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Halebeedu is a little town in South Karnataka, famous for it’s twin temple- popularly known by the name Hoysaleshwara temple that enshrines two Shivalingas, called as Hoysaleshwara and Shantaleshwara. The town was the capital of the Hoysala dynasty that ruled parts of Southern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu from 10th to early 14th century AD.
The old name of the town was Dorasamudra (ದೋರಸಮುದ್ರ / दोरसमुद्र). Although popular legend says the name came because of the enormous man made lake (tank) at the entry of the town (ದ್ವಾರ,dwAra), inscription evidence seems to point in another direction. The lake is actually from pre-Hoysala times, and was erected during the Rashtrakuta king Dhruva‘s reign. Dhruva is referred to as Dora (ದೋರ) in many inscriptions. The lake erected by King Dora was naturally called Dorasamudra. The name seems to gone out of vogue, and this place is known as Halebeedu (Old Place, literally). Right now it is not on the UNESCO list of places of world heritage, but may be nominated to the list soon. I consider this to be one of the Seven Wonders of India, nothing less! The temples are maintained rather nicely by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
However, we don’t see any relics of Rashtrakuta times in Halebeedu today. Inscriptions have long gone into some museums! But luckily we are left with several temples of the Hoysala times of which Hoysaleshwara is the largest and grandest. It is quite natural being the capital of the Hoysala country that this site was selected for this magnificent temple. The temple is said to have been damaged during Malik Kafur’s invasion in the year 1313AD. In spite of the damage, it is still the best Hoysala temple, and probably one of the best temple in terms of architecture.
Oh well, today I’m not writing much about the temple architecture – but would focus on the musicians of Halebeedu. The town being close to my hometown, I have visited this place several times and when I was looking at one of the pictures taken during a visit few years earlier, I was surprised to see a specific type of musical instrument in there and was rather intrigued by the looks of it. I wasn’t sure if the picture I had was one of the mutilated sculpture, and hence I could not come to any conclusion based on the picture. So when I revisited the temple few months ago, I made it a point to look at all those instruments and musicians from Halebeedu carefully.
Many of the sculptures that we find on the temple walls are of various Gods and Goddesses – and there are many that depict earthly, regular performing musicians. Hence we can make many inferences about the types of musical instruments being played in South India during those times. Of course, we have descriptions of various musical instruments in different texts of those times, but a visual representation is much better than a text describing anything , Right?
Here you can see a sculpture of Saraswathi – the Goddess of learning. She is normally depicted in a sitting posture, playing a Veena. Veena is a generic term for string instruments and there are different types of Veenas depending on their structure. In this sculpture, you can clearly see how Saraswathi is using the middle and the ring fingers on her right hand to pluck the strings and the fingers of the left hand to play on the fingerboard – which are true to this day on several Veenas in vogue. Due to the angle, we can’t see whether the fingerboard has frets or not. All this very well matches with how a Sitar or Saraswathi Veena is played today ( discounting the fact that these days Saraswathi Veena is played more laying flat rather than being at an angle), but for one important difference. I’ll come to that point when I comment about another sculpture down below. Oh, I forgot to mention that Saraswathi Veena is one of the types of Veenas played today. Other Veenas include instruments such as Sitar, Rudra Veena, Chitra Veena (also called Vichitra Veena) and Mohan Veena ( actually a modified sliding guitar).
I’m not sure if the following picture depicts an earthly musician or a celestial one, but you can seem him playing a Dhakka or a Muraja (a Damaru-like drum instrument). Anyone who has heard any of DVG’s songs on the beauties at the Belur temple ( another Hoysala marvel, I should say) would definitely recall the song ‘naTanavADidaL taruNi’ (ನಟನವಾಡಿದಳ್ ತರುಣಿ ) about the sculpture called murajAmOde (ಮುರಜಾಮೋದೆ ) refers to a danseuse playing this drum in one of the charaNas. This instrument is used even now with Kathakali music, in Kerala and it is called by the name Idakka . (I got this reference from my good friend Sankaranarayanan, Thanks Sankara!) The way the instrument is held by the player in the sculpture almost matches with how the Idakka is played these days. The sculpture is so life-like that you fail to notice that it is made of stone, can easliy take the twisted ropes to be real!
