Monday, June 25, 2012

Medini Fort

Medini is the place I have always longed to visit, which sights will never forgets, memories that might never out of my mind. Medini was once a royal city ruled by unknown Kings and one can still see some of the remains. The whole fort area was distributed at various places around the Hill; the fort was built on a hill which is fortified by a deep valley clothed with dense forest.  The Medini Fort which is present in ruined condition inside the vast thick jungle it looks more like a place where some royal remains have least neglected ever.
This was yet another venture, which was coordinated by my friend Rajesh Naik, while proceeding to Medini village in KSRTC bus, with all thrilling expectations of the expedition, which was to take off by few hours. A bus took us up to the foothill of the village from where 2-3 hours trek, through the woods. First we filled our stomach with solid food and drunken enough water from nearby brook. The mud track covered by woods and we assured ourselves of yet another memorable experience ahead.
The trek path soon entered woods, the hike was ascending and the woods cleared to village in couple hours. The vastness of greenery stretching ahead, fold by fold, bordered by woods, was a soothing sight and we sat for snacks to build ourselves, for the next part.
Sun was squeezing our moisture out and the lone hope was assumed to be very close by then. Two more turnings and we were there. Desperate is a word too mean for such an occasion, for we had just the trace of a stream or villager. Across our journey we faced hardly 2-3 villagers. As summer was in its peak, wayside water sources were all dry and we fearfully noticed the rapid drain of our storage. After non-stop 3 hours treacherous ascending by mid noon we entered the Medani village.
Because of the inaccessibility of this area, the tribal of this region were totally cut off from the civilized world. But recent, with the constant efforts being made by the Government, tribal of this area started tasting the advantages of adopting civilized life. But still in rainy time this village is in-accessible. The location is more beautiful and there are many seasonal waterfalls in the forests nearby.
My left foot got badly injured and I need to relax my foot for while, and we have to recharge our bodies by filling some essential food. By god grace one villager invited us to his home and he surprised after hearing our agenda to visit his village. His family happily feed us to sumptuous hot meal and gave enough fruits to eat. We relaxed enough on that village house and took some useful information from the old man.
I made simple first aid for my broken foot and simple exercise made tending to my tired muscles later a sound relaxation we left his home and headed to approach the fort with one local guy. A fascinating glimpse of the strange ways of village soon we entered woodlands. The nature is bountiful here. The ruins at this place speak of its past glory.
After about half an hour’s walk we could see the sign’s of the fort. An old inscription stone caught my attention. There was lot of carved pictures on it which seemed to be telling the story of the glorious past. We slept under that inscription stone for while to cool our body.
 Posing with broken legs near inscription stone (Second stage of the Fort), You can see pain in my eyes in this picture...
An old fort with so many untold stories, the perennial struggle of the walls of the fort that were being constantly siege by the creepers, nature was it’s at wildest best. We decided to explore the fort and we moved deeper into the fort. It was an eerie feeling when I walked into the fort. I cannot explain it everything about the fort seemed mysterious. I was always worried about the reptiles underneath the hugely overgrown weeds we were walking through; any small sound was raising my senses.
We reached the southern end in just over an hour's time. Here there is a small shrine where still once in a year doing some Pooja programs by villagers. Each part of the fort utilized neatly whatever available water resource. The high location and constantly its geographical location, scenic beauty, shifting natural scenery which was inspired to the Kings to built such a vast fort for them.
It was past 4:30 Pm and we decided to head back. On the way back I turned around and looked at the fort one last time the moment I entered the fort I felt that I had captured the fort but that wasn’t true, there was mystery hidden in its core and it was beckoning to be unraveled.
We heard one more trail will connect to this fort from North-west side. So lack of time we decided to follow new root to reach downer side village and catch the last bus. So we say bye to the village boy and took some useful directions from him before he left. The new track pass through thick woods of thick under growth, it’s really tedious to search the track and that didn't bother us, as it is quite natural for the nature, to grow over once existed tracks. After 30 minutes walk we crossed the northern gate of the fort and from that the real adventure started.
