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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, is a taluka place in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka. Famous 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.
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.
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
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 centuries. The 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 sanctorum, garbha ghriya) cut deep inside the cave. The cave temples are linked by a stepped path with intermediate terraces overlooking the town and lake.
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.
Cave 3 is earliest dated Hindu temple in the Deccan region. It is the largest cave in the complex and is dedicated to Vishnu.
Railway Station at Badami
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.
On way to Pattadakal
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.
Banashankari Devi Temple or Banashankari temple is a Hindu shrine located near Badami, in Bagalkot district, Karnataka, India. The temple is popularly called Banashankari or Vanashankari since it is located in the Tilakaaranya forest. The temple deity is also called the Shakambhari , an incarnation of the goddess Parvati. The original temple was built by the 7th century Badami Chalukya kings, who worshipped goddess Banashankari as their kuladevi (tutelary deity).
Historians have dated the original temple to the 7th century AD – the Kalyani Chalukya period to Jagadekamalla I in 603 AD (according to epigraphic inscriptions) who installed the image of the goddess as their kuladevi. The present refurbished temple was built in 1750, by Parusharam Agale, a Maratha chieftain.
The temple was built initially in the Dravidian architectural style. The rebuilt structure is in the Vijayanagara architectural style. The temple is enclosed by a high wall on all sides. The main structure has a mukha mantapa (portico), ardha mantapa (entrance porch/chamber in front of the sanctum) and a sanctum topped by a Vimana (tower). The main sanctum of the temple has the image of goddess Banashankari deified in it. The black stone sculpture depicts the goddess seated on a lioness trampling a demon under her foot. The goddess has eight arms and holds a trishul (trident), damaru (hand drum), kapaalpatra (skull cup), ghanta (war bell), Vedic scriptures and khadga-kheta (sword and shield). The goddess was the Kuladevi (tutelary deity) of the Chalukyas.
There is a 360 ft (109.7 m) square water tank in the forefront of the temple at the entrance, which is locally called as Haridra Tirtha. The pond is enclosed with stone mantapas (halls) on three sides. A pradakshina or circumambulatory path surrounds the tank.
Lamp towers (Deep stambh) are seen in the foreground of the temple on the west bank of the pond and also at the entrance. The tower on the bank of the tank is also an uncommon guard tower which is “reflects the Vijayanagara blend of Hindu and Islamic style“.It is called the Victory Tower.
The temple celebrates its annual festival called Banashankari jatre, in the months of January or February. The festival comprises cultural programmes, boat festival as well as a Rath yatra, when the temple goddess is paraded around the city in a chariot.
The scriptures Skanda Purana and Padma Purana state that the demon Durgamasura harassed the local people constantly. Answering the prayers of the Devas (demi-gods) who appealed to God through a sacrifice to protect them from Durgamasura, the Lord directed the goddess Shakambhari to help the people. The goddess appeared through the fire of the Yagna (fire-sacrifice) in the form of the goddess Shakambhari. She then killed the demon after a fierce encounter and restored peace in the region. Banashankari is considered as the incarnation of goddess Parvati, who is the consort of god Shiva.
Impressive would be an understatement to describe the legacy of Ahilyabai Holkar who built temples and river ghats all over India. She carried out this great work when she took over the reigns of of the kingdom in central provinces after the death of Yashwantrao Holkar. The Holkars were generals with Peshva dynasty which was ruling from Pune. The most remarkable creations of Ahilyabai can be seen at Maheshwar on the banks of river Narmada. The temple at Maheshwar and the ghats on Narmada river are the real showpieces.
Ahilyadevi Holkar, creator of temples and ghats
Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar (1725 – 1795) was the Holkar Queen of the Maratha Malwa kingdom, India. Rajmata Ahilyabai was born in the village of Chondi in Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Ahilyabai’s husband Khanderao Holkar was killed in the battle of Kumbher in 1754. Twelve years later, her father-in-law, Malhar Rao Holkar, died. A year after that she was crowned as the queen of the Malwa kingdom.
Accomplishments of Ahilyabai Holkar
Rani Ahilyabai was a great pioneer and builder of Hindu temples. She built hundreds of temples and Dharmashalas throughout India. She also built forts and roads in Malwa, sponsored festivals and gave donations for regular worship in many Hindu temples. Outside Malwa, she built dozens of temples, ghats, wells, tanks and rest-houses across an area stretching from the Himalayas to pilgrimage centres in South India. The Bharatiya Sanskritikosh lists as sites she embellished, Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jaganathpuri. Ahilyadevi also supported the rise of merchants, farmers and cultivators to levels of affluence, and did not consider that she had any legitimate claim to their wealth, be it through taxes or feudal right.
Maheshwar and Indore
Among Ahilyabai’s accomplishments was the development of Indore from a small village to a prosperous and beautiful city; her own capital, however, was in nearby Maheshwar, a town on the banks of the Narmada river. Ahilyabai’s capital at Maheshwar was the scene of literary, musical, artistic and industrial enterprise. She entertained the famous Marathi poet, Moropantand the shahir, Anantaphandi from Maharashtra, and also patronised the Sanskrit scholar, Khushali Ram. Craftsmen, sculptors and artists received salaries and honours at her capital, and she even established a textile industry in the city of Maheshwar.