Wednesday 31 October 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 6

Thanjavur-Kumbakonam-Sirkazhi-Chidambaram-Cuddalore-Auroville (185 km)  Part-1 

Being the penultimate day and having the longest ride distance 185 KM of this tour an hectic day starts, fellow riders assemble early in the morning at the start point,after the usual briefing the ride begins,cycling past the lush green fields on a cold December morning with breakfast midst the highways, just crossing the town of Papanasam and Swamimallai the capital of bronze icons we catch up with Unesco Heritage Site at Darasuram the Airavetswara Temple (refer Day 4 Part-2) located very near to Kumbakonam also called as Tirukudanthai this city is unique because it is one of the very few multi-core temple cites and its urban fabric includes Temples, Chatirams, Mattams, Agraharams and Paditorai's (ghats) making it on among the best surviving Tamil cities.Located in delta between Cauvery and Arasalar it was the Chola's (3rd AD) first to settle here and made it their second capital after Uraiyur near Trichy,the Medieval Chola's (7th-8th AD) brought in Sabha with political autonomy to administer this region,they were followed by Pandyas (13th AD),Hoysalas (14th AD) who were later overpowered by Vijayanagar Kingdom and their subordinates the Nayak's (16th-17th Century) it was during this period the city saw lot of additions and finally came the British.This city is famous for its Temples but the highlight of all is the Mahamakam Tank a part of the renowned Kumbeswara Temple,this place witnesses huge gathering of people during the Mahamakam Festival held once in 12 years mention is also made to the famous Vijayanagar King Krishnadevaraya's participation in this festival.Other famous places include Sarangapani and Sri Oppiliappan.Temple, the Navagraha Temple Tour package associated to this place is world famous. The British for their part contributed by starting the Govt Arts College Kumbakonam (1867) which contained stalwarts like G.U.Pope, U.Ve.Swaminatha Iyer and Thiyagaraja Chettiyar,mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujam studied here between 1904-06,thus bidding adieu to the Cambridge of South India we proceed through Tiruvidamarudur birth place of Saint Pattinathar, Aduthurai, Therazundur to some associated with Poet Kambar and reach Mayiladuthurai (Mayavaram) for a Pit Stop,an antiquated town with references to Chola, Nayak's and Maratha activities this town is surrounded by lush green paddy fields,enjoying this green wonder we reach Sirkazhi the town which hosts the famous Bramhapureswarar Temple,close by are the world renowned Tirunangur Vaishnava Temples and the Vaitheeswaran Kovil. Now on to ECR and pedaling across to Chidambaram where we stayed during Day 4 of this tour and after a long extended ride we reach Cuddalore a place known for few heritage sites like the Tiruvahindhrapuram Temple located amidst a small hillock on the banks of Gadilam river,the Inscriptions in the western wall of this Temple during the period of Raja Raja Chola 3rd mentions the year 1232 AD and few more dated to 11th Century are the earliest references to this region Cuddalore Town itself is located in Tirpadiripuliyur which houses an ancient Padaleeswarar Temple. Fort St David built in 1653 and its ruins are nearby to Devanampattinam it was the capital of British South India which moved to Madras after 1758, the legend Robert Clive lived in Garden House which according to some is today the District Collector Residence.Few mention that the oldest school in India with full western curriculum called St.Joseph School (1886) and also on of the the oldest Mosque in Tamilnadu are situated in Cuddalore. Exploring this city which saw an intriguing battle between the French and British for possession we now enter the French territory of Puducherry and the Universal Town of brotherhood the Auroville ...

Reference: "A History of South India" K.A. Nilakant Sastri, "Kumbakonam Art Architecture and Urbanism" P.Carl, Wikipedia and Google Search.

At Darasuram Temple (Unesco World Heritage Site)

Sunday 7 October 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 5

Thanjavur (Local Loop)  A Day at Sarasvathi Mahal Library 

Today being a Thanjavur City Ride the morning starts with a heavy dose of breakfast,the support staff especially the Masseur who had a hectic time for the last four days can relax a bit,the shutter bugs can get more time to shoot.The hotel lobby presents a holiday look the rider's assemble and after a small briefing our pedaling session begins,the history of Thanjavur city is unique,it dominated the cultural scene of Tamilnadu till 20th century.Its a place renowned for Paintings,Carnatic Music, modern day dance forms of classical and folk genres of dance and dance dramas temples where once existed Devadasis,the Palaces and the Libraries. After a ride to the Great Living Chola Temple the UNESCO Heritage site Brihadeesvara Temple our next big stop is the Sarasvati Mahal Library and the adjacent Thanjavur Palace,with the disappearance of Chola's around 13th AD there was a lull for a brief time and later Vijayanagara Kingdom took over,the Nayaks,the Maratha's and later British ruled Thanjavur respectively. In "India's Best Kept Secret: The Sarasvathi Mahal" pioneer in Thanjavur history Pradeep Chakravarthy mentions about the role of Ragunatha Nayaka (1600-1633) who built Sarasvati Mahal Library and the others kings who followed him especially the Great Maratha King Serfoji-2 (1798- 1832) and their contributions to this library, he also mentions about certain unique manuscripts in this library,most of which you cannot find in any other library.

