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Poruvazhy Malanada Temple Festival

Peruviruthy Malanada or Malanada is the one and only Duryodhana Temple in South India. The annual festival at Malanada is known as “Malakkuda” (Mala means hill top the temple and Kuda means umbrella an ornamental one used by Oorali, the priest, during ceremonial occasions.). It is celebrated during the summer, during the second half of March every year

മാൻ‌ചേൽ മിഴിയാളേ ~ Kalyana sougandhikam Kathakali

മാൻ‌ചേൽ മിഴിയാളേ നിന്നാല്‍ വാഞ്ഛിതങ്ങളായീടുന്നോ-
രഞ്ചിതസൌെഗന്ധികങ്ങള്‍ അഞ്ചാതെകൊണ്ടന്നീടാം

Bhima, the son of wind god sets out in search of Kalyanasougandhikam, a rare flower as requested by his wife Panchali.

Kalyanasougandhikam, a chapter from the epic Mahabharata, depicting the travails of Bheema who goes in search of Sougandhika flowers at the behest of his beloved wife Panchali. On the way, he meets his half-brother Hanuman and the story unfolds in the unique dramatic style of Kathakali.

Posting here few moments from Kalyanasougandhikam Kathakali performed at Vyloppilly Sanskriti Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

Kathakali make up is an elaborate process lasting for many hours. It helps in giving a super human look to the actors. The make up of the male character is tedious and is directly applied to the face and it does not obstruct the full expression of face and eyes. All the colours used in the make-up are obtained from natural substances and herbs.

The richness of this classical dance is its magnificent mixture of colour, expression, music and drama that are unparalleled in any other art form.It is believed that Kathakali evolved from Ramanattam, a set of plays written by Kottarakkara Thampuran (erstwhile ruler of a province in Kerala) based on Ramayana.

എന്‍കണവാ കണ്ടാലും നീ…
എങ്കലൊരു കുസുമം…
നിന്‍ കരുണയുണ്ടെന്നാകില്‍ നിര്‍ണ്ണയമിനിയും മമ…
സംഗതി വരും ലഭിപ്പാന്‍ സരസ സൌഗന്ധികങ്ങള്‍…

Chamayavilakku ~ an offering to god where men dressed up as women

The Kottankulangara Chamayavilakku Festival is an annual Hindu festival in Kerala, India in which thousands of men dress as women to get the blessing of Devi to get fulfill their desires. The festival takes place at the Kottankulangara Devi Temple at Chavara near Kollam, which is sacred to the goddess Bhagavathy. Every year this festival is celebrated on the 10th and 11th day of the
Malayalam Month Meenam.

The deity of the Temple which is believed as ‘Swayam Bhoo'(Self Origin). This famous temple having no roof made for the sanctum sanctorum. On the festival day, boys and girls dress themselves as girls and ladies to hold the traditional temple lamp. The traditional temple lamp is made fitted on a long wooden rod and is having provision for five oil wick lamps.

The cross-dressing is part of traditional ritual festivities and at night devotees hold the lamps and walk in procession to the temple to the accompaniment of a traditional orchestra. The two day festival attracts thousands of devotees throughout the State. Believers from other States are also participating in this not so common ritual.

Kottankulangara, Chavara, Kerala, india

Talakad ~ temples buried under sand

Talakad (Talkad, Talakadu) knows as Dalavanapura and Gajaranya in sanskrit, was the capital of the Gangas, who ruled present Mysore, Mandya, Hassan, Bangalore and Kolar districts from the fourth to tenth centuary A.D. The Gangas were succeeded by the imperial Cholas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara and the Mysore Wodeyars.

It’s unbelievable that the historic site, Talakad once had over 30 temples that today are buried in sand. The old city Talakad is completely buried beneath the hills of sand stretching for nearly a mile in length, only the tops of two pagodas being visible. The sand hills used to advance upon the town at the rate of 9 or 10 feet a year, principally during the south-west monsoon and as they pressed it close on three sides.

Stone pillars and majestic carvings in the mandapa of Vydyanatheshwara temple.

The inhabitants of Talakad were constantly forced to abandon their houses and retreat further
inland. The town, however, is increasing in population, owing to the rich wet cultivation in the neighbourhood. More than thirty temples, it is stated, are beneath the sand, but the Kírti Narayana temlpe has been successfully excavated. The most imposing temple left uncovered by the sand is that of Vydyanatheshwara temple.

An interior  view of Vydyanatheshwara temple.

Ornate doorjamb and Dwarapalakas in relief in Vydyanatheshwara temple.

Dwarapalaka (door keeper) at the mantapa at Vaidyeshvara temple

The Kaveri river which flows in Talakad in four direction. The devotees of lord Shiva come here every year on a special day. Among the temples of Talakad, the Pathaleshwara, Maraleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheshwara and Mallikarjuna temples, the five Lingams believed to represent the five faces of Shiva, form the Pancha pathi and have become famous.In honour of these five Shiva temples, a fair is held once every 12 years called Panchalinga Darshana.

The circular shaped local bamboo boats (coracle) at the banks of the river Kaveri in Talakad. These boats are used by the local villagers to cross the river.

In Talakad the eastward flowing Kaveri river changes course and seems  magnificently vast as here the sand on its banks spreads over a wide area. Now Talakad is a scenic and spiritual pilgrimage center.

