Nimmalakunta Leather Puppets – A day with Dalavai family…

11.12.2016:

10.00 hrs – We were at the Dharmavaram Bus station. We thought of shopping here and if time permits to head to another famous pilgrimage centre of Andhra Pradesh – Puttaparthy. Bilal and I were calculating the time and were walking towards the road when a board drew my attention. The board said ‘Welcome to the Nimmalakunta Art Village and Puppetry Workshop”. We dropped the plan of Puttaparty as we need to cover another important place and hence decided to visit this village. We hired an auto-rickshaw to take us there and drop us back in Dharmavaram.

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Nimmalakunta is a small village located 10 kms away from Dharmavaram town, which is famous for its leather puppets. There are different forms of traditional puppetry prevalent in rural areas in India. Shadow puppetry in Andhra Pradesh is referred by the name Tolubommalatta. ‘Tolu’ refers to leather; ‘bomma’ denotes doll and ‘atta’ means play. It is traditionally performed in villages and now in various theme restaurants and craft villages. The origin of Tolubommalatta in Andhra Pradesh has had a long history and the oral tradition and old scriptures suggests that the art form originated in 200 BC, when the rulers of Satavahana dynasty patronized it. The mode of entertainment in those good olden days! 🙂

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The components of a puppet show are the curtain, the audience sat before it, the commentator behind the curtain, the lights that throws the shadow on the screen and the puppets (actors). Episodes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are the popular themes selected. The puppets range from 3 to 6 feet in size. Among the Andhra Pradesh Puppeteers, the Nimmalakunta artists are well known both at the national and international level. The Nimmalakunta puppeteers are frequently seen in all the government sponsored exhibitions conducted in major cities all over India. They are also well known as leather craft artists.

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When we reached the village, the community center and the workshop were closed. Our auto-driver inquired, and to our luck – the Dalavai’s family turned to help us. Dalavai Chalapathi Rao is a famous shadow puppeteer, a national award winner and gave many a performances in the West.  His son started explaining us the various aspects of puppetry while his son was busy painting the lampshades and his wife busy in making the puppets. They explained us the process right from the procurement of the skin, processing it and how they are cut and designed. They showed us various pictures of puppets under the light in a dark room.

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Leather puppets of Andhra are large and made from translucent goat skin. The details are painted in bright colors and perforations are added. The designs are mainly mythological figures and occasionally the painters own creations. These drawings are done with a pencil. After making the designs, outlines are painted with black. Thereafter colors are filled in with vegetable dyes – brilliant red, green, white, yellow, brown and orange being the most popular. Many of these puppets have movable hands and legs and some, movable heads and necks 🙂 Elaborate ornamentation of puppets indicating jewellery and clothing is typical and amazing.

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They further told us that with the advent of television and cinema, leather puppetry is on the decline and that they are diversifying into the production of miniature puppets, lampshades and other utility items. The lamp shades are of much demand in the near-by Bangalore and Hyderabad and these people supply most of their work to these cities. I too bought a lamp shade before leaving the place 🙂

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Lepakshi – A date with history

09.12.2016:

19.00 hrs – Trivandrum : Boarded a Volvo bus to Bangalore. The bus was not that comfortable, yet manageable. And I had an assumption that they would stop somewhere in the middle for dinner, but they didn’t 😦 Sleep overcame my hunger and I was into my dreamworld within few moments and by the time opened my eyes, I was on the outer area of Bangalore. Though the arrival time was mentioned as 06.00 hrs in my itinerary, the bus reached Bangalore only by 08.00 hrs.

09.15 hrs – I was at my Aunt’s home in Bangalore. Quickly refreshed myself and filled my starving stomach with some yummy dosas prepared by my aunt. In the meanwhile, few of my aunt’s friends visited our home and my departure was delayed as my aunt started introducing me to everyone 😀 . Once done with the exchange of pleasantries, I took leave from them and headed to the Majestic Bus Station, from where I have to catch a bus going to my first destination – Lepakshi.

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12.30 hrs – There were no direct buses running in between Bangalore and Lepakshi, but there were a good number of buses running in between Bangalore and Bagepalli as well as Hindupur. There was this Bagepalli bus ready to leave and when I approached the driver, he asked me to get down at Bagepalli and head to Lepakshi which is 25 kms away. It took me three hours to reach Bagepalli and when I inquired about the buses to Lepakshi, the people there asked me to go to the Checkpost, from where I would be able to board some private buses or auto-rickshaws going to Lepakshi.

