Friday, 15 October 2021

Tamil Nadu Archives building is to be renovated. TNA is one of the largest and oldest one in India

 Tamil Nadu Archives, Chennai

The Madras Record Office, presently called Tamil Nadu Archives (TNA), in Chennai is one of the oldest  and largest Government archives  facilities in this country.   Government documents - both post independence and the British era stored and archived in TNA are  of great help to the historians and researchers.  TNA also houses the early colonial period records - good collection  of  East India Company,  Dutch East India Company records, etc dating back to  late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and volumes related to various southern  Princely States.

Two old heritage buildings - TN Music School ( built in 1796; formerly called Brodie’s Castle)  on Greenways Road   and the building that houses the govt. records(archives) in Egmore are set for restoration by the TN government. 

The Tamil Nadu Achieves red-brick building (1909)  is not in good condition  The broken windows and pealing of plaster on the  exterior mar the look of this Indo-Saracenic structure.  Quite disturbing is the  addition of building that has impacted  on the heritage elements  and aesthetics. Experts say that special care will be take to  renovate the structure so that it will be a roll model for other heritage buildings of colonial period that require renovation.  Once renovated, the building can be maintained carefully as it has limited footfalls meaning  access to the building is very much restricted  to the limited staff and those who use it  for research, etc. In the case of public building, periodic maintenance is a necessity. 

The Tamil Nadu Archives, in Egmore, was built in

.Tamil Nadu Govt. Record office

The growth of the office of the archives in  Chennai is an interesting one.  First initiated  in  1672 William Langhorne, the Governor of Madras, the govt. records - transactions,  treaties, revenue, etc.,  for future reference and record  were first housed  in council room at Fort St. George  (the present day Secretariat-Assembly complex). 

As the volume of records kept growing and  became unmanageable due to lack of space, in 1805 Lord William Bentinck, then Governor of Madras presidency  constituted a separate Record Office to keep them in  one location. The office functioned in a few rooms   in the  old ‘Fort Square’ of  Fort St. George with  three writers and supporting staff to index, to look after and to issue records promptly on requisition from various departments for reference.  Earlier  collecting information from the govt. record was a  cumbersome job. 

The Record office until 1909 functioned at different locations.  In 1826, the record office   moved into  building called the ‘Pillar go down’ (known as the ‘Old Banqueting Hall/ Rajaji hall) then the site of the present Council Chamber. Again in  1888, it was moved over the ground floor of the Secretariat buildings  upon shifting of  the Govt. press that found a place in the Mint building. Here,  the documents were kept in open  record rack.  Then called the “General Record Office”, it became an integral part of the  the Chief Secretariat.

It was S.C. Hill,  who headed the Records of the Government of India, (when Lord Curzon was the Viceroy), and the Government of Madras in 1907  gave final shape to  the proposal of centralizing the records. It  included   construction of a separate building for  the secretariat records, but also for  the Board of Revenue and the  Collectorate  One C.M. Schmidt, the Registrar of the Chief Secretariat inaugurated the office  and continued  his position for a period. 

In 1909, the Madras Record Office was constituted on an independent basis with a separate establishment; and in 1910, a full-time Curator was appointed,  Henry Dodwell, M.A., an officer of the Educational Department,  was in charge of the new office.  As to the building   decision was taken to rebuild  Grasmere (govt. Bungalow) for the archives and the building contractor was   P. Loganathan Mudaliar (later in the early 20th century Tarapore-Loganathan company became a major building construction contractor in Chennai).  The  cost of new archives building built in Indo-Saracenic style with red bricks was ₹2.25 lakh. An additional ₹1.25 lakh was spent on stacks and furniture.  The building had  enough  open spaces for future expansion and constructed to provide maximum protection to the records. In October 1909 the building was opened and in the same year    came up  the administrative block and six record stacks  The seventh stack  and later 8th and 9th stacks were added  in 1929 and in 1938 respectively. Further additions were made in the later years after 1974.  In 1999 a new building for housing the Archival Library was constructed.


Digitization of archives

 In the view of increasing  applications roughly 50 to 80 each day from people seeking information t the State Archives  already started the digitization of all the records including  those of East India Company data and other colonial era data. In the last few years they provided information to   65000  persons. The cost of the Tamil Nadu Innovation Initiative Schemes for digitization  would be around  Rs 12.68 crore.”  The Tamil Nadu Archives have vast collection of records from various departments of the erstwhile Board of Revenue, the Secretariat, records from Collect orates, district court dating from 1670. The digitization work had begun in 2020 in earnest  to provide online access of the data to students and others. The State Planning Commission had approved a sum of of Rs 2.46 crore for the online service. It will be a  boon to the college students and history teachers. 

