About me

Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie..

Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... Love reading books- sometimes i read 3books simultaneously, crazy about music- need it all around me, all the time and ofcourse, i totally am ga ga goo goo over my 7yr old naughty brat- Floppy!! errr, Prince Floppy!! :)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Walking around Konark.. Orissa

Psst.. long post ahead!! :-)


Bhubhaneshwar, my trip in a nutshell - a jist of all that I did while in Odisha

After spending the afternoon exploring Bhubaneshwar, I decided to head out and explore Konark and Puri.. Over the years, and through my travels I have come to understand that every ancient temple and structure hides within the walls tonnes of stories and legends, apart from the fascinating architecture.  

A part of the Golden Triangle, along with Bhubaneshwar and Puri, Konark has been on my mind for a while now. The temple hosts a dance festival every year, apart from welcoming the huge number of people that come to visit this magnificient place day after day.

Built in the 13th Century by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, the temple is said to resemble a gigantic chariot flanked by 24 chariot wheels and 7 horses, dedicated to the Sun/Surya God, hence the name "Sun Temple". It took 12 years and 1200 artisans for this most famous masterpiece of traditional Odisha Architecture. 

As I walked through the gates after picking up entry tickets at the booth near the main entrance, through the walkway filled with shops selling local art and craft pieces, it was the front view of the temple that had my attention, the dance hall and the main temple behind it. The only other temple that had me this amazed was the Gangaikonda Chozhapuram temple in the South. 

What remains of the temple complex  is a 100-foot (30 m) high chariot with the beautiful crafted wheels and horses, all of which have been carved from stone. What was once 200 feet high, today most of it is in ruins, the main tower included. Even though most of the structure has withstood test of time, there is enough to show us how much effort went into putting it all together. The wheels, the horses, the staircases, the tower, the deities and well, the list is endless. Among the scultpures around the main structure are quite a few different themes- animals, people using home appliances and there are a few surprises in the form of erotic kama and mithuna scenes as well.

The temple was actually built very close to the sea shore, but over the years the shoreline has receded by about 3-5kms. The first thing you spot is the Natya Mandir (dance hall), where dancers would pay homage to the Sun God with their performances, the structure is surrounded by mini sculptures of about 120+ different forms of dance found in the country. the Hall has no roof, and stands bare.. . Moving on towards the main temple, near the foot of the steps, you will see the gigantic structure of a lion standing on top of an elephant beneath whom lies a man.. According to the Hindu mythology, the lions resemble pride, elephants = wealth and both of them crush the human. What is fascinating is that the entire structure is made out of a single piece of stone.

I also learnt that the upper levels and terrace area of the temple featured bigger and much more  significant art-works than the lower level [which were no less fascinating]. Some of the images on these were that of artisans, musicians, labourers and mythological creatives and stories apart from a few Hindu deities as well. 

As you walk around the main temple complex, three tall structures still stand- not sure if these are Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva but they are majestic and some are Green in colour, maybe made of Jade? 

The Wheels
  • There are 24 Wheels in all [12 pairs].. 
  • Each wheel has 8 spokes [which denotes 24hours divided into eight sections of three hours each]
  • Within the wheel, at the bottom are round beads which denote 3 minutes for each. 
  • The art work on each of the wheel is different.. Some have life cycle of a woman through the day, some just have interesting sculptures..
  • You can tell the exact time by watching where the sun rays fall on the wheel.. down to the very minute!
  • There is one theory that these 12 pairs of wheels could be to represent the 12 zodiac signs. 

