GOPS CREATIVE ARTS & PHOTOGRAPHY - CAPTURING THE SIMPLICITIES & COMPLEXITIES OF LIFE
AGUMBE : LIVING WITH THE RAIN
‘Petrichor’ is the name for the earthy scent that emerges when fresh rain hits the soil after a long gap. This Greek word is a combination of two words ‘Petra’ (stone) and ‘Ichor’ which literally means the fluid that passes through the veins of Gods. People say this sweet fragrance has a rejuvenating effect on the body, perhaps it is more of a psychological reason because our ancestors considered rain as an essential element for survival. Scientifically speaking, when rain drops hit dry soil, the tiny pores on the earth release small bubbles of plant oils, bacteria and Ozone into the air which causes the scent. Though large amount of Ozone could be dangerous to human lungs, the actual amount being released during this event is negligible. I think we are drifting away from our main subject. Let’s talk about the places where rain has become the part and parcel of daily life. ‘Cherrapunji’ in the North Eastern corner of India was once known as the wettest place on the planet and it still holds the Guinness Book record for maximum rainfall received at a place. A less-known place called ‘Agumbe’ on the Western Ghats is called the ‘Cherrapunji of […]
ENCHANTING ELLORA
Ellora Cave Complex is situated 29 Kms North-West of Aurangabad, a prominent city located 300 Kms away from Mumbai in India.  The name Ellora has been derived from Elapura,  what the place was originally known as.  Carved out of Volcanic basalt rock, this group of temples and monasteries are dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism spanning between 600-1000 AD. Out of a hundred caves discovered, 34 are accessible to the public today. Millions of years back, ancient volcanic lava flowed past the Deccan plateau and solidified to form multiple layers of fine-grain basaltic rock. Evidence of early human settlement dating back to upper Palaeolithic period (10,000 to 20,000 years old) has been located in this area. Ellora had a close proximity to a famous trade route since the Satavahana dynasty’s period (271 BC to 30 BC). Perhaps that was the reason why Ellora never got abandoned and lost to oblivion like Ajanta caves. (Read about Ajanta here>>)  Though the exact period of construction has not been traced out, it is believed that this spectacular architecture was the contribution from King Krishna#1 of Rashtrakuta dynasty (760 AD). The written records of Arab travellers who visited Ellora during 10th century give us a […]
AJANTA CAVES : WHEN ROCKS TELL STORIES
Around 450 kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, one of the busiest cities of the world, there lies the jewel in the crown of ancient India. ‘Ajanta’ is a classic example of Indian art, Architecture, Culture and Religion integrated into a set of magnificent cave temples. Ajanta consists of a total of 29 Buddhist monasteries and sanctuaries belonging to the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions dating from 2nd century BC to 6th century AD. This wondrous architectural masterpiece had been lying abandoned and hidden away for thousands of years, until it was re-discovered by a group of British soldiers in 1819. 104 Km away from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the river Waghora descends down in a series of seven steps, forms a pool called Saptakund and flows further down through a narrow sinuous gorge adjoining a horse-shoe shaped rock. The caves had been carved on the sheer vertical face of this rock with incredible precision & artistic skills. From the shape of the rock and its geological properties, it is evident that the site was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption in Deccan plateau. It was on 28th of  April 1819, a group of soldiers […]
THE RIVER AND BEYOND… ANEGUNDI
Let’s get prepared for a time travel… It is going to be a journey back into the past to witness history spanning 5000 years or more. The story begins with river Pampa (Tungabhadra),  the lifeline of a great civilization that existed in the southern state of Karnataka in India. Anegundi is a peaceful little village situated just opposite to Hampi, on the northern bank of river Tungabhadra; a place where evolution, history, mythology and folklore co-exist.  Anegundi (or Anegondi, ಆನೆಗುಂದಿ/ಆನೆಗೊಂದಿ) is a Kannada word which means “Elephant pit”. It was the early  capital of Vijayanagara empire, before it got shifted to Hampi. It was probably named after the king’s elephant stables originally located here. Read more about Hampi & Vijayanagara empire here >> As per earth scientists, the rock formations in this area could be 3000 Million years old, making it one of the oldest plateaus on our planet. That means it was one of the first places to get solidified during earth’s cooling process. Traces of early human settlements have been located in certain parts of Anegundi. Neolithic (Stone-age) burial grounds and primitive cave paintings found here attract research students, historians and geologists alike. Anegundi is filled with history and […]
FACES OF INDIA :: UNITY MEETS DIVERSITY
As my solo journey through rural India continues, I come across people from different walks of life every day. India is believed to be a land of mystery, history, magic, festivals, mythology and what not ?! It is said that the search for India led to the discovery of America. I felt every distinct face in India has a different kind of charm and I never missed a chance to capture those enchanting expressions. Here are a few of my favourites…  
HAMPI, WHERE RUINS COME ALIVE !
