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April 2012 Back

NEKRTC’s Vijaya Ratha offers a peek into the past

The North East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) has specially designed two buses - Vijaya Ratha - to take tourists on a trip of historical places in the limits of Bijapur, Bidar and Hospet.

Vijaya Ratha, starting its journey from places of historical interest in Hampi every day, will take Indian and international tourists to such places in Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Bijapur.

The bus has been designed in such a way that the interiors give a feel of Hampi’s heritage.

Officials of NEKRTC said that after G N Shivamurthy took over as managing director in July 2011, the Corporation had seen an increase in its earnings.

The earnings in 2011-12 stood at Rs 966.82 crore, an increase of Rs 103 crore over the previous year. The losses have come down during the period, the officials said.

The number of NEKRTC buses has increased from 3,792 to 4,074 to provide better services to passengers, officials said.

The Corporation has also taken many initiatives for the welfare of its employees

These include a library in the head office and a proposal to start a newsletter titled ‘Eshanya Vahini’.

The newsletter will keep the staff informed about the developments in NEKRTC, offer health tips, legal awareness, general knowledge and will have articles by noted writers.

Among the eco-friendly measures undertaken by the new MD are a park in the Hagaribommanahalli depot.

Such parks will also come up at the Jewargi, Koppal, Humnabad and Bijapur bus stands. New bus stands are planned in Lingasugur and Shahpur.

Officials said that Shivamurthy has initiated a group insurance scheme for the employees under which the family members of any officer or staffer who dies in the service years will get a compensation of Rs three lakh.

3 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Where once stood Darwinia...

Charles Darwin was among the most celebrated personalities of the 1850s. Darwinia, a building in Lalbagh, which housed the offices of the Bangalore garden‒ 7;s curators, was a fitting tribute to the great scientist, writes S Narayanaswamy

The decade of the 1850s and 60s was an important phase in the world’s history of natural sciences. Charles Darwin propounded the famous ‘Theory of Evolution’ in 1856, and his work, ‘Origin of Species’ created ripples in science fora across the world. World over, biologists, naturalists, botanists and environmentalists not only accepted his theories but also heralded him as the ‘Man of the Century’. Many chairs were instituted in universities across the world, many memorials and monuments were raised in colleges, parks and gardens. In India too, a memorial was raised in Lalbagh, the State Botanical Garden of the then princely State of Mysore.

A tribute was paid to Darwin in the form of a building constructed at the suggestion of Hugh Cleghorn, Botanical Advisor to Sir Mark Cubbon, the chief commissioner of the State then.

The building was named Darwinia.

Office to Lalbagh’s curators

William New, the curator of Lalbagh set up his office, laboratory and library in Darwinia during his tenure from 1859 to 1863 and from 1865 to 1873.

During the two years from 1863 to 1865, A Black was the curator of Lalbagh. He too continued at Darwinia. The annual administrative reports of the State during these years contain interesting notes on Darwinia. It was the centre of all scientific work carried out in the botanical garden. Following the death of New in 1873, the garden was without a curator for a few months. Soon, the post was filled up by a Scot gardener, John Cameron, a Kew trained botanist. Cameron did great service to the State by enriching the plant wealth in Lalbagh and supplying the same to farmers of the State.

In the year 1890, Cameron got the Darwinia repaired and renovated. Along with his office, he also accommodated the offices of the Assistant Curator and clerical staff there. As the years rolled, the activities of Cameron increased because of the additional duties that he was requested to take on, by the government.

This included taking charge of the Government Museum as also other government gardens. The Darwinia becam

 small for his wide-ranging activities. Therefore, in the year 1894, Cameron requested the government to grant him permission to shift his office to the Assistant Curator's Cottage. Because the assistant curator Stephen had relinquished his post on being appointed superintendent of Nagpur Botanical Garden, the cottage was vacant.

Cameron got the permission of the government and shifted his office to the Lalbagh cottage. With the shifting of the office of the superintendent of Lalbagh from Darwinia, the building lost its importance for some years.

Enter Krumbeigel

In the year 1915, Darwinia again got the attention of the government as well as members of the general public. Krumbeigel, the then superintendent of Lalbagh and the government gardens, proposed to the government that the Darwinia was the most suitable building with its serene surroundings for starting a restaurant. It had two rooms which were ideally suited, one for the British and another for an Indian restaurant.

The government approved the proposal and two restaurants were started there. In a short period, it became a very popular hub for tourists. For almost half a century, the Darwinia was the most thronged place in Lalbagh. The area round Darwinia was green and covered with lawns and shrubberies. There were many arches covered with creepers. The vicinity of Darwinia was the perfect setting for families. The Darwinia also attracted a lot of students and became their favourite hangout.

The glory and popularity of Darwinia did not last long, for in 1957, the government decided to demolish it as it was a very old structure and was on the verge of collapse. It was eventually torn down in 1959, and in its place, a befitting memorial, the Moghul garden was raised in 1960, in commemoration of the centenary of the Lalbagh botanical garden.

3 April 2012, Deccan Herald



Lessons in soil and water conservation

Systematic soil and water conservation activities carried out with community participation in some parts of Tumkur district have started yielding results. There is improved availability of ground water, marginal increase in food crops, fodder and improved plant diversity in the villages of Madhugiri taluk, Tumkur district.

“When we visited Nandihalli village in Tumkur district during 2005, farmers were uprooting tamarind trees. They felt the trees were not yielding enough produce because of the lack of rainfall. We requested them to stop cutting the trees and wait till the next season. After that, we explained the project activities that would improve the yield of tamarind trees. After a prolonged discussion and motivation, farmers have agreed to stop cutting the trees for some period. New tamarind plantations are coming up and the yield of the existing trees has also improved to a considerable extent,” explains Dhananjaya who is implementing a watershed-based development project called ‘Jalajeevani’ in selected villages of Koratagere taluk, Tumkur district. BAIF- Institute for Rural Development is implementing the project with community participation. The project villages come under the central dry zone with an average annual rainfall of 550 mm.

Shallow red sandy soils with severe lack of soil and water conservation measures and erratic rainfall have forced farmers to chop the tamarind trees. Vegetation was very sparse. Farmers could raise only one crop, which is finger millet. Those with fairly more land raised groundnut.

The project was sponsored by K K Malhotra and Vaishno Mal Malhotra Trust, Mumbai. The project is under implementation around Dodderi hobli, Madhugiri taluk, Tumkur district. About 1,150 families from 19 villages have been supported to carry out soil and water conservation activities, plantation of forestry all along the field bunds, horticulture plantation in one acre, fodder cultivation on field bunds, etc. Focus was on the conservation of soil and water. Trenches and bunding across the slope were built to harvest excess run-off, and recharge the water table. A majority of the farmers have taken up this activity and have completed bunding manually. Bunds were further strengthened by sowing stylo hemata grass seeds on them, construction of waste weirs and plantation of forestry species all along the bunds. On an average, one farm pond was excavated to conserve rain water for ground water recharge. As many as 609 farm ponds were excavated. A quick impact study of 90 households and interaction with farmers of Nandihalli, Ajjenahalli, Kabbigere, Boragunte, Gidadagalahalli, Bisadihalli and Chikkarasanahalli village revealed the increase in the crop yield and improved availability of ground water.

There is significant improvement in the yield of finger millet (35 %) which is the staple food of the project villages. The excavation of farm ponds has resulted in harvesting the excess run off during rainy season. Water is available for six to nine months in the ponds located in the lower catchment areas.

Farmers have also noticed the improvement of water availability in the existing bore wells. There was no continuous supply of water before water conservation and recharge activities. Now the yield has improved and there is continuous supply of water in the irrigation bore wells.

3 April 2012, Deccan Herald


A burning concern

Forest Fires

Over 3,500 ha of Nagarhole and 2,000 ha of Bandipur Tiger Reserve were destroyed in a recent fire. In the cycle of life and death that is part of Nature, wild fires cause destruction so that regeneration may take place. But when human beings err, things can take a tragic turn, writes Atula Gupta

Normally, the pristine forests at the foothills of the Western Ghats are teeming with wildlife all year long. Chital deer hop about from one green pasture to another, Giant Malabar Squirrels spend lazy afternoons snoozing on their tree top homes and big predators like the tiger patiently wait for the opportune moment when they can move for the kill. But this year, the forest saw what it had not seen in the last 40 years, an inferno that spread its fiery arms and embraced all that stood in its way. Huge trees rumbled, anguished animals ran for cover and in a matter of moments, the verdant patch of moist deciduous forest turned into a black morgue with charred remains of its inhabitants scattered all around.

Forest fires are not an unnatural phenomenon. In the cycle of life and death that Mother Nature has created, wild fires have a role of destruction so that regeneration may take place. But while the natural act is controlled, the same act takes a tragic turn when human beings err.
Over 3,500 hectare area (ha) of Nagarhole and 2,000 ha of Bandipur Tiger Reserve were destroyed in the recen

 catastrophe. According to wildlife biologist and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member K Ullas Karanth, 6.1 per cent of the forest cover in Nagarhole was damaged. The charred areas included the Anechowkur range, Veeranahosalli, Kallahalla, Metikuppe, Nagarhole and DB Kuppe of the forest. The Bandipur reserve lost 2.6 per cent of its forest area with Moleyur and Moolehole losing more than five per cent of wildlife.

Annual occurrence

Fires are a major source of degradation of forests in the entire country, and from mid-February till mid-June, almost 50 per cent of India’s forest cover is prone to fire, according to the Forest Survey of India. The dry, summer heat and the dead leaves covering the forest ground easily make conditions suitable for a disaster. This year, wildfires have already been reported in Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha and in Maharashtra.

But while forest fires cannot be predicted, pre-fire preparedness can at least nip the menace in the bud. According to Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) website, as part of Disaster Management Support Programme of Department of Space, forest fires have been recognised as a disaster. A comprehensive system called ‘Indian Forest Fire Response and Assessment System’ (INFFRAS) is operational since 2005 which gives pre-fire warning, provides near real-time active fire detection and monitoring during fire and assesses the damage post-fire. More importantly, forest fire alerts are sent daily to nodal officers of state forest departments in the fire season. NASA too provides satellite imagery of the vulnerable spots. However, Karanth says that sometimes the imagery provided by satellites also underestimate fire incidents because of possible influences of cloud cover, heavy smoke, lack of satellite coverage at the time of fire incidents and tree canopy completely obscuring the fire. He adds though that this cannot account for the ineptness of the rangers.

Even as acres of scarred, barren land and smoldered remains bore testimony to the tragic fire at Nagarhole, government officials were busy passing the blame on to tribal settlements rather than save what could be saved. Being the critical habitat of the tiger, Asian elephants and gaurs, among other species, Nagarhole and Bandipur reserves are like precious gems that need absolute safeguarding from all catastrophes. But environmentalists feel that barring the forest rangers and contract workers who are usually deployed in these forests, the State did nothing to save the jungle from the danger of fire.

A wildlife activist based in Bangalore points out that fire-watchers and jeeps temporarily employed in the first week o

January to draw fire lines and keep a check on the danger, were never allotted this year. A member of the forest staff too states that an alarm could not be raised in time as the wireless sets they were provided with, did not work.

The aftermath

Together with the adjoining Bandipur, Mudumalai National Park and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, the Nagar¬hole National Park forms the largest protected area in South India, totalling 2,183 sq km. From the commercially important teak, rosewood, sandalwood and silver oak to the conspicuous tree species such as Golden Shower Tree and Flame of the Forest, the area has a flora diversity that is enviable. The prey-predator population too is excellent. For such a magnanimous biome, therefore, rising from the ashes is not going to be a one day, one month or a one-year task. It will regenerate bit by bit as each season presents its own set of challenges and then too, it will take time for the animals to feel safe again and return to dwell in these parts. “A house can be reconstructed or a whole town can be rebuilt after a major fire. But it will take 20 to 30 years for a forest to regain what it has lost in a fire” says former range forest officer KM Chinnappa. As nature heals gradually, it is at present that it needs maximum support so that the forest is not emptied even before it replenishes its sources. For the so-called guardians of nature now is the time to show they care.

3 April 2012, Deccan Herald


A river runs through it

The Cauvery runs right through the heart of Chunchanakatte town. A small temple and picturesque spots on the banks of the risver make the town worth visiting, writes B V Prakas

There are many scenic spots on the banks of the Cauvery all along its course in Mysore district. Most of these banks invariably have a temple, thereby attracting both the devout and those who love scenic beauty. Chunchanakatte is one such spot

This town is situated about 14 km from KR Nagar. A sudden depression of rocky bed in the course of the Cauver

 has created two small waterfalls. The sight of the river flowing smoothly along the craggy terrain with little pools of blue here and there, add to the beauty of the place.

Though it is a largely bumpy ride to the place, there are pleasant bits; the best part of the journey being the drive from Mysore to KR Nagar. But the view of the falls, the river and the unique temple make the visit worthwhile.

As you approach Chunchanakatte, you won’t get the slightest clue that a river flows right in the middle of the town until the path going down towards the east is followed. The first sight that will greet you upon reaching the place is the temple. An imposing structure in pale yellow, the temple of Kodandarama looks simple without sculptural extravagance. But as you climb the steps of the high platform on which it stands, you pass through the moderately large entrance tower to a spacious courtyard with a dhwajasthambha.

What mythology says

Narayana Iyengar, the priest in-charge here, gives a gist of the history of the shrine and its uniqueness. Aeons ago, the whole place was a dense forest called Chuncharanya which became Chunchanakatte later, named after Chuncha, the hunter and his wife, Chunchi. It was also here that sage Ranabindu performed penance, but was frequently troubled by the hunters. It was later when epic hero Rama happened to come here during his exile in the forest and punished them, that the sage could perform penance unhindered.

The temple here was consecrated thanks to the sage.

The unique feature here is that the image of Seetha is on the right side of Rama, unlike the norm. Also, because the epic hero had not yet met Hanuman when he visited the spot, there is no idol of Hanuman in the sanctum, says Iyengar. Much later, a separate shrine for the monkey god was constructed. Like many other places, legend has it that Rama’s brother Lakshmana struck his arrow into the ground to create a spring for Seetha to bathe. The sanctum of the temple was built during Chola times while the outer courtyard decorated with frescoes of Dashavathara was added by Immadi Krishnarajendra Wodeyar, the Mysore king, according to the priest.

The annual festival here is celebrated the day after Makara Sankranthi. Chunchankatte is also known for its ten-day cattle fair. The river and its falls are the major attractions in the town. A few steps from the temple takes you to a rocky bed with depressions created by water currents. The Cauvery forks before tumbling down the rocks into two cascades, which later merge and flow east-ward. The river is shallow during summer but the undercurrents are something to be cautious about as also the flash floods when water is released suddenly from the nearby mini-hydel project.

The area around Chunchanakatte has plenty of birdlife too. Cormorants can be spotted on the rocks closer to the river while a large number of egrets, pond herons and white ibises gather at the nearby fields. Chunchanakatte deserves to be a tourist spot and needs development and maintenance. But unfortunately it has been neglected and littered by tourists.

Getting there

You can reach KR Nagar from Bangalore (178 km) or Mysore (38 km). Chunchanakatte is 14 km from KR Nagar. There is a weak bridge on the way where heavy vehicles can take a deviation.

3 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Heritage list: Babus goof up, Majuli rejected again

When it comes to bungling up their task, the Indian bureaucracy knows no bias. In fact, our champions of red tape don't believe in exerting their grey cells even when the issue at hand concerns something as significant as the Prime Minister’s constituency

For the third time, UNESCO has returned India’s nomination for the river island of Majuli — situated midstream of the Brahmaputra in Assam — for inclusion in the World Heritage List. The nomination for the island, which has been languishing on UNESCO's ‘tentative’ list of world heritage sites since 2004, was found incomplete on three counts

According to the latest letter from UNESCO, which came earlier this month, the primary reason was that only two copies of the nomination papers were sent — instead of the mandated three. Also, one of them lacked several sections that provide justifications for the nomination, and deal with management and protection of the proposed site. The letter, a copy of which is with HT, also found fault with the ‘authenticity and integrity column’ and cited the absence of an image inventory and authorisation form

“It is shameful that the proposal for the Prime Minister's constituency has been rejected again, for the same reasons as the last two times,” said a conservationist. Significantly, during the January meeting of the Advisory Committee on World Heritage Matters, Majuli was discussed as an additional proposal, along with Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat. On January 26, the members were told that the chairman had decided in favour of Rani Ki Vav. “It’s a mystery how Majuli was sent,” an official source said.

Shikha Jain, member secretary of the Advisory Committee on World Heritage Matters, refused to term the UNESCO's response as a ‘rejection’. “We were very clear that the Majuli nomination would be made for 2013,” Jain said.

3 April 2012, Hindustan Times


Grass with Gandhi’s blood to be auctioned in UK

Grass with a drop of Mahatma Gandhi’s blood and soil from the place where he was assassinated in 1948 in New Delhi are among the rare items to be put up for auction in the UK on April 17

Other items include a pair of Gandhi’s round-rimmed glasses, a ‘charkha’, a 10 inch 78 RPM Columbia disc of Gandhi giving his spiritual message signed by him, and original photographs of Gandhi visiting London in 1931. The items, along with letters in English by Gandhi to Raghavan, Sgt NER Poduwal in Rangoon, and letters by Gandhi in Gujarati and a prayer book in Gujarati are expected to fetch nearly 100,000 pounds in the auction conducted by Mullock’s in Shropshire

The highest guide price — 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds — has been set by the auctioneer for three items in the collection: the pair of glasses, ‘charkha’ and a casket containing the soil and blades of grass from the spot where Gandhi was killed

The soil and blades of grass were collected by one P P Nambiar, who describes the samples in a provenance, and are placed in a small wooden casket containing a small glass topped box

The description of the item says: “The casket comes with a letter of provenance by P P Nambiar dated September 24th, 1996 saying that the recipient..has today received the most sacred of all relics a fraction of the pinch of soil I collected on January 30, 1948 from the spot where the Father of our nation M K Gandhi fell to the bullets of his assassin

”Mullock’s says that the item is also accompanied by a copy of ‘True but never heard before’ by P Nambiar, which is a personal account of collecting the soil sample on the day Gandhi was murdered. It quotes Nambiar’s words...”in my search I found a drop of blood on the grass almost dried”.

3 April 2012, Indian Express


ASI files 300 complaints, cops convert 19 of them into FIRs

Two years after an amendment in the Archaeological Act came into force, the Delhi Police have registered just 19 FIRs across three police stations as against more than 300 complaints lodged by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in connection with unauthorized construction

The March 2010 amendment prohibited any new construction in the prohibited areas (0 to 100 metres) and had put several restrictions for the same in regulated areas (101 to 300 metres) of a centrally protected monument. It also envisaged stringent punishment for the Central government officials who did not stop unauthorised construction in these area

Since the amendment came into effect, the ASI officials went on a complaint-filing spree. Nizamuddin, Mehrauli and Hauz Khas are the three areas with a relatively large number of ASI-protected monuments. Hence, the number of complaints regarding unauthorised construction has always been high in these area

“We carry out our procedure diligently. We issue showcause notice to the property owner or the one carrying out construction, inform the civic body and lodge a complaint with the local police,” said an ASI officia

When HT enquired about the FIRs registered since the amendment till December 2011 at Mehrauli, Hauz Khas and Nizamuddin police stations, Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said, “There are 19 FIRs registered between April 2010 and December 2011

“It is a case-specific issue. There are various reasons which differ from complaint to complaint,” said a official

4 April 2012, Hindustan Times


Uttarakhand rivers vanishing due to hydro projects

The health of rivers in Uttarakhand has deteriorated substantially due to violation of environment laws by various hydroelectric projects in the hill State. Important rivers such as the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda are either disappearing downstream of dams or are being used as dumping ground

Garbage dumped in the Tehri dam reservoir has made the Bhagirathi ‘untouchable’ for even local residents. In a letter written to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, T Chatterjee and member

secretary of Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board, Jairaj, Vimal Bhai of Matu Jansangathan has pointed out various anomalies involving green norm violations in hydel power plants

He said that the phenomenon is posing a serious threat to the existence of important rivers of the State. The Alaknanda and the Bhagirathi are the two headstreams of the Ganga, the lifeline of northern India

The letter states that though issues related to hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand are being raised for some years now, no serious attempt has been made by either the MoEF or the UEPPCB to address them

Vimal Bhai said, “The condition of the rivers is frightening today as their very existence stands threatened. The course of most of these rivers has been diverted into tunnels or reservoirs. Following construction of the projects, the rivers have become dumping sites of all types of organic and inorganic waste which was not the case before the construction of these projects. In complete disregard of environment clearances, the companies constructing these projects are themselves dumping waste into the rivers which is continuing unabated as there is no monitoring whatsoever of the water quantity in the river after diversion into tunnels or downstream of the HEP reservoirs.

The garbage dumped in the Tehri Dam reservoir is such that even those living around the reservoir find the Bhagirathi ‘untouchable.’ Ironically, the same water is supplied to New Tehri. According to Matu Jansangathan, material excavated by the Border Roads Organisation for widening of roads is also dumped into rivers without any consideration for environmental regulations

The organisation has provided photographic and video evidence of the Bhagirathi turning dry downstream of the Maneri-Bhali HEP Phase-1 and the garbage being dumped into rivers and reservoirs including the Tehri dam reservoir. The organisation has requested the MoEF secretary and the UEPPCB member secretary to take stringent action. The liability of companies guilty of the green violations should be fixed and necessary action taken

In his letter, Vimal Bhai writes, “A permanent monitoring mechanism must be evolved at your end so that such monitoring is not dependent on reports furnished by the HEP (hydroelectric projects) concerned. Such a mechanism should ensure that in future HEPs and companies do not take advantage (of environmental clearances) by making rivers a dumping area for waste.

4 April 2012, Pioneer


Atithi tum kab jaoge?

Despite mercury soaring to 39 degree Celsius, the winter winged guests — including coot, bar headed goose and northern shoveler — stay put in the Okhla Bird Sanctuary

These migratory birds are awaited guests in the winter, but their staying on in summer is causing concern to bird watchers. They feel that these birds were sticking around due to either their poor health or their mating period

The summer migratory birds have already made their way into the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. These winter guests generally fly back by March end. However this year, they continued to stay. The bird watchers feel that it was too early for them to comment on the strange pattern conclusively on the reason why the birds have stuck around

“There is a possibility that it is the mating period for them and so they are here,” said conservationist TK Roy. He, however, felt that if they mate here possibly the parents and the offspring would have different adapting conditions

The bird watchers are also concerned on the climatic conditions in their native place. “There can be other two possibilities, either the climatic condition in the north and central Asian region is not favourable as of now or their health does not allow them to fly back. If they stay put and fail to adapt to Delhi’s summer, there is a possibility that they might not survive for long,” added Roy

The winter guests who are still sticking around at the sanctuary might face food shortage. These birds generally survive on aquatic plants and fish. However with increase in temperature, the plants and the fish will start declining and they might face food shortage

Bird watchers also feel that it was a possibility that the temperature in their homeland was still too cold for them to return. “May be the temperature there is still below minus 32 degrees, which is not favourable for these birds. We are hoping that they will go back by this month end,” says bird watcher Anand Arya

The officials at the sanctuary, however, said that there was the possibility that a small number, which arrived late in the winter, would stay put till late. “We will ensure that there is ample food and water for them in the lake,” said JN Banerjee, incharge of Okhla Bird Sanctuary

Meanwhile, summer guests — including greenish warbler, canary flycatcher, grey-headed flycatcher — can be spotted in the sanctuary

4 April 2012, Pioneer


Govt plans to develop Turahalli forest

The State government has planned to develop Turahalli forest as a park on lines of Cubbon Park in the City.

Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday said the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) would be entrusted with the task of converting the 100-acre land in the forest into a park with the largest tracts of greenery in the City.

The district in-charge minister, R Ashoka, said the plan to develop park was part of the BJP government’s initiatives to preserve the environment in Bangalore.

A report submitted recently by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has slammed the BDA for formation of Banashankari VI Stage Layout on the same Turahalli forest land. The land was returned to the Forest department after a prolonged administrative battle between the two agencies.

4 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Mughals in Ink and Gold

Two decades before the 1857 uprising, Delhi was decked up for the coronation of its last ruler. Dressed in finery, pearls around his neck, Bahadur Shah II was enthroned the king of India, with his young son Mirza Fakhruddin standing by his side. The royal court was in full attendance and among others observing Shah from a distance, was Ghulam Ali Khan. The last great imperial portraitist of the Mughal tradition, Khan was to paint the ceremony in opaque watercolour, with ink and gold. Placing Shah Jahan’s imperial Mughal scales of justice in the frame, Khan painted Shah with the disposition of a Sufi ascetic, representing the man who was both a king and a saint. The Coronation Portrait is now on display at the Asia Society Museum in New York. It is one of the 96 works that comprise an exhibition titled “Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi: 1707-1857”

Curated by writer-historian William Dalrymple and art historian Yuthika Sharma, the collection examines Mughal artistic culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the interwoven nature of Mughal, European and regional patronage. “The art of this period defies easy categorisation. The same painters painted for the Mughal court, the local nobility and British colonial officials — so the easy distinctions made by earlier art historians between the late Mughal era and Company School have little meaning in Delhi. The two worlds are seamlessly integrated,” points out Dalrymple, who has been working on the exhibition for five years

With no significant public collection of the late Mughal art in India, the duo relied on sourcing works from private collections and international institutions such as Metropolitan Museum, New York, and British Library, Victoria & Albert Museum and National Army Museum in the UK

The detailed plaques accompanying the artwork are meant to give a larger picture of the Mughal life and times, beginning with the year 1707, when, after Aurangzeb’s death, his kingdom was in a state of chaos. The exhibition trails the phase that marked the decline of the Mughal rule and the rise of the British empire

The works are divided into seven distinct chronological sections: Seat of the Kingdom; Decline of Power, Pursuit of Pleasure, Muhammad Shah, 1719-1748; Emperors and White Mughals; The Last Atelier: Ghulam Ali Khan; Zafar and the Uprising of 1857; Design of Delhi: Edwin Lutyens; and Tashrih al-aqvam album. In all these, we see the tales from the past coming alive. So the haloed Mughal emperor, Muhammad Shah, has been painted in various moods: from playing Holi with his favourite courtesan Gulab Bai to hunting and smoking a hukkah. “Emperors and White Mughals” tells the tale of the arrival of the British East India Company in Delhi, and also includes the much-acclaimed Fraser Album, comprising artwork commissioned by William Fraser

“The Last Atelier” has a room dedicated to Ghulam Ali Khan, who signed himself as “the hereditary slave of the dynasty, Ghulam Ali Khan the portraitist, resident at Shahjahanabad”. Elsewhere, he signs himself simply as “His Majesty’s Painter”. “Although Ghulam Ali Khan’s family was very proud of their status as hereditary painters to the Mughal throne, the truth was slightly more complex. The court no longer had sufficient funds to employ Khan’s family exclusively, and in order to survive, he had to moonlight as a painter to other members of the Delhi society,” points out Dalrymple, explaining the two distinctive signatures

The brief dialogues of the civilisations, however, came to a close in 1857, when after the revolt, the British took charge. The making of Lutyens’ Delhi concludes the exhibition

“Mutual interest was replaced by mutual suspicion,” notes Dalrymple, turning from the Mughal rule to the First Afghan War — the subject of his forthcoming book, scheduled to release this fall.

5 April 2012, Indian Express


The new look of Old Delhi Railway Station

Driving into Old Delhi Railway Station is no longer about trying to inch ahead of the next vehicle and in the process blocking the traffic behind you, which was already moving in a haphazard manner

As of April 1, the Northern Railway opened three dedicated lanes and drop-off bays — for autos, taxis and private vehicles — inside the station premises

The streamlining of traffic inside the station premises has in turn helped decongest the vehicle mess on SP Mukherjee Marg

The access point, in front of the main station building, has been closed for vehicular movement. Now, a turnstile located here to facilitate entry for pedestrians

Divisional Railway Manager, Northern Railway, Ashwani Lohani told Newsline, “The circulating area revamp was our top priority as the station’s accessibility needed immediate attention. There was utter chaos outside the station and there were several traffic bottlenecks at the entry points. We have successfully offloaded a major part of the traffic from the SP Mukherjee Marg and made access to the station much easier.

The previous circulation plan had a number of entry points, leading to confusion among passengers, officials said. “Most passengers had no idea about the location for parking lots. This has now been sorted out by unifying the circulating area and providing proper access. Signage for parking and entry has been provided. The new circulating area also gives passengers the option of getting down at any of the three entrance gates in the terminal building, depending on the location of the platforms. This will also offload the East booking office entry,” said Rakesh Chaudhary, Senior Divisional Engineer, Northern Railway

Officials said the length of the terminal building is adequate for the movement of vehicles, but the width is constrained. The new arrangement of long lanes, by way of unifying circulating area, is expected to improve the capacity for handling autos, taxis and cycle-rickshaws. Due to width constraint at the station, buses have not been allowed inside the terminal

For pedestrians, four access points have been provided

Railway officials, however, are still in the process of streamlining the access points

“After the U-turn at Fatehpuri, passengers have to travel a long distance on the already crowded SP Mukherjee Marg. This could be avoided if the entry to the station is made as close as possible to the Fatehpuri traffic signal. This will help passengers get direct access into the station’s circulating area, and also offload the railway-related traffic from SP Mukherjee Marg,” Chaudhary said.Officials said buses tend to park in front of the station entry, thereby, chokin

 the road. “These issues are expected to be sorted out in near future. Part of the SP Mukherjee Marg load has already been diverted to Hamilton Road by remodeling the second entry to the station from Zorawar Singh Marg,” Lohani said

5 April 2012, Indian Express


Huma’s religious bend

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a well-known structure the world over. But, have you ever heard of a leaning temple? Yes, we do have a unique temple with a leaning tower in Orissa. The place is the small village of Huma and the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known as Vimaleshwara

At about 28 km from the city of Sambalpur, the town famous for the huge dam of Hirakud and the colourful Sambalpur sarees, is a little hamlet called Huma on the left bank of River Mahanadi. Here, on a rocky bed, stands an ancient temple. A distinct feature of its appearance is that one of the towers is leaning peculiarly at an angle. Though other structures and towers are vertically straight, the pink tower is tilting towards the north-east.

This mysterious phenomenon seems to have baffled architects, historians and researchers for a long time. Even the curious visitors are left to wonder whether this feature happened by chance or by choice. Nevertheless, this distinct feature and the reason for it has remained incognito and has not received the publicity it deserves.

But, like any other ancient monument, the temple of Huma too has a couple of legends woven around it. According to one belief, a milkman used to come to the rock here and pour some milk everyday, which was apparently consumed by the rock. This phenomenon induced people to construct a temple. Another theory says King Ananga Veema Deva III suffered from tuberculosis and prayed for relief from his suffering. According to a divine message that he had received, he went to the rocky bank at Huma and found a leaning shivalinga and as ordained, he built a temple with a leaning tower, which goes to say the tower was built so purposefully.

More plausible reasons attributed to the temple’s leaning state are the river currents or the seismic movements underground. Interestingly, only the middle portion of the tower is tilting and not the base on which it stands, or the crown.

The temple itself was built by King Baliar Singh, the fifth linear descendant of Chauhan rulers, during 17th century. The Chauhan rulers of Sambalpur were known for building temples with precise architectural plans. However, this one shrine seems to be an exception. In fact, the temple complex at Huma also has other shrines like the temples of Bhairavi and Bhairo, adjacent to the main structure, which do not lean.

The backyard of the temple leads to Macchindraghat, the bathing ghat. Here scores of Red Kudo fish swim about uninhibited, for they are protected by the temple authorities. The fish are so tuned to the visitors that they can eat the offering from the hand.

Apart from the peculiarity of the leaning tower, the place itself is quiet and serene with the gently flowing Mahanadi and sparse jungles all around. The leaning temple of Huma, which is the only one of its kind, needs some attention and more concrete steps for its preservation.

