Sunday, October 18, 2009

Madakasira fort, only for bravehearts

Just imagine being an amateur trekker risking one’s life that too on a diwali day ( 17/10/09 ) to ascend the impregnable Madaksira fort. Last time around we wanted to trek this fort but could not in lieu of not finding a proper place to park our car safely. Moreover we were in a hurry to reach Pavgada Fort, which was our destination for stay. This time around it was only determination and guidance of 15 year old Hemanth who accompanied us as a guide. We took the unconventional escape route from the fort to ascend which is shorter. Who knew this path would be filled with thorny bushes, unsteady steps and literally a rock face with 60 degree inclination to ascend.

Once I almost tripped inside the throny bush pathway shaking me up for the first time. Next time around my wife was complaining of chest pain and she aborted the climb, I am happy she did it on the hindsight with her leather slipper it would have been impossible except with bare foot, which was not worth attempting, she went back to the base of the hillock. I decided we should go further up since we had hired a guide in Hemanth. Enroute I had to take 8 breaks to catch up with the steep ascent, and clicked some lovely photographs of the landscape and surroundings. At midpoint there was a steep rock face without support, my guide lent me a hand to ascend. But it would have been fatal if had transferred my full weight on his I would have dragged him down too. However I managed to tilt my weight on to the rock, in spite of it I had a dodge and landed with a slushy grass with water seepage from the Fort pond on top. We ascended further towards the top. At one place there was nothing to grip it was 12 feet high rock face with 60 degree incline with nothing to grip on the rock face. After studying and deeply analyzing the situation, I decided to risk my life for sake of surmounting the obstacle. This phase is only for professional climbers or to ascend with aids such as rope or railing or even a walking stick firmly held by someone from top. Maybe even a strong camera tripod would have been sufficient, but alas I had only umbrella with me. I just managed to cling on to the wild plants growing on the sides of the rock surface, there was only two gripping branches, and finally my guide lent me a helping hand from the top. This was absolute stunner for a 49 year obese personality.

Enroute I was fascinated by a manly face jutting out of the fort. The contours of the rockcut nose, mouth, teeth and forehead is amazing resemblance may be to a Roman warrior. I clicked snaps from all angle and used my resting time usefully. I gulped some butter milk which was laced with sufficient salt. The weather was becoming extremely hot, that too during winter time. I checked the time was 1 pm in the noon and my stomach was almost drained with energy. The only consolation since I consumed butter milk with salt, it helped to avoid muscle sprain which could have been fatal on such an ascent. But I decided never to descend by this pathway, which would have virtually impossible at the 60 degree inclination point with my rebok shoes, which had limited grip. We decided to travel through the main pathway which is neatly maintained with steps, but circuitous.

At the mid point of the fort, there is the Kings durbar hall, a devi temple and small pond wherein our guide dipped himself to cool his body. The water was greenish indicating unsafe for us. So I avoided taking bath, instead I was clicking away snaps to glory, with the landscape revealing the enterance to the fort and newly built Sai baba temple. I was surprised to find a lone foreigner lady from Finland who accompanied a batch of students from the orphanage at Mankapalli. All of them looked famished since they had ascended through the circuitous path. Even though I was shaken I was not stirred.

Location : Madakasira fort is located approximately 160 kms from Blore, one has to travel on NH7 the Hyderabad highway. There are two good places for breakfast, one is Brindavan, in chickballapur another Kamat restaurant at HP petrol bunk after chickballapur town. One has to take a deviation towards left just immediately after the Kondapalli Andhra check post and reach leepakshi and have a dharsan from Lord Veerabhadra to ascend Madaksira fort, which may have saved the day for me on hindsight. Madakasira fort is 45kms away from Leepakshi after Hindupur, where one can have a good lunch in two of the hotels, one his Paaya and other one is Parijata.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


An iconic king and so little is known about Krishnadevaraya. It is my endeavour to demystify the reign of Krishnadevaraya apart from his various victories in the battlefield, which is well covered in the annals of Indian History. The era wherein Hindu royalty was filled with multiple wives created intrigue, conspiracy and drama was the order of the day. Domingo Paes is probably the only eye witness of for the reign of Krishnadevaraya, during his visit in 1518-1520 to the empire which was later composed by Barros. He has written about his gallantary and leadership qualities but to weave a historical perspective with personal touch would be great dedication on the 500th anniversary of Krishnadevaraya ( 1509-1529 AD) the great.

