Tag Archives: culture

Creating young artists at Bali Art Centre

View from outside

Taman Budaya or Bali Art Centre is a prime example of how traditional art forms should to be preserved. Built in traditional Balinese architecture this is a centre of learning and also a centre of excellent performances. It motivates young Balinese people to learn all the forms of traditional Balinese performing arts. Bali Art Center grooms young ones in traditional Balinese arts- dance, theatre, music, painting and lot more.

A scene from Mahabharata at Bali Art centre

A beautiful complex run by public money is a very sincere attempt to preserve the traditional forms of art. Interestingly, all these classes are completely free of cost for the children. Such art centres encourage them to learn and perform and thus keep the traditional art forms alive by transferring them to the next generation… A way to learn for all such societies!

Even the bridges inside campus have artistic designs

In Islamic Indonesia the Hindu majority Bali is fascinating example of co-existence of cultures. Equally fascinating are the attempts to preserve art and dedication among the young ones to learn.

Here is a photo journey of this excellent centre:

Kids striking poses in their training schedule-

rigorous training is quite hot!
Notice the name of the arena! An Indian feeling! Where gems are being polished!!

Amazing beauty! Read: Sea on Fire: Sunset at Bali Beach

Bali art centre campus is big and beautiful
Young student practicing theatre
While some learn sketch and painting….
….and many others learn traditional musical instruments

Art centre for wedding shoots? Read: From the Bali album- Royal attires for pre-wedding shoot!

Students are also assessed for there progress, when they perform on stage whatever they have learned
Time for some rehearsal before the show
Confident looking trainees for their evaluation

Bali has lot more to do. Read: White water rafting in Bali

Multi purpose open theatre with traditional architecture
Everything designed tastefully

When there are so many students around, then they ought to be hungry.  So there are plenty of options for them, like these ones-

A lady selling street food
Parents need to kill time as well, while kids are busy in training
A lot of options to eat
Young trainees having some refreshment in the interim

Moving in to Bali! Read: Bali from the sky- few captures

Besides imparting training, Bali art centre also preserves many artefacts and paintings.

This video is from such a class inside the centre, where young ones are learning the art of playing the traditional musical instruments.

Another video of kids taking training in Balinese dance. Such is the dedication that while watching this performance, you will feel as if you are viewing a stage performance, not a training class.

Have you been to Taman Budaya or any such art centre anywhere else? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Tibetan wood carving : Craft for the Art

Different types of Dramyin

Tibetan wood carving is a sublime art. Everything from Dalai Lama’s throne to incense boxes and Chemar bowls, has imprints of it. The signs of art of wood carving can be traced to as far as 7th century Tsuglakghang in Lhasa constructed during reign of King Songtsen Gampo. Wooden table paintings were also unique and popular during those times. That was said to be another branch of Tibetan art. Subjects and pictorial composition of these wooden table paintings are similar to those of thangka paintings. 

Two well-crafted and decorated dramyins

Beautiful wooden engravings have lavishly decorated the columns, beams, doors, windows, cross beam supports etc in Tibetan monasteries and temples. Even shrines, platforms for deities, altars, stupas and other ritualistic objects were usually adorned with wood carvings. It has also been used in decorating traditional musical string instruments…like Dramyins and Piwangs.

Passang Tobgyal playing a Piwang

Motifs normally used in wood carvings are similar to other Tibetan arts. Various types of flowers, mountains, clouds, other elements of nature as well as religious symbols are represented. Since in Tibetan Buddhism there is a typical style of drawing of every symbol, hence craftsman have to master the art of carving the vast repertoire of motifs and designs. Tibetan culture is so much influenced by Buddhism that although wood carving itself is not a religious art but many the motifs used have religious significance.

A craftsman working on an instrument

Though not a flourishing art, because the younger Tibetan generation has different choices, still there are some craftsman, giving their life and dedication to wood carving. Passang Topgyal is one of such master craftsman at Mcleodganj. He studied Tibetan traditional art of wood carving at Norbulingka Institute at SIdhpur in Dharamshala for six years and now designs many items including traditional musical instruments. Most of them go as souvenirs with foreign tourists to different parts of the world.

Passang’s shop and the factory attached to it

Playing such instruments is now limited to monks at monastic functions. Although there are attempts to improvise these instruments by modernising them in use, while retaining their traditional design and craft. For example Dramyins are designed also to be used as electric guitars. 

Musical instruments at Passang’s shop

Lack of patronage among the younger generation for the traditional music as well as the craft is posing a huge challenge for craftsman like Passang to keep the passion alive and rewarding.

Imprints of a beautiful art piece!

So next time you go to Dharamshala, don’t forget to visit Passang Tobgyal’s shop.

Where: Passang Tobgyal’s shop of Tibetan Wood carving and Musical instruments is near Dharamshala Cantt on way to Dal lake (in Naddi village) from Mcleodganj. It is approximately two kilometres walk fro Mcleodganj town.

You can watch a short film on Passang Tobgyal on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below.