Besides the library is a veritable storehouse of knowledge and has more than 230000 books periodicals research papers, etc.,  and  lots of students, researchers and academics make a beeline to this place for reference and research. No doubt, the huge and diverse collection of rare books dating as back as from  1633 and rare records  in Dutch, Danish and Persian language will benefit the enlightened the historians and researchers.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Mogul era diamond-crusted spectacles to be auctioned by Sotheby's of London

diamond-emerald studded Mogul era

For the rich and famous  elite of Europe and America India has been of great interest to  them in the area of rare artifacts, antique brass idols, breath-taking  diamond crusted jewelry, etc. They know very well the diamonds of past era mined from Kollur mines (Golconda) are flawless and of superior quality with very low impurities. There has been a demand for the jewelry from the collections of Mogul rulers, Indian Maharajahs and the Nizam of Hyderabad. The proposed auction of diamond-crusted spectacles of Mogul era of India by Sotheby's (a British-founded American multinational corporation headquartered in New York City)  of London toward the end of this month was a welcome news for the aristocrats and the rich because they did not know what to do with their vast wealth!!

When  the  world famous Auction Houses like Sotheby's or Christie put up India related jewelry, etc., from the Mogul or Maharajahs' collections  at an auction you  can expect a large turnout of the rich and elite because they know very well that the items to be auctioned are something special, exotic and carry amazing workmanship. 

That a  pair of rare unrecorded diamond and emerald crusted spectacles from an unknown Indian princely treasury will be sold at an auction in London by  Sotheby's  later this month (October 2021) is  an exciting news. The items to be sold at the auction are neither jewelry nor some kind of rare artifacts; it is a rare gift from the other part of the globe to observe  the kaleidoscopic world through diamonds and emeralds - just eye-glasses. 

Mogul era spectacles with diamonds,

According to the famous auction house Sotheby's who caters to needs of eccentric and weird English aristocrats  and others  the lenses were set  in the Mughal-era frames around 1890. The lenses made with diamonds were not meant for poor eye sight problem, rather they were  thought to provide enlightenment.  Sotheby's said that a diamond and an emerald were shaped into the two spectacles.

To get the attention of the rich and famous, they came up with an interesting  catchy caption, a sort of publicity gimmick: Emeralds were believed to have miraculous powers to heal and to ward off evil. The likelihood is the successful bidder at the ensuing auction will be  protected or insulated  from possible ''spell'' or some kind of sorcery  by wearing the unique specs. 

Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby's for Middle East and India, said,  ''These extraordinary curiosities bring together myriad threads - from the technical mastery of the cutter and the genius of craftsmanship to the vision of a patron who chose to fashion two pairs of glasses quite unlike anything ever seen before,"    As part of wide publicity before the scheduled auction  sale, the spectacles  were  exhibited  for the first time in Hong Kong between  7-11 October  and  will be on display  in London (between  22-26 October).  Sotheby's says the rare and fascinating spectacles - one of a kind in the world, will be offered at auction for £1.5m-2.5m ($2m-$3.4m) each; indeed a whooping sum.  This unique item of beauty and belief is supposedly a  status symbol. It contains  a diamond pair named the Halo of Light, and the emerald pair named the Gate of Paradise.

Mogul era diamond crusted spectacles.

No doubt  the quality and purity of  gemstones  used in the specs is superb with fine luster.  Further  stones of this size would no doubt have  gotten the attention of the ruler. 

As to the origin of these specs or which ruler commissioned them, the  historical  record is not clear. Belonging the the dynasty of Mogul  that ruled the subcontinent in the 16th and 17th centuries, this rare pair of  spectacles will bear testimony to the  ingenuity and  artistic talents of the goldsmiths of the past era. They remained in a private collection for almost half a century  In  1890, the lenses were placed in new frames and decorated with rose-cut diamonds.

Regarding the origin of  precious stones, the diamond lenses - cleaved as a pair from a single natural diamond - are thought to be from the  Kollur mines (Andhra state) of Golconda kingdom in southern India. The teardrop-shaped emeralds are believed to be from a single natural Colombian emerald.

Normally ordinary lenses  are used in the specs  to improve eye-sight. But the Mogul spectacles have filters - apparently, they were   aids for spiritual  awakening or exhilaration The diamonds are set to   illuminate and emeralds are  used  to heal and  ward off evil. 