8 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Weaves of magic

Monideepa sahu finds herself floored by the beautiful and unique hand woven carpets from the Caucasus region where the history of weaving traces back

Warm natural colours woven into striking geometrical patterns distinguish traditional carpets hand woven by tribals from the Caucasus region. The art of weaving vibrant, artistic carpets is considered to have originated on the plains of Central Asia or the Caucasus region nearly a millennium ago.

The nomadic tribes needed something more manageable than their traditional sheepskin wraps to ward off the harsh winter chill. They used wool from their sheep and goats to spin yarn and weave it into carpets. Bright patterns and colours also made these carpets lovely decorations for their tents. Smaller carpets were woven as door coverings, or used as bags. Long, narrow carpets would be used as decorative bands circling the felt tents.
Other carpets were used for sleeping. These colourful carpets added welcome flashes of liveliness to the bleak, desert-like environment. With the passing of time, the tribes have settled into a less nomadic and more modern lifestyle. The creation of beautiful and unique carpets hand woven in the traditional way is now a dying art. Antique tribal carpets over a century old are now rare and prized as collector’s items.

The history of weaving in the Caucasus region traces back to the Middle Ages. Pieces of knotted pile carpet from the 13th and 14th centuries have been found in cave complexes in Georgia. During the 17th century, the Persian Shah was believed to have set up carpet manufacturing facilities in the Shirvan and Karabagh districts. Till the beginning of the 19th century, Caucasian carpet weaving continued as a folk art. Once upon a time, each traditional carpet was lovingly handcrafted and unique. In more recent times, a growing demand from the West has resulted in carpet weaving on a larger and more commercialised scale.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, major production areas of the past included parts of Dagestan around the city of Derbent, the towns and villages around Kuba (now Quba) in north-eastern Azerbaijan, and parts of the old khanate of Shirvan, including villages around Baku, Shemakha, and areas just north of the Iranian border. The carpets produced in these regions had a relatively short-piled weave of medium fineness, woven with the symmetrical knot typical of all Caucasian rugs. These were mainly sheep wool-based. Cotton was also occasionally used in later times.

In the light of this rich heritage, Indian collector Danny Mehra’s collection of antique carpets makes for fascinating viewing. There are tribal carpets from numerous weaving regions outside India such as the Caucasus mountain regions; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Dagestan which fall between the Black and Caspian Seas; the Zagros mountains area of Persia; the Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria; the high and middle Atlas mountains of Morocco; and some Central Asian republics such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Way of life

Carpet weaving was once an important part of tribal life. Traditional weavers were usually groups of women who gathered to share stories as they wove magic on their looms. The women wove abstract patterns representing things from nature into carpets.

The men usually sheared, carded and spun the wool from their sheep, and dyed the wool. Vegetable and mineral-based dyes such as indigo were used in the earlier tribal carpets. These colours have retained their rich, mellow beauty through the centuries. In the early twentieth century, weavers also used chemical dyes, says Mehra. Some of these early chemical dyes were called fugitive dyes because they changed colours or faded in the course of time.

Traditional tribal carpets were spontaneous compositions and not copied from a pattern or picture. The designs emerged from the weaver’s heart, gradually taking shape on warps (vertical yarns) strung on simple wooden looms. The looms were easily dismantled and carried along with partially woven carpets when the tribe shifted camp. These movements and variations in dye tints and yarns caused shifting lines in the weave.

These lines are called brushes, and they enhance the beauty of handmade carpets. As the weft or horizontal yarns were woven in and knotted one row at a time, dazzling patterns took shape. After the carpet was woven, the pile was sheared evenly. Then it was washed, says Mehra, and the colours were fixed by applying iron filings and other substances which remained on the surface and did not bond with the wool. Each carpet took months and even years to create, and they were symbols of the pride and joy of the weavers.

While the nomadic tribes shared some cultural influences, they also had their distinctive styles. Carpets from western Azerbaijan, the T’bilisi area in Georgia and parts of Armenia, for example, are rougher and have a longer pile or fur. Adding this pile or third dimension to a carpet requires more effort and expertise. The Kilim carpets derive from ancient traditions maintained by hundreds of generations of Anatolian women. As Turkish tribes settled in Anatolia and interacted with the local people, their mothers and daughters perpetuated this tradition for the last millennium. Mehra’s personal collection includes some uncommon pieces such as Turkish sleeping rugs with shaggy, uncut pile, and unclipped pile rugs woven by Iranian tribal women.

As the tribes migrated in search of food and pastures, or to escape the bitter cold of desert winters, they picked up designs and symbols for their carpets along the way. These symbols thus did not remain confined or exclusive to particular regions, and the carpets became a delightful potpourri of diverse ethnic influences. The basic designs for the tribal carpets were inspired by the natural habitat. Notable traditional designs and motifs included the avshan (geometrised calyx and stem), the harshang (crab), and lattice designs incorporating stylised animals and dragons. Some of these motifs are influenced by Persian designs, but the tribal carpets are bolder and distinct from the fine weaves of Persian carpets. Flowers, birds, animals and human figures, all have their place in these stylised patterns, making these carpets pictorial stories of tribal life. Octagonal gul motifs are repeated in rows across some of these carpets. Variations in guls can also indicate a tribal identity. It is next to impossible to decipher the significance of each and every unique motif. Many remain, like the antique carpets themselves, as mysterious expressions of the weaver’s unique imagination.

8 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Tributary tales

Tracing the route River Kaveri takes through the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, this book records the river’s rich history through stories that make up its past, writes Revathi Siva Kumar

The authors begin their book with the wry Tamil aphorism that the origin of sages and rivers — rishi mulam and nadi mulam — should not be probed. You are grateful indeed that the writers decided to disregard this sage advice, and instead have filled every line of this book with glittering ore. It Happened Along the Kaveri, by Padma Seshadri and Padma Malini Sundararaghavan, subtitled A Journey through Space and Time, is about the holy river that links and divides two southern states, as well as the earth and the heavens.

The book traces the Kaveri’s roots in Talacauvery, and meanders up to its exit point, the ancient port of Poompuhar. However, the authors traverse much more than the termini. The route is not linear, but fans out into the huge states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu The authors avoid contemporary industry, pollution and politics, except for a serious note of warning in the appendix. Thus, the reader is drawn more into Kaveri’s dazzling historical beauty than its dark modern realities.

They explore the distributaries that run through the real as well as imagined history, socio-economic and political evolutions and compulsions, folklore, mythology, prose, poetry, songs, rumour, hearsay, religion, philosophy, flora, fauna, ecology and architecture. The more you dig the treasure trove, the more you unearth invaluable gems.

There are interesting nuggets on the biographies and stories of the kings, leaders, saints, architects, poets and other luminaries who lived, loved and shaped the fortunes of the riparian areas for centuries –— starting from the era of the Vedic gods themselves. Ancient kings and dynasties, such as the Hoysalas, Wodeyars, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Cholas, Nayaks and Marathas, the British and the French spring to life. While wars are recorded, the peace time activities of nation building and administration occupy more space and focus.

The mind boggles at the information overload, and it would be a struggle to read or remember too much of it at one sitting. At times, it does seem a bit of an onslaught on the understanding, especially as so much is completely new.

What saves the book is the careful structuring and classification, alternating fact with fiction and history with lore. Luminous stories interweave gently and seamlessly through the tough fibre of fact and history.

Hence, you learn for instance that Nandi, Shiva’s vaahana, was once so puffed up with pride that Shiva was forced to crush her with a lock of his hair. At Kodagu, the family hockey festival was started in 1997 to encourage the sport among Kodavas — who have gifted seven Olympic players to the country — and by 2003, it drew 280 teams. By a remarkable coincidence, the numeric value of Hyder Ali’s name coincides with the year of his death. Fascinating details such as these are the breezes that blow your senses and understanding forward.

The authors’ struggle is not just to sift, sort and shuffle, but also to comment and overlay it with their own perspective. For instance, one story goes that Kaveri is a joint gift from Brahma and Vishnu to Kavera, the King of Vidarbha, while another calls her a gift of Siva to Sage Agastya. In true Hindu tradition, the authors concede the existence of contradictory elements, but advocate reconcilable stories. Hence, they cite the most amiable theory that opines: “First, she was the mind-born daughter of Brahma, then she became Kavera Raja’s child. Then again she was in the pot of Sage Agastya, and aided by him she became a flowing river.”

The prose is simple, straightforward and ambles like the river, with a gentle, meandering logic of its own. The authors remain objective about their facts, yet they give a quiet and understated value judgement on most of the events they document. For instance: “In a show of amity untouched by sectarian rivalry on Ramanavami, Rama is brought from his abode...”

There is a dry irony that lends a sparkle, such as: “Hyder assured them that Kunde Rao was his old servant and not only would his life be spared but he would be cherished like a parakeet. He was true to his word — Kunde Rao spent the rest of his life in an iron cage and was fed with rice and milk…”

One weak point in the book is the lack of illustrations and photographs. Although there are a few at the end — almost as an afterthought — a generous interweave of images through the narrative would have helped to illuminate and lighten the load of the reader

However, you can overlook the aberration. Ultimately, the book leaves you with the breathless feeling that you are on an infinite, timeless journey that lasts 802 km and about 450 pages. Dive in then, to share its treasures!

8 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Master of Traditions

At the Padma awards ceremony that took place at Rashtrapati Bhavan on April 4, one man in the crowd stood out. Swiss anthropologist and art historian Eberhard Fischer has become one of the rare foreigners to win a Padma Shri in Literature and Education, one of the highest honours of the country

For those familiar with Fischer’s work, the honour did not come as a surprise. For more than four decades, Fischer’s association with India has spanned several aspects of its culture, from textiles to miniature art, murals to religion. “The award came as a big surprise, I was happy,” says Fischer. He celebrated in a unique way — two days after receiving the award, Fischer visited the Swiss Embassy to donate his entire collection of over 40 books and research papers to Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. “Some of these are out of print and difficult to find,” says the former director of Museum Rietberg, Zurich, adding, “Since most of it is based in India, it seemed appropriate for it to stay at one place in the country.

In the pages, one discovers India — old and new. This includes Fischer’s publication on the patola textile of Gujarat, which took more than 30 years to complete. His first project in the country was in 1965, when he was invited by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, to work with artist Haku Shah on the publication Rural Craftsmen and their work: equipment and techniques in the Mer village of Ratadi in Saurashtra, India. In Orissa, Fischer, 70, spent several years with author and artist Dinanath Pathy, understanding its murals, the Odissi dance and the palm leaf manuscript tradition. “Unfortunately in Orissa, scholars are more interested in Puri. The former court tradition of the peripheries is completely neglected; it needs to be observed more closely,” says Fischer

The area that Fischer is an authority on is Indian miniature painting. Long before it came into the notice of private galleries, Fischer was working on the tradition, giving recognition to individual artists who are otherwise grouped together according to their imperial or regional schools. Last year, at Museum Rietberg, his exhibition titled “The Way of the Master — The Great Artists of India, 1100-1900”, co-curated with Chandigarh-based art historian BN Goswamy and art historian Milo Beach, brought together 240 miniature masterpieces by more than 40 Indian artists

“These aren’t mere works of art. With inscriptions at the back, the paintings often describe a scene or an event, giving a lot of additional information,” says Fischer. The one artist he shares a special relationship with is Nainsukh, who served Raja Balwant Dev Singh in Jasrota in the 1740s

“He was in a different league. He incorporated a Mughal element of realism into early Pahari style of miniatures,” says Fischer, who even made a film on the Pahari artist. Directed by Amit Dutta, Nainsukh, the Great Pahari Painter of the 18th Century premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2010 and has been screened at museums across the world. “It depicts his art and personal life,” states Fischer, pointing out that the starting point in the film was Nainsukh’s differences with his brother Manaku, who was also an artist

Later this year, Fischer intends to delve into the science of Nainsukh’s art. Lined up before that is a textile project in Ahmedabad in autumn and an archeology awareness programme in Bhutan

8 April 2012, Indian Express


A village turns turtle

On an early Saturday morning, tourists line the temporary barricades erected at the village beach. More than 200 cameras point at the just-hatched Olive Ridley turtles who slowly make their way into the deep blue sea. A small hatchery near the beach houses nests of turtles at different stages of development. This is the final stage of this year’s turtle fest in Velas, a village on the Konkan coast

For the 400 families in Velas, turtles are a good omen. Over the years, the turtles have brought several visitors from Pune, Mumbai and other nearby cities, along with international tourists, to the shores of this village known for hosting the highest number of Olive Ridley nests

A group of tourists sit at the local sarpanch’s house, sipping tea. A young Australian tourist teaches a group of children Salsa steps. The turtle fest has brought an irreversible change in the village. School children have learnt the idea of conservation and follow the number of turtle hatchlings released every day. Outside the wooden houses in the village, boards hanging from tree trunks and cloth lines declare themselves ‘Kasav Mitra’ (friends of turtles)

Ten years ago, volunteers from Sahayadri Nisarg Mitra (SNM), an organisation based in Chiplun (Ratnagiri) headed by Vishwas Bhau Katdhare, chanced upon the nests laid by the Olive Ridley turtles at the village shore. Gradually, beaches were identified where these turtles built nests. SNM’s data was disturbing: along the 720-km coastline in Maharashtra, fishing and industrial activities had destroyed close to 35 per cent of the eggs even before they hatched. A survey revealed that in the previous four years, along the entire coastline of the state, not a single nest or turtle crawl was found during the breeding season

The ‘Save the Olive Ridley Turtle’ project was launched in 2002. Hatcheries were built at various beaches in close to 30 villages along the coast. The process of conservation involved two major steps. The first was tracing the nests on the shore. A team would begin tracing the nests in November and December. These would be replanted in a protected hatchery. The dates of replanting the nests were carefully noted and a count of the eggs kept. Once they hatched, they would be left on the beach for the turtles to walk back into the sea. Hatching continued till mid-April

Since the launch of the project in 2002, 601 nests have been protected and over 28,000 hatchlings released into the sea. Of all the villages identified, the beach at Velas saw the maximum number of nests and hence was declared the base camp for SNM

What sustained the project and made it successful was the support from villagers. Turtle conservation has ensured a constant source of income for the village

Snehalata Yashwant Joshi, 32, is taking a nap in her house next to the SNM workstation. She doesn’t mind being woken up and asked about the turtle project and the change it has brought to their lives. In her room are several new mattresses. On a piece of paper are basic questions in English and their translation in Marathi—“these are for us to understand what the tourists are saying,” she says, offering a seat

“We bought these mattresses for the visitors who come here. Every year, more and more people come and visit us and stay with us. We charge Rs 300 a day for food and stay.” No special arrangements are made for the tourists. They are expected to blend in.

8 April 2012, Indian Express


Road that may erase history and much more

National Highways Authority of India's plan to widen National Highway 45C will destroy a 1,300-year-old Siva temple

A 1,300-year old Siva temple, celebrated in the verses of Saivite saint Tirugnana Sambandar and boasting of inscriptions belonging to the Chola kings, is facing demolition by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The Tirupuravar Panankateesvarar temple is situated in Panaiyapuram village, 2 km from Vikkiravandi in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu. The Pennaiyar flows near Panaiyapuram. The temple is also called Paravaipuram

The NHAI, which is widening the Vikkiravandi-Thanjavur National Highway 45C over a distance of about 160 km, has painted big arrow marks in white on the compound wall of the temple and inside its premises where the widened road will cut through

The NHAI has placed stones outside the temple to signify the portions that will be lost to the highway's widening. If this plan goes through, the temple's sanctum sanctorum for Panankateesvarar, the adjacent shrine for the goddess Satyambikai and much of the temple premises including other shrines will be demolished. This has shocked and angered about 4,000 Panaiyapuram villagers and residents of Pappanapattu, Mundiyambakkam, Kappiyampuliyur and Thuravi villages. They met the Villupuram District Collector, V. Sampath, and submitted a petition to him

Former Panaiyapuram Panchayat president R. P. Pugazhendhi says: “We are spending sleepless nights. Almost the entire temple including the sanctum, the shrines for goddess Satyambikai, Ganesa and Muruga will be demolished. Only the flag-post and the shrine for Saneesvarar will remain. There is enough land on the west of the temple for the broadened highway to go through or a new alignment can be given from the National Highway 45. We will not allow even a single stone from the temple to be removed.

Former Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department director R. Nagaswamy says the 1,300-year old temple was visited by the Tamil Savite saint Tirugnana Sambandar, who lived in the 7th Century CE, and had sung verses celebrating the deity, a Sivalinga. The Sivalinga is called Panankateesvarar because the area abounds with palmyra trees

The temple has a number of inscriptions belonging to Rajendra Chola I (regnal years 1012 CE to 1043 CE), his son, Rajendra Chola II, Adhi Rajendra, Kulotunga I, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I and Vikrama Pandya among others. Rajendra Chola's inscription called the deity Nethrodharaka Swami (meaning, the main deity will cure eye ailments). The inscription recorded the gift of land and money for worship and making offerings in the temple. It spoke about Rajendra Chola's conquest of Kadaram. (The present-day Kedda in Malaysia was called Kadaram and it belonged to Sri Vijaya kingdom). It revealed that the Chola emperor rebuilt the main temple between 1025 CE and 1040 CE, points out Dr. Nagaswamy

“Another important aspect of the village is that it is also named Paravaipuram,” he says. Paravai was the consort of Tamil Saivite saint Sundarar who lived in the 8th Century CE. Paravai belonged to a family of dancing girls and she is worshipped even today, along with Sundarar, in Siva temples. Rajendra Chola I also had a personal assistant called Paravai, who was an anukki . This Paravai was named after Sundarar's consort. (Female personal assistants, who were trusted by the kings, were called anukki and anukkan were their male counterparts). Paravai built the Thyagaraja temple at Tiruvarur in Tamil Nadu and covered the vimana with gold, said Dr. Nagaswamy

To honour her, Rajendra Chola I made her sit next to him in his royal chariot and drove her in a procession on the four main streets around the Thyagaraja temple. The Chola emperor made two bronze images resembling her and placed them before the deity in the Tiruvarur temple's sanctum and worshipped them. “This is recorded in a long inscription in the Tiruvarur temple,” says Dr. Nagaswamy, a scholar in epigraphy. Rajendra Chola I rebuilt the Panaiyapuram temple in Paravai's honour when she was alive and the town around the temple was named after her.
The temple has two inscriptions of Rajendra Chola II (regnal years 1052 to 1064 CE), both datable to 1058 CE. One of the inscriptions mentions his gift of paddy to “Paravai Easwaramudaiyar Mahadeva in the town of Paravaipuram in Panaiyur Nadu”, falling under the larger division called “Rajendra Chola Valanadu”

The temple has an inscription of Adhi Rajendra, who ruled from 1068 to 1071 CE. This inscription, dated 1070 CE, records the gift of tax-free land to the temple by a merchants' guild of Paravaipuram to feed the pilgrims. There is a record of Kulotunga Chola I (regnal years 1070-1122 CE) on the gift of gold coins by a chieftain named Ponnambala Kizhan of Arumbakkam, near present-day Chennai, for lighting a perpetual lamp

“An interesting point about the Panaiyapuram temple,” says Dr. Nagaswamy, “is that on the first day of the Tamil month of Chithirai every year the sun rays fall on the Sivalinga enshrined in the sanctum and the idol of Satyambikai. The temple's orientation is so perfect that this happens and special pujas are offered.

Temple priest S. Ganesa Gurukkal is emphatic that the villagers will take all steps needed to save the temple. “We went to Chennai and gave a petition to the NHAI officials,” he says

When contacted, an NHAI official said, “We are trying to save the temple. We are trying to look at other options. The NHAI headquarters has been informed of the villagers' objections

8 April 2012, Hindu


Slithering wonder in black and yellow

State’s first recorded sighting of the banded krait in Hassan district

It’s a treat for herpetologists with the first recorded discovery of the banded krait (scientific name Bungarus Fasciatus) in the State in Hassan district four months ago.

The person who saw it on the roadside thought it was a colourful belt. On touching it, it started moving, much to his amazement. The krait, which had injuries on the head, was taken to Dr Ravindranath Aithal, a Puttur-based herpetologist.

It is currently undergoing treatment at Aithal’s Sheshavana protection and rehabilitation centre. Dr Aithal is taking care of it by providing it water snakes and rats for food.

It has typical black and yellow bands, giving it the name banded krait. The snake has rarely been found in South India. Books on Indian snakes also say that the banded krait is usually found in the states of North, Central and North Eastern India.

Wikipedia lists Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal among states where the Bungarus Fasciatus snake is found.

This nocturnal species has an aversion to light. It coils itself whenever light falls on it. The slow-moving snake has a triangular body. It rarely bites during day time, but its poison is said to be very strong. Its fangs are tiny.

There have been sightings of the banded krait in Hebri, Kundapur and Agumbe, but in many cases it has been killed as it is a poisonous snake. No efforts have been made to record the sightings of the banded krait.

The common krait, which belongs to the same family, is commonly found in South India, including Karnataka.

9 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Act to save our heritage

The Tamil Nadu government's inexplicable delay in extending legal protective measures to heritage structures has cost the State yet another landmark building. A substantial portion of the century old P. Orr and Sons building in Chennai, home to the earliest watch ‘manufacturing' firm in South India, will be demolished to make way for an ancillary structure of a Metro railway station. A petition to prevent this demolition — filed by the Chennai chapter of INTACH — was dismissed by the Madras High Court on Wednesday. Of the issues raised by this case and the judgment, one with a larger import is the absence of legal protection for heritage structures. While the rest of the world recognises the value historic buildings bring to a city's culture and even economy, policymakers in India simply don't get it. Often, only monuments such as palaces and religious structures are officially recognised as legacy structures and conserved, leaving out a host of other buildings which are no less significant in historical and architectural terms. No amount of public protest can prevent the bulldozer since, at the end of the day, when the agitation to save these vulnerable and venerable buildings reaches the courts, it is only the point of law that prevails. Though legislation is not the only way to protect heritage, without it, our valuable structures cannot effectively be conserved

Not all State governments move on leaden feet. States such as Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh quickly realised the importance of heritage and adopted a variety of legal measures to safeguard them. West Bengal enacted a comprehensive Heritage Commission Act, which covers the entire State, and creates an institutional arrangement to identify heritage buildings and recommend measures to protect them. In addition, individual local bodies, such as the Kolkata Municipal Corporation have amended their respective Acts to constitute a Heritage Conservation Committee with the Municipal Commissioner as its head. Mumbai was the first city in India to legally notify heritage buildings as early as 1995. Such measures have made a vast difference to conservation efforts. The objective of these measures is not to prohibit the use of old buildings, but creatively to manage changes without losing the heritage value. This is not impossible to achieve. London, which is one of the largest modern cities in the world with more than 18,000 heritage buildings and 155 monuments, is a case in point. The Tamil Nadu government, without any further delay, should put in place a comprehensive legal framework that will be effective State wide, and also empower local bodies to protect all extant, precious old structures.

9 April 2012, Hindu


Despite curbs, traffic through Nagarahole up

Far from reducing the clamour of traffic in Nagarahole National Park, the night-time ban on vehicles has not prevented an over ten-fold increase in the number of vehicles through the tiger reserve, says a study on road ecology in the park

Over the last seven years, the number of vehicles increased from 50 a day (in 2003) to 553 a day in 2010 on the Mysore-Mananthavady Highway that passes through Nagarahole, said the research paper that would soon be published in Current Science

A night-time ban on traffic (the road is closed to vehicles from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.) was imposed in 2008 to reduce wildlife road fatalities

However, the 12-hour restriction on traffic was a critical intervention in preventing road kill, Sanjay Gubbi, one of the authors of the paper, and scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation, told The Hindu . Besides mortality, wildlife richness was likely to be affected along these busy roads by air and noise pollution from the vehicles, he added

While scientists observed that wildlife tended to avoid highway stretches that had heavy traffic, they noticed that the routine clearing of vegetation along road edges by the Forest Department created “micro-habitats” that attract certain animals

Herbivores such as chital, gaur and sambar that graze along highway edges are, therefore, made more susceptible to accidents

Nagarahole, which formed the core of the largest global population of tigers and Asian elephants, happened to have five major public access roads passing through it. The Mysore-Mananthavady Highway, upgraded to a high-speed road in 2009, passed through a crucial wildlife corridor in the southern part of the national park

Here, and in adjoining Bandipur National Park, high wildlife mortality had been recorded from vehicles: most commonly of chital, sambar, mouse deer, black-naped hare and the Indian civet

For the study, the scientists — including H.C. Poornesha and M.D. Madhusudan — selected a 19.1 km stretch of the Mysore-Mananthavady Highway passing through Nagarahole where they set up camera trap units across animal trails in 10 different locations.The authors argued that alternative road alignments needed to be developed whereve

 possible so that high-speed traffic could be permanently kept out of protected areas. “A set of safeguards such as speed-calming measures (e.g. chicanes, rumble strips or road humps) is important in reducing road kills.”

9 April 2012, Hindu


Down to numbers

CITY SCAPE Sadia Dehlvi's book makes R.V. Smith remember an unusual mystic who claimed to be guided by Delhi's women saints and was much sought after by gambler

Allauddin Bhai came to Delhi from a village in Aligarh district and never went back again, though he continued to cherish fond memories of the place, like Goldsmith's “Sweet Auburn” where parting summer's blooms lingered the longest. Working at a fuel store ( taal ) of timber logs and planks in the Walled City, he became a sort of legend in his lifetime, acquiring the pet name of Allah Diya (like the Sufi saint of that name mentioned in Sadia Dehlvi's recent book). Well, this Allah Diya was a pseudo-Sufi who had the natural intelligence of a man who judged things by the rule of thumb — a modern-day Kabir with a penchant for telling tales replete with rural wisdom: If your neighbours say the cat carried away the camel, reply, “Yes, oh yes, I saw it.

He never married, though his friendship with a handsome boy made him the butt of many a joke. Raffo enjoyed the relationship as it assured him of good pocket money and the best milk and rabri from Harydayal's shop after he came back from work at a factory where wages were low but enough for him to add to the family kitty. His father, Sirajuddin, was a poor earner who could barely provide for his sons, wife and daughters

Dressed in dhoti-kurta with a Gandhi cap (he never wore shirt and trousers), Allah Diya was much sought after by satta gamblers who pledged small sums every day on the cotton market rates of New York and the “handi” gambling of Ballabhgarh. While the New York betting earned the lucky winner Rs.10 for every rupee pledged, the “handi” chits fetched just four rupees per rupee. The closing cotton market rates, however, gave much more. Allah Diya's calculations were based on a close study of the quotations of the previous three days. He kept adding and subtracting with a pencil stub on empty cigarette packets, although he himself smoked only bidis. Besides he dreamt about the end numbers of quotations for which he credited the women saints of Delhi — Hazrat Mai Sahiba, mother of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Bibi Fatima of Sam, Bibi Noor and Bibi Hoor, Bibi Qarsum Khatoon, Zainab Bibi and some others. Allauddin Bhai made frequent visits to their shrines, sometimes on foot and sometimes on a rickety old bicycle. He only made token offerings and lighted joss-sticks on the graves and then sat down to meditate before making his final predictions. It was not only mystic business, for he had the quaint notion that gay sex sent a strange sensation to the brain, cleaning the mind of cobwebs and making one master the magic of numbers. Whatever may be the truth behind this assumption, it cannot be denied that his calculations seldom went wrong and the people who thronged his home in a little disused piau (water hut) usually made it good in the satta bazaar. There was a butcher called Jamalu who left his shop to his sons and turned a siddha (one who has acquired the half-way stage of being a majzoob or mystic). Jamalu was Allauddin Bhai's rival. While the Bhai's forte was his liaison with Raffo, the latter went about with the effeminate son of a bullion merchant of Dariba whose intimacy had “aided” him in attaining siddhi, or so it was said

But then came the crash: Raffo went away to Karachi, leaving Allah Diya heartbroken, and Jamalu died, while his protégé Suraj went back to his inherited business of selling gold and silver bangles. Allauddin Bhai's followers slowly began to desert him as his calculations were no longer accurate, and one of hischelas , Alimo, a part-time qawwal, began to draw his clientele

However Raffo's framed photo continued to occupy pride of place in the piau and occasional letters from him provided some comfort to the dejected man. He could, however, not bear the strain for long and was stricken with paralysis. Both his legs were affected, which made him crawl to the grave of the Sada Suhag (fakir who dresses like a woman and seek alms only from prostitutes) in the Takia (resting place), where he never failed to make offerings. One summer day Allah Diya was found dead and was buried next to the 19th-Century grave. Sadia's book revived memories of this unusual satta gambler and of his love for Raffo and the women mystics of Delhi

9 April 2012, Hindu


Mangar likely to lose ‘green cover’

New Delhi: If Haryana government has its way, large portion of natural and sacred green cover in the Mangar village in Faridabad could be bought by private developers for setting up either a mega tourist complex or a university or a warehouse. The state (Haryana) level committee (SLC) has turned down the proposal to declare the 500 hectare green cover as “deemed forest”, while giving a go ahead to the draft development plan of Mangar and another 22 villages.

This decision was taken on January 12, despite the Haryana government claiming that the objective of preparing the development plan is to “protect natural environment”. To justify the decision against declaring Mangarbani as conserved area, the SLC in its minutes mentioned, “since the bani exists on private land, which is not notified under any forest notification…the government should not put any restrictions on the usage…”

The SLC has struck down activities such as farmhouses, industries and hotels/ banquet in the development zone meaning all other non-real estate activities like setting up of communication tower, hot mix plants or “any other use that government decides in public interest” could come up here.

This provision will leave enough room for private players to offer lucrative price to the bani (forest) owners to buy their forest land for different projects.

Moreover, the SLC’s decision has exposed how the babus posted in Chandigarh and Panchkula take a final call overlooking the suggestions made by local officials while deciding anything that has to do with the land use. Officials communications, accessed through RTI, shows how the local forest and HUDA officials, and even the deputy commissioner, had recommended the need to superimpose the map of Forest Survey of India on the proposed development plan to identify “forest/ deemed forest/ natural forest”. They had also recommended delineation and exclusion of these areas from the development plan.

9 April 2012, Times of India


Csoma's resting place in Darjeeling getting a facelift

The Hungarian government, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) , is renovating the resting place of the famed orientalist, Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, also known as Alexander Csoma, in Darjeeling and giving the room that he occupied in the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in Kolkata a facelift

This year marks the 170{+t}{+h}death anniversary of Alexander Csoma, author of the first Tibetan-English dictionary and grammar book. He travelled to Asia in search of more information on the original Hungarians or Magyar people as they are known

The renovation work comes ahead of two important visits to India — one being that of the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament. László Kövér, later this month

“We are expecting two VIP delegations to visit Sándor Kőrösi Csoma's resting place in Darjeeling and the Asiatic Society building in Kolkata. And we thought it was a good time to undertake some renovation work at these historic places. The year 2012 also marks the 170th death anniversary of Csoma and it will be a good opportunity for the delegations to visit and pay homage,” said an official of the Hungarian government

The official said a totem pole carved out of wood is also being erected at the resting place in Darjeeling. “The totem pole has been crafted in Transylvania where Csoma was born. It is being sent by the local people as a mark of respect.

The ASI has offered to carry out the renovation work after the Hungarian government expressed interest in refurbishing the resting place and at the Asiatic Society building. “The resting place in Darjeeling is already classified as a monument of historical importance by the ASI,” the Hungarian official said

Csoma undertook the journey to unravel and trace the origin of the Magyar people in 1820, and arrived at Ladakh. A monastery in Zanskar was his home while he studied the Tibetan language and compiled the first English-Tibetan dictionary while living at Zangla Monastery in 1823. “There is a civil society group of young architects who are already involved with the restoration of the place in Zangla where Csoma de Kőrös lived and compiled the dictionary,” said another official

Csoma spent a few years at the Asiatic Society. He died in 1842 just ahead of his travel to Lhasa

Remembering Amrita Sher-gil

To give a fillip to India-Hungarian cultural tiers, the Hungarian government is planning to organise programmes to mark the birth centenary of renowned painter Amrita Sher-gil in 2013

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and Antoina Gottesmann, a Jewish opera singer. “Plans to mark the centenary are still underway. A film on her life is being planned by the government in collaboration with Indian production houses, but the talks are still in nascent stage. The year 2013 also marks the 50th death anniversary of Dr. Ervin Baktay — author,Indologist and Amrita Sher-Gil's uncle,” the official said.

