Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Himalayan Odyssey - III - Sarchu

We are on the forth day. On the road less travelled and left for the hard riders. Starting from Keylong our next destination will be Sarchu. We got a briefing from the captain that the road is going to be worse and bit more dangerous. Also, we need to do our days journey quick as flash floods can block our way if we take too long. (Morning hours will have less sun and therefore less power (means water) on the road crossing streams. We were also briefed on 'Barlachala Pass' on the way, which is third highest or so (Its one of the toughest anyway, looking back). Its higher than Rohtang and people are expected to have headache and other mountain sicknesses.

We had possibly best part of the trip in this stretch. The scenery was beautiful and its all here for you too see...


1. Somewhere on our way to Darcha (Started from Keylong). I remember that I did some of the most risky riding in this stretch. Faster than rest of the group, I along with couple of other people touched Darcha in the first 1 hour or something. Got frenzy or something.


2. We are closing Barlachala Pass. Barlacha La connects Spiti district in HP to Ladakh district in J&K. Barlacha La also forms the source of two rivers Chandra & Bhaga which will form Chandrabhaga (Chenab) river later on. Both originate from lakes on (Chandra taal & Surya Taal) on Barlachala. I am not too sure which one I am seeing (Surya Taal or Chandra Taal), we saw frozen lake on the way and it was probably the most beautiful view I had on the expedition.


3. We are on top most point on Barlacha La (5045m). Some 1 Km higher than Rohtang Pass. One of the riders taking a respite from the strenous ride. He has vomited and crew is waiting in his support. I think I made a quick move as I myself was suffering from that extreme conditions.

On our way back we crossed Balacha La some 7am in the morning. It was the toughest ride we had with wheels sliding over the ice on the road. The weather had changed altogether. I think on that stretch I fell something like 10 times trying to stop the bike, losing balance on the ice flakes (and most bikers too, we were counting how many times each one did at the end of the day).


4. We reached our destination for the day. Sarchu. Its one of the important military posts. We had our tent ready out there. In the night it was to be so much cold that nothing helped (all the blankets and stuff like that proved so useless). Add to that the nasty headache and vomiting like feeling. We were just getting used to the mountain conditions. But I think we started feeling how Himalayas are like. Its a barren land. Its a desert of snow, rocks and mud. Rarely anything grow there. But it was a beauty we were all coming to terms with. Yeah it just mesmerises you and you take a while to grasp it (I dont know how to explain it).


5. The plains of Sarchu looked so different from the route we had last day. We were to start from here. Sarchu is the last town on the HP side. We will cross from here to J&K. That makes this a favorite spot for tent makers.

Next would be our trip to Debring...one more stop before reaching Leh.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Himalayan Odyssey - Keylong - II

Continuing from the last post. Another day we are in Keylong. Just to get an idea of the trip, I am posting the Royal Enfield map here again.

To reach Keylong from Manali, we need to cross the Rohtang Pass. Its probably the most crowded owing to the tourists. To your surprise you will find traffic jams happening at the top of the hill. In those narrow winding roads, these traffic jams can take hours to clear off. You will wonder why on earth I wanted to do this holiday away from the city rush. Only thing I can say is that the snow out there and the view out there are truly rewarding for a people from planes.


1. We are climbing uphill, Rohtang Pass. Long stretches of the highway you will find that the road is almost non-existent. And consider that there is heavy rush of the tourists in the season. Look at a Maruti 800 trying to cross on of the uphill stream which can get more powerful as the day pass by. This is about 9-10 am. We trying to cross Rohtang by noon, to reach our destination safely by 3-4 pm.


2. So we are close, but too far. A heavy traffic jam formed some 3km from the Rohtang Pass hill top. Its some 3-4 degree Celsius and the place smell petrol and diesel. We stopped there waiting it clear off for about 1 hour, all the while trying to save our self from the snow wave. There is no food available and wait like for things to clear off is painful. You can see my fellow bikers parking along side. The traffic is because of the tourists as well as the trucks with heavy supplies taking place towards the army stations and Leh (with fuel and other essential commodities).


3. Yeah, we are finally at the Rohtang Hill top. Where snow meets the clouds.This was first of our hurdles, but for none of us knew that. So we had 'hurray' of success and taste of first achievement. We felt bit of oxygen deficiency, but that was OK. So now we take the road down.


