<Trip Report Aug 15> Kolhapur, Ratnagiri, Ganapatipule and beyond – A monsoon solo.

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#31 Dec 19th, 2015, 11:13
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#31
Thank you DC.

p.s. Nice avatar.
#32 Dec 19th, 2015, 16:44
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#32
Nice array of colors and crisp narration. Thanks for sharing.
#33 Dec 20th, 2015, 13:08
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#33

Inside Jyotiba temple kolhapur

I went up a short flight of stairs, to a raised pedestal, under a stone veranda that serves as protection from the elements. It had a wall on the left, a door at the far end and was open on the right side. I walked past the people sitting on my left as it was quite dark inside and I didn’t realize who they were.
It was only when I turned back that I saw that these three were priests with their backs to the wall, available to provide blessings to anyone who sought. On this dull rainy day there were precious few people.


The priests, surprisingly, didn’t ask for anything – they didn’t ask who I was, where I came from, or anything more personal – and I clearly do not look Maharashtrian. To top that I was carrying a large DSLR camera with a long lens and flash attached on top, camera bag on the shoulder. I smiled at them and they smiled back. We chit chatted a bit then and they were just happy, a bit shy even about the entire conversation.
The color of ‘gulaal’ (colored powder) was stunning though and the marigolds juxtaposed against it so perfectly. It was strewn over the yagya kund (place where fire is burnt to offer homage to the gods) and instead of samidha (wood used for ceremonial burning), there were flower petals inside. Something was off – a rounded rock on the right extreme – this part turned out to be the representation of the asura (demon) that jyotiba had slayed. This is said to be the eye of Ratnasur and the locals call is ‘Dantai Dola’.


One of the three priests brought some nariyal (coconut) from inside the temple.

After this veranda, through yet another brass plated gorgeous door, I was inside the main chamber, a sort of a prayer hall that overlooked the garbha griha (Sanctum sanctorum). I think I expected a more cumbersome entrance given the place’s importance, so it was a pleasant surprise. Further, imagine my joy when the priest actually smiled at me when I asked if I could take a few photos inside. We quickly had an understanding that it was OK to photograph anything including the principal idol as long as I don’t publish that photograph, and I have to keep my word.

The room I was in was square in plan, not too high a roof and arches on all four sides. Two of these sides led to smaller chambers that housed the principal deity and his consort. I had read that the temple is medieval but I assure you that these inner chambers are anything but – they are positively ancient. On either side of the enclosure of Jotiba, the principal deity were his attendant gods – Ganesha on one side – smeared so lovingly and so often with the magenta gulaal by devotees and sindoor (vermillion) by the priests that the color of the base stone is scarcely seen. On the other side is Hanuman (referred to as Maruti in Maharashtra).


This apparent anomaly of mixing the attendant gods of Vaishnavite and Shaivite sects is well explained when one does a bit of research. Turns out that Jyotiba is considered to be an incarnation of the holy trinity and one of the sapta-rishis (Jamadagni) and essentially is therefore, a form of Dattatreya. Dattatreya temples are few and far between and held especially sacred by the ‘nath’ sampradaya – the one headquartered in Gorakhpur.

The drum player was now here -


On the right of the principal statue is a smaller chamber that houses the idol of his consort. It was locked and out of bounds for photography anyways. This is what is installed atop the chamber, a brass ganesha -

This photo, from a slightly longer distance is OK to share. His idol, of black stone, is displayed with a ‘’torana’’ behind of real silver. If the flowers appear fresh and the clothes appear new – it is because they are. On the left, a pillar is seen – it’s plated with brass. Jyotiba is a warrior god – he slayed Raktabhoj Ratnasur, who ruled this hill top called Wadi Ratnagiri before the god arrived. He is thus shown with his horse on his right, a sword on his left and in a pose that’s typically martial.


This is the palanquin in which Jyotiba leaves his sanctuary for important processions. It hung from the ceiling, somewhat ignored – despite a silver leaf coating that is superbly designed - can you see the little peacocks on each end?


What a contrast from yesterday when I was told clearly by the ice queen on the gate that I couldn’t photograph inside mahalaxmi. So relieved and satisfied I was by this turn of events that I wanted to leave immediately and thus started in the general direction of Ram and his chariot. However that was not to be as Indra intervened and raindrops larger than marbles descended from the heavens. Sought sanctuary under the gate and got a shot of the inside-


And of the pathway leading to the temple - lined on either side with the gulaal much used in the temple and other material required for offering prayers - fresh flowers and sweets.