The auction house said the use  of  precious stone to watch events by the royals  of Europe was in vogue in the past era.  Roman Emperor Nero used the  surface of a precious green stone to watch gladiatorial contests.  Nero's tutor, Seneca, was quite familiar with  refraction of light, mirrors, and optics and was  thought to have made first-ever spectacles.

Commenting on the Mughal pieces, in a brief interview to Sotheby’s, famous art historian and writer William Dalrymple said ''The owner was taking an extraordinary risk because the original diamond which was split to create the lenses must have been between 200-300 karats." .

A couple of rare and  prized spectacles, studded with diamonds and emerald lenses from Mughal era of India, it is expected might fetch  around £4 million  at the  auction  to be held in London toward the end of this month.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

The Rajkumar College (RKC), one of the oldest schools founded by royal families of Kathiavad, GJ

The Rajkumar college, Rajkot, GJ.

India has lots of pretty old schools  established in the early 19th century CE. With exceptions most of them  were founded by the Christian missionaries  to impart education to the European community and also to the local people. They engaged in educational activities in the midst of their evangelical work in the nook and corner of India.  There were many schools established by the rich Indians  to cover the native of various communities. Among them there were some  schools founded by the princely families to exclusively educate their children  so that they could get better education and be trained to run the princely states. One of the reputed schools is Rajkumar college of Rajkot, Gujarat.

Rajkot location map.

The Rajkumar College ( often referred to as  RKC) in Rajkot, Gujarat,  one of the oldest K-12 institutions in India  was  established in 1868 by 27 erstwhile princely states of Saurashtra (Kathiawad) for imparting education to  children from their royal families.  It was  granted permission  ''under the royal decree of the British Crown to impart a wholesome and complete finishing education to the young princes of Kathiwar to enable them to rule their provinces better and be groomed into the ideal noble gentlemen.'' Post independence ‘RKC’ accepts students aged from 5 to 18 from all walks of life.

Rajkumar college, Rajkot, GJ.

Rajkumar college, CBSC residential

 Set on a  huge land comprising  26-acre (105,000 m²) campus in the prime area of Rajkot, the building was  designed by Colonel Keatinge and was formally opened by the Governor of Bombay Presidency, H. B. Sir Seymour Fitzgerald  in 1870.  It is mentioned that  the size of campus has been reduced to 11 acres presently and it  includes besides college buildings, housing sporting facilities,  offices, etc. 

Rajkumar college, Rajkot,

The college became a public school  in 1938, thanks to the efforts made by  founding members.  The college motto is Yasya Bhuddhi, Balam Tasya  meaning "Power is where there is knowledge". Another plus is it  is a founding member of the Indian Public Schools Conference and a member of the Round Square conference of schools, a worldwide association of more than 60 schools. The latter  encourages  students to travel between schools and tour the country or do community service, thus giving them wide exposure outside the realm of education. 

It was in 2001 the college,  for the first time, encouraged co-education opening  its doors  wide open  for aspiring  girls. Earlier, it had been a boys'  domain for more than 100 years. The school had around  50 girls initially  with  boarding facilities. With the expansion of school and its reputation on the increase  more girls showed  interest in joining RKC, the Rajkumar College for Girls, a secondary school was opened  on 24 March 2011 by Kamla Beniwal, Governor of Gujarat. 

The Rajkumar College Administration  runs what is called  ''Priyalok Villas'', a pre-school program for the kids; it in 1909 functioned in Hyde sanatorium and now it has a separate building.  The advantage is it has  access to all the facilities  available at the  Rajkumar College.

This college gives importance to sports and their teams actively participate in inter public school competitions  at district/ /state/national level events. Likewise students are encouraged to play an active role in  various cultural activities, public speaking /recitation/debates, etc. Besides improving their academic potential, the school focuses on  their creativity, interpersonal relationship and personality development through service. 

Once the students successfully passed out  the portals of the school, they are well trained to take on further challenges at the college level, this way the school prepares  them at the  early stage itself to confront  problems in public life, personal life and in the work-space.


The 27 members (hailing from royal families)  of  the prestigious college recently ( 3rd week of Sept. 2021) conducted an election to the Board of Trustees . Surprisingly, it was an inconclusive one as the  polling resulted in tie on five out of seven seats on Sunday with the election officer saying that his office would approach the Gujarat High Court for further directions.

Polling for the four seats of ‘A’ Group comprising 11 large erstwhile princely states in Saurashtra as well as to the three seats of ‘B’ Group comprising 10 smaller erstwhile princely states was conducted at RKC campus from 9 am to 5 pm.,_Rajkot

Victoria Town Hall, Chennai - renovation work going at a snail's phase!!

Victorial Hall.

Victoria town Hall, Chennai, TN.

