Monday, 22 December 2014

Ayyanars - Village Guardians

We've travelled from Bangalore to Coimbatore frequently  in the past two years. Small villages go by in a flash but I've noticed large masonry forms of fearsome looking men on the outskirts of villages.
These massive figures are the Aiyanar or village gods. They are the guardians of the village.
The Ayyanar figures are flanked by figures of dogs and horses. The horses transport the Ayyanars  around the village at night. This shrine is right beside the six lane highway in Toppur.

To give you an idea of the scale of these Ayyanar figures, you can catch a glimpse of a man between the figure of the horse and the pedestal on which the Ayyanar is seated.
Board on the side of a temple.
Ayyanar shrines are built on the outskirts of the village usually in a small grove of trees.
Each set of Ayyangar statues is unique. They are created by the village potter who also doubles as the officiating priest for the pujas conducted.
These Ayyanar have beards in addition to mustaches and luxuriant hair which grows past their shoulders. Bits of mirror used to highlight the jewellery and other adornments.
Here's one more picture to understand the scale  of these Ayyanar figures.

This Ayyanar shrine is more of a temple. The profile of Karuppasamy is just about discernable in the centre. Behind the statue is draped a piece of cloth and arranged on three sides are a mix of mythical beings and ordinary folk or devotees. Can you spot the snake charmer?
Weathered figures of guardians in need of a lick of paint. 
Women devotees dressed in the manner contemporary women dress, with flowers in their hair carrying offerings of fruit and a pot of water and on the opposite side are larger than life seated figures with swords in one hand wearing clothes and ornaments from another era. Have you noticed the potter has made each of them just a bit different - they have individual facial features. Was that intentional I wonder.
Outside the shrine is this large figure in mid stride carrying a club accompanied by a dog. The elephant being led by a man is the first I've seen. Quite unusual.
The other thing I've noticed is that most Ayyanar shrines are located under or near one or two neem trees. Which begs the question which came first the trees or the shrine? I wonder and why the neem tree?
Most of these shrines are deserted must see if I can visit one when a puja is on or when there are people there worshipping so I can get answers for all the questions I have.  

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Bringing in the catch - Bandar Beach


 Photographed one cloudy afternoon on Bandar beach, Andhra Pradesh with my Samsung S4.

Tiny dots on the horizon turned into humming fishing boats manned by a crew of five or six. Once the boat was past the breakers, the outboard motors were turned off and hauled on board. The crew jumped into the surf and pushed the boats down the beach. There must be a settlement further down the beach.

They kept coming. Must have seen over fifteen and they continued I presume long after I left.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Noodle Carts of Vijayawada

Carts selling spicy Indian Chinese food are a common sight on the streets of Vijayawada. Vegetable and chicken fried rice, noodles and the much loved manchuri are on offer. 

A noodle cart doing brisk business at a busy intersection in Vijayawada. 

Jai Hanuman noodle cart.
Chinese man teaching dragons table manners? on the front of Jai Hanuman noodle cart. The dragon holding up a dried branch is my favourite.There's a different scene painted on each cart. 
The B. Joshua noodle cart has a couple of Chinese men feeding their pet dragon/dinosaur noodles.
I can't read Telegu and initially thought the number 36 was the price of a plate of noodles but discovered later it was an identification number along with the address.
Arisitc interpretations of the dragon. The dragon on the Jai Hanuman noodle cart (L) and the dragon on B. Joshua noodle cart (R).
The B. Joshua noodle cart (above) and most other noodle carts open for business by five in the evening.They arrive with boiled noodles and chicken, chopped cabbage,carrot and other assorted vegetables along with trays of eggs. A gas cylinder and stove, a large iron wok and bottles of soya sauce, chilli sauce and tomato ketchup and you're ready to do business.
 Every street corner has a noodle cart doing brisk business. They come equipped with a couple of plastic stools for patrons to sit on and enjoy their Chinese meal or you can get your order packed to take away.

I'd love to meet the artists who paint these dragons and try to discover where they derive the images which decorate these noodle carts.
Have you come across such wacky wonderful pieces of popular art on the streets of your neighbourhood? I love to hear about them and perhaps get to see them at some point in time.