10 April 2012, Hindu


World’s best artworks now just a click away

Whether you want to gaze at Tyeb Mehta’s famous Santiniketan triptych or see Krishen Khanna’s arresting tableaux of itinerant bandwallahs up close, you no longer have to make the trek to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi. A simple click of the mouse can get you inside with Google Art Project (GAP) expanding its virtual culture tours to include India.

GAP, which launched last year, digitized artworks from 17 museums in the first phase. Some critics called it Euro-centric but it’s now trying to address this skew in favour of the old masters. In the latest expansion, Indian art and antiquities exhibited at the NGMA and the National Museum have found a place on Google’s virtual art tour map.

Both institutions are in venerable company as other newcomers include theArt Institute of Chicago, the Rubin Museum in New York and even the White House.

The NGMA has allowed access to 94 artworks by 71 artists, ranging from contemporary art stars like Subodh Gupta and Jitish Kallat to hallowed names like Nandalal Bose and Raja Ravi Varma. The National Museum has also gone online, allowing access to treasures like Tipu Sultan’s sword. A specially designed Street View trolley shot 360-degree images of the two museums, enabling smooth navigation between rooms, akin to actually strolling through the museum.

Amit Sood, head of the project, says, “It’s no longer just about the Indian student wanting to visit Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is also about the American student wanting to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.” Sood, incidentally, grew up in Mumbai and has been keen to include India ever since the project launched last year.

The best thing about Google art is the extreme detail with “gigapixel,” photo-capturing technology. The images comprise nearly 7 billion pixels, so you can get closer on these pieces than you ever could in a gallery and see details, like brushwork not visible to the naked eye.

10 April 2012, Times of India


A persuasive prayer to save tanks

DEVELOPMENT: Karnataka has 36,000 tanks with the potential to irrigate an area as large as 6.85 lakh hectares. But these tanks struggle for survival due to massive encroachment, writes S S Mohan Kumar

Backyard ponds, tank bunds, auxiliary channels, tiny streams...there are people who claim the water sources are “their own” before swallowing them all. Fortunately, this is not always the case. In a unique example, the villagers of Shimoga district have come together to clear tank encroachments.

Three taluks of the district have as many as 70 tanks including Gang tank in Umblebailu, Doddakere in Devabalu, Kadammajjikere in Kanagalasara, Chikkakere in Muddinakoppa, Hosakere in Gejjenahalli and Talakattinakere in Madliya village. The farmers here have voluntarily given up a total of 82.03 acres (33.20 hectares) of encroached land to help protect the tanks.

That’s not all. After clearing the tanks of these encroachments, a metre-wide boundary was created around the tank, where the villagers planted trees.

These villagers intend to stay vigilant and prevent further encroachment from taking place in the tank area. While this seems like a baby step, in the larger perspective, since tanks cater to our daily needs and are imperative for our survival, it is a great leap forward.

Tanks are our lifelines. We need them for irrigation, animal husbandry, groundwater and other daily requirements. Karnataka has 36,000 tanks which are large enough to irrigate a vast area of 6.85 lakh hectares. But these tanks struggle for survival because of massive encroachment. Encroachment makes it difficult for water from the feeder canals to enter the tank.

Also, all the tanks are clogged with silt. The outlets and protection for tanks including the pipes, surrounding walls, canals, etc are in a dilapidated condition. In spite of many laws to protect tanks, the government is unable to check encroachment of tank areas. It was for this purpose that the Jala Samvardhane Yojana Sangha (JSYS) was formed. Several Tank Users’ Groups were formed under this umbrella to clear encroachments in their respective areas. The farmers also volunteered to give up encroached land to help protect their tanks. Favourably, the encroachers have also been made members of the Tank Users’ Groups; this helps them give up encroached land with little or no objection. They have also understood the importance of tanks.

Forward-thinking women

In Umblebailu village, 29 km from Shimoga, the Gang tank covers an area of 6.25 acres.

It can provide enough water for 43.74 acres of the surrounding area. Two acres of the land had been encroached upon.

The village headmen did not pay much attention to the issue, but the progressive women of the village managed t persuade the encroachers to leave.

“Before the tank could be revived, we had to get rid of the encroachment. It was only after we reclaimed tank property that the go-ahead was given to begin improving the tank,” said Shanta, president of the Umblebailu Tank Users’ Groups

Shimoga’s Abbalagere village faced an unprecedented problem. Fouracres of their Mudhigowda tank had bee

 encroached upon. While the villagers were able to stop the encroachment, the soil in the encroached area couldn’t contain any water. Finally, a win-win solution was reached when the villagers decided to put the land to good use by allowing it to be cultivated by the poorer families of the village. Half the revenue earned from that land is given to the Tank Users’ Group for tank development. “Instead of allowing the land to lie unused, it is better to use it in some manner,” says Mohan Gowda, president of the Tank Users’ Group, Abbalagere.

The Tank Users’ Group was set up so that encroachers could understand the problems caused by their action.

Any information regarding tanks (revenue survey files, topographical survey, tank photographs, etc) can be sought or discussed at this forum. Shimoga’s Yadavalu village was so eager to develop their tank, that on the same day that work began on the tanks, the villagers held a meeting on its progress. The workers were paid right after the meeting. Tank development has begun in right earnest in many villages where Tank Users’ Groups have been set up.

Tank group members have been spreading their message: “Do not stay silent if your tank is encroached upon. Work together and stop encroachment on tank areas. Remember, if there is a problem with the tank, there is a problem with your life.”

To get rid of poverty in rural areas, tanks must be protected as they are directly connected to rural livelihood. It is with this in mind that the World Bank set up the Jalasamvardhane scheme. Tank development work has begun in 17 districts.

Thanks to this project, even those who have migrated to cities, like potters, fisherman, basket makers, etc are returning to their villages.

What a transformation!

Throughout the village, there was not a drop of water to be had for man, animal or bird. The villagers were given a boon in the form of the Srimaradi Siddeshwara Tank Development Association, which was formed three summers back, bringing miracles in its wake.

Thanks to this Association, there’s no problem in Yadavala village. Years ago, three acres of the Haruvinakere ha

been encroached upon.

When the encroachers were asked to move, they had objected to it, but the villagers had remained unmoved.“Whe

they reap the benefits, they will not be as opposed to it,” says Srimaradi Siddeshwara Lake Development Association President G M Halleshappa.

“In the past, although we had discussed encroachments, we had turned a blind eye to it. We let the police and officials take care of tank development. It was only after the Tank Development Association came that we understood the importance of our lakes.”

10 April 2012, Deccan Herald


Pattadakal, a Chalukyan legacy

Travel: Aruna Chandaraju visits the World Heritage Site of Pattadakal, which, along with Badami and Aihole, makes for one of Karnataka’s best-known tourist triangles.

I was a fatiguing eight-hour journey from Bangalore on roads which were good, bad and indifferent, in gloom-inducing rainy weather, but the beauty of Pattadakal was worth the toil. Aihole and Badami were also near by to continue our exploration. Besides, the skies cleared up, so the rigours of the journey were forgotten in no time. We decided not to get too bothered by the importunate beggars and trinket-sellers we encountered.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pattadakal, which represents the high point of Chalukyan art, has a complex of several Shiva temples and a Jain sanctuary, all said to have been built around the eighth and ninth centuries. Situated near a small village close to the Malaprabha river, together with Aihole and Badami, it makes for one of Karnataka’s best-known tourist triangles. Since we were here to do the touristy thing, we started off with Pattadakal.

Two monumental gates form the entrances to the cluster of temples at Pattadakal. We encountered a colossal nandi in black stone on a pavilion before we saw the shrines to Shiva.

According to legend, this sacred bull, an ardent devotee of Shiva, received a boon to be ever-present before Shiva. Nandi also receives ritual worship as does the Shiva linga in all temples dedicated to this god. Single depictions or narrative panels about the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Bhagavatham, Panchatantra as well as contemporary social life can be seen in the sculptures at Pattadakal, whether on walls or ceilings. The intricate lattices on the walls and exquisite figurines in the niches are other remarkable aspects of some of the temples in this complex. Of the nine temples to Shiva, eight were clustered close to each other and there were sub-shrines too. A short distance away was the ninth temple – dedicated to Papanatha as well as the Jain structure. The central area had temples to Shiva in his various forms – so there was Kashi Vishweshwara, Mallikarjuna as well as Galaganatha (where you can see the famous statue of Shiva vanquishing the demon Andhakasura) and Sanghameshwara. “I am named after this god,” said our guide, beaming proudly as he flashed his badge, which bore the name, M Sanghameshwara, at us. The twin temples of Kadasiddheshwara and Jambulinga were small but impressive.

The smallest and simplest appeared to be the Chandrashekhara temple and we had no fellow-tourists delaying our photo-ops!

Widely known temple

The best-known temple at this site is that of Virupakasha temple – the name given to Shiva because he has the third eye. This widely renowned masterpiece of Chalukyan art was built around 740 AD. Many Pattadakal temples are all in classic Dravidian style and have square-shaped shikharas with curved edges (complex roofs with storeys) and cornices on the walls. The wide porches are another typical Chalukyan feature

However, there is an influence of northern-style architecture in some of the temples including the Jain sanctuary so there is something eclectic about Pattadakal. It is regarded as a harmonious blend of the Dravidian or southern style and the nagara or north-Indian style.

While Aihole is considered the “laboratory” of Chalukyan art and architecture i.e where experimentation was done, Pattadakal represents a more evolved state and the pinnacle of Chalukyan art.

We spent a lot of time at the large Virupaksha temple which is rich in fine sculptures, among them Nataraja, Lingodbhava, Ugranarasimha (Lord Narasimha in his fiery form), etc.

Bearing a strong resemblance to the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram, it was built by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi.

We took the pradakshina route or a circumambulating path around the temple. Our guide led us to the Jain temple and the Papanatha temple which were a short distance away. The Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta are believed to have built the Jain temple which is rather simple; nowhere as elaborate as the Jain structures you see in north India.

The Papanatha temple’s wall-niches and carved pillars are its big draw, we were told. Nandi and Veerabhadra stood guard at the entrance.

It had a porch, a large antechamber and a path for pradakshina along which many faithful were walking, some murmuring Shiva mantras.

Our guide, also accompanying us, kept up an incessant chatter on his cellphone with the leader of another group that he was to meet the next day.

Temple-hopping over, we left him with a generous tip as we walked to our car, but he also wanted us to promise that we would use his friend as our guide at Badami where we were headed the next day. We kept our promise

  • The prominent temple groups at Aihole are the Kontigudi group and the Galaganatha group of temples. The oldes temple at Aihole is the Lad khan temple dating back to the fifth century.
  • The Durga temple is the best known of the Aihole temples. It has been built on the lines of a Buddhist chaitya. A pillared corridor runs around the temple, enveloping the shrine, the mukhamantapa and the sabhamantapa. The temple is full of beautiful carvings. It appears to be of the late seventh or early eighth century.
  • n Ravana Phadi cave is one of the oldest rock-cut temples in Aihole, is located south east of Hucchimalli temple. This temple dates back to the sixth century, with a rectangular shrine, with two mantapas.
  • The Durga temple is one of the important temples of Aihole and the architectural style resembles a Buddhist chaitalaya. The temple stands on a high platform. The temple has a rekhanagara shikhara.
  • The rock-cut Badami cave temples were sculpted mostly between the sixth and eighth centuries. Landmarks in Badami include cave temples, gateways, forts, inscriptions and sculptures.

    A Buddhist cave in a natural setting that can be entered only by crawling on knees. The Bhutanatha temple is a small shrine, facing the lake, and was constructed in the fifth century. The Mallikarjuna temple dating back to the 11th century, has been built on a star-shaped plan

  • 11 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Nila Gumbad gets a facelift & heritage corridor

    ASI MoU With Railways Clears Decks For Mughal-Era Structure To Link With Humayun’s Tomb Complex

    NewDelhi:Soon, the earliest Mughal-era structure in the city will once again become a part of its original complex. Plans by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to integrate the 16th-century Nila Gumbad monument with world heritage site Humayun’s Tomb complex have finally got off the ground with a road being built to connect the two sites. The project was conceived back in 2006, but disagreement with Northern Railway over ownership of the land surroundingNila Gumbad stalled the work. After numerous rounds of dialogue, ASI and Northern Railway signed an MoU last year, which allowed the service road bifurcating the two monuments to be shifted to the east of Nila Gumbad. This would provide connectivity between the two sites.

    The work is being undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). The project team has established that Nila Gumbad was originally enclosed by a garden on a river island. The garden setting was partly destroyed in the 19th century with the laying of railway lines on the riverbed. Conservationists also say the western wall of Nila Gumbad later became the eastern wall of Humayun’s Tomb. “In the 1980s, however, the monument was cut off from Humayun’s Tomb by the building of a sewer line and a service road. As a result, visitors to Humayun’s Tomb are not able to explore Nila Gumbad due to lack of connectivity,” said an official. Conservationists say the segregation of the two sites has contributed to the neglect of Nila Gumbad.

    In 2007 when AKTC became engaged with the Humayun’s Tomb-Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal project, the original northern arcade of Nila Gumbad was discovered and partially restored. This was followed by talks with the railways—that owns portions of the land around Nila Gumbad—for allowing shifting of the service road and rebuilding of the western half of the Nila Gumbad garden, so that at least part of the garden that surrounded the monument could be restored. An agreement was hammered out only last year

    “As a first step, ASI and AKTC are building a road that will also allow easy access to railway stores. Once the road layout is finalized, the much needed conservation work on Nila Gumbad will be carried out by AKTC. It is expected to take up to two years,’’ said Guntej Bhushan, AKTC project manager. “The work will include repairing of cracks and tile work on the dome; reopening of doorways now blocked with masonry; removal of cement repairs made in the 20th century; and restoration of the decorative plasterwork. Collapsed portions of the northern arcade and the western arcaded wall will be rebuilt,’’ said Sangeet Bais, AKTC programme officer, conservation. A 3D laser scanning technology has been used to document the structure. Also, a structural analysis has been done by a UK-based engineer. “As a part of the conservation work carried out at Humayun’s Tomb with Sir Dorabji Tata Trust co-funding, Nila Gumbad will be secured and, hopefully, be included within the extended world heritage site,’’ added Ratish Nanda, AKTC project director.

    With blue and green tiles, Nila Gumbad was originally a river island tomb accessible from Humayun’s Tomb. It is believed to be the earliest Mughal-era building in Delhi. The northern arcade, unearthed a few years ago, is thought to have protected the monument from Yamuna that once flowed near Humayun’s Tomb before it shifted eastwards. ASI officials say access to Nila Gumbad from Humayun’s Tomb would be an added attraction for visitors, and the world heritage site can then be enlarged to accommodate Nila Gumbad

    12 April 2012, Times of India


    Zenana Bagh gives women a space of their own

    The park in Nizamuddin Basti is the result of a new initiative by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture

    “This space was appropriated by garbage, animals and addicts. There was no way we could even step in here…” Najma says as she encourages you to look around the recently renovated park in the middle of the Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi, christened the Zenana Bagh (Women's Park). Marked by high walls with sandstone jalis (latticework), manicured lawns and the absence of men, this women's only space in a conservative locality is the new hangout for shy adolescents, home makers in need of a breather and the older women who want to exchange notes on recipes and domestic squabbles.In between mild workout and some not-so-strenuous exercises, the women sit down t

     chat. Some keep an eye on their children playing on the nearby swings and for some it is the venue for some quiet “me-time”

    Owned by the Delhi Development Authority the park was an example of dilapidation brought on by neglect, quite like a few other parks in the vicinity. The women's park as it stands today, says Najma, is the result of community initiative started by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture

    The women's only park that remains open for specific hours during the day has given women in this densely populated area where houses stand cheek by jowl, an opportunity to step out. “After all these years of living in such a cloistered environment, we finally have a space of our own. We come here to talk, unwind, exercise, all of which was unthinkable earlier. We also have a guard here for safety,” says Shaheen, also a regular at the park

    Right next to the women's park is the children's park with colourful swings and exhilarated voices of children. “The park is a boon for the children as well. During the daytime it is used by the students of the school run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and in the evenings it is opened for the Basti children. The school itself looked more rundown than a slum cluster before the AKTC renovated it,” Najma points out

    Further down the road from the women's park are the Central Park and the Outer Park, both of which have been refurbished and rid of encroachments, garbage spill-overs and anti-social activities. “In view of the huge number of pilgrims, mostly male and lack of space for women, the Zenana Bagh (Women's park) was built within high enclosure walls,” says Sakshi Saini, programme coordinator, AKTC

    Women, she says, are involved in the Zenana Bagh in more ways. “We have volunteers who come to the park twice everyday, to monitor how it is being maintained. They report lapses, point out if the gardeners or the guards are failing in their work; keep an eye on the security. We have monthly meetings where all issues related to the park, for instance the timings, are discussed.

    The parks being in possession of the DDA, the AKTC entered into a public-private partnership agreement with the agencies to carry out the work. “The renovation work is part of the AKTC's urban renewal initiative, a not-for profit PPP with Aga Khan Foundation, the MCD, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Central Public Works Department. During the study of the area we found it was a high population density locality with parks that were available but could not be used for various reasons,” says Ratish Nanda, Project Director

    Although there is no empirical evidence of how many people visit the renovated parks, the residents claim it is far greater than then “under 2 per cent” that earlier visited the parks. Women are also being encouraged to use a gymnasium, recently opened for them

    “From 9.30 to 12.30 in the morning, the gymnasium is open for women alone. We have an instructor who explains workouts and we can use it for free,” explains Najma

    Local councillor Farhad Suri says the renovation work and the Zenana Bagh in particular are an illustration of a community dialogue. Creating niche spaces for women who are bound by customs, traditions and perceptions has given the women room for being

    “We approached the Lieutenant-Governor to allow landscaping of these parks which were in a terrible state. AKTC has since done a splendid job in close interaction with community members to significantly improve the urban character of the Basti – leading to improvement in law and order too,” he points out

    Within the park as dusk slowly gives way to night the women slowly begin to rise. A few have male family members waiting to escort them back home, others find strength in numbers. “We will all assemble here again in the morning and then again in the evening. This is our space,” say Shaheen and Najma as we part

    12 April 2012, Hindu


    Rebuilding the Siberian crane saga

    Exactly two decades after the last pair of the Siberian cranes was sighted in the celebrated bird sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, experts and crane lovers are meeting there for two days from Thursday to consider setting up a centre for captive bred Siberian cranes

    The captive-bred Siberian cranes are in good number with the Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation(ICF) but its co-founder George Archibald had once put the condition that the birds would be released only after the Keolado Park authorities ensured annual share of water to the marshland. It was ICF, back in 1983, that organised the first International Crane Workshop at Bharatpur

    The Ministry of Environment and Forests which once resisted experimentation with the wild Siberian cranes reaching the park, has reportedly sighted a flock of captive Siberian cranes at Fogelpark Walsroad in Germany for release in Bharatpur. It is MoEF idea — originated at the time of Jairam Ramesh as Minister — to have a consultation among various expert groups — WWF, ICF, Rajasthan Forest Department — to seek opinion on setting up a “semi captive” Siberian crane centre.

    In fact Mr. Archibald had air-dashed a few captive bred Sibes — as the Siberian cranes were fondly called — in Keoladeo National Park in the 90s in a bid to let them learn how to fly back to Siberia with the wild flock — when their number had reduced to less than a dozen. The experiments took place in the Park with A.S. Brar as Director. The MoEF then had played safe, directing not to capture or tag Sibes

    The bird's population crashed even though satellite transmitter experiments were carried out on them and on Common Cranes. By 2002, the Siberian crane saga ended in the Park. After that it was extinction of the central population of Sibes, which used to winter in Iran

    “The move looks like a positive trend, can be welcomed, if it can happen. But is MoEF not late by two decades?” wondered Harsh Vardhan, a leading conservationist who lead many campaigns in the past to save the Siberian cranes. “The 70s were of complacency as Siberian Cranes, were in plenty, about 80 at start of the decade. The authorities took them for granted. After the International Crane Foundation was set up in 1973 at Baraboo in Wisconsin, USA, Ron Sauey and George Archibald, the two co-founders, started research on Sibes,” Mr. Vardhan recollected

    “Hopes were belied as during the eighties Indian authorities turned down proposals for scientific studies on Siberian cranes at Keoladeo National Park. The suggestion to put transmitters on birds wintering here was unacceptable to a section of Indian avian researchers as well,” Mr. Vardhan noted.

    12 April 2012, Hindu


    The hill queen cries for help

    Back in India after some years, a physician bemoans the garbage-ridden hillsof Mussoorie

    “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect...

    Aldo Leopold, scientist, author, environmentalist, forester and ecologist

    A low pitched rumble in the sky marked the landing of our stalwart 747 at the Terminal 3 of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. Within a few minutes, I deplaned along with my family, thus beginning our biennial trip to India. Upon arrival in the international terminal, I was amazed to see the positive changes that had taken place in the complex in only a few years' time. Kudos to the designing team, the terminal appeared to be state-of-the-art. We made record time clearing immigration and customs, a far cry from back in the days of the old IG International arrivals and seemingly light years ahead of the old Palam airport with hours of wait and endless queues. I thus started this trip optimistically. India was certainly showing her finest form and this was just the first day of my trip

    Flash forward a week later. I am disembarking the New Delhi to Dehra Dun Shatabdi Express

    The almost six hour ride was smooth and the time passed by quickly. A one hour ride later brought us to our destination: Mussoorie. What a beautiful landscape, certainly befitting the praise of numerous authors and fellow travellers over the years. I whipped out my trustworthy, but road-worn camera, ready to devour once in a lifetime images of beauty. Or so I thought

    Intermingled with this beautiful passage was garbage, litter, refuse, call it what you may. Did my eyes deceive me? Was this an illusion due to jet lag? Perhaps this was an isolated incident. I was wrong on all accounts. This beautiful hill station abounded with man-made rubbish! What I was expecting was a visual treat given the variety of plant-life found here and the geographic variety. What I got instead, was a rude awakening

    My earlier readings had revealed Mussoorie to be dubbed, “the Queen of the foothills,” and for good reason. Founded in the 1800s during colonial times by the British, this sparsely inhabited hill station (by the likes of Welsh surveyor and geographer Sir George Everest), situated at an altitude of approximately 1800 meters, grew into the small bustling city it is now

    This being my first trip I was expecting a visual and aural treat for the senses, given the plethora of flora and fauna in the region. What I was not prepared for were the piles of garbage strewn indiscriminately about the countryside

    The burgeoning of Mussoorie into a well-populated city has stressed its natural ecosystem. An abundance of tourism and local housing development has increased the ‘human load.' Not infrequently, problems with trash over-abundance and collection issues, in addition to water scarcity, have come to rear their ugly face in this once peaceful abode

    During my short visit, I was enthralled by the natural beauty present. At the same time, however, I was deeply troubled by the widespread presence of trash and refuse. Even the nearby town of Landour had not escaped this deluge of human waste (albeit on a smaller scale). Make no mistake about it: beyond every colourful flower, behind every flowering shrub, and underneath every picturesque bridge or park bench, litter is present. Natural beauty co-exists with man-made refuse in a bizarre manner. However, unlike the harmonious Taoist blending of opposing forces that occur in nature to create a harmonious unity, this pairing can only lead to the destabilisation of this delicate, already stressed ecosystem

    So what is the solution and why, you may ask, am I concerned? Though I am not a self-professed eco activist, I do understand the fragility of our natural environs and am concerned that we leave some semblance of nature for the future generations. The solution has to be a multi-tiered approach. Population growth continues, and with it, the amount of trash we produce. Perhaps on the government level, tougher zoning ordinances and designated wildlife refuge areas (no-build zones) would help. In addition fines for littering (though this would be difficult to enforce) would at least send a strong message that the hillside is not a dumping ground

    Ultimately, deterrence can only help to a certain extent. It is up to the people to clean up their act. In 1985, the US state of Texas had a similar widespread highway littering problem. To remedy it, the Texas Department of Transportation unleashed a large scale public education program to battle this $20 million a year problem. Cleverly, it was titled, “Don't Mess With Texas”. Banners, slogans, advertisements and the use of prominent celebrities catapulted this program into the stratosphere. Did it work? You bet it did. Within a 4-year period, roadside litter decreased a remarkable 72 per cent

    Now it's Mussoorie's turn. It faces a bigger challenge, as trash is rampant throughout the countryside. If this does not happen soon, in the not-so-distant future this once beautiful hill station will not be the ‘Queen of the Hills,', but rather the ‘Queen of the Landfills.'

    15 April 2012, Hindu


    ASI undecided over gap in mosque wall

    A gap in the boundary wall stares at visitors to the Qudsia Masjid in Old Delhi, where the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is running a conservation programme. The gap, on the Ring Road side of the boundary wall, was a deliberate move by the authorities when a new boundary wall with a two-metre-tall iron railing was built around the monument. The ASI is yet to decide whether to put a gate in the gap or fill it

    The 18th century monument, located at the junction of Ring Road and the Boulevard Road, figured for years in a list of 12 monuments in the ASI’s Delhi circle that faced encroachment. The squatters were evicted only after a case in Delhi High Court went in favour of the agency

    “The court, however, allowed the prayers to be held there,” said a senior ASI official, on the condition of anonymity. This has meant a steady stream of visitors, especially on Fridays

    There is pressure on the authorities to allow entry to more people for prayers amid palpable tension. One or two persons have also been seen staying at the monument overnight

    When this correspondent visited the monument on Monday, there were tell-tale signs of encroachment

    Mats, a cooler and a cupboard were among other things to be seen in the arched verandah. Laundry hung from the clothesline near the wall facing the Ring Road. However, only those working on the conservation programme could be seen near the mosque.

    Several attempts have been made to encroach the monument again. One of the occupants has filed a suit against the ASI,” said the official. “We have deliberately left the gap in the wall and are yet to take a final call in view of the developments.

    The opening in the compound wall continues to be used as  thoroughfare by visitors to the Qudsia garden and also by those going westwards to Alipur Road and Shamnath Marg.

    15 April 2012, Hindustan Times


    Counting on green cover

    Conservationists in the Capital claim to be fighting a losing battle in the absence of any authentic tree inventory. Though often proposed, Delhi is yet to have a census of its trees, making it hard for those campaigning against their illegal felling and pruning

    While cities like Mumbai, Pune and Chennai have already taken the lead in cataloguing information on their trees, Delhi is yet to make the big start. “There are several land owning agencies in Delhi that are responsible for maintenance of trees. Of them, the New Delhi Municipal Council carried out a tree census in 2005-06 in its areas including trees on roadsides and those in the parks and gardens. But a complete tree census for entire Delhi is still a pending matter,” says Deputy Inspector General of Forests Subhash Chandra, who is also the former NDMC Horticulture Director

    Thus, so far, the sense of Delhi's green cover has been derived mainly from the satellite imagery generated by the Forest Survey of India. A detailed survey inclusive of all its plantations, parks and gardens, trees on the roads and inside the colonies is however crucial to Delhi since it houses a substantial tree cover apart from its forest areas.
    “Tree census is definitely important, but we must be clear about what we want to accomplish through it. It is essential for conservation purposes. If we are planting 10 lakh saplings in a year, we must be able to monitor their survival rate, otherwise we would draw a false, inflated picture of the green cover,” says Prabhakar Rao of Kalpavriksh, an environment action group

    A tree census does much more than establishing a tree count. It also gives an idea on the trees' type and health, based on which broader conservation plans can be initiated in a scientific manner. In Delhi especially, where the green areas are always competing against frequent development projects due to utter land scarcity, a tree census becomes even more necessary

    Usually the city's municipal corporation is responsible for a tree census. Delhi, however, with its vast area and multiple agencies would surely need a streamlined plan to rope in all of them under an umbrella organisation to avoid duplicity and lack of coordination. “Ideally, the forest department must be made in-charge for such a monumental task because they are highly trained to deal with ecology. They have the expertise and trained staff to carry out the work, but they definitely need more ground level staff,” says Mr. Prabhakar

    Mr. Chandra echoes, “Delhi Forest Department can be the focal point for imparting training to various agencies with support from Forest Survey of India and Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education. I hope we can get support from many volunteers, who can work under supervision of professionals is required too.

    Though official measures will take their own course, Delhi is not short of tree lovers. A resident of Sarvodya Enclave, Padmavati Dwivedi, who is also the founder of NGO Compassionate Living has been doing a tree count in her colony along with some like-minded people. Their tree inventory is very basic but comes handy. “Numbering a tree helps us to be very specific in our appeal in case a tree is being lopped or disappears. Our model can easily be emulated by other residents and RWAs, and can be encouraged through Bhagidari scheme to protect trees inside the colonies which often die a silent death,” says Ms. Dwivedi.

    15 April 2012, Hindu


    Resorting to the hills...

    Situated amidst tall deodar trees, along the banks of River Lohawati, Lohaghat offered me a calm, crisp and completely refreshing atmosphere during the month of December. It is a beautiful winter destination located 63 km away from Pithoragarh at an altitude of 1,750 m.

    Unlike other hill resorts in the northern Himalayan belt, it is neither snow-bound in winter nor overcrowded during the summer.

    Lohaghat is truly amazing for its scenic splendour. It is especially popular for an enchanting excursion to Pancheshwar, situated at a distance of 47 km from Lohaghat. We witnessed a beautiful confluence of rivers Kali and Saryu at Pancheshwar. Throughout the region, this locale is famous for the Chaumu Temple and its annual fair. Apart from the traditions, Pancheshwar’s surroundings provided us the perfect location to experience the beauty of spectacular Himalayas

    The next day, after enjoying a delicious breakfast at our hotel, we decided to explore the Banasur Fort (also known a

     Kotalgarh), situated six km away, towards the west of Lohaghat. This fort is constructed on a ridge, in a charming valley, at an altitude of 1,920 m.

    According to legend, Kotalgarh is fabled to have been the stronghold of the demon Bana Asura, the son of Mahabali, who fought with Lord Vishnu.

    Abbot Mount is another spectacular location. It is a captivating resort amidst dense forests of oak and deodar. This dazzling locale is noted for its scenic charm and breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks. This place is truly captivating for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

    Excursions from Lohaghat lead to Champawat, the capital of this beautiful region. Situated at a distance of 13 km from Lohaghat, Champawat is famous for its historical, sculptural and archaeological remains. Champawat, from where the Chand dynasty ruled, holds ruins of past glory.

    The next morning, we visited Manch and Guru Goraknath’s dhuni. Manch is situated amidst thick forest near Champawat. These forests are manifestations of the deep-rooted local tradition of forest preservation. The dhuni, dedicated to Guru Goraknath, is a sacred fire that burns continuously. One has to trek around 1.5 km to reach this sacred spot. We really had an enjoyable time at this sacred place

    Among fine remains in Champawat, we found the Durga temples to be note-worthy. The carvings and paintings of the ceilings of these temples are evidence of the ancient glory and artistic excellence of the Chand era. The grandeur and magnificence undoubtedly left us without words

    After spending an entire day in Champawat, we returned to Lohaghat in the evening. If you really want to get the best out of your trip, it is advisable to explore Lohaghat between November and February

    The weather is pleasant during November and December, and there is a healthy nip in the air.

    15 April 2012, Deccan herald


    Badami, Aihole may enter world heritage hall of fame

    Badami and Aihole in Bagalkot district are all set to get the World Heritage Site status. If things go as planned, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) may declare Badami and Aihole, known as the cradle of Chalukyan architecure, as the new World Heritage Sites in the State.

