The First Temple for Ram

||Sree Rama ramaaiti ramerame Manorame. Sahasranama tatulyam Rama nama varanane||

This verse from Vishnu Sahasranamam, (1000 names in praise of Rama) Adi Shankara wrote a definitive commentary in the 8th century AD.

I am travelling with few friends from Proddatur in Kadapa District, Andhra Pradesh to Tirupati the abode of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji) in Chittore district in Andhra Pradesh.

My car driver whose name is also Tirupati suddenly broke the silence. He said “Saar, do you want visit the first temple for Lord Rama in the world?” I said “wow, why not”

Inscription dates back to 1356 AD



So we stopped in front of the imposing temple located in a small town called Vontimitta. I found the temple very clean for a change. The grand entrance and the ‘dwaja Stambha’ caught my attention.

According to the local legend, the temple was built by Vontudu and Mittudu, who were robbers-turned-devotees of Rama.

The temple was built during the reign of  Chola and Vijayanagara kings around the 16th century. Bhakra Potana who lived in Vontimitta The saint-poet Annamachaya composed and sang songs in praise of Rama. 

Jean-Baptist’s Tabernier, a French traveler who had visited this temple in 1652, appreciated the elegance of the temple’s architecture.

Saint Annamacharya

In the garbhagriha (sanctum Santorum), the central icon of Rama along with his consort Sita and Lakshmana are carved as a composite image, out of a single rock. It is also inferred that the garbhagriha is itself carved out of a single block.The monkey-god Hanuman, Rama’s devotee, who is generally shown with the trio is missing here. Because the temple was built before Rama met Hanuman.

I was offered sweet and salt Pongal. I devoured the food as I was so hungry after three hours drive.

Even I started to step out, the temple musicians and the singer started the evening concert with the shloka from Vishnu Sahasranamam.

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Bezawada or Vijayawada

Sri Kanaka Durga Temple 

Taking off on a packed Indigo flight from Delhi despite the warning of the cyclone Pethai, Vijayawada brings so many memories. Touching to a smooth landing what hits you is the humid air.

Returning to this city after three decades, nothing much has changed since I left. Hospitality has kept with the times. New flashy hotels equipped with air conditioned bars are reaching out to the young crowd. Blaring music from Telugu films and smoke filled bars seems the attitude towards so-called enjoyment remains unchanged.

Someone said don’t leave the city without trying the local cuisine. Keeping with the advise, I ventured to trust the cab driver to take me to a place where I can have the famous Andhra biryani. Let me be honest here, one plate of chicken biryani was good enough for three people. But the taste was below my expectations. I don’t know if the cooks are sparing the spices or trying to please the average palate.  I decide to stick to local vegetarian delicacies of which I will be sharing in my next post. But in the mean time feast on the potato and corn samosa


M A N D U

I was recently offered an opportunity to travel through Madhya Pradesh. Besides visiting the State’s capital city Bhopal, I had a bucket full of places to visit in Madhya Pradesh.  I jumped at the idea and took off to Bhopal.  The journey took me to several sacred places like Ujjain, Mahakaleswar, Maheswar, and Mandu. 

Mandu was a flourishing town in 6th century.  A merchant named Chandra Simha according to an inscription installed a statue in a temple of Parshvanatha located in Mandapa Durga.  The word Mandu is believed to be taken from this town.

Mandu unlike the places I visited is full of rich history.  Mandu depicts joy of life, etched in stone a story of love and  blossoming romance of the lovers who bonded over music.  If I mention the name of Malik Bayazid, no one would know who it was.  Malik, son of Shujaat Khan a Governor of Malwa crowned himself as an independent ruler and bestowed upon himself the title Baz Bahadur.  His love for music brought Rani Rupmati closer to him.  The love between these two is immortalised in many stories and perhaps in movies. 