After this, it was hobble hop to the transport device. Ram was at his hospitable best – a bit too much - asking if he should get me some tea – I should have been alarmed if I were paying him too much but I was just really happy at that time and I didn’t notice the red flag.
#34 Dec 20th, 2015, 16:00
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#34
Really good trip report all through, but special props for the photos in this last post. Love every single one.
naanum veezhven endru ninaiththaayO?
#35 Dec 22nd, 2015, 12:49
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#35

Serpent's Lair

Nearly half past eleven, no longer raining but beautifully misty still, in the auto we ride, to the fort called Panhala. As a self-confessed history buff, that fort had been on the list for a while – I have been to forts that are considered representative for their type – Golconda for deccan, Chittorgarh for mewar, Jaisalmer for maru, Delhi and Agra for Mughal, Kalinjar for bundelkhand, Uperkot for Gujarat but never to anywhere substantial in Maharashtra. At the same time, I’ve never been very impressed by the forts outside of Rajasthan, the lone exception being Gwalior. It perhaps has to do with the fairy tale look of the forts in the state – Mehrangarh rises steeply from a rock edifice, Amer looks lovely under lights and absolutely nothing compares to the scale of Chittor. Further they are in general in a better state of repair than their deccan counterparts.
Given the above mind-set, Panhala certainly turned out to be a fort most unusual – but its charms are not apparent on first glance. It requires some sense of the sequence of events that have transpired here, on premises and a few others that led to cementing this fort’s place in annals of Maratha, and late medieval Indian history. Panhala’s name is indelibly written in the biography of the greatest Maratha king of all – Chhatrapati Shivaji maharaj. Discounting the forts he spent time in during his childhood, this is the only one that he is reported to have spent more than 500 days in – and that should tell you something about its importance. After all, he did have another 300 forts to choose from – spread over a sweeping landmass – from the western fort of Colaba, all the way down south to Gingee, in present day Tamil Nadu.

The statue on the primary drive way leading to the major buildings of the fort is of Bajiprabhu Deshpande – the Maratha commander of Shivaji’s forces who sacrificed his own life at the battle of Pavankhind, about forty kilometres from this spot – so that his king may live and re-build his kingdom. Three and a half centuries after his sacrifice, many local people remember the event like it was yesterday – the garland around this statue was of flowers no more than a day old.

From here, we went through a longish drive way, on either side of which were commercial establishments ranging from small shops to larger, upcoming ‘resorts’ – this is a living fort – though not in the same sense as say, Jaisalmer. The first recognizable building we reached was Andhar Bawdi – literally the dark well – a three level structure built by the adil shahis of Bijapur to control the water supply into the fort.

It is here that we get the first glimpse of the practical mind-set of the great Maratha – he didn’t build the fort – far from it. He simply used it. And unlike his predecessors in this fort, he also made no attempts to obliterate symbols of the previous occupiers – on top of the bawdi is a Persian inscription.

The bawdi had spaces such as these for soldiers to live on either side of the main open air atrium that led to the water (one such space is seen below). The soldiers could, in the event of a desperate retreat, poison the water supply leaving the fort unlivable.

Another interesting historical remnant talks to the fort’s builders – these inverted lotuses (on the ceiling of the arcade) are from the Shilhara dynasty and belong to the builder of this fort - Raja Bhoj II (distinct from Bhoj of the Parmara dynasty – the founder of Bhopal).

From the ramparts near the structure I was shown another example of the fort’s defenses – large stones that had been thrown down by the soldiers to repel an invading army.

Further the view from here is spectacular – green countryside as far as the eye could see (clichιd, but true in this case, there’s almost no urbanization this side). It doesn’t require much imagination to see what it would have looked like during the times of the great Maratha.

The impact of the repeated lashings by the monsoon could be seen on the fort itself – every inch of rock that yielded a foothold to the plants had been occupied.

The fort takes excellent advantage of the topography of the place as we shall see in ‘our’ next stop, dear reader – the gate called ‘teen darwaza’ (three doors) - a short drive from Andhar Bawdi (also the road in the scene above is leading to the darwaza).