A river constitutes the blood and veins of a country. Most of the ancient civilizations formed and developed on the banks of rivers and so was the history of Vijayanagara empire. Once you dig deep into the history of this place, it turns to folklore and refers back to mythology as well. The river Pampa was the lifeline of a great civilization that existed in the southern state of Karnataka in India. Traces of early settlements could be found on the Northern side of river (Anegundi) that points to the epic Ramayana and the monkey kingdom Kishkindha. Read about Anegundi  here >> Southern banks of the river witnessed a series of battles and events that date back to the period of Emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC).  Kannada word Hampe was derived from Pampa and in turn called Hampi due to British influence. River Pampa is known as Tungabhadra now, which still flows silently  between the ruins of Vijayanagara  empire.  That arouses the curiosity of every traveler. What would have led to the decline of such a great empire ? Tunga & Bhadra rivers originate from Western Ghats, pass through the plains of Karnataka until they merge together 150 Kms down east, […]
A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE STREET STORIES
HOLINESS OF LONELINESS I came across this elderly man (a Sadhu) at Rishikesh, a famous Hindu pilgrimage centre by the banks of Ganga river in India . His only possession was the Holy book, which he always kept close to the heart.  He did not smile or beg for alms, but from the peace on his face, I could feel that his contented soul had already left the mortal body.  There are times when we realize that the meaning of life is nothing but a  big Zero ! Times when emptiness fills mega pixels !! THE BAREFOOTED GOD The God appeared in front of me ! Yes, it was on a fine Sunday morning when I was taking my usual stroll down the streets of Bangalore. I turned back listening to the sound of a chime…, and there he stood.  The barefooted Rama with a gentle smile on his face.  The teenager was making some extra money in his new Avatar.  The rickshaw behind him had a picture of Hanuman pasted on it, which aroused my curiosity.  As per mythology, Lord Rama used to ride on the back of Hanuman ! BURNING DESIRES & STUBBORN STAINS Last night I had this weird dream . I dreamt of […]
SIMPLY WALLS… !
Year 2015 is coming to an end.  When I look back, I feel 2015 was quite a happening year as far as photography was concerned .  I have been trying to consolidate my favourite captures into groups and the first of the lot is ‘walls’. Yes, those walls simply fascinated me…  
A PET CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
ARE YOU FEELING ISOLATED, DEPRESSED, SAD, STRESSED OUT ? THE BEST REMEDY IS HERE. OWN A PET ! The therapeutic effects of having a pet is evident in patients with psychological problems & cardio vascular ailments. It has been proven that a pet fulfills the basic human need of ‘touch’, which is an essential element to cure anxiety, stress, emotional imbalance, hypertension etc. Scientifically speaking, a hormonal bonding between human and his pet has been around since time immemorial. Studies have proven that when the human and pet stare each other, both the bodies produce more Oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates maternal bonding and trust. There is no medicine better than a good hug. Unlike we humans, the animals express unconditional love and never miss a chance to experience it. I was lucky to witness and photograph the life of a mother cat and her three kittens for some time. Join me and enjoy the greatness of motherhood and innocence of adolescence.