Above image: this heritage structure  is made of Red brick and  lime mortar,  rectangular in plan;  it has an Italianate tower with  a Travancore-style roof.  Ground floor: built-up area of 13,342 sq ft; First floor:  built-up area of 12,541 sq ft. The building has two big halls (on ground and first floors) and  each with a seating capacity of 600 people.  The wooden gallery in the eastern end can accommodate  more than 200 persons. 

 Specially designed  arcaded verandahs along the northern and southern sides in the hall on the first floor supported on sleek Corinthian stone columns   were meant to keep the interiors cool. The attractive features are the 3 story tall  square tower, a carved pyramidal roof,  intricately carved terracotta cornice. To handle the crowds,  the hall  has four staircases;  three lead to the hall on the first floor and one to the balcony, and four turrets. A massive  building with  with 30 broad doors on the ground, first and balcony floors. (

Victoria Hall, chennai. /

Victoria Hall, chennai. /

Victoria town  Hall, a landmark building  in Chennai was  designed by popular British architect  Robert Chisholm (1840–1915) in a Romanesque style. However  he confined his design style  to  Indo-Saracenic architecture. The construction contract work was done  by Namperumal Chetty, a well known building contractor, between 1888 and 1890.  Regarding opening ceremony, one version says it was done   by  Lord Connemara in 1887,according to the other one  Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, the governor of Madras during 1886–1890, declared open the hall in January same year. The money for the project was raised through public subscriptions and contributors included many Maharajahs and prominent citizens. Steeped in India's  history of freedom struggle, this hall was a silent spectator to the oratorical exuberance of famous people like Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Sardar Vallabhai  patel and Mahakavi Bharati.  The pioneers of Tamil play, such as Sankaradoss Swamigal and Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar  introduced their plays, at the hall. Yet another surprising fact is it was at this hall first cinema show was held in Chennai. The floor area was 25,883 sq ft (2,000 m2) and the construction cost was Rs.16425. The municipal corporation of Madras  leased out a 57-ground (3.14 acres) site  for this purpose for 99 years (from 1April 886)

Opened in 1887, it is one of two buildings built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee; the other one being the National Art Gallery in the Government Museum complex, Egmore. Prior to independence, it  served as a theatre and public assembly room in the late 19th century. Later  before India's independence public meetings were held..  The colonial building was not kept in good condition and it started losing its splendor due to time factor and poor  periodic maintenance work. The heritage enthusiasts and monuments lovers are furious over the lethargic attitude of the officials. Right before our eyes  in the last 33 years  of disuse a fine colonial red-brick structure is crumbling and the structure has to be saved from falling into total neglect.  Several portions on the wooden staircase on the first floor are damaged. Staircase to the balcony is beyond redemption, almost lost. Because of broken Mangalore tiles the roof is leaky. Growth of vegetation and cracks on the exterior have turned the beautiful building into a sort of haunted place, one that has been abandoned for good.  

 That the heritage building remained closed for a period of 40 years soon after its renovation in 1967 when late C.N Annadurai was the CM will  give you some idea about the callous attitude of the city officials toward this  colonial building. Negligence  with respect to heritage structures is just appalling. Since then no proper civil work has been done. It was former Union Minister and Gov. of Maharashtra Late  C. Subramaniam rededicated the building in  1993. Earlier Suresh Krishna of TVS  Group - then Sheriff of Madras salvaged part of this historical building. 

 For a pretty long time, the city authority has been planning to renovate the heritage building, but the work was moving at a snail's phase.   In 2010  Rs. 7 cr  was allotted for the restoration of this structure. The money was spent on  flooring, staircases and plastering of the interior walls were completed. According to the city authority 70% of the restoration work was over by that time and further stopped as the funds stopped coming in.   As part of it there  was proposal to introduce  sound and light shows, host musical concerts on week ends, etc; the idea was to convert it into a tourist spot.  Subsequently, it was put in the cold storage.  

The corporation had handed over a part of the land to the Chennai Metro Rail Limited in 2012 for construction work. The CMRL undertook  landscaping in the area. The historical structure was opened to the public in 1887 to commemorate the Golden jubilee of Queen Victoria 

In 2016,  again the restoration work was taken up  for action. The  work on false ceiling,  roof, plastering, doors and windows was completed  and  work on  toilets, balcony, flooring and outer plastering  had not been taken up. The work became  stalled again  due to the on going  metro rail project. This project if completed soon, and be converted into an important tourist sport as part f smart city plan, it will  not only add value to the city, besides  retaining the old colonial structure, but also it will solve the problem of public space with a nice ambiance. The corporation of Chennai sought  Rs .28.78 crores from the Government of India for  renovation of the structure including the near-by Ripon building. 