    The Dharwad Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has prepared a dossier, seeking extension of the World Heritage Site status, given to Pattadkal, to these towns too. The dossier will be submitted to the Director General of ASI, New Delhi, and later it will be forwarded to the UNESCO through the Union Culture Ministry.

    “Pattadkal temple complex is one of the only two World Heritage Sites, the other being Hampi, in Karnataka. Considering the universal value and artistic splendour, UNESCO accorded the World Heritage Status to temples at Pattadkal way back in 1982.

    Now, we are seeking the extension of this status to Chalukyan monuments in Badami and Aihole, which are near Pattadkal,” said T Srilakshmi, Superintending Archaeologist of the Dharwad Circle of ASI.

    She said, after the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (Amendment and Validation) was enacted in 2010, protection and conservation of the Centrally Protected Monuments in the State had gained momentum. The new proposal to include Badami and Aihole in the list of World Heritage Sites would accelerate the momentum.

    “Our previous experiences tell us that getting the World Heritage Status for Badami and Aihole may not be a problem as Pattadkal is already in the list,” Srilakshmi said.

    The high-level officials of the Union Culture Ministry will meet in November to discuss the proposals to be sent to UNESCO. The UNESCO, which will meet in 2013 in Spain, will announce the new list of World Heritage Sites.

    “There is evidence to prove that the temple architecture had evolved in Badami and Aihole much before the Chalukyan period in the 3rd century. Therefore, the monuments in these two ancient towns are most eligible to be included in the list of World Heritage Sites,” explained Prof Geetanjali Rao, director of Art, Architecture, Design Environment Consultants (AEDI) - who along with other experts - prepared the dossier for ASI.

    She said, Durga temple at Aihole and four caves near Agasthya lake in Badami were known for their unique architecture characteristics. The UNESCO tag would help conserve these invaluable cultural properties in a better way.

    The temple and cave architecture in Pattadkal, Aihole and Badami had reached its peak during the reign of Chalukyan kings Pulikeshi, Immadi Pulikeshi, Mangalesh, Vikramaditya, Vinayaditya in the 6th century.

    15 April 2012, Deccan herald


    Spain’s secular structure

    The traveller touring Spain cannot but notice the fact that right across the country, Moorish architecture sits peacefully alongside Roman and Baroque styles. Monuments containing both Islamic and Christian influences are all well maintained and shown off to visitors with much pride.

    Cordoba, to the south of Spain’s capital Madrid, is a town on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, picturesquely hemmed in by both Roman and Moorish walls. The river is at its prettiest here, cutting shallow but wide swathes under bridges ancient and modern. A region replete with a rich history, Cordoba, once a bulwark of Roman-occupied Spain, eventually saw Visigoth occupation and then, in the early eighth century, the Muslims took over.

    It was from Cordoba that the conquerors consolidated power over Muslim-Spain or al-Andalusia. This was veritably a golden age for Cordoba, with universities, mosques, public baths and churches, all flourishing side by side. However, the

    powers of the Caliphate started to wane by 1031 and in 1236, Fernando III captured Cordoba and brought back Christianity.

    In this backdrop stands the magnificent Mezquita-Cathedral — an architectural oddity but a stunning one, nevertheless. Originally a pagan temple, it then became a Visigoth Christian church, before the Umayyad Moors built their grand mosque on the site. A mix of styles, neither the Moorish nor the Christian aspects overwhelm each other. There are oil paintings, stained-glass work, lattice fretwork, a grove of oranges…the Mezquita is actually the re-grafting of Christianity onto a Muslim part of Spain.

    Let’s delve into the mosque area first. The Mezquita served as the great masjid for the Umayyad caliphs, second, according to them, only to the Great Mosque at Mecca. Dating back to 787 AD, when the mosque was ready for consecration, the interiors are simply beautiful. All of the 850 statuesque columns make for a series of crisscrossing alleys, leading to gilded prayer niches

    These marble pillars support two-tiered arches that sit atop them, striped red and white, inspired by the pillars in the Dome of the Rock, as also those in the Aachen Cathedral, both of which were built around the same time as the Mezquita.

    A centrally located honey-combed dome has blue tiles decorated with stars. The jewel in this particular crown is the mihrab, the prayer alcove, a domed shrine made of Byzantine mosaics like jasper, onyx, marble and granite, sourced from pieces of the Roman temple which had occupied the site previously. The dull greens, yellows and grays provide a striking jolt of colour in the interior of the mosque-cathedral.

    After Christianity returned to Cordoba, the mosque was converted back into a Roman Catholic Christian church, the Church of the Virgin of the Assumption. Parts of the mosque were walled up and the Torre del Alminar minaret was replaced by a Baroque belfry at the base of the Gate of Forgiveness, Peurta del Perdon.

    A renaissance style cathedral nave came up in the centre of the mosque, but here is the beauty of it: the visitor moves from the Moorish to the Christian in seamless, fluid fashion, with nothing to jar the senses. If parts of the church sits oddly with the rest of the structure, there is no denying the beauty of the intricate ceiling and richly-carved 18th century choir stalls.

    This part of the church was constructed with the assent of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. However, the story goes that when the king finally laid eyes on it, he was dismayed. “You have built here what you might have built anywhere else,” he is reported to have said, “you have destroyed what was unique in the world.

    The beautiful laid-out Courtyard of the Orange Trees (Patio de los Naranjos), the Arabic style fountains, the Islami

     patios, all stand testimony to its Moorish past. One comes away with renewed respect for a country that maintains and displays the beauty of diversity

    15 April 2012, Deccan herald


    Reaching for the roots

    Shilparamam, the arts and crafts village in Hyderabad, is a tribute to the rich artistic and cultural heritage of India, serving as a reminder of our roots, writes nandita Mahajan

    The street before me is packed with eager shoppers who flit excitedly from stall to stall, haggling over prices. The stalls are adorned with every kind of Indian handicraft imaginable, and the world around me is a riot of colours, shapes and sizes. This place seems to have, quite simply, everything on earth: jewellery, carpets, clothes, toys, handicrafts, textiles, cookware, and even furniture

    On a bench by the side of the road, a lady applies mehndi on a little girl’s hand.

    An infant screams impatiently and tugs at the sari of his mother who, ignoring him, eyes a piece of pottery greedily. A girl and her mother haggle over the price of blue and yellow glass bangles that tinkle with the gentle flow of the wind. In another corner, a woman puzzles over which pashmina stole to buy, all of which are exquisitely embroidered. Families picnic in little groups on the grass in the recreational area. Everybody seems to be completely involved in what they are doing, and enjoying themselves thoroughly, despite the heat of the sun bearing down upon them.

    It’s a typical Saturday afternoon at Shilparamam, Hyderabad’s tribute to the ethnic arts and crafts of India. This art and cultural village was set up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh 20 years ago, and occupies 65 acres of land in Hi-Tech city, Madhapur. It is designed to provide two things: a window to the art, craft and culture of rural India for city dwellers today, and a platform for rural artisans and craftsmen to display, and sell their work.

    Shoppers’ delight

    The hundreds of stalls that now surround me seem to be a major attraction here, both for the people of Hyderabad, as well as for tourists who come to Shilparamam to get a feel of rural India and take home a piece of ethnic Indian art.

    But when I walk a little further up the road, I realise that there’s a lot more to this place than just its stalls. The Prakriti Raga Living Rock Gallery for example, which is an open air display of exquisite rock sculptures that Shilparamam set up in association with Subrata Basu, the artist who developed this particular genre of sculpture, thus creating art out of Hyderabad’s rocks

    Then there’s the Art Gallery, a roomful of paintings that illustrate village life as well as village beliefs and deities.

    Next, I visit the Rural Museum. I am enraptured by the extremely authentic archetype of a typical Indian village that depicts the lives and activities of its inhabitants. It contains huts of thatch and baked clay, and houses life-size sculptures of villagers and their cattle, made with surprising precision. Artisans, craftsmen, blacksmiths, farmers, weavers and potters at work are shown, and an entire village bazaar is elaborately laid out. This museum also has a section depicting the lifestyle and handicrafts of tribal folk in India exit the museum and follow the road till I reach Shilparamam’s lake. The boating facility here seems to be

     favourite with children. Though the lake is rather small for much of a boating expedition, it provides quite a pleasant atmosphere, what with all its surrounding greenery and the wild geese splashing around

    At the Grameena, I manage to get a taste of authentic Andhra cuisine. Labelled as an ethnic food court, I enjoy th many flavours that make up Andhra Pradesh’s culinary past. Be it the pesarattu or the much-favoured leafy pickle, gongura, I tuck into them with equal relish — a tasteful end to my tour around the village.

    Night bazaar

    I visit the main office and learn that the Andhra Pradesh Department of Tourism is currently conceiving a night bazaar at Shilparamam, the Shilpasandhya Vedika, that will be open from 3 pm to 3 am. Apparently, it’s being planned on a grand scale; it claims to be the first night bazaar of its kind in India. Its organisers plan to divide the 60,000 square feet of shopping space in this bazaar into four zones: Adhunik, Vedic, Sultanate and Azma. Each of the zones is to reflect the respective time period.

    The Adhunik Zone is being designed to provide a modern-day shopping and dining experience, by selling products like jewellery, bags, watches and electronics, and housing food stalls like KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

    The Vedic Zone will reflect the ancient vedic culture of India. Crafts from this age, like bone and sandalwood products, glass ornaments, applique work and Ayurvedic products will be featured here. Ethnic North and South Indian food will be provided.

    The Sultanate Zone will represent the Sultanate times; it will sell products like pearl jewellery, embroidered carpets, lac bangles and bidri ware, and serve Shahi cuisine.

    The Azma Zone is meant to reflect the stone age. Products like tribal ornaments, terracotta articles and clay toys will be made available, and raw and grilled food will be served at its food courts

    As I exit Shilparamam, I turn back to look, once again, at its grand gate in-between the two enormous terracotta horses.

    A place like this, in my opinion, is extremely important in urban India today. In a land where westernisation is rampan and traditions seem obsolete, Shilparamam provides us with something we desperately need: a place where we can explore our roots.

    15 April 2012, Deccan herald


    Ritual reminiscences

    CULTURE Eastertide is an entire season of faith, explains R.V. SMITH

    Eastertide lasts for 40 days — a duration longer than Christmastide, which ends with Twelfth Night. It's only with the feast of Pentecost or Whit Sunday that the Church bids goodbye to Easter. But three ceremonies associated with it revive memories — the making of holy oil, the blessing of fire and the making of holy water. The oil is sanctified at the chrismal mass in the beginning of the week after Palm Sunday. But earlier in the Delhi and its mother archdiocese of Agra, this ceremony took place on Maundy Thursday, though buns and not Maundy pennies were distributed on that day. The oil is used in the new Ecclesiastical year for anointing the faithful, including infants, the sick and dying. For the latter it is termed extreme unction

    One remembers that during the days when Delhi too was administered by the Italian priests, Maundy Thursday was the occasion when the bishops of all the dioceses under Archbishop Vanni came to collect holy oil. But before that the cathedral witnessed one of its most colourful rituals. The Archbishop sat on his ceremonial chair in front of the high altar, made in Rome and presented by Messrs John & Company. Priests from nearby areas took part in the Gregorian Chant, which sounded just as sweet as the Sanskrit shlokas and reminded one that Latin and Sanskrit were part of the same linguistic root

    The chanting priests were Italians, Anglo-Indians, Irish and Indians, among whom the voice of Fr Adeodatus was the most striking and easily recognisable. This saintly priest, who preferred to live like a rustic (with the gaonwala haircut) was based in Sardhana later, where after a long stint as in-charge of Begum Sumroo's church, he was murdered one night by robbers. His grave is situated near the church and highly venerated. Among the other priests, there was Fr Leo, also an Italian, the haftzaban padre, who knew several languages including Pashto as he had lived and worked in Kabul. Unfortunately Fr Leo also (born 1894) was murdered at the age of 73 in Mussoorie by a boy who worked for him. Then there was the handsome Fr Gabriel, the tall, silent sola topee-wearing Fr Bonaventure, in charge of Gwalior church parish, the elfin Fr Daniel, the Urdu-loving Fr Anthony Pyarelal, the Ven. Fr Luke, builder of Sacred Heart Cathedral, the aristocratic Fr Sinha and the graceful Monsignor Burke, along with the M.C., Fr Lawrance, OFM

    Among the bishops, besides the one from Delhi, there were the ones of Allahabad, Lucknow and other places, at least three of whom were Italians. The Bishop of Lucknow was short and fat and still stands out in memory. During the holy oil rituals the bishops had to approach the Archbishop's chair, bowing and genuflecting several times to the chant of “Ave Santus Christna (which to schoolboys sounded like Krishna). Now in the Delhi Archdiocese the chrism (holy oil) mass is held on Tuesday (after Palm Sunday) when all the suffragan bishops of the Archdiocese congregate under Archbishop Vincent M. Concasso. Being a chip off the old block, the Archbishop continues to preside with old-world charm over the blessing of the fire at the Easter vigil mass and the making of holy water

    One misses the bishops of old (some of them buried under the church altar donated by Anthony D' Mello) though, and their distinctive voices —the thin, piercing one of the prelate of Lucknow, and the baritone of Fr Adeodatus. But new voices are heard and when they pass into memory they too will sound just as sweet

    While Eastertide lasts don't forget to collect some holy water. People of different faiths take a bottleful of it. Most ostensibly to ward off evil spirits. Others however await the visit of a priest for the annual blessing of houses. One old spinster who had an obsessive fear of vampires used to literally drag her parish priest to all the rooms of her sprawling house, and also to the terrace from where she thought the vampires came. But now she rests peacefully in Nicholson cemetery, outside Kashmere Gate

    16 April 2012, Hindu


    India lost 337 tigers in last decade, reveals RTI

    New Delhi: Over 300 tigers lost their lives in and outside various reserves in the country in the last decade, an RTI query has revealed.

    Out of a total of 337 big cats, which died due to poaching, infighting, accidents and old age among others, a highest of 58 were found dead in 2009, followed by 56 in 2011, 36 in 2008 and 28 each in 2007 and 2002, the RTI reply said.

    A total of 17 tigers, including cubs, were found dead in 2005, 16 each in 2003 and between January and March this year, and 14 in 2006, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said in reply to the RTI query.

    According to the data, as many as 68 tigers were victims of poaching during the period. Besides, others had died of natural causes including old age, starvation, road and rail accidents, electrocution and weakness. Interestingly, there were about a dozen incidents in which the cause of tiger deaths “could not be ascertained”.

    A highest of 14 tigers were poached in 2010, 13 in 2009, 11 in 2011, nine in 2002, six each in 2007 and 2008, five in 2006, three in January and March this year and one in 2004. Surprisingly, postmortem reports in two tiger deaths reported in 2003 were still awaited, it said. PTI

    New monitoring measures in place

    After a lot of debate over unreliable population monitoring methods, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) adopted new tiger monitoring protocols. The highlight of the new four-stage process is to involve qualified scientists with forest department staff to get accurate estimates of tiger population density. Till now, scientists were not involved in population monitoring and it was more of an administrative function of forest departments functioning in 17 tiger states.

    16 April 2012, Times of India


    It's all in the Game Reserve

    Getaway There's something mighty attractive about the sight of animals in the Eastern Cape, even if they look like they're not up to much

    Boarding the van outside Port Elizabeth airport in South Africa's Eastern Cape, we, a bunch of around 10 journalists from all over, are told it's a short, picturesque drive to the Kariega Game Reserve we're headed. Picturesque it was, the road for most part running parallel to the still, jade shimmer of the Indian Ocean. When the wheels stop moving 90 minutes later, the radio guy from London drawls “That's the shortest half-hour I've ever seen, mate.

    Must sound like a lame thing to say “I went to Africa and saw lions”. But then, that's the thing about lame things; they are highly attractive, and keep re-asserting themselves. At the game reserve, as we board the two green jeeps — Toyota Land Cruisers, elongated, roof removed and bars added — waiting to take us deep into the bushveld that forms a big part of this 9,000-hectare reserve, the game ranger manning the other vehicle lists a set of rules that can't be broken. “Under no circumstances is anyone allowed to stand up or leave the vehicle. You can click pictures, but no sudden movements

    No littering. Cell phones should be switched off, as they interfere with our communication equipment. So, no calling home and going, ‘Mama! I'm watching a lion!'” Ground rules set, we proceed

    It's past four in the evening, so any hope of catching at least one of the Big Five has a small time frame to survive in. Candice, our game ranger, is relatively new on the reserve, being there for a year now. But as she manoeuvres the vehicle as if it were Hot Wheels on a marble floor — to a just-out-of-driving-school rookie such as me, she seems a khaki-clad Superwoman

    After passing a couple of white-faced blesbuck, we stop at a watering hole, where a still-as-Plaster-of-Paris heron eyes a grey-pink blob in the water sceptically. What looks like a turtle turned-turtle on the water surface happens to be a hippopotamus

    It could have been eyeing us, or it couldn't care less. Disinterest meets disinterest, and we move on. It's quite tempting, making a noise just to see the heron fly, but one doesn't want to be fed to the lions (which, by the way, are still out of sight)

    With every jeep track resembling another, don't people get lost, someone asks. “I once did, in the beginning,” Candice replies, pointing out to a distant communications tower that the rangers use as a landmark while driving around

    One needs to watch out what with the thorn trees lurking dangerously on the sides. We see herds of blue wildebeest walking past, showing off their blue-grey coats. There are giraffe too, bending down and feeding on the grass like cows instead of craning their necks towards trees — which our guide finds quite out-of-character

    Despite regular monitoring, poaching is a problem at the reserve, the rhino being the most frequent victim. Though South Africa houses 90 per cent of the world's rhino population, the first three months of 2012 have seen more than a hundred falling prey to poaching. Though security has been beefed up at the reserve, poachers are more than keeping up — they now land in helicopters at night and it isn't until morning that the bloodied animals are discovered. (One rhino, Themba, gave in to injury-induced infection barely a week before our visit.

    We're still far from any rhino, but we stop suddenly. Sprawled on the grass, barely 10 metres from the jeep track, is what's called ‘The Big Male'; we're told they prefer not to name the animals here as that's a very zoo thing to do. One of the two lions at the reserve, this one is quite oblivious to its surroundings, having feasted on an unfortunate four-legged being only a few hours ago. Belly bloated and heaving, he raises his tail once in a while in a lazy hello. There are hushed conversations on the handset and two more Land Cruisers join us (three being the maximum number of vehicles allowed to converge at a spot)

    The chances of spotting the rest of the pride are suddenly real. Our moment comes all too soon, the next male being more camera-friendly than the earlier; we get to capture more than its tail. “What if he gets up?” someone asks anxiously. “I reverse,” is the reply

    Not much later, the sun starts going down, and coats and blankets are pulled closer. Cricket chirps take over and, later, the water-colour sky withdraws to give way to a Milky Way that threatens to fall on your head. We have until 3 a.m. to be in the reserve, which, turns out to be one of those good things that takes its time to come.

    16 April 2012, Hindu


    Majestic Melkote

    Melkote is renowned for its ‘puliyogare’, temples and history. Poornima Dasharathi takes a walk down memory lane and revisits the town she saw as a child

    My childhood memories of this place were a couple of temples and awesome puliyogare! Thirty years later, the basics have not changed. It still has the same ambience and great food at the small hotels. However, my knowledge of this fort town has increased and I appreciate it better now.

    Melkote has a lot of names ranging from Yadavagiri, Narayangiri, Tirunarayanapura, Jnanamantapa, Yadusaila, Dakshina Badarikashrama to Melukote or Melkote.

    The town is a quaint mix of old-styled row houses with a jagali (platform) in the front , narrow long-winding lanes and the typical Iyengar touch everywhere which shows that they are the predominant population here.

    There are two temples, the Cheluva Narayanaswamy temple, a large temple complex that is home to Lord Narayana, and a Narasimha temple that stands on the edge of a peak dedicated to Yoga Narasimha. The Narasimha temple houses lovely vantage points from where one can view most of the surrounding villages and a lot of water bodies. The processional deity of this town is the charming Chelva (cheluva) pillai (Lord Krishna’s endearing name) who undoubtedly ruled the hearts of all the kings who ruled the town right from Hoysala’s Vishnuvardhana to the Wodeyars of Mysore.

    The place finds a mention even in our earliest records, the Puranas. The Puranas state that the place was known as Narayanadri since the Sanatkumaras brought the image of Narayana and installed it here. In Tretayuga, it was also known as Vedadri as Sage Dattatreya taught the Vedas to his disciples on this hill.

    In Krishna’s time, Dwaparayuga, he and his brother Balarama worshipped the deity and hence the place acquired the name, Yadavadri. It’s also known as Yatisaila since Ramanuja came to this place and revived its popularity. It is one of the four important Vaishnavite shrines in South India, the other three being Srirangam, Tirupati and Kanchi.


    While the image of the Lord cannot be dated, the earliest inscriptions mentioning the temple date back to the 12th century, where an inscription on a stone on the floor of rangamantapa, makes mention of a ‘service to God Narayana of Yadavagiri by one Mahapradhana, Heggade Surigiya Nagidevanna’. Later inscriptions dating back to the 13th and 14th century reveal the Hoysala and Srivaishnava history of the town. Melukote as a town existed even before the Hoysalas. Ellen Lepkens and Domique Vieren explain in the book, ‘Melkote through the Ages’, that ‘Manne’, the Gangas’ capital was not far from Melkote and there are many pillars of this era found here.

    However, it was during the Chola rule that the Srivaishnavism movement entered Melukote. Since Tondanur, whic

     lies on the foothills of the town, was the capital of Hoysala rule, the hill fort gained strategic importance in both religious and military contexts.

    Ramanuja who arrived in Tondanur made Melukote his home for twelve years. During his time, the fort gained religious importance. He renovated the temple and set the rituals and conducts of worship very meticulously which is followed even today. Srivaishnavism as a religion thrived in the region during the Hoysala rule.

    The temple received patronage during the Vijayanagara rule too. One Timanna Dannayaka, a Vijayanagar subordinate, and his wife Rangambika made several grants to the temple and also built the beautiful rangamantapa inside the temple complex.

    The Wodeyars of Mysore were also great patrons of the temple. Since the Wodeyars considered themselves descendents of the Yadava clan, this place became very holy to them. They considered the Lord their family deity.

    Raja Wodeyar donated the rajamudi, a jewelled crown for the Lord. It is the second crown worn by the Lord during the famous Vairamudi festival held here, every year around March-April. His image is also carved on one of the pillars inside the temple complex.

    Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was also another staunch devotee. There are statues of him and his three wives inside the temple complex. Apart from making land and revenue grants, he provided another bejewelled crown, the Krishnarajamudi for the God. There is also an inscription which says Tipu Sultan donated a drum and a few elephants to the nearby Yoga Narsimha temple. This might have also been a strategic gift as the place was of military importance, opines M A Jayashree in the book, ‘Melkote through the ages’.

    Being strategically important, the town has also suffered at the hands of conquerors who ransacked the town during Hoysala rule, and later during the the Mysore rule as well. The long serpentine roads and narrow lanes might have been designed to discourage invading cavalry.

    However, during the British rule, it lost its military importance and became more popular as the temple town it is today.

    Around town

    As you go up the hill, you can see many water bodies dotting the landscape. The Yoga Narasimha temple looks majestic on the rocky peak. At the bus stand, there are many autos waiting to take you around Melkote.

    There are small hotels on the main road of the town. All of them offer the town’s delicacy, the spicy puliyogare and the sweet sakkare pongal.

    A fork in the long narrow lane indicates the way towards the Narasimha temple. On the path towards Narasimha temple is a beautiful kalyani (tank) with various mantapas built during the patronage of several kings. The temple itself is quite plain in design but looks majestic in its location. It’s quite a climb to the top, but it is worth it because the views are breathtaking.

    The Cheluva Narayanaswamy temple below is at the end of a long serpentine road. The temple complex is quit vast.

    As you go past the Garuda stambha, you can see the processional deities worshipped on the left. Though the pillars of the main temple are not highly carved, the hall in front of the adjacent Tayar shrine is beautiful.

    The periphery of the main temple houses images of the Alvars, Ramanuja and Krishnaraja Wodeyar with his three wives. Behind the temple complex is a huge badari (Indian date) tree which lends the name to the place - Dakshina Badari¬kashrama. Apart from the temples, there are several kalyanis around the town.

    Among them are twin tanks beyond the temple which is popularly known as ‘Akka Thangi’ tanks. While one of them is dirty, the other one has the sweetest water in the town! Right after these tanks you find the Sanskrit Research Centre of Melkote and beyond the town is Dhanushkodi, a place connected to Ramayana.

    There’s also the famous writer, Pu Ti Na’s home, in one of the bylanes of the town, maintained as a trust.

    As I go around the town, I am amazed at the fact that the town still manages to maintain its old world charm while lending itself gracefully to development and keeping pace with technology.

    17 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    When a road turns death trap

    A team from Karnataka has now come out with a scientific study on how roads passing through a forest affect wildlife. The study, carried out in the Nagarhole National Park, makes it clear that large animals don’t like coming anywhere close to the highway. Many are killed by vehicular traffic as well, reports Kalyan Ray

    With India on the fast lane to development, an increasing area of forest land is being cleared to make space for man’s greed. More and more roads pass through our forests, and very little thought goes into how this infrastructure will impact wildlife.

    Even though an environmental impact assessment is conducted before approval of projects in forest land, the assessments often are piecemeal rather than a holistic analysis of animal behavioural patterns and their impact on ecology in the long run.

    Absence of scientific studies analysing the impact of road infrastructure on forests and its inhabitants perpetuates myths. Researchers from Karnataka have now come out with what they claim is the first scientific study on the impact of roads passing through a forest, on large-bodied animals like the elephant and the tiger. The study, carried out in Nagarhole National Park, makes it clear that large animals don’t like coming anywhere close to the highway and are pushed further deep inside the forest because of the roads. Many are killed by vehicular traffic as well.

    The Mysore-Mananthavadi highway, which passes through a crucial wildlife corridor in the southern part of Nagarhole, was chosen for the study. The road, upgraded to a high speed road in 2009, is one of the five major public access roads passing through Nagarhole, posing one of the most important anthropogenic threats to a forest landscape that houses the highest number of tigers and elephants. Although vehicles on these highways often caused accidental deaths of wildlife, no studies on animal habitat use in the park have been carried out so far.

    Two stretches; two sets of results

    The researchers from Wildlife Conservation Society, Bangalore and Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore selected a 19.1 km-stretch of the highway. It was studied in two different segments. In the first segment (7.4 km), vehicular traffic was prohibited for 34 months (with exceptions for park vehicles on patrol and public emergencies) after a diversion was created. On the other hand, vehicles continued to ply on the second segment (11.7 km) during the day. Both segments remain closed for 12 hours – from 6 pm to 6 am.

    The team first estimated vehicle density on the road and surveyed animal trails intersecting the highway. Subsequently, they set up camera traps in 10 different locations and surveyed the area for eight months – between November 2009 and June 2010. They found 681 animal trails in the vicinity of the road and the density was 40 per cent higher in the first segment, suggesting greater use of road edges by large animals in a vehicle-free environment. The supporting evidence came from camera traps that recorded movement of nine species including seven large animals – elephant, gaur, sambhar, chital, wild pig, leopard and tiger.

    “Our data strongly suggest an avoidance of busy stretches of highway by certain large mammals. Segment two, which had 23 times the vehicular traffic density compared to segment one had lower photo capture rates for chital, gaur and elephant,” the team reported in the April 10 issue of Current Science. Vehicular traffic on the highway was estimated at 50 per day in 2003. But it has now jumped to 553 per day. Admitting that for wild pigs, tigers and leopards, the difference in sighting in the two stretches was not discernable, researchers suggested sustained monitoring of the highway for a longer period to have a better assessment of animal response.

    Road improvement and highway development projects, the team said, were being proposed within India’s protected area network, which formed mere four per cent of the country’s landscape. Although these roads enhance connectivity between key economic centres, the upgrading of minor roads to high-speed highways also pose a serious threat to wildlife and around protected areas.

    The new study emphasises the need for continued environmental impact assessment of development projects to identify and mitigate unforeseen impacts. “The misuse of EIA should stop. For instance, a UK-based company that carried out the EIA for this road project did not take into account the impact on animal behaviour. It only factored in pollution,” team member Sanjay Gubbi from Wildlife Conservation Society told Deccan Herald.

    Dandeli-Anshi forest

    Nagarhole is not the only example of highways through reserve forest. There is also violation of EIA in Dandeli-Anshi forest in Karnataka. Between 2008 and 2011, the central government allocated almost Rs 65,000 crore in road development, triggering a rapid growth of motor vehicles, which in turn further intensified the demand for better roads.

    The 2010 elephant task force set up by Union Environment Ministry recommended that EIA needed to incorporate insights on biodiversity, especially habitat connectivity and animal movement. The task force suggested setting up a National Elephant Conservation Authority within the 12th-Plan period with a seed budget of Rs 600 crore and one of the tasks of the authority would be habitat protection. According to the task force, India has an estimated 26,000 elephants in the wild and 3,500 elephants in captivity.

    Gubbi said there are myths and popular notions – perpetuated by foresters and the common man alike – which further complicate elephant conservation tactics. One of the common perceptions is that jumbos prefer sugarcane and banana.

    But in a separate study published in Biological Conservation, Gubbi showed finger millet (ragi), maize, cotton and paddy are liked most by elephants. The animals did not show any special affinity to sugarcane. Finger millet is the number one target possibly because of its sodium content and strong smell.

    “Possibly elephants opportunistically raided sugarcane fields during their forays to finger millet, maize or paddy fields,” Gubbi said. Based on an assessment of crop-loss claims made by farmers around Nagarhole National Park, the study shows farmers retaliate against raiding elephants using live wire and gunfire that claimed lives of 33 pachyderms between January 2008 and May 2009.

    During 2006-2009, the State government paid compensation worth almost Rs 26 lakh as damage to 1,955 incidents of crop loss. In the same period, elephants killed 10 persons and injured eight, because of which the State paid another Rs 19 lakh. “Land use around Nagarhole is changing at a large scale level due to several factors including infrastructure development leading to elephant habitat fragmentation. In the future, these changes can lead to higher conflict resulting in greater damage to farmers,” Gubbi said.

    17 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    CO2 drove end to last ice age

    A detailed record of past climate change provides compelling evidence that the last ice age was ended by a rise in temperature driven by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The finding is based on a very broad range of data, including even the shells of ancient tiny ocean animals, says Jonathan Amos

    A paper describing the research appears in this week’s edition of Nature. The team behind the study says its work further strengthens ideas about global warming. “At the end of the last ice age, carbon dioxide rose from about 180 parts per million in the atmosphere to about 260; and today we’re at 392,” explained lead author Jeremy Shakun.

    “So, in the last 100 years we’ve gone up about 100 ppm – about the same as at the end of the last ice age, which I think puts it into perspective because it’s not a small amount. Rising CO2 at the end of the ice age had a huge effect on global climate.”

    The study covers the period in earth’s history from roughly 20,000 to 10,000 years ago.This was the time when the planet was emerging from its last deep chill, when the great ice sheets known to cover parts of the Northern Hemisphere were in retreat.

    The key result from the new study is that it shows the carbon dioxide rise during this major transition ran slightly ahead of increases in global temperature.

    This runs contrary to the record obtained solely from the analysis of Antarctic ice cores that had indicated the opposite – that temperature elevation in the southern polar region actually preceded (or at least ran concurrent to) the climb in CO2.

    This observation has frequently been used by some people who are skeptical of global warming to challenge its scientific underpinnings; to claim that the warming link between the atmospheric gas and global temperature is grossly overstated.

    But Shakun and colleagues argue that the Antarctic temperature record is just that – a record of what was happening only on the White Continent.

    By contrast, their new climate history encompasses data from all around the world to provide a much fuller picture of what was happening on a global scale

    This data incorporates additional information contained in ice drilled from Greenland and in sediments drilled fro the ocean floor and from continental lakes.