Have you ever tried your hands on a traditional Tibetan musical instrument? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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Brussels shines the spotlight on contemporary art

Brussels has become a hub of contemporary art. Few cities in world can boast of such a huge art scene as Brussels, be it in any form. The capital is fertile place for creativity and discovery. International artists are charmed by its many beautiful spaces dedicated to art. Collectors from all over the world, for their part, regularly visit the capital to find that one piece that makes all the difference. Several players help enrich the art scene: the WIELS, BOZAR, MIMA, the Centrale for Contemporary Art, the CAB Foundation, the Villa Empain, and let’s not forget the future Kanal Foundation either. Between museums and art centres, galleries and artists’ collectives, fairs and other events, Brussels is sharing its passion for art.

Salon Beurs Show at Art Brussels

Every year, Brussels celebrates contemporary art from April to May. From the unmissable Art Brussels fair to the Private Choices exhibition, not to mention the Affordable Art Fair, events will be showcasing contemporary art with both domestic and international artists taking centre stage. Here is a quick look at the fairs, exhibitions and unmissable events of the next few months.

Fairs

Art Brussels

Art Brussels

Art Brussels is celebrating its 50th birthday: This year’s fair is full of innovations. Since its creation, Art Brussels has developed into one of the biggest contemporary art fairs in Europe. The fair is an unmissable date on the international artistic calendar. No less than 147 galleries featuring art from 32 countries. Art Brussels has never been so international, although the number of Belgian galleries has also increased.

Dates: From 19 to 22 April 2018

Venue: Tour et Taxis

Poppositions

POPPOSITIONS 2017 Exhibition view ©Renato Ghiazza

Recognising the crucial role of contemporary art fairs within a globalised market, Poppositions aims to revitalise the ways that pieces are hung and presented, always experimenting and discovering ground-breaking ways of selling. It is more than a fair, it is an exhibition involving a continuous critical dialogue, whilst guarding against stand-based layout. The title of this year’s fair, In Watermelon Sugar, was borrowed from that of the post- apocalyptic novel of the same name by Richard Brautigan, published in 1968.

Dates: From 19 to 22 April 2018

Venue: Former Coppens Studio

ACAF

Since 2006, the special feature of this fair is that the artists themselves do the exhibiting. ‘Accessible Art Fair (ACAF) brings original art, with a mix of photography, design and sculpture, to a public that has been buying art since 2006.

Date: 19 April to 22 August 2018

Venue: Nonciature du Sablon

Blast from the past: Contemporary Art- Brussels’ cultural heartbeat in April

Themed exhibitions

The Brutal Play

The CAB Foundation presents The Brutal Play, a collective exhibition curated by Matthieu Poirier, who is gathering sculptures by ten artists, from the constructivist period through the minimalism of the sixties, to the present day.

Dates: Until 26 May 2018

Venue: CAB Foundation

Unexchangeable

It is often said that there is nowhere else that has as significant a proportion of art collectors as Belgium. It is striking, however, that with such potential, so few partnerships are formed between public museums and private collections. By means of a selection of historic and museum-quality works from the 80s and 90s, on loan from private collections in Belgium, the exhibition focuses on the value of a work of art. This exhibition tells the story of a pivotal time in the history of art, during which artists changed the paradigm of the uniqueness of a work of art through concepts such as the simulacrum, simulation and equivalence.

Date: 19 April to 12 August 2018

Venue: Wiels

Private Choices

The Private Choices exhibition lifts the veil over an important sector of the art field: collections of contemporary art and the art lovers who initiated them. More than ever before they play a major role in a constantly growing art world. This project showcases 11 Brussels collections gathering together works by Belgian and international artists, famous artists, and young creators, in an attempt to reveal the uniqueness of each of them. Through the choices made in collaboration with the collectors, what is revealed is a part of their vision of art and of life.

Dates: Up to 27 May 2018

Venue: CENTRALE for contemporary art

Melancholia

The Boghossian foundation presents its new exhibition entitled Melancholia at the Villa Empain. It addresses the origins and manifestations of melancholia. Existing in East and West since antiquity, it continually sends human beings to their lost origins, filling them with regret for a world that has passed.

Dates: 15 April to 19 August 2018

Venue: Villa Empain

Promesses d’un visage [Promises of a face]

©TravelMagazine

The Promesses d’un visage exhibition takes you back through more than six centuries of portraiture, through paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs from the collections of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, as well as guest pieces. An object representing power or challenge, an instrument for social recognition or the expression of the subject’s rebellion, the portrait is a genre which has undergone a number of metamorphoses over time, right up to the habit of the selfie. Bouts, Memling, Rubens, Van Dyck, Gauguin, Ensor, Chagall, Delvaux, Bacon, Tuymans, Borremans, Fabre, Vanfleteren…

Dates: 23 April to 15 July 2018

Venue: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Voici des fleurs [Here are some flowers]

This exhibition pays homage to the work of Akarova (1904-1999), a renowned interwar era Brussels woman who devoted her life to music, dance, choreography, painting and sculpture. La loge is inviting contemporary artists to exhibit their own works side by side with Akarova’s works, and to make their own connection between her ideas and the dynamics of production.

Dates: 19 April to 30 June 2018

Venue: La loge

Events

Opening of the Kanal Foundation

The Kanal Foundation will be opening its doors on 5 May for a year before the refurbishment work begins. This future museum of contemporary art and architecture will be housed in the former Citroën garage a stone’s throw from the Senne. Throughout the year, this cross-disciplinary exhibition will be offering screenings, concerts, performances and exhibitions of works taken mainly from the Pompidou Centre collections. It is a chance to see pieces never before seen in Belgium in this raw space before it is closed for refurbishment work. The coming exhibitions will also present pieces by Brussels artists created especially for the occasion.