DEVOTION, DEEP INSIDE THE JUNGLE : THIRUNELLI TEMPLE
Thirunelli MahaVishnu Temple is one of the oldest and sacred shrines in Kerala. ‘Thiru Nelli’ literally means Holy Gooseberry tree (Amla). According to ancient Hindu scriptures or puranas, Lord Brahma got attracted by the beauty of this valley and descended here. He noticed an idol of Lord Vishnu on a gooseberry tree. Realizing the presence of Lord Vishnu, he installed the idol there and blessed the temple to be the one that washes of all the sins. Hence the water stream here got the name Papanasini. Situated in Wayanad district of Kerala, Thirunelli temple is surrounded by incredibly green mountains of Brahmagiri ranges adjoining Western Ghats. Thirunelli is Located in north Wayanad, 34 Km away from Mananthavady. The exact age of this temple is not known. According to historians, the temple could be 3000 years old what makes it one of the oldest temples in Kerala. It is also believed that Chera King Kulasekharan (AD 767 – 834) was the founder of this temple.  Copper plate inscriptions discovered from the area date back to the period of Bhaskara Ravi Varma I and II (10th and 11th century). Remains of the original temple is still visible around the premises. Some of […]
BANGALORE WEEKEND GETAWAY SERIES : LEPAKSHI TEMPLE
“Le Pakshi,” in Telugu language means “Rise, Bird”.  The name comes from epic Ramayana, in which Lord Rama meets dying Jatayu and blesses him to rise to heaven.  Ancient Hindu scripture Skandapurana mentions about Lepakshi ( “Lepakshya Papanasanah” ) as one among the 108 prominent Shaivite pilgrimage centres in Southern India. There is another story that says Lepakshi was derived from  ‘Lepa + Akshi’ which means ‘embalmed eye’. Lepakshi is an ideal place for a weekend drive from Bangalore. It is a small village in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh, India, located approximately 120 Km  north of Bangalore.  It lies 15 km away from Hindupur in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh.  Lepakshi Temple is mainly dedicated to Lord Veerabhadra (a form of Shiva), which was built during the period of Vijayanagara Kings (1336–1646) . The temple dates back to AD-1530, built on a small hillock having the shape of a tortoise, hence known as Kurma Saila. As per historians, the temple was constructed by two brothers called Virupanna and Viranna, who were Governors under the reign of King Achutaraya. There is another interesting story about the construction of this temple. Virupanna, the treasurer of Vijayanagara Kingdom was handling the funds […]
BANGALORE WEEKEND GETAWAY SERIES : BHOGA NANDEESHWARA TEMPLE
There are several interesting places in and around Bangalore city, suitable for a weekend roundup.  One such place is Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple, an architectural masterpiece located by the foothills of Nandi Hills situated around 55Km from the city centre. The little Nandi village comes 18 Km ahead of Devanahalli (Bangalore International Airport) on the Bangalore-Hyderabad Highway. As per archaeological survey of India, the original temple dates back to 806-810 AD, built in typical Dravidian style by Bana Queen Ratnavali. It came under the patronage of several dynasties like Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Pallavas, Vijayanagara kings and even Tipu Sultan in later stages.  The temple has undergone modifications by various rulers , until the region came under British rule in 1799, after the death of Tipu Sultan. There are two major shrines in the temple complex. The Arunachaleswara temple on southern corner was built by the Gangas of Talakad , ( Read about Talakad here> ) and the Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple on the northern side was constructed by the Chola Kings. Sculpture of a king could be found inside the temple complex, believed to be that of Rajendra Chola.  Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in various stages of life . Arunachaleswara […]
VARANASI, A CITY BEYOND LIFE & DEATH