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03.30 hrs – After a 20 minutes journey in a tightly-packed auto-rickshaw (there were 13 members in all along with the driver in a 7 seater auto), I reached the check-post, where a private bus was waiting to leave to Hindupur via Lepakshi. The road leading to Lepakshi has an entrance with the mighty sculpture of Jatayu welcoming to this historical place. Also, there is a small Nandi statue in middle of the road representing the significance of this place. I got into the bus and took a ticket which costs Rs. 12 and it took me around 45 minutes to reach Lepakshi.

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Lepakshi, located in Anantapur district of southern Andhra Pradesh is an ideal weekend destination for people who are looking for an off-the-beaten-track day outing. To be frank, when I first heard about Lepakshi from Bilal, the first thing that came to my mind is the monolithic Nandi (the bull god) about which I read in my school textbooks and the story which explains the name Lepakshi. And finally, am here 🙂 🙂

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04.30 hrs – The bus dropped me in Lepakshi and I had to walk back for 10 minutes to see the marvel for which I traveled all the way from Trivandrum. There it was, the colossally large spectacular Nandi, which is 27 feet in length and 15 feet height and is amongst the biggest monolithic Nandi in India. What makes this structure more spectacular is the smooth structure and finely-carved ornaments on it! Besides the record size, the perfectly proportioned body, finely-carved ornaments, and smooth contours add to its grandeur. I walked around the Nandi and the surrounding gardens before heading to the other famous landmark – the Veerabhadra temple.

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By the way, if you feel peckish, there is this Andhra Pradesh Tourism Resort from where one can eat and the food is good 🙂

On board..

23.12.2015:

Near Magestic Bus Station, Bangalore @ 20.00 hrs – 3 friends (Mythri, Guneet and I 🙂 ) were standing outside a travel agency waiting for our bus to Goa. The roads were buzzing with people who are waiting for their turns to get into their respective buses to their respective holiday destinations. I checked with the travel agent about the arrival of our bus and came to know that they ain’t able to get a parking slot as there were too many buses on the road at that point of time and asked us to wait for some more time.

21.00 it was! Still no glimpses of our bus 😦 . It was only at 21.30 hrs we were able to board our bus. I think that was one of those extra options with the travel agency to meet the high passenger traffic on such days. It was an AC coach without any video screens or cell phone charging sockets. Lol! And to our surprise the entire lot in the bus were youngsters heading to their (our) party destination – GOA!! And our bus made a move only at 22.00 hrs which means we were late by 2 hrs :-0

We chatted for quite sometime, like the places which we need to visit, the mode of transport etc.. etc.. And I don’t remember anything further. By the time I opened my eyes and the curtains of my window @ 07.00 hrs on 24.12.2015, the day was bright with the sun beaming high in the sky and the road smooth and curvy with hills on both sides of it.  A pleasant sight indeed 🙂 . Guneet and Mythri were still sleeping under their sheets.

Around 08.00 hrs, the bus came to a halt and if you think that we reached Goa, you are mistaken! The bus stopped so that people can attend their nature calls. Lol!! 😀 It’s is almost like an isolated place from the rest of the world as I couldn’t find any other settlements near to this restaurant. All of a sudden there was a lot of activity around me. While some were brushing, some were waiting infront of the washrooms for their turn while some others attended their nature calls among the nature 😀 :-p .

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We resumed our journey and the driver kept his words. We reached Panjim around 10.30 hrs. Generally it would be the Auto-walas who will be surrounding us like the ants surrounding the jaggery, but in Goa, it’s different. One will be surrounded by Cab-walas and we were no exception. A middle-aged person called Rajesh offered us the best price to our resort and we were in. Goa is clean and neat with smooth roads and more cars. While we start moving closer to our resort which is on the Calungate beach side, the roads narrowed and were full of people walking, riding their bikes, some shopping while some were boozing 🙂

We reached our resort. To be frank, it’s not a resort as such, it’s more like serviced apartment with an open Bar-cum-restaurant in the Ground floor and our rooms in the first floor. The best part is that it is away from the traffic and near to the beach. We refreshed ourselves and Guneet and I decided to have a view of the beach-side while Mythri made herself busy washing her clothes. Interesting, isn’t it? Who else except Mythri, will be washing clothes while on a vacation to Goa?? 😀

Halebidu – The Hoyasala Beauty

Time for another tale 🙂 This time it is a blend of history, heritage, nature and adventure. One of my childhood friends and I decided to go on a short trip around Karnataka. Though we thought of going to Mangalore and Murudeshwar, we changed our mind and decided upon Chikmaglur. After a thorough discussion of the plan with some of our other friends, the only ones who could make up to the plan remained the same. That’s me and my friend 😀 . Though we decided to drop our plan initially, we hit the road on 10th of September finally 🙂 🙂

As it was only we two into the trip, we thought of choosing a package instead of driving ourselves to this place. In our search over the Internet, we came across a 2-day, 1-night package and found it feasible enough. The package was offered by the Karnataka Vacations and we contacted Mr. Mahesh, Manager of KV. He is an amicable person and made few quick changes we have asked for and the payment was done.