4. Riding down we reach, Koksar on the way to Keylong. Its a great route with ravenous on sides. Keylong is till where a normal tourist would venture (sort of 120km from Manali and one can stay in Keylong peacefully). Beyond that its a long stretch of 400km where you wont find any kind of vegetation. As far as I can remember you will find a petrol pump near Keylong and then none for another 300km or so. Keylong is a beautiful valley where we reached by end of day 3 (29 Jun 2005).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Himalayan Odyssey - Manali - I

Yeah..some old photographs again. From my bike trip to Leh in Ladakh. Some 2500km long trip which took more than 15 days. Probably one of the most strenuous trips I have been to. Its been a long cherished dream to be up on the mountains. But to do it in bike was something more than I could have asked for.

The route touches 5 Indian states and number of major national high ways. Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh & Jammu & Kashmir. It takes you close to 50km to the India-China border in the north east of Jammu & Kashmir. The route is open only from May to August (Given the low temperature the snow melts only in that season). This also happens to be the season when lot supplies like fuel & other material for the civil & army uses get transported.

I was part of a larger convoy of 40 bikers all convened together by Royal Enfield Ltd (manufacturers of 350 & 500 CC bikes in India, the model itself is a classic from 1950, known as 'bullets'). Please visit Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey for more information. I was part of the 2005 expedition. There were similar events conducted in 2006 & 2007. May be you would like to book yourself for 2008 !!...

By the end of second day we reach Manali (28 June 2005). Photographs are from Manali.

1. A beautiful ravine ahead of Manali, on the way to Rohtang Pass (3979 m). I think at that level the place resembles our imagination of paradise. Manali itself is a great tourist spot. People do one day excursions to Rohtang, to see how it is like to climb the breathtaking heights. For us it was all beginning of our hardships.


2. The expedition banner at National Stadium in New Delhi (near India Gate). A souvenir for myself, my name along with 40 other participants at the flag off ceremony. The group included 2 foreign nationals and 3 women.

3. Our camping site at Manali. All bikes parked after days toil on the road.


4. Beautiful Kullu valley in Manali. You are seeing Beas river stretching along. Manali is honeymooner's paradise too.
I will post other photos in the coming posts..

Monday, October 15, 2007

Varanasi - Older than Civilisation

From my trip to Varanasi, happened in 2004 October. Yes, some 3 years ago. Its been like a destiny of sorts, a journey to Varanasi, the holiest, the timeless. A culmination of ones enquiry, may be.

There are so many things one can write about Varanasi - the ghats, the Ganges, the confluences of rivers, holy rituals, musicians, history, temples, food, festivals, rikshaws, handicrafts, benares sarees, the rajas, their mahals, the university and so on...And to some deeply involving subjects like - the liberation from ones sins, liberation from cycles of life, the meaning of death....

I will just confine myself to the these three photographs from Varanasi.

1. At Dasashwamedha Ghat - There are some 90 ghats along the river bank at Varanasi in a stretch of some 6kms. This ghat is the holiest of all, because of the 10 simlutaneous horse sacrifices conducted by Lord Brahma (Creator God in the trinity). A bath in the Dasashwamedh Ghat has become the quintessence of any pilgrimage to this holy city. We are seeing hundreds of devotees taking the holy dip early morning. Hundreds of pilgrims are practicing yoga, standing in the middle of the water and worshipping the rising sun, or meditating. The barges and boats are afloat on the river.

2. The ghatias (priests), bathed, dressed, and adorned with vibuthi (ash) marks on their foreheads, is leading / guiding the devotees on the rituals.

3. Harishchandra Ghat - This ghat is one of the two burning ghats in Varanasi. The smell and feel of death hang heavy in the air. The funeral fire never extinguished for time eternal. Its believed that one will achieve a break from the reincarnational cycle of birth, death and rebirth if they are cremated on a wood fire here when they die, their ashes scattered in the Ganges.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Shekhawati - Open Art Gallery of Rajasthan

Photos from our recent trip to Shekhawati in Rajasthan. The region is dotted with towns and villages with painted Havelis. These Havelis are mansions belonging to Marwaris, a merchant community belonging to Marwar in Rajasthan. The region of Shekhawati had several caravan trade routes which made it an ideal spot for the merchants. The region prospered untill early 19th century. Then, as Bombay and Calcutta emerged as major industrial and trading centers, Marwaris migrated to those cities. But they didnt leave their homes deserted. Their success in the new found venues reflected back in homeland in the form of elaborate Havelis. These Havelis were further decorated with frescos as a display of their wealth and stature.