VARANASI ( Also known as BENARAS or KASHI ) is  the oldest living city in the world with a known history of over 3000 years.  Mark Twain once wrote, “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” This historic city existed even when Sri Budha was a young boy. Varanasi belongs to the Indian state of  Uttar Pradesh, situated by the west bank of holy Ganga River. The revered and ancient city Varanasi is the religious centre of the world of Hindus, Budhists, Jains & Sikhs. Even after several centuries of destruction by Mughals & other invaders, this city still stands, where the past & present, eternity & continuity, philosophy & wisdom co-exist.  To Hindus, Kashi is as holy as Mecca to Muslims & Jerusalem to Christians. There is a common belief that you need to get an invitation from the God to visit Varanasi. I feel this has some significance in real life too. Though I used to procrastinate a lot, the trip got materialized unexpectedly, when I was not really prepared for it. One of the main attractions in Varanasi must be its street life, and it […]
KOTACHADRI : ADVENTURE MEETS WITH DEVOTION
Kodachadri peaks in the Western Ghats, located in the Shimoga district of Karnataka is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in India. A trip to Kodachadri could be an unforgettable experience for nature-enthusiasts, trekkers, photographers and adventurous drivers. Kodachadri is situated 1343 meters above sea level and around 30 Kms away from the temple town Kollur.  Surrounded by lush green hills, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife and tropical vegetation.  The valley has been declared as a natural heritage site by the state government . The name Kodachadri (Kodachadri in Kannada,  Kutajadri in Sanskrit and Malayalam കുടജാദ്രി) is derived from Sanskrit words ‘Kutaja’ and  ‘Adri’ . Kutaja is a kind of Mountain Jasmine flower (കുടകപ്പാല, Kutakappaala or  Giri-Mallika) and Adri means hill. Kutaja plant has Ayurvedic medicinal properties too. The panoramic view from the top of Kodachadri peak is mesmerizing . The mountain top is accessible by an adventurous trekking trail of around 9 to 12 km through dense forest. This trek is meant for physically fit people and requires special permission from the forest department. It could also be reached by an off-road jeep route of around  30 Km from Kollur town.  The last […]
POETRY IN STONE : MADANIKAS OF BELUR
Name of the Hoysala empire comes from Kannada folklore that tells the story of a young man called Sala who fights and kills a lion (or tiger) to save his Master  Sudatta. “Hoy, Sala” in Kannada language means “Strike Sala” which became the name of the dynasty he founded. The pictorial representation of this incident became the emblem of Hoysala empire too.  A statue of Sala fighting  the lion welcomes you at the entrance of Chennakesava temple at Belur. The temple was built during the rule of Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala dynasty in 12th Century AD. According to the legend,  Chief Architects of Chennakeshava Temple were ‘Amarashilpi Jakanacharya’ and his son ‘Dankanacharya’. Please go through my detailed article on the history of  Belur & Halebid by clicking here. Chennakesava temple is well-known for extremely fine carvings, sculptures and motifs on its outer walls. The most famous and exquisite ones among these are the 42 well-carved bracket figures known as Madanikas (Chaste Maidens or Salabhanjikas). 38 of these are placed outside the temple while 4 of them could be found inside. Vishnuvardhana’s Queen Shantala Devi was considered to be the epitome of perfect feminine beauty and the Madanika sculptures were crafted by portraying the queen […]
A SNEAK PEAK INTO HOYSALA HISTORY : BELAVADI & ARSIKERE
“Hoy, Sala !” in Kannada language means “Strike Sala !”, a dialogue that comes from Kannada folklore. As per the story, a young boy called Sala fought with a lion (or tiger) and saved his Jain Guru named Sudatta. The young warrior became the founder of an empire called ‘Hoysala’ and a depiction of this incident was adopted as the emblem of Hoysala dynasty. Hoysala Empire ruled the Deccan Plateau region of Southern India between the 10th and 14th centuries. They developed their own style of architecture and built a number of impeccable masterpieces around the kingdom, thus leaving their cultural imprint in and around the region. Several of these architectural wonders still exist in Karnataka, the most prominent ones are listed below in chronological order : Click the name of a temple to go through a photo tour. TEMPLE PLACE YEAR KING Chennakesava Belur 1117 Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleswara Halebidu 1120 Vishnuvardhana Kedareshwara Halebidu 1200 Veera Ballala II Veeranarayana Belavadi 1200 Veera Ballala II Ishvara (Shivalaya) Arsikere 1220 Veera Ballala II Kesava Somanathapura 1268 Narasimha III    VEERA NARAYANA TEMPLE, BELAVADI  Belavadi is a little village located 10 km north-west of Halebid (Halebeedu), the ancient capital of Hoysala kingdom. Belavadi is also known […]
