Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keladi - Sagara [part 3 of a few]

Next stop in Sagara sight-seeing is the original capital of the Nayakas - Keladi [ಕೆಳದಿ](see previous post to know who the Nayakas are). Its about 12 Kms from the town's center towards North. Once you get out the town, the road is almost deserted. The scenery along the way alternates between beetle nut plantations and forests with acacia trees. Among other things, this tree is used to make paper. It requires very less attention and grows very fast. But like Eucalyptus, it comes with a exclusivity clause. Not many other plants can be grown in its vicinity. So, people here and in my home town of Kota jumped on this opportunity to earn some extra money and started growing acacia in most of their non-arable land. The monetary intent may or may not have worked out. It sure has made the region more greener. The plantations on the other hand need very fertile land, ample irrigation and lot of care. Hence, once can see them only near the villages - closer to human habitation. Along with beetle nut people grow pepper, plantains, beetle leaves. Cashew and Jack fruit trees are also popular. However, they are grown usually for domestic consumption only.

Where is Keladi?
The temple at Keladi

12 Kms of peaceful driving leads us to the Keladi temple. This temple has two compounds. The outer one seems to be more recently built by the archeology department (which maintains a museum). Inside the inner compound, there is no grass (unlike Ikkeri), only coarse granite - like the ones we find on side walks of Old Bengaluru. The temple has two shrines - Narasimha (half lion - half man incarnation of Vishnu) and Eshawara. That leaves any historian confused as to whether the Keladi kings were Vaishnavites or Shaivites. AFAIK, there was considerable animosity between the two and hence a single temple for both Gods has to either be a compromise or a speciality.
The inside of the temple
The ceiling
Outside the main building is the Garudagamba, a traditional minaret found in South Indian temples. On top of this minaret, there is a small idol of Nandi - perhaps a Shaivite influence. As we enter the temple, the first thing that strikes is the ceiling. The carvings here are not on stone, but wood - very nicely polished wood. Although, they have withstood the test of centuries, they may not last long if proper care is not taken. Be it wood or stone, the intricacies of the carvings amazes any visitor equally. As we move to the adjacent shrine (that of Narasimha), the ceiling is back to stone carvings. But has another surprise for us. The double headed eagle has been the emblem of KSRTC since ever. Now we know where they got it from.

Gandaberunda - KSRTC
Some interesting idols/carvings
The pillars and walls of the temple have numerous stories to tell from mythology. There are a few that are interestingly obscure. For instance there is this idol of Shiva (in human form) and Parvati on the customary pedestal of a Linga. According to mythology, Lord Shiva was cursed not to be worshiped in any 'human' form. There is another half made carving that has idols of Hindu gods on their respective animal rides - prototype of an ancient temple complex? What is this Chinese looking guy doing? There was one carving with a bunch of monkeys - monkeying around. There is a sheep man with his hands folded as if in prayer. I do not know any reference to any such creature in Hindu mythology. There are these mysterious horsemen found in Ikkeri also. The two lizards sizing each other up is present here also. Conspicuously missing are the dancing damsels. All in all, the intrigue continues.

Outside the main shrines, here is a Veeragallu and a Mastikallu. Veeragallu is a stone carving that narrates a heroic death of a warrior in a battle. Mastikallu is an epitaph glorifying the death of a Sati - wife who jumps into the funeral pyre along with her husband. A Mastikallu usually has three images. At bottom, there is a depiction of how the lady lived her life. The center image is a picture of companions preparing her Sati. The topmost image shows her worshiping her favorite god (in this case Lord Shiva). This is to show that she has already attained salvation. Veeragallu usually has only two images. The bottom image is a war scene glorifying the fight. The top image shows the warrior with God. The tradition of Mastikallu and Veergallu is very own to Karnataka and not found else where (at least in this format).

Mastikallu and Veeragallu

Outside the temple, one can find a two room museum. It has a sizable collection of items ranging from - royal proclamations, certificates, dresses, manuscripts, coins, weapons, measuring vessels, paintings, maps, portraits and so on. There was one painting that caught my eye (read wrath) - It depicted the Queen of England wearing a dress which was made up of maps of all her colonies. This changed my entire perception of the Keladi Kings. Whose side were they on? The mysterious horse men could well be Brits... Irrespective of loyalty of Keladi Kings, the museum needs to be more professional. The manuscripts are stocked in pathetic condition. I am not even sure if any ONE has ever gone through them. Who knows what knowledge is hidden in those palm leaves?

How to reach Keladi?
Please click HERE to see the route on Google maps.


Gauthaman said...

Wow Pkota. Wonderful narration
So now I know from where you get your second name.Double headed eagle and KSRTC connection. Excellent discovery. You are eye for detail in the carving needs a round of aplause. Good job man.
I guess the Chinese man should be Huang Sang (hee.hee...). Well any plans of taking an alternate profession of a tourist guide. Well you have it in you man... a historian, a farmer, a traveller all in one package named pkota. Why don't we spin our wheels around these temples... lots of greenery and tree cover to save us from sun burn.

Anonymous said...


Very good work. The amount of interest you have in diverse subjects is very impressive.

"There is a sheep man with his hands folded as if in prayer. I do not know any reference to any such creature in Hindu mythology."
When I was a boy, my father used to tell me stories from the Hindu mythology. There is a sanskrit hymn for Lord Shiva called 'Chamakha'. I have heard my father recite it almost every day. The unique thing about it is that each line ends with a goatish 'meee'. It was supposed to be composed by a Rakhshasa (i dont remember the name, but it will investigate) who was transplanted with a Goats head after having been beheaded by Shiva. There you go, my memory still works.


Prashanth said...

Thanks Ram.