Most Havelis we see today in Shekhawati belongs to the period of 1850s to 1930s. Many of the major industrial houses in India has their roots in these Marwari towns, such as Birlas, Singhanias, Ruias...

We didnt explore much in the region. Its supposed to be some 6-8 must visit towns and the Havelis in those locations. We stayed in one of the major towns, Mandawa, some 20km from Jhunjunu. There we had the luxury of staying in one of those havelis 'Mandawa Haveli' now turned to be a hotel.

On the photographs,

1. On our way to Mandawa, there was this beautiful scene with some 2 dozens parrots perched in one of the trees. Captured a close shot having three of them.
2. Woman near one of the Havelis. She was okay being photographed, provided we pay her.
3. A sample fresco for you. Very few colors - indigo, sandstone red, vegetable green, grey etc. Frescoes in these Havelis are primarily themed on the mythological narrations....you will also find contemporary elements of the age like ships, cruises, guns, military, hourse carriage etc
4. Haveli we stayed, lit in the night. It was a great stay and good food there..

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sutlej at Tattapani

On the banks of river Sutlej at Tattapani, some 60KM from Shimla. You can see the sand and rock deposits on the banks. Tattapani is known for hot sulpher water springs. I must say that is is really hot.
As you descent from Shimla at 2200m to Tattapani at 650M you get a sense of a roller coaster ride with gorges on either side. It took almost 3 hours to reach there. Long away and down the valley you will start seeing a river. I didnt have any idea that that was the place we were supposed to reach. Actually no idea of the altitude difference between both the places. So Tattapani is almost hot and humid as Delhi is and where as Shimla was mild cold.
We were rewarded with beautiful gorge and hot water springs there. This is a religious spot. People come and take social dips in the months of January-February. Sutlej is the longest river of the 5 rivers in the Greater Punjab. Sutlej merges with Beas first and later with Indus before draining down to Arabian sea near Karachi in Pakistan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Akshardham Temple Delhi

Yesterday we visited Akshardham temple in Delhi. It is situated very close to the India gate on the banks of Yamuna. Photography is not allowed in the site. We had to be content with those gate / road side view of the marvellous temple.

I think for someone visiting Delhi this is a must visit. Akshardham means abode of immutable God. There are not many temple existing of this size and grandeur in India. It is an attempt to relive India's rich heritage and philosophy. The stone temple is created by some 7000 craftsmen over a period of 5 years. The entire construction is on sandstone. It has a grand movie theatre, heritage boat ride and a light sound show with in the temple compound. The shrine is dedicated to Swami Nayarayanan of Swami Narayanan sect, a saint from 17th-18th century from Loj in Gujarat. Swami Narayanan or Neelkanth born in a small village near Ayodhya in Uttarpradesh. He took austere life at the age of 11 and took a pilgrimage running into 7 years and spanning himalayas, eastern India and the peninsula before finally settling in at Loj. He founded a hindu sect based on Swami narayanan sampraday.

The temple emulates our cultural elements in architecture, sculpture and in the mythological elements in the sculptures. The platform is carved with elephants in their most lively forms, in jungle, as domesticated and as portrayed in hindu mythology. The main monument is made out of marble. There is no steel used anywhere, its all based on the traditional means of construction which is centuries old.

Whats different about Akshardham. Akshrdham temple is a recreation of the marvellous temples structures once used to exist. It espouses a puritanical philosophy aimed towards moskha attained by content way of living in devotion. It less ritualistic and lot less symbolic. You wont find any dieties in the temple other than Swami Narayanan himself. With all this you feel a new thinking in everything, the way it is conducted at Akshardham.
The visit will take close to 4-5 hours. So it you need to have half a day dedicted to this in Delhi. I saw some more images of Akshardham published in flickr.


Taj - architectural marvel

A very different view of Taj from the red fort in Agra. Also most impressive and therefore most published frontal image of Taj.
Let me tell you an interesting element about the lay out of the Taj complex. The Taj mahal complex is a rectangular garden divided into four with rectangular segments (divided by the streams running inside). These gardens are depictions of the paradise as per Islamic beliefs. In the current lay out the tomb is at the end of the garden. Most mughal gardens will have the tomb at the centre of the garden. Taj seemed to be a deviation. But archeologists recently discovered the 'moonlight garden' at the other side of the Yamuna which is supposed to be part of the complex (Design of the garden looked so similar to the one on the Taj side of the river). If you add that to the complex, the tomb is still in the center, with the Yamuna becoming one of the natural streams in the garden.