    These provide a range of indicators. Air bubbles trapped in ice, for example, will record the past CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

    Past temperatures can also be inferred from ancient planktonic marine organisms buried in the sediments. That is because the amount of magnesium they would include in their calcite skeletons and shells was dependent on the warmth of the water in which they swam.

    “Our global temperature looks a lot like the pattern of rising CO2 at the end of the ice age, but the interesting part in particular is that unlike with these Antarctic ice core records, the temperature lags a bit behind the CO2,” said Shakun, who conducted much of the research at Oregon State University but who is now affiliated with Harvard and Columbia universities.

    “You put these two points together – the correlation of global temperature and CO2, and the fact that temperature lags behind the CO2 – and it really leaves you thinking that CO2 was the big driver of global warming at the end of the ice age,” he told BBC News.Shakun’s team has now constructed a narrative to explain both what was happening in Antarctica and what was happening globally:

    This starts with a subtle change in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun known as a Milankovitch “wobble,” which increases the amount of light reaching northern latitudes and triggers the collapse of the hemisphere’s great ice sheets.

    This in turn produces vast amounts of fresh water that enter the North Atlantic to upset ocean circulation.

    Heat at the equator that would normally be distributed northward then backs up, raising temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere.

    This initiates further changes to atmospheric and ocean circulation, resulting in the Southern Ocean releasing CO2 from its waters.

    The rise in CO2 sets in train a global rise in temperature that pulls the whole Earth out of its glaciated state.

    Eric Wolff from the British Antarctic Survey was the chief scientist on the longest Antarctic ice core, which was drilled at Dome Concordia in 2001-02. This core records eight ice ages, not just the most recent, stretching back some 800,000 years

    He was not involved in the Nature study. Wolff told this week’s “Science In Action” program on the BBC World Service

     “It looks as though whatever kicked off this sequence of events to get out of the ice age was something really, in global terms, rather minor and regional, and yet it led to a sequence of events that led to a complete change in the way the surface of the earth looked, with ice sheets disappearing.

    “So that just reminds us that although climate might seem quite steady to us because it’s been relatively steady for the last few thousand years, it is actually capable of undergoing big changes. And as one famous paleoclimatologist put it: ‘we poke it at our peril.’ ”

    17 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Making Delhi count among heritage cities

    The Delhi Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been appointed by the Delhi Tourism & Transportation Development Corporation for preparing a nomination dossier to inscribe Delhi on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Cities

    As part of the process, the Heritage Education & Communication Service wing of INTACH is reaching out to young citizens of Delhi in schools across the city through an awareness campaign

    Workshop conducted

    A workshop to achieve the same objective was conducted in the city this past week in which HECS Director Purnima Datt explained the programme to participants and also enlightened teachers on Delhi's rich heritage

    A presentation on the nomination process and the aim and objective of nominating Delhi as a world heritage city was also made by INTACH Delhi Chapter co-convenor Swapna Liddle

    Adopting a monument

    The second half of the workshop on “Adopt a Monument” began with a discussion on adopting a monument by K. K. Mohammad of the Archaeology Survey of India, Delhi Circle

    He encouraged teachers to care for heritage and highlighted the excellent exhibits in the children's replica museum in Siri Fort area

    17 April 2012, Hindu


    Not just drum-and-trumpet

    History is the knowledge of a retrievable human past. In one sense it is what the historian does, but in another, it is available to the historian and society as a collective of accumulated, debated, dialogued, refuted, amended, renewed knowledge to choose from and build on. Historiography unfolds this rich terrain that has gone under the historian's plough and the ideas and strategies that have gone into coaxing what is shown as a harvest of truth. Approaches to History puts together 10 critical essays of stock-taking and introspection on various aspects of Indian historical writings. They illumine several themes of interest and relevance which mainstream historiography had loftily overlooked

    Archana Prasad has shown how the historiography of tribal societies has moved out of the domain of ethnographers and anthropologists to be linked to development strategies of modernisation, capitalist domination, ecological questions and the conundrum of preserving the tribal identities while yet forcing or coaxing them to change. Himanshu Prabha Ray's “Writings on the Maritime History of Ancient India” confidently and felicitously takes us to the maritime space created or occupied in ancient India from time to time, its cartographical imaginings and realities, maritime trade and their changing partnerships and the various other seductions for negotiations and integrations. The essay lays out a rich fare of scholarship that has gone into tracing the influence of sea in the making of civilisations on land


    Another brilliant, analytical survey that adds substance and value to the anthology is Shereen Ratnagar's “Approaches to the Study of Ancient Technology”. Archaeologists have shown that civilisations are created, among other things, by tool-making and tool-wielding humans. The essay brings out the invention, spread, adoption and adaptation of technologies that helped the humans to deal with various materials and metals and their bearing on transportation and long-distance trade, urbanism, social change and the emergence of the state, without slipping into any deterministic sequence or logic

    Sashi Bhushan Upadhyay has made a historiographic survey of Indian Labour history, identifying the various trends that marked its study in the colonial period, the Marxist-nationalist post-Independence phase, and the shifts in thinking that were seen subsequently that brought into the ambit of study such areas as agrarian labour, un-free labour, informal labour, women labour, emigrant labour and so on.Kaushik Roy's essay on the “Writings on India

     Military History”, a theme not quite fashionable, and even ‘politically incorrect', but is both extensive in scope and insightful in intent, bringing together studies that described battles, strategies, technologies of offence and defence, their impact on society, state-building, culture, ecology and so on. Roy's comment that the New Military History approach has demilitarised military history is interesting, though

    John C.B. Webster's essay, “Christian History as Indian Social History” highlights the impact of various assumptions and ideologies from modernisation theories to post-modernism. However, he thinks that a ‘conflict model' is a realistic and illuminating approach to study Indian social history

    Entrenched patriarchy

    The problem of gender in the writing of south Indian history is competently addressed by Vijaya Ramaswamy. She touches upon entrenched patriarchy in society as well as writings on it, and issues like marriage, notions of chastity, the declining status of temple women to dancing girls, women as property-holders, and their role in economy and politics or in the domain of religion. Sajal Nag's insightful piece on the ‘Contradictory Trends in Historical Research in North-East India' shows how the Assamese had moved out of the stage of Buranjis to modern historical awareness and methods, and yet had to accommodate the contradiction of contesting exclusion and resisting inclusion

    J.S. Grewal's essay makes a magisterial survey of Sikh religion, history and literature from the pre-1849 period to the present. Yagati Chinna Rao's essay ably surveys the trends in writing Dalit history in India and rightly raises the vexed question of its apparent neglect

    Approaches to History is a superb anthology, for the choice of the themes as well as for the scholarly ways of addressing the scholarship there. All essays in the book are informative and analytical, none polemical, and some truly brilliant. They show how rich and adventurous Indian historiography has been, and may hopefully nudge the mulish no-changers to see that there is more to history than just drum-and-trumpet. We need more such nudges

    17 April 2012, Hindu


    Scrap 34 Ganga dam plans: Green panel

    Says Projects Will Cause Irrevocable Harm To Uttarakhand’s Biodiversity

    NewDelhi:A report commissioned by the government has recommended that34 dams on the Alaknanda an

     Bhagirathi rivers — the two main tributaries of the Ganga — should not be allowed to come up as they will cause irrevocable harm to biodiversity in Uttarakhand.

    Prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the report flashes a red light with regard to the hydroelectric projects that add up to 2,600 MW and make for about a tenth of all small and big dams on the anvil in the state.

    The report, prepared at the behest of the environment ministry, also recommends maintenance of a minimum ecological flow at different points along river stretches that can impact production of power from other dams. If the suggestion is accepted, these power projects will have to function at a lower than planned production level.

    The report comes ahead of a meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday. The meeting was called after G D Agarwal, earlier a member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board and a professor at IIT Kanpur, went on fast to demand dams in Uttarakhand be stopped and the river be allowed to flow freely.

    The big projects in the “red list” include the 530 MW Kotlibhel II, the 250 MW Tamak Lata on Dhauli Ganga, the 320 MW Kotlibhel IB on Alaknanda, the 381 MW Bharon Ghati and the195 MW Kotlibhel IA on Bhagirathi. The WII report notes, “The scenarios (with the 34 dams being excluded) also provide adequate basis…to applying an ‘exclusion approach’ across the two basins for securing key biodiversity values.”

    Stopping the dams, the report says, is important to safeguard “critically important habitats and designated protected areas”. While WII has not used words like “stop” and “rollback”, its uses of the term “excluded” is intended to signal that it will opt for conserving biodiversity over power production goals.

    The debate within government and among activists has been raging for almost two years with some asking that all projects be halted till a cumulative assessment is undertaken. Earlier, the ‘holy’ nature of the river was evoked by the government to stop some upcoming dams, while invoking the fiscal imperative to continue projects that are heavily invested in. The meeting on Tuesday has been preceded by state officers as well as the Union environment ministe

     Jayanthi Natarajan meeting PMO brass separately over the past two days. The PM is expected to hold the meeting on Tuesday with some of Agarwal’s team members expected to be present as special invitees.

    17 April 2012, Times of India


    Warming? Karakoram glaciers are expanding

    Satellite Images Show Reversal Of Global Trend

    London: Some glaciers in the Himalayas mountain range have gained a small amount of mass between 1999 and 2008, new research shows, bucking the global trend of glacial decline.

    The study published in the Nature Geoscience journal also said theKarakoram mountain range in the Himalayas has contributed less to sea level rise than previously thought.

    With global average temperature rising, glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets melt and shed water, contributing to the increase of sea levels, threatening the populations of low-lying nations and islands.

    The research at France’s University of Grenoble estimates that theKarakoram glaciers have gained around 0.11 to 0.22 metres per year between 1999 and 2008.

    “Our conclusion that Karakoram glaciers had a small mass gain at the beginning of the 21st century indicates that those central/ eastern glaciers are not representative of the whole (Himalayas),” experts at the university said.

    The study using satellite images appears to confirm earlier research that had suggested the Karakoram glaciers have not followed the global trend of glacial decline over the past three decades. The Karakoram mountain range spans the borders between India, China and Pakistan and is covered by 19,950 sq km of glaciers.

    The world’s glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets have shed around 4,200 cubic kilometres from 2003 to 2010, experts suggest, which is enough to raise sea levels by 12mm over that period.

    Stephan Harrison, professor at the UK’s University of Exeter, said the research showed there is “considerable variability” in global climate and how glaciers respond to it. Karakoram glaciers are also unusual because they are covered with thick layers of rock debris, and hence their patterns of melting and mass gain are driven by both changes in debris and in the global climate.

    17 April 2012, Times of India


    Friends of the forest

    Garurpidi Village, barely 35 km from the capital city of Ranchi in Jharkhand, is too small to count. That it does not appear on an internet search is proof enough in today's technology-driven world. This ‘backward' village, located in Namkum Block of Ranchi District, is as nondescript as any of India's 6.4 lakh villages. What sets it apart is its people's silent successful effort to keep alive the tradition of protecting its forests – the greenery that is the basis of their life, livelihood and inspiration. Their ethos is simple, “The forest is our mother. We live by her affection, without which life cannot sustain”

    The hamlet of Garurpidi houses nearly two hundred tribes of the Munda community. There is a clear absence of the basic essentials like electricity, roads and health services here, yet this diffident community has nothing to complain about. Accepting exclusion from development as their destiny, the Munda tribe continues to believe in its inherited wisdom, walks in the footsteps of its ancestors, and takes the onus of protecting and conserving its own forests

    From shepherd to Pahan (the religious head), every single individual in the community, irrespective of social status, bears the responsibility of protecting the natural asset

    Protection and conservation is done by setting up their own security system. Three teams with ten boys each have specific tasks assigned to them. For instance, every team will guard the forest for four hours each during different times of the day. The role of shepherds is crucial: while grazing the livestock, they safeguard the forest. There are few but strict rules and regulations laid down by the villagers, dutifully followed by every member of the community. No one is allowed to axe down a young and fruitful tree. For fuel, only dry leaves and wood can be used. There is strict prohibition on the exchange of jungle wood for monetary compensation. The amount of wood required by each house is also decided in community gatherings and then distributed accordingly. The forest is never subjected to the high-handedness of any particular individual

    According to Etwa Munda, a freelance journalist, “Villagers have had this inclination towards the security of the forest, the only source of their sustenance since time immemorial. Like the other forests in the State, the natural wealth of Garurpidi was at threat from the mafia which couldn't penetrate the defence layer of the villagers who stood united against the selfish marauders. This is the only reason why valuable trees still survive and flourish in the region.” For sustenance, villagers trim the forests once a year. This helps the trees grow faster and healthier. This they do without any help from the forest department which, like roads and electricity, is effectively missing from the picture

    Curiously, the forest officers have held back from joining hands with the community in what is essentially their professional mandate. The presence of Naxals in the region is many a times seen as a reason for their passivity. No programme has been initiated by the officials so far for the conservation of the forests. The other issue raised by the community many a times before the forest officials is the allowance of the land to the people residing in or near the forest under the Forest Rights Act

    According to Purnendra Munda, an active member of the tribe, “The forest officials are avoiding offering the land to the beneficiaries. They continuously misdirect us in the official procedures under the Forest Rights Act, telling us that officials will complete this task only when they will come to the village.” Seeing the current relationship of the officials with the Naxal infested village, we are guessing our wait for them will be quite long.

    Despite all the hopelessness around them, the villagers here are incessantly working for the betterment of the forest. The reason for their deep understanding and relationship with the woods is their ancient involvement with nature. In ancient times, the Munda tribes were the traditional wood cutters who later shifted to agriculture for their livelihood. Today, in the absence of irrigation sources, there sole source of water supply remains the natural rains. That is the reason they deeply understand the significance of the forests for their very survival. Budhram Munda, a local, maintains that the destruction of the forest will lead to the destruction of the community

    Today, when issues like global warming and deforestation are looming larger over the rest of the world, the Munda tribals are holding up the flag of ‘Community Forest Management' in their backward region. Their affection and dedication is showing the world a fresh way of looking at our natural resources. (Charkha Features

    The Munda tribals of Jharkhand are holding up the flag of ‘community forest management' in their backward region despite the Forest Rights Act eluding them

    20 April 2012, Hindu


    Pat Yatra

    It was perhaps one of the most closely followed trials of 19th-century Bengal. Elokeshi, the 16-year-old housewife of Bengali government employee Nobin Chandra, had an affair with the head priest of the Tarakeshwar Shiva temple. Chandra decapitated her with a fish knife, and what followed was a trial that lasted for years. Long queues were seen outside the court. The scandal had become a part of people’s lives — and the arts. Years later, the incident has been renewed in public memory. But this time, in the corridors of Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). It has a dedicated section in an exhibition featuring Kalighat paintings — the art form practised by the patuas or ‘painters on cloth’ who established base near the Kali temple on Ganges in the 19th century

    “The selection is representative of the stylistic changes that took place in Kalighat paintings over the years,” says Rajeev Lochan, director, NGMA, as he introduces the exhibition curated from the collection of Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum, London. Arguably, the V&A has the largest collection of Kalighat paintings in the world. Recognised for its swift brush strokes, the genre often borrowed from mythology and later depicted the constant change in the surroundings that resulted from interactions with the colonial masters. “The Kalighat painters not only became the first contemporaries of Indian art, but also anticipated the popular culture of the 20th century that was to follow,” adds Lochan

    The works of art represent the transition. It is the meeting of two cultures — Indian and European — that makes the exhibition striking. The aspirational Bengali babu dominates the section “Social Commentaries, Proverbs and Animals” — dressed in a pleated dhoti and a handkerchief in his pocket, he keeps pets and sports the ‘Albert’ hairstyle, attributed to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. The European masters introduced him to innumerable sports, from wrestling to horse race

    In the section titled “Scenes from the Life of Krishna and Scenes from Epics”, one sees the incorporation of contemporary elements in traditional Kalighat patterns. So, Lord Krishna plays the violin. In another work, at the coronation ceremony, Ram and Sita’s throne has drape curtains akin to western theatre. “The old and new images are seemingly layered one upon another on a transparent plane,” notes Lochan

    Now, a century later, Kalighat paintings are no longer distributed as souvenirs to visitors to the Kali temple in Kolkata, like earlier. Yet, experimentation with the theme continues. Represented in the exhibition are patua artists such as Kalam Patua and Anwar Chitrakar. The strokes keep the Kalighat art tradition clearly alive but the imagery has changed — it’s the Bengal of today, with concerns of corruption, pollution and urban development, sexuality and humour .

    20 April 2012, Indian Express


    Preserving heritage through art

    The magnificent sprawling forts of Rajasthan have attracted visitors from across the world for ages. Now the gargantuan Amer Fort which has fascinated monument-lovers no end has been portrayed on the canvas by a seasoned Rajasthani artist, Bhim Singh Hada

    Twelve paintings of the fort and four figurative works will be on display at a week-long solo exhibition which opens at the All-India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) gallery on Rafi Marg here this Monday

    For Bhim Singh Hada, who was born at Kota in Rajasthan in 1957 and lived all his life in the desert State, Rajasthan forts need to be preserved for the benefit of future generations. He feels the upkeep of monuments must be the top priority of the powers that be. He also wants the public to realise that they must not scribble anything on the historic monuments or damage the property

    Bhim Singh Hada was eager to come out with an exhibition on the historic fort when he learnt that there was demand that ‘Amer ka Qila', as it is fondly called in local parlance, be given the status of World Heritage Site

    “For a person like me who has seen this marvellously constructed fort on innumerable occasions, it was a dream to produce a series of art works which would make the policymakers realise the need to do something urgently to preserve this monument and to see to it that the Amer Fort be given the status of World Heritage Site,” says this self-taught artist

    For his first show in Delhi, Bhim Singh knew he had to do planning and methodical execution. For one-and-a-half years he regularly visited the Amer Fort and observed it from different angles. “Patience and perseverance have been the key to portray this fort in different oil paintings. My observation has been different from what the public see when it visits the fort. The idea was to show the fort from different angles and make people understand why this monument is one of the most sought after in this country.

    According to senior artist Dr. Sumahendra, whenever realistic painters have held their exhibitions, they have always been encouraged by art lovers. “Bhim Singh Hada is one such bold artist who has a different approach towards creating paintings. He has portrayed the Amer Fort, situated in an old town north of Jaipur.

    Complimenting the artist for working systematically to produce a set of paintings, Dr. Sumahendra says the artist will astonish discerning art lovers with his eye for detail. “An important aspect in his paintings is that apart from skilful rendering Bhim Singh Hada has also worked on every minute detail of architecture. He has given accurate details from foreground to infinity.

    Bhim Singh Hada's contemporaries acknowledge his command and mastery to produce realistic paintings

    The exhibition, opening this Monday at AIFACS at 5 p.m., will be on up to April 29

    21 April 2012, Hindu


    New species of caecilian amphibian reported from Kerala

    A team of scientists from the University of Kerala; Central University, Kasaragod; and Natural History Museum, London, have reported the discovery of a new species of caecilian (limbless) amphibian from the southern region of the Western Ghats in Kerala. Gegeneophis primus belongs to the Indotyphlidae family comprising African, Seychellean and Indian varieties. It is the first new species of Gegeneophis reported from Kerala since1964. The species were collected from the Sugandhagiri Cardamom Estate neighbouring an evergreen forest at Vythiri in the northern district of Wayanad

    The team, including K. Ramachandran from the University of Kerala, Oommen V. Oommen from the Central University and David J. Gower and Mark Wilkinson from the Natural History Museum found that the species, unlike other Gegeneophis , lacked scales and secondary annular grooves, as well as a well-developed terminal shield

    Measuring approximately 168 mm in length and pink in colour, the specimens were dug out from moist soil along the shrub-covered banks of a stream under a dense canopy

    The researchers stumbled upon the new species while on the trail of another caecilian spotted in Kerala 142 years ago. After a second collection from the same location, the identification was confirmed by scientists at the Natural History Museum

    The finding has been reported in the latest edition of Zootaxa , an international journal for zoological taxonomists. The wider distribution, natural history and habitat preferences of the species are yet to be determined

    The paper notes that the population of G.primus at the locality from where it was found was not likely to be under threat as long as the habitat was maintained. The team has proposed that the conservation status of the species be classified as Data Deficient under the IUCN Red List criteria. The paper suggests the common name of Malabar Cardamom Geg for the species, indicating the northern part of the State and the cardamom estate from where it was discovered

    21 April 2012, Hindu


    Clear Yamuna floodplain, farm houses illegal: Shivpal

    Uttar Pradesh PWD and Irrigation minister Shivpal Yadav has issued directives to clear the Yamuna floodplain land in Gautam Budh Nagar. The vast tract of land is owned by the state’s Irrigation department and has allegedly been gobbled up by land sharks. Several farm houses have come up in the ecologically-sensitive Yamuna catchment area

    Shivpal Yadav issued the directives to the district administration during his inspection of the Yamuna floodplain and the Okhla barrage on Thursday

    “Do anything but remove these encroachments. Kuch bhi karo,” Shivpal told the administration. He instructed the administration to lodge FIRs against land usurpers

    “The Yamuna floodplain should be cleared of all encroachment. The land belongs to the Irrigation department and strong action will be taken against defaulters,” he said

    The floodplain land known as khadar or agricultural land consists of a nearly 25 km-stretch running along the Yamuna. The land is meant for farming by villagers or the gram sabha, no permanent construction is allowed. But builders have encroached upon it and sold farm houses to the affluent

    “These farm houses are totally illegal and upset the ecological balance. These fall in the river catchment area which is owned by the Irrigation department,” Shivpal said

    The encroachment of land and its development did not happen overnight. It is alleged that the district administration, police and Irrigation department turned a blind eye when land sharks got down to business

    Shivpal also inspected the Okhla barrage and ordered its desilting. “It has not been done for the past 25 years. Accumulation of silt has reduced the storage capacity from seven days to two days. It has resulted in water crisis in Agra, Noida and Mathura,” he said

    The process of desilting is expected to cost Rs 18 crore. Shivpal said that desilting of canals in the state will now be conducted twice a year before releasing water. Earlier, it used to be an annual process.

    21 April 2012, Indian Express


    Forest floor on fire

    This is the season when trees turn amorous - their red and rowdy petals have a symbiotic relationship with the birds and the bees

    Come summer and evidently the weather gets warmer by the day as solar energy penetrates our blue planet. This is the time when birds of feather flock together as they come into heat for the mating season. It's also the time when the trees turn on their lust and are brimming with vitality. Unfortunately trees are firmly rooted to the ground, so what do they do to find a feasible femme fatale? Let's check out a few charming ways adopted by trees, particularly the ones with blood red flowers

    The tall and handsome Silk-Cotton tree, the glorious Gulmohar, the compact Indian Coral tree, the lush Scarlet fountain treeand the slapdash Palash or Flame-of-the-forest look amazingly amorous in the season. The one common entity of all these trees is the red and rowdy petals that festoon their branches. While the Silk-cotton flowers have fleshy petals, sepals and look plump, the Gulmohar flowers are wafer thin and open completely for the world to see. The coral tree has spiky upward flowers whereas the fountain tree has wrinkled petals emerging from watery buds. Finally Palash has petals that are curved and beak-shaped therefore named Parrot Tree

    All the “bloody blossoms” come into their element only when the cool months turn warmer. The season of love, however, vastly differs from terrain to territory in putting forth their blooms. The lovelorn trees start bud-bearing in February, peaking in April and tamely ending in June

    Known as Bombax, the Silk Cotton is also called Simal. It is indeed beautiful with large red flowers. It is cultivated in some countries for its silk-like cotton that is featherweight. Birds that visit the silk cotton flowers to feed on the abundant nectar include the barbets, bulbuls, orioles, parakeets, pigeons and woodpeckers

    Dr Surya Prakash who specialises in zoology at the School of Life Sciences in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi wields his camera with dexterity capturing birds. Engrossed studying the relationships between the red blossoms and birds says, “They contain so much nectar is evidenced by the frequent visits of many species of birds -- babblers, drongos, mynahs, prinias, sunbirds, tailor birds, tree-pies are usually to be seen scurrying from flower to flower”

    Have you ever wondered why the lovelorn trees dress down their leaves and bear bright flowers? It is one of the many tricks to lure birds and bees. All shades of scarlet, orange, maroon, and crimson are obviously inviting -- like magnets to birds and bees beckoning them to their parlour. Once the birds alight on the flowers, the next step is to offer them sweet nectar that is simply irresistible. Once the trees use the bright red flowers as honey traps, birds regularly visit flowers for drops of liquid energy. In the process birds unknowingly help in pollination. The power packed pollen grains (male) on one flower stick on to the bird's beak and facial feathers and naively deposited on the ovary of another flower (female) thereby aiding in fertilization. Once fertilisation is over, the job of petals is complete and they fall off the tree, decorating the ground with hundreds of scattered flowers

    Delhi-based birdwatcher, Ashok Kumar Malik, makes an interesting observation, “We widely read about the five big trees bursting with blossoms of red but the qualitative and quantitative aspect of all the five species vary. From Alleppey to Amalapuram, from Ahmedabad, Aurangabad to Allahabad and on to Aizwal in the northeast blood red flowers blooms in accordance to their intuitions”. He goes on to explain how the birds will wait for days in anticipation of Bombax buds peeling into large flowers

    We might not have the acquired knowledge but the birds and trees have a symbiotic relationship that is indeed complimentary. Bonding of birds and flowers vastly varies from region to region in budding, blooming and beckoning. So lookout, he says, the tree in your neighbourhood may suddenly become naked and then burst forth with fresh ruby red flowers, amazing birds and humans alike

    22 April 2012, Hindu


    High calling

    An ancient Buddhist culture that pervades every corner of this Himalayan kingdom takes ARUNA CHANDARAJU on an unforgettable journey across Bhutan

    Mt. Everest was outside our window! Incredibly beautiful. As stunning a the world's highest peak can look on a bright, sunny day. The billowing clouds and mist-curtains that had serenaded our plane till now, magically moved away at the right moment to show us this section of Himalayan range in all its glory — every contour and ridge clearly outlined in the brilliance of the early morning sun

    We had been advised to take seats on the left side of the small aircraft of Druk Air — the only airlines that flies in and out of Bhutan — on our way there, and the right side on the way back, for the best views. And also not to worry about scary lurches of the plane while landing and take-off since Paro airport is one of the world's most challenging airports to land in

    Bhutan is indeed exotic. By nature. And by design. For one, it has breathtakingly beautiful scenery and an ancient Buddhist culture including a rich art and craft heritage. Also, the mountain kingdom which remained closed to the outside world for ages, even now deliberately encourages only a limited access to tourism and fiercely guards its traditions

    So, even with great appeal to many kinds of travellers, Bhutan is, mercifully, not overrun by touristy hordes or resorts of all kinds, even at its major attractions. In fact, Taj Tashi in the capital, Thimphu, where we stayed, is the city's only five-star property. From the fabulous views the rooms offer to the gourmet cuisine, including Bhutanese specialities; and thematic interiors with classical hand-painted murals and ethnic musical instruments; Taj Tashi which reflects Dzong architecture, does all it can to match the enchantment of the land and people outside. The all-day restaurant Thongsel serves European cuisine and a wide range of Indian staples and specialities

    Ethnic insights

    Five days might seem like a long visit in a tiny country, but not when it offers so much. Thimphu's Folk Heritage Museum provides insights into ethnic culture. We also visited Memorial Chorten, a monument to peace cum memorial to late king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk

    The towering National Library building with elegant handcrafted products, houses the world's largest published book Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom . Weighing a staggering 60 kg it's seven by five feet! Buddhism pervades every aspect of life in Bhutan - even this library has a shrine with chorten

    We trudged up a steep, winding road to Takin Zoo to see the takin, Bhutan's national animal with an antelope's body and goat's head. It is an unusual-looking creature with peaceful demeanour and unseemly gait

    Bhutanese cuisine

    Dinner at Chig Ja Gye restaurant in Taj Tashi embellished with gold-leaf paintings and dhungs (horn instruments) offered what is hard to find in India — a spread of authentic Bhutanese cuisine. The Ara Bar, named after Bhutan's traditional liquor, has folk-music instruments for wall-art

    The ride to Punakha takes you past scenic mountains including Dochula Pas which offers a 360-degree view of the Himalayas when the weather holds good — it did for us. Bridges and monasteries festooned with colourful prayer flags; pretty prayer wheels on roadsides and quaint farmhouses punctuate the landscape.

    The drive to historic Paro town also offered great views. Taktshang Monastery, Drukgyel Dzong, National Museum, Kyitchu Lhakang, and Jangsarbu Lhakang with its famed Sakyamuni Buddha statue, are major tourist draws.

    There is not much the interiors offer by way of shopping; so our forays were limited to sightseeing and getting acquainted with local culture — most Bhutanese know Hindi. Thimphu's only major shopping centre, Norzin Lam Road, is a small stretch crowded with shops. From exquisite Thangkha paintings, woven textiles, wood carvings and stone figurines, we found a wide, but expensive, range of handmade products

    Another amazing sighting of Mt. Everest on the return flight to Kolkata and we were ready for the haul back to our hometowns

    We trudged up a steep, winding road to see the takin, Bhutan's national animal with an antelope's body and goat's head

    22 April 2012, Hindu


    Wake-up call in Ladakh

    Summer is here, and what better than the snow covered hills and gorgeous vistas of Ladakh? Families, friends, honeymooners go there in great numbers now, enjoy the scenic beauty, shop and come back: but there is more to this ‘been there, done that' experience

    Every year, the number of tourists opting for Ladakh as a getaway is going up exponentially, directly affecting the environment and culture of the snowland. From a scanty 400 visitors two decades ago, Ladakh is now being trodden upon by thousands of travellers every year

    A lack of understanding and respect among the visitors for the environment of Ladakh doesn't help matters. For years Ladakh remained a strategically and geographically isolated region located high in the western Himalayas. It is a semi-autonomous region comprising Leh and Kargil districts and is subjected to extreme climatic conditions. The high altitude cold desert supports a unique ecosystem which sustains a sparse population along with some rare species of flora and fauna. Due to long isolation from the outside world, a unique gene pool has evolved in the region specially adapted to the harsh climatic conditions

    Worryingly, the rare is now on the verge of extinction and the extremities have reduced to “normal”. Global warming has impacted the region and, except for the indigenous dwellers, no one really cares, perhaps because they are not directly affected by the change

    Development, ask anyone, is the prime cause for the environmental and traditional crisis in the valley. However, it is not development that is devastating the region, it is the imbalance and the lack of future perspective in the development policies

    In the past, traditions of prudence and cooperation coupled with intimate knowledge of local environment enabled the Ladakhis not only to sustain but to prosper. Agriculture was the main occupation as survival was the only big challenge they faced. Fields were irrigated with the water that melted from the glacial snow – the only source of water for the region. About 80 per cent of Ladakhis relied on glacial melt which today is shrinking at an alarmingly swift rate.
    Ladakh is unable to withstand the overburden of the travellers in conjunction with the changes they bring along ‘unknowingly'. Tourism and economic development ushered major influences by which Ladakhi agriculture has been hit in particular. People have turned their back to this traditional source of livelihood and have opted for seasonal hospitality-related jobs in town. Worse, subsidised food offered by a well-meaning government is considerably cheaper than food grown locally. People have abandoned their farms. The youth, determinants of the future of the region, do not even know how to grow barley on their land

    “The goal of life is living in agreement with nature”, believed the old Ladakhi generation which still recalls the golden olden days. “There was greater harmony with nature in terms of conventional systems of water management and sanitation. A compost pit was used for excretory purposes that involved no deployment of water, thus quelling the need for sewers or drains

    With most hotels using flush toilets, water utilization has been augmented manifold. This has become a major reason for polluting the once pristine streams, for, in absence of a sewage system, the sewage water is being let into the streams, thereby polluting the only source of drinking water for the local population. Today's Ladakh cries for help. The famed freshness of the air is being choked by diesel fumes, streets are piled up with rubbish and the quality of water has deteriorated. These together form the picture of a ‘new' Ladakh. As the winter gets colder and summer hotter, the upsurge in the number of travellers and subsequently the hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related activities have wrought havoc on the fragile balance of nature. The cloudburst that wiped out the community on August 5 nearly two years ago is a dreadful example of how fragile the environment has become. Heavy rainfall, unknown in the high altitude region, has become a more frequent phenomenon

    As they say, better late than never. The community has woken up to the crisis. Various organisations are trying to bring together the communities to save the snowland from disaster. One such is Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG), which promotes ecological and sustainable development. Similarly, the women's group, Aama Tsogspa is playing a crucial role in conserving the environment with successful initiatives like a ban on polythene bags in the valley. To create a sense of responsibility among visitors conservation regulations are also been implemented. Ideas, suitable to the indigenous environment, have turned out to be fruitful like the implementation of renewable resources of energy. Communities are trying to take corrective measures before it becomes too late. (Charkha Features

    22 April 2012, Hindu


    Neglecting Gaya

    Bodh Gaya in Bihar is a place of international interest due to its religious importance for Buddhists all over the world. More than 15 lakh people visit Bodh Gaya every year, but it does not get the care that it deserves. While the tree under which Lord Buddha is said to have meditated runs the risk of getting choked by marble tiles around it, three sites of historical importance around the Mahabodhi Temple face utter neglect

    In 2005, an advisory committee of experts headed by a former director of the Archeological Survey of India, Jagpati Prasad, found that marble tiles around the Mahabodhi tree had been hampering growth of the tree and might affect its longevity too

    This committee and the Forest Research Institute of Dehra Dun suggested immediate removal of the tiles. But the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) is yet to take any action. BTMC functions under the supervision of the state government and is chaired by the Gaya district magistrate

    Arup Brahmachari, a local activist popularly known as Swamiji, says, “I have written over 200 letters to BTMC authorities, ASI and many experts but that didn’t help. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also instructed BTMC to remove the marble tiles but nothing changed.