BADAMI : MAGNIFICENT CAVES OF ANCIENT INDIA
BADAMI (ಬದಾಮಿ or Vatapi as it was known originally) is an ancient temple town located in the Bangalkot district of Nothern Karnataka in India. The place ‘Badiamaioi’ mentioned by Greek Geographer Ptolemy (150 AD) has been identified as Badami. Badami was the capital of Chalukya dynasty who ruled several parts of Karnataka between 540 to 757 AD. The town of Badami lies 460 Kms from Bangalore, situated  at the mouth of a ravine protected by huge red sandstone ridges on either sides with a beautiful lake (Agastya lake) in the middle. Legend has it that Badami was named after an asura called Vatapi who got killed by sage Agastya.  Chalukya rulers had fortified the hills surrounding the town and built several temples in and around the area. The temples and ruins at Badami, Pattadakkal, Aihole and Mahakuta are good examples of Chalukya architecture. The most famous among this group of temples are the rock-cut cave temples built between 6th and 8th centuries AD. There is a famous Carnatic recital “Vatapi Ganapatim Bhaje” praising lord Ganesha at Vatapi, composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar. The Chalukyas were defeated by Pallavas in 7th century and the idol of Vatapi Ganapati was transferred to TamilNadu which […]
Mar 31
SONG OF THE BOAT MAN
The talented boatman Rajkumar was entertaining his customers during a boat ride at Varanasi . The morning boat ride through Ganga river is an unforgettable experience for the visitors of Varanasi (Kashi) in India. I got really fascinated by the way he was singing like a professional Indian classical singer . Lots of unknown talents still lie hidden in this vast country.
THE GREAT LIVING CHOLA TEMPLES : DARASURAM (தாராசுரம்)
The Chola Dynasty (300 BC – 1279 CE) of Southern India were followers of Shaivism and great patrons of arts, literature & poetry . Chola Kings (Tamil : சோழர்) were one among the most prominent rulers of India, who built several Shiva Temples around the world, many of these are still in existence. ‘The Great Living Chola Temples’ the name given to a group of three architectural marvels built by the Chola Kings, still exist at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram  and Darasuram  in TamilNadu.  These three temples are unique for their Dravidian architecture and incredible artistic skills. The mighty  Brihadeeswarar temple ( Read about it here ) at Thanjavur (Big Temple, Peruvudaiyar Kovil) was completed in 1010 AD by emperor Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014 AD) .  Brihadeeswarar temple which turned 1000 years old in 2010 is one of the biggest temples in India and a World Heritage Monument of UNESCO. Rajendra Chola-I (1012-1044 AD) son of the Great Rajaraja-I  who believed to have conquered the lands upto Ganga river in North was known as Gangaikondacholan . He was one of the most famous Chola Kings whose Kingdom spread across most parts of Southern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra, Kadaram (now Kedah in Malaysia) and […]
FACE TO FACE WITH HISTORY :: BELUR & HALEBID
Belur (ಬೇಲೂರು) was the early capital of Hoysala Empire. Halebidu  is located 16 km away from Belur, both belong to the Hassan district and among the major tourist destinations in Karnataka. Belur is situated by the banks of river Yagachi, a tributary of river Kaveri . It is around 222 Km from Bangalore. The main attraction in Belur is the Chennakesava temple, which is famous for its exquisite carvings and Hoysala workmanship.  ‘Chenna’ Kesava literally means ‘Handsome Vishnu’ who is the main deity of this temple, being worshipped in the centre of the temple complex, surrounded by Kappe Chennigraya temple and a few other shrines.  The temple was built by King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE, to commemorate his victory over the Cholas at Talakkad . (read about Talakkad here). Legend has it that the construction of this temple took 103 years. This style of detailed and intricate carving is typical to the Hoysala temples of Karnataka and it portrays scenes from Hindu mythology as well as the contemporary culture, art forms and weaponry.  The material used for carving is known as Soapstone (Green schist) which gives them the incredible finish . The soft version of soapstone could be shaped even using our […]