Queen Victoria.

Above image:  Victoria,  Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901 was a popular female monarch.  Often referred to as  the Victorian era, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than any previous British monarch in history. During her period the british Empire grew by leaps and bounds. In 1876 the  British  Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of ''Empress of India''. Sooner after her death in 1901 many memorials came up in India. Mention may be made of the Victoria Memorial Hall in Calcutta,  several statues came up one being the huge  marble statue of Queen Victoria in Bangalore. several hospitals and building were named after her. In almost every Indian state one can see a memorial in her name.  She never had  set her foot in India though she remained the most popular and influential  British royal ever during the Raj.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Rotating Narasimha pillar and ornate Mohini pillar of Chennakesava temple, Belur, KA

 chennakesava-temple-Belur, KA

Above image: Narasimha ornate pillar, Chennakesava temple, Belur, Karnataka. Unlike other Hoysala temples which are incomplete,this temple is a a functional one and pujas are done periodically......... ............................ 

Narasimha Pillar,  Chennakesava temple, Belur:

ornate pillars chennakesava-temple-Belur, KA

Above image: Narasimha ornate pillar, Chennakesava temple, Belur, Karnataka;. 2th-century carved pillar inside the temple  You can notice the  minute reliefs and and fine carving.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

 Chennakesava Temple of Belur, Karnataka is a classical example Hoysala temple architecture that departs from the basic of Dravida style prevalent in other southern parts of India.  It is a haven for architects,  artists and photographers. Among the various features in the temple  like sculptures, relief work, ornamentation on the ceiling, etc. this post is about the mesmerizing stone  pillars in the temple. In .the interior of the temple, the visitors step into a new world of architectural grandeur in the form of pillars and sculptures.   These pillars carry the stamp of rich Hoysala designs that may stagger you imagination. Poetry in stone, this temple is a standing monument of the opulence  of Hoysala rulers and their  imaginative artisans.. 

.Cenral square of the hall. chennakesava-temple-Belur,

Above image: ornate pillars in the central part of navagraha hall (mantap). each pillar has different ornamentation; no repetition.  .ome of the other pillars beautifully designed, the second pillar here is the central pillar of the Navaranga...............................

Originally known as Vijayanarayana Temple it is  on the banks of the Yagachi River in Belur, Hassan district, Karnataka. Belur is located 40 km from Hassan city.  The Hoysala  King Vishnuvardhana had this temple built to commemorate his dynasty's  victory over the mighty  Cholas in the battle of Talakad.

.location map. Belur, Karnataka.

There are about 50 intricately decorated stone pillars inside the temple and  they are made of soapstone, a soft kind of rock. Four pillars are centrally located and 38 outside. Each of 42 pillars has  a bracket figure of Celestial damsels (Shilabalika). The pillars are lathe-turned with distinct patterns and other details were carved on them.  Among them,   the Narasimha pillar  and the Mohini pillar  are most attractive and worth mentioning. The capital of the former is in  stellate shape and the latter is noted   for the single life-size image of a sensual nymph.  The  pillar also has the image of Narasimha (an avatar of Vishnu) on the Pillar. The other one has the image of Mohini (female avatar of God Vishnu).

Narasimha Pillar, though look like a circular pillar, in reality, it is polygonal in shape and each face carries the carved images and other details. It is a tall one with a height of about 30 feet.

It is often mentioned by the visitors that this pillar inside the dark part of the mantap  was designed in such a way it was  once capable of rotating on its axis without any hitch. Once  the visitors  were able to rotate the pillar above the circular end. The moot question is why was this pillar made rotatable?. Had it anything to do with prayer or any temple  ritual?  Was it carefully made to establish the  expertise and mastery of Hoysala   sculptors  in the area of  detailed stone carvings with arresting geometric patterns?  Unfortunately, for various reasons rotation mechanism   doesn’t work any more; perhaps it may be due to time factor or irregular handling of the pillar in the past. (The  rotating mechanism –had  ball-bearings at the bottom and top  to enable it to rotate about its own axis). It is also mentioned that the mechanism stopped working after the Vimana and shikara were damaged. 

None of the historical Indian temples of past era  have this kind of stone pillar with built-in mechanism to rotate on its axis. As most pillars are identical, to locate this particular Narashimha pillar,  a big  donation box  (Undi) of the temple is  kept near-by. 

