Friday, January 22, 2010

Boulders! Ruins! Hampi!

First I want to mention with sadness the death of a former colleague on Tuesday. Evadne Sutherland was one of my favourite people at the Lifesaving Society Ontario Branch office, and I'll really miss her.

At Hampi in the state of Karnataka the surrounding monuments are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. More than 550 ruins are here, and it's easy to share the builders' view of the sacred, clearly present in the landscape. The capital of the Vijayanagar empire, according to the epic Ramayana, lies in the historical home of the monkey people. They feature on many of the carved pillars. I've included one pillar of Hanuman, the monkey king, kicking some butt.

The best views of Virupaksha Temple, founded in the 7th century and dedicated to Shiva, are from Hemakuta hill to the south. Temple ruins are scattered among the boulders, and carvings were chiseled directly into the stone.

To the north is the Tunghabadra River, where coracles cross to the ruins and villages on the other side. They were building a bridge, but it fell down.

Inside Vittala Temple is a famous carving of a chariot which is a shrine itself.

One of my favourite sites was the stepped tank fed by an aqueduct. Here I captured a few of the hundreds of school children who wanted to say hello, ask my name, and have their photo taken. They're about to swarm me!

The Elephant Stables are inside the Zenana. It was difficult to capture how grand they are!

I walked around behind the stables to the quieter temples, and took photos of some beautiful working girls who were cutting the grass.

Nearby is the Lotus Mahal, a summer palace for the queen.

The temple architecture was really interesting. Often the base was of stone carved from the boulders littering the landscape, while the spires were built from brick, with painted stucco decoration. South Indian culture has some major historical differences from North Indian culture, and one difference arises in the iconography. This detail is from the Krishna temple. The Laxmi Narasimha monolith was also new to me--and fascinating! This is Vishnu in his man-lion incarnation, worshipped mostly in the south.

The final day I went for puja at Virupaksha temple. As always, you must remove your shoes to enter a temple. I included this photo of the central shrine from behind three nandi because I stood in something disgusting to take it. Including it in my blog makes me feel like it was worth it!

Then I rented a bicycle and cycled around at my own pace. I recommend this method of exploring most highly. Just make sure you get a bicycle with a seat that stays up! I visited the Underground Temple, and the Queen's Bath; only the Octagonal Bath made the cut in for the now-common Facebook B-list.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy new year to all my old and new friends!

To celebrate the new year I travelled just outside of the city to the Big Wheels Motoring Club party. Lots of fun with friends, a huge dance floor outdoors, and a partial eclipse on a blue moon. Here are some photos of the fun with me, Yogesh, and Dhruv; Anita and Kishor; Neha and Shona; and Dhruv and Yogesh again with Vijay. I also unexpectedly met my former flatmate Richa.

There was one bad note to the night when I sprained my ankle badly. Of course it seemed okay at the time, so I spent the rest of the evening dancing, but then I woke up in pain at 5 in the morning. A trip to the doctor on New Year's Day supplied me with some painkillers and anti-inflammatories. It's still a little stiff, but at least no early morning painful awakenings!

This week I attended one evening of the Sawai Gandharva classical Indian music festival, where I heard Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya play the santoor, and Pandit Jasraj sing. Both performers were amazing!

I also have some new flatmates, Rinki and Sarita, who are filling the flat with energy. We decided to have a cook, which is awesome, and we also have internet at home. So look for me to chat!