Teen Darwaza is the most recognizable symbol of the fort – notably since the earliest photograph of the fort – from the 1890s shows this structure. As we (my driver and I) went in, I saw on top (previous image) are symbols of the adil shahis – peacocks. They built this part of the gate. As we walked into the corridor, flanked on either side by a high arched and pillar supported roof, I realized how dark it was, even though it was broad daylight outside. Ram showed me something interesting – the construction material included lead – the joints between several stone blocks were scratched already and the black metal was shining through.
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The exit to the middle, courtyard of the gate had loops at the top and bottom, from where at some point of time, a door would have been attached.
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Once inside the courtyard, it dawned upon me that the darwaza’s simple appearance belies a cunning design. If invading soldiers were able to breach the outermost gate – on the other side of the courtyard, they could not see the other gate immediately (the one we had just passed through) as there is no line of sight. Then, the opposing army hidden in the arcaded veranda surrounding this courtyard had another, very good chance of neutralizing them.

The above photo is from a similar angle as the one in the Wikipedia entry for the fort – the one there was photographed in 1890s.Here's another one from a different angle that shows the arcaded veranda inside which the soldiers used to live and the ''kothi'' on first floor from where they could keep a watch on the inside as well as the outside of the fort-


We also find the two roaring lions around a ganesha – the symbol of the marathas - on the lintel of this gate. Again, the marathas had appropriated the structure and embossed their authority - wonderfully practical.

I was then taken outside the second gate – basically outside the fort – to see the design a bit better. The walls do not rise straight – they are sloping gently – perhaps an 85 degree angle – and there is no mortar used – stones are just placed atop another – too smooth to scale without a rope.
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And truly, when I looked back inside the fort, I could only see a wall – that’s what an invader would have seen, after breaching the gate.

I got back inside and feeling quite hungry, wanted lunch. Before I left though, I climbed on top of the gate, using the same stairs that the soldiers would have used about three hundred years back to enter the ''kothi'' (watchtower) and got a good view of the inside courtyard -


So we went to one of the two open ‘breakfast centres’ in the fort – makeshift shops with open facades. One of them was populated by the bunch of miscreants from previous morning – the students.

They looked at me and smiled sheepishly. Their teacher was more genial and came over to shake hands. I asked Ram to join for the lunch as well though he was a bit hesitant initially. I thought it’d be an experience to take his advice for lunch and eat the same food – so I asked what the local speciality was and he recommended ‘Nachani Bhakri with Thecha’.
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The Bhakri (roti) was oversized and of the grain I know better as Ragi (finger millet). It was served with a dash of very sour curds, a hint of chilli thecha and a wisp of salad. The ‘pithla’ was made of chickpea flour and had a custardy consistency. The combined effect was energizing, thirst inducing but also very filling. My meal cost Rs 60/- but boy was I full.
#36 Dec 22nd, 2015, 13:09
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#36
Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post Once inside the courtyard, it dawned upon me that the darwaza’s simple appearance belies a cunning design. If invading soldiers were able to breach the outermost gate – on the other side of the courtyard, they could not see the other gate immediately (the one we had just passed through) as there is no line of sight. .
I believe that the position of such darwajas was also to prevent the doors being rammed open by using a battering ram with or without elephants.

very good write up. We passed kholapur recently and did not go inside. Am kicking myself.
#37 Dec 22nd, 2015, 13:12
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#37
C-Rat , Excellent Report. All the images talking about History.

Learned More & More.
Superb.
Last edited by dcyouth; Dec 22nd, 2015 at 14:24..
#38 Dec 22nd, 2015, 13:25
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#38
do they still have the children's play area near the restos?
i dislocated my wrist there when i was a kid :P
Last edited by vaibhav_arora; Dec 22nd, 2015 at 13:39.. Reason: accidental dupe removed
#39 Dec 22nd, 2015, 13:42
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#39
I don't recall anything like that near the teen darwaza area but perhaps i wasnt looking for a play area. I saw some in other parts of the fort though.
#40 Dec 22nd, 2015, 14:06
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#40
I am thoroughly enjoying your tripe report, Vaibhav.

#41 Dec 22nd, 2015, 14:11
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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#41
I dunno about Ethiopian buses; your bus Odysseys in Bharat seem quite frantic enough ... I love the Keralite dialogue !
#42 Dec 22nd, 2015, 21:56
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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#42
Quote:
Truth be told, we get little more than sand for breakfast and gravel for dinner – water on alternate days.




Have you been watching Monty Python again ?
#43 Dec 22nd, 2015, 22:50
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#43
Bah. You make the monsoons of the previous era, look so inviting in the age of kinder tinder and googlers
#44 Dec 23rd, 2015, 01:21
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#44
Excellent history lesson/photolog. Wish you'd been my history teacher in school!

