Monday, November 28, 2016

From Memorial Stones to Guardian-Deities. A tale of many goddesses

Rows of cenotaphs filled the walled enclosure at the Devi Kund Sagar, Bikaner. Built of brown stone, and marble, these were the cenotaphs of the royal family. It was interesting to see that the memorials were different for men and women. The cenotaphs of the men had a standing stone with an image of Lakshmi Narayana carved on them, with detailed inscriptions giving their names, as well as family details, birth and death dates. In sharp contrast, those of women simply had footprints inscribed on stone.

Memorial stone in the cenotaph of a man, Devikund Sagar, Bikaner

Thursday, November 24, 2016

On a visit to the Border at Jaisalmer



Miles and miles of scrub land loomed ahead, interspersed with glimpses of sand dunes. A narrow path led us deeper into this expanse, and not a soul was to be seen anywhere. We had been driving for what seemed like hours, and I began to wonder just how much farther we were, from our destination. Soon, a tower made its appearance on the horizon, and we were able to see the barbed wire fences, which we had expected to see. It fitted perfectly with our idea of what a border should be like. What we hadn’t expected, was the young woman who waited for us at the fence.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Re-discovering the Thar at Jaisalmer

The first time I visited Jaisalmer, the sand dunes stretched before me, fascinating me with their contours, making me fall in love with the desert and its myriad patterns. The second time, it showed me a different side. It told me of the many stories that lay hidden beneath the sands, of times long gone, and the people who lived here. Earlier this year, as I set out for Jaisalmer once again, I wondered what the desert would show me this time.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Khajuraho Trip Planner

Whenever I think of Khajuraho, it is Dr. Devangana Desai that I first remember. I am transported back to the end of October 2015, when I listened, spellbound, to Dr. Desai, as she spoke about the Religious Imagery of Khajuraho, as part of the Indian Aesthetics course I was pursuing, at Jnanapravaha Mumbai. By the end of the lecture, I was so fascinated by the temples and their iconography, that the first thing I did when I got back home, was to check trains to Khajuraho! When I finally stood at the Kandariya Mahadev Temple two months later, craning my neck up to see as much as I could of the 84 mini- Shikaras, seeing the resemblance to the cave at Kailasa, the sense of awe was  only heightened. Yet, there was an odd sense of fulfillment, seeing the same sense of awe in the eyes of my 12 year old son who accompanied me.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Khajuraho - The Other Heritage

The temples of Khajuraho are so magnificent, that all other monuments in the area pale in comparison. Thus, relatively newer monuments, as well as other forms of heritage, which too deserve recognition, repair and maintenance, tend to get ignored. 



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Khajuraho - More Sculptures, and some thoughts as well!

Writing about Khajuraho was not easy, with so much already written on the temples, by those who have studied them in far more detail than I have. The form my posts eventually took was because of my attempt to classify the sculptures I had seen, to understand them in the wider context of the temples themselves. Now that I have shown you the Forms of Vishnu, Shiva, the Devi, the Ashta Dikpalas and the Ashta Vasus, let me show you a few sculptures which fit into none of these categories, but fascinated me all the same, for many reasons, and brought up a lot more thoughts as well, starting with this image of Kartikeya.

Kartikeya, Lakshmana Temple

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Power of 8 - The Ashta Dikpalas and Ashta Vasus at Khajuraho

The four cardinal directions form the axis on which a temple is built, and are thus the basis of temple architecture. Leading from them are the eight directions, which are believed to be guarded by the eight guardians, or Ashta Dikpalas. In the temples of Khajuraho, great care has been taken by the sculptors to carve the Ashta Dikpalas on the walls, both inside and outside. They not only guard the temple, but also look over us as we circumambulate the shrine, protecting us by their presence. They are augmented by the Ashta Vasus, celestial beings which represent natural phenomena. Together, they enhance the idea of the temple as cosmos, enfolding within it, all the aspects of nature, both, on earth, as well in space.


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