good amount as their Meher; a safety net that would stand by them in bad times. Noor Jahan minted her own coins and put a halt to the expansionist policies of the kingdom. Her reign was marked by peace and prolific construction. She made the pursuit of finer things in life a royal agenda.

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The silver coins minted by Noor Jahan in her name. Image source – Wikimedia commons

Sources of the time describe her as vivacious, alluring and compelling. One look at all the structures and spaces that she has designed and you will find yourself mouthing the same words. Whether it is the resplendent tombs that she built for Jehangir and her family, or the Charbagh gardens, whether it is the simple but soothing caravan serais with gardens, or the Shahi masjid made of stones in Srinagar. She was the first one to use parchinkari or pietra dura technique extensively on marble. Her contributions, if listed, might take pages and her remarkable story of rise and fall is worth many books. But she remains unheralded and anonymous. Khurram must be happy for after ascending the throne he not only unceremoniously ousted Noor Jahan but also launched a malicious campaign to remover her traces from the annals of Mughal administration and history.

Noor Jahan spent her final 15 years quietly in Lahore close to the tomb of her beloved Jehangir. She built herself a modest tomb in Shahdara Bagh with only a smidgen of the elegant patterns that she so loved, symbolic of her austere life. Her poignant epitaph reads thus

Bar mazaar-i-ma gharibaan

Na-chiragh-e na guley

Na-parrey parwanaan sozad

Na saadey bulbuley

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Tomb of Noor Jahan and her daughter Ladli Begum in Lahore, Pakistan. Image source – Wikimedia commons

 

On our lone grave no roses bloom,

No nightingale would sing;

No friendly lamp dispels the gloom,

No moth ever burns it wings

It has been a year since I first laid my eyes on the magnificent Itimad ud Daula’s tomb in Agra. but still remember my wide eyed surprise. There was not an inch that was not painted upon or incised. The pretty mosaic floor, the elegant parchinkari, the wonderfully painted flowers and trees, the riotous muqarnas left me enthralled. The dark interiors did not dampen my spirits and I was staring, hard and long. What broke my reverie was a remark by a fellow tourist, ‘Oh just look at all this beauty. No doubt this must be inspired by the Taj and that is why is called baby Taj’. A local guide intervened ‘This was built much before the Taj by Noor Jahan for her family’. Fret not Noor, for one can only wash away ink on paper, but not your sonnets in stone.

Noor Jahan was a woman of a different mettle. Her tumultuous saga reminds me of this verse

the rose has told

In one simplicity

That never life

Relinquishes a bloom

But to bestow

An ancient confidence’

Natalia Crane, Venus Invisible and Other Poems

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Achabal Garden in Kashmir built by Noor Jahan. She was a lover of gardens and built many fine Charbagh style gardens in Agra, Lahore and Kashmir. Image source – Internet

Not in imposing monuments, but it is in the sublime and the mundane that we often see the manifestation of the feminine. The mosques where they themselves were not allowed, the temples where they were idolised but still considered impure to chant mantras, the roads and its caravan serais where the vary traveler rested, in the gardens where the spreading canopies of the large trees shaded them from searing heat, fountains that cooled the environs, flowers whose scent turned the air heady. For it is in convenience and pleasure that the subtlety of the feminine is pronounced. Though her presence may seem strident for certain sections of the society, she remains a whisper.

To be continued.

Author – Zehra Chhapiwala

She can be reached at zchhapiwala@gmail.com

All the pictures used in the post are courtesy Jitu Mishra unless stated otherwise

From Golkonda to Hyderabad – An Architectural Journey

In the history of Indian Subcontinent, 15th and 16th centuries were two remarkable centuries. It was the era when the fusion of Indian and Persian/Central Asian cultures and art reached its climax. The region of Deccan bore maximum fruits of these cultural syntheses. The rulers of Bahamani dynasty which laid the foundation of this trend saw new heights under the Qutb Shahis of Golkonda.