I have seen Taj to be a marvel in its conception. Very vivdly conceived and then architected. I would say even before the first brick was layed its timelessness was assured. Look at the very fundamental elements in its archietcture - built along the river side, built on a platform such that it gives a sense of hanging in the sky, the colors varying with the day, built on the mild bent of the river such that you can view miles away to different directions, and then the lay out itself... Add to that other elements of mughal gardens.

We dont know if Shajahan was planning another Taj on the other side of the river meant for himself. If materialised it will be a mosoleum for himself.. thus both Mumtaz and Shajahan resting on either side of the river.

Monsoon greenery

Photo taken in 2004 near Mumbai during Monsoons. Its cloudy sky and all green around. I love monsoon. Its a rice paddy in the background.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The XMas Crib

Great X Mas eve. 2006 Dec. It was first XMas after my marriage. We all toiled all day to make this crib. It came out great and this photograph is a proof of that. So we won the parish level prize for this crib. My brother had been winning the prizes for the last few years. This time no exception that way (Exception is that I am home for X Mas this year !!)....
My mother has collected all the decorative items for the last 7-8 years.. and all those things like little stars, glitters, bells, small clay stuatues, decorative papers, all come out at this season... everytime there is something new in the design or decoration. This time there were several such - the Tall Palm leave brought at the back, Tall Clay pots filled with oil and serving as a lamp etc...
XMas is one of the cherished seasons for me.. all the memories of childhood come alive..those little cribs decorated at every house.. all the house fronts with a dangling polar star (various colors and patterns)... then midnight mass, then carole, cake, other festivities... I love these times...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bamboo Bed at Edamalayar Dam

From our ride to Edamalayar dam and its near by forest area. We saw these bamboo logs left in the water and we were curious to know why this is being done so..The bamboo harvested from the forest logged in water so that they dont use its moisture content while waiting for it to be transported to the factory. Its a beautiful scene with these bamboos spread across the dam water. You can actually walk across the water on top of bamboo logs...

Bamboo is known as “poor man’s timber”. Bamboo is currently being elevated to the status of “the timber of the 21st century”.

Besides bamboo shoot is supposed to be a nutritious food as well. A bamboo shoot is a young culm harvested at the time, or shortly after it appears above the soil surface. When the shoot pierces the ground, critical bio-chemical processes start. These lead to rapid growth, as well as concurrent hardening, as the shoot elongates and turns into a woody culm. Bamboo shoot have high nutritional value and low fat, and are a good source of fibre.Bamboo shoots are rich in vitamins, cellulose and amino acids. At harvesting, a shoot may contain as much as 90% water. The edible content of a newly harvested shoot is typically around 30%; the balance is made up of the sheath, and the extreme portions of the shoot.

Most bamboo species produce edible shoots. In many parts of India, bamboo shoots have formed a part of traditional cuisine – fresh, dried, shredded or pickled. There is however also a growing market for processed and packaged shoots, representing an opportunity for the establishment of commercially run processing units.

National Mission on Bamboo Applications website will tell more on the activities at the national level and at various bamboo producing states.

Now, they are being loaded on to the lorry from the water..

Abandoned Hut - Edamalayar Dam Site

From God's own country... the scenic beauty of the Edamalayar dam near my home town. One morning I and my brother decided to make a ride towards this dam area. The route is very scenic. The morning ride, fresh air and sunlight rejuvenates everything in you...

The hut in the scene should be one abandoned by some tea shop guy. You will find such way side tea shops operating as you travel along the country. You will get tea, breakfast and snacks (delicious local specialities). Sometimes even lunch. Since the construction of the dam was completed long back, i guess, there are few customers now.... Anyway the abandoned hut structure in midst of the dried bushes and trees, against the backdrop of western ghats gives a sense of abandonment.. at the same time a lonely beauty...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sunset in Dwarka :-)

I am after sun sets. I never get to see the sun rise anyway :-)... except for the barbe wires i think it was a good picture (its actually 220KV line, which I thought will not figure much in this long range photograph, but they do).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stained Glasses from St:Francis Church, Melbourne

From the western transcept of St Francis' Church located on the corner of Lonsdale Street and Elizabeth Street in Melbourne. St Francis' Church is the oldest Catholic church in Victoria.. Its just minutes away from my office, 360, ELizabeth street, It takes more time in the lift than to walk up to the church. It is one of only three buildings in central Melbourne which predates the Gold Rush of 1851. The church's was laid on 4 October 1841, the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, to whom the church is dedicated.
Western transcept is known as the Ladyes church. This transcept was later added to the church in 1858. What attracted me mpst is the beautiful paintings on the glass windows portraying important events from the life of Virgin Mary. I kindled a candle everyday at this place, not that I became devout suddenly, but somehow my wavering mind needed a solace in those days. A place to be calm and meditative. The atmosphere in the St:Francis chruch provided that. Its quiet different from what you saw outside....a divine sense prevailed. Of course it was easy to spend sometime there everyday as it was on my way to office.

