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Home Eminent Columnists Sarvamangala

Sarvamangala

SarvamangalaKnowAP.com takes you through a magical journey across the weaving and craft centres of India. The writer of this column, Sarvamangala, has been associated with handlooms and handicrafts for 14 years. She has started and run, very successfully, a retail store in Secunderabad dealing with ethnic handlooms and ecofriendly craft/toys. She has her own outlet now....Anagha, in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad..

The business woman turned writer was earlier an airhostess with Indian Airlines. "I got into business and into handlooms by default", she says. I have an Air Force background and had no clue of how to run a business.But having got into it. she gave it her all.

She has travelled to the major weaving centres of Andhra Pradesh and other States of India and interacted with master weavers understanding the method of weaving from them and giving them colour and design inputs in return. Handlooms soon became a passion with her. "I realised the variety and scope of Indian handlooms after I got into it. The designs and combinations that can be made are endless and mind boggling...leaving one spellbound", she says. For instance, who could have thought that Kalamkari paintings could be appliqued on to sarees? or the traditional Lucknowi chikankari work done on Maheshwari sarees? or block prints on Kanjeevaram silks? or Jute infused into Tussar Silk sarees?

Read about all these and more in the forthcoming months in "Weaves and Crafts of India".

Travelling to Ahobilam Temple and the Alampur Navabrahma Temples

This time we travel to two of the popular temples in Andhra Pradesh - the Ahobilam Temple and the Alampur Navabrahma Temples.

AHOBILAM TEMPLE
Location: Nallamalai Ranges.
Deity: Lord Narasimha Swami

The Ahobilam is a famous temple of South India. It is situated in the Nallamalai ranges near Nandyal Railway Station in Andhra Pradesh. The Nallamalai ranges are to the south of river Krishna, down to Tirupati and are called Sesha Parvatha. Sesha is the name of the king of serpents. The hood of the sesha is at Tirupati, the tail at Srisailam and the middle is situated at Ahobilam. Nallamalai at the tail is called Sringiri, the middle is called Vedagiri and Garudagiri is referred to as at the hood.

The shrine of the Ahobilam temple is situated on the top of the first range and is referred to as Upper Ahobilam and down below is called Lower Ahobilam. A huge temple surrounded by a number of buildings can be seen at Upper Ahobilam; the main shrine here was carved out of a big egg like rock with mandapams.

There is a Lower Ahobilam below with a big temple and enclosures. It was built according to the South Indian style. Pilgrims can stay here in this temple. The priests of both Upper and Lower Ahobilam stay there even today. A number of costly and different types of vahanas for processional purposes are found in Lower Ahobilam. Recently, many pillared halls were added at the Lower Ahobilam.

The inscriptions available at the Ahobilam temple indicate that King Vikramaditya VI of the Western Chalukya line of Kalyani worshipped Malola Narasimha of this temple. The utsava murthi of the temple is made of gold and it is said that it was installed by the famous Kakatiya King, Prataparudra. Now, the great spiritual Jiyars of Ahobilam Matha worship it. It is said that while returning from Srisailam, Prataparudra stopped at Ahobilam and had placed the idol at a place called Rudravaram near the village. King Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagar dynasty is also said to have visited the Ahobilam temple on his victory of Kalinga. He is also said to have made offerings of a diamond necklace, wristlet, a gold plate and gold coins here.

It is believed that the presiding deity, Lord Narasimha, here had a romance with a Chenchu girl, who is locally called Chenchu Lakshmi. During the annual festival here, the romance and the marriage are celebrated in a dramatic way. Ahobilam is one of the ancient Vaishnava shrines of India and it has a matha at Srirangam. The idol of the presiding deity Lord Narasimha is shown in a sitting posture with jatagata or matted hair. This is the unique posture of Vishnu and can only be seen here.

NAVABRAHMA TEMPLES
Location: Alampur. 

Situated on the left bank of the Tungabhadra River in Alampur, Nava Brahma is a temple complex of nine shrines dating back to the 7th Century. Nava Brahma temples include Taraka Brahma, Swarga Brahma, Padma Brahma, Bala Brahma, Garuda Brahma, Kumara Brahma, Arka Brahma, Veera Brahma and Viswa Brahma. Built by the Badami Chalukyas, these temples are enclosed in a courtyard and depict various manifestations of the Lord. 

The principal shrine in the temple complex is the Bala Brahma temple, which dates back to 702 C.E. Taraka Brahma temple bears inscriptions dating back to the 6th - 7th Century. Swarga Brahma temple with its imposing tower testifies the quality of Chalukyan architecture and sculpture. Padma Brahma temple enshrines a Shiva linga of clear stone with a mirror-like finish. Viswa Brahma temple is noted for its sculptural work depicting scenes from the epic.

A little more in detail about the Nava Brahma shrines are:
Bala Brahma: Bala Brahma is the main temple where the priest conducts rituals and daily worship. It indicates the evolution of the temple, with most of its sculptures lost due to vandalism. There are some minor statues of deities around the central shrine. As the name indicates, it is a temple dedicated to the Lord as a child. There is sufficient ventilation in this temple. The temple contains a pillared hall with three openings. On the ceiling of the temple various postures of Shiva are engraved.

Garuda Brahma: The name indicates the Eagle or Kite. It is named thus because a Garuda is shown carrying Lord Vishnu on the lintel.

Swarga Brahma: This indicates paradise. It is one of the finest pieces of architecture. It has an abundance of sculptures portraying various postures of couples (tending towards romance).

Padma Brahma: This temple has the biggest sanctum sanctorum. The Shiva linga is erected with highly polished black granite (one can literally see their reflection in it). The temple is partly in ruins now.

Taraka Brahma: It is built on a raised platform with a square sanctum. The Shiva linga is missing here.

Arka Brahma: This is a small temple. The gopuram and kalasa are missing.

Kumara Brahma: This temple is close to the main shrine and is fully endowed with sculptures on the façade, which is a delight and epitome of perfection. This is one of the oldest structures and has retained all its original glory.

Veera Brahma: Currently it is a partially damaged temple.

Vishwa Brahma: This is considered to be one of the artistic temples. It has reference to Vishwakarma or the Lord of the Universe. The sculptures etched here are in excellent condition.

Most of the temples have a pyramid type of dome with a circular kalasa on top to complete the edifice. The plan of the sanctum mostly consists of one enclosure where the Shiva linga is located. Originally the temple complex was located inside a fort, which is in a dilapidated state. The fort seems to have been destroyed by the invading armies and local residents who have used the stones for construction of their residences.

The carvings on the temple premises relate to Nataraja, Paravathi, Ugra Narashimha, and scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Lord Kartikeya, Chaturmukha, Nandi, Naga slabs, dancers, drummers and elephants. 

Month: December 2010.

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