Date: Starting from the 5 May 2018

Venue: Fondation Kanal

So if you love contemporary art, you have many reasons to plan a trip to Brussels in coming months.

Have you witnessed the Art scene in Brussels? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Traditional folklore and cool technology are woven together at Taiwan Lantern Festival

The 29th Taiwan Lantern Festival was officially opened, with the lighting of the lanterns in the Main Lantern area. The exhibition scale for this year’s festival reaches 50 hectares, making it the biggest lantern festival ever held in Taiwan. The exhibitions will feature the main lantern which depicts an indigenous child with a Taiwanese dog, portraying the theme of Loyal Auspiciousness. Besides this main attraction, the innovative designs area will showcase various exquisite traditional lanterns that embody traditional customs and auspicious themes; these are sure to dazzle people.

For the first time, full-field spotlights will be used to shine the latitude and longitude beams in the sky and present the Tropic of Cancer going through the mountains, sea and plains of Chiayi County. The design incorporates folk culture and will give people a brand new sensory experience. International tourists who visit the “2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival” and present their passport or relevant entry certificate from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 3-10 at the No. 1 Service Desk can receive a 2018 Year of the Dog DIY paper lantern, a limited edition gift and a voucher (valid from March 3-10), which they can use to access the Main Lantern Area to watch the light show.

On the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival, also known as the Little New Year, celebrates an important traditional folk activity for the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, residents celebrated by setting off firecrackers, displaying hand-held lanterns, and going to temples to look at beautiful lanterns. Amid the fun atmosphere, it’s also a time to wish for peace and prosperity for the country and people. Every year, during the Lantern Festival, throughout Taiwan, large and small scale celebrations are held. The biggest difference between the Taiwan Lantern Festival and the lantern festivals held in various counties and cities in Taiwan is that it integrates tradition and modernity.

Based on traditional culture, the Taiwan Lantern Festival each year uses the animal sign on the Chinese zodiac as the theme of the main lantern. It also pays attention to traditional customs in determining the location, construction and placement rituals. The Main Lantern’s base is designed based on the Chinese Eight Trigrams, which symbolises Taiwan’s traditional philosophy and culture. The Main Lantern lighting ceremony time is selected based on what is considered an auspicious moment. It also involves the traditional blowing of the whistle. (When the President lights the lantern, a team of people blow whistles 9 times, when the Premier lights the lantern, the whistles are blown 8 times and when the Minister of Transportation and Communications lights the lantern, the whistle is blown 7 times). In addition to that, drumming, and hitting the gongs precede the lighting of Main Lantern. And with traditional etiquette, and folk tales as the theme, we cleverly combine lanterns with scenario-based technology to create an ambilight-like scenery.

To bring refreshing results to the public, a number of initiatives have also been planned for the “2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival,” including the center of attention, the Main Lantern “Loyal Auspiciousness ” which for the first time will depict not only the zodiac animal of the year but also include a Taiwan indigenous child waving, so that spectators can feel as if the child is greeting them and sending them good wishes with a smile. With the vigorous development of mobile payments and the introduction of cashless bazaars, the public also can experience the convenience and friendliness brought by science and technology. In order to showcase Taiwan’s intention to promote the protection of the bay resources, the “Bayside Tourism Lantern Area” has also been established to demonstrate the unique vitality of Taiwan being surrounded by the sea. A National Palace Museum water lantern area has also been laid out, and set up a Lantern Festival environmental navigation area, an environmental live broadcast and digital carved water curtain projection.

Through years of constant innovation, the Taiwan Lantern Festival has become one of Taiwan’s premier folk festivals. It has been selected as one of the “World’s Best Festivals” by Discovery and praised by international media as a Disneyland without a roller coaster! Through the holding of the Lantern Festival, the development of various types of Lantern Festival celebrations in Taiwan will be further promoted and world-class lantern designing and making technology will be cultivated. Chiayi County sits in front of a mountain range and faces the sea. It is the only county in Taiwan that spans Alishan, Siraya and Yun-Chia-Nan, three major national scenic areas. In addition to enjoying the sunrise and sea of clouds on Alishan, visitors can also visit the villages of the Zhou indigenous tribe on the mountain, as well as the eco-rich Aogu Wetland, Ruili Scenic Area’s Yanziya, the Dongshi Fisherman’s Wharf’s famous White Sand Beach and eat delicious seafood, Fengtian Temple, which is dedicated to the worshipping of the Goddess Mazu in Xingang, and Bantou village cochin pottery village. Visitors also shouldn’t miss delicious local food such as Minxiong goose, Budai seafood, Dongshi oysters, Xingang peanut candy, and duck soup. Traveling to various tourist spots in Chiayi County during the day and enjoying the Taiwan Lantern Festival in the evening will surely be the best way to celebrate the festival.