The wily survivor of dynastic ambition of his step mother, who wanted her son to ascend the throne. She elicited promise from the dying king Vira Narasimha that he will get Krishnadevaraya’s eyes gorged so that he will be unfit to ascend the throne. Despite being a successful general of the army, Krishnadevaraya did not have burning ambition to ascend the throne. When his minister Timmarsu, convinced Krishnadevaraya to prepare himself to ascend the throne because the empire needed an able ruler to fight against the Turks. Timmarasu presented goats eye to convince the king that he had blinded Krishnadevaraya. Under the orders of the general the entire family of his step mother was taken into preventive custody so as to avoid controversy after the Kings demise.

During his crowning ceremony on 29th July 1509 Krishnadevaraya was anointed by holy water from rivers across the Vijaynagar Empire. ( Dates are debatable in the range of 6 months ) The priests conducted elaborate ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and invite the blessings of Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The crowning ceremony was studded with grandeur and procession unknown to this part of the world. Krishnadevaraya was crowned by the high priest at the auspicious time. After coronation he inspected the entire battalion of elephantry, horsemen, cavalry marched in unison one after the other showing respect to the newly appointed King. The dancers performed to entertain the royalty. One courtesan was secretly deployed to kill the king on his accession to the throne. Appaji, he chief advisor, was aware of the conspiracy and had a back up plan to protect the king. When the courtesans came to entertain the king at night with a dagger in hand, she plunged the dagger straight into the heart. She struck a dummy and in the darkness felt the splash of the liquid. Suddenly the entire room was lit up and Appaji came and warned the courtesan and let her go free since it was a happy occasion. She was asked to keep mum during her entire lifetime regarding this incident.

Krishnadevaraya undertook a tight regime to keep his physical condition in shape. He used to get up early morning and exercise in the private gym with close confidants. He used to sharpen his skill of brandishing his sword fighting and ride horse swiftly across a short distance. He trained himself in martial arts and climbing the walls of the fort. The stunt which he wanted to badly master was to jump from his horse’s back and leap on to the elephant, which he did eventually after several attempts. In his anxiety to keep his physical fitness at the peak he sought advice regarding his diet. He fell into the trap of wrong advice of consuming half a litre of gingelly oil daily early in the morning on empty stomach, which became the ultimate cause for his untimely death at an age of 42 years after a reign of two decades. It may have been a conspiracy to get rid of Krishnadevaraya after his victory in the battlefield against the sultans. Krishnadevaraya eliminated his trusted lieutant Timmarsu who was suspected behind the poisoning of his son to death Thimmaraya.

The belief that every virgin queen would transmit energy to rejuvenate the king induced Krishnadevaraya to marry as many as 12 queen. Domingo Paes confirms this development stating that immediately on his accession to the throne, he was married to Three queens Thirumaladevi, Annapurna and Kamala devi. He also married his favorite courtesan during his teenage days Chinnadevi, when he was courting her secretly. He had fulfilled his promise at the appropriate time after coronation. The lineage of multiple marriage was almost akin to Lord Shiva’s erotic leanings and mating instincts. “ The belief was current that every virgin queen would transmit new energies to the Raja. Quote Mulk Raj Anand. The successful battle in the bedroom would propel the creative instinct of the king and find solutions to the tickling problem in administering his huge empire.

Despite being satiated personality in terms of sexual encounters Krishnadevaraya was known for his short temper. He was known to have insulted his enemies when they were defeated in warfare. Once he exhorted the Bahamani sultan to lick his dirty sandals as a mark of suzerainty after vanquishing them in the battle of kulburgi when he seized the Raichur Fort. ( May 19, 1520 ) He gathered enormous amount of wealth from the forts of Raichur and Gulbarga after defeating the sultans. He distributed the wealth to the temple trust of Virupaksha and Vittala complex. Some of the best jewelleries were distributed among the queens and courtesans alike to keep them in happy spirit.