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We set on our trip from Bangalore at 10.00 AM from Bellandur, Bangalore and the cab driver Vasanth Kumar, though a very reserved person found to be quite friendly. We had our breakfast on our way and managed to be on the outskirts of Bangalore by 11.30 AM. The drive from here was smooth as the roads are in very good condition and there wasn’t too much of traffic. About a distance of 200 km from Bangalore, situated is the Hassan district and it took us around 3.5 hours to reach here and a further drive of around 30 kms left us at our first destination Halebidu.

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We got down our car and started walking towards the famous Hoyasaleswara temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple which was previously known as Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra, or the entrance to sea is believed to derive its name from the Hoyasala ruler King Vishnuvardhana Hoyaslaeswara. The temple has four entrances on east, west, and south and the visitors usually enter through the entrance on the north side. The temple is dark inside as there are no lights other than the light entering through the entrances.

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Inside the temple, there are huge pillars, highly polished and carved diligently and also few statues and it is said that no two statues looks like the same. There is a garbagriha (sanctum) inside the temple where in which the deity Hoyasaleswara is seated. We walked around the temple whose walls are carved very well; probably the best handiwork in entire India and the sculptures depict the mythological epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. This art which has been preserved so well even after many invasions and lootings by the Muslim rulers is truly astonishing 🙂

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There are two large mantapas hosting two large Nandi (the Bull god) statues in each one of them located such opposite to two of the temple entrances. And one of these is known to be the most beautifully decorated Nandi statue in India and is also amongst the largest statues among the world. The temple complex also has an archaeological museum which preserves the important excavations in and around the area.

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We finished our tour around the temple and headed towards Jain Basadi, which is located at a distance of 2km from the Hoyasala temple, and has three Jain temples dedicated to Parsavanatha (west), Adinatha (central), and Shantinatha (east) thirthankaras. We entered the temple complex through the gate at the West and walked towards the temple which is just infront of the entrance. This is built of soapstone and had a garbagriha. The most important attraction of this temple is the 18 ft tall Parsavanatha Tirtankara statue in the Garbhagriha (sanctum). The temples were so dark without any lamps and we should be very careful while walking inside the sanctums as we will be hardly able to see anything.

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The temple complex is not very rich in architecture on the outer walls of the temple. Though we can see some fine architecture inside the sanctums, we can hardly see any carvings on the outer walls of the temple except for some inscriptions. But the striking thing in this temple complex is that, while in one of the temples the pillars are highly ornate and coarse, the pillars in the other are highly polished and has a glossy look and touch. In all, Halebidu is a place which shows how secular the kings were in the good olden days.

Time for the next! 🙂 😉

NANDI HILLS – HILL OF HAPPINESS

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Nandi Hills or Nandidurg or Nandi Betta is an ancient hill fortress situated at a distance of about 65 kms from Bangalore, Karnataka. These lie at an average elevation of about 4850 ft above the sea level. A popular weekend destination and it can be easily reached as it is well connected by roads with Bangalore as well as Chikkaballapur. The route from Bangalore to Nandi hills is so scenic and interesting, as it gives us a chance of seeing some good temples, old forts, grape vineyards and mustard fields.

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And the curvy roads leading to the top of hills are best to trek or cycle. One can go for a road trek or a wild trek on the backside of the hill. Plenty of opportunities 🙂  If you own a bicycle, well fine and good otherwise there are lots of bicycling clubs which organizes weekend cycling trips. Can try one!

 The main attraction is the statue of the Nandi Bull which is located on top of the hill. And the belief is that the hills resemble a sleeping Nandi Bull, and hence the name Nandi Hills. There is also an ancient temple of Yoga Nandeeswara atop the hill. There are also temples dedicated to Sri Ugra Narasimha and Yoga Narasimha.

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The hill is the Sultan Tipu’s Summer Residence and there is a palace which is not open for public 😦 . Interesting place is the Tipu’s Drop, a 600 metre high cliff face, where prisoners and convicts during Tipu’s reign used to be pushed off this cliff. There is also a children’s park, for a while we too can be children swinging on the cradles. Lol!