    S K Manjul, ASI superintendent, Patna circle, says, “We have just received a proposal from BTMC to carry repair at railings near the tree and inner recesses of the temple. But the proposal does not include removal of marble tiles.

    Arvind Singh, a state government nominee in BTMC, said the final decision on removing marble tiles was yet to be taken. “The BTMC had a meeting last week and decided to discuss it with ASI and the Forest Research Institute and then take a final call.

    Two acres of land just behind the Mahabodhi Temple, part of Taradih village, were vacated for excavation by the ASI. The excavation, which took place between 1974 and 1980, threw up a unique combination of remnants from seven periods of history. Dr Rajiv Kumar, who has conducted research on the Buddhist sites of Bodh Gaya, says, “As a student and Bodh Gaya resident, I had closely followed the excavation that revealed remnants from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Buddhist, Kushana, Gupta, Pala and the present period. ASI had to stop the excavation because of a fund crunch and hand over the site to the culture department of the state government.

    The site, now used as a dumping ground, has a plaque from the RJD regime that talks of “development” at the site. The Nitish Kumar government had released Rs 20 lakh for development of the site three years ago. The funds have been lying unused. According to the Gaya district administration, the development plan has not been charted out. The BTMC management says it has nothing to do with the site

    Barely two km from the Mahabodhi Temple, ASI site Sujata Garh has a brick stupa, constructed in phases from the Gupta to Pala period. The stupa is named after the daughter of a village chief who is said to have offered milk and rice to Buddha before he attained enlightenment. The 11-metre stupa was opened to the public in 2008 after two rounds of excavations, first in 1973-74 and subsequently in 2001-06. Hardev Singh, ASI’s attendant deployed at the site, says there is a need for a boundary so that bricks are not displaced. The site has caught the attention of visitors in the last two years. ASI superintendent Manjul says, “We have planned to conserve the stupa in the current financial. We first want to fully acquire the stupa land before erecting boundary walls.

    A narrow lane from the Mahabodhi temple leads to a small temple, known as Vagdevi temple or Samadhi Sthal. The temple is said to have been built in 1590 by followers of the Shakta sect from Punjab. The temple has a Saraswati idol and a round platform. Mahant Sudarshan Giri of the local Sankar Math maintains the temple. Arup Brahmachari feels it could be developed if monasteries in the town spare some money for it. However, BTMC member Arvind Singh says the BTMC committee constitution does not provide for this. “It is solely up to the private trust to look after it,” he says

    22 April 2012, Indian Express


    Arsenic contamination five times above limit in Yamuna floodplains: DU study

    Arsenic contamination of ground water from Yamuna floodplains in Delhi is several times the permissible limit and the prime culprit for this poisoning is fly ash and other residue from Delhi’s thermal power plants, a study by the Department of Geology at Delhi University (DU) has found

    “Samples were collected from the Yamuna floodplains, one of the most important ground water recharging sources in the city, to study the level of arsenic content in it. While permissible concentration of arsenic in ground water is 10 parts per billion (ppb), concentrations of up to 180 ppb were found in the 120 water samples collected,” said Dr Chandra S Dubey, lead author of the study and head of DU’s geology department

    “Though arsenic contamination in Delhi has been reported earlier, the study has established for the first time that the source of the contamination is fly ash and slurry from coal-based thermal power plants. Surface water samples across the Yamuna floodplains show high values of arsenic contamination. It is estimated that the Rajghat power plant releases 5.5 tonnes of arsenic into the Yamuna every year while the Indraprastha power plant pumps in 1.96 tonnes a year. There is a need to take immediate steps to stop this,” said Dr Dubey.The study, titled ‘Anthropogeni

     arsenic menace in Delhi Yamuna floodplains’, concentrated on the floodplains of the river surrounding the Rajghat and Indraprastha power plants and to a smaller extent on the regions around the Badarpur plant

    However, the highest arsenic content found (180 ppb) was present in post-monsoon ground water samples collected near the Badarpur plant.Coal used in the Badarpur and Rajghat power plants was found to contain over

    r 200 ppb of arsenic, while the arsenic content in fly ash from Rajghat was found to be as high as 3,200 ppb. “There must be some check on leaching from the fly ash ponds. The drain water from thermal plants cannot be allowed to flow into the Yamuna,” said Dr Dubey

    Near Akshardam temple in Mayur Vihar Phase 1, where land is used for vegetable cultivation, arsenic contamination of more than 135 ppb was found. Surveys show stomach, gastric and gastrointestinal problems reported by the people who drank hand pump water in highly arsenic contaminated areas, the study reports

    Compared to ground water, surface water reported less concentration of the toxic element due to constant flow, the study says

    The samples for the study, published in January this year were collected in two phases between May and June (pre-monsoon) and at the end of August (post-monsoon) in 2007. Of the ground water samples collected, more than 75 per cent was contaminated with arsenic while 55 per cent contained the toxic element at a level higher than WHO standards.

    23 April 2012, Indian Express


    MoEF backs villagers facing eviction in TN elephant corridor

    New Delhi: The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has sprung to the aid of villagers caught in a battle between hotel industry and wildlife groups, who are fighting for securing the Sigur elephant corridor that cradles between several wildlife sanctuaries in Tamil Nadu. In an affidavit filed before the SC,MoEF has opposed the Madras high court order asking everyone to hand over their land in the corridor in disregard to provisions of the Land Acquisition Act.

    The ministry has noted that there are more than a dozen villages in the corridor, housing around 200 farmers along with tourist resorts and other private landowners. Besides, there are another 700 families, who are mostly dalits and tribals and are dependent on the land.

    The MoEF has pointed out that the rights of the occupants have not been settled under the Forest Rights Act.

    The “recommendation to take over the entire land area of the corridor is questionable in view of the large proportion of local communities inhabiting this area and also in view of protection provided under the Forest Rights Act,” the ministry has said.

    Challenging the HC order to remove the occupants, the ministry has said that if the directive is upheld without alteration by the SC, “It would set a precedence where judicial intervention instead of democratic processes established under law of the land, could be used to take over many patches of lands – revenue and private – without settlement of rights in the name of conservation.

    MoEF has suggested other options such as ecologically sensitive areas, community reserves and community resources under the existing laws. It has also pointed out that there are competing claims and interests in the land that belong to revenue department, infrastructure sector, resort owners and subsistence forest dwellers.

    23 April 2012, Times of India


    The unsung kings of Bijapur

    Bijapur’s past is an inseparable part of south Indian history. At the fag end of the Bahmani era, Yusuf Adil Khan who was the then governor of the province, broke away from the Sultanate.

    He proclaimed he was an independent king in 1489 AD and in doing so, founded the Adil Shahi dynasty.

    Initially, he had to face numerous challenges like consolidating his army, gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and finding ways to expand his territory.

    He also faced stiff resistance from the Portuguese, who had just landed on Indian soil, over the possession of Goa. In addition to surmounting these odds, Yusuf tried to strengthen the base of his new kingdom for the next generation.

    He was the first king to begin the construction of strong defensive monuments in Bijapur. Some examples of these are Faroukh Mahal or semi circle fort (Ark-Killa). However, except among historians, Yusuf’s existence remains unknown to the locals of Bijapur.

    Ismail Adil Khan came to power in 1510 AD, but as he was a minor, it was the minister Kamal Khan who ran the show. Kamal Khan tried to imprison the young king and stage a coup, but Ismail favoured by good luck and his mother’s support, managed to escape and kill Kamal Khan. Slowly he began managing affairs of the state on his own.

    Ismail also faced a struggle to consolidate his kingdom. Close to the end of his reign, he warred with Qutub Shah of Golkonda (Hyderabad) which lasted many months. On the return journey, he succumbed to ill health and passed away.

    The dynasty was consequently ruled by Ibrahim-I for the next 24 years from 1534-1557. Ibrahim-I seems to have been a wise king. He led most of his battles, gave importance to his people and even promoted dhakanis (Deccanis)

    He also built Ibrahimpur to the South and constructed one of the largest wells of the time. The well, now called Ibrahim’s well, was probably the inspiration for the much larger wells like Chand Bowdi and Taz Bowdi constructed by subsequent rulers.

    Resting place

    The first three kings of Bijapur (excluding Mallu Adil Shahi, who was deposed within six months) and gave the dynasty a strong foothold in the region, were not interred in Bijapur. So where was their last resting place ?

    Yusuf, before he became king, had been running all the affairs of the Bijapur area as governor from a small village, Gogi, which had been given to him by the Bahmani Sultan Jahangiri. Yusuf wanted to be buried near his spiritual leader Hazarat Chanda Hussaini and was interred at Gogi. The subsequent kings were also buried there.

    A small structure containing the tombs of the first three kings and their family was built at Gogi near the Darga Sharif of Hazrat Chanda Hussaini. Owing to lack of maintenance, the tomb stones are now in a pathetic condition. Gogi is now a part of the Yadgir district at Shahpur.

    24 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Climbing the Madhugiri monolith

    It was during a recent weekend when I was debating over which getaway to go to, I remembered coming across a signboard saying Madhugiri, while visiting the famous Lakshmi shrine at Goravanahalli.

    I decided to run a search on the Internet for background details about the place and found it was a quaint town, approximately 43 km north of Tumkur, famous for a glorious fort built on a single hill – the second largest monolith in Asia.

    We packed food and gallons of water before setting out early to conquer the fort. We took the same route as the one to Goravanahalli. Numerous signboards popped up along the way, so finding the place was quite easy.

    When we reached at 10:30 am, we found that there were hardly any visitors and a distinct lack of tour guides. A few local lads roamed the hill trying to make their own way up to the fort. Looking up at it from below, the distant seemed quite short, giving us the feeling it would take less than an hour to reach the top.

    Carrying a few bottles of water, we began our climb. At first, the paved pathway and newly constructed steps gave us hope that it was going to be an easy climb. So we climbed quite enthusiastically only stopping to catch our breath now and then.

    After about five minutes or so, we came across a rock which had small clefts carved into it to operate as hand and foot holds. Once that was past, we again regained our ease. It was pleasant to climb free, soaking up the atmosphere, without having a guide filling our ears with history. It allowed our imaginations to wander.

    We climbed and climbed, it seemed like it was never ending. The fort seemed to rise as we climbed, but we went on with great determination.

    Now we had to stop every few minutes to catch our breath. The higher we went, the better were the views. We snapped a few pictures and wondered how people could have carried huge stones to build the fort’s walls up the hill.

    We had reached the half way point. Here, we came across a huge tank and marvelled at the engineering of the inlets to the tank from the higher slopes. There were a few crumbling structures on one side of the tank, while on the other side, was a rudimentary stairway leading to a watch tower.

    The onward climb was difficult as we were once more presented with the hand and foothold clefts. Luckily, a railing ran alongside them and we clung to it for dear life. The harsh noon sun was melting our determination, but we somehow made it to the top.

    To our dismay, we found hundreds of monkeys blocking the final gateway. We waited half an hour, precariously perched on the hill, before giving up and beginning out descent.

    Getting down proved quite tricky. The railing was hot from the unyielding sunlight and we had to hold on despite our burning hands.

    We finally found a shady nook and ran towards it. It was heaven. It took us an hour to reach the foot of the hill and we collapsed on the stone benches underneath shady trees. But the experience was great.

    It is clear that the fort was built by one ruler but improved by another. This is evidenced by the two types of walls, one built of stone and the other by brick. Various types of architecture can seen in the doorway and the crumbling structures.

    I would recommend that you leave Bangalore early so you don’t end up climbing in the heat at noon. Do carry food and plenty of water. Madhugiri Fort is approximately 110 km from Bangalore. You can drive out to Tumkur on NH4, turn right and drive for another 40 kilometers to reach Madhugiri.

    24 April 2012, Deccan Herald



    Series of events in the city has brought the exquisite art of calligraphy into the lexicon of those far removed from it. TOI explores how this fading art is making a comeback in style

    anjana dips her goose feather quill into a small bottle of canary yellow ink as she etches finishing touches on her latest creation — her favourite quote written on a sheet of off-white parchment paper. The letters, carefully decorated with coloured ink and occasional specks of gold foil, make it a fine piece of art. Four days well spent, says the calligrapher

    At first glance, Sanjana seems to be an aberration in a generation where typing has taken over writing by hand. With hundreds of colours and fonts available digitally and results available in a fraction of the time taken manually, the need for h a n d - w r i t t e n pieces may be questionable. But many calligraphers in the city have found a way to integrate the art of writing, which has its roots in ancient religious texts, into a more modern context

    Artist Satish Gupta, who experiments with different media, uses broad brushes, brooms, sticks, and sponges to create massive works of art — 40 to 50 feet wide. “I write my haikus (Japanese poems) using calligraphy techniques. There is something very spontaneous and beautiful about calligraphy as it comes from the gut,” says Gupta, who has been working for two decades.

    Lately, a series of events in the city has brought calligraphy into the lexicon of those who, until then, were far removed from the art. The first international calligraphy exhibition, Qalam Aatma, was hosted by India International Centre in February. It was followed by an exhibition showcasing 60 contemporary calligraphic works of verses from the Quran at Delhi’s National Archives. Then there was a Turkish festival at Select Citywalk mall, where calligraphers from Turkey demonstrated their art. An exhibition on calligraphic representation of Ramayana prepared by artist Pa r m e s h w a r a Raju is on at the Lalit Kala Akademi. While these exhibitions may create awareness on religious or more advanced forms of calligraphy, it is local calligraphers who take the art directly to people.

    “Exhibitions do help generate interest, but only when people see calligraphy in their daily life do they relate to it. These works are very advanced, so mostly people appreciate them from a distance,” says Harish Chander, who runs the organization Calligraphy India. However, he says, the belief that cursive is calligraphy is slowly changing. “People thought if something is available on the computer, why write it? But even fonts on the computer have originally been created by calligraphers. Computers may be quick but calligraphy gives artists the freedom to make different letters ornamental.”

    Though Chander writes invites, degrees and diplomas, and also designs wedding invitations, he mainly conducts classes for students ranging from eight-year-olds to the elderly. “There are four levels. In the advanced courses we teach calligraphy on surfaces like wood and glass,” he says.

    For calligrapher Shibani Grover, it’s a full-time profession. “I take calligraphy orders for wedding card invites, place cards, thank you cards, short notes, degree certificates, lunch or dinner menus and quotations or poems that can be framed,” says Grover, who has a collection of about 12-15 different styles of lettering for customers to choose from. “The work is very tedious,” she says, recalling a bulk order from a corporate for 3,000 certificates that she needed to complete in a week. Her husband Surender Sakre, who handles her marketing, says they get three to four enquiries a day, mainly from high-profile organizations or elite individuals who don’t mind paying extra.

    Ishan Khosla, who founded a graphic design studio, works with calligraphers to create logos and book covers

     among other things.

    “We also collaborate with artists who make sketches and paintings, because it gives more personality to the design,” says Khosla. The studio worked with calligrapher Ashraf Ansari to design the book cover of a historic fiction that chronicles letters written by Emperor Akbar to his son. They gave Islamic calligraphy a modern interpretation b

     using it to write the emperor’s name into a profile that is quintessentially Akbar. For radiation physicist Deepak Arora, the journey began in school when he would write on his wooden slate and on the school board. Now, the doctor spends his time off duty writing certificates and invitations and also teaching calligraphy to children at an NGO

    17 April 2012, Times of India


    Stories Kodagu’s tombs tell

    Kings and their legacies have always captured popular imagination. While some have faded into the past, some survive in our memories. C P Belliappa narrates the story of the brave rulers of Kodagu and the significance of the beautiful mausoleums they built.

    By 1791, Dodda Veerarajendra had consolidated his position in Kodagu and had successfully moved on from the Tipu Sultan era.

    Dodda Veerarajendra started rebuilding his kingdom after years of conflict with Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. He had recaptured the important fort at Madikeri, and had constructed a modest palace in Nalaknad in the southern part of Kodagu.

    At the time, Dodda Veerarajendra and his royal consort Nanjammaji had an eight-year-old daughter named Rajammaji. The raja wished for a son to inherit his throne. In accordance with rajneethi he could marry a royal consort once every twelve years.

    After a long search for a suitable bride, he decided on a matrimonial alliance with the beautiful sister of his Kodava revenue official, Karanika Subbaiah. The bride was given the name Mahadevammaji.

    In February 1796, Dodda Veerarajendra had a grand celebration at Nalaknad palace to commemorate the twin events of his coronation and marriage to Mahadevammaji in a specially built mantapa which stands well-preserved to this day.

    However, much to Dodda Veerarajendra’s disappointment, Mahadevammaji whom he adored immensely, gave birth to three daughters in the ensuing ten years. In 1806, she was pregnant again and the raja fervently hoped he would have a son to carry forth his legacy.

    He conducted several poojas, havans and homas to please the Almighty in hopes that he may be blessed with  male-heir. By then Mahadevammaji had become very weak and sickly.

    Dodda Veerarajendra was aware that this would be the last chance for Mahadevammaji to endure child-birth. His worst fears came true when he had a double whammy on May 17, 1807. Days after his royal consort gave birth to their fourth daughter, a debilitated Mahadevammaji died leaving the raja totally heart-broken and deeply disappointed.

    Eternal love

    The grief-stricken raja chose a spot over-looking the town of Madkeri as the final resting place for his beloved wife. He named that part of the town as Mahadevpet in memory of Mahadevammaji. This name continues to this day.

    Dodda Veerarajendra also started the construction of a grand tomb for his wife, the design of which had some likeness to the Taj Mahal. In his will, he gave detailed instructions that he would like to be buried next to Mahadevammaji when he would meet his end.

    Dodda Veerarajendra had three sons, but they were born to his minor wives. He was now totally obsessed with who would succeed him after his demise. His first choice was his eldest daughter Devammaji born to Mahadevammaji. In 1808, when Devammaji was barely nine years old, he arranged her marriage to a young Kodava who was renamed Mallappa.

    In his elaborate will, the raja wanted Devammaji’s yet-to-be-born son to be named after him and declared his successor. If Devammaji did not have a son, the eldest son born to one of her three sisters was to inherit the throne of Kodagu.

    He further stated in his will that in the event his four daughters failed to produce a male-heir then the fittest amongst his three sons: Rajashekara, Shashishankara and Chandrashekara, from his minor wives would ascend the throne to continue his legacy.

    In order to ensure his will was executed, Dodda Veerarajendra requested Arthur Cole, the British Resident at Mysore to be the executor of his will and also be guardian to his minor daughters.

    Arthur Cole brought this to the notice of Governor General Lord Minto. Lord Minto wrote a letter in April 180 recognising the raja’s will.

    He also gave his assurance that the East India Company would ensure the will was implemented.

    Dodda Veerarajendra’s health had taken a heavy toll, and on June 9, 1809 he breathed his last aged 46. In spite of all his efforts, his young daughter Devammaji could not hold on to the throne of Kodagu.

    Dodda Veerarajendra’s wily brother, Lingarajendra, usurped the throne in 1811 with tacit support from the British. Lingarajendra completed the tomb of Dodda Veerarajendra and Mahadevamma


    There is another interesting story of a very able army commander – Biddanda Bopu – who served under Dodda Veerarajendra and took active part in their military campaigns against Tipu Sultan. After Tipu was ousted from Kodagu, Dodda Veerarajendra asked Bopu to name the reward he would like for having fought so gallantly against the enemy.

    Everyone in the raja’s court expected d Bopu to ask for large tracts of land, gold, silver and live-stock. But to everyone’s surprise Biddanda Bopu made a humble request: on his demise to be buried in the same premises as his beloved raja!

    This Biddanda Bopu’s wish was fulfilled when he died in 1808. Years later, Bopu’s son Somaiah rose to the same rank as his father, during Chikka Veerarajendra’s reign. When Somaiah died in 1879, in deference to his wishes, the British Chief Commissioner permitted his mortal remains to be buried next to his father’s tomb. Both these tombs are intact.

    When Lingarajendra died in 1820, an identical mausoleum was built by his son Chikka Veerarajendra on the right-hand side of Dodda Veerarajendra’s tomb. Another smaller tomb was built in 1834 on the left-hand side where the royal priest Rudrappa is interred.

    This locale is known as Gaddige. The mausoleums are well-preserved, an currently the entire area is bein landscaped and refurbished.

    24 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    The seat of Sugriva

    While Hampi is a major stop on the tourist circuit, the same doesn’t hold true for Kishkindha. Aruna Chandaraju tours the site of epic importance to show us what we’ve been missing.

    Lesser known and much-less-visited than its world-famous neighbour, Hampi, the historic Kishkindha has just as much religious and archeological significance.

    Perhaps it is the hot and dry weather which prevails for most of the year, the lack of grand monuments or the rocky terrain – we had a tough time tramping over the stones, pebbles and negotiating dusty tracks – which puts people off.

    But Kishkindha’s boulder-strewn landscape has its own magnificence. There is a rugged beauty to this region. A stop at this place can be very rewarding for the pious or those interested in history, literature and rock-climbing.

    Kishkindha as well as the whole Anegundi region of Karnataka, with the Tungabhadra river flowing alongside, is associated with one of the most significant episodes in the Ramayana – India’s most-venerated epic.

    This region was the Vanara kingdom or the simian empire. It was in Kishkindha that the monkey king Sugriva lived and ruled along with his trusted lieutenants, especially Hanuman, one of the most-worshipped gods of the Hindu pantheon.

    This was the site of Lord Rama’s meeting with his greatest devotee Hanuman. This is also said to be the site where Rama made a pact with Sugriva to wage war against Ravana and rescue Sita from captivity. All these episodes are vividly depicted in the section of the Ramayana named after this place – Kishkindha Kanda.

    Kishkindha also has a Mahabharata connection. Sahadeva, one of the five Pandavas, is said to have come here to collect tributes for Yudhishtira’s great rajasuya yagna.

    According to some legends, Kishkindha is the place where Janamejeya, grandson of Abhimanyu (who was Arjuna’s son and Lord Krishna’s nephew) was enthroned.

    Sacred sites

    Many sacred spots associated with the Ramayana dot the landscape here – the Anjaneya Hill or Anjanadri wher

    Hanuman was born, the Mathanga Hill, and Rishyamookha Hill where Lord Rama met Sugriva.

    The Puranas describe Rishya¬mookha as the place where thousands of sages meditated and it is therefore considered sanctified by their prayers.

    There are many small, forgotten temples and fortifications in the area in and around Anegundi. Megote is one such fortified citadel.

    Hucchhappayya Matha temple, with an impressive stone mantapa, was named after the saint who meditated here and is worth a look. You can also check out Nimavanapuram which has a mound of ash which locals believe is the cremated remains of Vali and hence sacred.Better-known and more-visited are the Anjaneya temple an

     Ranganatha temples. The former is atop the Anjanadr

     Hill and is dedicated to Hanuman. There are a great many steps to climb but the faithful willingly take the arduous trek up the hill after bathing in the Tungabhadra!

    You also find hordes of monkeys roaming free in this area. Since they are believed to represent Anjaneya, no one shoos them away. In fact, we noticed many tourists and locals reverentially offering them food, mostly plantains.

    The Sugriva Guha is where Sugriva lived for many years while in hiding from Vali. It can be reached after walking over a very stony path – god help you if you are not wearing the right footwear

    The Kodanda Rama Temple is a must-see with large idols of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. A little distance away i

     the Archeological Museum containing sculpture brought here for preservation from ruins in and around the area, besides a few Neolithic age tools, some weaponry from the 16th century and a floor map of Vijayanagar.

    You can drive down to Navabrindavana which, as the name suggests, has nine tombs or brindavans of the Madhw yathis or saints including Vyasathirtha who preceded Sri Raghavendra.

    They are each worshipped on a specific day of the year on which you might find bigger crowds gathering. There was virtually no one when we arrived, but the fierce midday heat of summer was probably the reason.

    Cool lakes

    A cooler place was the Pampa Sarovar – one of India’s holy lakes. Pampa, a famous devotee, is said to have performed penance at this spot for Shiva.

    A small Lakshmi temple as well as some shrines to Shiva, Parvathi and Ganapathi can be found here. If you get to visit the lake in season, you will find it looking very picturesque, abloom with lotuses.

    Some distance away, there is another small Ganapathi temple alongside a Jain one. The Chintamani complex i where Lord Rama is said to have come looking for the abducted Sita and where Vali was felled by his arrow.

    If you are not into temple-hopping, you can still find lots to do there. There is Elugudda Salu with its prehistoric rock paintings and Morya Mane or Neolithic dwellings while Tara Parvatha (the abode of the queen Tara) is a big draw for rock-climbers.

    But these activities are best done during the early morning. We found a group coming down, drenched in perspiration, even before they had completed half the ascent, put off by the searing heat!

    Nearby you can see some centuries-old army barracks from the days when Anegundi was a major army outpost. Clearly, there is lots more to see and do in this area here besides visiting Hampi and its celebrated monuments.

    24 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Century-old, hilltop mosque falls to mining greed

    The demolition of a century-old roofless mosque on a hilltop at Pur village in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan to make way for mining by a private company has led to outrage here. The issue has brought into question the State Waqf Board's role in giving the “green signal” to a group, claiming to represent local Muslims, for razing the mosque

    Jindal Saw Limited, owned by the O. P. Jindal Group, bought the mosque, paying the Anjuman Committee of Pur Rs. 65 lakh, and demolished it on April 19. The company has produced a receipt issued by the Anjuman for the payment.
    The incident left the community in the village stupefied. It lodged a police complaint under Section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) of the Indian Penal Code. The police have since arrested three persons and recovered the money paid to the Anjuman

    Jindal Saw Limited director Dharmendra Gupta and Anjuman president Qasim Ansari and secretary Ramzan Sorgar have been remanded in police custody. Six other accused persons, including Congress leader Om Narayaniwal, are yet to be arrested

    Amid allegations that bribes over and above Rs. 65 lakh, paid as settlement through receipt, changed hands between the company representatives, local politicians and Waqf Board functionaries, the district administration has started reconstructing the mosque at is original site

    The Anjuman Committee has justified its action on the basis of a ‘fatwa' it sought from the Imam of the Gulmandi Jama Masjid, Maulana Hafeez-ur-Rehma, who has also been arraigned as an accused. The Maulana opined, after visiting the place, that it was a “cluster of graves” rather than a mosque and could be shifted

    Muslim groups here allege that Waqf Board Chairman Liaqat Ali Khan gave the go-ahead for the demolition after receiving a letter from the Anjuman seeking guidance in the matter, though the place has been registered as a mosque in the list of Bhilwara district's Waqf properties published in the 1965 State Gazette

    Mansoori panchayat president Abdul Latif Arco said here on Tuesday that the Waqf Board could not entertain such a plea from a so-called committee which was neither registered with it nor authorised by anyone: “We believe that the Waqf Board gave a tacit approval after a deal with the company. Demolition could not have taken place without the connivance of the topmost functionaries.

    A demand has been made for immediate removal of Mr. Khan and other officers concerned as well as for a CBI probe. Mr. Arco pointed out that the Waqf Board Chairman had directed the Anjuman to take action, stating it should be “in the interest of the Waqf and in accordance with the Shariah provisions.

    Mr. Khan, however, told The Hindu that he had not instructed the Anjuman to demolish the mosqueper se and only suggested that “appropriate action” be taken to save the roofless mosque from mining. “Anyone is free to approach the Waqf Board [for guidance] in view of its status as the highest body looking after the Muslim endowments,” he saidd

    An emergency Waqf Board meeting, called here for Tuesday, could not take place ostensibly for lack of a quorum. Mr. Khan said the full Board would put the seal of approval on the permission granted by him to the Bhilwara Collector for reconstruction of the mosque.

    25 April 2012, Hindu


    A myriad strokes from good old Bengal

    Three dozen old and new artists present State's colourful tunes at Delhi's Nitanjali Art Gallery

    A group exhibition of paintings by three dozen artists belonging to the famous Bengal school is now on at Nitanjali Art Gallery in Anand Niketan here

    “Banglar Sur : Tunes of Bengal” is showcasing diverse works of experienced as well as contemporary artists including Ganesh Haloi, Ganesh Pyne, Jogen Choudhury, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Paresh Maity, Sakti Burman and Sunil Das, besides Aditya Basak, Amiya Bhattacharya, Bijon Choudhury

    Explaining the reason behind showcasing works of talented artists belonging to the Bengal school, owner Ridhi Bhalla says the inherent talent of this region has been acknowledged by art connoisseurs

    “The Nitanjali Art Gallery's association with artists from the Bengal school started when it first opened here. Since then, we have been in touch with these artists. This group exhibition, which was conceptualised about a year ago, is the culmination of a selection process in which we tried to rope in the most talented artists from Bengal. Young as well as senior artists were asked to send two paintings each. Through this exhibition, we are showcasing paintings which vary in genres, size, styles and medium.

    Born in 1936 at Mymensingh, then a part of undivided Bengal, Ganesh Haloi moved to Calcutta in 1950. The trauma of uprooting left its mark on his works

    Ganesh Pyne, who held his first solo exhibition as late as 1988 at The Village Gallery in Delhi, started as a watercolourist in the Bengal school mode

    Jogen Choudhury, who went to a prestigious art institute in Paris on a French Government scholarship, is famous for his paintings and drawings in ink, watercolour and pastel.Painter and printmaker Lalu Prasad Shaw has exhibite extensively in India and abroad. He works in Kolkata

    With over 50 solo exhibitions and group shows in venues in India and overseas, Paresh's work has won him critical acclaim

    Though he has been living in France for the past five decades, Sakti is still connected to his motherland

    An important post-modern expressionist, Sunil Das came into limelight with his paintings of horses. “I must have done 7,000 horses between 1950 and 1960.