More on this transcept and its features from the
website of the church itself.

Major news papers published detailed articles on the day of the blessing of the church. The Argus of the day reported,

"The new chapel present one of the most beautiful interiors of which our city can boast. It is situated on the western site of the cathedral, and contain several windows, all of which are intended to be filled with stained glass. At present two large windows and an oriel are so ornamented: the paintings respectively representing the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of the Virgin, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost. The mural decorations are alike costly and tasteful, and reflect much credit on the artists who have been employed in their formation. The pillars are judiciously colored, and the carvings are of the most elaborate kind. The altar, when crowned with the lighted tapers, embellished with flowers, and surmounted by a gilded state of the Virgin Mary, presents an imposing appearance. Indeed, the only fault which can be found with the chapel is that it is too rich to harmonise with the rest of the buildings."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sunset at St:Kilda

A beautiful evening on St:Kilda beach, Melbourne. I didnt plan for this one.. it was just there for me to capture. A cloudy evening, still sun peeping in before leaving for the day. A band of boys playing on the beach adding spice to my photo.

It was time of St:Kilda music festival at St:Kilda. The beach is quiet far from Melbourne city centre, with about 30-40 minutes of tramming (its just 7km though). I went around seeing the beach, the music venues, adventure sports area, merry wheel kind of a place, inner lanes with lot of eateries and wine bars which were houseful with the crowd from the music festival. The beach is popular with swimmers and sunbathers during the summer months.

It is located beside Port Phillip Bay about 7 km south-east of the Melbourne's central business district. It has the largest population of any suburb in the City of Port Phillip. The suburb takes its name from a ship called The Lady of St Kilda, which visited Melbourne in 1841.

Kulin people lived in St:Kilda for up to 30,000 years which was known as Euroe Yroke before settlements came in. The settlements drove out the local population to further remote areas. The first half of the last century saw many palatial mansions being constructed as the merchant class arrived. Once the wealthy population moved out to southern suburbs of Melbourne the area became Melbourne's red-light district, with many of the large mansions converted into low-cost rooming houses. Now it trying to regain its glory with music festivals and theme parks and grand sea side hotels.

Friday, August 10, 2007

360, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne

Yes, my office in melbourne was at 18th floor in 360, Elizabeth street. One summer afternoon in Feb this year when it is wet in the blue rays. One of the famous addresses in Melbourne with several other high tech, financial, consulting and government companies operating out of it. It has got a grand galleria and 3 storyied food court adjacent. You get some of the best views of the city from this 40 floor building.
My housing was just a 15 min walk away from this office at Elizabeth & Collins. At 161, Collins Street. My stay was much closer to the Federation Square and Flinder's street Railway station spot. This is the place where you cross the Yarra river bridge to go to the southern part of the city by tram. Flinders steet station happens to be one of the major rail stations in Melbourne .You will find an entrances to Botanical Gardens, walk streaks along Yarra river, approach walk to Melbourne Cricket Ground & Australian Open Tennis Arena etc. It was sort of weekend destination for us. There will be some or other music band playing or a huge TV screen showing a tennis or Rugby match. There is a bar in the square itself with great crowd and they play some good music in the evening.
Federation Square is built to commomerate the 100th anniversary of the formation of Common wealth of Australia. Federation square is in fact a cultural center with institutions like Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Australian Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, National Design Centre and the Melbourne Visitor Centre.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

View from my flat - Contrast

Marvellous view of Dwarka of my flat. A car coming and another leaving... a very special moment. I think I captured it pretty well.

The very green Dwarka showered in bright morning sunlight. Seen from my flat.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Forces in Struss - The Electric Grid

Whats so special about these power grids. A liking from the mechanical engineering (I still remember the days when we will work out the forces in these struss structures in Engineering Mechanics, from a book I remember as Shames) or larger than life steel structure or their Eiffel tower like skeletonous form or the simple fact that they can burn a whole neighbourhood if touched by mistake.... I simply like the fact that these ones stand by itself on a wide landscape stretching to thousands of miles.... carrying all the magnetism around it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Metro Lane - 'to a different time and era'

One cloudy evening in Delhi. I was aiming for capturing this view for several days. Chose a rainy evening for the same. You are seeing Dwarka Sector 13 metro station in the scene (the blue fibre sheet in a tunnel form). Then the overhead rail track and electric cabling system powering the metro.

