A Treat Unexpected At Swamimalai (K3)

To me the word ‘Resort’ conjures up images of a row of cabins laid out around a pool, some trees and lawns thrown in, some play gear and a sand pit for children, etc. etc.

So when last week we set to Swamimalai near Kumbakonam to attend my niece’s wedding, a two-day event, I was too jaded to have any real expectations as we checked into this resort. In fact it caused me a little concern to learn it is an acclaimed, award winning hotel providing authentic living experience of bygone years – too authentic? As was in those days, did it also include hurrying all the way to nearest ‘nature’ with a bucket of water in hand to attend to its ‘call’, keeping eyes and ears open for curious small animals from the bushes sniffing around?

My concerns were grossly unjust – the accommodation was both comfortable, with all of the ‘atmosphere’ it is credited and a lot more! An experience I would love living through once again!

This was our ‘room’!

Looks exactly like our house in the village did some fifty plus years ago. In fact it’s an old dwelling in the village of Thimmakudy, acquired and renovated, preserving its original aspects as far as possible, thanks to the initiative of a ‘possessed’ individual! The door opens into a fairly large sized room with beds, chairs, tables of the kind one had seen if ever only in ancestral homes, complemented by a noiseless AC, a colour TV, a rotary-dial phone and a geyser in the bathroom.

It’s the same with every structure – residences, pathways, courtyards, halls – in the resort as seen here:

(main reception)

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As you walk along, every now and then, you’re accosted…..by an icon, often full sized, in metal, terracotta…that you cant get tired of!

(a man of village)

(a woman of village)

(a village god)

(villager with bananas)

(Bhairava, a form of Shiva?)

(Lord Muruga, the presiding deity of Swamimalai, in bronze)

(Soorya, the sun god, in his chariot pulled by seven horses)

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Walls adorned with large and beautiful pictures and frescoes painted by local talent using natural colors:

(Thiruvikrama, an avatar of Vishnu, his feet on the head of Maha Bali)

(Shiva)

(a marriage scene from Mahabharata?)

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This is not all. What puts this resort in a class of its own, to follow!

End of Part 1

The Exquisite And The Unusual At Brihathiswara Temple, Thanjavoor (K2)

This living temple, most written about, most visited, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest Shiva temples (Brihat in Sanskrit means ‘large’) in the south, constructed by Raja Raja Chozha between 1003 and 1010 AD. Later day enhancements came from Pandya, Nayaka, Vijayanagara and Maratha era, before the colonial era kicked in

A spectrum of Hindu temple styles continued to develop from the 5th to the 9th century over the Chalukya era rule as evidenced in AiholeBadami and Pattadakal, and then with the Pallava era as witnessed at Mamallapuram and other monuments. Thereafter, between 850 and 1280 CE, Chozha emerged as the dominant dynasty [Wiki]. This temple is a proud showcase for Chozha’s engineering and artistic skills in terms of the structures they built embellished with sculptures, murals and frescoes.

Everything about this temple is big – two-story-high Shiva-Lingam (the main deity), 25-ton-monolithic Nandi (the bull), some 60-ton-heavy dome placed on top of the main gopuram (how did they manage to get it up there and hold it in place without the structure underneath collapsing??) that, owing to its special geometry,

throws its shadow on itself and not on the ground (!) at all times of the day, the huge circumambulatory structures…and so are its myths too.

Ours was a short visit of about 90 minutes . And in no way does justice to this treasure that must be pursued at a pace with no reference to the clock, savoring its beauty in every nibble. For us the shrines were closed either for repairs or it was off-hours. The impressions here are collected during a quick round of the peripheral structures.

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A celestial being in reverential attendance – legs do not seem human like.

A richly caparisoned elephant. Zoom in to see the details including the chain girdle.

A four-armed devotee in this wall-painting, obviously a celestial being. Look, he has removed his crown while worshiping Shiva!

The beautiful bower motif, again. The damsel bending her leg back to strike a gracefully coquettish pose:

Here’s a dancer in an uncommon and vigorous arms-up pose:

You thought it’s someone licking off an a ice-cream cone? It’s a boothagana blowing a conch or some wind instrument:

Lord Muruga on his peacock mount with his two consorts – observe the sharpness of the lines in the rich details:

Here’s the vasthra-apaharana episode from the lore of Krishna – there are a few more Vaishnavite themed pieces in an essentially Shaivite temple:

Vishnu offering his sister in marriage to Shiva. Notice the plantain tree brought in for the auspicious occasion:

Amazing symmetry in placement and variety in design of the fluted columns:

What is this person doing up there?

Perhaps a marriage scene? Look at the rishi’s, the deva’s and the kings showering flower petals from above on Shiva (and his consort) – zoom in to see the details:

Here’s an elaborate floral pattern stretching seamlessly across more than one block of stone! For a moment, dont be distracted by the ugly cable running on one side:-((

At places, the blocks of stones are stacked up well without gaps or fillers despite their irregular edges that do not appear straight and horizontal or vertical!

And finally, contribution from visitors (the vandals) could not leave things alone:-((( They appear written over murals at number of places. May them rot in…

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Damsels Showing Off At Srimushnam (K1)

At Bhu Varaha Swamy temple – referred to in Chola inscriptions of 11th century, later enhanced by kings of various dynasties of whom notable is Achuthappa Nayak (1560 – 1614 AD).