    An artist and interior designer, Aditya's medium is waterproof ink, earth colour and crayon on Nepalese hand-made paper

    An alumnus of the Indian College of Arts and Draftsmanship in Kolkata, Amiya has been influenced by the late eminent artist Bikash Bhattacharjee

    Bijon, whose works were recognised by prominent galleries across the country and even abroad, was educated at the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata, and the Government Institute of Arts, Dhaka. He passed away at the age of 82 this year

    Speaking about the ongoing exhibition, curator Elizabeth Rogers says: “The artists in this exhibition span many generations, mediums, reside in myriad locations and have followed different pathways. Some do directly depict their reminiscences and visions of life in Bengal, while others embrace more abstract, diffused elements.

    “From such an overflowing background to borrow from, these artists have decided to create a style of their own and add to the heritage she/he learnt to render shape to his personal vocabulary of artistic expression, which is characteristically Indian and at the same time is loaded with modernity. Yet fundamentally they are each artists who choose which implement to use, which colour to apply, material on which to wrought their visions, to sing their tunes, the diverse strains of Banglar Sur, ” she adds

    The exhibition, which opened on April 18, is on up to May 16.

    25 April 2012, Hindu


    Once a symbol of glory, Thanjavur's Pallipadai temples on the road to ruin

    About a dozen Pallipadai temples, mausoleums of Maratha kings and queens who ruled Thanjavur for 175 years, are in a shambles in the historic town.

    Located at Raja Ghori, the temples, built to perpetuate the glory of the rulers, today stand as symbols of neglect and decay. A classic case is the temple of Pratapa Simhan, which is characterised by broken pillars and weeds. Pratapa Simhan was the king of Thanjavur from 1740 to 1764 AD.

    N. Selvaraj, president of the Centre for Historic Research, Ayyampettai here, who carried out research and identified the Pallipadai temple of Pratapa Simhan, says 11 Maratha kings ruled Thanjavur between 17th Century A.D. and 19th Century A.D.

    Aesthetically constructed, the Pratapa Simhan temple stands on a 10-foot foundation made of bricks and stones. With a 50-foot-high vimana (tower), the temple has a mandapam, pillars and shrines for Lord Shiva and Goddess Amman.

    In its vicinity are the temples of Shivaji II, the last Maratha King (1832-1855), and 11 queens of the Maratha dynasty in one complex, which too is in a state of ruin.

    In olden days, when a king died, the last rites were performed on the bund of a tank at the entrance of the east gate (Keezha Vasal) of the palace. Before the burial at Raja Ghori, the body was taken in procession through the north gate (Vadakku Vasal).The practice of Sati was prevalent and smaller shrines were constructed in memory of the queens

    Today, the area around the temples has been taken over by people who have built houses. The land still remains private property and is with Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, senior prince of Thanjavur, a descendant of the Maratha dynasty. He is willing to hand it over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or the State Archaeology Department for renovating the temples and making them heritage sites

    Once renovated, the temples will certainly draw a large number of tourists, says S. Muthukumar, Secretary, Thanjavur unit of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)

    26 April 2012, Hindu


    History Under the Hammer

    Be it a12-inch metal harpoon dating back to 1500 BC, a Bikaner school painting from 1610 AD depicting Bhagwat Purana, or even a 19th-century Mughal portrait of Emperor Humayun — a collection of artefacts and paintings that depict significant stages of art in India have been chosen for an online auction by Collectibles Antiques, supported by auction house Saffronart

    This second edition of the 24-hour public auction includes 55 Indian antiquities that have been sourced from private collectors and licensed antique dealers across the country. Dinesh Vazirani, director, Collectibles Antiques, says, “The collection has been put together to offer collectors and enthusiasts a chance to acquire Indian antiques across various mediums and timelines.

    The catalogue has a diverse variety - miniature paintings, bronze, terracottas, wood and stone artefacts — from 1500 BC to 1880 AD. Among them is also the traditional storytelling work of Chitrakathis (the migratory community of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), which is seen through their paintings on paper depicting episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharata, an art which is lost in contemporary India (priced at Rs 1-1.5 lakh). According to Vazirani, one piece that will be of prime interest to many participants is a miniature Kangra school Nayaka painting (circa 1780-1790), which is priced at Rs 8 -9 lakh. It is a rendering of the Proshita Nayaka or the male lover in distress in the absence of his beloved. “It is an early example of the school, has a very romantic subject, excellent quality and detailing, superb condition and is a very rare Nayak rendering. That makes it important for miniature-painting connoisseurs,” he says

    While the highest-priced piece is a sculpture in granite from the 17th century, called A Warrior in Action, at Rs 10-14 lakh, the lowest priced is a goddess’s bust, titled Yakshini in Motion, at Rs 20,000-25,000. Going by the response the first auction held in December 2011 got, Vazirani says he expects a stronger response this time. “Based on the success of our first auction, we have put together a larger catalogue of antiquities and miniatures this time,” he concludes

    The auction is on at www.saffronart.com till 8pm tonight

    26 April 2012, Indian Express


    Silent zone to ring Corbett

    Ban On Noise Pollution In 500-Metre Radius Around Park.

    Dehradun: Acting on the directive of the Uttarakhand high court, the state government on Wednesday imposed a blanket ban on noise pollution in a radius of 500 metres around the Corbett National Park and declared it a “complete silence zone”.

    A two-judge bench of the high court gave the directive responding to a PIL filed by a local NGO. The decision will mitigate levels of noise pollution that affect the habitat of many species in one of India’s best known tiger reserve.

    This will have a salutary effect on resorts within Corbett’s outer periphery which attract numerous casual tourists who hold parties, etc as opposed to genuine tigerlovers who take the trouble of taking forest department’s permission for a quiet foray.

    In its PIL, the Ramnagar Himalayan Yuva Grameen Vikas Sansthan appealed to Chief Justice Barin Ghosh and Justice U C Dhyani to limit noise in the vicinity of the wildlife habitat.

    It expressed concern over sound amplification devices which disturb the peace of endangered species. The Sansthan also flagged concerns about encroachment of the forest area by mushrooming resorts which hold events like parties and marriage receptions.

    Field director Ranjan Mishra told TOI that the decision was taken under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. “As per directive, a blanket ban has been imposed on sound amplification. Only municipality areas are excluded from the prohibited zone,” said Mishra.

    Wildlife activists welcomed the move, saying that it would boost conservation in the park.

    26 April 2012, Times of India


    Daughter of the mountain

    THEATRE A recent production of “Rajula Malushahi” revived memories of this ballad of Uttarakhand that has seen many incarnations. DIWAN SINGH BAJEL

    “Rajula Malushahi” is the most popular folk ballad of Kumaon which has fascinated not only students of literature but also performing artistes. Based on this immortal tale of love, Yamuna Datt Vaishnav ‘Ashok' wrote a novel in Hindi. Other works include “Malushahi - A Romantic Poem of the Hills” (English translation) by Nityanand Misra, “Malushahi” (A poetic adaptation in Hindi) by Dr. Puthulal Shukla ‘Chandrakar' and writer-poet Jughal Kishore Paitshali's epic poem glorifying the true love between a king and the daughter of a trader. Vivek Dutta has worked on the music of Malushahi on an UNESCO assignment. Though not wholly historical, it is said that probably the story took place about 800 years ago. During this long journey of hundreds of years, folk singers have enriched the narrative with their fertile imaginations. We have one more stage version of Malushahi which was presented by Parvatiya Lok Kala Manch at the India Islamic Cultural Centre recently to a capacity hall. Sensitively conceived, the production seeks to capture the memorable moments from a ballad that sings the glory of love set in inaccessible snow-covered mountains, dense green forests and enchanting valleys. It illustrates that the path of the lovers is full of trials and tribulations. More often than not it involves bloodshed. Malushahi was able to marry Rajula with the help of his huge army and a master of witchcraftThe script is jointly written by Hem Pant and Dinesh Pandey who have tried to borrow elements from the versions of three major singers — Mohan Singh, Gopi Das and Joga Ram. Its action has a vast canvas which covers three distinct areas: an empire ruled by Katyuri with Bairath as its capital, Jalnar Desh, close to the Indo-Tibetian border, and Tibet. The narrative reflects the richness of various ethnic cultures. The father of Rajula is Sunapati Shauk, a Bhotiya trader, who is determined to marry her to the king of Tibet to develop his trade relations. During winter when Jalnar Desh is covered in snow, Sunapati Shauk comes down to the plains in Bairath to trade. While on one such visit to Bairath, Rajula meets Malushahi, and they fall in love at first sight

    The production is able to project the basic philosophical postulates of the ballad — the powerful personality of Rajula. Born in the lap of the Himalayas, she is endowed with exceptional sensuous beauty. At the same time she is intelligent and brave enough to protect her honour. In the ballad she emerges as the most powerful character

    One of the rare aspects of this ballad is that it is secular in character, although the decisive dramatic conflicts take place in a milieu in which supernatural powers are at war against one another representing rival parties. But these are controlled by men. In an epoch which could be described as semi-feudal and semi primitive, a woman emerges most powerful to change the outcome of a bloody war fought for her. Unlike the Greek tragedy, in this ballad one sees the rasas of heroism, horror, curiosity, romanticism and ultimately the celebratory mood of love's triumph

    The play is directed by Ganga Datt and Hem Pant. They have not paid adequate attention to the music score. In fact, being a ballad, music is the soul of “Rajula Malushahi”, which “offers the best and richest in folk musical repertoire of Kumaon.” Its haunting and captivating tones keep this folk form alive and it retains its freshness mainly because of its music. In the past two decades or more several groups have tried to stage it in different styles. Among these the most outstanding stage version in operatic style was by Parvatiya Kala Kendra under the direction of B.M. Shah with music score by Mohan Uperati in 1981. The script in verse was written by B.L. Shah. It featured eminent opera actor-singers like V.M. Badola, Vinod Nagpal and Alakh Nath Upereti. It is not fair to compare B.M. Shah's “Rajula Malushahi”, which was described as a trail-blazer in the history of Hindi opera-theatre, with the one under review, which does manage to strike an emotional chord with the old expatriates from the hills, evoking a sense of nostalgia, and entertains the young audience born and brought up in Delhi

    The performers are mostly amateur. They did their best to do justice to their characterisations. Bhavna Pant as Rajula, Virendra Kaita as Malushahi, Hem Pant as Sunapati Shauk, the arrogant, cruel and conspiratorial father of Rajula, Ganga Datt Bhatt as Pachuwa Doriyal, who makes himself ridiculous in his foolish attempts to win over the heart of Rajula, Mahendra Latwal as the chief magician who destroys the magical power of the enemy and Manoj Chandola as king Dobla Shahi, the God fearing father of King Malushahi, act admirably. Kamla Bhatt as dancer enlivens the mela scene

    27 April 2012, Hindu


    Sand sculptures on canvas

    When well-known sand artist of Odisha, Sudarshan Patnaik, unveiled his latest creation, it was not on the golden sands of Puri beach, but at the art gallery of Rashtriya Lalit Kala Academy in Bhubaneshwar.

    Aptly titled “Imaginations in sand”, this unique exhibition of photographs of sand sculptures on canvas was a kind of repertoire for the artist — a landmark in the career of Sudarshan who has taken the long forgotten art of sand sculpting to new heights

    The idea to capture sand art on canvas not only gives a totally new dimension to the art, but adds permanence to a transient art which at best lasts for a few days only.

    A novel idea, it was a result of Sudarshan’s desire to preserve some of his creations for posterity and also to answer requests from many of his admirers who often wanted to own a piece of sand art.

    On display were more than 100 canvases, including a few water colours by the sand artist. Unlike glossy paper, the canvas lent a special grainy feel to the photographs, and some of them had been actually touched up with sand and a faint trace of paint to give them a more realistic appearance.

    Most of the huge frames had the blue ocean as the backdrop and the exquisite sand sculptures seemed to leap out of the walls. Keeping with the theme, the sound of the sea played in the background..

    Sudarshan’s sand art creations on the Puri beach are a regular attraction to visitors who flock this pilgrim city. Most of the themes are based on current events and he also runs a school for budding enthusiasts. Currently, plans are afoot to set up a kind of permanent art gallery and museum for sand art in Puri, with help from the state government.

    The images on the canvases covered a variety of themes — social causes, significant events, eminent personalities and famous monuments — all created over a span of 15 years at different places within and outside the country.

    There were a couple of canvases on snow sculpting in Japan as well. Besides the canvases, Sudarshan has printed a set of 12 postcards of his award winning sand art.

    “This is my tribute to sand which has given me so much in life,” says Sudarshan. He has participated in more than 50 international competitions and won a number of prizes.

    Today, he has become a mentor for other upcoming sand artists in Puri. He has plans to take this exhibition to other cities in India in the coming months, so that more people can enjoy this amazing collection.

    29 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Sangam sojourn

    Lakshmi sharath turns back the clock by a couple of eras only to find herself steeped in the history and spirituality of a place once known as Naanjil Naadu.

    There is a certain fascination, a sense of a timeless journey, an anticipation of a discovery when you look at a map. Poring over the colourful piece of paper that marked countless villages and towns, I stood there, imagining the contours of the map changing while we took a journey down history.

    We were looking at a map of the present day Nagercoil and Kanyakumari districts in Tamil Nadu, but the stories took us to the times when parts of the region were referred to as Naanjil Naadu.

    Ruled by various rulers, ranging from the Sangam Age to Travancore kings, with a bit of influence from the Cholas to early Pandyas, this region had the reign of the Ay rulers, the Venad kings and had also seen battles fought between the Cheras and the Pandyas.

    Ringed in by oceans and mountains, the locale is scattered with temples, forts, rock-cut caves, palaces with paintings, inscriptions and carvings — monuments left behind by these rulers as souvenirs of their reign. God’s own country found its origins here, long before Kerala state was formed. Steeped in cults, we learnt about both facts and folklore, while I got lost in the landscape painted in front of me — natural, social, political, historical and spiritual.

    We travelled to towns and villages, to deserted lakes and lush fields, to the banks of small rivulets, up a hillock and into dense forests to look for the remnants of the many dynasties that ruled Naanjil Naadu.

    The Ay rulers, who had reigned for a long period from the Sangam era to the ninth century, had left their stamp here. Temples such as Parthivasekarpuram are testimony of their workmanship. Early Pandyas had built monuments that led us towards Tirunelveli. The Venad rulers, who were the founders of modern day Travancore state, ruled from the Padmanabhapuram Palace here.

    Travelling through history

    Our guide and expert, Dr V Vedachalam, retired senior epigraphist from Tamil Nadu State Archaeology Department, told us that one of the earliest references to Naanjil Naadu dated back to a song sung by the legendary poetess Avvayar in the Sangam era.

    The song was in praise of the generosity of a Naanjil Vallavan, a tale of how a Vallavan had sent an elephant loaded with sacks of rice to people who had only asked for a small quantity.

    The landscape of the present merged with the past as we heard snippets of legends and history woven together. We stopped by the monuments to step into the milieu of those times. One of our earliest stops was at Suseendram, where the temple was amidst a flurry of festivities.

    Dedicated to the trinity — Brahma, Vishnu, Siva — the shrine was also thronged by devotees who worshipped Hanuman, an 18-feet-tall deity. Dr Vedachalam, however, took us around the temple to show us some nondescript rocks tucked away behind the shrine.

    As we crowded around him, we saw various inscriptions that dated back to the Chola and Pandya periods. We then climbed up the dingy dark tiers of the gopuram, disturbing the bats residing there, to see some of the most colourful paintings lost in the darkness here. Deities and mortals found expression in rich tapestry of colours as the walls were painted by the artists of a bygone era, only to be vandalised by locals.

    The Naanjil Naadu tour was, for me, not just about a dynasty or a religion. The influences were varied, as Dr Vedachalam explained that most of the monuments had altered as beliefs and cults changed over the passage of tim

    We were at the Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil, where we learnt of the cults relating to Jaina yakshis and snake worship and how they had been woven together and transformed over a period of time. Jainism had been prevalent here in ancient periods and several Jaina sites tucked away in hillocks took us back to the era.

    As we climb a small hillock called Chitharal near Kanyakumari, Dr Vedachalam explained to us that the site was known as Thirucharanattumalai in the ancient times. “Jains believe that this is the abode of the monks who had lived in the natural caves here.

    In fact, Charanathar, according to Jainism, refers to those celestial beings who fly in the skies and are seen in places of worship which could be mounds or mountains, sometimes inside towns and living spaces too,” he said.

    Atop the hillock, the rocks were carved with bass relief sculptures depicting thirthankaras and yakshis. There was the serene Mahaveera, the snake-hooded Parshvanatha along with Neminatha, the yakshis — Padmavathy and Ambika, also known as Dharmadevi, looking out into the open. Hillocks surrounded us in the distant horizon as we saw pools of water reflecting the colours of nature.

    Dr Vedachalam said that the sculptures dated back to the ninth and 10th centuries as inscriptions referred to the patronage of the Ay dynasty ruler, Vikramaditya Varaguna, who reigned around that period. More inscriptions written in Vattaezhuthu (one of the oldest Tamil scripts) referred to monks and nuns who had lived here.

    Right atop the cave was a small structural temple dedicated to Bhagavathy. Dr Vedachalam said that it was earlier a Jaina temple as the yakshi cult gave way to the Bhagavathy cult over the passage of time. A later 19th century inscription in Malayalam, belonging to the Travancore king Moolam Thirunal Maharaja, referred to the shrine here.

    Our journey took us into fields and plantations. We were inside a dense rubber plantation, watered by a small stream called Nandiaaru. Watching the morning sun streaming through the trees and listening to the call of the birds, we were in the village of Thirunandikarai, which literally translated to the banks of the River Nandi, bordering Kerala.

    We stumbled upon a Shiva temple that resembled most monuments built in the architecture typical of the state. The sanctum was circular in this 10th-century shrine, which had a few inscriptions that dated to the period.

    However, nestled behind the temple, a path led us through the dense plantations to a rock-cut cave temple, probably a Jaina monument that dated to 7th century or even older. The frescoes painted on the walls of the caves had completely faded, though some of the outlines still existed, leaving us to guess the images.

    An inscription mentioned that an eighth century monk called Veeranandi had stayed here and spread Jainism in the region.

    Dr Vedachalam told us that an 11th century inscription relating to Raja Raja Chola was found here and it indicated that the monarch had celebrated his birthday here and had defeated Muttom. Inscriptions relating to Vikramaditya Varaguna of the Ay dynasty were found here as well.

    Our journey took us to more temples such as Tiruvattaru, more rock-cut caves as in Rettai Pothal, palaces like Padmanabhapuram, forts like Vattakottai, reservoirs like Veeranarayanam and finally we ended up inside the jungles of Western Ghats to visit Nambiyaaru, a temple located uphill, close to Thirukkurangudi shrine.

    We had travelled across the districts — Nagercoil, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and even to villages close to Kerala border. We climbed hillocks, went on the sea shore, crossed rivers, drove though the mountains and forests to revisit the Naanjil Naadu of those days. We had probably travelled back to the Sangam era in just three days as we travelled down the historic and spiritual route.

    29 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    The dazzling pagan

    Gustav Klimt produced many masterful paintings and retained an enchantment for the female form till the very end, notes Giridhar Khasnis

    This year marks the 150th birth anniversary of Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt. Born in 1862, he died at a relatively young age of 55.

    Klimt is remembered as one of the most influential artists of 19th century Europe who, through his bold and intensely personal style of painting, questioned the fundamental truths of his society.

    The provocative finesse with which he decorated his female figures was seen as a direct attack on a Europe where women were not even allowed to vote.

    According to art critic Jonathan Jones, Klimt was a painter who was years ahead of Picasso and Matisse, a great destroyer of traditions and a creator of terrifying beauty.

    “With their unabashed eroticism, Klimt’s paintings shared a basic belief about human nature with Freud, who shocked the world with his insistence that sexuality is at the centre of everyone's emotional life,” wrote Jones (The Guardian/ 7 May 2008/ Dazzling Demons).

    “You could even compare Freud’s sessions, listening to his women patients as they lay on his couch, with Klimt’s portrait practice. Klimt was a very private man who never married, but it was said that he slept with most of the women he portrayed: certainly his bold drawings point to an intimacy that goes beyond the polished eroticism of his paintings.”

    Ornamental & decorative

    Many of Klimt’s famous paintings were created over a century ago, and have continued to generate awe and wonder among the following generations of artists. Among his best known works are Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907); The Kiss (1908); The Tree of Life (1909), and Death and Life (1911).

    Incidentally, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer created a sensation on June 18, 2006, when it was bought by cosmetics moghul, Ronald S Lauder (a former US ambassador to Austria and owner of the Neue Galerie in New York) for a staggering amount of $135,000,000, thereby setting a record for the highest ever price paid for a painting in an auction at that time.

    Klimt’s paintings are known to be ornamentally decorous, meticulously structured mosaic compositions, full of subtly balanced tonal effects, designs and erotic symbols. Adopting an incredible artistic style, he often showed lovers in tight embrace and in other strikingly seductive poses.

    Critics have observed that Klimt was always obsessed with the female form; and, like Picasso, had quite a macho, sexual attraction to women. His drawings and paintings of female body and body parts are seen as exquisite renderings, rarely matched in their concept and construct. But in his time, it was this very feature of his work which also attracted stinging criticism by conservative authorities.

    Klimt’s lifestyle also attracted attention. “He was often photographed in a floor-length painter’s smock, probably wearing nothing underneath,” wrote an observer. “Also, he was commonly seen in his studio amid models not just nude but naked, in intimate and revealing poses, often in couples and more-somes.

    Add in the fact that Klimt acknowledged three children out of wedlock, and posthumously faced claims of 14 more.”

    Klimt had many followers too. Noted Austrian dramatist and critic, Hermann Bahr (1863–1934) was one of his ardent supporters who stood by him when his art was criticised. “I propose a toast to Klimt, the dazzling pagan,” he wrote. “Out there where they think they know everything, it is assumed that he is only playing around with lines.

    Those poor fools: quite unable to comprehend the unspeakable power of this hallowed vow to wantonness! Here is the sole artist who refuses to darken burgeoning nature with the bourgeois sense of shame. The only one to reclaim the pagan gaze.”

    Personal life

    Klimt spent most of his life in Vienna and led an eventful life. He was born into a family of Bohemian artisans — second among seven children. He attended the art school when he was 14 and was critical of the poor education it provided.

    As young boys, he and his brother Ernst worked on decorating the ceiling of doorways, stairways and interiors of buildings. By the time Klimt reached his mid-thirties, he had won several international prizes for his paintings.

    In 1891, he joined the Association of Plastic Artists of Vienna, a group of restless artists. In 1897, he became a founder member and the first president of the Vienna Secession; and remained with it until 1905.

    His provocative picture of Greek goddess, ‘Pallas Athene’ (1898) shown at Secession Exhibition, drew negative reactions. But two years later, his full-sized picture, ‘Philosophy’, exhibited at the Secession Exhibition, travelled to Paris for a display at the Austrian pavilion at the Exposition Universelle and won the Grand Prix.

    In 1902, when the Secession held its 14th exhibition, Klimt presented ‘Beethoven Frieze’, a monumental fresco of decorative panels, painted in casein colours and encrusted with semi precious stones and fragments of mirror. His painting ‘Death and Life’ (1911) won the first prize at the International Ex¬hibition of Art in Rome.

    Unlike his peers, Klimt never painted a self-portrait. For all his achievements, he never claimed to have special talent or revolutionary ideas. He maintained that he was just an artist — ‘who painted day in and day out, from morning till evening’.

    “I can paint and draw,” he said. “I believe this myself and a few other people say that they believe this too. But I’m not certain if it’s true.”

    Notwithstanding such claims, Klimt became quite an influential artist of his time. He not only encouraged many young Viennese artists, but also helped transform the city of Vienna into a leading centre for culture and the arts at the turn of the century.

    Among his many protégés was Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918), an extraordinarily talented boy who also painted highly erotic and sensual paintings in his very short life time.

    As an art observer pointed out: “Together, Klimt and Schiele signify an end and a beginning, and at one poignant moment their adjoining forms point simultaneously backward and forward to comprise the past and future in a fleeting present.”

    Coincidentally, both Klimt and Schiele died during the same year: Klimt on February 06; Schiele on October 31.

    Here is a sad footnote to the story: On May 8, 1945, the towers of Immendorf Castle in southern Austria were blown up by retreating Nazis. The castle had, among others, 13 of Klimt’s paintings. None of them survived the brutal explosion.

    29 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Respecting our legacy

    Most of us take pleasure in inscribing our names on the walls of invaluable archaeological masterpieces our country is home to, without realising the irreparable damage we are causing to the cultural heritage of India. Isn’t it about time we started preserving our heritage, asks Melanie p kumar

    Most of us are guilty of taking things for granted — be it our familial relationships, our inheritance, or our heritage.

    Our heritage is reflected in our ancient forts, palaces, places of worship, townships and water bodies.

    These have existed even before today’s generation started life on this earth and depending on how we respect our legacy, it will be available for future generations, as part of our history.

    But while there is one group which feels strongly about preserving the ancient monuments and other artefacts of the country, there is another more eager set that is determined to bequeath its own legacy to future generations; these may vary from suggestions for names that can be used for future progeny or declarations of love that will be etched in stone forever.

    Be it the ancient stone structures of Badami or Aihole, the fortresses and palaces of Udaipur or Jaipur, the Mughal structures in Delhi or the Elephanta Caves in Mumbai, none of them are free of the etchings of names like Rakesh, Ali, Victor, or Krishna loves Rita, or John loves Meena! In some instances, the two names are intertwined with a heart; in others, there is an arrow going through the heart!

    After all, if Shah Jehan could put up a whole marble structure as a tribute to his beloved Mumtaz, why should common man’s love not be allowed to be immortalised on stone?

    There is a Hindi song with words that go like this — Ik Shahenshah ne banwa ke haseen Taj Mahal, hum garibon ki mohabbat ka udaya hai mazaak... which roughly means that Shah Jehan, by putting up the Taj Mahal to his lady love, has belittled the way in which love can be expressed by an ordinary individual. So, what is the next best thing to do?

    Carve out your declaration on a monument of stone and achieve immortality of sorts!

    Call it the unstoppable revenge of the proletariat!

    At the fortress of Rani Padmini at Chittorgarh, it was surprising to see the height at which the names had been carved out. How on earth did the chap manage to climb up that high, without any support, to make his declaration of love, or was that his brand of heroics — a do or die kind of thing!

    One can only hope that he got away with a few broken bones in the worst case scenario after achieving the feat!

    Tourism has turned into a vastly commercialised industry with every person living in and around an area of tourist importance trying to milk the beleaguered tourist. The most grotesque trend is the commerce that has crept inside the premises of monuments across the country and perhaps in other parts of the world.

    From the rocks that are painted with the names of the bubbly drinks, to the booths selling food and beverages, it is not a pretty sight to behold. Nor is it environment-friendly when flex posters are nailed to trees and toxic paints used to adorn rocks! Equally disturbing are the food wrappers flying in the breeze across the courtyards, which are the repositories of our history.


    The city of London has not escaped such commercialisation. Who would imagine that Westminster Abbey, which has afforded a last resting place for many famous poets and litterateurs, would have food kiosks operating right above the tombs of some of these famous names from the past?

    Any sensitive tourist would, in the first place, be trying to tread softly on these floors and one is even more horrified to find vendors and buyers nonchalantly going about their business above these tombs, whose occupants would most certainly be turning in their graves at the indignity of it all!

    Well, perhaps not so surprising for England whom Napoleon is said to have called “a nation of shopkeepers!” (No doubt, it is this shrewdness that ensured that for several centuries, the sun did not set on the British Empire. But that is another story altogether!)

    But India does not carry this dubious distinction. So, why must shopkeepers hound tourists to purchase their wares even within the premises of these historical structures?

    Even more disturbing are the mounds of plastic that litter these heritage sites. While cities like Udaipur have declared themselves to be plastic-free zones with heavy fines imposed on those who succumb to the temptation of cheap plastic, they are not above allowing the use of the majestic City Palace for a multi-cuisine restaurant.

    Hasn’t it occurred to the authorities that the cooking of food could damage the walls of these ancient structures, let alone the problems of dealing with the wastage and leftovers?

    Another strange phenomenon is the conversion of ancient heritage buildings, which may or may not have once been places of worship, into modern day places to conduct prayers.

    This is the case across India in the forts of Chittorgarh and Jaipur, amongst the rock structures of Badami and Pattadakal, and even in the midst of the Mughal architecture in Delhi. The stains from the oil lamps and the smoke rising up to the roofs, from the incense, can have damaging effects on these ancient structures.

    More than the indifference of the tourist public is the total apathy of the government bodies, which are in charge of these buildings and museums. A visit to the museum inside the Aga Khan Palace in Pune can have any serious visitor in tears.

    The palace itself is a majestic building and considered amongst the greatest of the architectural marvels of India. The place is so closely linked with the country’s freedom movement, as this is where Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu were incarcerated and where Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai breathed their last.


    The inside of the museum is musty and badly-maintained and horror of horrors, there is actually an ancient photograph of Gandhiji stuck on the wall. The photograph appears to be giving way and it won’t be long before it will become a part of history just like Gandhiji!

    Contrast this with the museums and other historical sites at Sevagram and Wardha. The Sevagram Ashram, where Gandhiji lived, from 1936 to 1948, has tourists thronging it from all over the world. Within the precincts of the ashram, Ba Kuti and Bapu Kuti look just like they might have when Kasturba and Mahatma Gandhi resided in them.

    Bapu Kutir exhibits the Mahatma’s daily use items, bringing alive the simplicity of the great man. Across the road, there is a building which displays photographs from Gandhiji’s times, all beautifully framed, with details of the events neatly inscribed below.

    This is the same case with the Magan Sangahalaya and the Shanti Kutir in Wardha, which have professionally displayed the photographs of Gandhiji and Jamnalal Bajaj.

    The Bajaj Foundation contributes to the maintenance of several of the buildings and museums here, which seem to be in the best of health, making you immediately contrast them with what one witnessed at the Aga Khan Palace!

    The Aga Khan Palace was donated by Aga Khan to the Gandhi Smarak Samiti in 1972. The Samiti is responsible for the maintenance of parks and gardens inside the palace, which are a pretty sight indeed. One noticed this at the Chittorgarh Fort too where the gardens have a manicured look, while the fortress is in a complete state of dilapidation.

    The entry fee to the Chittorgarh Fort is a paltry sum in contrast to neat sums charged at the palaces in Udaipur and Jaipur. Could this be the solution then? Charging the visitor a reasonable sum of money for the upkeep of these monuments?

    One might argue that a higher entrance fee might result in a form of cultural exclusion, making it unaffordable for a section of the Indian public.

    In a country where cultural exclusion is very much in practice, with the skyrocketing prices of movie tickets at multiplexes (and even more expensive rates over weekends) and the unaffordable rates at music concerts, plays and cricket matches, the scaling up of the entry fee at heritage sites might well be justified, as those who are interested would visit them anyway.

    The other kind of exclusion that our heritage buildings practise is the differential rates charged to foreigners. A back-packer on a limited budget was telling me how hard it was for her to pay the USD rate charged to see the exhibition of the Nizam’s Jewellery in Hyderabad while those of us who were Indians, walked in, paying a much lower rate.

    Nowhere else have I witnessed this kind of a differential charge for the “foreign” tourist!

    Of course, an Indian visitor will surely be disturbed to see many of India’s treasures harboured in the Victoria and Albert Museum or the Kohinoor being a part of the jewel in the crown, displayed in the Tower of London.

    But when one travels around India and sees the scant respect that the public and the government have towards their heritage, one might sadly be forced to conclude that the Kohinoor is better off where it is!

    Last year, the country celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore with a great show of pomp and reverence. But sadly, the medallion and citation that Tagore won for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 is lost forever.

    The country’s first Nobel Prize, along with several of the poet’s personal belongings, were stolen from the safety vault of the Vishwa Bharati University at Shantiniketan in 2004.

    The then security officer, Anup Seal said, “We were thinking of better security measures like a closed circuit television inside the museum and more security staff, but before we could do anything, this unfortunate incident happened.”

    The theft took place eight years ago. After offering a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information on the missing items, the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2007 informed the Vishwa Bharati authorities that it was closing its investigation on the case.