    [Image Source: http://www.thekonark.in/konarkwheel.html]

    The Horses
    • There are seven horses around the temple, they are known to pull the temple eastwards towards the dawn.
    • Each horse represented a day of the week..
    It took a while for the entire information and beauty of it all to sink in, and then I began wandering around the temple, to explore the various other elements in the complex. There are so many stories attached to this temple, it is mind boggling. Some that I came across are, 
    • The temple was never used as a place of prayer, because the main deity was removed/stolen/taken away... 
    • The town which was once a major port lost all business and succumbed to several pirate attacks.
    • It is said that the huge ball - lodestone that was mounted right on top was used as a navigational aid by ships. But then the magnetic powers also led to shipwrecks and some of the European ships losing their way.  Therefore the British are known to have removed this stone.
    • The temple then got a name "Black Pagoda" because it looked black and was towering like a pagoda from afar.  
    • Was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site back in 1984
    • The main sanctum is empty today, it must have housed the Sun God and his consort back in the day, but nobody really knows what happened.. 
    • Some say the temple was never completed, while others beg to differ with various stories of attacks and assaults.
    Along the gardens surrounding the temple, you will see few other shrines in ruins, and sculptures that have broken off from the main temple and kept for display, like the war elephants or the horses. There was scaffolding on almost all sides of the temple, showing us how much of damage it had withstood over time...

    As the sun beat down, so did my energy levels and I knew it was time to seek shade and cool off before exploring some more... Off i went in search of water/something to cool off, while my mind continued to wander amidst the temple complex, curious about the stories and puzzles.

    Saturday, April 21, 2018

    Applique work at Pipli

    Bhubhaneshwar, my trip in a nutshell - a jist of all that I did while in Odisha

    About 30 kms from Bhubhaneshwar, I noticed the streets lined with shops on either side showing off beautiful colourful art pieces made of cloth.  I knew I had arrived in the town of Pipli. 
     Infact, this village was established by the King of Orissa/Maharaja Birakshore of Puri
     to accommodate the craftsmen who made appliqué work pieces - umbrellas and canopies for the annual Jagannath Yatra. 

    This appliqué  work dates back to the 10th century and continues to thrive in this small village. Over time, the craftsman fell into tough times because of loss of Royal patronage and since then have begun expanding their product lines. Today, these are more of show pieces and have become part of home/office/hotel decor. Mohan, one of the guys who had a shop said his wife is the one who does most pieces, men handle the cutting and sourcing of materials. He went on to share concern about how things were changing with time and was not sure if the next generation would continue this tradition. The pieces took between few hours to few days to complete, depending on the complexity of the design and the intricate details that went into it.  Some are embellished with mirror or additional thread work adding to the appeal. Most of the pieces featured animals (the elephant and peacock mainly), flowers, birds,mythical and mythological characters with some form of geometric pattern woven within them..

    Today, we find not only umbrellas, but also wall hangings, sling bags, pouches, cushion/pillow cases, and bags [across sizes] as well.  They are quite chic and smart, for regular use.

    When I dug deep about this whole process, I discovered that the word "Appliqué" was of French origin, meaning  “appliquer”[meaning-“put on”, "apply"].  In this art of appliqué work, the craftsmen use a piece of fabric as the base and then another piece on top which is sewn into place. The designs are all patches of sorts kept on top and added in. So, they basically build layers of cloth. 

    Apart from Applique work pieces, you will also find mats and other pieces made with banana & coconut fibre in the stores around the region. They make for good gifts as well.. 

    I remember watching the Rath yatra on TV and being amazed at how beautiful the cloth covering the Rath was..

    [image source: http://gaatha.com/pipli-village-applique-work/]

    The appliqué work is used exclusively on the cloth to cover the three chariots made for the presiding deities during the Ratha Yatra or Car Festival. 

    Going with the tradition, the colours are predetermined- 
    green & red for  Balabhadra, 
    black & red for Subhadra and 

    yellow & red for Lord Jagannath...

    More stories from my trip to Orissa coming up... stay tuned~!!

    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    Ekamra haat, Bhubaneshwar

    Bhubhaneshwar, my trip in a nutshell - a jist of all that I did while in Odisha

    After plenty of walking around and visiting three temples, I decided to take a break. Wanted to explore a bit of the town and the auto guy recommended I visit "Ekamra Haat". 

    Situated in the heart of Bhubaneshwar town, this is a huge space with shops, eateries and a space for performances as well.  Similar to Dilli Haat, but on a smaller scale was what I would describe it as. In total, it has about 40 odd shops dealing with art, craft and textile from the regions around Orissa. 

    There are spaces where you can jus sit and chill, grab a bite at one of the many outlets or do some shopping. Honestly, I wasnt very impressed with the place, it seemed quite run down and blah. Mos shops were selling the same stuff, with a bit of difference in the pricing. It was however nice to see products across ranges- stone carved pieces, wood work, applique, pattachitra, cane & bamboo work, dhokra, bell metal, terracotta, palm leaf engraving and textiles [duppattas, sarees, skirts, and so on]. 

    I did pick up a few art pieces, palm leaf bookmarks from this place. Ended up clicking a few photographs, talking to the local artisans and trying to understand the various crafts and their origins. It is a fun place if you dont have an agenda or dont mind walking around , killing time. There are eat outs strewn among the shops, so you can always grab a bottle of water/soft drink or something to eat. 

    I bought the skirt here

    Ekamra Haat
    Madhusudam Marg, Unit 3, Ekamra Vihar, UNIT- 9, Bhubaneswar, Odisha 751001

    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    Where roots find the path

    There are things I spot that just refuse to leave my mind for years after... This was one of those things that happened during our trip to Karaikudi.. 

    Our cabbie was taking us to a local hotel where he said we could watch a local dish being made. He parked the car, I got out and this was the 1st thing that caught my eye.. This was obviously a dilapidated building that had gone to the ruins and somehow this tree had managed to find its home here. It was fascinating seeing the roots, and branches sprout out from every possible gap... Talk about being at home anywhere!!

    Monday, April 9, 2018

    Train Tracks of Karaikudi

    I grew up in Madurai and Tirunelveli and therefore find a certain charm in small towns... Life is simple, everybody knows everybody and then ofourse there are these train tracks.. I love train journeys and have done so many, have lost track of the number. The day of the last exam, mom & I would be on the 1st train iout to Chennai and again we would head back only the day before school opening. Which meant, we landed the morning of school opening, and I had to rush to the school to attend the 1st day :D 

    Friend & I were in Karaikudi, on our way to the Murugan temple or Athangudi, we came upon this railway crossing. It was just like the ones I had seen in the towns I grew up in, there was a small gate that came down, there were people and vehicles on either side waiting for clearance..

    And then when the guard waved the flag, we knew the train was coming.. We stood there, waiting, some bike guys who couldn't bother to wait, they would sneak under the bar and rush to the other side before the train came down.

    Sometimes it takes seconds, and other times it takes minutes for the train to pass by and gates to open again. I loved standing outside watching the train chug along.. what fun! Well, I love train journeys as well.

    It was beautiful watching the train come along and drive past the tracks...

    Thursday, April 5, 2018

    The National Mall in Washington D C... not really mall~

    [All that you find in the area... image courtesy: Google]

    I had three days in Washington D C and wanted to make the most of it. When I was looking at the various sights to visit, it was overwhelming. But then, I kinda made up my mind to do what I could and move on... Leave some for the next trip right?! 

    I was staying with a friend in Virginia, she suggested I hop on the train and get off near the Smithsonian station and walk around the National mall area.. I thought to myself "Wait, I wasnt here to visit some mall, I dont go to malls back home"... And then it hit me that the area between the monuments in Smithsonian area is called The National Mall.. 

    It is essentially the area between Lincoln Memorial on the west and east to the United States Capitol grounds, with the Washington Monument dividing the area slightly west of its midpoint.. The train ride was a short one and within 20mins I had reached Smithsonian station, and as I walked out, I was greeted by a gentle drizzle and cool breeze. What was amazing was there was a team of people laying down sand and carpets so people could walk without slipping in the puddles. 

    The National Mall is home to ten of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution offering a variety of exhibits ranging from art to space exploration. Other major attractions include the national monuments and memorials, the U.S. Capitol Building, the National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Botanic Garden. The Mall is a national park with landscaped gardens and expansive open spaces that are often used for public events. 

    I spent about 7-8 hours walking around the space, visiting museums- all of which are free, trying food from the food carts and indulging in an ice cream, while sitting in the park bench watching people walk by.. Ah, what a fun day it was... And now, a year after my visit, am still amazed by how awesome the trip was... Stay tuned for more...