In order to promote Taiwan’s unique activities, the Tourism Bureau Chiayi County of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has been highlighting the special festivals of Taiwan in the past few years. In addition to the continuous integration and marketing of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, and other Lantern Festival events, such as the Taipei Lantern Festival, the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival Art Festival, the New Taipei City Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Miaoli Fire Side Dragon Festival, Tainan Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival, and Taitung Bombing of Master Han Dan Festival, since 2013 has been promoting the “Taiwan Tourism Calendar” program, which integrates information on various large-scale special events in Taiwan, including the upcoming annual meeting of the world’s most beautiful bays in Taiwan (Penghu), the Taichung World Flora Exhibition (Taichung City), the 9th Asian Birdwatching Exposition (Chiayi County) and other international conferences and activities. Visitors from home and abroad are welcome to visit the unique and magnificent sightseeing activities of Taiwan’s folk festivals.

About Taiwan

Taiwan is located in the western Pacific Ocean 160 km (100 miles) off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland and is a convenient gateway to Asia for the Indian traveler.

FLIGHTS: A number of airlines such as China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Thai Airways fly directly or with a stopover, in to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the Kaohsiung International Airport and the Taichung International Airport from the Indian metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Scoot Airlines also connects the cities of Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Trichy, Kochi, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad with a stopover in Singapore to Taipei. The average flight time between India and Taiwan is of about 6.5 hours; and Taiwan is 2.5 hours ahead of India.

VISA: Indian Passport holders can enjoy Visa exempt entry into Taiwan for 30 days via an online system. The applicant must have at least one of the following valid or expired visas issued by UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand or any of the Schengen countries.

  • Valid resident or permanent resident card
  • Valid entry visa (may be electronic visa)
  • Resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan

Photo credits : Taiwan Tourism Bureau

Have you seen any lantern festival? How beautiful it was? Share your views in the comments section below.

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A year to celebrate the art of Circus


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How fond we all were of circus in our childhood days. The animals and the acrobats and the jokers. Circus might be thing of past in some part of the world, but the art is still alive and kicking. Actually, there are lot of efforts to preserve and modernise this art. European capital Brussels has been leading efforts in this regard. There is no city in world better than Brussels when we talk about showcasing its different art forms. Similarly, Brussels is now for the next one year showcasing the art of circus. Brussels also has a focusCIRCUS.brussels for this specific purpose.

FocusCIRCUS.brussels aims to promote the vitality of Brussels circus arts, from March 2018 to March 2019, with an explosion of shows and performances in Brussels, a tour of 8 Brussels circus troupes in Italy and France, an avalanche of festivals, and many more initiatives. FocusCIRCUS.brussels kicks off on 12 March 2018 at BOZAR with a celebratory evening and the opening of Festival UP!.

© Sylvain Frappat

BRUSSELS’ BEST AMBASSADORS ARE ITS ARTISTS
FocusCIRCUS.brussels is an initiative of Minister Rachid Madrane, in charge of the Promotion of Brussels for the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. After contemporary art in Paris in 2016 (INDISCIPLINE) and contemporary dance in Berlin in 2017 (RADIKAL), FocusCIRCUS.brussels is the third edition in a series that aims to promote Brussels by showcasing its artists, with a project that’s bigger than its two predecessors.

“In the last few years, circus has become one of Brussels’ nest calling cards. Every year since 2015, I have supported a Brussels troupe with the presenting of a show as part of the famous Avignon festival. In 2018 several major events will be taking place, highlighting Brussels’ circus landscape. Notable among them will be the organisation, for the 1st time ever in Brussels, of the Fresh Circus #4 seminar – which gathers more than 400 circus professionals – and the new campus for the ESAC (Brussels’ circus arts college), one of the world’s most prestigious circus art schools. FocusCIRCUS.brussels was born of the desire to present the extraordinary vitality of Brussels’ circus arts to circus a cionados, novices, producers and all those who love Brussels.” exclaimed Minister Madrane excitedly.

This year-long celebration of the circus arts will be made up of two sections, both national and international. Visit.Brussels, Brussels’ tourism agency, is in charge of the organisation of focusCIRCUS.brussels. Patrick Bontinck, CEO of visit.brussels has said that, “Outside of the launch evening on 12 March at BOZAR, focusCIRCUS,brussels’s concept is not to create new initiatives because Brussels is already brimming with circus festivals and events. Organised in collaboration with Espace Catastrophe, ESAC circus college, the City of Brussels and the Halles de Schaerbeek, focusCIRCUS.brussels aims to promote Brussels and its circus scene by uniting, under one name and project, the four partner’s various events, and supporting them with their communication and distribution.”

FocusCIRCUS.brussels kicks off in Brussels on 12 March with a grand festive evening at BOZAR and the opening of Festival UP!, then continues until March 2019 with the UP!, HOPLA!, and Hors Pistes festivals, shows and performances by students from ESAC and the Fresh Circus#4 seminar. The international tour of 8 Brussels circus troupes in Italy and France starts in September 2018 and finishes in January 2019. Troupes will include Back Pocket, Carré Curieux, Cie la scie du Bourgeon, Cie Menteuses, Gaël Santisteva, Piergiorgio Milano, Poivre Rose, Claudio Stellato.

Have a look at some other snap shots of this years UP! festival-

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New Zealand celebrates Diwali with a Bollywood twist


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Diwali is not only celebrated in India but in many parts of the world and New Zealand left no stone unturned to have one of the best Diwali celebrations last weekend. Visitors were greeted with Bollywood dance moves, traditional music, authentic curries and a chance to enjoy and experience traditional and contemporary Indian culture.