    Though the Nobel Foundation did replace the medallion with one in gold in 2004, it is not the same and does not take away from the callous attitude we have towards our history.

    It is appalling to think that there was no proper surveillance at the Vishwa Bharati University where the country’s precious heritage was housed. This reminded me of an incident that occurred at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Just for a few minutes, I had put down a handbag so that I could look at one of the paintings closely.

    Before I knew it, there was a security guard at my heels, making enquiries about the bag. When I identified it as mine, he pointed to a poster, which said, “Keep your belongings with you.”

    He told me that close circuit television had identified a bag without its owner and he had been assigned the task of checking out the contents of the bag! However embarrassing, I appreciated the concern and respect for the exhibits that prompted the swift action. I noticed something similar in the Shanti Kutir precincts in Wardha.

    Security is strictly in place and I watched a young man being hauled up for a minor misdemeanour, namely, plucking a flower!

    Another glaring shortcoming is the absence of proper toilets in places of tourist interest. The City Palace at Udaipur, which charged a huge entrance fee, had appalling toilet facilities. With such a huge overrun of tourists, there should have been an attendant in place for a regular cleaning of the washrooms.

    It was impossible to sit and rest on the benches even some distance away! The other missing items are garbage bins, as a result of which there is litter within the premises of many historical structures.

    Leave alone the ubiquitous trash can, in most of the tourist areas abroad and other public spaces, there are ample and well-maintained toilets. This is one big shortcoming in India and there is really no excuse for it!

    In several of the museums abroad, there is no fee charged, but a huge collection box is placed in the centre, where people can put in their contributions. Most of these museums have a very clever strategy of making the visitor exit from the Museum Shop, where one is likely to be tempted to pick up a souvenir or two. But there is no ‘in your face’ pushing down of the items on display.

    But you feel hope for the country in places like the Raja Kelkar Museum in Pune, the Gandhi Museums in Wardha and Sevagram, or the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad.

    It is amazing to think that the collection and involvement of single individuals and institutions could result in the creation and efficient administering of so many interesting displays.

    A chat with Raja Kelkar’s grandson reveals the passion of his grand-father and fills one with hope about people in the right place, who are conscious about and hell-bent on preserving one’s hard-earned heritage, for generations to follow.

    29 April 2012, Deccan Herald


    Filthy Hauz Khas lake raises stink, locals fret

    The 13th-century lake is now a reservoir of untreated sewage, but DDA officials claim no complaints have been received

    Surrounding greens and chirping birds notwithstanding, morning walkers can’t go without twitching their noses in Hauz Khas District Park. The 13th-century lake, built by Alauddin Khilji, in the park has started stinking again for over the past three weeks thanks to a fresh supply of sewage water. Studded with the remains of the Khilji dynasty at Hauz Khas Village on one side, the lake is now a reservoir of untreated sewage water that only repels nature lovers coming to the park for fresh air every morning.

    “While the part of the lake close to the centre of the park still looks beautiful with ducks and swans and submerged trees, the other side towards Hauz Khas village is so smelly and dirty that we avoid even going there. Probably that’s where the sewage water comes in from,” said Rekha Pradhan, who lives in Safdarjung Enclave and is a regular to the park.

    Another resident of Hauz Khas, who did not wish to be named, said it was over last two-three weeks that the smell in the lake has become unbearable. “Probably the aerators in the lake are not working for sometime now. As a result, there is foul smell and mosquitoes are also breeding. Surprisingly, nobody seems to be taking an action,” he said.

    Officials at Delhi Development Authority, which is responsible for the upkeep of the park, insisted that the lake was not in such a bad shape and the pollution control department had tested the water earlier this week only to find that there was nothing wrong. “The lake is clean as the water in it is treated properly to remove any stink or filth. We have not received any complaints from any resident. We have handed over the responsibility of maintaining the lake to INTACH,” said a senior DDA official, adding that “while we can do with more aerators, the existing ones are working absolutely fine”.

    INTACH has been taken on board as an advisory party. Sources said the agency had so far picked up water samples for testing and would be ready with a report within the next fortnight. “Initial reports suggest that untreated sewage from the Mehrauli ward is entering the lake. A thorough study is being carried out to determine the exact cause for the pollution and the steps that can be taken to remedy that,” said a source.

    When TOI visited the lake, the water was green. The aerators that work like a fountain threw the water all around making the visitors run for a cover. The workers there said the water level in the lake had receded due to which they had to open the sewage water supply last month. “We will clean up the lake within next 10 days,” a worker said.

    INTACH was an active partner in the lake restoration project till 2009 after which the contract was handed over to a private party. Since then, the environment and forests ministry has also been involved with the lake restoration project after residents complained to then environment minister Jairam Ramesh

    29 April 2012, Times of India


    Blame game over demolition of historic Bhilwara mosque

    The “fatwa” issued by the Imam of the Gulmandi Jama Masjid in Bhilwara that formed the basis for the sale of the century-old roofless mosque at Pur village to Jindal Saw Limited, leading to its demolition this past week, has emerged as the bone of contention between the Rajasthan Waqf Board and its detractors. Muslim groups demanding removal of Waqf Board Chairman Liaqat Ali Khan alleged here on Saturday that the deal with the company, owned by the O. P. Jindal Group, was finalised at the “highest political level” in the State to make way for mining of newly detected iron ore. The mosque was situated atop a hill containing mineral wealth worth hundreds of crores

    The Rajasthan Mansoori Panchayat and the Naik Pathan Society of Pur have demanded cancellation of the mining lease granted to the company in Bhilwara district

    “The political clout [enjoyed] by the Jindal Group in Congress-ruled Rajasthan is too obvious to be ignored. Lured by money, the powerful mining lobby has connived with the State's topmost political leadership to facilitate its hassle-free operations in the mineral-rich areas,” alleged Mansoori Panchayat president Abdul Latif Arco

    Jindal Saw Limited paid Rs. 65 lakh to the Anjuman Committee of Pur in settlement to make way for mining and demolished the mosque on April 19. Mr. Arco said while the company obtained a receipt for Rs.65 lakh from the Anjuman, a “much bigger” amount had allegedly changed hands between the company representatives, ruling party leaders and Waqf Board functionaries

    Mr. Khan, who allegedly gave the “green signal” for razing the mosque, has tried to shift the blame to the Imam, Maulana Hafeez-ur-Rehman, saying he had issued a “deceptive” fatwa declaring that the mosque was a cluster of graves which could be shifted. But the structure has been registered as a mosque in the Waqf records as well as in the 1965 State Gazette

    Maulana Hafeez-ur-Rehman, whose name figures in the first information report registered in the case, told The Hindu from Bhilwara that the ancient structure “as a matter of fact comprised old and dilapidated graves” of Muslims who could have been travellers who died during journey

    “I visited the hilltop at Pur after getting a written request from the Anjuman for my opinion. I did not find any evidence showing that the structure [once] functioned as a mosque. The platform seemed to be having a bunch of graves under it. The wall on western side showed no indication of religious embellishments.

    The Maulana said that as the “cluster of graves” faced the threat of destruction by mining, he recommended that they be shifted to another place. In his fatwa, he also cited a precedent of 1933, when the Grand Mufti of Iraq recommended the shifting of 1,300-year-old graves of the Prophet's companions, Huzaifah and Jabir-bin-Abdullah, situated on the banks of the Tigris

    The 57-year-old Maulana rejected the criticism by Muslim groups that he, not being a Mufti, was not empowered to issue a juristic ruling concerning the Shariah: “I am well versed in Islamic laws and a large number of people come to me regularly to get my opinion on different subjects. There is nothing unusual about Anjuman approaching me for this.

    Maulana Hafeez-ur-Rehman admitted that he was present at the Pur site when the structure was pulled down. “I wanted to ensure that bones and other remains excavated from graves are treated with respect and are carried away with proper rituals,” he said. However, the Jindal demolition team did not find any such remains

    The district administration has started reconstructing the mosque at its original location after arresting four persons on charges of defiling the place of worship under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code and recovering the money paid to the Anjuman. The accused include Jindal Saw Limited director, Anjuman functionaries and the driver of the hydraulic machine who demolished the mosque

    A Bhilwara court rejected their bail applications, even as the matter was raised in the Assembly on the last day of the budget session. Responding to BJP member Abdul Sagheer's query, Minister of State for Home Virendra Beniwal said the Government treated the matter with the “urgency it deserved” and launched prompt action to set the things right

    On Friday, some prominent Muslim citizens from Pur came here to demand immediate arrest of all the accused, including Maulana Hafeez-ur-Rehman and Congress leader Om Narayaniwal, named in the FIR. After failing to get an appointment with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, they joined an “Ijtemai Dua” (congregational prayers) for streamlining the functioning of the Waqf Board at Badi Chaupad here.

    29 April 2012, Hindu


    Dust lifts as Chausath Khamba restoration begins

    New Delhi: Heritage experts have been touching up a 16th century Mughal monument in the city to restore its old glory. The 25 reverse domes of the Chausath Khamba monument in Nizamuddin Basti are being dismantled for conservation treatment — a unique technique that experts claim has no parallel anywhere in the country. Work on one of the domes was completed recently after eight months of hard labour. At this rate, experts say, the entire process would take about six years

    The monument gets its name from its unique architectural design — it has 64 pillars supporting 25 bays on which rest the 25 domes. It was built for a Mughal nobleman named Mirza Aziz Koka (Emperor Akbar’s foster brother). It later became his tomb. Like most Mughal monuments, this, too, is made entirely of marble.

    Conservation work began here last year after the German embassy decided to jointly fund the project. Architects of Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) did a detailed documentation exercise. Every stone and marble piece was individually documented, after which it was learnt that the marble pieces in the domes were fixed together by iron dowels, and with water

    penetration the iron had rusted, corroded and expanded, causing severe damage to the marble. “In addition, the cavities caused over the years by broken marble edges were filled with white cement, but the process of deterioration continued unabated,” said an official.

    AKTC officials came to the conclusion that with over 10 feet of masonry over the marble domes, any repairs could be carried out only by dismantling the marble domes followed by careful replacement of iron clamps with rust-proof stainless steel clamps. Broken marble edges had to be then repaired before restoring them to their original places on the domes. “ “We were confident that with a very high level of supervision this structure could be given a new lease of life,” said P B S Sengar, director (monuments) ASI.

    Each dome is made up of 68 pieces of marble; each one is carefully dismantled, repaired and labelled so that it could be placed back in situ. Rainwater from the roof continues to percolate and over 20 barrels of lime grout had to be used to fill up the cracks on the second dome. “We will make the roof water tight using traditional repair methods before the onset of the monsoon. This will require filling the cracks and replacing the top cement layer with a traditional lime concrete layer,” explained Neetipal Brar, conservation architect with AKTC

    29 April 2012, Times of India


    Where the Wild Things are

    Reaching the Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh — a tiger reserve that shares a 40 km international boundary with Myanmar — is quite an adventure

    Reaching the Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh — a tiger reserve that shares a 40 km international boundary with Myanmar — is quite an adventure. The closest urban hubs are Tinsukia or Dibrugarh, in eastern Assam. Taxis seldom go to this far eastern tip of India. If you manage to get on a bus to Miao, a sub-divisional township in Changlang district, the remaining 25 km to Deban are just as difficult. One has to negotiate two rivulets that locals say gushes down during heavy rains, and the roads get slippery

    It took more than two hours, and was pitch dark when we reached Deban, the base camp in the forest. We hitched a ride from Miao with Dr M Firoz Ahmed, a conservation biologist with Aaranyak, a NGO that helped conduct the tiger census at Namdapha. Mobile and internet connectivity had already drawn a blank, but thanks to solar power, the forest rest house had its own electricity supply

    The sunrise here is almost two hours ahead of Indian Standard Time. We woke up to whistling winds that started well before sunrise. The swirling waters of the Noa-Dihing river add to the orchestra of numerous birds ringing in the air. The garden surrounding the forest rest house is strewn with leaves. Two other rivers, Namdapha and Deban, both said to be snow-fed, pass though the park to join the Noa-Dihing that finally joins the Brahmaputra in the Assam valley

    Ahmed told us that spotting a tiger is a difficult task even inside Kaziranga which has over 100 big cats, one of the largest concentrations in the country. In Namdapha, where the very existence of tigers has been in doubt for the past few years, spotting one was improbable until two cameras — located about 500 metres apart — recorded three photographs of the majestic animal. Not far away from where we stayed, we saw two or three pugmarks which Ahmed said, were of the common leopard

    Early morning, we trekked through the thick undergrowth of Namdapha, the lowlands being a virtual extension of the evergreen Dihing-Patkai rainforests, with Ahmed, as our guide. He often reminded us of being wary of leeches or insects that might creep up our trousers. We trekked about 14 km, under the shadow of the hollong and mekai trees, both important timber species endemic to the region

    Despite the warning, when we got back to the forest rest house, we had several red marks on our hands. “It's the damdim, an insect smaller than a mosquito. It will itch for sometime and the scar will disappear in a few days,” said Dr Ahmed, advising us to use mosquito-repellants during our subsequent trips

    During our stay, Ahmed narrated his team’s experience of the tiger census. “We encountered several leopards as well as civet cats and marble cats, especially in the makeshift camps deep inside the reserve. But we were thrilled when one of our teams photographed pugmarks which are definitely of a female tiger not far away from where the two cameras had clicked the male tiger,” he said

    Their cameras had also captured over 40 photographs of the leopard cat, the marble cat, the common leopard, and the clouded leopard. Namdapha was declared a National Park in 1983 and is the 15th tiger reserve in India that covers 1985 sq km. It's almost double the area of Kaziranga and the largest national park in India. Incidentally, it is the only park in the world to have four feline species of the big cats

    There were a number of local people to assist the tiger census at the park. Of the 130-odd people involved, only 14 were from Aaranyak. The rest included officers, frontline staff, protection squad members, porters and also a couple of mahouts. Atom, a local youth from Miao, was the head of the strike force of 20 young men who were given guns to ward off poachers. Japong Pansa was one of the two mahouts who often led the teams clearing dense forests that had probably never seen human footsteps

    Namdapha, in the eastern Himalayas, however is not just about tigers. Thanks to its altitudinal variation ranging from 200 metres to 4571 metres (mean sea level), it is home to the snow leopards too. It is also listed by Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund and International Union for Conservation of Nature as one among the 12 biodiversity megaspots because of its location at the confluence of the Indo-Chinese realm and the Indo-Malayan bio-geographic realm

    The park has 29 species of animals and 13 species of birds listed while the Botanical Survey of India has also found a lot of rare species of flora here. Its fauna wealth includes 10 species of earthworms, five species of leeches, 430 species of inspects (barring butterflies), 355 species of butterflies and moths, 76 species of fish, 50 species of reptiles, 665 species of birds, 25 species of amphibians and 97 species of mammals.

    But park director Jongsam is worried all is not well with Namdapha. In a letter to the state government recently, he wrote about the necessity of acquiring more manpower and funds to manage the Namdapha National Park and to ¬ protect it. “What we immediately require is a regular tiger protection force,” he wrote.

    29 April 2012, Indian Express


    Sea, sand and survival....

    The east coast is currently witnessing the birth of millions of olive ridley turtles. Only one in every thousand survives to adulthood, with their odyssey of endurance beginning with birth

    Last fortnight the Indian east coast was witness to three dramatic ‘hiccup events' in the world. While two grabbed world headlines, the third event went unnoticed. The first was a traumatic tsunami scare; the second was launch of Agni-V and the third was the birth of about ten million tiny turtle hatchlings

    Under the protective cover of darkness, beaches in Ganjam district of Odisha suddenly came alive. On ground zero at Rushikulya rookery thousands of mini landmines softly implode with newly hatched Olive Ridley Turtles. Akin to the ICBM expulsion at Wheelers Island in Odisha, tiny turtles literally launch themselves out of the sandy situation. Buried securely in the earth by their respective mothers, the turtle eggs spend 45 days incubating and growing. Once they are fully developed replicas of their parents, it is time to escape from the hidden nurseries. Bale -- the collective word for turtles -- tumble and fumble out of each pit as the countdown begins when the weather is conducive. The flush of mass emergence of baby turtles was noticed between April 16 and April 24. Thereby starts the tale of the bale of turtles which roam the oceans without touching land for 20 years until maturity

    In recent years, pristine beaches near Rushikulya river mouth have emerged as the main nesting grounds for the endangered Olive Ridleys. The other major nesting site is Gahirmatha sanctuary close to the Bhitarkanika National Park. Strangely, the sea turtles have stopped laying eggs at another location near the Devi river mouth. While Odisha is the most preferred location, there are many nesting spots across the Indian coast stretching from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. However, the egg laying is a minimalist affair. This synchronized egg laying in Odisha called “Arribada” is a wonder of nature and continues to be a mystery. Mr. B.C. Choudhury, an authority on turtles at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), explains, “Turtles often migrate great distances between feeding and breeding grounds. They only assemble to breed and brood at favourable locations.

    The odyssey of endurance for the baby turtles begin right from the day mother turtle sheds her burden of gravid eggs into flask shaped pits. Due to inclement weather and oceanic conditions this year, thousands of underground eggs were washed out by the hungry tides. “Nearly 40 per cent of the eggs laid were lost to the wanton waves of the mighty ocean.” says Mr. Rabindranath of Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC). But all is not lost as these eggs become food and are gobbled by land and sea creatures. Forest officials and turtle lovers managed to collect some of exposed eggs and reburied them in ‘sandy incubators'

    Emerging from the cozy comfort of the eggshells, baby turtles, as if on cue burst into the open. About 70 odd turtles emerging from their little prisons are a sight to behold as they ‘swim' out of the loose sand

    Like all young ones, they take in the first breath of fresh air and look around only to see total darkness. They resemble adult turtles but lack the hardness of the protective shell. Equipped with a baby blue dry skin they initially toddle around to get their bearings right. Though they seem lost, their inborn instinct makes them head straight to the sea and not the other way. Wildlife experts explain that in total darkness they initially rely on two senses

    They smell the salty sea breeze and importantly the white surf glistening on the crest of rolling waves act as a beckon. This prompting is enough for them to head straight into the cool sea waters and realise they are home. Equipped with paddle like hands and legs, swimming comes easy to the tiny turtles

    The need for speed is there in all the turtle babies, but not all are lucky in the seaward march as they face innumerable adversaries. Turtles need to cover at least 100 to 200 meters to reach the security of the sea. Meanwhile, hungry predators like jackals, feral dogs, eagles, gulls, kites, crows, mongooses are all waiting for turtle morsels. If that is not enough, turbulent seas, drowning and even dehydration can take its toll on the hapless new born. Scientists have deciphered that only one in every thousand survives to adulthood. That is a colossal waste in human terms but nature has its own way of dealing with challenges. Hence innumerable eggs are laid so that only healthy turtles can roam the seven seas

    29 April 2012, Hindu


    Shrines from yore

    CITYSCAPE R. V. SMITH takes you through the history of the Mughal mosques of Delhi, some in ruins today

    There are, according to INTACH, 213 officially listed mosques in Delhi, some with colourful names and a history of myth and legend behind them. Take Hari Masjid in Chuna Mandi, Paharganj, built in the 19th Century, which got its name from the colour of the building. Lal Masjid (there are two at least) is red coloured — the more well known one is in Faiz Road, Karol Bagh, constructed in 1930. Kali Masjid near Turkman Gate dates back to the time of Feroze Shah Tughlak. Its real name is Kalan Masjid but it has come to be known as Kali Masjid, it is where the best nahari is sold. Another Kali Masjid is not so famous. Sarhandi Masjid near Lahori Gate, was built by Sarhindi Begum, one of the wives of Shah Jahan, in 1650. Gularwali Masjid (constructed in 1940) is in S. P. Mukherji Marg, Old Delhi, and is so known because at one time there were gular trees there. Gular is a small, reddish fruit, quite sweet though now very few people relish it. The Dervesh Masjid honours a dervish and the mosque near India Gate marks the site where Ghulam Qadir Rohilla was executed. However, the Jama Masjid of Shah Jahan is the crowning glory, surpassing even the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque

    Hauzwali Masjid was built around 1550 during the reign of Sher Shah and is situated in Gali Batashah, NaiSarak. That seems strange as there was no Old Delhi at that time. Masjid Ramzan Shah dates back to 1802 when Ghalib was about five years old and was built by Anis-un-Nissa Begum, mother-in-law of Nawab Mansoor Khan of Shah Alam's Court. He must have been a really privileged son-in-law to have found such a lasting memorial though some say that it honours the family Pir. Randi-ki-Masjid, better known as Mubarak Begum's mosque in Hauz Kazi, was built by the chief Bibi of Gen Ochterleny in mid-19th Century. She later married Wilayat Khan, a Mughal nobleman

    Amrudwali Masjid (1735-36) is in Bulbulikhana, Bazaar Sita Ram, and was once known for its guavas. Qabarwali Masjid in Kutcha Shah Tara, has the grave of Parinda Khan in the courtyard and was built by his wife Rabia Begum around 1786-87. Qasaiwala (butcher's) Gumbad in Vasant Vihar is a mosque of the Tughlak period. Takia of Kamli Shah has a mosque commemorating a woman saint of Bahadur Shah Zafar's time. It is located in Lado Sarai, Mehrauli. Mothwali Masjid in South Extension has the amazing story of how a mosque grew out of a small ‘Moth' seed in the Lodhi era

    Haji Langa's mosque (and gumbad) dates back to the Tughlak times and is misnamed as Haji Langra's (lame Haji's) mosque. It is in R.K. Puram. Hijron-ka-Khankah in Main Market, Mehrauli, is a mosque that has the graves of several eunuch gurus and is believed to be of the Lodhi period. Fakrul masjid in Kashmere Gate was built by Fakrunessa, wife of the Commander of Agra Fort in Aurangzeb's regime. He died in Kandahar during a battle with the Persians. The mosque was repaired by Col. Skinner and is also known as Sikandar Sahib's masjid

    Then there's a Babari Masjid in Palam village built by Ghazanfar, a nobleman of Babar's time, in 1528. Besides the famous mosques of the Red Fort and the Zeenat Masjid built by Aurangzeb's daughter in Daryaganj (used by the British as a bakery in 1857), there are at least four or five Sunheri masjids or golden mosques, the most famous of which was built by Roshan-ud-daulah for his pir in 1821 at Chandni Chowk and from which Nadir Shah ordered the massacre of Delhi in 1739

    Another famous Sunheri Masjid is near the Red Fort which owes its inception to Qudsia Begum, wife of Mohd. Shah. Some other masjids with unusual names are: Daiwali (midwife's) mosque at Tehra Bairam Khan (1653-54), Beriwala (plum mosque) in Netaji Marg, dated 1635, Burhiya-ki-masjid (old woman's mosque) built in the late Mughal period and situated in Mori Gate. Baghwali Masjid, also of the same time, is in Pandara Road. The Chini-ka-Burj is an unusual, oblong mosque in Nizamuddin basti and is dated 1550-60 (Sher Shah's time). Then we have Pankha-wali masjid (Lodhi period) in DDA Park, Mehrauli. Tofhewali Masjid (one that gives gifts) is of the Khilji period in Shahpur Jat village, but now in ruins. The Kutcha Tihar mosque (now modernised) is said to have been frequented by strangler thugs. Unchhi Masjid (there are several) have the prayer chambers on the top storey of the building. Jinnon-ki-Masjid in Kotla Ferozeshah is haunted by djinns, who shower favours on Thursdays

    In front of Parliament House is a mosque near which the former President, Faqruddin Ali Ahmed, is buried. It was here that Hasrat Mohani, the poet who wrote “Chupke Chupke”, lived during the freedom struggle. Behind Parliament House is Rakabganj Masjid, also known as Jungle Shah's mosque, as a Sufi lived in it when the place was a wilderness of Raisina Hill in pre-British times. It is dated as “Late Mughal” and its name reminds one of the Church of St. John in the wilderness near Macleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, where the Viceroy, Lord Elgin, was buried. The church is now closed to worship but not the redesigned mosque.

    30 April 2012, Hindu


    Aravali rehab proposal ruse to restart mining?

    New Delhi: Miners who ravaged the Aravalis in Faridabad distict till May 2009 want to resume small-scale mining in the garb of “rehabilitation” of deep pits. In a submission to the government, their consultants have proposed to create “benches” around the pits to

    facilitate afforestation – and sell the mining material generated in the process.The Indian Bureau of Mines, a statutory body under the ministry of mines, in its November 2011 report mentions that consultants engaged by the miners for rehabilitation of the pits have proposed that the waste material generated in creation of benches and trenches could be “utilized in construction activities as construction material”.

    “Benches” are flat niches created on steep slopes (of the pit) where trees can be planted.


    Miners submit proposal to create benches around deep pits. Say waste material generated could be used for construction Indian Bureau of Mines opposes plan, says waste could be used to fill shallow dry barren pits 14 wet pits and most of the 17 dry pits to be rehabilitated ‘No one to keep eye on Aravali’ New Delhi: Miners once again want to resume smallscale mining in theAravali region in the garb of ‘rehabilitation’ of deep pits.

    Shooting down the proposal, IBM has recommended that the waste generated during formation of benches be used for backfilling of shallow dry barren pits, followed by plantation. According to sources in Haryana government, huge mining material can be generated while creating benches.

    As per the plan, 14 wet pits and most of the 17 dry pits would be rehabilitated. In all these cases, benches would be made since these pits have steep slopes. Flowering and fruit-bearing shrubs and trees would be planted for stabilization of the rocks.

    Though the miners and the Haryana mining department agreed recently on the size of benches to be created (8X8 metres) at a meeting held with the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF), questions are being raised on who would monitor the rehabilitation.

    “Who will ensure that the expensive mined material is not transported out of the lease area? What is the need of creating benches in most of the dry pits? These have been stabilized and plants have come up,” said a government official who did not wish to be named.

    30 April 2012, Times of India


    India to pump in 2 lakh cr in 12th Plan to save climate

    New Delhi: The fight against climate change will take a strategic jump in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-2017) with the government intending to plough in almost Rs 2 lakh crore through the various missions, the working group on climate of the 12th Five-Year Plan has said.

    The report seeks setting up of a dedicated structure of governance to oversee the different programmes under the 12th Plan with such large funds to be invested. The agriculture mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change alone is to spend upwards of Rs 1 lakh crore over five years to make the primary sector more resilient to inevitable changes in climate change. The report pointed out that the government already spends 2.8% of its GDP on programmes that bring adaptation benefits to people.

    But the expert group, headed by K Kasturirangan, which wrote the report, has warned that government should not make any further commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions without holding the widest possible consultations with ministries concerned and other stakeholders. It has asked for an inter-ministerial group to be set up to draw up strategy as the issue envelops large investment as well as strategic concerns.

    The government had earlier committed internationally to reduce energy intensity of the country’s economy by 20-25% below 2005 levels by 2020, which the panel noted would entail huge costs for the country. The report said the total funding requirements could add up to several billion dollars and unless funds were provided by the international community, these actions were likely to have adverse impact on the country’s growth and poverty eradication measures because of demands of expenditure on health, education, livelihood, security and diversion of resources from core issues to climate change.

    But the existing commitments made under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, such as the Solar Mission and the Green India Mission, already need substantial funding over the 12th Plan. The Green India Mission will require Rs 46,000 crore in 12th and 13th Plans. The National Mission for Himalayas requires Rs 1,500 crore and the National Water Mission requires Rs 8,900 crore by the end of the 12th Plan.

    The report has recommended that a separate national authority be set up for implementing the mitigation actions that would implement the domestic and international commitments made to reduce emissions and find adequate funds through all routes.

    The report of the sub-group, submitted at the end of 2011, has been with the Planning Commission for long with the environment ministry — the nodal agency for climate change within the government — also in the dark about the final version of recommendations that the plan panel is preparing.

    30 April 2012, Times of India


    Jungle all the way


    In June last year, Prof N H Ravindranath of the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) Bangalore began observing an alarming trend in Karnataka's forests. In the Uttara Kannada district, the total area under forest cover, (7,84,000 hectares in 2001) had dropped to 7,82,000 in 2007. Even in Shimoga, a similar trend seemed to cause worry as forest cover dropped from 4,44,000 hectares to 4,40,000 in the same period. While a loss of 2,000 or even 4,000 hectares - when considered in relative terms - may not seem to be much cause of worry to the layman, the reality of the situation isn't as simple. In fact, these losses pointed to farreaching consequences - that of climate change, which was projected to do away with more than 30 percent of the nation's forests by 2030.

    As Prof B Mohan Kumar, Associate Dean, College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) rightly points out, the Government of India was blessed with foresight, to ensure that Forestry be taught as a university subject as early as the mid-80s, until which time, the course was dealt with, only as an in-service subject. No sooner was this announcement made, the nation - and the South in particular - began to see a mushrooming of quality institutes, affiliated to several well-recognised universities. The Thrissur-based College of Forestry was one among them. Established in 1986, the university has till date, imparted quality education in forestry in the undergraduate and post-graduate level. "There is a depletion in forest resources and a great demand to address this problem," says Kumar.
    An under-graduate programme (BSc) in Forestry is generally a four-year course. "Ours is an Honours course, which throws light on several core areas of forestry, including silviculture, agro-forestry, wood sciences and forest management." One of the major talking points of any life sciences programme is the wide range of skills that a student acquires. The same can be said of forestry. "The student learns the A to Z of forests, which includes several life-science topics like genetics, taxonomy and plant breeding, before moving on to practical applications of these concepts," explains Prof P Durairasu, IFS, Dean of the Forest College and Research Institute Mettupalayam, which is affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). He continues, "In fact, as opposed to courses like biotechnology, forestry hasn't quite received as much attention and thus isn't met with as much enthusiasm from students who plan a career in life sciences." The Forest College and Research Institute currently boasts of a studentstrength of 40 - twice as much as the number when the college began in 1985. Interestingly, the college also holds the national record for most number of students to have cracked the Indian Forest Service exams (108).

    What are the jobs that students can expect on completion? According to Kumar, employment prospects for students are more than impressive with 45 percent of undergraduate students at the College of Forestry, landing jobs in the Kerala State Forest Department. "An average of four to five students of our college also clear the IFS exams every year," he says. On the topic of IFS, given the technical nature of the syllabus, students of Forestry are better equipped before they give IFS, feels Chennai-based career consultant Kalavathi Amarachelvam. "Most students who complete their MSc degrees in the subject have the right know-how to crack these exams," she says, "Apart from the fact that the civil services are a prestigious affair, the rewarding government jobs that a student secures on completion, speaks volumes of the appeal that courses like Forestry enjoy." Even Kumar is quick to point out that job security is a major factor in attracting students to the course. However, it isn't employment in forest departments alone that allure students to the course. "A good number of students find placement in nationalized banks too," says Durairasu.

    Perhaps one of the few BSc programmes to conduct endurance tests to test physical stamina, Forestry demands the very best of physical endurance from its students. "We check stamina and also have a cut-off for physical attributes like a student's height for instance," says Kumar, "The students spend an entire semester in the forest and this demands the very best in terms of physical fitness," adds Durarirasu. These rigorous demands could well be the reason why Forestry, since its inception in 1985, has seen more demand from male students. "The women prefer to take courses like Plant Biotechnology which don't necessitate that they engage themselves physically," says Kalavathi. "But that is slowly changing," points out Kumar, "Thirtyfive percent of our students are women." Interestingly, the IFS topper this year, R Keerthi, a woman student is also from the College of Forestry.

    "Specialisation plays an invaluable role in the growth of Forestry as a course," says Dr C Sekhar, Professor and Head, Department of Forest Resource Management, TNAU. "We earlier offered MSc degrees without specialization. However, owing to a growing need to be an expert in a certain field in forestry, we have begun to offer course specializations like MSc Forestry (Wood Sciences) or MSc Forestry (Agro-Forestry)," he says. TNAU has also introduced an MBA in Forest Management - a first-of-itskind programme in India, which starts this year.

    30 April 2012, Times of India