Monthly Archives: December 2016

Politicization of Culture – Death of Value based Education

Politicization of Culture - Death of Value based Education

I am going to divide the article in two parts, the first part is the misuse of culture by the power elites and the second is related to lack of moral education in schools
“Culture can be a worse bomb than a nuclear bomb. While the latter acts as a deterrent, the idea of culture ignites emotions. Culture can be anything from language, ethnic identity, religion, lifestyles choices and much more…” Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan well known authority on Culture and my teachers for over 3 decades, said to me in an informal talk at the time of Godhra riots. Since time immemorial culture has been used by the power elite as a useful tool to enhance their own monopoly of power.

What is worrying in our country is that we now have a ministry of human resource development and only a department of education. How can we expect civil behaviour and value based citizenry when the idea of morality and values are replaced to build the next generation of our country as a resource? As part of my professional engagement as a heritage educationist I have been visiting and interacting with schools across the country, and the rise cyber crime is intensifying. In rural areas schools may not have electricity, desks, chairs or even a proper black board, but, a large number of students now have mobile phones.Attractive packages are offered by mobile companies, hence most students have access to internet and they are active on social media sites. With negation of instilling value based education, lack of internet laws there is no control mechanism to prevent immoral behavior. For example, young girls between class 4-8th grade selfies of themselves nude since it is a useful way to get boyfriends, this is a means

Secrets of Ladakh- Water Shrines -Travel & Advocacy

Untold Stories on Performed India- Secrets of Ladakh –

Water Shrines in the Cold Desert

In Ladakh, spring water was and remains a precious resource. Unfortunately, while the earlier generations understood the significance of spring water and thus provided interesting ways to avoid pollution and contamination, the up scaled tourism in this Buddhist landscape has meant that traditional knowledge and practices are becoming redundant.  The opening of Ladakh to tourism meant that the local people gradually became exposed to ‘development’ and changes and in that run they started neglecting their traditional practices. Now, with greater awareness there is growing consciousness to protect both the environment and their resources. One aspect of traditional practices was the creation of Water shrines in Ladakh as community initiatives. An example of this is the reverence given to sources of spring water.

Come summer, just five short months, and the people in the valleys in Ladakh start working round the clock. Their lives revolve around preparing for the long winter. From collecting and drying fodder for their cattle to drying vegetables and other food on their flat roofs. Water is priceless. Glaciers melt and the springs generate the revered source and supply.

One such manifestation of reverence can be seen in Leh. In earlier times communities, monasteries, rulers or rich merchants erected rock sculptures above a spring water source. The chosen sculptures would usually be five dhyani Buddhas. The aspects of the idea of Buddha are a part of the Vajrayana Buddhism or the tantric system of Buddhism. They are represented by five colors – white, blue, yellow, red and green (the same colors of the prayer flags). Each of the Buddhas are associated with countering one aspect of delusion and one aspect of the enlightened mind, they are also associated with the five elements, five senses, five physical organs, five physical conditions and much more.

The placing of rock sculptures of the 5 Buddhas along with an urn to burn incense and hanging of prayer flags created a  community sacred shrine around the source of the spring water. The idea of sacredness prevented contamination and pollution of the water source.

There is one such shrine just below the palace in Leh called Chubi Yokma. The land of this water source is owned by the Hemis monastery which is one of the largest and richest in Ladakh.

Built in the 17th c by the Namgyal Ruler, the water source for drinking water served not only the King and his palace but also 208 families who lived around the hill where the Leh palace is situated. It was the King who had commissioned for the 5 dyani Buddhas to be sculpted. Later 4 of the sculptures were relocated at the Sankar Monastery or Gompa (as a monastery is called in Ladakh). Only the heaviest of the five monoliths was left behind.

With time, as development and tourism gained popularity both the Leh palace and the shrine of the spring water were neglected. In 2009, a local historian Sonam Phuntsog from the beautiful village of Achinathang appealed to Ladakh Buddhist Association and to the administration of the Hemis monastery to restore the shrine. The sculpture which had fallen and sunk into the ground was along with the source itself was restored by the Green Ladakh Welfare Society.