Slowly these overhead tracks have become synonymous with the ongoing infrastructure development in Delhi (aiming at CommonWealth Games 2009). Wherever you see this being constructed, you will know that, decent travel options will be in place soon.

The overhead rail network is a kind of abstraction of the ground realities for the more ambitious Delhiites. The asbstraction of the traffic jams, provoking rikshawallas, narrow lanes, frightening 'blue line' bus drivers, torn-worn beggars, awaiting traffic police chaps, nasty accidents, snailing traffic, shouting sardars, the dust, the heat, the sweat, the red lights.......Not to talk of myriads of unstructured construction taken place in the past few decades. Now in metro, you are riding on top of all that, ensconsed in an air-conditioned cabin. Through the metro car window you are seeing the stretching urban landscape of Delhi as if in a museum wall. The three storyied buildings, the brick extensions on top of that, bustling markets, street vendors, narrow alleyways, glass buildings, landmarks at distances, towering pyres of temples, the white Gurudwaras....all seen from a second story building (albiet a moving one). And then you are tramming in a whole different time and era to a different destination which looks so different from our previous generation had imagined.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Solo Cup

Just an experiment. Looked so cute at the end. Things so mundane around us, speaks its own story. With the light from the corner and in a B&W setting the photograph looked very special.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Khajuraho - A life in stone

A Khajuraho image from my second dip into central India. It was in October 2004. I had done a trip in central west a year before, touching Indore, Ujjaini, Bhopal & Panchamarhi (Maharashtra and Madhyapradesh). This time in 5 days or so, I did Khajuraho, Varanasi & Saranath. A journey, touching the most precious jewels in India's rich heritage and history. Actually I went to visit Varanasi, the fabled pilgrimage, the living symbol of faith, an exposition on the chakra of life and its finality in the death (or non-finality in death?). More on that on a seperate blog.

My contribution to the vast number of images published on Khajurao erotic poetry (hence a stereotyped kind, still couldnt resist publishing it).
It would be great injustice to portray that the temple site is only about eroticism. Khajuraho is a rich iconography in life of men and women, god and goddess. It has ideas and scenes from war and peace, art and dance and references to the most meditative and erotic sides of life. On the basement walls, you will see royal processions engraved with elephants, infantry and the King, then battle scenes where scores of soldiers fighting, hunting scenes with King astride on elephant and animals being pursed, domestic scenes of cooking and feeding babies, musicians on concerts, acrobats performing, festivities and ceremonies, loving couples and dieties, women in their most sensous postures and the most shocking so called 'Kamasutra' postures.
The absorbing architecture and carvings of the temples are needless to mention. The imposing Kandariya Mahadeva temple's tallest spire go upto a height of 30 meters with smaller 84 spires surrounding it. These temples are compact and tall, raised on a high platform (there was water around them in former times) with an ambulatory path around, but with no enclosure wall. Each has the essential sanctum containing the chief image, joined to the hall of worship by a vestibule. The hall is approached trough a porch; both have pyramidal towers. Larger temples have lateral transepts and balconied windows, an internal ambulatory and subsidiary shrines. On the walls are the major sculptures of gods and goddesses in two rows, with celestial nymphs in attendance on the raised sections and loving couples in the recesses. All the figures are resting their weight on one leg, thus accentuating their curves. The nymphs shown attending to their toilet, bearing offerings, dancing, playing musical instruments or as sensual lovers, are executed with great skill.
There are some 25 temples surviving (believed that there were about 85 temples). The temples were built by Chandela kings from mid- 9th century to early 12th century. There is no explanation for chosing Khajuraho as the temple site, which is supposed to be so remote to any cultural centre or major city even in 9th century. However The temple site was abandoned when the dynasty moved into forts to defend the invading muslim armies. It was forgotten to become a den of tigers till it was re discovered by Captain TS Burt in 1938.
You will see temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Surya gods. Some believe these temples to be centers of tantrik mysticism, which regards sex as an important part of human development and the attainment of the Absolute. Others believe that they were constructed as such to lure men and women back to the family and worldly life, which play an important part in Hinduism, from the austerities preached by the Buddha that were gaining favor with people of that time.
Whatever be the motivation its a celebration of life, a rather unrestrained one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Clay Art - Bastar