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View of Hyderabad City and Qutb Shahi Tombs from Golconda Fort

Tajaddin Firuz (1392 – 1422 CE) was a celebrated Bahamani ruler in Gulbarga. During his rule, there was an influx of Persians, Arabs and Turks into the Deccan. The trend continued throughout the Bahamani rule.

One among these immigrants in the later Bahamani Court was Quli Mulk, a Turk man, who rose to prominence as a governor of the royal court. In 1487 CE, he was sent to Golkonda to quell rebellious leaders. This was a turning point in the history of Deccan in the form of the birth of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty. Golkonda Fort was strengthened and expanded then on. In the succeeding century, Golkonda became a major centre of miniature art, Urdu poetry and literature and majestic architecture. The prosperity of Golkonda reached manifold under the patronage of Muhammad Quli (1580-1611), under whom the new city of Hyderabad was established.

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The Dutch Connection – Katargam Cemetery and Hortus Malabaricus

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The Majesty of Qutb Shahi Tombs in Golconda

Golkonda, the first capital of Qutb Shahi can still be appreciated even though many of its buildings are now in ruins. The impact of Iranian urban tradition is witnessed in the axial alignments of royal ceremonial gates, markets, ceremonial portals and audience halls. These elements are distributed within a double series of concentric walls that ring a great rock, the Bala Hisar, rising 140 m from the surrounding plains.

Travel Tips

Hyderabad is a bustling metropolis located in the heart of South-Central India. The city is also the capital of Telangana State and is a major tourist place for its monuments, food culture, museums, architectural jewels, palaces, and vibrant malls, IT corridors, hotels, parks and many more. For an appreciation of Qutb Shahi monuments keep at least 2 days. Your day one should be spent in Golkonda Fort and Qutb Shahi monuments and day 2 at Hyderabad Old City which has also a vibrant street shopping corridor. There are plenty of options for stay and food for all budget. The city is well-connected nationally and internationally by air, rail and road.

 

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Toli Masjid near Golkonda

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Badshahi Ashurkhana – A Qutb Shahi Salute to Imam Hussain

Hyderabad, the shifted capital on the banks of Musi was also built in the Persian model with Char Minar at its core of planning. Char Minar, the largest and most original architectural conceptualization of the Qutb Shahis continues to dominate the city. The nearby Mecca Masjid built towards the end of Qutb Shahi rule in the 17th century is city’s largest mosque.

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Charminar and Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad

Qutb Shahi rulers had built their tombs closer to the former capital Golkonda in a sprawling area. Rising to tower heights, the Qutb Shahi tombs have massive domes of slightly bulbous form. Finials cluster around the petalled neck of the dome, a feature that makes distinctive the Decani tombs among Indo-Islamic monuments of India. The other characteristic features are superimposed arched recesses and projecting balconies with ornate balustrades.

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Five forgotten forts of Telangana – A Travel Shot

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The Interiors of Charminar in Hyderabad

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The Stucco and Tile Decorations in Qutb Shai Tombs and Mosques

The most remarkable feature that differentiates Qutb Shahi monuments is heavy relay on plasterwork showing ribbed fruits, incised tassels and medallions with calligraphy framed by foliate bands and deeply cut flowers. The monumental gate of Bala Hisar at Golkonda shows ornate arabesque medallions as well as sharply modelled peacocks with long features and curly tailed lions.

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Stucco Decoration in Bala Hisar Gate

Tile decoration was also a prominent feature, but only in fragments have survived. Qutb Shahi were fervent Shias and constructed halls to accommodate the annual ceremonies commencing the martyrdom of Hussain, the Prophet’s grandson. The finest of these Shia halls is Badshahi Asurkhana in Hyderabad. Its interior is covered with mosaic tiles, the finest in India, forming one of the most original decorative schemes of its kind anywhere in the Muslim world.

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Interiors of Badshai Asurkhana

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com