Stones, Stories & Creative Impulses Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal Lesser known Heritagescapes of North Karnataka- Dr. Navina Jafa

Figure 1: Navina Jafa performing in landscape of Badami caves Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it….. Michelangelo   The weathered geol…

Source: Stones, Stories & Creative Impulses Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal Lesser known Heritagescapes of North Karnataka- Dr. Navina Jafa

Stones, Stories & Creative Impulses Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal Lesser known Heritagescapes of North Karnataka- Dr. Navina Jafa

Figure 1: Navina Jafa performing in landscape of Badami caves Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it….. Michelangelo   The weathered geol…

Source: Stones, Stories & Creative Impulses Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal Lesser known Heritagescapes of North Karnataka- Dr. Navina Jafa

Stones, Stories & Creative Impulses Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal Lesser known Heritagescapes of North Karnataka- Dr. Navina Jafa


Figure 1: Navina Jafa performing in landscape of Badami caves

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it….. Michelangelo


The weathered geological topographical formation of the Deccan in North Karnataka, gets a form and manifests itself as impulses of intangible and tangible heritage reflecting diversified ingenuity of human beings. While Hampi remains a highlight for travelers when they visit this region, it is the lesser known destinations of Ahihole, Pattadakal and Badami that speak of sacred stories in secret India. These Heritagescapes are reflective musings of underpinning of trade and economics, of power and egos and are older than the heirtagescape of the  Hampi  the heritage terrain of the Vijaynagar Kings (14th-17th AD).

All three locations (Ahihole, Pattadakal and Badami) are associated with a South Indian league of rulers called the Chalukyas of Badami. While Aihole (5thc) was the first and Badami (6-8th c AD) the second citadel of the Chalukyas. Pattadakal (7th-8th c AD was the coronation location for the Chalukya kings.  All the locations including that of Hampi are situated on rivers.

Running river waters have since the inception of human settlements provided ideal environments for man to live, trade and sustain communities such that rivers in most ancient cultures become revered and represent sacred geographies that sustains life, and generates a range of rituals and metaphysical symbolism. Hampi is on the river Tungabhadra whose sacred name is Pampa. Pampa in the anthromorphic form is the revered Goddess, wife of Pampati or Shiva. On the other hand, the land of the Chalukyan kings (Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal) are located on the river Malaprabha. Both Tungabhadra and Malaprabha are tributaries of the east flowing river Krishna, and are perceived as part of a sacred landscape.  Tourists while decussating this sector visit the more evident sites of Hampi and Badami but more often than not give a miss to Aihole and world heritage site of Pattadakal.

Aihole is a quiet village replete with history. Defined by a craggy landscape, there is on one hand the historical evidence of megalithic man in the form of burial sites and on the other hand, the village of Aihole is dotted with carved caves, temples, cells and spaces for meditative retreats.

megalinthic     meguti-jain-temple-aihole

Figure 2-Megalithic Burial Site- Aihole      Fig 3: Meguti Jain temple – aihole

An important aspect of heritage interpretation on Aihole is the context of economic heritage that underlines the narrative on archaeology and art history. In the background high on a hill bordering the megalithic site is the presence of silent, but energized locations of Jain temples, retreats of Jain monks, and the history of vibrant support and presence of trader’s guilds without which the governing class would not have existed.

The traveler climbs a hill and is awakened to the powerful energies on top captured in the Jain Meghuti Temple and where on its wall is an inscription by the 7th Jain poet Ravikirti celebrating the power of Chalukiyan ruler Pulkeisan II. These Jain manifestations are above the other built heritage landscape of Hindu caves, and temple complex. The Hindu caves located below the Jain hill are dedicated to sacred pantheon of Gods, and Goddesses representing myths, metaphors and symbols.


