Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Here, ghee turns into butter

There are several temples in Bangalore dedicated to Someshwara and the most famous of them all is the one in Halasuru or Ulsoor. The Someshwara Temple at Ulsoor is one of the most magnificent temples in Bangalore and though its origin is shrouded in mystery, we know that the Cholas, Kempe Gowda and other dynasties have contributed to its  construction.
Interestingly, there is another temple dedicated to Someshwara and this too was built by the Cholas. The Cholas had defeated the Gangas and they overran the Ganga provinces, including Bangalore. They built several temples, including those dedicated to Someshwara.
Since the Cholas were followers of Shaivism, they built temples for Shiva not in their country-Thanjavur and surrounding areas-but also in the lands they conquered. Thus, when they set foot on Bangalore, they ensured that the area had temples dedicated to Someshwara or Shiva.
If the Someshwara Temple in Halasoor is well known, the one at Agara in Sarjapur is not all that popular though it dates back to more than a thousand years.
This is the temple of Someshwara Swamy and it is located at Agara on the Sarjapura Main Road. This structure has a recorded history dating back to around 850 BC and that would make it 1200 years old.
As the name Someshwara Swamy itself suggests, the temple is dedicated to Shiva or Eshwara. Both the temple and the deity is dated to the Chola period. Unlike other temples dedicated to Someshwara, the idols here self manifested. This means that the idols were not man made or sculpted by men. The idols appeared on the earth on their own.
Such idols are called Swayambhu or self manifested. Here, the idols of Shiva and his son, Ganapathi, are believed to be Swayambhu or self manifested. Hence, this temple is considered to very holy.  
But the most unique fact of the temple is that when the priest performs abhisheka to the Someshwara Swamy idol in the morning, the ghee used transforms into butter. Such a phenomenon has never been reported in any temple in Bangalore and the only such similar event can be seen at the Shiva Temple in Shiva Gange in Tumkur district.
There is no scientific explanation on how ghee transforms itself into butter only during the morning abhisheka or pouring of water and other ingredients on the idol in the morning to sanctify the idol.
The temple can be entered from the main gateway, which is rather barrow. Such entrances were common in ancient ages and they were built to ensure that people who came bent down in submission to the God.
There is a symbol of the Chola dynasty within the temple. The Vimana of the temple has sculptures of avatars of Shiva. The number “five” is sacred to Shiva. One of his most important mantras has five syllables (namah śivāya). Shiva's body is said to consist of five mantras, called the pañcabrahmans. The forms of God, each of these have their own names and distinct iconography: such as Sadyojata, Vanadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Isana. All these five forms are represented on the Vimana Gopura of the temple.
The vehicle of Shiva is Nandi and she is placed in front of Shiva’s idol. A temple dedicated to Goddess Parvathi has been constructed next to this temple. The temple compound houses smaller temples to Ayyappa  and Shani who is one of the Navagraha deity.
The family of Gundappa Dixit have been taking care of the temple for more than 400 years. The temple draws huge crowds during Shivaratri and Karthika Maasa when queues stretch for miles.
The temple is surrounded by a garden and since it is on the main road, it is easy to locate. It is oasis of calm in the midst of maddening crowd. If you ever get struck in traffic jam at Agara or at Sarjapur road, park your car and spent some time in this holy place.

The idols is believed to help people who pray for succor from illness, marital or medical problems. The priests of the Someshwara Swamy temple say that couples who have not had children have come and prayed here and many among them have come back with their children. Hence, this temple is popular with    couples for offering prayers to beget a child. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The story of Marathalli