Mandu in the Vindhya mountain ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet was an important military outpost.  This garrison town with a periphery of 82 kms is guarded by 12 major gateways.  This fortification holds a large number of palaces, mosques, jain temples, gardens, lakes and ponds. 

Mandu is believed to be the largest standing fortified city in the world.

Court Yard, Baz Bahadur’s Palace
Bathing pool, Baz Bahadur’s Palace

Mandu, photographer’s delight.

The architecture is a fusion of Hindu, Afghan and Roman styles.  It is said that the structures inspired the master builders of Taj Mahal many centuries later.  Among many buildings, few of them take the cake.  Baz Bahadur’s Palace, Rani Roopmati’s Pavillion, Hindola Mahal, Jami Maszid and the famous Jahaz Mahal.

Rani Rupmati’s Pavillion

Winding approach to Rupmati’s Pavillion
Large openings, Rupmati;s Pavillion
The terrace over looking the Vindhyas, Rupmati Pavillion

The Khalji Dynasty of Malwa (1436-1531) was established by Mohammed Khalji.  The dynasty reched great heights under his son Ghias-ud-din Khalji in 1469. a teetotaller, Ghias-ud-din maintained a huge harem of few thousand women.  Among them was Rani Rupmati. To house all these women, the king built Jahaz Mahal (ship shaped palace) on the narrow strip of land between two water tanks; Munj and Kapur tanks and when these tank are full, the building looks like a ship floating in the waters.

 

THE JAMI MASJID

The most majestic building existing at Mandu is Jami Masjid.  It is believed that the Jami Masid is designed after the great masque in Damascus.  The Mosque was constructed by Hoshang and completed by Mahmud Khalji in 1454 AD.

The roof was destroyed in a major earth quake

The major influence of Hindu architecture and motifs can be seen all over the Jami Masjid.

THE TOMB OF HOSHANG SHAH

Hoshang Shah (1406-1435) was crowned the ruler of Malwa.

When to Visit:

Mandu has a tropical climatic conditions throughout the year.  The best period is July to March.

How to reach:

Mandu is just 99 kms from Indore Airport.  It is also well connected by road and rail with the rest of the country.

Where to Stay:

MP Tourism has excellent resort with independent luxury cottages. The Malwa Resort has full fledged Bar and Restaurant which serves excellent food.

Pervej my Guide in Mandu.  Very well informed and he is a linguist and very well mannered. His contact No: 09752548067

SUN WORSHIP

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Over the generations, mankind’s obisience to the celestial bright Star called SUN in our Universe which is life source without which our planet is doomed.  There are many civilisations over the centuries worshiped the Sun as God.

Here in India the ritual of worshiping the rising Sun first thing is seen all over the country.  One such notable ritual which comes once in a year during the Karthik month on the sixth day, is known by the name Chhath.  Predominantly celebrated in Bihar and Nepal.

Two legends associated with Chhath Puja or ritual is one that goes back to Ramayana and the other to Mahabharata days.

When Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his exile; being a Suryavanshi, he, along with Sita, observed a fast in honour of the Sun God and broke it on the next day, at the break of dawn.

 In Mahabharata, Karna, the prominent mythological character is the son of the Sun God and Kunti. He would  offer his prayers to the Sun God while standing in the water.

It is also believed that Draupadi along with the Pandavas, performed a similar puja on the advice of Sage Dhaumya, to win their Kingdom back from the Kauravas.

As we celebrate this ritual in present times, keeping with the core beliefs, we also have become more connected with the world.  The gadgets have become very part of our lives.

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Food is very important and is closely associated with any religious festival.  While we have evolved in many respects, but not in the respect of general hygiene to our surroundings.

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Link

003-_PSI2133I never say no when I get an invitation to visit Bhopal.  The city adorned with lakes and blessed with all round weather, Bhopal offers the glimpse to the old and the new.  One such attempt to show case the social and demographic lifestyles of several tribes in Madhya Pradesh is the result of this fascinating Museum dedicated to the tribes.  Located on the sprawling Shyamala Hills covering an area of seven acres, the Museum is a must visit.