Now the following brings a few important points – Most Hoysala temples are built on a multiple-point star patterned basement. This type of structure provides a very large surface area for a given size of the temple. Apparently individual sculptures were made elsewhere, probably at the sculptor’s workshops and were set in place at the right places in temple walls. Here is one such corner where you see a musician ensemble. The lady on the left is playing a Veena , this time held in a different positon. It is now in a vertical position and you can see the frets clearly. This matches with the position how the Veena was played even as late as early 18th century. Indeed the construction of RudraVeena and the way it is held while playing today, almost matches with what is depicted in here, although the resonator in the sculpture seems to be much smaller than what’s used in these days. The lady on the right is playing a Dhakka – So together they form an ensemble, may be supporting a dancer. Incidentally, on the left side you can see part of another sculpture, which I take it to be a form of Shiva, or a gaNa of Shiva – which also holds a real Damaru, which you can notice is much smaller than the Dhakka, in it’s hand.
Here is another Veena player. The fret-board is depicted very clearly. The way she holds her instrument is very similar to how a Sitar player holds the instrument. Click here to see a picture of maestro Pandit Ravishankar playing his Sitar. Are you surprised?
Another thing I noticed in the Veena in this sculpture and Saraswathi’s sculpture earlier in this post is that the resonator is not seen at all. Now, how such an instrument would sound? I have no clue, but may be I’m missing something.
Here is another interesting instrument. This is called the Naga Veena. Notice the snake like end of the instrument that gives its name. But notice the right hand of the player. He seems to be using a bow of some sort, effectively making it somewhat like a violin. We know that the violin as used in Indian music today was due to Western influence during the early 18th century at Fort St George. But this instrument tells us although the form of Violin may have been new for Indian music, the structure and concept were not.
The following group of sculptures may represent performing musicians of Hoysala times, accompanying a dance. One of them is playing a bell, essential for providing the dance syllables, one is playing a damaru providing the rhythm and one is seen playing the flute, which might have been the oldest musical instrument, not only in India, but for the whole mankind.
With that, let me stop my rant and let you take a good look at these beautiful sculptures once again – Don’t you agree temples such as these are indeed time-capsules of history that help us recreate and appreciate history?
Time moves very fast.
Really? Not true, since we know that the earth is revolving around the Sun at a steady rate (for all practical purposes, that is!). So it is all in our perception of time.
Whatever the facts are, one more year has passed really fast for ‘ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ’. Today, ’ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ’ is stepping into the third year after finishing two years. I can still recall me writing the very first post on this weblog, and the post when the blog turned one year, as if it happened yesterday!
It’s been a good year for ’ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ’ so far. The very first image at the top of this blog was from the navaranga, inside the temple in Halebeedu, I thought it would be apt to change the image to another view of the Hoysaleshwara temple on it’s second birthday too.
Thanks for coming by ’ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ’!
I could even have called this post ‘The Tale of Two Brothers”, only displaced in time, that is “:)
It is a duet temple, and has two shrines to Shiva – one in the name of the king – Hoysaleshwara, and one in the name of his queen Shantala – Shantaleshwara. Two huge Nandis face the shrines.
Here is one of those Nandis – which I call “ಅಣ್ಣ” – Older brother
The Nandi below is another famed bull from Karnataka – This is in Chamundi hill near Mysore. The statue seems to be from sometime during Mysore’s Odeyars rule – definitely a creation from a time later than the 15th century.
I call this one “ತಮ್ಮ” – Younger brother. If you go to Chamundi hill, do not miss to pay him a visit.
The ‘brothers’ may be centuries old, but remain as charming as when they were sculpted!
According to the Wikipedia, both these are among the largest 7 Nandis in India.
Picture courtesy: My camera.
The year 2007 got us a new set of Seven Wonders of the World. And, by a large vote, India’s Taj Mahal became one of the new Seven Wonders of the New World on 07-07-2007.
But I was surprised to see a news report that said as per the public opinion in India based on SMS polls for Seven Wonders of India, Taj Mahal fared so badly, making it a distant Third!
Here is a list of the 7 Wonders of India that this report mentioned. The numbers indicate the votes each place got.
1.The statue of Bahubali at Sravana Belgola, Karnataka (49%)
2. The Golden temple at Amritsar, Puanjab (24%)
3. Taj Mahal at Agra, Uttar Pradesh (8%)
4. The monuments at Hampe, Karnataka
5. The Sun Temple at Konarak, Orissa
6. The monunents of Nalanda, Bihar
7. Temples of Khajuraho, Madhyapradesh.
I am indeed glad to see two of the wonderful sevel to be from Karnataka. And even more, because I come from the viscinity of the #1 in the list.
