Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
In the process of following their faith, they founded a pattern of religious iconography that lasted centuries beyond the demise of their dynasty. Beginning with the Magadhan Empire, iconography depicting Vishnu spread through India leaving behind an incredible archaeological trail, much of which exists even today.
The stories about the incarnations of Vishnu had their origins in religious texts. The Satapatha Brahmana, to take one example, told the tale of the Vaman incarnation, in which Vishnu appears in the form of a dwarf to solve a dispute between the mythological devas and asuras. The asuras agree to concede land equal to the size of a dwarf and the dwarf, Vaman is made to lie down to take his measure. He grows and grows in size to equal the entire earth which is then passed onto the devas. It is stories like this – told via oral traditions and in epics such as Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda (written around 1200 AD) – that grew the legend around the incarnations of Vishnu over time.
And adding a physical and larger-than-life presence to the stories were the rock cuts created in their wake. Foremost among these is the Dashavatara temple at Deogarh, in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district where a startlingly clear panel depicts Vishnu lying in the folds of Sheshnag. An hour’s drive through a forest range road of the British era brings a person up close with another awesome sight. This is in on the outskirts of a village called Dudhai where a gigantic 42-feet high Narasimha (half man and half lion) has been carved out of a sheer rock. Embedded into a hill, it has stood for one and a half millennia.
Another depiction that was widely enshrined was that of the Varaha or wild boar. As epics have it, the boar incarnation appeared during the churning of the sea for nectar. When the earth began to sink into the water, it was the boar that saved it. The Varaha has been depicted in various places: standing on two legs in a gaint size at Udaygiri, in smaller form on temple remains at Chandpur and Gyaraspur and again in gigantic form - on four legs this time - at an untouched heritage site at Eran, in MP's Sagar district.
Have you ever come across such an iconic depiction of Vishnu?
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Having said that Ajmer's heart is essentially the same, I would like to add that its peripheral parts have been dynamic over time. There are more vehicles on the road, many driven by women - something that would have been regarded as unusual in the late 1980s. Road connectivity is impressive - the National Highway from Jaipur gets you to the city in under three hours. Industry has arrived in the town and employment is being generated locally.
Education, though seems to have declined. The city used to have a reputation of being an education hub - this is something that has not kept up with the times and is in decline. The mantle of being Rajasthan's educational hub seems to have firmly shifted to Kota, albeit as a coaching centre. Institutions like St. Anslems - my old school - seem like stragglers from a different era.
The buildings remain as marvellous as ever. The church in my old school has had a fresh coat of paint on its Gothic exterior and is better for it. The Dargah - whose spaces have become more commercialized than ever before - looks fairly chaotic, though the upkeep of the buildings within is excellent. The Adhai-din-ka-jhopra is in great shape, its arches still glowing when the rays of the rising sun fall on them. It is interesting that while most 'modern' things in Ajmer have changed, the charm of the old buildings is still intact.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Wandering through the city's churches, a visitor would come across painted glass windows, interesting inscriptions from British days some of which date back to the period of Company rule and stone tablets speaking of bishops over whom the grass has grown long. Exploring mysterious looking bell towers, forgotten churchyards and old tombs of European mercenaries built in the Mughal style of that day and age would leave him wondering if he is indeed in close proximity to the Taj or has been transported to a different world.
Be it the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception - the seat of the Catholic Church in the city, the Church of St. John in the Wilderness at Sikandra - also known as the Mission Church or St. George's Cathedral near Sadar, each church captures within its walls a bit of India's history and a bit that has remained hitherto unexplored. And the most interesting of all is a tiny shrine that has weathered many a storm - called 'Akbar's Church' it speaks volumes for the tolerance of that Emperor's reign. The original church was burnt down in the mid-18th century and the current structure built in 1772, which still makes it a historical monument. Watch this blog to know more about the Churches.
Note: The picture given is of St. Paul's Church.