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Legend:

The vast diverse character comes from differences in heredity, lifestyle, cultural traditions,social-economic behaviour, religious beliefs along with language and speech.

The main tribes in Madhya Pradesh are Gond, Bhil, Korku, Bhariya, Haiba, Kaul, Mariya, and Sahariya.

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The mammoth effort with pains taking detail is very monumental in nature.

018-_PSI2179Memorial Tree of Maadiya Tribe.

029-_PSI2198028-_PSI2196022-_PSI2183018-_PSI2179014-_PSI2167010-_PSI2152The creation of tribal lifestyle to its minute detail is worthy of appreciation.

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Port Arthur is a small town and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula, in TasmaniaAustralia. Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most significant heritage areas and an open-air museum.

The site forms part of the Australian Convict Sites, a World Heritage property consisting of eleven remnant penal sites originally built within the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries on fertile Australian coastal strips. Collectively, these sites, including Port Arthur, now represent, “…the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts.”[3]

Port Arthur is officially Tasmania’s top tourist attraction. It is located approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) south east of the state capital, Hobart. In 1996 it was the scene of the worst mass murder event in post-colonial Australian history.

Port Arthur is located approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) south east of the state capital, Hobart, on the Tasman Peninsula. The scenic drive from Hobart, via the Tasman Highway to Sorell and the Arthur Highway to Port Arthur, takes around 90 minutes and covers approximately 96 kilometres (60 mi). Transport from Hobart to the site is also available via bus or ferry, and various companies offer day tours from Hobart.

At the 2016 census, Port Arthur and the surrounding area had a population of 1049.[1]

History[edit]

Port Arthur was named after George Arthur, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land. The settlement started as a timber station in 1830, but it is best known for being a penal colony.

From 1833 until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here, a quite undesirable punishment. In addition Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.

Port Arthur was one example of the “Separate Prison Typology” (sometimes known as the Model prison), which emerged from Jeremy Bentham’s theories and his panopticon.[4] The prison was completed in 1853 but then extended in 1855. The layout of the prison was fairly symmetrical. It was a cross shape with exercise yards at each corner. The prisoner wings were each connected to the surveillance core of the Prison as well as the Chapel, in the Centre Hall.[5] From this surveillance hub each wing could be clearly seen, although individual cells could not. This is how the Separate Prison at Port Arthur differed from the original theory of the Panopticon.[4]

The Separate Prison System also signaled a shift from physical punishment to psychological punishment. It was thought that the hard corporal punishment, such as whippings, used in other penal stations only served to harden criminals, and did nothing to turn them from their immoral ways. For example, food was used to reward well-behaved prisoners and as punishment for troublemakers. As a reward, a prisoner could receive larger amounts of food or even luxury items such as tea, sugar and tobacco. As punishment, the prisoners would receive the bare minimum of bread and water.[6] Under this system of punishment the “Silent System” was implemented in the building. Here prisoners were hooded and made to stay silent, this was supposed to allow time for the prisoner to reflect upon the actions which had brought him there. Many of the prisoners in the Separate Prison developed mental illness from the lack of light and sound.[7] This was an unintended outcome although the asylum was built right next to the Separate Prison. In many ways Port Arthur was the model for many of the penal reform movement, despite shipping, housing and slave-labour use of convicts being as harsh, or worse, than others stations around the nation.

The peninsula on which Port Arthur is located is a naturally secure site by being surrounded by water (rumoured by the administration to be shark-infested). The 30m wide isthmus of Eaglehawk Neck that was the only connection to the mainland was fenced and guarded by soldiers, man traps and half-starved dogs.

Contact between visiting seamen and prisoners was barred. Ships had to check in their sails and oars upon landing to prevent any escapes. However, many attempts were made, and some were successful. Boats were seized and rowed or sailed long distances to freedom.