Narasimha pillar, Chennakesava temple,

Above image: Richly carved  Narsimha pillars  with minute figures all round from the top to the bottom.  Quite amazing is a  tiny bull (Kadali-basava)  as small as a seed is  carved with care . A small space on the south face of the pillar is  believed to have  been left blank on purpose  by the sculptor to be filled up with the figure of a god later. What made the artist to design a stone pillar with a turning mechanism is a riddle that needs  acceptable answer...............................

The circular end of the pillar rests on a pedestal at the bottom and above  the circular end, there is a rectangular base. Above it  the pillar becomes circular again.  This circular space has six horizontal layers, each having  several miniature shrines carved into it. 

The pillar gradually gently tapers above the horizontal layers ending up with  two disc-like features and  a wide disc Atop  the disc rests an inverted cone  with a polygonal slab which is overlain by the capital of the pillar. 

The base of the pillars has  nice reliefs and the depiction includes mythological  episodes such as  Samudra Manthana, Lanka king Ravana shaking Mount Kailash, (abode of God Shiva),etc.


The Mohini pillar. Chennakesava temple, Belur:

Mohini image on pillar, Chennakesava

Mohini pillar, Chennakesava temple, Belur.

Mohini pillar, Chennakesava temple,

It is one among a few temples where the female form of Sri Vishnu -Mohini is meticulously carved on the pillar 

Though the  pillar is  called the Mohini Pillar,  it also has other avatars of Sri Vishnu, besides Brahma,  Shiva, etc. the eight direction deities (Ashta dhikku Devita), mythical animals with the body of a lion ,etc.  The Mohini image is carved into a locally available black stone. The pillar is  close to  the dance floo inside the Navaranga hall (mantap)..Impressively executed  Mohini pillar in the navaranga  has  sixteen pointed star plan vertically. It is decorated with a narrow band of filigree work.

A bit of  mythology -  Legend has it  during the churning of  the Ocean of Milk (Samudra Manthana) to get Amrita, the nectar of immortality by the   Asuras on one side  and  Devas (Demi-Gods) on the other side,  Mohini (female form of Sri Vishnu)  appeared as a by-product.  The giant serpent Vasuki  was used as a large  rope  and Mt. Meru was used  for churning.  At the final phase Asuras cleverly stole  the Amrita.  Disappointed Devas were concerned about the safety of the world as Amrita fell into the hands of trecherous Asuras. To retrieve the nectar of immortality  Vishnu  took the form of a beautiful woman enticed  Asuras and cleverly  got back the pot of  amrita for  the Devas. 

The carved image of Mohini on the pillar is quite fascinating. This feat was done roughly 900 years ago. The bejeweled Mohini is  artistically carved on the pillar - correctly proportioned  slim body  with a graceful stance and cool look. The image has a crown and also  a waist band (udiyana), anklets  and armbands. The wearing  of the yajnopavita  (sacred thread) suggests that  Mohini is indeed an avatar of  God Vishnu.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Importance of ''Pradakshina'' in a Hindu temple and 17 interesting facts

open Prakaram Dravidian temple 1915 sketch

The ''Pradakshina'' (also spelled Prathakshina) in a Hindu temple  involves walking barefoot around the garbagriha or the shrine in a clock-wise fashion. The number of pradakshina or circles depends on the discretion of the devotees.   Almost every Hindu temple has a prakaram  (corridor or Pradakshina path) or more than one within the temple premises.  The pradakshina  path  around the shrine  may be an ''open one'' or  with a  ''covered roof''  and there are temples that have both open as well as closed prakara. In Tamil Nadu The Ramanatha Swamy temple of  Rameswaram  has closed   prakara(s) so are  the Nellaiappar Shiva temple of Thirunlveli and Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. The Brihadeeswar temple at Thanjavur has an open prakara unlike the above-mentioned temples. 

Brihadeeswarar temple, Thanjavur, open prakaram.

Nellaiappar temple prakaram (closed)

Rameswaram temple, closed prakaram.

The following are interesting facts:

01. Pradakshina''  has been an integral  part of  Hindu worship in a temple and this tradition has been in vogue for centuries. The meaning of Sanskrit word ''Parikrama'' is  “the path surrounding something.” It is also also known as Pradakshina (“to the right”)  meaning  to circle or circumambulate  clock-wise ritually. The pradakshina worship ritual implies that our thoughts and actions should be centered on God. The subtle explanation is whatever we do it should be within the realm  of Dharma - following the righteous path. (just like the planets that orbit on the same path) Why  is pradakshina done clock-wise?  Right from the smallest electrons  to the planets  in the universe  every thing is  being controlled by  some force that forms the center around which they move around in the  clockwise direction. 