After I saw this list, I made it a point to update the image on the top of this blog. Now it shows the lotus feet of Lord Bahubali atop the Vindhyagiri hill in Sravana Belagola.
For those interested in statistics, this monolith is 57 ft tall (who does not know that?), it was completed in the year 983 AD (well, many may know that too).
The letters you see in the picture on either side of the statue are proclaiming that the statue was made on the orders of Chavunda Raya, a General of Ganga Kings in no less than 3 languages ( Kannnada, Tamizh, Marathi – Some claim it is Konkani).
And this happens to be the oldest written record in Marathi language (or Konkani, if you belive those two languages had seperated out in 10th century AD). Now this may be some trivia that not many people know😉
The other two scripts you see in the picture (Kannada, and Tamizh) have had a written records from much earlier times. So this edict at the feet of Bahubali, are not as significant to the history of these languages as it is to Marathi, and Konkani, and end up as just another number in Epigraphia Carnatica.
I have not seen many of these 7 seven wonders. So I thought why not make up my own list of Seven Wonders of India among the places I have seen?
Here is my list of Seven Wonders of India:
1. The caves and frescoes at Ajanta, Maharashtra (1st – 7th century AD)
2. The Chalukya monuments at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakallu , Karnataka (5th – 8th century AD)
3. The Kailasa (Cave) temple at Ellora, Maharashtra (850 AD)
4. Monuments at Sravana Belagola, including the statue of Bahubali, Karnataka (3rd – 12th century AD)
5. Brihadeeshwara temple, Tanjavoor, Tamil Nadu (11th century AD)
6. Hoysaleswara-Shantaleshwara twin temple at Halebeedu, Karnataka (1117 AD)
7. The monuments (including the Stupa) at Saranath, Uttar Pradesh (3rd century BC – 3rd century AD)
No wonder you see more places from Karnataka than any other part of India – Because that is what I have seen most. There are still other places which I have seen, that could have made it to the list; like Hampe, which is in the list from the SMS opinion poll. But IMO, the art in cave temples in Badami, and temples of Aihole, and Pattadakallu rank much higher than that of the monuments in Hampi!
After I wrote my previous post on samasyA pooraNam, I was talking to one of my friends, and we were discussing samasyA pooraNam in languages other than samskRuta. Even though there are far more such examples in samskRuta, I know a few in kannaDa too, and I thought I should write about those. The riddles of kanti-hampa all belong to this category.
Kanti (ಕಂತಿ) was a poetess, said to have been in the court of HoysaLa king vIra ballALa in dvAra samudra (ದ್ವಾರ ಸಮುದ್ರ, ಹಳೇಬೀಡು) during the 13th century. So I can easily claim I am part of Kanti’s heritage even though displaced in time by about 7+ centuries, since I come from the same region ;) The picture at the top of my blog is the navaranga of the Hoysaleshwara temple in haLEbIDu (ಹಳೇಬೀಡು), and in all probability, Kanti has walked in the same passageways you see in the picture! There are some historians who doubt if it was a real person or if the imagination of some other witty kavi. Either way, the kanti-hampa problems are worth taking a look.
Kanti is said to be a contenmporary of Nagachandra, also called Abhinava Pampa, who composed Ramachandra charita purana. If she really existed, she would be one of the earliest women to compose poetry in kannaDa, after mahAdEviyakka (ಅಕ್ಕ ಮಹಾದೇವಿ).
If one believes the stories, Kanti got her extra-ordinary scholarship by drinking in a special formulation called jyOtishmatI taila. The story goes like this: after Kanti drank this potion, she could not tolerate the the burning sensation it produced in her throat and she jumped into a deserted well. Apparently, there wasn’t enough water to drown her in the well, and she started composing poetry right there, till people came to rescue her. This, I call a real cock-and-bull story created by some men who were jealous of a learned woman! In fact, a very similar story is also told about Nacharamma, another extra-ordinary woman who lead a migration of about 1000 families from Tamilnadu in historical times. More about that some other time.
Most of the poems of Kanti, are take the form of riddles posed by Nagachandra, and the solved by Kanti. It is said that Kanti always critisized, and found fault with Nagachandra, and his poetry. To really know what she felt about his poetry, Nagachandra once spread a rumour that he was dead. Hearing this, Kanti was grief stuck and came to Nagachandra’s house, and let out her feelings about his poetry, and what a great loss it would be for the world of poetry without him. This is a similar situaltion like the charamashlOka of King Bhoja, and we can’t be certain if it is true.
