GOPS CREATIVE ARTS & PHOTOGRAPHY - CAPTURING THE SIMPLICITIES & COMPLEXITIES OF LIFE
THOUGHT-PROVOKING FRAMES
“THE SIGN OF ALLAH [ Arabic: الله ]” I often get confused about the relationship between faith and destiny. Whenever I lacked subjects for photography, something used to appear out of the blue. It was one of those hot summer days in India while searching for a suitable subject for my photography.  Surprisingly, a nutmeg fruit fell in front of me and broke open to two halves.  The bright red mace around its black seed made it look like a heart. Though every seed has a unique finger print, this one looked peculiar. A closer look at it through my lens revealed an Arabic word that resembled ‘Allah’.  Well, it could be a coincidence or a weird imagination of my crazy mind. Anyhow, I believe that the heart shaped nut with the inscription of Allah was conveying a message to me. “THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS” The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage. Nothing is as precious as one’s freedom. Dreams, aspirations, and ideals mean nothing if one does not have the freedom to pursue them. An image that portrays a free world beyond all boundaries, all restrictions. The wings and open sky behind the barbed wires […]
CHAND BAORI OF ABHANERI (WORLD’S LARGEST STEP WELL)
Water is sacred and it has been worshipped in India since time immemorial as one of the ‘Panch Bhootas’ (Five elements of life). Evolution began in water and the future revolutions will be for water. Most of the great rulers in India had wisdom and vision for future and that is how the desert state of Rajasthan survived the fury of nature for so long. A little known place Abhaneri near Jaipur in India is where the World’s largest step-well is situated. Abha Nagari (The City of Brightness) as it was called originally was founded by King Raja Chand of Nikumbha Dynasty between 8 and 9th century AD. The ancient Hindu wisdom observed close links between worship places and the nature as the means for protecting the environment. This is evident from ancient temples in India with associated wells or ponds still in working condition. Following this tradition, King Chand constructed a large baori (step-well or step-pond, बावड़ी or बावली) in Abhaneri sometime in 825 AD, which remains as one of the architectural marvels of ancient India. Chand Baori (Chand bawadi in local tongue) as it called today attracts hundreds of tourists from around the world. The baori is square in […]
MOODS OF THE MONKEY KINGDOM
This is just a collection of some snapshots from Hampi. As the heading suggests, Hampi is a place that invokes myriad moods. It is a traveller’s paradise, a historian’s delight and every photographer’s treasure land. Enjoy….  
THE GREAT LIVING CHOLA TEMPLES, PART 3 of 3 : 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 […]
THE GREAT LIVING CHOLA TEMPLES, PART 2 of 3 : GANGAIKONDA CHOLAPURAM (கங்கைகொண்ட சோழபுரம்)
‘The Great Living Chola Temples’ is the name given to a group of three architectural wonders built in the Medieval Chola period, that remain intact till date at Thanjavur, TamilNadu. These three temples, viz., Brihadiswara (<click), Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram (<click) are unique for their dravidian architecture, advanced scientific knowledge and incredible artistic skills. I think you may please go through the story of Raja Raja Chola and the mighty  Brihadiswara Temple built by him, before reading this page. Rajendra Chola-I (இராசேந்திர சோழன் 1012-1044 AD, son of the Great Rajaraja-I)  who ventured into the North of India upto the Ganga river and brought the water back with him was known as Gangaikondacholan ( The Chola who brought Ganga) . Having one of the best Naval armies of their time, Rajendra started expanding his father’s Kingdom further across the oceans. He was one of the most famous Chola Kings whose Kingdom spread across most parts of Southern India and regions in Northern India like Kalinga (current day Orissa), Bihar, Bengal/Bangladesh, foreign areas like Sri Lanka, Burma, , Bali, Java, Sumatra, Kadaram (now Kedah in Malaysia) and Cambodia. The Hindu traditions being followed in Indonesia and Angkor Wat temples in Combodia are the […]
THE GREAT LIVING CHOLA TEMPLES, PART 1 of 3 : BRIHADISWARA (பெருவுடையார் கோயில்)
‘The Great Living Chola Temples’ is the name given to a group of three architectural wonders built in the Medieval Chola period, that remain intact till date at Thanjavur, TamilNadu. These three temples, viz., Brihadiswara, Gangaikondacholapuram (<click) and Darasuram (<click) are unique for their dravidian architecture, advanced scientific knowledge and incredible artistic skills. During my journeys through the reminiscences of Chola empire, I could witness the birth, growth and death of a dynasty that ruled almost all of Southern India for the longest duration. Though the exact origin of Chola dynasty is not known, it is believed that they were contemporaries of Ashoka during 300BC and continued the reign until 1279 AD. Like most of the remarkable civilizations built around rivers, Chola land was also developed around the Kaveri river basin and their glorious past is still evident from the mighty temples they left behind in the region. Raja Raja Cholan and his son Rajendra Cholan were the most prominent among them all who marked the golden period during the 460 years of Chola rule. Cholas possessed one of the best Naval powers of their time and that helped them conquer the Northern half of SriLanka in 996 AD . […]
HIRE BENAKAL : VALLEY OF THE DEAD !
You have seen the ruins of a great civilization at Hampi. And travelled back in time with me to witness the co-existence of myth and history at Anegundi. We have also discussed about the traces of early human settlement in the region, studied the primitive cave paintings at Onake Kindi. Let me take you further into the past to the mysterious ‘valley of the dead’, where history of ancient human habitation rests in peace. Hire benakal (also called Hirebenakal or Hirebenkal ಹಿರೇಬೆಣಕಲ್) is a little peaceful village next to Anegundi, situated around 50 Km from Hampi. It is one of largest megalithic burial sites (Necropolis) in Karnataka, India, estimated to be 3000 years old. Known as ‘Elu Guddagalu’ in Kannada language, which means ‘Seven hillocks’, this site consists of around 400 megalithic structures (dolmens) built between 800 BCE to 200 BCE  (that falls between Neolithic and the Iron Age periods ). The first reports about this site got published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society by Philip Meadows Taylor in 1835 during the British rule. Though Archaeology Survey of India (ASI) took over the possession of the site in 1955, not much of effort has been made to […]
EXQUISITE ELEPHANTA CAVES
Artillery firing continued profusely for weeks and months without having a single enemy in the vicinity. In fact, the Portuguese soldiers were firing cannon balls at the mighty rock sculptures in Elephanta caves for target practicing. A journey through the timeline of explorations, invasions and colonization would reveal the bloodshed and destruction that accompanied every successful event. Successors of those ruthless invaders who turned the treasures of a great country into heaps of rubble and sand must feel ashamed of their forefathers’ deeds. While we boast about the rich culture and heritage of India, those disturbing facts are often being ignored. Gharapuri was the name of that ancient island kingdom situated near Mumbai harbour. Gharapuri literally means ‘City of Caves’ in Marathi language. Traces of early inhabitation that dates back to 2nd century BC is still visible in this little island. For travelers visiting Mumbai, it would be a quick escapade from the hustle and bustle of one of the largest cities in the world. The island consists of two small hillocks on its east and west sides with a narrow ravine situated in the middle. Caves and sculptures have been carved out of Basalt rock similar to that existed […]
AGUMBE : LIVING THE RAINS
‘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 embark on a time machine… 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. You may please go through my blog […]
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 ! Frozen moments where emptiness filled 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 […]
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 […]