.clock-wise pradakshna

02. The Pradakshina worship starts  right from the flag-staff -  the Dwajasthambam  in clockwise direction; one  cycle completes upon reaching the flag-post - the starting point.  

03. Pradakhina  worship ritual should be done only after completing prayer and puja ritual in the main shrine. 

Pradakshina and positivity.

04. The number of Pradakshina depends on the wish of the devotees, it must be in odd numbers - 3, 9 and 11 (21 and 108 circles are rare).

05. Some learned  pundits say that we must do pradakshina in odd number in the case of goddesses and even number with respect to male gods. Specific number of Pradakshina is recommended,  say 7 as there are  Sapta-devtas such as  Shri Ganesh, Deity Shiva, Shriram, Deity Hanuman, Deity Datta, Shri Durga and Sri krishna.   Swayambhu Agama recommends   Pradakshina 21 times to any deity is well and good.

06. Upon completing the required number of Pradakshina, the devotee must fall prostrate (namaskaram) before the main shrine on the right side of the flag-post. Your entire body must be touching the ground. It is symbolic of total surrender to the all-pervading God. 

07. This is the reason why there are many sub shrines on the prathakshna path and they will  help us focus our attention on the almighty; the eternal truth is the almighty is the center of  main focus

08. Doing pradakshina is roughly equal to going around the fire (''Agni'') and holy trees. Devout  Hindus will never fail to go around Tulsi plant that is kept in their  house on a platform called ''Maadam''. They almost do it in the morning and also in the evening and it is done for the welfare of the family.  

09. Likewise childless  women , according to a common belief among Hindu women, particularly in the villages, will  walk barefoot  around the  Peepal tree daily  or on certain auspicious days for a particular period.  The strong belief is they will be blessed with a child.  In the interior villages of Tamil Nadu  devotees walk  barefoot around the shrine as well the tree and one can see a small shrine of God Ganesha under the Peepal tree. 

10. In the temple everything is related to the divinity in  the sanctum  or garbagriha (the most sanctified place on the temple premises) which forms the center point and devotees actually are walking barefoot around the God,  The belief is the positive energy - God's  grace  radiating from him in all direction will benefit the devotees. Your mind also  gets rejuvenated  at the end.

11. Doing Pradakshina is something like cleansing our body and soul and it should done with devotion and  dedication. Chanting Narayana or Shivaya namha  or any  short mantra like Ashtottara   is good  if visiting the Vishnu or Shiva temple, etc. 

12. From the health point of view  walking barefoot on the unpolished  rough stone floor of the temple will improve your blood circulation to a considerable degree. Chanting of mantra is a sort of meditation and this might calm your mind if agitated. If it is a big temple walking around the prakara  several times is a kind of aerobic exercise and is good for the heart. 

13. The pradakshina  must be done slowly and should not be done in a hurry. Don't ever engage in conversation while going around the shrine.

14. The  word  Pradakshina(m) (pra-da kshi na or nam) implies devotees will be blessed with healthy and prosperous life without fear and most importantly they will ultimately get salvation  

15. “Pra” implies removal of fears and worries,  “Da” (or 'TH'') refers to salvation or moksha / renunciation, “KSHI” implies curing  of all  sorts  of diseases (Sarva vyadhi nivarana), “NA (M)” suggests all round prosperity and wealth.

16. The overall Pradakshina worship is also a way of expressing our keen  desire to get  moksha (salvation; free from birth and death cycles); it is a symbol of total surrender to the lord, to be with him under his divine shadow. 

17. .Four kinds of Pradakshina:

a.  Atma Pradakshina –  We go around ourselves  and this done on completion of daily prayer, fasting, etc. It symbolizes the removal of ego from us. 

b.  Pada Pradakshina – It means devotees must go around the shrine  barefoot., preferably holding the hands in supplication.  

c.  Danda Pradakshina – A devotee is required to take a step  and  do sashtanga pranama, again take another step and do sashtang pranam (Sa ashta anga meaning  eight parts of the body touching the ground).

Anga Pradakshina. in a temple

d.  Anga Pradakshinam - This is the most difficult one, not advisable to senior  devotees. It involves a devotee lying on the floor and then roll around the shrine  with  wet clothes on.

''Dodda Basappa Temple'' at Dambal, an epitome of Western Chalukya temple architecture Karnataka.