On Food:
A book titled Raghunatha Nayakabhyudayamu,by King Vijayaraghava Nayak (1633-1673) on one day in the life of his father Raghunatha Nayak,the builder of Sarasvati Mahal it gives us an accurate and extremely elaborate picture of what it was like in the court of one of India’s most opulent kingdoms in the sixteenth and seventeenth century,contains many things worth talking about,the king’s daily routine, costume, jewellery,processions and dancers.The royal feast of the King contained the following items is worth mentioning 1.Appalam (paapad) and sesame seeds flavoured chicken 2.Coconut and curry leaves stuffed red chicken 3.Black gram and bengal gram Chanagi choornam stuffed chicken 4.Sugar, butter-stuffed milk chicken 5.Kattuk kozhi (a wild fowl) onions and garlic 6.Nuluva kozhi (a fowl of some sort) 7.Fish fries 8.Cluster beans (kothavarai) poriyal 9.Several vegetable dishes 10.Beeranji (Biriyani) with many fragrant spices 11.Podimas with crushed vadam 12.Appalam and vadam (deep fried snacks) 13 Lemon rasam and salted rasam 14.Sweets a.Peni b.Mande c.Laddu d.Purnakalasam e.Gajjeyam made of semiya f.Adhirasam g.Modak with pulses h.Sarathulu i.Managupoolu mul murrukku j.Therattipaal k.Coconut milk l.Paneer payasam m.Jeera payasam n.Cold payasam o.Sooji payasam p.Ceekarani sugar rice q.Basundi r.Fruits with or without honey s.Dates from the islands(Maldives) 15.Many types of mixed rice 16.Kari vadai, curd vadai and Aamai vadai (vadai without a hole in it) 17.Roti Crisp,coconut,sambar 18.Water with spices ... there are some recipe books during the Maratha period and were authored sometime in the seventeenth century called Bhojna Kuttukalam and Sarabhendra Phakshastram. Interestingly the Maratha's are credited with the creation of Sambhar,when a Maratha cook added tamarind (a Tamil staple not used in Maharashtra) to Dhal. A interesting recipe dealing with Egg Pickle is also available.
Astrology and Astronomy:
Countless books in the Sarasvati Mahal library deal with astrology and some of them are unique.The first one is called the Pakshishastra.The Jinendramala is a very interesting work on astrology because it was authored by a set of Jain monks,it mentions fortune for animals.The Shakunashastra is like playing ‘book cricket’,this is a book that you open randomly and depending on the painting on that page you know whether it is a good omen or not and whether you should undertake a particular action or not.The Ramachintamani Prasnam is another very interesting volume.The Kalaprakashika is again a work on astrology in Sanskrit.This is not meant for fairly wealthy people but for farmers.So it talks about when to start sowing and reaping,
Vaastu and Kama Sastra:
There are several versions of Vaastu Shastra in the library.If a Vaastu consultant believes that there is only one version,he can be told he is mistaken because there are as many different versions of Vaastu Sastra as there are of Kamasutra.These texts are in Sanskrit,Tamil and Teluguand various versions deal with construction and planning of houses,palaces,cities and temples.Vimanarchana is a text in the library devoted to the construction of temples.
The Ratnaprakashika a Sanskrit text deals with different kinds of gemstones.The book tells one how to find them and where not to find them,and convert them into saleable gemstones.All these details make it a guideline book for the jewellers,luckily it has been published.
Music, Dance and Drama:
There cannot be another place in India that has done as much as Thanjavur did, in such a short period for dance,music and drama.Bharatanatyam,was codified in Thanjavur. Carnatic music the way we know it today,the structure and classification of the ragas again from Thanjavur.One of the most important drama traditions that continue even today is the Melatur Bhagavata Mela.The Narasimha Jayanti festival takes place sometime in May and is a serious five day affair in Melatur.The Melatur village itself was granted to the villagers and the grant deed is present in the Sarasvati Mahal library as a beautiful, long scroll believed to be one of the longest scrolls in India.The Ragalakshanimu is one of the many many treatises that classify different forms of raga,here each of the ragas in the Carnatic system is identified or given the form of a beautiful woman.A significant portion of the library manuscripts are on dance dramas that were performed as well.The Nritya-ratnavalli is an example of a Bharatanatyam text that goes into a lot of detail into the permutations and combinations of body movements and the kind of exercises that dancers should perform to keep themselves fit also in this group are the Kuravanjis (Dance Dramas).
Many books in the library are about medicine.There are also books about how to eat well and look after yourself and how to create your own remedy for common illness.There are also books on how to treat Animals.Maratha King Serfoji -2 himself is said to have been a very accomplished Eye Surgeon and there are case sheets of surgeries that he handled in form of beautiful painted pictures of how the eyes looked before and after the surgery and how they looked six or seven months after the surgery. The Library also has several volumes on various Ayurveda Texts.
On Horses and Elephants:
The Ashwashastra and the Gajashastra are two beautifully illustrated works both in Sanskrit and Marathi that tell you everything that you need to know about horses and elephants. They talk about how you should capture them,how you should train them,how you should identify their sickness,how should you take care of them,how you should tell their age,all sorts of facts and then just in case you are religiously inclined they also give you some mythical information about horses and elephants.
Eighteenth Century European Books:
The Sarasvati Mahal library also has a lot of Coffee Table books published in Europe during the 17th - 18th Century. One of them is on Chinese Torture another one is on costumes in China,costumes in Turkey,scenes of English Countryside,books like this that were purchased from the UK.
Summing up the availability of manuscripts which also includes Sanskrit Literature, Illustrated Texts and some incomplete texts a mention about thousands of bundles of Modi Documents must be made,it is a form of Marathi shorthand in Marathi script which contained the day to day activities of the Government but unfortunately could not be translated since Marathi used in Thanjavur was different from Marathi in Maharastra Viewing this expansive list,the ride to Sarasvathi Mahal and Day 5 comes to an end ... awaiting Day 6 and the 185 km Ride.

