Vlog 47 | Kailasa : The Mountain Temple

Vlog 47 | Kailasa : The Mountain Temple

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The city of Aurangabad in the Maharashtra  State of India is not a metropolis,   but it bears witness to the greatest  footfalls in the history of the subcontinent.  Distributed in and around Aurangabad  are monuments of immense historical   and cultural value and today I hope  to visit at least the major ones. The government recently renamed this city  from Aurangabad which was named after the   Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, to Chhatrapati  Sambhaji Nagar, in honor of the great 17th   century Maratha leader Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj; the son of the founder of the  Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Touted as the 'nursery of history', this area   was under the rule of the Hindu Yadava dynasty  till the late 13th century. By the 17th century,   Aurangabad was a major fortified city accessible  from 52 gates; some of which still stand. 

The Islamic imperial history begins with the  capture of the Devgiri fort by Alaudding Khilji   of the Delhi Sultanate in 1296, which ended  the Yadava rule. The eccentric 14th century   Islamic King Muhammad binTughlaq, in whose  court served the famous traveller Ibn Battuta,   decided to abandon Delhi and move his capital here  to Devgiri or Daulatabad, as he liked to call it! The hill fortress of Devgiri or Daulatabad  was a formidable defense structure coveted   by every ruling Dynasty in India.  Initially built by the Yadavas,   it was occupied by a series of conquerors  from the Mughals to the Marathas. Devgiri or Daulatabad Fort shall be the last spot on  my itinerary. I shall climb to the summit  

of the fort and explore its history in detail. But  first we need to take the blessings of Lord Shiva. The Ghrishneshwar Temple is among the 12 most revered  Shiva temples in India called the Jyotirlingas.   Although nobody knows exactly when it was built,  it is mentioned in many ancient Hindu scriptures.   The Muslim conquerors destroyed it many times and  the temple went through many rounds of rebuilding.   Even after centuries of atrocities, the worship  of Lord Shiva continues in this place unabated! Lord Shiva is one of the major deities of  Hinduism and revered in the form of a 'Linga';   a cylindrical stone; the symbol of Lord Shiva  representing generative power in the Universe. India is also called Hindustan;  the land of the Hindus. Hinduism  

is a complex religion and the next site we  visit will demonstrate just how complex!  Welcome to the World Heritage Site of  Ellora. A masterpiece of human creativity;   the epitome of Rock-Cut architecture; a  window into the ancient Indian religion   and practices. These 34 Rock-cut temples  and monasteries extend over 2 km in the   Rocky Face of a Mountain Cliff carved over a  period of 400 years from 600 CE to 1,000 CE.  As I enter the complex, the first structure  in front of me is the gigantic Kailasa Temple,   built by completely hollowing  out a whole Rocky Mountain. 

The architecture is so extraordinary that  it looks like a freestanding structure;   a temple built stone by stone from the  ground upwards, whereas the reality is quite astounding. This is a monolithic structure,  carved out of a single gigantic rock face from   top to bottom with primitive tools such as  Hammers and Chisels more than 1,200 years ago.  As we enter the temple complex, we are greeted  by Gajalaxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and   prosperity, sitting on a Lotus, flanked by  two elephants pouring Sacred Water over her. Every inch of the temple is  decorated with beautiful statues   of gods belonging to the Hindu Pantheon. It is estimated that around 200,000 tons   of rock has been hauled away from this  place to make this Temple a reality. This remarkable Temple was built  mainly during the reign of Krishna I;   a powerful King of the Rashtrakuta  dynasty which ruled over a great   swathe of land in India from  the 6th to the 10th centuries.

Every sculpture you see is carved in situ  from the very stone this mountain is made of! Everything you see is monolithic. It is astonishing to see that some of the   original plaster and colour has survived  the effects of the past millennia! The Ravananugraha statue is a popular  theme in many Hindu temples. The Demon   King Ravana is trying to lift Mount  Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva,   as he was not allowed to pass his flying craft  over it. Lord Shiva presses down the mountain   with his great toe trapping Ravana's  hand under it. Ravana is forced to ask   forgiveness and sing hymns In praise of Lord  Shiva for a thousand years before he set free. The temple has multiple statues of Lord Shiva  in various forms poses and incarnations.

This is Rudra the Destroyer. He's  dancing, wearing snakes as ornaments,   a garland of skulls and the ashes of the  Cremation grounds smeared over his body.  Lord Brahma, the creator of the  universe; a part of the Hindu   Trinity of gods which includes Vishnu  the preserver and Shiva the Destroyer! Just imagine, all the empty space you see  was once solid stone, gradually chiseled   away piece by piece, by labourers and  artisans working tirelessly for decades.  A master-sculptor must have made music with his  chisel and hammer on these Stones. I can see him   with my mind's eyes; an Indian Michelangelo,  whose name is lost in the mist of time... This is Lord Vishnu in his native  form; at rest in the cosmic ocean. 

Brahma the creator of the the universe  is seen emerging from the navel of   Vishnu seated on a Lotus.   Vishnu in the Varaha Avatar,  slaying the demon Hiranyaksh, who had stolen the  Earth and hidden it in the cosmic ocean. Vishnu   rescues the Earth goddess and reinstates  her in her proper place in the universe. The Narasimha Avatar - Vishnu killing the demon  Hiranyakashyapa by disemboweling him in his lap! Among the many forms of Shiva, the Nataraja is  widely popular. He' s the Divine Cosmic Dancer,   dancing away in wild abandon; performing  The Divine Dance, the 'Tandava.' 

A frieze of Lingodbhava, representing Lord  Shiva emerging out of a pillar of light. In this beautiful panel, Shiva is shown  wielding his bow to kill the demon Tripura.  A six armed Shiva is running his Trident  through the body of the demon Andhakasura,   who is shown minuscule in front of the huge Shiva! Chusar is a popular board game in India since  ancient times, played with the dice. In this   panel, Shiva is stopping his wife Parvati  from throwing the dice as she seems to be winning against him. This 17th century  painting is made on the similar theme. This is Kalyana-sundara, the wedding of  Lord Shiva and Parvati. They are shown  

performing the Panigrahana  ritual of a Hindu wedding,   where the groom accepts the bride  by taking her hand into his. This is a panel of Ravananugraha which we  have seen earlier; Ravana shaking Mount Kailash. The relief of Ravana is unfinished.

We have seen panels of the Demon King Ravana trying to shake the abode of Lord Shiva out  of arrogance, but this panel shows a chastised   Ravana, cutting off his 10 heads one by one in  offering; to coerce Shiva into granting him a boon. We are now entering the Main Temple, which is on  the first floor. When you ascend the staircase   you reach this portico, called the Rang-Mahal. It was completely and beautifully painted in   the past. Unfortunately, only vestiges of the  original paintings remain. These can be dated   to the time of the building of the temple, that  is, in the 8th or 9th century. The paintings are  

of the highest quality, thus giving us an idea  of the skill of the Indian artists of that time. This is the sanctum sanctorum, the holiest  Shrine of the temple. The Shiva-linga is   still intact and present in its original  place after more than a thousand years!  The experience of the Kailasa temple  leaves one overwhelmed by the richness   of its art, the beauty of its sculpture and  the grandeur of its architecture. I am amazed   by the audacity of those who planned it;  and by the courage of those who dared to execute it.

Kailasa is an Ode to the religious  and cultural evolution of ancient India.

2023-12-14 22:31

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