Also, this - "The impact of the repeated lashings by the monsoon could be seen on the fort itself – every inch of rock that yielded a foothold to the plants had been occupied." - reminds me of these lovely lines from the song :

Paaraiyil seithathu en manam endru thozhikku solli vanthen
Paraiyin idukkil ver vitta kodiyayi nee nejil muzhaithu vittai


Loose translation:

I used to tell my friends that my heart was made of stone
Like the plant that drops roots in the little cracks in the rock, you've grown into my heart
#45 Dec 23rd, 2015, 16:13
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#45

Panhala after lunch

After lunch, I felt like doing a whistle-stop tour of anything important and move on to the spot from where i could get the bus to Ratnagiri; as the heat was not conducive to postprandial relaxation. However, my driver cum guide was clear that ''you should visit all the major major spots'' Then he added "Visit properly, you won't enjoy it otherwise’’. Off we were.
Ironically, the first stop we visited after lunch was called Ambarkhana (the granary). It is a complex of three buildings called Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. Built first by the Shilharas in the twelfth century and then again in the fifteenth by the Adilshahis, the structures dont appear very impressive from the outside.
I was told that grains would be poured down from the holes up top and the doors of today were closed. Grain would then come out, as needed, from gaps below the threshold of these doors. Ingenious – though a bit hard to believe. It is said that this granary helped the residents of a fort to withstand a siege for upto six months - such is its capacity. Here’s Ganga’s elevation shot - the gap below the threshold clearly visible.

The buildings are set in a largish compound which is a gated, protected complex and also has some dead trees like this one. Black stones, dead trees, empty spaces and a man with a moustache who insisted that we visit every single dark and isolated corner. Perfect.

As I stepped inside, for a few seconds I thought the light was gone or at-least my eye sight was weaker than usual. And then i saw the light coming in from heavens - that proverbial light that was to deliver me to a better place, away from all the worldly pains. I was positive that the meal I was fed a short while back included something 'special'. But then a voice said "Woh hole hai na sahib, usmein se daalte the" (It's from the hole in the roof that they poured grains) Oh, I see.

Looked dead ahead and tried to focus better but couldn’t. I just knew my ''guide's'' nefarious plan. I bet it was here that ''bees saal baad'' the bolly horror flick was shot and now, it will be ''bees saal baad'' (twenty years later) that they'd find my remains. I wanted to call my parents and tell them how much i loved them but it was too late. Ram was reaching into his bag already. I knew what was coming. All this smooth talking, to put the quarry at ease. A gentle build up leading to an isolated spot - and then ....


Ram brought out my water bottle that i had forgotten at the lunch spot. He said ''sahib, aapko shayad pyaas lagi hai; ladkhada rahe hain" (sahib, I think you're thirsty. You're not very steady). I gruffly thanked him, drank some water and handed the bottle back. But I wasn't going to be off my guard so easily. History after all, is written by survivors.
We moved onto the third building of the complex, smallest of the lot. It was described to me as a mint, by the man who never lied. Google doesn’t support this but I bought this description as it’s more colourful. Besides the light formed really cute spots on the floor.

We then went out of the granary cum mint complex to see remainder of the fort. Of the various bastions in the fort, many were broken down during battle – most notably by the last occupiers of the fort – the British. One that stands and is of importance is Rajdindi – for it is from here that Shivaji escaped to the fortress of Vishalgad after five month long siege by the invading army led by the Siddi (Abyssinian) Johar. It was an isolated place, again.

I was feeling dehydrated and thought I should turn back but Ram was at his over-hospitable best. Egging me on he said, ‘’Sahib. Please come up. The view is worth it”.I clambered on top, wary of there being no railing or anything to prevent anyone from falling off a hundred feet below or worse, being pushed. Green, fertile fields as far as the eye could see – monsoon paints everything so lush. [easier to hide a body, too]


I bet I saw him smile a bit.Rain picked up once more and I broached the topic of whether we should leave the fort – but Ram suggested we visit at least one major spot he had in mind.
Soon we were at the ‘’showpiece’’ spot. When shivaji had a massive disagreement with his son, Sambhaji, the latter threatened to defect to Aurangzeb – the last Mughal emperor. So, shivaji had his son imprisoned temporarily here – at the building called Sajja kothi.This is a two story structure with the upper story containing a small room for observant Muslims who used it to pray – it is unique in that respect (of being a small, closed structure not at a ground floor where ''namaz'' was allowed). Best of all, Sajjakothi's balcony had ample railings to prevent any ''accidental'' falls.