Figure 4 –  Mahisasurmardini – Ravalapadi Cave temple in Aihole,


Figure 5- Dancing Shiva, Ravula Phadi Cave, Aihole

Finally on the lowest level alongside of the village is the main temple complex. There is the Sun temple called the Durga temple after the linguistic term Durg for Fort.


Figure 6- Temple Complex – Aihole

Thus the temple communicates through sacred tangible heritage the idea of political power. However, what is most distinct about this 5thc AD complex of Aihole is the economic heritage of the trade guild of 500 merchants who were the patrons behind most temple building.  This guild called Nanadesi (those who can be perceived as exporters) and Swadesi (those traders who were engaged with internal trade) reigned in Ayyavolu the ancient name for Aihole. They financed building of cities, temples, conducted on and offshore trade to South East Asia. These traders employed ascetic armies similar to the phenomenon in the Doab in North India, where there spiritual army troops were called Bairagis, Goasains or Sanyassins in medieval period. The armies of the Nanadesi and Swadesi (the trader guilds hosted private parallel armies to those of the ruler.) These guilds demonstrating the economic power elite, organized themselves into administrative structures, boards and laws addressed trade norms, overseas operations including those that concerned ports. They were aligned closely with the political and religious (Hindu and Jain) elites, and were part of the forces which carried cultural imprints to South East Asia along with others parts of the Indian subcontinent such as the trade dynamics from the area of Orissa along the Chilka Lake.


20151127_160619    20151127_102811

Figure 7-8 :  The Geological presentation of Badami Caves

The setting of the Badami caves is no less spectacular than the raw boulders of Hampi. The red, craggy, jagged mountains around an artificial reservoir (Agasthyathirth) on three sides, and the Hindu and Jain carved caves on the fourth side opens an unimaginable scene of narratives through iconographic carvings. The Badami sculptures are replete with innumerable metaphysical ideas, concepts of sacred geography and geometry. For example, I would like to mention just one small and brief aspect of the manner in which the in-depth layers of sacred structure of the universe is represented in the carvings. This is the scheme represented through the underlined, visible and yet un-coded intriguing geometry related to the concept and ideas of square and circle in Indian thought.


Fig 9: Reverse interlocked Swaistikas on ceilings of Badami Caves- The idea of the Square

The Square represents various levels of form in a spatial format of the external world – universe, citadels, sacred places, individual in the outer environment, and also aspects of the inner individual geography. The square is a map to comprehend different levels of existence – physical body, subtle body and conscience body. On the other hand, the circle is about the natural non dual yet apparently opposite aspects of the cosmic order called rta in Sanskrit whether it is day – night, changing seasons, contrasting concept of age, there is a circularity of continuity of time.

Yet, both the square and the circle have a central point of energy – which is coordinated to the central energy point and life point in the human body the nabhi (the naval). The various paths to travel the square or the circle are marked channels which are organized in a certain pattern, on many occasions as interlocked systems of energies that expand and collapse (like that in the above image of the reverse set of interlocked swastikas in the ceiling of Badami caves).  These concepts are represented in and through various sculptures in Badami through myths, symbols and metaphors. For example, the idea of the Dancing Shiva as the cosmic forces in geometrical channels. This is represented in a book of tenets on Indian sculpture – The illustrations below are that of the Natabara Yatra symbolizing the cosmic dance of Shiva.

This can be taken as a reference point when one  interacts with the powerful image of the 18 armed dancing Shiva in Cave 1 of the Badami.


Fig 10 : Natabara Yatra  depicting Dancing Shiva


Fig 11: 18 armed Dancing Shiva

The idea of cosmogonic energies in ideas of sacred geometry become incredibly important as one views the concept and motif of the circle represented through  mysteries of myths and symbols such as in the ceiling where one sees the  serpent circle,  or the circle made with 15 fishes.