Talakadu, Karnataka, India

Abode of digambaras ~ infront of Bahubali

It was amazing to stand infront of the 57-feet tall magnificient monolithic statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali at Shravanbelagola. Gommateswara statue is considered as world’s largest monolithic stone statue. Every twelve years, thousands of devotees gather here to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is covered with milk, curds, ghee, saffron and gold coins. The next ceremony will take place in 2018.

Shravanabelagola town is a prominent center for Jain Art, Architecture, religion and culture for over 2,300 years. The largest number of Digamber jain Basadis in India is found at Shravanabelagola. This apart, largest number of rock inscriptions, concentrated at a single center is found here.|

“Shravanabelagola has two hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. Acharya Bhadrabahu and his pupil Chandragupta Maurya are believed to have meditated there.”

The giant monolith of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola.The 57-foot (17m) statue carved from a single piece of rock built in around 983 A.D and is one of the largest free standing statues in the world. This magnificient monolithic statue of Gommateshwara Bhagawan Bahubali was consecrated by Chavundaraya, the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief in the Talakad Ganga Kingdom.

One of the tallest free standing pillar at Shravanabelagola. Karnataka

The great emperor of Mouryan Dynasty Chandragupta Mourya has spent his last days in Shravanabelagola after becoming a follower of Jainism. His grandson Emperor Ashoka has built a basadi for him on Chadragiri hill in 3rd Century BC. There are more than 800 well preserved inscriptions dated between 6th and 19th century in Shravanabelagola.

Shravanabelagola, Channarayapatna , Hassan District, Karnataka, India

The look

It’s very interesting to see and meet people while travelling. I am always fascinated with their expressions and the way they deal with daily life. Here are some of the portraits taken during my wanderlust days in Karnataka.


Karnataka, India

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Dance of god

Theyyam is a traditional art form of Kerala which incorporates dance, music and enshrines the fundamentals of ancient tribal cultures which attached great importance to the worship of heroes and the spirits of ancestors.  The staging area of Theyyam is known as Kaavu. Theyyam is also performed at home (Tharavadu) and fields.

Theyyam’ performers belong to one of the Hindu communities (Malayan, Vannan, Velan etc.). Each individual caste has the right to perform certain deities and all performers must poses a wide range of extraordinary skills. They must know the ritual and character of every deity. They have the inherited right to perform, know-how to sing, dance with the drum, do the complicated make-up, costume style and character of each heroes and deities.

Through these series of photographs I am trying to say the story of “Kandanar Kelan Theyyam”. Legend is that Kandanar Kelan is a yesteryear warrior. While he was out hunting, the forest caught fire. He climbed a tree, which was the home of two snakes. Fire consumed the tree, snakes and Kandanar Kelan. Vayanattu Kulavan, the warrior god was passing by the burnt forest, saw  Kandanar Kelan in the ashes and gave back his life with his bow.  The theyyam is an embodiment of the Kandanar Kelan and how he shows his anger towards the fire for burning him up. The theyyam also has two snakes drawn on his chest that depict the snakes that perished with him in the fire.

I begin the series of photos with the Makeup of the Kandanar Kelan Theyyam performer.

The makeup regionally known as “Theyyam Kettal” is a long and painstaking affair. Make-ups are different for the body and face. Natural colours from sandalwood, camphor, turmeric, red sandalwood, lime, rice and rice flour are used to prepare the make-up.

The mid-stem of the blade of coconut leaf is used to brush the colours and it takes about three to four hours to complete the make up.

The first stage of the performance is known as ”Vellattam” which is a toned down version of the main theyyam…even the makeup will be simpler

The main highlight of the Kandanar Kelan Theyyam is “Agni Pravesham “, where the performer jumps over the burning fire, dancing and moving here and there rhythmically more than 15 times.

Fire is made by burning tamarind tree wood, dry coconut leaves are spread over it. The performer has all the anger and vigor while doing this role.  The performer is seen as god with intensive power and will be in a trance from devotion. There will be two people accompanying him while he does the performance.

This was the first time I captured a Theyyam performance. It was magnificent to say the least.  The performance starts at night around 7 pm and goes up to early morning. The “Agni Pravesham” or jumping above the fire of Kandanar Kelan Theyyam happens around 3 am… I was dumbstruck when I first saw the fire jumping, at first I forgot to press shutter of my camera as I was just lost in the moment and performance for a few seconds. Later wanted to make the best out of the performance by trying to capture the real essence within the constraints.

The low light is a major challenge that one faces while photographing Theyyam at night. All I bother was moment and henceforth for the “Agni Pravesham”  and dance of God, kept the camera settings with an ISO range from 250 to 500. I always photograph in manual mode and was using  my Canon 24-105mm f4L IS USM lense at the time of “Agni Pravesham”.
My Tamron 10-24mm Di II  and  Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM lenses helped me to photograph  the makeup session of Kandanar Kelan Theyyam.

Last 15 minutes of Kandanar Kelan Theyyam (Agni Pravesham time) was full of drama, emotion and spiritual. The loud noise by the devotee, the rhythmic music and dance all together lead me in a new level of experience and I felt the warmth of god.

Yes! I have seen the dance of God.

Kannur, Kerala, India