Krishnadevaraya undertook guerilla type of activity during the night, he mingled with the ordinary folks and enjoyed a drink in their midst. Thus he gathered many a information regarding the public opinion on his reign. He did his own homework apart from the spy network which used to dish out information which was pleasing to his ears. Once he was given an information circulating in the Bahamani kingdom that soothsayers would warn people that a great king would take over their region and rule with an iron hand defeating the Bahamanis. This was music to his ears which prompted his to invade the Bahamani sultans and annex their territory.


How can we really believe Krishnadevaraya really ruled Vijayanagar empire unless we have an idea of the palace he lived ? The key to his greatness is construction of the iconic temples such Vittalla Complex, Hazar Rama temple and Mahanavami Dibba at Hampi. The empirical evidence culled out by Robert Swell is quite exemplary. The primary source of information on the contours of the Palace is derieved from the description of Domingo Paes ( 1518 – 1520 ) who was in awe struck by the beauty of the edifice which was just completed. The second source of information with regard to the palace decorations and interiors emanates from Leepakshi mural paintings. The third source is obviously the contemporary palaces built by the Vijaynagar emperors in the form of Penukonda, Chandragiri and the Nayak’s palace at Madurai.

The palace was obviously divided into the Public darbar area and private residential palace of the King and queens. The interiors of the durbar hall housed the Kings throne, and lavishly decorated wall hangings, such as stuffed Elephant, Tiger, Sambhars and wall paintings of the king hunting, battle scenes, mahanavami celeberations, etc. The ceremonial durbar was meeting place for the visitors and viceroys from other kingdom. The king used to entertain them after the official discussion with lavish parties, with ceremonial fireworks, dancing dramas, fancy dress parade etc. The riches of empire was displayed in the form of fashion parade by the courtesan wearing the jewellery, and elephants decked with precious stones. The visitors were captivated by stunning display of wealth and pomp

Private residential zone was to house a huge harem of courtesans and queens of the time. This area was strictly restricted for outsiders. Paes assumes there were 12,000 women including the ennuchs to please the King. There were 12 queens who were housed in individual chambers. No men were allowed to enter the queens chamber except the ennuchs who guarded them. The king used to place equal attention to all his queen in a sequential progress. This may have bought variety to spice of life. Chinnadevi received special attention of the king in terms of time spent during his voyeurs. Paes even though could not enter the premise managed to gather lot of information secretly, which the King was aware, but he let go the indiscretion. He knew his pompous lifestyle would be recorded in the annals of history.

A blend of Islamic and hindu style was adopted to build the palace and to quell the extreme heat generated during the summer months. The palace and durbar were built with a mezzanine structure with lot of natural ventilation and light. The king used to preside from the durbar hall and the sometimes the royal family members used to watch the proceedings from the balcony. The palace seems to have been fully lit with lamps and flowers during any festivity and the grandest was during dusherra. Why Krishnadevaraya adopted a blend of Islamic architecture is answered by his dealings with the arabs for trading horses prior to Portuguese treaty. This was a calculated move to appease the trading partners, and he may have even employed an Islamic architect is my conjecture.

The palace was well compounded with high boundary walls, since it housed the treasury of the empire. All the diamonds, gold, silver, and gems and stones were stored safely in an underground cellar which was opened only in the presence of the king. The currency chest was separate and it was handled by his trusted minister Appaji.

The closest virtual idea of the palace of Krishnadevaraya can be experienced by visiting Chandragiri and Madurai Nayaks palace. It is the combination of both which formed the crux of the Krishnadevaraya’s palace. The pictures uploaded are of Madurai Nayaks palace which had a close resemblance to Krishnadevaraya s palace.

