My India, my country!

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During my recent trip to the UK, I had the opportunity to visit so many places of interest. I was struck by the pride the English take in showcasing their monuments and priceless treasures. There is a fee for visiting each one of these places and after a guided tour we become so enriched about English history. Glossy brochures are wonderful takeaways that we retain as mementoes of our visit. I was just wondering about the many places that we have in India. If there is a Stonehenge in England, we have wonderful structures where sunlight falls with precision exactly on the same day year after year on a particular spot. At the Gavi Gangadareshwar Temple in Bangalore, the sun’s rays pass through this astronomical wonder and touch the deity as if dipping in obeisance once a year on Makar Sankranthi Day.

The Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, which is believed to have been constructed by Kempe Gowda, who established the city of Bengaluru, is a cave temple, and on Makar Sankranti day, the sun’s rays pass through the window and touch the Shivalinga. Both scientists and scholars are engaged in a study to observe its architectural importance and astronomical significance. This temple was formed by the natural boulders of hillocks and faces the south-west direction. The courtyard is wide and has large-sized monolithic sculptures placed in certain alignments. Shiva’s symbols, the Trishula and the Damaru, are placed on the southern edge of the courtyard.

There are two large circular discs placed parallel to each other known as Suryapana and Chandrapana, with a diameter of 2 m each. Since these are circular and face the east and west, they are identified as symbols of the sun and the moon. It is believed that such discs are not found in any other temple in Karnataka or south India.

Scientists have identified the significance of the Suryapana and Chandrapana monolithic sculptures. According to their study, these were placed for astronomical observations in the medieval period. The shadow of the Dvajastamba falls on the eastern disc for 40 minutes. It is only recently that scholars discovered that the two discs have been installed in alignment to the summer solstice sunset and that explains the significance of the phenomenon on Makar Sankranti. What an amazing foresight these early day scientists had?

What about the Jantar Mantar in Delhi which is also a good example of an astronomical observatory constructed by medieval rulers in India.

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The Castles in UK are so lovely, quiet and neat. People speak about these monuments almost in reverence. That is because from a young age citizens are taught to respect their heritage and they feel everyone not just the government has a role to play in preserving these symbols of culture. India has its fair share of opulent palaces and grand forts. But it is our inland visitors who don’t think twice before dirtying the place or throwing garbage here and there or worse scratching the walls with sharp things. Why is it that our Indians cannot take pride of their rich legacy? Maybe our schools should start educating children on these basic things first.

We have the best of everything but we do not know how to advertise it or use it to raise revenue. Our stepwells and cave structures cannot be found elsewhere. I was reading about Rani ki Vav the other day. It is known as the queen of stepwells as its name indicates. It is an intricately constructed step well situated in the town of Patan in Gujarat, India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in memory of Bhimdev I (AD 1022 to 1063), the son of Mularaja, the founder of the Solanki dynasty of Anahilwada Patan about 1050 AD by his widowed queen Udayamati and probably completed by Udayamati and Karandev I after his death. A reference to Udayamati building the monument is in Prabandha Chintamani composed by Jain monk Merunga Suri in 1304 AD. The well is a marvel of underground sculpture and splendour with ornate interiors and long flights of steps interspersed with multi-storeyed mandaps or pavilions. The stepwell was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, with the carvings found in pristine condition. The minute and exquisite carving of this vav is one of the finest specimens of its kind. I was filled with wonder when I read about this. We need to publicize these wonders, get people to visit them and most importantly our countrymen should take great pride in all that our country offers.

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