The initial downer trail appeared magically beautiful with thick woods tightly bordering with nice green backdrop. The nature of woods changed a lot by then and we were then negotiating some steep stretches of thick wooden scrubby forest. 
Finally we chose a direction, to stick on and decided that we shall not deviate, even if the track proved to be the most unfriendly and it definitely was. Stickling away needs to the extent possible, crawling beneath thorny terrain in intolerable leg pain and so on our plight continued. Light was fading and so the hope.
We were walking and walking, definitely to no where wordless for a while, and some one started walking, with others following. None spoke for the next 2kms or so, for fear of dehydration, until the stream flow was audible. Crossed another rivulet, stored enough water and went on hiking through yet another thorny stretch, until we hit the track connecting village.
To add to our woe, we could sense some animal moving ahead in the same direction we were in, from the fashion in which saplings and tree branches were freshly lifted and broken. We weren't in a position to retrace the track even, as we may not make it to anywhere before it’s dark. I felt the panic radiating, throat drying and we were nothing short of wandering clueless. 
By then it was almost dark and we had half a kilometer ahead, crossing occasional flows, watching and listening for wild friends - though none came visiting - the trail ended just below the hill at the open field, in half an hour from the brook.Brisk walk of another 20 minutes took us to the state highway and heard the feeble grunt of a bus engine (It was a last bus on that track) at a distance.
It is Six months since we went to Medini and every time I close my eyes and think of the place, I visualize the mystery of the fort, the lost kingdom and the Inscribed Stones. A spectacular view of the ruined fort and its surrounding mountains and valleys, brightly woods, loneliness, the chill and occasional wild cries altogether, wasn't a soothing experience. For now it will remain an enigma to me a sweet memory captured in the clutches of time.
Photos by -Ashoka SB & Rakesh Holla

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The splendid beauty of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple– Nuggehalli (1121 AD)

When we visited Narasimha temple it was mid-noon and the temple premise was overflowing with devotees while we entered inside the temple priest had not allowing us to take photos of sanctum hall and Navaranga, So I couldn’t able to capture any photos of this, the beautiful images of Keshava, Narasimha, Gopala, innumerable variety of ornaments on the ceilings and doorways. The temple is generally known as the Lakshminarasimha temple though the main god is here Keshava.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is a good example of a richly decorated Hoysala temple built in the Trikuta (three towers) Vimana (prayer hall) style with fine sculptures adorning the outer walls. The material used is Soapstone and the temple is built on a raised Jagati (platform) of about 4 feet high, the exterior of the original temple is divided into 19 faces (as in the base-plan) inclusive of niches. The size of the original temple can be considered small, to which a larger open hall was later added.
The central sanctum with an Antharala enshrines cult-image of Kesava. In the northern and southern shrines (both without the Antharala), we find cult-images of Lakshmi-Narasimha and Venugopala respectively. The sculptures of this temple are of a high order and are of the same class as those of Hosaholalu & Somanathapur and are the works of Mallitamma, Baichola and others.
At the later date during the Vijayanagar period additions to the temple in form of the present Navaranga with its square granite pillars was constructed in front of the original porch which has lathe-turned soapstone pillars and complete eaves. An Alwar Sannadhi was added during this period housing Sri Ramanuja, Sri Somayaji etc. The hajara in front of the Patalankana with 18 high fluted pillars are of still later construction belonging to somewhere about 1700 A.D. The south and north towers are also of about the same date and are made of brick and mortar.
From outside, the temple actually looks like a Ekakuta temple because the two lateral shrines are simply extensions of the wall of the Mantapa. A large open hall with tall pillars with faces was added during later times making the original porch and closed Mantapa look like the inner portion of the temple. The central shrine has five projections per side and the tower is complete though without the Kalasa. Since the shrine is square in plan, the topping roof (helmet like sculptured stone) follows the same plan.