New Zealand Police perform to Bollywood songs Munni Badnaam Hui and Chalti Hai Kya 9 se 12. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

Almost fifteen thousand people attended the annual Indian festival of lights at Christchurch. A group of six New Zealand police officers performed to famous songs of popular Bollywood Actor Salman Khan, such as Munni Badnaam Hui and Chalti Hai Kya 9 se 12. They also had a dance battle with an established dance group – Bollywood Dreams for which they underwent rigorous practice for two months.

39 Irish Step Dance group performing to Bollywood song – Slow Motion Angreza, from the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

The celebrations had other dance performances – one of which was 39 Irish Step Dance group and the other by Latin American Group – LatiNZone.  They performed on several trendy Bollywood songs which were received with immense appreciation by the Indian community present.

Latin American dance group performing to Bollywood songs. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

On asking about the festival and the varied performances, Thomas Shaji Kurian, Chairman of Diwali organising committee and Indian Social & Cultural Club (CHCH) Inc, said,The main focus of the celebrations is to ensure a seamless Indian cultural & Bollywood, food and Arts and Crafts experience to the wider community in Christchurch. Even in India (being so large with many different states with a diverse tradition) we do not get to see so many cultural and traditional performances under one roof and therefore this is a cultural treat even for the Indians. We also endeavour to involve the wider community to engage with the cultural and Bollywood performances. The popularity of the event built over 11 years has largely helped with roping in the wider community performance groups to engage with the festival.

Indian community in New Zealand celebrating the Diwali festival. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

A range of Indian food from 18 stalls kept hunger at bay, including south and north Indian dishes and traditional street food. Indian crafts such as lamp painting and Rongoli art works using coloured rice and flour were popular, as was the chance to dress up in traditional Indian clothing. Diwali celebrations concluded with firework displays, food stalls with assorted Diwali sweets, savouries and herbs, stalls offering henna paintings and people celebrating the conquest of light over darkness.

You can watch a video of the performances on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

New Zealand in nutshell:

Tourism New Zealand markets New Zealand to the world as a visitor destination. In the year ending July 2017, 3.66 million international visitors arrived in New Zealand: an increase of 9.5% on the previous year. International tourism is New Zealand’s largest earner of foreign exchange, pumping over $14.5 billion into the economy and directly employing over 188,000 people.

Visa procedure: One may forward their application to the TT office in Mumbai or Delhi, which will then be directed to Immigration New Zealand. A visitor visa for New Zealand is processed within 15 working days.

Airline connections: Connecting flights to New Zealand are available on Singapore Airlines/Air New Zealand, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines with stop-overs in their respective hubs.  New Zealand’s international gateways are Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Domestic services: You can fly between all New Zealand cities and most major towns using domestic air services. Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main providers. Their services are complemented by regional airlines, charter companies and scenic flight operators.

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Hampi in Monsoon : Images from Hemakuta Hills

We are in UNESCO World heritage site of Hampi in Karnataka and have already went through the Virupaksha temple which is considered to be the most sacred of Hampi’s all temples. Right to the north of Virupaksha temple in Hampi is a big rock face which is known as Hemakuta Hill. It is not a big hill per say, but it is located very strategically. You can have a grand view of the Virupaksha temple and the Hampi Bazar from the top of the hill. There are ruins scattered all around.

Also read: Hampi in Monsoon – Virupaksha Temple

It is aptly also called as a canvas of rocks. And its actually a very amazing sight of the temple ruins around and the very strange rock formations. This rock hill has small temples, gateways and pavilions scattered all around.

There are also remains of a fortification. It is said that in ancient times the whole hill was fortified with stone walls. Traces of that ruins are visible even today.

There are many temples around the Hemakuta hills and they are called as Hemakuta group of temples. There are numerous shrines and mandapas included. There are said to be 21 Shiva temples on and around hills. Some temples also have architecture resembling to Jain temples. It is said that architecture of Hemakuta group of temples is different from Vijayanagara style of architecture.

Its lovely to be in monsoon time here. After visiting Virupaksha temple as I was strolling on Hemakuta hills, heavens opened up and I had to take a shelter in one of the temples, and what a fantastic view that opportunity gave me.

It was raining and rocky slopes of the Hemakuta hills had converted into various small waterfalls giving me a very pleasant sight. Many small pools are also formed.

Rocks on Hemakuta hill are very strangely placed and you often wonder, how these rocks are balancing themselves . Looks very scary at times and equally amazing too.

Even few of the pavilions or mandapas on the hill look so weirdly placed as in the image below. One might often wonder if they have been placed here at later stage.

And this is one of the iconic images of gopuram of Virupaksha temple between the rocks of Hemakuta hills. The mythology of Virupaksha temple is closely associated with that of Hemakuta temple. This mythology and history predates to history of Vijayanagara empire. Most of the temples around Hemakuta hills appear to date between 9th and early 14th century. 

This region holds the mythology of marriage of Lord Shiva (in form of Virupaksha) and Parvati (in form of goddess Pampa). It is said that Pampa was the daughter of Brahma and performed many austerities to woo Shiva, who was meditating on Hemakuta Hill.

It is said that Shivs finally agreed to marriage.  When he actually did… it started raining gold on the hill. Gold is called Hema in the sanskrit and hence this place got the name Hemakuta. This wedding is still celebrated annually at Virupaksha temple and it is big occasion for local people to come here.

a watch tower… or?