Marathalli or Marathahalli is one of the many localities in Bangalore. A majority of the people and even residents of Marathalli say the name of their locality is from Maruti or Hanuman.
They say that there was a temple of Maruti in the locality and, hence, the name. Marathahalli is derived from the Sanskrit word “Maruti” meaning Lord Hanuman and  Halli meaning village in Kannada. Other people believe that a fighter aircraft called “Marut” crash landed at the place. Therefore, the area came to be called Marathalli.
Very few people know that Marathalli is one of the handful of places in and around the City that predate Bangalore or Bendakalooru. There is no doubt that several centuries ago, this  was a small village and the residents depended on forestry, agriculture and they also reared cattle and were into poultry farming.
However, agriculture was thee main source of profession of the residents of Marathalli.
Another legend about this place is that it was here that the Marathas settled down and this was during the reign of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. With scores of Maratha families living here, it came to be called Maratha Halli which later came to be known as Marathalli.
A few other residents say Marathalli is named after St. Martha’s Hospital.
Whatever its origin, we now know that Marathalli is one of the oldest places in and around Bangalore. Historians and archaeologists say that the first mention of Marathalli as a settlement is in a written record belonging to the Vijayanagar Dynasty in 1508. However, there is proof to say that this locality existed even in the middle ages.
The Someshwara Temple of Marathalli and an inscription on an Ashwatha Katte date the inhabitation of Marathalli to the eleventh century. This makes Marathalli much older than Bangalore or other towns in and around the Garden City.
A few decades ago, the Someshwara temple was the centre of the Marathalli village. But today, it stands away from the centre point of the locality. Historians date the Someshwara Temple to the Cholas and this was built sometime during the eleventh century.
The temple of Someshwara is a typical Chola structure. It is really interesting to note that it was from the time of the Cholas that the penchant for constructing Someshwara temples began and almost all such temples are in and around Bangalore.
(Another Someshwara Temple of the Cholas is in Ulsoor or Halasuru but this was substantially repaired and renovated by Kempe Gowda).   
The Someshwara Temple at Marathalli is as old as the Someshwara Temple at Agara in Sarjapur. Thus, we find many Someshwara Temples of the Chola era in Bangalore.
Coming back to Marathalli, historians discovered an old inscription on the Aswathakatte  or platform of a banyan tree.
The inscription belonged to the Vijayanagara kingdom and it is dated 1508. It mentions the reign of Viranarasimha Raya or Viranarasimha the third of Vijayanagara kingdom in 1508.
The inscription also mentions that Brahma, Saptarishis, Harihara and the god of Varanasi were among the witnesses of Viranarasimha's rule in the Vijayanagara kingdom.
Historians have mot been able to assign a reason for the inscription. The inscription only records the reign of a Tuluva King of Vijayanagar.
Viranarasimha was the brother of Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1529) and he followed the Vijayanagar Emperor, Narasa Nayaka, to the throne. Viranarasimha reigned for four years, between 1505 and 1509. Soon after he ascended the throne, he faced rebellion from several quarters, including the Ummattur chiefs.
According to folklore, Viranarasimha wanted his minister, Saluva Thimmarasu, to pluck the eyes of Krishna Deva Raya so that his con could ascend the Vijayanagar throne.  
We may surmise that Viranarasimha had the inscription put up as he wanted to exert his authority. Whatever the reason, we now know that Marathalli was part of the Vijayanagar kingdom.
The Vijayanagar inscription is in Telugu and this shows us that Kannada perhaps was not the mother tongue or language here, at least till six centuries ago.
The inscription testifies to the fact that Telugu was the language of the Vijayanagar court along with Kannada.
Today, the Someshwara Temple and the Telugu inscription are the only relics of yore. Today, the temple has been renovated and it bears little resemblance t the ancient structure that it was. As far as Marathalli goes, it is an important locality of Bangalore and even its residents have forgotten the local history of the area, caught up as they are in the throes of  modernization and the real estate boom.

Marathalli is home to several IT and BT companies and it is also the place where several companies known for branded apparels and furniture shops have their establishments. 