Originally the Mahadvara made of soap stone supported by plain pillars existed. In front of the Mahadvara stood two fine elephants which are not placed in front of the Hajara (the elephants are well carved and horseman is cantering on either side of the trunk). Additions and reinforcement were done during the Palegars reign notably adding the images of the presiding deities on the Mahadvara. On either side of the Mahadvara around the temple there is a Pakara wall of heavy stones which encloses a rectangular courtyard. Originally only the main cell had a tower made of soapstone. To give the effect of Trikutachala two masonry towers have been built in the Palegars days.
This temple with its exquisite carvings, giant wall - shrines, friezes, an embellished tower and a Sukanasi all standing on a platform, are bewitching to one’s eye. The central Vimana only has the original tower while the other towers on the lateral Vimanas are the later additions made to the existing roof. The steps originally provided to the platform in the eastern section, is now enclosed by latter extensions of the frontal portion. Thus, it has lost its functional unity with the temple.
Like other Hoysala temples around the bottom of the temple wall runs a frieze of elephants. The animals are caparisoned and generally have two exaggeratedly small men riding on the back of each. The animals are shown playing with their trunks, fighting with each other or with enemies. The most interesting groups are – elephants wearing Armour, fighting each other, two elephants with one head etc…
Immediately above the row of elephants is friezes of horsemen, some of which are galloping forward, others are involved in fighting and still others moving slowly as in a procession. Above this is a long creeper scroll with lion faces in the corners and buds, flowers, monkeys, birds, deer etc, in the convolutions. This frieze is neatly executed.
This temple with its exquisite carvings, giant wall - shrines, friezes, an embellished tower and a Sukanasi all standing on a platform, are bewitching to one’s eye. The central Vimana only has the original tower while the other towers on the lateral Vimanas are the later additions made to the existing roof. The steps originally provided to the platform in the eastern section, is now enclosed by latter extensions of the frontal portion. Thus, it has lost its functional unity with the temple.
 There are three tiers of decorative smaller roofs bearing their own Kalasa that form the body of the tower. The superstructure on top of the vestibule forming the nose also has two tiers of decorative roofs. This is why the Sukanasi looks like an extension of the main tower. The two lateral shrines also have five projections per side. The top of these shrines and the wall of the Mantapa are crowned with a row of decorated roofs just like the main shrine.
The wall images of various gods are of nearly the same size of about 3ft in height including the base and Toranas. The pedestals have friezes of scroll work having Padmas, Garudas, Lion faces, Kirtimukhas etc. The base is bold and well executed. The Toranas above the figure are mostly composed of creepers, turned and twisted into beautiful shapes. The images have been sculpted using the Navatala measure (and not Dastala – as seen in Belur); but they are beautiful and are finely worked. Those on the southern half of the temple were carved by Baichoja while those on the north side were made by Mallitamma. Both these sculptors have signed their names in many places.
Three walled-shrines in the surrounding walls of the central Vimana add to its splendor, enhancing the overall beauty of the temple. A cornice divides the outer walls horizontally. The lower portion is embellished with around 120 large wall images depicting anecdotes from popular epics of Mahabharata & other Purans.
These wall - images are mainly the work of the then popular sculptors Mallitamma and Baichoja. The sculptor name is chiseled in quite places. This fact is supported by the attestation borne by these images. The story of Bhagavata, Story of Krishna, Vishnu as Vamana, Varaha, and Arjuna shooting the fish, are a few images, among many, are outstanding examples of fine sculpting by these master sculptors. On friezes, apart from the usual Makaras (Mythological animal; having features of different animals like peacock tail, lion legs, boar body etc), Hansas, elephants, we find stories associated with Lord Krishna.
Nuggehalli Lakshmi Narasimha Temple gives soul setting experience with amazing carving of temples and incessantly showering blessing of Lord Narasimha.