Picture courtesy : Wikipedia
Circa October 1998 : Winter was here. For a school going kid like me, a 5th grader, chilly weather of October in my hometown was bliss. Winters would give enough reason to settle myself in the razai (read quilt) for some more time to enjoy the morning chill in my own way by sleeping more 😛 Getting up early was never heard of in those days and I would wake up just in time to get ready to go to school.
School was not following semester system then and it was more of a yearly evaluation with mid term exams during month of October. I was quite a bright student at academics, so passing exams was not a real struggle as such, it was more of doing the needful to get through the formalities. More so, because October 98, during the Dussehra vacation after the exams got over, my parents had planned a South India trip of 10 days covering all the major historical places.Instead of Looking forward, it was more of Eagerly awaiting 🙂
History fascinated me big time and more so I was curious about stories related to Indian kings and off course their queens 😛 , the grandeur, the opulence, changing dynamics of Raja & Praja, altogether a different perspective to leading life in those times. In 7th Century, there was a king by the name Harsha (Harshavardhana), my namesake. He ruled whole of North India and was a notable patron of Nalanda, a renowned centre of learning. This king along with other erstwhile royal kings captivated me. Gupta empire(some historians regarded Gupta empire between 4th to 6th century CE as Golden Age of India) under whose reign, India made giant strides in science, technology, engineering, art, literature,innovation, mathematics among others.After fall of this empire, there was some sort of turmoil. North India consisted of small republics and monarch states. That’s when Harsha united all the republics and in April 606, their representatives crowned him a title of Maharaja, King of Kings. Eventually, Harsha was defeated by Pulakeshin, a South Indian emperor of Chalukya dynasty.
When it comes to temples, and I am on temple-visiting spree, I term it as Temple Run for Fun. Because there is fun while learning something new when I visit temples, apart from a sense of peace, calmness and religious reasons one visits.Temples in Tamil Nadu along with my home state Karnataka among others have one of the best temples in South India. There is Hampi-focal point of the Vijayanagara Empire, Belur-Halebidu depicting Hoysala architecture,Chalukya’s marvellous Badami-Aihole-Pattadakal, Dharmasthala Manjunatha, Kukke Shree Subramanya, Kollur Mookambika, Udupi Shree Krishna temple in Karnataka among many other fascinating temples including 16th century Marikamba temple of Sirsi known for it’s now extinct Kaavi Art. In Tamil Nadu, just like Karnataka & Kerala, elaborate architecture and spellbinding beautiful scriptures at temples keeps one hypnotized. One such prominent temples is 11th century Brihadisvara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the temple town of Thanjavur. It is one of the largest and most visited temples in South India and is a prime example which depicts Dravidian architecture.
The main temple comprising the sanctum sanctorum, massive gopura (entrance tower), inscriptions and scriptures, houses one of the largest nandis, adorned with frescoes(a technique of mural painting) and the entire original monuments was built around a moat. It speaks a great deal about stories of glorious past. The main deity,Shiva is in the form of linga, HIS abstract representation. It is one of the largest monolithic linga sculptures in India.
We arrived in Thanjavur, along with group of around 40 people, our family friends and acquaintances to explore this engineering marvel. Absolute goosebumps!! Our trip organizer had arranged a guide to understand these megalithic monuments better. And as we were wandering around wondering, how on earth can this be done with such finesse and detailing, I hit the jackpot 🙂 Any guesses? Come on, make a wild guess. Pass? Anyways, Read on..
Our guide, who I suppose was from tourism department of TN State government was a humble chap with wealth of knowledge about the temple. It was his job, day in and day out, throwing light on the intricacies and the minute details of geniuses of bygone era. As he was explaining the dynasty and kings who commissioned this work, he mentioned Chola dynasty which is the longest ruling dynasties in world history. As he was about to say further and appreciate the prowess of the king who built this temple, I intervened and mentioned Raja Raja Chola much to the attention and prying eyes of the whole gang. The guide was amazed seeing my powers 😛 How come a tiny, skinny kid could know this at his age ? He was peeping at me between his lectures and after a brief interlude, he came up to me and granted me a brand new ₹ 5 note. It was such a great gesture, as back then it was a significant portion of his day’s earnings and I along with my dad was stoked and startled at the same time. We appreciated his kindness and politely declined his great gesture. In the end, he smiled and we moved on sharing pleasantries.
Back then, this small incident made my day and it still lingers on my mind as a passing thought which makes me wonder, indeed we are so much fortunate for all the goodness life has to offer. So it’s important to seize the day, one at a time 🙂
P.S: Point to be noted-To revisit a personal diary I had written back then, my first tryst with writing, reminiscing the amazing tour of South India and lessons learnt along the way 🙂
Until then, Be Good, Do Good & Keep Smiling 🙂