This place also has many Shivlingas cut out of rocks. In the image below you can see three lingers in single formation.

There are also five lingas in single formation like in the image below. You can find many such formations in Hampi.

Hemakuta temples have very distinct architecture and surprisingly even these temples have a mix bag of architecture, including Trikutachla style in which there are three shrines facing east, west and the north with a common  ardhamandapa and a front porch. Going towards south on the Hemakuta hill, we will also a group of stone shrines facing in different directions (image below). East facing shrine is said to be the original Virupakasha temple. Its is called Prasanna Virupaksha or Mula Virupaksha. This temple is still under worship. Just behind this temple is another chamber with 3.6 metre high image of Anjaneya or Hanuman. his temple is known as Prasanna Anjaneya temple.

There is a double storied gate towards the south (image below) to access the Hemakuta hill (image below). Just see, how precariously close to this gate is this rock placed… was it there before or this accident happened later on?

Past the gate, you can see other temples down south including Krishna temple (image below). I shall be writing about them in later posts.

The top of Hemakuta hills is also said to be one of the best place here to watch sunset. Drawback of coming here in monsoon is that you don’t get to see that perfect sunset, as you can see in winters.Another amazing aspect of Hemakuta hills and its rocks is the holes in these big boulders (image below). They were of course man made and it is said that they were made to break the rock from that point, thus to make smaller stones from these huge rocks so that they can be used in sculptures or construction of temples.

See, in the image below- the rock has been broken from exactly the same point where holes were made-The stairs carved out of the rocks in the souther side of the Hemakuta hills. From the double storied gate, these stairs lead down to other temples.

It is often said that there is much more in ruins of Hampi than what is obvious. They have a rich history. Time spent on Hemakuta hills just makes you able to soak yourself in marvel that is scattered around you. You can easily spend more than couple of hours on this hill enjoying the architectural wonders.

Reaching Hampi: Hemakuta hills are just north of the Virupaksha temple in heart of Hampi. Hampi is located in Bellary district of Karnataka. Although closest big city to Hampi is Hospet, just 12 kms away. Hospet is also the closest railway station. Hospet is located on National Highway 63 which connects Ankola to Bellary via Hubli. Hubli is 160 kilometres from Hampi and has the closest airport to the erstwhile capital of Vijayanagara empire. Hubli is in Dharwad district and also has a railway station. There are also many daily trains from Hubli to Hospet which normally take between 2.30 hours to 2.45 hours to cover the distance. Actually Hubli is on railway line connecting Madgaon in Goa to Hospet. Similarly, you can also come by train from Pune-Kolhapur to Hubli and then move to Hospet. From Hospet you can even take a taxi or auto rickshaw to Hampi. Hubli is also the second biggest city in Karnataka after capital Bengaluru. Bengaluru is bit far from Hubli- roughly 335 kilometres.

Hampi in Monsoon : Virupaksha Temple

Hampi is indeed one of the most prominent heritage sites in peninsular India. In our childhood, we all had been deeply associated with stories of Raja Krishna Dev Raya (Krishnadevaraya) and Tenali Raman (Ramkrishna). It is always fascinating to be there where all those immortal stories of Vijayanagara empire would have taken place. Hampi is also a place which can be included in our monsoon travel itineraries. Having there been in monsoon, I can safely say that it is one of he best time to visit Hampi. Summers are indeed a torture here and winter would be fun but it is the monsoon which brings the best out of this historical place in Hemakuta hills of Karnataka.

So here are few images from monsoon travel in Hampi, starting with the Virupaksha temple. Few striking ones to begin with- views of Virupaksha temple from the Hemakuta hills:

Right before the rain-

During the rain…

…and immediately after the rain

See, how the colours change so dramatically. Virupaksha Temple is the heart of Hampi, as this is the temple which is centre of all activities in Hampi- markets, bus stop, restaurants, shops- all are in surrounding areas of Virupaksha temple.  This temple dedicated to Shiva is considered to be one of the holiest and most sacred in Hampi. Hence it gets the most steady stream of visitors, all the year round. It is main centre of pilgrimage to Hampi.

Main gopuram of the Virupaksha temple, which makes the main entrance. This nine storied 50 metre high gopuram is one of the highest in Hampi.

Temple has a history that dates centuries earlier than the birth of Vijayanagara empire. Although this region of Hampi has mythological association with Ramayana, but the temple history is available only from 7th century onwards. But indeed during the rule of Vijayanagara empire that this temple reached to its glory. It was also amazing that though Raja Krishnadevraya was a vaishnavite, but it was the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Shiva that represented the glory of his empire.

Once you enter through this gopuram, you come to the outer courtyard of the temple.

A show stand and the souvenir shop in the outer courtyard

In the outer courtyard, there are many smaller shrines and mandapams.

Three faced Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva

From this outer courtyard, through another smaller gopuram, we enter the main inner courtyard, which houses the main shrine and mandapams.  Some views of the inner courtyard.

Centre view…In the image above we can see third gopuram towards the north which takes us to some more shrines and it eventually leads us to river Tungabhadra, which flows besides the temple.

….the left view of the inner courtyard

….and the right!