12th CE Dodda Basappa temple, Dambal, KA

Dodda Basappa Temple (dedicated to Shiva) at Dambal, Karnataka has a unique 24-pointed, uninterrupted stellate (star-shaped), 7-tiered  Dravida  gopuram  (tower). The noted features of this 12th Century CE  temple  are besides  twenty-four pointed stellate plan of Vimana, reliefs on the walls of the temple -  in projections and recesses: Kirtimukha, Pilasters and Dravida style miniature towers (aedicule)

Chalukya style. Dodda Basappa temple, Dambal,

ornate stone pillar. Dodda Basappa temple at Dambalbl, KA

 Above image: The carved pillars in the south porch of the  12th century CE Dodda Basappa temple at Dambal,  Photo by taken by Henry Cousins in the 1880s. It is built on a stellar plan with many angled projections. The sanctuary covered by a multi-story roof has walls  decorated with pilasters and miniature temple towers in relief. The columns of the mandapa and of the sanctuary are similar to those of the Hoysala temples, polished and lathe-turned pillars. In the porch at the eastern end of the temple there is a stone Nandi which gives the temple its name..................................

Doddabasappa Temple,  a 12th-century Western Chalukyan architectural  splendor  in Dambal, Karnataka state is a popular destination for tourists interested in temple architecture.  Located at  Dambal 20 km  SE  Gadag city  in Koppal district, the temple is a good example of western chalukyan  temple design with reference to its exterior  ornamentation. 

 Dodda Basappa temple, Karnataka.

The presiding deity in the sanctum is God Shiva in the form of a linga.  The standard temple interior configuration includes a sanctum (cella),  a vestibule (antarala) and a main mantapa (also called navaranga or hall). The  sanctum is connected to the mantap through  the vestibule. The Chalukyan  temple designs  follow the tradition of Dravida style (of south India) with much emphasis on local elements.  A star shaped design  - stellate  design  obtained by rotating a square about its center is positively  a departure from basic Dradiva style. The temple has two doorways each with a porch, one facing south and the other facing east and in the court yard there is a  large recumbent  stone image of Nandi (bull) traditionally facing the main shrine where God Shiva is enshrined.

Gadag district, Karnataka.

This is the only temple in this state that has  24-pointed uninterrupted stellate (star-shaped) plan and  carved out of soapstone and the inspiration came from the stellate plans of  the Bhumija shrines of central India.  Here the temples have  32-pointed interrupted types.  The Dodda Basappa temple, is a rare exception. In the case of an 'interrupted' stellate plan, the stellate outline is interrupted by orthogonal (right-angle) projections in the cardinal directions,  imparting a star like points.  

The star projections are  found  right up the superstructure / gopuram or tower over the shrine — Shikhara),  No doubt, they offer a unique and  exotic look but in terms of strength  and rigidity, it is not as strong as the superstructure in square plan as in  conventional Dravida  style. The Dravida style tiers are not noticeable here

Lacking the elegance of the Kasivisvesvara Temple in Lakkundi the pillars are made in a complicated manner  .Quite interesting that there is a space over the  entrance to the shrine: it is  a decorative architrave with space for images (now missing) of the  Trinity Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.  The God will  occupy the central position, depending on which god would be dedicated  - Vishnu or Shiva.

Dodda Basappa temple, Karnataka. Step-well,

As for the garbagriha - sanctum, the entrance   carries  elaborate decorations on both sides with floral  designs  containing small  images of dancers, musicians and even a Mithuna couple (Gemini).

In the main mantapa (hall) there are fine decorations and one can see many gods' images from the Hindu pantheon such as Surya , Brahma, etc.God Brahma has 5 heads with his vahana  the goose,


Western Chalukya architecture, a brief note: 

Western Chalukya architecture, Karnataka.

Dodda Basappa Temple in Dambal,

Above image:  Twenty-four pointed stellate plan of vimana of Dodda Basappa Temple in Dambal, 12th century. Western Chalukya temple architecture. ..................

.Western Chalkya pillars in the temple.

Western Chalukya architecture frequently referred to as Kalyani Chalukya or Later Chalukya architecture,  has a  distinctive style of ornamentation  that  was evolved during the rule of the Western Chalukya Empire in the Tungabhadra region  (covering vast areas of the Deccan Plateau) of modern central Karnataka  during the 11th and 12th centuries. They also used lathe-turned stone pillars to support the roof of the halls (mantaps).  The  cultural and temple-building activates were at peak in the Tungabhadra region and it points out  their influence and opulence.  Here lies a large number of  medieval  numerous monuments forming  regional variants of pre-existing Dravida  style of  temple design; this local variants are called   Vesara or Karnata Dravida.  Chalukyan also built several decorative step wells in their region. Temples of all sizes built in  Chalukyan architecture (also called Gadag style)  to day bear testimony to their ingenuity and improvisation of  pre-existing architectural style.