In 1836, a tramway was established between Taranna and a jetty in Long Bay, north of Port Arthur. The sole propulsion was convicts.[8] One of the last remaining sections of the tramway can be viewed at the Federation Chocolate Factory at Taranna.

Smooth Island in Norfolk Bay was most likely used to grow fresh vegetables for the Port Arthur penal settlement.[9]

Port Arthur was sold as an inescapable prison, much like the later Alcatraz Island in the United States. Some prisoners were not discouraged by this, and tried to escape. Martin Cash successfully escaped along with two others. One of the most infamous incidents, simply for its bizarreness, was the escape attempt of one George “Billy” Hunt. Hunt disguised himself using a kangaroo hide and tried to flee across the Neck, but the half-starved guards on duty tried to shoot him to supplement their meager rations. When he noticed them sighting him up, Hunt threw off his disguise and surrendered, receiving 150 lashes.

Port Arthur was also the destination for juvenile convicts, receiving many boys, some as young as nine. The boys were separated from the main convict population and kept on Point Puer, the British Empire‘s second boys’ prison.[10] Like the adults, the boys were used in hard labour such as stone cutting and construction. One of the buildings constructed was one of Australia’s first non-denominational churches, built in a gothic style. Attendance of the weekly Sunday service was compulsory for the prison population. Critics of the new system noted that this and other measures seemed to have negligible impact on reformation.

Despite its reputation as a pioneering institution for the new, enlightened view of imprisonment, Port Arthur was still in reality as harsh and brutal as other penal settlements. Some critics might even suggest that its use of psychological punishment, compounded with no hope of escape, made it one of the worst. Some tales suggest that prisoners committed murder (an offence punishable by death) just to escape the desolation of life at the camp. The Island of the Dead was the destination for all who died inside the prison camps. Of the 1646 graves recorded to exist there, only 180, those of prison staff and military personnel, are marked. The prison closed in 1877.

Tourism development[edit]

Before Port Arthur was abandoned as a Prison in 1877, some people saw the potential tourist attraction. David Burn, who visited the Prison in 1842, was awed by the Peninsula’s beauty and believed that many would come to visit it.[11] This opinion was not shared by all. For example, Anthony Trollope in 1872 declared that no man desired to see the “strange ruins” of Port Arthur.[11]

After the Prison closed much of the property was put up for auction. However, most of the property was not sold until 1889.[11] By this time, the area had become increasingly popular and the prison buildings were in decay. As the Hobart Mercury proclaimed, “the buildings themselves are fast going to decay, and in a few years will attract nobody; for they will be ruins without anything to make them worthy of respect, or even remembrance.[11]

The decay was seen as something positive as the Tasmanian population wished to distance themselves from the dark image of Port Arthur. Those who bought Port Arthur property began tearing down the buildings,[11] the destruction was furthered by the fires of 1895 and 1897 which destroyed the old prison house, and earth tremors.[11] In place of the Prison Port Arthur, the town of Carnarvon was born. The town was named after the British Secretary of State and the population was said to be “refined and intellectual.[11]” The town brought in many visitors as they encouraged boating, fishing and shooting in the natural beauty of the Peninsula. They again wished to remove the negative connotation attached to the area.[11]

Despite this wish, the haunting stories of Port Arthur prisoners and circulating ghost stories brought popularity to the remaining prison ruins. This was helped by the popular novels For the Term of His Natural Life (1874) by Marcus Clarke and The Broad Arrow (1859) by Caroline Leakey, which concerned themselves about convicts in Port Arthur.[11]

Port Arthur, Tasmania as a tourist place

In 1927 tourism had grown to the point where the area’s name was reverted to Port Arthur. 1916 saw the establishment of the Scenery Preservation Board (SPB) which took the management of Port Arthur out of the hands of the locals. By the 1970s the National Parks and Wildlife Service began managing the site.