When Sarjapur was a Jagir

It is the emerging IT and real estate hub of Bangalore. Once known as a small village coming in Anekal taluk, it was a forgotten outpost of history till a decade ago.
Today, this village boasts of hosting several IT majors and it has been seeing a booming real estate market, all thanks to the innumerable IT and BT companies that dot the place.
Located south east of Bangalore, it is now being spoken of as the place where WIPRO is housing its world class university and Infosys is setting up a special economic zone (SEZ).
The SEZ and university makes good sense as this area is well connected to other IT hotspots such as Whitefield, Electronic City, Bommanahalli, Bommasandra, Marathahalli, Silk Board Junction, Anekal, Koramangala, Madiwala and Outer Ring Road.
This is Sarjapur, which was once a sleepy village. It is emerging as a fast growing IT hub and the Aziz Premji Foundation plans to acquire 50 acres here to set up a university. Similarly, Infosys has purchased 202 acres to set up a SEZ exclusively for IT.
Though Sarjapur is seeing a boom now, very few know that it was once a jagir granted by the Mughals and that this Jagirship continued  for more than a century.   
Sarjapur till 1873 was also the headquarters of the taluk by the same name. Sarjapur, till the beginning of the 21st century, was mostly rural in character and it was a place where a fair or jatre was held every Sunday.
The fair was popular and people from Sarjapur and surrounding villages and even Anekal came here to buy and sell goods. The fair gave an opportunity to local farmers and growers to display and sell their commodities and small time traders to sell their goods.
The fair disappeared once Sarjapur was swallowed by in the throes of urbanisation. However, the conduct of the fair can be gauged if one were to visit the Madivala fair which is held even today.        
Coming back to Sarjapur,  it was a small trading centre and its importance lay in the fact that it bordered Bangalore on one side eighteen villages on the other three sides.
Sarjapur had access to all these eighteens villages and obviously it was the biggest of them all in population.
Sarjapur was known for the manufacture of cotton, clothes, carpets and tapes. Muslins of the finest quality were woven here and sold in Bangalore and other places. The Sarjapur Muslin was well-known in and around Bangalore and it was in great demand.
The Sarjapur products were sold in the petes of Bangalore and the Muslin competed with similar products from Doddaballapur. If Doddaballapur was known for sarees, Sarjapur was known for its clothes and cotton. Today, neither are manufactured in Sarjapur.  
Sarjapur was a jagir along with 18 other surrounding villages. The first mention of the jagir of Sarjapur goes back to the time of the Mughals.
The Mughals invaded Bangalore and took over the fort of Bangalore under the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, sometime in 1686. The Mughal General, Khasim Khan, wrested Bangalore and its surroundings from the Marathas and in 1689 leased Bangalore to the Wodeyars of Mysore.
In the meantime, the Mughals appear to have leased Sarjapur as a jagir. Their main condition was that the jagirdar train and station troops to help the Mughal Emperor in tines of war. This condition appears statesmanlike as the Mughals were constantly battling the Marathas all over the Deccan (South India).
The Mughals had also brought an end to the Adil Shahis of Bijapur in 1686 and the Qutb Shahs of Golconda in 1689. With both these Muslim Kingdoms annexed by the Mughals, the Marathas came in direct conflict with the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb.
Emperor Aurangzeb realised that the Hindu kingdom of Wodeyars was just a little more than a hundred kilometers from Bangalore. His General, Kasim Khan, gave away Bangalore to the Wodeyars but kept Sira and Sarjapur as Mughal provinces. While Sira, near Tumkur, became a regular Mughal province, Sarjapur was given as a Jagir. However, both Sira and Sarjapur were part of the Mughal province in the south.
The jagir of Sira and also Sarjapur was confirmed b successive rulers. While Sira finally fell to Hyder Ali, he allowed the jagir of Sarjapur to continue. This even as Hyder Ali took Bangalore from the Marathas.
B.L. Rice, in his gazetteer, speaks of having seen the documents confirming and reconfirming the Sarjapur Jagir.
The first grant is in Persian and it is by Dilawar Khan, the Mughal Subedar of Sira province. The grant is in the name of the Mughal Emperor and the Mughal Emperor is called as Alamgir Padshah i Ghazi.
Then comes the grant of the jagir by Madhava Rao, a minister of the Peshwas of  Pune. This grant is in Marathi. This document bears the inscription, Raja Ram Narapati, Harsha Nishan Madhav Rao Ballal Pradhan.
The next confirmation of the grant is by Hyder Ali. This paper has the signature of Hyder Ali and it is also in Marathi. It is signed as Fatte Haider. Then comes the grant by Lord Cornwallis and it is sealed with the Persian word Salar E Inglistan. It is initialed at the back as “GFC”.
Then comes the grant by Captain Cherry and this too is in Persian. It says the seal is by George Fredrick Cherry, Khayim Jang, fidvi E Kampani Angresi Bahadur.
The last grant of the jagir is by Captain Reed in 1791 and it is in Persian. The seal says Alexander Reed Bahadur. The grants were finally cancelled by Dewan Purnaiah when he found that the Jagardir of Sarjapur wanted to sell the jagir.
Purnaiah bought out the Jahagirdar, After that there was no jagir or Jahagirdar. The Sarjapur province was merged with the Mysore Kingdom and it soon lost all its former glory and by the turn of the century it was just a small village.
Today, Sarjapur is on another incline. Modernisation and development is going hand in hand and the area is seeing a boom in the real estate sector. IT and BT companies are setting shop in Sarjapur. Connectivity to and from Sarjapur has improved by leaps and bounds. Alas, the march of modernity has ensured that all relics of the past, barring a few temples, have vanished without a trace. This is the price one has to pay for growing urbanization and development. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

This Hanuman sheds tears

There are many Anjaneya temples in Bangalore and among the most famous is the Gali Annaneya Temple and the Hanuman temple in Mahalakshmi Layout.
The Hanuman temple at Ragigudda, the Kote Anjaneya Temple and the Minto Kannu Aspatre Temple are the other famous temples. Infact, Bangalore has several Vyasa Prathistha Hanuman temples.
The Vyasa Prathistha Hanuman temples were consecrated by the great Madhwa saint, Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha and there are more than two dozen of them in and around Bangalore, including the Gali Anjaneya Temple on Mysore Road.
Many miracles are ascribed to these temples but one of the most unique temple is that of Hanuman at Banaswadi.
Banaswadi is one of the well-known localities of Bangalore and initially it was known as the place near the ITC cigarette factory. Banaswadi today is a bustling locality and it has several temples and other religious places of worship bit none as famous as the Hanuman temple.
The Sri Anjaneya Swamy Temple attracts scores of devotees every day and people from other localities too throng to the temple. A majority of the people are aware of the grand Navaratri celebrations that are held in the temple.
These celebrations see all the deities in the temple being decorated with flowers and ornaments. The Navaratri celebrations ked up decked up in flowers during the time of Navaratri festival. The celebrations are held for all the nine days of Dassara or Navaratri. . However, a little known fact of this temple is that the Anjaneya idol sheds tears on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti every December. The tears flow from the eyes on that day and there is no particular time or period when this strange phenomenon occurs.
The tears have continued to flow over the years and this is perhaps the most unique feature of this temple. Infact, no other Hanuman temple has reported such a phenomenon.   
The temple is believed to be more than 150 years old and the idol of Hanuman or Anjaneya has been sculpted at Saligrama, a small town between Udupi and Kundapura.
Apart from the idol of Hanuman, the temple has a few other deities too such as that of Kodandarama and Basaveshwara. The temple is better known as the Hanuman temple of Dodda Banaswadi. It comes under the Muzrai Department and it is among the richest in Bangalore.
Incidentally, Banaswadi was a village till two decades ago. The boom in IT and BT and the growing urbanisation of the city led to the disappearance of this village and in its place we have a busy locality.
The village that existed here was called Dodda Banaswadi and Chikka Banaswadi. Though these names survive, the villages have vanished.