Collection of clay art at Chitrakoot water fall near Jagadalpur. Part of the Bastar regions art forms and collections. The impressive feature is their originatlity and ingenuity. The elephant headed pots, the aborgine drummer, the wide eared elephants, masks, lanterns, boxes, pots and various other animals. The ornamentation is intricate and beyond what you would associate with tribal art. The only diety who we are familar with is Ganesha here. He appears quiet different.
Efforts are on the way to preserve these art forms by helping the natives to market them in exhibitions across the country. The artisans from the tribes are given assistance to continue making them and selling them.
The sculpture like clay work where mother feeding the baby attracted my attention most. Its a stage where art is growing from simple representation to an event or an instance, there by introducing the emotions in the observer. We are not sure when these art reached the maturity level displayed today. But I feel this is like prehistoric and in that sense it is very impressive. The miniature form of the sculpture makes it even more loveable.

Tribal Art - Bastar

From the trip to Bastar. In an artshop in Jagadalpur. Jagadalpur is some 300Km from Raipur the capital city of Chattisgadh. My destination was Chitrakut water fall near Jagadalpur. I wanted to buy something for this memorable trip.

It was probably the only place where tribal life is not touched by the modernity. Everything preserved - tribal markets, costumes, cultivation, cattling, hutments, raw materials, forests and more importantly the art. I was fascinated by the fact that most of this art was so sophisticated and still not imitated in better part of the country. I admired the simplicity of those bronze and caste iron statues. It portrayed the life of the tribal in its most common circumstances, carrying water bags, carrying cut wood. The figurines were not clumsy or erotic. They looked very much living beings. The dieties they portrayed was even more astounding. Far from vedic mythological houses, the dieties were actually very home grown, they were either an animal or transformation of an animal-human.

I was fascinated by the similarity of these statues with the findings from the indus valley civilisation. The form and spirit they resembled some of them I found in the text books and history books. I felt probably this is pre vedic civilisation preserved for us in the tribal lands of chattisgadh. If pre vedic culture was indigenous, then it has to be something similar to this.

I have no sound footings to prove this..nor did I try to confirm my impressions. Its just like a hunch. Its there..

Monday, July 16, 2007

Istanbul - Memories of a city

A painting after a long time. Inspired by turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's 'Istanbul memories of a city'. The view of the Istanbul city from the bosphorus river is attempted in a painting. Of course I have never visited the city myself. The basis of the painting is a photograph from Pamuk's book, a silhouette of the city with mosques and endless mansions along the bosphoros. All along the memoir the river is the romantic icon of his own life in the city. River is the only changeless element in the everchanging world of Istanbul.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Greying memories - Panvel trip

A weekend outing to the Ghadeshwar dam near Panvel in Mumbai in 2004 June. After all the dreariness and the sweat and the dust of the summer, finally, the rains have arrived. Its hope back in life..water everywhere, gushing through all the waterways, filling all the pools and rivers. Its green again all around us, that walk in the drizzle is back again. A cigarette and a masala chai to add the spice to a late morning rain..its a way of celebration of life..

We (I and my collegue Hemant, photo being taken by my classmate Rahul) are walking across the narrow ridge to reach the dam. The photo was taken in a lush green setting with a misty hill in the background. The memories are greying. I dont know if I will ever visit that place again... The nostalgia alchemied in Adobe Photoshop to bring the shadow effect of the past...

We did walk around the dam drenched in the shower. We had our small lunch in the form of batata vada and masala chaat. We had a dip bath in the downstream in the dam. Well, since that wasnt enough relaxing we went on for a long walk along the bus route, eventually finding out a small water fall on the way, where we did one more round of bath... its green paddies and flooding waterways..you actually wonder whether this place is just 18km from Vashi (Mumbai suburb)...

Ghadeshwar has an old temple of Ghadeshwar, an incarnation of Shankar, overlooking the ‘Ghadi’ lake at the left flowing below it. Every year during Mahashivratri a yatra takes place from the temple drawing large crowds from villages nearby.