Gladiators of Vijaynagar Empire :

Krishnadevaraya was constantly urged by his gurus to expand and keep his domain under check. The political strategist were very aware of the danger of the Moghul empire and the Bahmani sultans. He did not trust the Portuguese except for their trading interest. In his quest to build the finest army he recruited gladiators from various regions of his empire. One such was tribe was Mashti tribe who were nomadic tribes with a history of martial skills. They were well built with 6 feet height and well endowed body. Krishnadevaraya used their services in numerous wars against the Bahmani sultans. The role of the community was well recorded by the citation given by the king in 1515 to their ancestors who were recognized as dedicated and loyal soldiers of the Vijaynagar empire.

The authentic citation records an interesting incident which occurred in the presence of the king. Mala challenged the residents of a village in hampi to a bout of wrestling. The stake was fixed as the wives of the entire village to be given as per the directions of the king in case of defeat. The wrestling duel went on for 3 days and each and every villager who combated Mala was floored to the mat. Mala Masthi refused the prize of wives of the entire village unlike the Kauravas. He requested the king to honour with a citation signed by the emperor on a copper plate .

The copper plate is now with Kaki Rambabu, a Mala Masthi of Farijallipeta of Rajanagaram mandal. AP. S. Sudarshan, a teacher from the village, is credited with bringing this artefact to the limelight. Hindu 30TH October 2008

LEGENDARY TENALI RAMAN : The tales of the legendary wisecrack and witty Tenali Raman i am giving a go by just because it is well recorded and covered by historians. Maybe Krishnadevaraya thrived on his wisecracks after a difficult victory in the battlefield.

Naturally the legacy of Krishnadevaraya invited plenty of jealously among the Bahmani sultans who after the battle of Talikota in 1565 plundered and pillaged the palace for the treasures and artifacts collected by Krishnadeveraya after his victorious battles. It is rumoured that the wealth of the Vijaynagar empire was transported to the Bahmani kingdoms for more six months with the aid of more than 500elephants. The very citadel of Vijaynagar was destroyed beyond recognition.

Ack : Robert Swell, Hindu and other sources.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

History and mystery of DIAMONDS

HOW DID HAMPI LOOSE IT DIAMOND TRADING CHARM? Many of us wonder if Hampi was the diamond trading capital how did it loose out on its primacy. My research took me to culling out information from various sources.

The diamond district in ancient times was located in the basin of Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers known as Raichur ( doab area ) The ancient rocky surface dating back to 3600 millions old was rich in precious stones such as gold and diamond. As early as 500 B.C, diamonds were discovered in deccan plateau.

Another interesting lesser known fact is that Indian diamonds were considered to best in the world from the ancient times. Kings were the main patronisers, who gave lease for diamond mining in Vijaynagar empire. Mining rights were given to nobles, under the condition that all diamonds above 34 carats will be surrendered to the king immediately as royalty. The monarch used to deploy spies and stooges in the mines to report discovery un-officially.

Van Linschoten, a Dutchman comments on Bisnagar ( Vijaynagar mis spelt) system of diamond lease, “ If anie man bee found that hideth anie such, he looses both life and goodes “ Forgotton Empire quote In this manner royalty ensured they had the possession of all the precious stone discovered, lesser carat diamonds were sold in the open market of Vijaynagar. The royalty used the diamonds for jewellery, rewarding loyal subjects, purchasing horses and weapons. Some of the finest diamonds were gifted to courtesans for their services rendered They adorned it as rings and necklaces depending on their patrons. It also ended the misery of courtesans, who committed suicide when they became old and unwanted. No wonder diamonds are classified as women’s best friend.

The Vijaynagar empire bought exclusive rights for trading in horses from the Portuguese after paying them a huge royalty. In turn for the finest horses and guns they gave them liberal trading terms on spices, sandalwood and precious stones. This helped the Vijaynagar ruler Krishnadevaraya to conquer most of the spice growing belt and trading harbours inorder to hold monopoly over all the produce exported from India.