Today the Ring Road borders Banaswadi on one side.  It has a railway station called Banaswadi railway station. It is flanked by HRBR Layout and Kalyan Nagar.  

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The whistle blower who became a Dewan

A whistle blower, he exposed the rot and corruption of the bureaucracy that had set in in the Revenue Department in British India. He published a booklet on the corruption but he did not lend his name to its authorship. Instead, he called it a book by a native Indian officer.
A few years later he came to be appointed the Dewan of the Mysore Kingdom. He went about his job with ferocity and took several steps to root out corruption. He also introduced music in schools.
He worked for the Imam Commission which had been set up by the British. Subsequently, he was appointed to go into the working of the Indian Railways.
As Dewan of Mysore, he instituted the first Representative Assembly in India.  
Unfortunately, he fell very sick and passed away just a few years after he had assumed the Dewanship. But his name is immortalised even today and he is ranked among the ablest administrators of his times.
He had a deep and abiding passion for chess. His name is forever on the lips of Mysoreans as the Town Hall in the Royal City is named after him. He is Dewan C.V. Rungacharlu.
Born in 1831, he lived a little more than 50 years. Yet, he has left behind a rich legacy of administrative work, which are worth implementing even today.
Rungacharlu was born in an Iyengar family in Chingleput district in the then Madras  Presidency. He was a Vadagalai Iyengar. His father, C. Raghavachariar, was a clerk in the office of the Collectorate at Chingleput.
His parents were poor and he could attend school only after V. Raghavachariar, the first Indian magistrate in Madras, promised to support him financially.
He joined Government service as a Huzur deputy accountant in the office of the Collector of  Madras when he was 19 years. It was 1850 then.
Soon after his conformation, he was transferred to the Chingleput Collectorate. He was subsequently promoted to Head Writer and posted in Salem. It was here that young Rungacharlu performed his task as a Head Writer with distinction. He was disgusted with the corruption in the Revenue Department and in 1856 he published two pamphlets – “Bribery and Corruption in the Revenue Department” and “Mirasi Rights in the Chingleput and Tanjore Districts”.
He was then appointed Tahsildar of  Saidapet and then as Head Sheristadar of Nellore. In 1859, he was appointed Special Assistant to G. N. Taylor, President of the Imam Commission. When the term of the Imam Commission ended, Rungacharlu was appointed to the inquire into the working of the Indian Railways. Rungacharlu was subsequently appointed Commissioner of the Madras Railway Company. He was working as a Treasury Deputy Collector at Calicut in 1868, when he was invited to join the Mysore civil service.
He then assisted British official Major Elliot in reorganization of the Mysore Palace establishment in 1868. He was assistant to the guardian of Chamaraja Wodiyar before the Wodeyar ascended the throne in 1881.
Rungacharlu was appointed the Dewan the day when Chamaraja Wodeyar asssumed charge to rule the Mysore State.
He served as Dewan from 1881 to 1883. He was instrumental in setting up the Representative Assembly. He also introduced music as one of the subjects in schools.
When he became Dewan in March 1881, Mysore was in throes of  financial crisis which had adversely impacted the agricultural and industrial sector. The State was devastated by the famine of 1877 and it was faced with a debt of Rs. 8 lakhs. He postponed for five years, the payment of Rs. 10.5 lakhs as subsidy to the British.
He replaced British officers with Indians. He also disbanded Hassan and Chitradurga districts and downgraded nine taluks into Deputy Amildar sections. The number of Munsiff Courts, Sub-Courts and district jails were also reduced. These measures helped reduce the expenses of the state. He also o lifted the ban of the sale of sandalwood and sandalwood products, thus earning much needed revenue for the State.
With the revenue generated by the sale of sandalwood, he helped   develop the railway system for Mysore. He was also instrumental in commissioning the railway line from Bangalore to Tiptur.
He fell seriously ill at the end of 1882. When the illness became critical, he  resigned as Dewan. He came to Madras where he died on January 20, 1883.