In the image below you can see the main pillared hall on the left and mandapams on the right, which were used in the past by the pilgrims to stay while visiting the temple. In the front is the same main gopuram, through which we entered the temple. Pillared hall in the left quite rich in architecture as well as sculptures. This hall also has some inscriptions related to Krishnadevraya. 
Temple has gone through various phases of renovation and restoration. In the image below you can see the difference between the original work (towards right) and restored work (towards left).

Ceiling of inside hall has still got intact some of the paintings of past (image below)

Temple got different types of constructions. While the gouprams have been prepared with brick, main hall has beautifully sculpted pillars. Some of the pillars are even in black marble. Inner sanctum sanctorum of the temple is quite rich in its sculptures.

Family of Lord Shiva

Just behind the main shrine at an upper level is this display of the photography technology. In a dark room there is a hole in the wall (left on the image below) You can see the main gopuram from this hole. But this small hole actually coverts itself into a pin-hole camera and hence through this pin-hole you can see an inverted image of the gopuram (below right) on the wall just opposite the hole. Looks astonishing. It is unlikely that the hole would have been originally created that way. But it would have been interesting to know, how and when this phenomenon was discovered here.

Moving out, it is almost ritualistic for the pilgrims to feed the temple elephant (image below). This elephant is normally used in festivals and processions.

Erotic sculptures: But my story of the temple won’t complete without referring to these It seems that erotic sculptures were part of temple architecture in down south as well, at least in medieval times when Krishnadevaraya would have renovated these temples. Although the  sculptures don’t have finesse of the ones of 9th and 10th century, that we find in North India, or even of Kalinga region, which might have inspired few of Krishnadevaraya’s ideas around Hampi.

A sculpture depicting various sexual acts inside the inner courtyard on the outer wall of the main shrine

But more striking are the sculptures on the main gopuram of the Virupaksha temple. They are big, although due to height of the gopuram, they are not clearly visible to naked eyes from the ground level.

Interestingly, some of the poses in these sculptures are quite different to what I have seen anywhere else in India. (You can click on the images to have a bigger and clearer view). That makes me wonder about the idea behind them. Its is very unfortunate that we don’t have any authentic account on origin of these type of sculptures in this temple.  Perhaps no inscriptions, only hearsay.

Due to these sculptures, I had often considered Virupaksha temple as one of the top erotic temples in India. It is very interesting to have different insights while visiting a temple of this huge cultural and historical importance.

Reaching Hampi: Virupaksha Temple is in heart of Hampi, close to bus stand. Hampi is located in Bellary district of Karnataka. Although closest big city to Hampi is Hospet, just 12 kms away. Hospet is also the closest railway station. Hospet is located on National Highway 63 which connects Ankola to Bellary via Hubli. Hubli is 160 kilometres from Hampi and has the closest airport to the erstwhile capital of Vijayanagara empire. Hubli is in Dharwad district and also has a railway station. There are also many daily trains from Hubli to Hospet which normally take between 2.30 hours to 2.45 hours to cover the distance. Actually Hubli is on railway line connecting Madgaon in Goa to Hospet. Similarly, you can also come by train from Pune-Kolhapur to Hubli and then move to Hospet. From Hospet you can even take a taxi or auto rickshaw to Hampi. Hubli is also the second biggest city in Karnataka after capital Bengaluru. Bengaluru is bit far from Hubli- roughly 335 kilometres.

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Kashmir, we know less about : Kheer Bhawani at Tulmul

There have been many facets of this paradise on earth. The political disturbances since last many decades have made many places either out of bounds or less frequently visited. One of such places is Kheer Bhawani temple at Tulmul (Tullamula) in Ganderbal district of Jammu & Kashmir. Just a few days back on eighth day (Ashtami, अष्टमी) of brighter fortnight (Shukla Paksha, शुक्ल पक्ष) of the hindu month of Jyeshtha (ज्येष्ठ या जेठ) pilgrims gathered at three shrines in Kashmir valley including the Kheer Bhawani temple. Devotees, mostly Kashmiri Pandits, thronged the shrine situated in south Kashmir, which is currently hot bed of  unrest in the Valley. Other two shrines are Tripur Sundari temple in Devsar (Kulgam district) and Ragnya Bhagwati in Manzgam (Kulgam district). This particular day is considered to be the birth day of Goddess Bhagwati. The day is celebrated  with hawans, community kitchens and mass prayers.

Outside Temple compound

Despite all fear created in media, devotees came here and paid obeisance at the shrine. It was usual as was in the past. Much hype was given to element of fear on social media, which led to fall in number of pilgrims but there was no such fear there. Besides this annual festival, people come here every month on the same day to perform rituals and seek blessings. Kheer Bhawani is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in Kashmir valley.

Also read- Naranag: Kashmir we know less about!

Message is clear: Go Vegan!

Though this temple has a rich mythology associated with it, the present temple was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1912 and it was later renovated by his nephew Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king.

Inside compound of the temple

Surrounded by streams, this place is rich in true Kashmiri beauty, Its abound with Chinar trees- inside and outside the compound. There is a stream surrounding the temple. People take holy bath in this stream.

Also read: Wedding Bells

Stream surrounding the temple.

Now there is a legend on how Goddess Bhagwati reached in Kashmir. Mythology says that King Ravana of Lanka worshipped the goddess and pleased by his prayers, the goddess Bhagwati agreed to shower her blessings and reside in Lanka. But later because of Ravana’s misdeeds goddess cursed him and then she asked Hanuman to take her far in northern mountains away from Ravana’s kingdom. Hence goddess along with her vehicle and 360 nagas (serpents) was brought by Hanuman here at Tullamula near Shadipora.