In 1979 funding was received to preserve the site as a tourist destination, due to its historical significance. The “working” elements of the Port Arthur community such as the post office and municipal offices were moved to nearby Nubeena. Several magnificent sandstone structures, built by convicts working under hard labour conditions, were cleaned of ivy overgrowth and restored to a condition similar to their appearance in the 19th century. Buildings include the “Model Prison“, the Guard Tower, the Church, and the remnants of the main penitentiary. The buildings are surrounded by lush green parkland.

The mass graves on The Isle of the Dead also attract visitors. The air about the small bush-covered island is described as possessing “melancholic” and “tranquil” qualities by visitors.

Point Puer, across the harbour from the main settlement, was the site of the first boys’ reformatory in the British Empire. Boys sent there were given some basic education, and taught trade skills.

After entering the Historic Site, visitors can either survey the site for themselves, or participate in guided tours of the Site, a harbour cruise, tours to the Isle of the Dead and Point Puer and evening Historic Ghost Tours. There is also a museum, containing written records, tools, clothing and other curiosities from convict times, a Convict Gallery with displays of the various trades and work undertaken by convicts, and a research room where visitors can check up on any convict ancestors. Visitor facilities include two cafes, a bistro that operates each evening, gift shop, and other facilities.

Conservation management[edit]

Since 1987, the site has been managed by the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority,[12] with conservation works funded by the Tasmanian Government and the admission fees paid by visitors. Volunteer groups have been working at the building sites of Point Puer to help researchers gain a better understanding of the history of the boys’ prison.

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO inscribed the Port Arthur Historic Site and the Coal Mines Historic Site onto the World Heritage Register on 31 July 2010, as part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property.[3]

To this day, Port Arthur is one of Australia’s best known historical sites, receiving over 250,000 visitors each year.[13] The government puts significant money in the upkeep of site.

The site will be effected by rising sea waters level in the coming years due to global warming, a problem that is spotted all over Southern Australia.[14]

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I decided to drive down to Melbourne from Adeleide taking the Great Ocean Drive.  It is one of the best road trips I have ever made.  It’s a life time opportunity. A friend of mine told me to travel by road if I wanted to see Australia.

Before I left India, I received confirmation from my host that I can drive in Australia on my Indian driver’s license.  They drive on the left side as we do in India and all vehicles are right hand drive.  After sharpening my driving skills on the Adeleide roads, I was sure I can independently drive without harming any Kangaroos crossing the roads.

The car rental executive was waiting for me at 8 am with the keys and documents.  He took a photocopy of the driver’s license swiped the credit card and wished me a safe journey.  The Vehicle a Hyundai SUV (most of the cars have automatic transmission) purred as I engaged the car into drive mode.  After setting the GPS, I was ready to take the journey to Melbourne via The Great Ocean Drive.

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The Great Ocean Drive is an Australian National Heritage stretching 243 kms along the south eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford.  The road was built by soldiers between 1919 and 1932 is dedicated to the soldiers killed during the World War I.  Believe it or not, the road is the world’s largest war memorial.

The beauty of this drive is it passes winding terrain along the coast with an access to some of the prominent landmarks which include the Twelve Apostles, the natural limestone formations.

Even after 75 years, the road is as good as new.

The Great ocean Road Marathon, a 45 km distance was run first in 2005.  The current marathon record as per the published record was run by one James Kipkelwon of Kenya in 27 minutes and 42 seconds.

The Twelve Apostles : Port Campbell

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Otway Rain Forest Layers & Skywalks

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Mount Gambier : The Blue Lake

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Warrnambool

A night halt at Warrnambool.  The place I stayed is a camper’s paradise.  Have a look.

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Next morning after a sumptuous breakfast, loaded the car with luggage without realising the flat tyre.  One call to the car rental company, in half an hour’s time, the on road rescue vehicle came and fixed the tyre in no time.  No questions asked.  And I was back on road once again.

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