Mysore has honored him by constructing a Town Hall which it has named as Dewan Rungacharlu Memorial Hall. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

When Tipu's mother laughed at him

It was a rather difficult period for Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore. Tipu had succeeded his father, Hyder Ali, and he was hemmed in by enemies on all sides.
The Mysore Kingdom that Tipu ruled was surrounded by the Peshwas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the British and several smaller palegars who were enemies of the Sultan.
The fighter that he was, Tipu never once thought of entering into a peace treaty with his enemies. He was fiercely anti-British and he did his best to oust them from South India.
To this end, he tried to string together an alliance against the English but failed in the endeavour as neither the Peshwas nor the Nizam backed him. If the Nizam was afraid of the growing power of Tipu, the Peshwas were embroiled in a bitter internal war and  they had little time or thought of taking on the English.
While Hyder Ali had maintained the pretence of  paying nominal obscience to the Wodeyar, Tipu had thrown aside all these pretences and openly taken over power. He had forced the Maharaja and his retinue to come from Mysore to Srirangapatna where he kept them imprisoned in a palace. The only time the Maharaja was allowed to meet the subjects was during Dasara.
Since Mumadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868) was a child, his mother, Maharani Lakshmi Ammani, worked desperately to protect the royal family from the gaze of  Tipu. He also corresponded with the British and urged them to overthrow Tipu.
Tipu thus had a hard time in dealing with his enemies. He trusted only a few people and among them was a Madhwa Brahmin. This Brahmin was later to become  first Dewan of  the Wodeyars after the death of Tipu Sultan.
Hailing from a village near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, he was regarded as the Chanakya of Karnataka.
He was respected by everybody who came across him. A scholar and linguist, he was staunchly loyal to the people he served be it Hyder Ali, Tipu or the Wodeyars.
He participated in many military campaigns and he was a shrewd strategist. He defeated Wellesley in the Battle of Sultanpet in 1799 and this was just a month before the British overran Srirangapatna and killed Tipu Sultan.
He was a multifaceted personality with extraordinary administrative skills. He had a prodigious memory and was a master of accounts. He was such an able hand that people instinctly trusted him.
Born in 1746, he lost his father at the age of eleven. However, this did not deter him and he took up job as an accountant with a grocer to support his family. The grocer was impressed with the skill of the young boy and he soon introduced him to his friend, Annadana Shetty, who supplied groceries to the palace establishment of Hyder Ali and also his Army.
Shetty introduced Purnaiah to Hyder and soon Hyder realised that he had a rare gem at hand. He employed Purnaiah who soon rose to become the head of Hyder’s Accounts Office.
Hyder was deeply impressed by Purnaiah’s neat and beautiful handwriting and his compact accounting methods. A master of several languages, Purnaiah was proficient in Kannada, Persian and Sanskrit. He understood English but could not read and write it.
When Hyder Ali died, this an kept his death a secret and sent for Tipu and crowned him the King of the Mysore Kingdom. No wonder, Tipu had deep and abiding respect to this man and he trusted him to the last.
This man is none other than Purnaiah, better known as Dewan Purnaiah. (1746 - 1812). His earlier name was Krishnacharya Purniya and Tipu fondly called him Mir Miran Purniya.
He ably served Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
A very little known fact about Purnaiah is that he was an excellent diplomat. His skills of diplomacy was renown and Hyder and Tipu often depended on it for resolving tricky affairs of the State.  
He deftly handled the affairs of the State and he was tactful, sincere, honest and a man of  his word.
One day, Tipu was particularly worried over a matter of statecraft and after discussing it with his council of ministers, he turned to Purnaiah.
Tipu discussed the subject with Purnaiah and then told him that this matter could be sorted only through diplomacy and not by might. He stressed on the importance of diplomacy and asked Purnaiah to ensure that the issue was amicably resolved.
Purnaiah then discussed the issue threadbare with Tipu who once again requested him to take to diplomacy. Purnaiah then gently told Tipu that diplomacy could not help sort out the issue.
When a puzzled Tipu asked Purnaiah why, he replied, “I never lie and you will never tell the truth. So how can this issue be resolved with diplomacy.”
Abashed by the reply, Tipu quickly beat a hasty retreat into his private quarters. When news of this reached Fatima Fakhr-ud-Nisa, she burst into uncontrollable laughter. She marveled at the diplomatic manner in which Purnaiah had pointed out the Sultan’s faults.

She would recount this episode several times and burst into laughter. As far as Tipu was concerned, he was never out of  step while dealing with Purnaiah.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The blood sport of Mysore