 Reference: "India's Best Kept Secret: The Sarasvati Mahal" by Pradeep Chakravarthy (IIC, New Delhi)

At Saraswathi Mahal Library 

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu 2012 Heritage -Day 4

Chidambaram -Jayamkondan-Tiruvaiyaru- Thanjavur (120km) Part-2  The Great Living Chola Temple's 

The evening at Thanjavur presents a different contrast compared to the other days the reason being till Day 6 morning everything is going to happen at this same venue, catching up with few riders amidst their conversation is always fun,a few badly need to know about the reputed military eateries nearby,a few in inquire mood about local pubs and some want to drop into to the nearby Cinema Halls,over hearing these interesting conversations the scene now shifts to Great Living Chola Temples,the three great Temples are, Brihadiswara Temple at Thanjavur,Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram which were built by Chola Emperors Rajaraja Chola 1, Rajendra Chola 1 and Rajaraja Chola 2 between 11th-12th AD respectively,these temples are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and the ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization.They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramidal tower), taking these as the criterion the Brihadeeswarar Temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Temples of Gangaikondacholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple were added as extensions in 2004 ... 

The Brihadiswara Temple:

It is the most ambitious structural temple built of granite by Rajaraja Chola 1 (985-1014).The temple is within a spacious inner prakara of 240.9 m long (east-west) and 122 m broad (north-south), with a gopura at the east and three other ordinary torana entrances one at each lateral sides and the third at rear. The prakara is surrounded by a double storeyed malika with parivaralayas The sikhara, a cupolic dome, is octagonal and rests on a single block of granite, a square of 7.8 m weighing 80 tons.The majestic upapitha and adhishthana are common to all the axially placed entities like the ardha-maha and mukha-mandapas and linked to the main sanctum but approached through a north-south transept across the ardha-mandapa which is marked by lofty sopanas. The molded plinth is extensively engraved with inscriptions by its royal builder who refers to his many endowments, pious acts and organisational events connected to the temple.The brihad-linga within the sanctum is 8.7 m high. Life-size iconography representations on the wall niches and inner passages includes many of the Hindu deities.The mural paintings on the walls of the lower ambulatory inside are finest examples of Chola and later periods which depict the contemporaneous scenes with legendary ones.
The Gangaikondacholapuram Temple:
Built by Rajendra Chola I, completed in 1035 AD.Its 53 meter Vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur. It has six pairs of massive, monolithic dvarapalas statues guarding the entrances and bronzes of remarkable beauty inside. The lay out the sanctum with its axial units, the Chandikesvara shrine, the cloister mandapa with the subsidiary shrines and a gopura is similar to Thanjavur. The location of two smaller shrines,the South and North Kailasa (now the Amman shrine) are different. But the architect of this edifice has shown remarkable intelligence to correct some of the shortcomings in the design of the Brihadisvara at Thanjavur like the provision for erecting a wooden scaffolding in the masonry of the sanctum, the pleasing elevation by appropriately changing and placing the hara elements etc.The temple has sculptures of exceptional quality like the dancing Hindu gods and goddesses in the west,south and north niche of the walls.But the most outstanding sculptures are found in the niches by the side of the northern entrance steps to the sanctum.
The Airavatesvara Temple:
Built by Rajaraja Chola II (1143-1173), this temple is a gem of Chola architecture. Though much smaller in size when compared to the Brihadisvara temple at Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram, this temple is different as it is highly ornate in execution. The temple consists of a sanctum without a circumambulatory path and axial mandapas. The front mandapa known in the inscriptions as Rajagambhiran Tirumandapam, is unique as it was conceptualized as a chariot with wheels. The pillars of this mandapa are highly ornate.The elevation of all the units is elegant with sculptures dominating the architecture.
Thus summing up a short encounter with the details on these temples, Day 4 ends on a nostalgic note ...

Reference: ASI Publications on The Great Living Chola Temples,UNESCO World Heritage Site Publications, Wikipedia and Google Search

At Brahadiswara Temple Thanjavur