Around this time last year, I visited Lohargal in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan in search of a stepwell. I found the stepwell or Chetan Das ki Baoli, And along the way also stumbled upon a temple dedicated to the Pandavas, with a very interesting story attached to it.
The Pandava temple (shrine would actually be a more appropriate word) is on one side of the narrow pathway that leads to the main and ancient temple, dedicated to the sun. I would not have given this shrine, whose walls are covered with subway tiles, a second look if the priest hadn’t called out to me and told me to stop. I did out of politeness and was glad that I did for I had never seen or heard of a Pandava temple in worship till then.
It’s the night before Diwali (sorry for the completely unoriginal beginning). It is 10.30 pm and I am at home savouring the calm after a week of hectic house cleaning and shopping and helping my mother make some sweets and savouries.
The house is fragrant with the til (sesame) oil that my mother has just heated with some herbs and spices for the ritual oil bath tomorrow. The new clothes that my parents and I will be wearing tomorrow are stacked in a beautiful bronze tray for my father to hand out after the morning oil bath. The Diwali sweets (theratipal and okkarai) and the savouries (tenkozhal and cornflakes chivda) are also laid out with the leghiyam, a spicy ginger preparation, which is supposed to be a cure against the effects of gluttony that one normally indulges in during Diwali. The rice kolam has been drawn at the entrance to our house, and the clay diyas have been lit and all is well with the world. Well almost. This is the calm before the storm—the storm of firecrackers.
To most Indians, Deepavali or Diwali is not about new clothes, an endless orgy of eating, holidays, and gifts—it is about bursting firecrackers, and the louder they are the better it is. And this is the reason why I hate dislike Diwali so much. I am petrified of firecrackers.
I recall some Diwalis spent crying non-stop and other Diwalis trying to cope and manage with a brave face. As I grew older, the crying bouts gave way to sullen anger and sulking episodes during Diwali. I must admit here that this is something that I have not got over completely, even today.
Like every year, this year too, I have made a conscious effort to not let the firecrackers get to me. It hasn’t been smooth sailing though—a sudden burst of crackers at the market place, where I was buying vegetables yesterday, almost had me bursting into tears. The children in my building, who have been busy with their bagfuls of firecrackers throughout the day today have also severely tested my resolve.
The temples and other monuments of Hampi were built over 3 centuries, destroyed over a period of 6 months, and “seen” by our group over two, half-day sessions. Obviously, we could not do justice to all the monuments.
This meant that while we spent more time at the Hazara Rama Temple, the Vittala Temple, as well as the monuments of the royal family, we breezed through the Krishna Temple, the Badavilinga Temple, the Ugranarasimha or Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, and Kadalekalu Ganesha and Sasivekalu Ganesha Temples. We could not visit some monuments at all—the Hemakuta group of monuments, the Ganagatti Jain Temple, the octagonal water tank, Bhima’s Gate, etc., were pointed out to us by our guide in passing.
So, while I cannot write a detailed post on these quick visits here, I will compensate that with some photographic impressions of those “breeze in, breeze out” visits here.
For me, the Hazara Rama Temple is right on top of the list of temples I liked in Hampi. This is not one of the biggest or the grandest of temples in Hampi, but it is certainly the most intimate temple, a temple which felt like my own personal space. It is also the temple with the most intricate carvings, which begin with the outer walls of the temple complex itself.
Inside, the temple is no less ornamental. It is full of bas reliefs from the life of Rama or Krishna, both avatars of Vishnu. I was very proud of myself for being able to recognise the various characters in the panels and reliefs and the stories that were trying to convey. All thanks to the stories that my grandmothers and my mother narrated to me in my childhood. And of course, Amar Chitra Katha!
All monuments in Hampi have been built out of granite, the local stone. Only in two places have other stones been used and that too for decorative purposes, rather than as a building stone per se. The first instance is at the Mahanavami Dibba where a green schist has been used as a cladding stone. The second instance is at the Mahamandapa of the Hazara Rama Temple, where 4 pillars made from black Cuddapah stone—brought all the way from present day Andhra Pradesh—have been installed. The carvings on these pillars are also from the lives of Rama and Krishna and are simply awesome. The gleam of the black pillars in the cool, dim light of the Mahamandapa is indescribable.
I do not buy this theory simply because of the nature of the bazaar outside the Temple. Like all the main temples in Hampi, the Hazara Rama Temple too had a bazaar outside its premises—the Paan-Supaari Bazaar. Now tell me, why would a bazaar outside the so-called Royal Temple, be selling paan (betel leaf) and supaari (betel nut)? If the bazaar had been selling precious stones and gold and silver items, I might have been willing to consider the fact that the Hazara Temple was exclusively meant for the Vijayanagara Royal Family.
What do you think?
P.S.: This visit was part of a tour organised by Doreen D’Sa of Doe’s Ecotours. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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Read more about my trip to Hampi through the following posts: