Window from Dhangkar monastery

Window, light and wall texture at Dhangkar gompa

This window with bright light and a colourful cloth set in textured wall of the ancient monastery at Dhangkar gompa caught my attention. The wall texture, the pattern of the wall colours and the steps going up contributed to this very symbolic visual. (Dhangkar Gompa, Spiti, 2011)

Light through the window and wall texture at the ancient Dhangkar gompa, a prominent Buddhist monastery

Location of Dhangkar Gompa

Dhankar Gompa (also called Dankhar or Drangkhar) is a village and also a Gompa or monastery. It is an ancient Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, India.  The gompa is situated at a height of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means a fort on a cliff.

Dhankar, like Key monastery and Tangyud monastery in Spiti, and Thiksey, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. It was reported to have had 90 monks in 1855. Below the Gompa lies the small village of Shichilling which houses the new Dhankar monastery, home to about 150 monks belonging to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Beyond the surrounding harsh, lunar landscape, notable sights at Dhankar Gompa include a statue of Vairocana consisting of four figures seated back-to-back, in addition to various crumbling thangkas. There is a small museum in the gompa. In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation.

History of Dhangkar

Dhankar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. It was the seat of the early rulers of Spiti, the Nonos, who had the right to cultivate the government lands nearby and were required to keep the fort in repair. They also dispensed justice to the people and were noted for their harsh penalties until the British replaced them. (source : Wikipedia)

Relevant Links

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery

History & Heritage pictures by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Photo features by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery

Prayer wheel

Prayer wheels at monasteries is a fascinating sight. Usually there is line of prayer wheels and the visitors make it a point to touch each and every wheel. This prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery or gompa in Spiti looked as old as the monastery itself and it was a different feeling to touch the prayer wheel as well as the wall around. It had a deep cold feel to it almost as if connecting with its ancient past.

Prayer wheel at Dhangkar monastery, Spiti valley

 

Dhangkar Monastery

Dhankar is a village and also a Gompa, a Buddhist temple in the district of Lahaul and Spiti in India. It is situated at an elevation of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar Village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence Dhangkar means fort on a cliff.

View of the mountains from top of Dhangkar Monastery

Dhankar, like Key and Tangyud Monasteries in Spiti, and Thiksey, Likir and Rangdum monasteries in Ladakh, was built as a fort monastery on the Central Tibetan pattern. Below the Gompa lies the small village of Shichilling which contains the new Dhankar Monastery, home to about 150 monks belonging to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Beyond the surrounding harsh, lunar landscape, notable sights at Dhankar Gompa include a statue of Vairocana consisting of four figures seated back-to-back, in addition to various crumbling thangkas. There is a small museum in the gompa. In 2006, World Monuments Fund selected Dhankar gompa as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. A nonprofit group, Dhangkar Initiative, is attempting to organize its conservation. (source : Wikipedia)

Relevant Links

Window from Dhangkar Gompa

History & Heritage pictures by Milind Vishwas Sathe

Photo features by Milind Vishwas Sathe

 

 

 

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International Tea Day

Tea means Indian Masala Chai

Tea at a dhaba in Kumaon mountains

There is an eruption of memories of countless moments of sipping of chai – the golden beverage which has the power of starting conversations, sharing joy, uniting friends and families and may be we can stretch this to uniting the diverse land that is India. The passion with which people cutting across all strata embrace this drink is unparalleled.

Drink Tea anywhere

Chai at a dhaba in Jaipur

Personally I have always enjoyed drinking tea. There must have been countless shops, dhabas, thelas, cinema halls, college canteens, railway stations, restaurants, clubs, hotels, journeys and of course homes of friends and relatives where I would have enjoyed the sacred act of drinking tea. Some of these moments have been memorable – moments of laughter, intense debates as well as meaningless bakwaas or just plain simple catching up. It is next to impossible to say No to an invitation for chai.

Indian Masala Chai

While tea drinking is a wonderful way to celebrate friendship and enjoy the company of those whom you like, sipping your favourite chai alone is an experience which is nothing less than a session of mediation. If you have made the tea yourself, then you have gone through the entire experience and enjoy drinking tea even more.  I somehow have never preferred adding ready mix masala while making chai. I have always preferred adding cardamom or cinnamon while the chai is brewing.

Masala chai being prepared at a dhaba in Jaipur

Something to munch with chai

While drinking tea is a wonderful experience by itself, chai goes well with certain snacks. I have been very selective with what I have with chai. It has to be a samosa or homemade chiwda  or cream cracker biscuits. I cannot think of anything else with chai.  Here I am talking about the afternoon or evening tea. It has been several years since I have stopped drinking tea in the mornings. It would be coffee in the mornings and may be till after lunch. Cookies go well with coffee but not at all with tea.

Related Blog Posts

At the Dhaba

 

 

Write with a fountain pen

Fountain Pen Day

Fountain Pen Day is celebrated by enthusiasts worldwide as a time to embrace, promote, and share the use of fountain pens. This day is celebrated on the first Friday in November each year.

My workhorses – Lamy fountain pens

History of fountain pens

According to Qadi al-Nu’man al-Tamimi (d. 974) in his Kitab al-Majalis wa ‘l-musayarat, the Fatimid caliph Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah in Arab Egypt demanded a pen that would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen that held ink in a reservoir, allowing it to be held upside-down without leaking.

There is compelling evidence that a working fountain pen or a nib pen was constructed and used during the Renaissance by artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo’s journals contain drawings with cross-sections of what appears to be a reservoir pen that works by both gravity and capillary action. Historians also took note of the fact that the handwriting in the inventor’s surviving journals is of a consistent contrast throughout, rather than exhibiting the characteristic fading pattern typical of a quill pen caused by expending and re-dipping. While no physical item survives, several working models were reconstructed in 2011 by artist Amerigo Bombara that have since been put on display in museums dedicated to Leonardo.(source : Wikipedia)

Some ideas for celebrating Fountain Pen Day 2019

1. Write a letter to someone with your favorite fountain pen and ink. Under your signature you can write the pen & ink you used.
2. Go through your stationery collection and use some of those you have saved for a special occasion. Surprise a friend with that vintage paper.
3. Post on your favorite forum or blog by writing it out with your fountain pen. Then take a picture of it and post it. Again, under your signature write what pen & ink you used.
4. Instead of typing Facebook status updates and tweets on Twitter, write them and upload a picture of them
5. Take one of the pens you don’t use anymore and send it off to a friend with a handwritten note. If you don’t have any pens you want to part with you can shop one of the online retailers and have it sent direct to them.
6. Turn off your computer and put down the phone and spend some time writing.
(source : fountainpenday.org)

Related blog posts :

Fountain pen with blue ink

Rich heritage of Badami

Badami, capital of Badami Chalukyas

Agastya lake at Badami

Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, is a taluka place in the Bagalkot district of KarnatakaFamous for its rock cut structural cave temples, it was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukya dynasty from AD 540 to 757.  It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged, red sandstone outcrop that surrounds Agastya lake. This lake is named after sage Agastya. Banashankari devi temple nearby was the tutelary deity of the Chalukya kings of Badami Chalukya dynasty.

Another view of Agastya lake at Badami near Badami cave temples

Mythology

The Puranas state the wicked asura Vatapi was killed by sage Agastya, and it refers to this area as Vatapi and Agastya Tirtha. In the Ramayana, Agastya and Lopamudra are described as living in Dandaka forest, on the southern slopes of Vindhya mountains. Rama praises Agastya as the one who can do what gods find impossible. He is described as the sage who used his Dharma powers to kill demons Vatapi and Ilwala after they had jointly misled and destroyed 9,000 men.

Red sandstone formations at Badami

In the Mahabharata, sage Agastya is described in the epic as a sage with enormous powers of ingestion and digestion. Agastya, in the legends of Mahabharata, kills the demons Vatapi and Ilvala much the same mythical way as in the Ramayana.

Badami Chalukya dynasty

Textures on sandstone at Badami

Badami Chalukyas was founded in AD 540 by Pulakeshin I (AD 535–566), an early Chalukya king, is generally regarded as the founder of the Early Chalukya line. His sons Kirtivarman I (AD 567–598) and his brother Mangalesha (AD 598–610) constructed the cave temples. Kirtivarman I strengthened Vatapi. He had three sons Pulakeshin II, Vishnuvardhana and Buddhavarasa, who at his death were minors, thus making them ineligible to rule.  As a result, Kirtivarman I‘s brother Mangalesha took the throne and tried to establish his rule. He was killed by Badami Chalukya king Pulakeshin II who ruled between AD 610 to 642. Vatapi was the capital of the Early Chalukyas. They ruled much of Karnataka, Maharashtra, parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. The greatest among them was Pulakeshin II (AD 610–642) who defeated many kings including the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.

Badami Cave Temples

The rock cut cave temples, numbered 1 to 4 in the order of their creation were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuriesThe Badami Caves complex is part of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site candidate under the title “Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal” in the Malaprabha river valley, considered a cradle of temple architecture that formed the model for later Hindu temples in the region. The first three caves feature sculptures of Hindu icons and legends focusing on Shiva and Vishnu, while Cave 4 features Jain icons and themes.

The Badami cave temples are carved out of soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff. The plan of each of the four caves (1 to 4) includes an entrance with a verandah (mukha mandapa) supported by stone columns and brackets, a distinctive feature of these caves, leading to a columned mandapa, or main hall (also maha mandapa), and then to the small, square shrine (sanctum sanctorumgarbha ghriya) cut deep inside the cave. The cave temples are linked by a stepped path with intermediate terraces overlooking the town and lake. 

Relief sculpture of Nataraja or Dancing Shiva in Cave 1 at Badami

Cave 1 features Tandava-dancing Shiva as Nataraja on the rock face to the right of entrance. The eighteen arms express Natya mudras (symbolic hand gestures), with some holding objects such as drums, a flame torch, a serpent, a trident and an axe. Shiva has his son Ganesha and the bull Nandi by his side. On the left of the entrance of Cave 1 is a two-handed Shaiva dvarapala who holds a trident, and below him is a bull-elephant fused image where they share a head; seen from left it is an elephant and from right a bull.

Shaiva dvarapala at the entrance of Cave 1 at Badami Caves

Cave 3 is earliest dated Hindu temple in the Deccan region. It is the largest cave in the complex and is dedicated to Vishnu.

Vishnu seated on hooded serpent Shesha in Cave 3 at Badami caves.tif

Railway Station at Badami

Badami railway station at night

On a rainy night in Badami, we had a great view of the railway station from the nearby railway crossing. We had found out the time when the night train would arrive and had selected a nice vantage point near the railway crossing. This point offered us a great night view of the railway station. We braved the rain and waited for the train to arrive. It looked a little odd to the operator at the railway crossing gate and the few passing vehicles that we were waiting at the gate on a dark rainy night. 

Night train has arrived at Badami railway station

On way to Pattadakal

Sunflower fields

Sunflower fields dotted the road with hardly any traffic. The road trip was enjoyable with several stops on the way to see the sunflower fields up close.

Tamarind tree and sunflower fields