Fig 12: Concept of Circle – Emerging Serpent God from ceiling


Fig : 13: The circle of Fishes 

Besides these spectacular caves, are some sites outside the Badami town which are as well interesting and are associated with the heritage of the Chalukyas. For example, encircled by magnificent Banyan trees is the 6-7th c Shiva Mahakuta Temple complex built by the Chalukyas. While on one side stands the elaborate carved ceremonial chariot, the complex itself has some interesting features. Large number of the un-manifested form of Shiva – lingas are strewed around.



Fig 14: Banayan and Chariot of the Mahakuta Temple

The Mahakuta Shiva Temple Complex is full of lingams of various sizes, shapes and designs. The uniqueness of this complex is that it is a living sacred space owned by the community. A well maintained community bath, a wish fulfilling swing under a Banyan tree. The temple has some fascinating ritual objects, and the ground is still used for marriages.


Fig 15 : inside the temple

20151128_104823Fig 15 : Ritual objects in the Temple

mahakuteshwara-temple-bathing-tank Fig16: Community Bath

An impressive statue is that of a spectacular androgynous form of Shiva ardhnarishwar. The beautiful left side is that of a woman and the right side that of a man.ardhanarishwara-mahakuta-temple-badami

The layers of Badami incorporates the Bhanashankari Temple. Banashankari or the goddess of vegetable was the principal family deity of the Chalukyan Kings, and is known presently as a fertility goddess who fulfills the wishes of childless couples.


Finally the visit to Badami remains incomplete without buying or seeing the vibrant range of the Ikal Saree. There is the Banashankari women weaving cooperative which supplies among other places to the market complex of the temple. The special feature of the Ilkal weave is that the warp is of cotton threads, and there is silk that makes up the weft. Usually a nine yard saree, the Ilkal weave uses an embroidery pattern called Kasuti reflecting traditional patterns of lotuses, elephants, temple towers. The end of the pallu or the end of the saree has intriguing patterns and shpaes such as that of hanige (comb), Kotti Kammli  (ramparts of forts). The contrasting border is broad and on the whole the sarees are striking.




The third stop in the itinerary of the heritage of Chalukyas of Badami is the world heritage site of Pattadakal. As mentioned before, the location of this small sleepy village is besides the river Malprabha where the river acquires its sacredness by the fact that just in this area it flows backwards north towards its source and is therefore called Uttarvahini.  A similar phenomenon exists in the nature of the flow of Ganges in Varanasi, and hence the importance of Varanasi among other factors as the sacred city.


The Chalukyan kings beseeched various gods to bless and protect them, and thus chose Pattadakal as the place to begin their reigns and the location for their coronation. The uniqueness of this World Heritage Site (built and functioned between 7th-9thc AD) is that it presents a range of Indian temple architecture.

Pattadakal complex comprises of ten temples representing the North India Nagara style, the South India style – Dravida, and the third is specific to the Western Deccan marked by the fact that it incorporates both the above styles of architecture. This category is called Vesara architecture. Through architecture the visitor accesses the link between the concept of power and that of religious sanctions and authority. The temples are both Jain and Hindu, and are a record to communicate the celebration of a king’s victory, or a queen’s assertion of power through architecture. Myths, motifs through a series of sculptural schemes define the temples.

One of the most lovable and beautiful piece of sculpture is the Nandi Bull, the sheer lyricism that marks the curves of the sculpture is remarkable.


One of the most lovable and beautiful piece of sculpture is the Nandi Bull, the sheer lyricism that marks the curves of the sculpture is remarkable.

As the sun sets, the hundreds of hands that silently carved the amazing set of temples and sculptures remain etched in the mind, and as one steps out, the landscape of the Chalukyas of Badami and lesser known heritage are engraved in the mind of the wandering pilgrims who urge themselves to de-code the multiple layers of the Indian civilization. While as a traveler one journeys to admire the tangible built heritage, it is always fascinating to piece the jig-saw together. Human histories from various perspectives of economics, sociology, politics, spirituality, oral history, common beliefs, and living practices unfold the story of an archaeological and architectural layout in a complete manner. It does take one to walk that extra mile, but for accessing an experience called India it is not only essential but needed for the enrichening of the self.