The open balcony looks out to the nearby hill, which appears to have another fort. On careful inspection one doesn’t see any structures inside that fort. At this time, Ram, like the magician pulling out a rabbit from his hat, said with a smile ‘It is a ‘fake’ fort’.
I looked at him incredulously.He said ‘the walls are built along the top of the hill – but do not rise higher than the hill itself. It is meant to misguide the enemy approaching from that direction into scaling that hill instead of this. Called ‘pavangad’ – apparently this ruse worked at one point of time.


Sajjakothi is a handsome structure, with plasterwork from the times of Bijapuri kingdom still in place – perhaps redone a few times – double peacock motifs are all over - redolent of the interiors at Seven tombs, Hyderabad.

As a video speaks louder than a thousand pictures, here's a short one I made to show you the interior as well as the view from the top floor.

Through this trip, it had noticed repeatedly how much the local population of Maharashtra is engaged in visiting places of historical and cultural importance. Sure, it does happen in other states too, but apart from Tamil people, Maharashtrians seem very proud of their culture. Getting a better understanding of their own culture seems to assume almost ritual proportions. An example was at Sajja kothi, this elderly couple was scrambling to the top –



By the time we got done from Sajja, my head was hurting due to the humidity and rising heat. I wanted to get to the point from where to board the bus for Ratnagiri. Ram insisted that we stop at just one more point. This was “Nehru udyaan” – a garden in the general inhabited part of the fort. While it wasn’t particularly well laid, the climatic conditions were propitious for stupendous growth of all flora - many of whom grew disturbingly close to each other, forming hybrids, cross dressers and genetically modified beings straight outta Jurassic world.


An example was this very large ficus tree in the center – it had developed a composite stem over the decades, perhaps centuries and was large enough for a little toy train to run around it! [Toy trains can't cut down anyone, I reminded myself and breathed a bit better]

(short video below)

The garden must have been a hit with the young - maybe they learnt about the environment on a field trip? Or maybe they were star crossed lovers?
Reeling from this green shock I give you this murderous haiku-

In this garden was seen /
Moss so green/
Love so deep (it’s etched)


And then of course we had to backtrack just a bit to visit "just one more" spot - it turned out to be a school close by. The school was unusual – the map showed India to be divided between just nine states, a stretch even for me, who loves simplifying everything.

When I asked Ramchandra why he brought me here, he said, "Because it’s old". But he didn’t remember the name of the building or how old it was.

Google later told me that this building was Tarabai Palace (!) – this royal residence belonged to the second most famous resident of this fort – Shivaji’s daughter in law. Tarabai’s place in Kolhapur's history is important as she was the founder queen of Kolhapur regency – the breakaway faction and state within the Maratha confederacy. The palace is in remarkably good state of preservation for its age (approximately 300 plus years) and has been renovated regularly.


This gave the man who never lied an opportunity to show me just one more spot. He signaled with his hand that I should follow him and so we walked over to a largish clearing besides the school. It was surprisingly, empty and the area was enclosed behind these walls (see below).

This had me a tad worried – I had barely gotten out of a Ramsay brothers’ horror flick and now this. A desolate spot, in a monsoonal land where no one comes looking and organic matter decomposes quickly. Where was I being led? Queasy feeling further deepened when he pointed towards a side of the clearing where the earth rose dozens of feet above, vertically and was held together by stems and roots of tall trees.

And then he pointed towards these, deep caves in the walls and proceeded to get behind one of the stone curtain walls. That was the last straw – I couldn’t follow blindly any longer and asked loudly ‘’what is this? Why are we here?”

This raised volume startled him a bit and he started grinning sheepishly. He came out from behind the wall and said ‘’oh just to show you. These are called parashar caves. It is said that rishi parashar paid penance sitting inside these caves. Why don’t you come inside and see?” [Yeah right, you should have pushed me down the bastion while you had a chance, mister].
“So what are these new walls for”, I demanded, convinced that there were skeletons behind. “To support the cave. They are quite fragile” and then to prove his point, he ‘’keyed’’ the wall a bit. Rubble fell down into his other hand. [Would've been an easy burial, then]

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He went on to say that it is this area where there used to be and still are, a lot of snakes. It gives the fort its name – Pannagalay = place where snakes live [this later changed to panhala].
"You mean to say, there are snakes here too?"
"Haan hai na sahib. Aap dekhenge? Dhoondhoon?" (Of course there are sahib, you'd like to see? should I try to find one?).
Clearly this man's idea of fun was different from mine. I pressed him a bit that we should leave as early as possible and he relented. At long last, we drove out of the fort.
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