Shore Temple

The last Pagoda of Shore Temple

We drove to the Shore Temple at dawn to witness the pristine structure, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th century AD. Overlooking the shore of the Bay of Bengal, it is one of the oldest temples in Southern India. Constructed in the Dravidian style that reflects the royal taste of the Pallava dynasty, its sanctuaries are dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva.

It was still pitch-dark as we drove towards the Shore Temple to explore the unique structure dating from the 8th century AD Overlooking the shore of the Bay of Bengal, the Shore Temple is one of the oldest temples in south India Constructed in the Dravidian style, the temple reflects the royal taste of the Pallava dynasty Every day it draws thousands of people from different parts of India – the reason why we were awake at the break of dawn on a vacation Having my car around for the trip turned out to be quite helpful as we didn’t have to go hunting for public transport at these awkward timings
Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple

The Kovils of Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple

I have an affection for stones. Crazy as it might sound, while in Kanchipuram, I dropped by at the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple at the break of dawn. to walk among the oldest mad-made art in the temple city. Located in one of the busiest cities of Tamil Nadu, the temple was commissioned in the 8th century by Rajasimha, the greatest of the kings of the Pallava Dynasty.

Kovil is the Tamil term for a distinct style of Hindu temple with Dravidian architecture Today I explore an 8th century sandstone temple, hidden away in a corner of the temple city of Kanchipuram, that has seen so much history and still stands today to tell us, heritage hunters, stories that have weathered away in the winds of time Bangalore to Kanchipuram Towards the fag-end of 2017, we were on our way towards Mahabalipuram to spend a few days of leisure on the peaceful beaches along the east coast Along the way in Kanchipuram, we had planned a detour for a couple of days to explore the city that is said

The forgotten tombs of Chattardi

Chattardi in Bhuj is a small yet wonderful place to experience the history of Kutch. These Chattardis or umbrella shaped domes were built around 1770 AD to glorify the tombs of the Royal families of Rajput lineage. Surrounded by sea on one size and the grim Rann mountains on the other, Kutch remained cut off from the rest of India, in a time-wrapped cocoon with its amazing culture and art confined within these natural boundaries.

On our autumn break, we were heading to the Rann of Kutch The Great Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat Kutch derives its names from its resemblance to a tortoise which is pronounced as “Kachabo” in the local Gujarati dialect Kutch used to be a desert sporadically populated with small tribes The first known mention of Kutch occurs around 300 BC when a holy man, lost in the forests of the north-western Kutch, cleared the wildlands using celestial fire, so that he could find his way home It is said – from those ashes sprang crops of grass so rich that large numbers of pastoral tribes
Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi

The Stone Sculptures of Veerabhadra Temple

Today we ride to a 16th century temple in Lepakshi. Hidden away in the suburbs of Andra Pradesh, this small town was sufficiently influenced by the stone sculptures of Vijayanagar Empire and includes a huge monolithic bull that sits staring at the Temple.

The forecast for the weekend had been bleak With frequent rains and cloudy days, I was a bit circumspect if we would eventually be able go down to the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi Fortunately for us, it turned out to be a lovely sunny day The Veerabhadra Temple lies not far from Bangalore in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh It is popular around these parts for its outstanding sculptures and ceiling paintings which represent the climax of the Vijayanagar Art towards the middle of the 16th century Built in the 1530 AD, the architectural features of the temple follow the Vijayanagar style to the detail, with numerous carvings and paintings at almost every exposed
Terracotta temples of Bishnupur

Terracotta Temples of Bishnupur

We drive deep into rural Bengal to witness the exquisite terracotta temples of Bishnupur. These extensively decorated temples were created during the 17th century using only baked mud and have somehow managed to survive the ravages of time.