Some more googled text - Ghadeshwar also affords an eastern side distant silhouetted view of Matheran peaks including the Sunset point, Porcupine point (visible from Babdev village) and also the Panama point as well as the peaks of Pebgad and Bikatgad. From right to left of Ghadeshwar you see a table-land-like peak, which is Chanderi. To its left is Maishmaal next to it though very far away is Malang gad near Kalyan. You could not miss the curious sight of the ‘Toplya Dongar’ (the basket-shaped hill) which resembles the sight of the conical tip an inverted basket or the knobby tip of a monkey cap.

Against the Bules Skies

One of my favorites - the dry and barren tree against the back drop of sky bule .. All your worldliness gives away to new hope, beauty and context.. for a moment you are up in the sky absorbing the spreading buishness... if you can spot a half moon in the same picture its an added joy.... photo taken from the botanical garden in Melbourne on a summer evening....

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sikandra, Agra

The photograph is taken from the inside walls of the Akbar tomb in Agra (Sinkandra). Cloudy background gives the minarets and the wall a different appeal. The Akbar tomb is probably greener than Taj itself. It is in someways not really cropped and polished which gives the monument the atmosphere of a tomb than a palace or something (Taj actually gives you the feeling of grandeur fitting its creator than austerity of a tomb). Number of visitors are also meagre compared to Taj. The atmosphere is serene and calm. The tile and pattern work is intricate and ornamentative.
Sikandra, Akbar's tomb in the former Lodi capital, is a grand affair, much under-rated in comparison to the Taj Mahal. Akbar started building his mausoleum in the true Timurid tradition, but the actual monument was completed by his son Jahangir. He pulled down most of the earlier structure and redesigned it according to his wishes and the result is more than impressive. There is a huge gateway, Buland Darwaza, modeled on the famed victory gate at Fatehpur Sikri, leads to the great garden enclosure. The decoration on the gateway is strikingly bold, with its large mosaic patterns. The walled garden enclosure is laid out in the char bagh style with the mausoleum at the center.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Camel Caravan

Exciting part of the Jaisalmer trip. The camel ride. Wide and zig zag desert and you and your camels. You are put into some kind of a rythm on the camel top (Wasnt great, took some time to adjust). Its very interesting to see how they bow down for you to set you on top. I realised that they can run very fast too. I can be very 'ass-paining' time if it makes a run.
Far in the back ground is the camping ground arranged in the midst of desert. Noo, we are not staying there. Our accommodation is still far and more in the villages. This is for the more enthusiastic and the more planned. (We realised that if you dont have prior bookings, it can be very expensive to get one room in the desert camps).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Little boy and his home

I am just continuing from the previous post. We reached Sam Sand dunes around 4 pm in the evening. We took a hut on rent. We negotiated with the grumpy old man on an amount what we thought right for the place. He promised authentic Jaisalmer food and folk dance show and music in the evening. Also a ride to sand dunes was to be part of the package. Once settling with our baggage we went out to see the sand dunes and more importantly the sun set from desert.

We got a nice friend on the way. He was some 10 year old. His name, I cant recollect. He was herding the camel from our hut to the sand dunes, some 2km away. The small camel ride winded through a small village. It was interesting to see how he was fighting with a girl who called him swearnames. The girl was actually mentioning something about his cast, later he told us. On the way back we visited his little home. The wide courtyard kept very clean and small rooms with hay rooftops, all maintained within whitewashed mud walls. Arun got their address so that he can send those photos back to the boy. He hoped that that will give him a sense of world outside. I dont know if he has done that actually. But I still ridicule his sentiments for the little boy and his saying 'if i were born in this small village what would have happened to me?' My usual unemotional approach yielded only a momentary laugh, as if nothing of those boys can change in this hopeless system.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Top Class

On a bus top on our way to Sam Sand dunes some 40km from Jaisalmer. Its almost on the boarders of Thar desert. The bus was so crowded that me and my co traveller agreed to travel on bus top. Believe me, we enjoyed the that part of the journey more than anything else we had in Jaisalmer. The dust colored faces, bushy landscape, long straight stretch of the road half eaten by the sandstorm, occasional huts and villages and camel caravans.. the journey wide images were as exciting as the destination. Daytime is still chilly in those winter days of Jan 2004. I have managed a traditional head gear from Jaisalmer which I didnt know how to make, therefore kept in the same shape as it was made for months after our trip !!

Sam Sand Dunes are situated at a distance of approximately 42 km from the city of Jaisalmer. Located in the midst of the Thar Desert. Watching the sand dunes in the faint orange glow of the sun with the ballads of the legendary lovers playing in the background leaves us completely speechless. Even the desert comes alive with the sound and light show, and dance and music that re organized there.