Dharmavaram – The Woven Heritage

One of the world’s oldest and perhaps the only surviving unstitched garment from the past, saree has now become a sensuous and glamorous dress for women. Saree, ranging from 4 metres to 9 metres in length, is a traditional attire worn by women in India. Though centuries have passed since the sari was conceived as the Indian women’s hereditary costume, its charm has not waned till date. In-spite of the limited scope for any change in the garment, it seems to have a limitless future for every new generation of women.

Unstitched garment which is considered sacred in Hindu tradition, Sari evolving from the prakrit word “sattika” which is most sacred garment for females not only symbolizes cultural, grace and elegance but also an epitome of courage and strength as depicted by Rani Lakshmi Bhai during the war of independence. This 5 yard fabric has been a unifying feature, despite the variation in its wearing style in different parts of India. Draped around the body in such a way that midriff is left bare so that the navel which is center of creativity and life embraces the positivity from the Panchatantra of environment and recreating the abundance in the form of new life (fetus), is a reflection of women’s ‘inner supreme self’.

roopkala-orange-dharmavaram-silk-saree-sdl430155844-3-4e277India has a number of silk weaving clusters that are known for unique designs, weaves, colors, patterns, traditional knowledge and processes that are specific to a geographical region, and are guarded for centuries. Andhra Pradesh is a treasure of traditional handloom silks known for their distinct and typical style of products. Dharmavaram is a famous hub for its unique silks and a small town of rich handloom weaving cluster located at a distance of 47 km from Anantapur, has enthralled, endeared and throbbed the hearts of millions of women with its elegant, splendrous and classic silk sarees. The traditional, heavy, broad bordered rich with buta sarees of Dharmavaram have world wide popularity.

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My mom is a huge fan of Sarees and especially she likes to have a collection of all from the various weaving clusters of India. And I too love to add things to her collection and hence decided to visit Dharmavaram. On our way back from Nimmalakunta, we asked our auto-driver to drop us at Naesaepet which is the landmark of Dharmavaram, having more than 1000 shops selling sarees. Though it is a difficult task to find out a shop which is genuine (had a very bad experience in Kancheepuram 😦 ), with belief in our guts, we entered a shop. With the cash crunch going on, we first inquired whether there are any ATMs nearby and whether they would be accepting card payments πŸ˜€ . The response was negative, but we turned it to positive πŸ™‚

The shopkeeper and his assistant started showing us a wide-varieties of silk sarees. It is said that each and every thread of a Dharmavaram saree is hand woven. The silk sarees are exclusively made of mulberry silk woven by hand, with elaborate zari work woven on them in resplendent colors. These sarees are known for their excellent weaving quality, rich look and feel. Evidence of origin of Dharmavaram sarees can be found in the roof wall painting of Lepakshi temple. There are a total of 280 designs in the temple, constructed during the year 1522 to 1538 AD. A place called the “Latha Mandapam” wherein 36 rock pillars have 144 unique designs of Dharmavaram sarees!

indexThe shopkeeper explained us that the weavers and designers of Dharmavaram are continuing the legacy of yester year designers and experimenting on silk weaves and producing array of unique designer silk sarees. The hallmark of Dharmavaram Sarees are the motifs and designs adapted from the sculptures of temples at Lepakshi and Tadipatri and other motifs of nature like peacock, deer, flowers etc. The Dharmavaram Sarees may range between Rs. 6000 to Rs. 100000. I bought a silk saree for my mom and a cotton saree for my mam back at office. Both were satisfied with the quality of the products as well as the prices πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ .

We bid a bye to them and thanked for explaining us the rich history of the place and the sarees πŸ™‚

Thank you Shweta for the opening paragraphs in this article :). Shweta – a well-educated and humored person with passion for fashion, beauty and entrepreneurship can be reached @Β  https://shwetasinghspeaks.wordpress.com

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A day in Anantapur

20.30 hrs – I reached Anantapur (120 kms) after a well-spent evening at Lepakshi. Bilal – a brother, is going to join me from here. We reserved our rooms in the nearby SRS Regency Hotel, which is clean and neat enough with spacious rooms. We ventured out looking for a good restaurant to have our dinner and ended up at the Hotel Masineni Grand, a three star hotel. As it was a Saturday and there is this habit of having tiffin on Saturday evenings in Andhra Pradesh, a special tiffin buffet was arranged in their restaurant. The buffet had various delicacies like the famous Rava Dosa, Onion Dosa, Idli, Button Idli, Chole Batura, Rava Upma along with some vegetable noodles and sweetcorn soup.Β  They served some freshly prepared grape juice too. Try this restaurant for sure!!

After a hearty meal, we headed to the Ganga Gowri Gayathri Movie Complex to watch a Telugu movie ‘Yekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada‘. It is all together another different experience for me as the theater has got some old cushioned seats which are not push-back kind and is running on fans and air-coolers, which we forgot long back :). Though I complained first, later I started enjoying the movie. It was at 23.50 hrs we reached our hotel.

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Anantapur lies at the westernmost part of Andhra Pradesh. It is located along the NH7. The town of Anantapur has embraced modernity, but has not forgotten its historical past. The town is home to many ancient temples, monuments and forts that give a glimpse into the rich historical past of the region. At every corner of Anantapur and its surroundings, there is something to stop and admire.