The Vijayadashami, which signifies the end of the Navaratri, brings thousands of tourists and pilgrims to Mysore, to watch the Jamboo Savari.
If the Jumbo Savari or Dasara procession culminates the end of the Navaratri, there is another ritual, which when it ends signals the commencement of the procession.
This is the highly brutal blood sport of Vajra Musti or Musti Kalaga. Once a highly popular spot of Kings and emperors and the high and might of India, it has lost out to modern sports and to softer forms of physical games like boxing and wrestling.
True, a boxer or wrestler of even a  martial art expert might take umbrage at the forgoing sentence but what they should remember is that in Vajra Musti, the spurting of first blood on the forehead of an opponent celebrates the victor.
This is perhaps the most dangerous sport of all and make no mistake, it is as dangerous today as it was centuries ago. The combatants are known as Gettis and this sport today is confined within the Main palace of Mysore.
The Vajra Musti bouts are arranged in the beautiful wrestling courtyard of the main palace. Specially treated mud is prepared for the event and it is brought in lorries to the venue. The scion of the Wodeyar dynasty, Srikantadutta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, inaugurates the event.
After the Musti ends, he heralds the Dasara procession.
Coming back to the Vajra Musti, it is one of the most feared of all ancient arts of India. In Mysore, it is performed only on Vijayadashmi and that too to keep the ancient tradition alive.
The sport involves wrestlers or jattis hitting each other with clinched fists. Whosoever draws blood first is declared the winner and the contest is called off.
Unfortunately, this is a private event and it is generally not open to the public, except through invitation or special permission. Almost all the participants are from the Jetti community and they fight out more for prestige and tradition than for prize money.
The sport today is confined only to Mysore but centuries ago, it was popular in the Vijayanagar Empire. The Vijayanagar Emperors were patrons of this art forms and they patronized many Jettis.  Krishna Deva Raya was himself a renowned wrestler and he won many bouts.
Ranadheera Kanteerava Wodeyar was also a famous wrestler of his times. He was also proficient in many forms of martial arts. There are several accounts of  this Wodeyar King personally participating in Kusti during Dasara when Srirangapatna was the capital of the Mysore Kingdom.
Jattis of Mysore who played the blood sport were patronized by the Wodeyars and given high positions of  power and prestige. Senior Jettis were designated as Rajagurus and their services were commissioned for training princes and kings in warfare and strategy.
Since Jettis had knowledge about anatomy and were expert  wrestlers, they were given importance in the Mysore court and they formed an integral part of the Maharaja’s inner circle.   
The Jettis were not Kannadigas and a majority of them hail from Delmal in Gujarat. They are believed to have migrated to south  during the 11th century. The first mention of the Jetti is in Hoysala records.
Interestingly, both Hyder Ali and Tiu Sultan were patrons of Vajra Musti. After the storming of Srirangapatna in 1799, Vajra Musti lost its hue in Srirangapatna and Mysore took its place as the centre of Vajra Musti.
The Jettis were supposed to have taught Balarama, the brother of Krishna, the art of wrestling. Balarama son became one of the greatest wrestlers of his times.

Today, the blood sport is almost dead and gone but for the annual Dasara event. The sport can easily survive and even become popular provided our Government and the powers that be took keen interest in preserving and nurturing a rich slice of our heritage.    

Assembling a royal seat

The Dasara is the Nada Habba of Karnataka and the best place to catch all the action is Mysore, the city of palace and home to the Royal house of  the Wodeyars.
Mysore is all decked up for the Dasara and the magnificent Dasara procession is just a few days away. The procession on Vijayadashami, marks the culmination of Navaratri and it has generally been held in the afternoon.
If the highlight of the first day of Navaratri is the Wodeyar scion, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, ascending the throne, the procession with a caparisoned elephant carrying the golden howdah is the main event of the last day.
Thus, the magnificent Golden throne and the Golden howdah have always remained an integral part of the Dasara celebrations of Mysore.
While the howdah is a permanent structure, the throne is not.
The throne has to be reassembled just before the start of Navaratri and this year it was reassembled in a two-hour exercise on October 5.
It was brought out from the strongroom of the Main palace in Mysore on Sunday under the watchful eyes of Pramoda Devi, wife of Srikantadatta Wodeyar, his aides and officials of  the Mysore Palace Board.
The throne was assembled by twenty five villagers from Gejjagalli near Mysore.
Every Dasara, villagers of Gejjahalli and two others villages-Sakahalli and Kesare-come to the Mysore palace and volunteer their services to the Royal family during the duration of Dasara.  According to palace records, these villagers have been helping the royal family conduct the Dasara ever since the capital was shifted from Srirangapatna to Mysore in 1799 after the fall of Tipu Sultan.
Even today, 30 families of Gejjagalli, Sakahalli and Kesare form a core group which helps the royal family discharge numerous duties and rituals during the Dasara.
These villagers are nor regular employees of the palace. They set aside all their personal work during Dasara and volunteer theoir services. A group of villagers from Gejjahalli help in reassembling the golden throne.
There has been no incident of theft ever since they offered their services to the royal family from 1799. No wonder, their services are sought out even today. The royal family and the Palace board provides the volunteers with traditional dresses and each of them is assigned duties such as bringing out the royal elephant, royal horse, royal cow, royal camel, carrying the royal insignia, royal standard, torch and forming part of the Khasa or private durbar. Some call out the achievements of the royal family during the darbar and act as standard proclaimers or royal criers.
With the villagers displaying their loyalty through centuries, they have been given the important task of assembling the throne at the auspicious time. They have also served food to the royal guests and assisted the Wodeyars during royal burials too.
These volunteers, about 20 of them, commenced the fixing the throne at the auspicious time in the presence of Pramoda Devi, other members of the royal family and  palace authorities. Once the golden lion is fixed on the throne at an auspicious time, the Yuvaraja takes the ceremonial oil bath of Yenne Shastra as Kannadigas call it.
The assembling of the throne includes fixing the main seat known as Kurmasana, the umbrella over it and the series of steps leading to the seat. This task was completed as priests performed special rituals.
The rituals included Navagraha and ganapati homas by more than 12 palace priests. Soon after, a curtain was drawn to mask the throne till the Yuvaraja ascended the throne.
The throne is used for conducting the khasa durbar during the Navaratri period.
The throne will be on display for the public from October 5 to October 13 after which it will be dismantled and returned to the strongroom.
The throne itself is a subject of several myths and legends. Even its origin is shrouded in mystery. While many historians believe that it was a gift by the Mughals-some say Aurangzeb in 1700- to the reigning Wodeyar, Chikadevaraja, others say it was gifted to Raja Wodeyar in 1610 by either Srirangaraya, the Viceroy of Srirangapatna or Venkata, the Vijayanagar Emperor.
Even Vikram Sampath, the author of  an excellent book on Mysore, called Royal Splendors of Mysore, acknowledges the mystery of its origin.
Popular legend ascribes the throne to the Pandavas and later to the legendary Vikramaditya and Bhoja Raja. The throne was subsequently buried in Penugonda, now in Andhra Pradesh. The then Rajguru of  Vijayanagar, Vidvaranya, helped Harihara, the founder of the Vijayanagar along with his brother Bukkaraya, to retrieve it.
Kampiliraya of Kampli got the throne from Hastinapur and he buried it in Penugonda when Muhammad Bin Tughlaq invaded the Deccan in 1327. Kampiliraya died fighting the Tughlaq. His Kingdom then included Andhra Pradesh, Chitradurga, Shimoga, Raichur, Bellary, Hubli-Dharwad.
The throne remained hidden underground till 1338.   
The golden throne is a fabulous structure and it features a tortoise seat, a staircase with seven steps, a golden umbrella with creepers, an elephant, a horse and soldiers and is emblazoned with an ivory plaque, precious stones and jewels. The holy trinity of  Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are carved out of gold.
The throne was earlier used during the coronation of Wodeyar kings. The throne was found in a store room when the British stormed Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799. It was subsequently returned to the Wodeyars who have since been its guardians.
The last time people saw an Emperor or Maharaja (Srikantadatta Narasimharaja is a Yuvaraja and not a Maharaja.) holding darbar and sitting on the royal throne or Ratna Simhasana was  Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar in 1969.
The throne, its legend and other details are described in detail in the Sanskrit book, Devathanama Kusumamanjari written in 1859 by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the King of Mysore.
By the way, one of the best description of the Mysore Dasara, including the Woedyar Emperor ascending the throne and the Jamboo Savari on Vijayadashami is by Govinda Vaidya in 1648. He was a court poet of Ranadheera Kantirava and he has left us a detailed account of Navaratri and Dasara. The first pictorial representation of Dasara is also during this period.
However, an earlier description of Navaratri and Dasara in Mysore and surrounding areas of south Karnataka is found in the book, Bharatesha Vaibhava, by Ratnakara Varni, the court poet of the Odeyar (not Wodeyar of Mysore) kings of Karkala in 1557 and thereabouts. Much of his description is based on the conduct of the festival in Mysore and south Karnataka.