Its a beautiful compound surrounded by Chinar trees

Then there is another legend on how the temple was discovered in medieval times. It is said that a Kashmiri Pandit, Krishna Dayal Tapilu from Srinagar had a dream wherein the goddess asked hime to travel from Ganderbal to Shadipora in a boat. From Shadipora a serpent would guide him to a pious spring. It so happened. Serpent disappeared after leading that pandit to this spring in Tullamula and this is where the temple is built today. Once you visit the temple, you will find many details about this legend.

Samadhi of the priests

The main spring called as Amrit Kund (अमृत कुंड) of goddess Kheer Bhawani is an irregular hexagonal shape. It has an island in the centre where a mulberry tree grew. And  here goddess Bhagwati is decorated and housed in a small white marble temple. It is said that idols in the temple are the ones that were taken out from this spring.

Devotees offering prayer to goddess

It is also said that water of this spring changes its colours from time to time. These colours are found to be red, light green, lemon yellow, milky white, grey white etc. There is no definite time or reason of changing the colours but any colour in shade of black is considered to be inauspicious. It is also said that there are bubbles rising out of spring water at times and they form a chakra (a mystic symbol, चक्र या यंत्र ).

The temple in the spring

The goddess here is offered Kheer (a sweet dish made of milk, rice and sugar) as prasad (offering, प्रसाद). People are not supposed to eat any form of meat when they visit the holy shrine.

Also read: Tulip Garden in Heaven

The main temple of goddess in spring

Years of unrest have decreased the number of tourists and pilgrims coming to this temple. Tourists just remained glued to their fixed itineraries. Hence, you won’t find many people here on regular days. There are number of restaurants here in the compound which also double up as prasad selling shops, and there is also availability of some rooms for pilgrims willing to stay. These restaurants also serve some local vegetarian delicacies. There is a guest house near by with all facilities.

Restaurants in the temple complex and guest house in the background

Also read: Never a dull morning in the Dal

How to reach: Located in foothills of Himalayas, this temple is not far from Srinagar. Once you move out of the city on the Srinagar-Leh highway, you come close to Ganderbal. Cross the Sindh river and move to Manasbal road. After few kilometres, there is a diversion towards Tullamula. Temple is around 25 kilometres from Srinagar and you can easily find taxis or buses to this place.

Beautiful surroundings

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Want to have local food while on travel! TTC partners VizEat!

Want to have some authentically local food while travelling abroad, but are afraid of what hotels serve in name of local dishes? Also, you might be interested in having local food in authentically local environments such as homes, but don’t know how to in a new city! Here is a brand new initiative.

The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) award-winning family of brands including Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Contiki, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Busabout and Evans Evans partnered globally with VizEat, the innovative and immersive food experience platform, bringing travellers together by offering immersive culinary experiences with their 22,000 local hosts in 110 countries. In 2014, the app was first launched in Paris and it has now become the world’s most popular meal sharing platform with guests being welcomed into a global network of hosts’ homes while making authentic connections with both locals and travellers.

TTC’s travel brands will be able to connect their guests to these VizEat hosts who are trained chefs and home cooks where they will share their delicious meals and learn about new cultures with other travellers  and foodies from across the globe. They will sample regional specialties and traditional cuisine in unique locations with a relaxed ambience. Travelers can enjoy a pasta making class in Rome, embark on an interactive market tour in Barcelona, indulge in a wine and cheese tasting party in Paris or join a Tuscan chef’s table and sample gastronomic delicacies.

“Our partnership with VizEat will enable our guests from across our 30+ TTC travel brands to discover amazing and fun culinary experiences in each destination which we visit while also interacting with the local people and creating unforgettable memories,” said Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer of The Travel Corporation. “We also share similar values by offering experiential experiences and meeting like-minded travellers from around the world.”

Beginning this summer, TTC’s guests will have an opportunity to enjoy these immersive food experiences on selected trips or as optional experiences through the assistance of their knowledgeable Travel Directors and Tour Managers.

“We’re thrilled to announce this global partnership with TTC and this marks a great opportunity for more travellers worldwide the chance to uncover immersive culinary experiences with locals wherever they go,” said Jean-Michel Petit, Chief Executive Officer of VizEat. “It’s a great match for both of us: TTC family of brands plans the most memorable experiences for their clients and VizEat is aligned in this search for unforgettable and authentic moments.”

The Travel Corporation (TTC) is a highly successful international travel group. No matter what your taste, whether you are a family or a couple, a group or traveling solo – TTC offers something for everyone. Its multi-award-winning portfolio ranges from luxury hotels and boutique river cruises, to independent holiday package companies and a variety of guided travel experiences.

Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit that works to help ensure the environment and communities we visit remain for generations to come. Founded by Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer, TTC, to date TreadRight has supported more than 40 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. As an official Diamond Sponsor of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, TTC is dedicated to bringing the industry together with a shared goal of benefitting local communities and the environment.

VizEat website and apps are now available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese. Anyone can sign up to become either a host or a guest. The mobile apps for VizEat are available for download for iOS and Android. Apple selected VizEat in the TOP 3 Apps of 2016 and  CEO Tim Cook went for a VizEat lunch in Paris early February.