Some of the major attractions in Anantapur and its surroundings are the beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Lepakshi, the birthplace of Sri Satya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi, the ancient and massive banyan tree (Thimmamma Marri Maanu) at Gutibayalu. This region is also well-known for its booming silk and cotton weaving industry – Dharmavaram (silk sarees) and Hindupur (Cotton sarees). The ancient religious legacies left behind are visible in Penna Ahobilam, Gugudu and Alurkona.

06.00 hrs – Start of the day! 07.00 hrs – We walked down the streets to find a restaurant to have our breakfast and it was the choice of Bilal. While he ordered a plain dosa, I ordered an Onion Dosa. It wasn’t that great. 07.30 hrs – We checked out and headed to the Bus station from where we have to get a bus to Dharmavaram. We got into a bus and occupied two seats. The day was pleasant and bus was not too crowded. Bilal started explaining me about the erection of wind-mills which can be seen through out the way and the difficulties faced by them in the sites.

One can see the Sri Krishnadevaraya University situated on the way and some other education institutions established by Sri Satya Sai Trust. The vast stretches of land filled with rocks and a little vegetation here and there. If there is irrigation facility, the farmers are growing vegetables like Brinjals, Tomatoes and Tapioca (Sago).

The Holy Abode – Veerabhadra temple

10.12.2016:

While I was in the bus, I got to speak with the locals travelling along with me and when they heard me saying that I was here to see the Nandi, they asked me to visit the 16th century Veerabhadara (Lord Shiva) temple also.

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I walked back to the temple, one among the three famous shrines of Lepakshi which is just 10 minutes walk from the Nandi. There are few interesting legends associated with this temple. It is believed that this temple has been built on the spot where Jatayu (the bird God) fell after being injured by Ravana who was kidnapping Sita. When Rama reached the spot, he saw Jatayu and remarked, ‘Le Pakshi’ which translates to ‘rise, bird’ in Telugu and hence the name Lepakshi for this town πŸ™‚

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The temple is built on a low, rocky hill called Kumarasilam (Translation – Tortoise hill) and dates back to 1583 and was built by two brothers, Viranna and Virupanna, who were the royal treasurers of the Vijayanagar kings. The temple is built in the Vijayanagar architectural style and has beautiful sculptures adoring the walls. There is also a belief that the original temple has been constructed by Saint Agastya himself.After climbing some 30 or 40 steps, I reached the Dwajastamba and I entered the temple from the left side.

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The temple’s main deity is Lord Veerabhadra, the fiery god created by Shiva from his hairs in his rage after the immolation of Sati Devi during the Daksha Yagna. There are also other manifestations of Lord Shiva like the Kanakala Murthi, Dakshinamurthi (Guru of Gurus), Tripuranthaka or Tripurasurasamhara (vanquisher of demon Tripurasura), Ardhanareeshwara (the half-female, half-male form, where Shiva and Parvati are equally represented in one body). This temple also has the fiery goddess Bhadrakali. After the darshan, I walked around the Garbagriha and I noticed what made this temple stand apart!

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Those are the finest specimens of mural paintings of the Vijayanagar kings. It is said that the 24 ft by 14 ft fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling, before the main sanctum sanctorum is the largest in India. They are beautiful and the attention paid to their details is amazing. The colors are strikingly contrasted – black limework against an orange-red background with some green, white, black, and shades of ochre-gold and brown make for a stunning visual spectacle. It is said that most of those were natural dyes or pigments and the paintings depicts the scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Most of these paintings are now fading and are peeling off in many places. I think it’s time for the government to act for their better maintenance and expert restoration!

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Another important feature of this temple is the famous “Hanging Pillar”. This pillar doesn’t fully rest on the ground and to prove that, the guides over here executes a newspaper test and pass the newspaper from one end of the base to the other! There are about 70 pillars in this temple, but this one is the best known and is a tribute to the engineering genius of ancient and medieval India’s temple builders. However, it is a bit dislodged from its original position β€” it is said that during the British era, a British engineer tried to move it in an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the secret of its support.

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I entered the outer enclosure of the temple where there is a huge Ganesha in stone, leaning against a rock as well as a massive Naga (the Snake God) with three coils and seven hoods, which shelters the Shiva Linga. The temple is divided into three parts, the ‘Mukha Mandapa’, the ‘Artha Mandapa’ and ‘Garba Griha’ and the ‘Kalyana Mandapa’ with 38 carved monolithic pillars. Legend also has it that Lord Shiva and Parvati were married on the spot where Kalyana Mandapa now stands (the most photographed place in the recent times).

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There is also another legend attached to this temple. It is said that Virupanna, the royal treasurer, was accused of drawing funds without the king’s permission from the state treasury to build these shrines and is supposed to have blinded himself. And there are two red stain marks on the western wall of the inner enclosure and these are believed to be the marks left by his bleeding eyes. But I couldn’t find them :(. Might be next time! Time to go, as it’s getting dark and I have to reach Anantapur town!

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 πŸ˜€ . 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 textbooksΒ and the story which explains the name Lepakshi. And finally, am here πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