A much earlier and more elaborate description of the Jamboo Savari in Vijayanagar with Krishna Devaraya leading the procession in all its splendor is by the Portuguese traveller Paes. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

The college that never materialised

All of us known that Lalbagh in Bangalore was begun by Hyder Ali and developed by Tipu Sultan. We also know that it was subsequently taken over by the British who raised it into one of the most important botanical gardens in India.
Lalbagh is home to a number of exotic tress, plants and shrubs.  But not many know that the buildings in Lalbagh too have a history of their own and today, they stand as mute spectators to the vast throngs that visit he garden, oblivious to the standing history of the botanical gardens.
Lalbagh is currently managed by the Directorate of Horticulture, Government of Karnataka. The directorate operated from a red building in front of the office of the Director of Horticulture, Karnataka.
This building has a history of its own. It was built in 1920 when Gustav Hermann Krumbiegal (1865-1956) was Director of Horticulture. He  had an ambitious plan of building a horticulture college on the Lalbagh premises.
Krumbiegel, a German botanist and garden designer, spent years dedicating his life and service to the development of Lalbagh. He had also plans of constructing tree lined avenues in Bangalore which would host a variety of plants and shrubs.
Krumbiegel was born in Lohmen near Dresden in Germany and he trained as a horticulturist. In 1884,  he worked in Schwerin and from 1885 to 1887 he worked as a landscape gardener in Hamburg. In 1888, he moved to England, designing flower beds at the Hyde Park and joined the staff at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. He then came to India and in 1893 was the Curator of the Botanical Garden in Princely  Baroda. He then was with the Government Botanical Garden in Ooty.
It was in 1908 that the reigning Wodeyar monarch, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the ruler of Mysore, sought his services and persuaded him to succeed John Cameron as economic botanist and superintendent of Lalbagh.
Krumbiegel was solely responsible for introducing numerous plants in Lalbagh. He was also closely associated with the Mysore Horticultural Society that was started in 1912. Although a keen botanist, he was also a well-known architect. Noting his expertise, the then Dewan of Mysore appointed him as an architectural consultant despite protests from the British Resident in Mysore. During the Second World War, Germans in India were declared as enemies and Krumbiegel was along with other Germans kept in an internment camp in Bangalore.
His plan of starting a horticulture college was first shot down by the British and then by the Karnataka Government. Krumbeigal had conceived the red structure as part of the college.
He wanted the college in Lalbagh as he thought such an institution could provide both students and researchers with materials on hand and at short notice. He also saw that the college could become one of its kind in the world as it would be located amidst rare plants, shrubs, trees and seeds.
Since Lalbagh was a botanical garden, he thought a college on horticulture would be ideal. He even prepared designs for the college but since the plan was never accepted, it was destroyed.
Today, it is this very red structure that serves as the office for the Director of Horticulture.
The College of Horticulture did come and it was the first in India but it was not on Lalbagh.
By the way, horticulture accounts for 40 per cent of Karnataka’s  income that is generated from the combined agriculture sector. This state also boasts of the largest area under flower crop cultivation and ranks third in the production of the same across India. In addition, Karnataka is the largest producer of spices, aromatic and medicinal crops.
Karnataka was the first state to have a horticulture department in India and that it was established in 1963.
Coming back to Krumbeigal, he served Karnataka for 25 years and retired in the year 1932. After his retirement, he settled at Bangalore and worked as the Landscape Advisor to the state of Mysore, till his death in 1956.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