Wonder what is adorning her fore-arm! Quite unusually the dame does not seem to cover her modesty.

Look at her braids tied up by a kunjalam at the tip. Also her elaborate waist band!

The bower motif is a favorite of Nayak artists.

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Musicians and dancers reveling:

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On the way to Srimushnam:

Nice roads.

A typical village house, now a local office of some kind.

Another view of the quaint looking house.

And before us is…

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This temple with its rituals and practices serves as a shining example of religious amity between communities – muslims welcomed and honored for their participation!.

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Life’s Poem And Prose

Video here.

Poem: This bird has just discovered that golf balls bounce on concrete and he’s absolutely loving it.

Prose: This bird has just found a ‘nut’ and he’s trying to break it open.

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Times Are Such…(50 Words)

So rude of the fellow. I ask him the time of the day. He just rushes past like he did not hear or see me. Well, the feud has to wait for another day. The honks are deafening – have to get to the other side before it turns green.

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Can You Get Tired Of These Melodies?

‘Tumhi Mere Meet Ho Tumhi Meri Preet’ from Pyase Panchhi (1961) sung by Hemant Kumar and Suman Kalyanpur (also features Lata Mangeshkar, Muhammad Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Mukesh, Shamshad Begum, Manna Dey and Balbir!!) Cast: Mehmood, Ameeta, Jeevan, David, Agha, Naranjan Sharma, Malika and Leela Mishra. Music: Kalayanji-Anandji. Lyricist: Indeevar, Qamar. Director: Harsukh Bhatt.

Video here.

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‘Dil Ki Nazar’ in Anari (1959) sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Actors: Raj Kapoor, Nutan, Nazir Hussain, Lalita Pawar, Motilal, Shubha Khote, Mukri and Helen. Music: Shankar Jaikishen. Lyrics: Shailendra.

Video here.

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‘Gham Ka Fasana Ban Gaya Acha’ from Manchali (1973) sung by Kishore Kumar and Leena C. Cast:  Sanjeev Kumar, Leena Chandavarkar, Nazima and Nirupa Roy. Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Lyrics: Anand Bakshi. Director: Raja Nawathe.

Video here.

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‘Kaii Baar Yun Bhi Dekha Hai’ from Rajnigandha (1974) sung by Mukesh. Cast: Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha. Music: Salil Chowdhury. Lyrics: Yogesh. Director: Basu Chatterjee.

Video here.

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We Did It….Well, Almost

Not many days to go.

When the contractor doing the interiors handed over, it was a flat, small at some 600 to 700 square feet, with nothing but bare walls, smelling of fresh paint.  

Got down to work right away – it was a race against time.

We began with an AC for the bedroom.

Should we get it from Satya at Luz or from Ratna at Panangal Park, both highly recommended.  Brand: Blue Star, Samsung, LG, Whirlpool or…? Capacity: Would one ton suffice or to be safe….Type: Split or window mounted? Power consumption: Two-star rated or three? Color: Would purple go with the rest of the decor?

And then followed, with choices galore, Washing Machine, Fridge, Double Bed with accessories, Couch for guests, Water Purifier, Food Processor and Rice Cooker.

With a kind S-I-L helpfully loaning a few essentials, you can well see, many items were still left out like a second AC, Dining Table, TV, Chairs, Curtains, Ironing Table, kitchen utensils….for want of time, money and energy.

Then came the ‘C’ items: mops, brooms, wash-room accessories and supplies, door mats and a few other zillion things (oxymoron? don’t mind it, pls) one could not live without.

All ordered in suitable models and options after visiting multiple shops for choice, suppliers chased for delivery and installation, by a couple of slow-moving, energy-strapped and flightless old birds, largely relying on public transport in an unfamiliar geography!

If this wasn’t DECISION FATIGUE in all glory…all to get that small space up and live-able with a few basic amenities. If I’m may be allowed a bit of exaggeration, it seemed I made more decisions in those few days than in all my years of professional career. Though there was one important mitigating factor: My experience with systems had taught me not to try optimizing to the fullest a design/plan along all its dimensions at once. In this instance it helped us not pushing hard the price ‘needle’, of course within reasonable limits.

We moved in, all set to receive them at the new place:

Day -3: All packing material, cartons carted away. Food and milk supply services arranged.

Day -1: Everything in its appointed place, working and checked. The bedroom attached toilet was a designated ‘dry’ zone for their use. The wet and paperless second toilet was for us. The mosquitoes were denied entry mercifully by the nets on the windows. The fridge stocked up.

All items on the check-list ticked. We slept peacefully.

Day 1: Daybreak.  No problems there.

10 am: The Moment – the kids arrived.

11 am: Everything going swimmingly. Nothing amiss. Deservedly congratulating ourselves.

02-35 pm: Some commotion in front of the bedroom toilet door

02-36 am: I reach the spot. My daughter seen here, there, everywhere.

02-37 am: She to me: ‘Appa, I can’t find – where have you kept it? S is in there. Need the toilet tissue.’

02-38 am: Oh sh#t, am out thru the front door.

…After all is done and said, I haven’t thrown out of the window as yet the sneaky thought of offering it all as a packaged service to many others out there similarly placed and needing help, this time tissue paper thrown in good measure:-)

End