Kohinoor diamond is fabled for its curse, was discovered in Golconda mines. It originally weighed more than 300 carats. It was later refined and cut to its present size of 240 carats. The british queen came to possess the prized jewel from East India company, who had in turn seized it from Maharaja of Patiala. Earlier Nadir used the turban trick exchange to take possession of Kohinoor “ meaning mountain of light”. Kohinoor has bought bad luck to all the men who possessed it in a gradual manner. Fable has it that only women can possess this diamond, without much adulation and grandeur. It should be worn occasionally, the british monarchy was aware of these facts. Only Queen Victoria & Elizabeth have lived long enough to escape its curse. The discovery of Brazilian diamonds changed the scenario in 1726. These diamonds were of slightly inferior variety, Portuguese traders bought it to GOA and started trading them in European markets as Indian diamonds. The discovery of Kimberly diamonds changed the equation in 1866. DE BEER’s cartelized diamond trading to reign in prices. The EAST INDIA COMPANY, started systematically taking possession of all the treasures by paying some royalty to the earstwhile kings. In fact when Robert Clive was recalled from India as Governor General he remarked in his impeachment trial “ There was so much to take from India, I regret that I have taken so miniscule “ DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, without the treasures Hampi still manages to attract, tourists from all over the globe for its grandeur. Maybe someday someone may still manage to discover the hidden treasures of HAMPI on the rocks. More and more tourists try to re-live the era of Vijaynagar empire by witnessing Hampi Utsav.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Water was literally flowing all round, the temple to the paddy fields and to the surrounding village. Just imagine the blessed land with 5 underground springs with crystal clear water, as if it is cleaner than RO water. The five springs are known as Srisailam Dhara, Narasimha Dhara, Nandi Teerta, Daivodini Dhara and and Kailash teerta all flow into the pond inside the temple.


Mahanandi is located around 12kms away from Nandyal town in Kurnool district. It can be reached from Ananthpur via Tadipatri and Nandyal or on the reverse direction from Srisailam, via Giddlur, to Nandyal. Another route can be vide Gooty, Yaganti and Nandyal from Bangalore on NH 7.

The temple is located literally at the foot of the hills of Srisailam forest, naturally the locale is filled with scenary. The temple has three enterance and a ticket counter is located at the main enterance of the temple. The temple is closed between 1 to 3.30 Pm, one has wait for it to open. In the meanwhile one can check out the Nandi temples and other minor temples located in and around the place.

This main shiva shrine has a linga which is known as swayambu Linga, which is in the natural form, maybe found in the river bed. The pond within the temple premise is known as Rudra Kunda, where the devotees bathe with great devotion and gaiety. There is a small mantap at the centre with a Linga embedded.

Main gopuram is built in a typical Dravidian style of architecture, the blend of the north Indian and Jain architecture too is witnessed in the temple premises.


A number of dynasties have been associated with this temple. The temple has been under constant renovation from the times of Nanda king, son of Uttunga Bhoja, ruled over this region. The Mahanandeswara shrine was subsequently renovated by his descendents from 12th century onwards. One copper plate inscription refers to Veera Narasimha Raya from the Vijaynagar empire bestowing donations on the temple trust. The southern gate was erected in 1480 AD by Pinhaba Chetty in memory of his grandfather. The lizard symbol on the temple indicates that originally jains were responsible for contruction of the temple in the 7th century AD during the chalukyan reign. Within a radius of 16 km there are 9 nandi temples, which are known as Padma Nandi, Naga Nandi, Vinayaka Nandi, Garud Nandi, Brahma Nandi, Surya Nandi, Vishnu Nandi, Soma Nandi and Shiv Nandi. The town Nandyal is derived from Nandi Alayam.

Mahashivratri festivity is celeberated on a grand scale at Mahanandi. Piligrims flock this temple during Mahashivaratri in large number and during the sabrimala season too. Thus Mahanandi is a fine pilgrimage town for all hindus. I was surprised to find Muslims too visiting the temple and savouring the prasadams. There was objection by the watchmen when a lady wanted to enter the sanctum with burkha, she was asked to remove the burkha which seemed logical from security point of view. Thus the temple has secular leanings.

Currently there is some renovation activity being undertaken outside the temple premises. The boundary is being extended to signify the heritage site, which may have been much larger in area, till it was encroached by shopping complex.