And now, water from Linganamakki

Well, after years of talks, hundreds of seminars, innumerable workshops and also years of  hibernation and inertia,  things are seeming to move towards providing drinking water supply to Bangalore. And this is to augment the Cauvery water supply that Bangalore receives every day.
Bangalore has always been a water scare city and right from its inception, it has faced problems of water supply. But it is only recently that the water scarcity has assumed herculean proportions and several areas have had to go without water.
The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), which looks after the water supply to Bangalore, has been trying for several years to locate alternate water sources to fulfill the thirst of Bangaloreans. It has found the Cauvery inadequate to meet the water needs and there has been several surveys and technical reports on augmenting the water supply.
A few days ago, an expert committee constituted by the BWSSB, formed in 2010 to identify both long and short term solutions to the growing water demand in the City, has now identified Linganmakki as an alternate and more than adequate source to fulfill the water needs of Bangalore.
This panel was constituted by the then BJP Government and it consists of nine members. The report of the panel has not so far been made public though it is ready.
The report of the nine-member panel has zeroed in on Linganmakki in Sagar taluk of Shimoga district as Bangalore’s answer for the much searched alternative.
Linganamakki is the one of the biggest reservoirs in Karnataka and it has a capacity to store151 tmc (thousand million cubic) feet of water with an annual inflow of 181 tmc.
This is just six kilometers away from the world famous Jog Falls and it is built across the Sharavati river.  It was constructed in 1954 and the dam has a length of 2.4 kms.
The dam was initially designed to impound 4368 million cubic meter of water in an area of around 300 km², submerging 50.62 km² of wetland and 7 km² of dry land, with the remaining being forest land and wasteland.
The dam has a height of 1,819 feet (554 m) and it mainly receives water from the Chakra and Savahaklu reservoirs, which are linked to it through a canal.
The water from the Linganamakki flows to Talakalale Balancing Reservoir through a trapezoidal canal with a discharge capacity of 175.56 m³/s. The length of this channel is about 4318.40 metres with a submersion of 7.77 km². It has a catchment area of about 46.60 km².
Behind the dam is a large reservoir. The discharge from the dam can be quite heavy. When the dam's sluice gates are closed upstream from Jog Falls, it is possible to walk down into the fall's ravine.
The committee has suggested laying of  pipelines for about 100 km from Linganamakki to Yagachi dam in Hassan district. These pipelines could easily draw 50 tmc feet of water. A problem here is that the pipelines would have to be routed through forests and environmentalists may not take kindly to this.
Once the water reaches Yagachi dam, water will flow through gravity for nearly 50 km to reach Bangalore city. The BWSSB says this water can not only be supplied to Bangalore but also to neighbouring Kolar, Ramanagara, Chikkaballapur and Chitradurga. 
Apart from this project, the BWSSB committee has also proposed a reservoir at Mekedaatu in Kanakapura taluk of Ramanagara district. It says this water can be used for irrigation and agriculture purposes. However, this is unlikely to be a smooth issue as Tamil Nadu has already voiced its opposition to any water retention project on the Cauvery.
The committee has also said that water can be drawn from Lakshmanateertha river to Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) dam near Mysore in Mandya district which would store the water and later release it to Bangalore. This too is unlikely to be easy as Tamil Nadu would fight for what its perceives its rightful share of impounded water in the KRS.
It would, therefore, appear that the best alternate sources if Linganmakki. The committee itself  has estimated that the project cost would be in the range of Rs 100 crores and that it can be completed in three years.
The committee has also proposed that more water be drawn from the Cauvery basin, within the framework of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal award.
Apart from these recommendations, the committee has also come up with measures to plug leakages in Bangalore, reduce unaccounted water, enforce dual pipeline system and replace old pipes.

As of now, the water wastage in Bangalore is as high as 48 per cent and the committee has said urgent steps are needed to bring it down to 16 per cent or less.