Some of what I am going to write, is from memory, so there could be lapses in terms of poetic meter, and some of the words may even be incorrect. However, they should be good enough to show the sparkle in Kanti’s poetry.
Once Nagachandra posed this question to Kanti.
ಸತ್ತವಳೆದ್ದು ತವರಿಗೆ ಪೋದಳೇನಿದು ವಿಚಿತ್ರಂ!
(What a surprise! The woman, long dead, got up and ran away!)
Kanti had a quick response.
ಅತ್ತೆಯ ಕಾಟವು ಅಧಿಕಂ ಮತ್ತಿನ ಸವತಿಯರ ಕಾಟ ನಾದಿನಿ ಬೈವಳು
ಪೆತ್ತಮಕ್ಕಳಳಲ್ಕೆ ಸಲೆಗಂಡ ದೂಸರಿಗಾರದೆ ಬೇಸತ್ತವಳೆದ್ದು ತವರಿಗೆ ಪೋದಳೇನಿದು ವಿಚಿತ್ರಂ?
Meaning: Woman who was fed up with wicked mother- in-law, scolding sister-in-law, horrible co-wives, crying kids and an intolerent husband walked away to her mothers house. What is the surprise in it?
Once Nagachandra gave a collection of words which are unrelated and asked Kanti to compose a poem including those words. The words included ಮಸೆಕಲ್ಲು (churning stone), ಕುದುರೆ (horse), ಬಾಚಿ, ಕೊಡಲಿ, ಉಳಿ (different metallic implements used by farmers and carpenters) and ಪೊಸ (new). What an incongruous set of words. Right? Wrong, as Kanti proves:
ಶಶಿಮುಖಿಗೆ ಕೊಡಲಿಕೆ ಆಕೆ
ಪೊಸವಣ್ಣಂ ಸವಿದು ನೋಡಿ ನಸುವುಳಿಯೆಂದಳ್
Meaning: While the mangoes were dropping down on the ground, when hit with stones, a woman (probably the maid) collected them all. When the fruits were given to the moon-faced woman, she tried them and said they were slightly tart!
There are many such more witty poems of Kanti. In one the line given is ಇಲಿಯಂ ತಿಂಬುದ ಕಂಡೆ ಜೈನರ ಮನೆಯೊಳ್ ( I saw mice being eaten in a jaina household). Anybody who knows jaina tradition knows the kind of vegitarianism they follow. Kanti completes the verse making it “ಸರಸಿಜಾಕ್ಷಿಯರ ಹಸ್ತದೊಳ್ ತಿಲತೈಲದಿ ಮಾಳ್ಪ ಚೆಕ್ಕಿಲಿಯಂ ತಿಂಬುದ ಕಂಡೆ ಜೈನರ ಮನೆಯೊಳ್” – I saw chakkulis, prepared tastily by frying in gingelly oil by lovely women, in a jaina household. Similarly, another line “ದನಮಂ ಕಡಿಕಡಿದು ಬಸದಿಗೆಳೆಯುತಿರ್ದರ್” – Cattle were being slaughtered and stcked in a basadi ( a jaina shrine) becomes “ಸಚ್ಚಂದನಮಂ ಕಡಿಕಡಿದು ಬಸದಿಗೆಳೆಯುತಿರ್ದರ್” – “Fragrant sandle wood, cut into pieces, was stacked in the basadi. ಇಸಮಂ ಸೇವಿಸಿ ಬಾಳ್ದರೇನಚ್ಚರಿಯೋ (What a surprise, they live even after consuming poison!) becomes a descripition of a delicious pAyasa – “ಪಾಯಿಸಮಂ ಸೇವಿಸಿ ಬಾಳ್ದರೇನಚ್ಚರಿಯೋ!, and ಗಜಮಂ ಕಟ್ಟಿ ಪೊತ್ತರು ಪೆಗಲೊಳ್ ( They wrapped an elephant, and carried on the shoulder) becomes a description of a worker in the Palace office, how he tallies the accounts, and carries the papers bundled on his shoulders to ends as “ಕಾಗಜಮಂ ಕಟ್ಟಿ ಪೊತ್ತರು ಪೆಗಲೊಳ್”.
We really have to regret that no other work of kanti has survived – except for these small snippets of her poetry. Whether she was a real woman, or concocted by someone later, these Kanti-Hampa riddles continue to entertain us even today.