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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sunflowers for the Summer Solistice

To celebrate the Summer Solistice and the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere I've decided to post pictures of sunflowers which I photographed last week.
Between Hangala and Gundulpet are fields of sunflowers on either side of the road.
 Technically summer has given way to the monsoon season in India and fields of nodding cheerful sunflowers makes the drive so much more special.
 A field of these bright cheerful flowers are sure to inspire most people, it certainly inspired Van Gogh.
 Cultivated for their seeds these sunflowers are the source of sunflower oil.
Enjoy the summerand all that it has to offer you.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Colour Purple

Am I the only one who's noticed this phenomena or have you noticed it too?
In the past decade or so more and more people have taken to painting their houses and business establishment in bright colours. 
This penchant for bright colours stems from the need to stand out I would think, after all there's 1.2 billion of us jostling for attention. More than ever before, the burgeoning  middle classes are becoming proud, first time home owners and a distinctive exterior colour for their new home makes a statement. Besides, visitors won't have to bother with GPS they would just have to look for the purple house with orange and green trim. 

Could the need to be unique be the only reason? Asking around I was told these bright colours were Vastu colours. Of these vastu colours I'm partial to purple because it doesn't feature prominently in the Indian art and culture colour palette with the exception of Indian sarees be it Kanchipuram, Ilkal and Benares to name a few.
According to Vastu, purple inspires respect whereas this interesting infographic of colours and their significance around the world says purple in India denotes sorrow,comfort and nobility.
In the past if purple was not visible was it the preserve of only the wealthy because it was expensive to create? I know with natural dyes fabric or yarn would have to be dyed twice - with indigo and then with madder to achieve a deep rich colour like the colour of the jamun fruit. A beautiful colour but no match for the brilliance and intensity of  the purples which chemical dyes and paints could produce.
Vastu and the building boom has taken Egg Plant Delite, Velvet Night, Dark Triumph, Intense Purple and Orchid Bloom from merely existing in an Asian Paints shade card and unleashed them on the landscape along with a hundred different bright colours.

Purple spotting has become one of my pet projects.Purple pops up in unexpected places like this freshly painted house glimpsed while driving along a back road in the Nilgiris.
 Before the mist shrouds these purple beauties.  
If you have to make a statement and you want to stand out purple wins hand down. Not limited to paint, purple has caught the imagination of the people with this song Oodha colour ribbon from the Tamil movie Varutha Padatha Valibar Sangam.
Have you spotted purple recently? what was it? I'm curious.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Carved doors of Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town, Zanzibar was built in the 1830's when the archipelago was under the rule of the Sultan of Oman.
19th century Stone Town flourished as a trading hub which specialised in spices and slaves. the thriving commerce attracted bussiness communities  from Persia, Oman and India.
A large Indian community in the business of trade continues to make Stone Town their home.
Narrow alleyways criss-cross Stone Town and in this maze are shops, houses, bazaars and mosques. The alleys are so narrow that only bicycles and scooters can be used to traverse them and the buildings on either side rise up two floors or more and have been built cheek by jowl with the establishment next door. Walking down an alley one perceives a continous expanse of masonry on either side punctuated at irregular intervals with barred and shuttered windows and the most magnificent carved wooden doors. The upper floors of the houses probably have views of the sea if they are on the periphery of Stone Town.  
The doors of this Unesco World heritage site are simply remarkable. There are two types of doors. The rectangular top Omani doors and the arched or rounded top of the Indian doors. The old doors and hanging balconies were carved by craftsmen from the Indian sub continent.
 Heavy old doors intricately carved but many are in a state of disrepair.
 The stylised lotus motif symbolising prosperity is a recurring motif on these carved doors.  
 The pointed brass studs on the doors are an Indian feature. In India, the studs were an important design element which prevented elephants from ramming down the doors of palaces and fortifications. Stone Town is not likely to have an elephant amble down its alleyways but the brass studs have become a decorative element characteristic of the doors in Stone Town.
The blue door. The only painted door I came across.
The house of Tipu Tip (1837 - 1905) which is undergoing renovation. Tipu Tip was governor, clove plantation owner, explorer and a trader in ivory and slaves. His house has an underground channel which connects to the sea. This channel was used to bring in slaves to be hidden in his house and taken out under the cover of darkness to a slave ship which was ready to sail. Tipu Tip continued to trade in slaves after slavery was banned.  
 A magnificent example of carving. The stylised foliage is exceptional.
 Verses from the Koran are carved into some doors.
Stone Town was included on UNESCO's World Heritage sites in 2000.
An unusual door, different from the other doors. This door is squat and has a geometrical pattern of recessed rectangles and metal studs. No elaborately carved door jambs or lintel, with only a narrow floral strip in the centre.

Stone Town gets its name from the coral stone used in building the structures.History and traditions whether its European, Arab, African or Indian  have mingled to create a unique Zanzibarian culture.
Put Zanzibar on your list of places to visit.

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