Winter has been quite foggy this year We had been planning a trip to the Terracotta temples of Bishnupur for some time but the dense haze had been putting us off This weekend it finally relented somewhat and we grabbed the opportunity We started at a bit late at 9 am The early morning fog had dissipated by then From Kolkata, we drove up the Grand Trunk Road up to Burdwan All along the Grand Trunk Road one can see endless potato fields There are two toll booths on the way, each charging Rs 75 for a car At Purta Bhawan crossing in Burdwan, we turned left, taking the Ahilyabai Holkar Road road, straight to Bishnupur We had made
Shorinzan Darumaji Temple

Daruma Dolls of Syorinzan Darumaji Temple

Today we head out to the Syorinzan Darumaji Temple in the Takasaki countryside. Constructed in 1697, the Zen temple is the birthplace of “Takasaki Daruma” dolls used as a talisman for good luck.

On the last leg of our trip to Kanto, I and my wife, Ranita, were lodged at the Toyoko Inn at Takasaki Over the last couple of days, Takasaki proved to be a great base for visiting places we had on our bucket list, around Tokyo in the Kanto region The town is itself famous for the tradition of the Daruma dolls used as a talisman for good luck The Daruma doll is a hollow, rounded traditional Japanese doll with large eyes, modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism These dolls are typically red in color but can also come in different colors We were leaving for Nagano

The shrines of Nikko

Today Mani & I visit the temples of Nikko in Tochigi. The vibrant temples at this World Heritage site are strikingly different in appearance from other temples I have witnessed in Japan. The lavishly decorated pillars and other structures are covered in a gold leaves and multitude carvings conveying expressions of religious belief as well as scholarship and philosophy.

It was a sudden rush of the moment when I decided to visit the shrines of Nikko The day before I was shuffling through some souvenirs at the Tougyoku Doll museum, when I chanced upon a set of hand painted cards of popular UNESCO sites in Japan The box contained a set of six UNESCO sites, of which I had visited all, barring Nikko So it was decided right then that we were going to Nikko the next day The “Shrines and Temples of Nikko” refer to the Toshogu and Futarasan-jinja shrines, the Rinnoji temple and the surrounding sacred forest located in Tochigi Prefecture, in the northern part of Japan’s Kanto region

The Nangaku-ji Temple

Scattered throughout Yamagata Prefecture, there are over two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu. The process of self-mummification was mainly practiced by monks in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century. Today we walk down to the Buddhist mummy of Nangakuji Temple in Tsuruoka that holds the remains of Tetsuryou-kai, mummified at the age of 44, in a meditating pose, to understand what drove these monks towards this self inflicted, painful death.

From the beautiful prefecture of Akita, we were headed to Niigata Unfortunately there are no Shinkansen lines along this route, so we caught a local JR train along the Uetsu Line to Sakata From Sakata we changed to another train on the Inaho line towards Niigata The Inaho line passes through endless paddy fields During summer, the lush green fields are a treat to the eyes On the way we had planned to take a break at Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture to visit the Nangaku temple The Nangaku Temple houses the mummy of Tetsuryukai’s, who
Yamadera Temple

Hike to Yamadera Temple

What better to do on the “Mountain Day” than to hike up the steep mountainside up to the Yamadera temple in Yamagata. The temple was founded over a thousand years ago in 860 AD under the official name Risshakuji but people generally know it by its more popular name “Yamadera” which means mountain temple. But to get there first I need to conquer a thousand steps, is it a bit more than I bargained for..

After witnessing the exhilarating warrior floats of Aomori Nebuta Museum, I began my journey towards Yamadera The Hayabusa Shinkansen brought me to Sendai and from there I switched to the local train to Yamadera Yamadera Station is about a 40-minute train ride from Sendai, Tohoku’s most happening city The local train to Yamadera goes very slowly through the beautiful and thrilling mountainous territory Many self-mummified monks trained among these mountains of Haguro, Gassan and Yudono Their bodies still lie at these sacred sites, the locations of which are closely guarded by the locals  The train dropped me off at the Yamadera station at about 1 pm From the small station, I walked straight towards the location of the temple

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