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Nandi hills is a haven for nature lovers with magnificent views and enticing scenic spots, if we are lucky enough we can spot some wildlife too. One should not miss the sunrise here. The wind, fog and the clouds that blow towards us when we are in the midst of the tall trees on top of the hill before the sunrise is just amazing and a life-time experience. One won’t regret waking up at 4 in the morning after enjoying the sunrise here!

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Why can’t be this weekend itself? 🙂

Neetha – A cool introduction

One of the coldest months across all seasons being December sprinkled the idea (though not a weird one amongst a group of like-minded active sprouts) of Trekking. Oh yes, it’s not the thought of trekking that struck a chord of weirdness but the place of trekking in the coldest month – The Himalayan Terrain (Sandakphu) in the year 2013. Six friends set their foot and respective steps to the base camp and reporting place Darjeeling. A few started from Nagpur and I did from Rajahmundry and the plan was to meet at Kolkata and travel together from there to the base camp.

The date arrived when we realized the entire batch of this trekking effort comprised of 40 enthusiast participants out of which were 10 brave women! The management had allotted a single room for the women fraternity of this trek and it took us by a shock, of course not with any intention of breaking any of the mental manacles thinking of the irony of all of us getting ready at a specified time! As any other pillar to post running Day-1, ours were no lesser as we were asked to procure the medical certificates from Doctors at Darjeeling if we did not take them with us from our homes and also to assemble at 05:30 pm for an induction session.

Base camp Leader’s instructions were ringing deep in our ears that evening along with the list of DO’s and DON’T’s as we trek along. As we hissed through the chiming list that was unrolled, there walked in a young couple, quite delayed to the gathering when the strike was the girl that was so joyful and elated without a slightest of worry evading her for the delay in joining the session. Yes, you have been correct in your guessing that it is my MoIN (Mother India, if you would have ready her introductory article) alias Neetha.

The sparkle caught my eyes and ears once again while we were dining at the ground floor. Yes the same girl that was constantly talking to Ruthwik, her husband, who tried to focus munching, a little too silently in the gang of two! While we were back in our room with the hot chit-chat of the day of a girl and her boyfriend who had stepped in from Bangalore, there was a wave of air when the same girl bubbled in introducing herself and reaching out for ours!

While I had to slip away for a while to chirrup about our new companions to my mom in regional language – Telugu, with an assured heart that none around me shared the same language. Laughing my way out with my mom with Neetha besides and the topic was her! I had an attack between my jaws when I heard Neetha attend one of her calls once I was done in Telugu! I had to admit that there was nothing wrong that was conversed, though with a polite question reached out to Neetha, which received an evil smile in return – evil?..wicked?..cunning?..or just a pretention ?

Watch out!!

Meet my ‘Mo-In’ (Abbreviated name for Mother India)

Certain acquaintances in life don’t have a reason when we look forward. But they make a pristine sense when the dots are connected backward. One such meeting memory is Neetha – a young, energetic and enthusiastic woman from Bangalore that not just captured my heart but my complete family in less than a week and that’s what I believe is fate, for good! The staying together of this person had hardly been over a week till now, but she has created the deepest of the impressions in me not just by replacing my mother’s presence when she is not around, but also as a very good friend! Empathy, sympathy and integrity are the characteristics that distinguish my mom from all others and match with Neetha. They both are of the same wavelength which connects our bond.

There are very many resemblances to what ‘Mo-In’ and my Mother have gone through in their lives. Being father-less at a very young age and getting into the threshold of marriage has its own repercussions mentally which both these women have seen and experienced for their own selves. Facing all instances boldly and with all the courage in their nerves they have sailed through successfully and still confidently push it to their maximum limits.

Neetha takes the role of an elder daughter to my mother than being just my friend. She has understood the meaning and treasure of life and her way of living exemplifies that. She values people and emotions more than materials and money. She faces all problems with a vigor to resolve them since she ‘knows’ and believes that every problem has its own solution and that could be cracked under any circumstance. This character of hers amazes me and sprinkles in the strength to grow in life positively!

I have always thought relations built over short term might not last long, but she proved me wrong by constructing the mighty power bond, the knot of which took just over a week to be strengthened. It dates back to a medieval relation without much impact of technology wherein our hearts communicate with each other even without the modern signals. Yes, we connect over phone or messengers very sparsely, but have never felt the thinning of our relationship. Her action, caring attitude, resolving nature and managing with simplicity are just beyond perfection and admiration! Her support to me and my mom, as a friend, daughter and sister is being valued equally and prayed upon to last long. Such integral and mutual relations are more to be experienced than just elaborated. Thanking Neetha and Ruthwik (Neetha’s husband) profusely for the creative and lovely bond that they have extended to me and my family!