The trip to Lepakshi was a premature baby born out of a boring weekend affair with the city. If you aren't a certified 'Mall Rat' who is fond of shopping, there is nothing much to do in the city on a typical weekend. I already have a huge backlog of books to read and hence a trip to the bookstore wasn't an option either. I had to get out somewhere before another boring Sunday consumes me. I prefer to spend my money on experiences and not things, even at the risk of being called an irresponsible, unstable idiot by people around me. I have in fact learned to smile and walk away without responding from such people, for whom you are just an option.

So searching for a destination I can comfortably cover in a day's time, I zeroed in on Lepakshi. My good friend Subhasish also agreed to join me this time, to find out what I actually do on these trips. He had serious doubts on my real intentions in frequenting these old temples and forts. Lepakshi is a small village situated some 14Kms from Hindupur, in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. It is famous for the temple of Veerabhadra constructed in the 14th Century and the mural paintings of the Vijayanagara period. There are KSRTC buses to Hindupur from Majestic bus station in Bangalore, and there are frequent buses between Hindupur and LePakshi as well.

There are two stories - one mythological and another historical - behind the name 'Lepakshi'.The mythological story dates Lepakshi town back to the days of the Ramayana. It is said that Lord Rama found the mythical bird Jatayu lying wounded here, its wings were cut off by Ravana when he abducted Sita. Lord Rama said 'le pakshi' (rise bird) and the bird rose. Hence, this place was named as Lepakshi. The historic story is about Virupanna, the treasurer of the Vijayanagara king Achutaraya, who was in charge of the temple construction at Lepakshi. Virupanna's enemies reported to the emperor that the treasury funds were being misused by him. In those days, it was customary to pluck the eyes of the keeper of the royal treasury if he was found guilty of theft. Virupanna being a loyal servant, carried out the order with his own hands, and two dark stains are visible on the west wall of the southern entrance of the inner enclosure, which are said to be the marks made by his eyes, which he himself threw at the wall. Thus came the name 'Lepa Akshi' which means plucked eyes.

There are quite a few architectural marvels in the temple complex. The Natyamandapa is the finest part of the temple. It is supported on 70 excellently sculptured pillars, the 12 pillars in the center forming a court. Life size sculptures of dancers and musicians are carved on to all the pillars. One of the pillars is a 'hanging pillar', well almost. Unlike regular pillars which are built bottom up, this one is fixed on the top, but only an edge touches the ground. You can kneel down and slide a sheet of paper or cloth under it to see the gap. The guide told us an interesting story about it - this hanging pillar, one of the 70 there, is the representation of the lead-dancer in a group, who is generally picturized with his/her one leg up. There is also another story of a British engineer, who wanted to know how the temple was supported by the pillars and tried to displace one of it. It is said that the attempt caused the movement of as many as 10 pillars around, to maintain the balance.

The Shivlinga protected by a seven hooded serpent, found outside the Natyamandapa, is another interesting piece of art in the complex. The base of this sculpture has a crack and there are interesting stories about both the 'Shivlinga' and the crack. According to the legend, the sculpture was cut out by a workman of the temple during the rest hour, while his mother was getting his meal ready. On arriving with his meal his mother expressed her surprise and admiration; whereupon the stone base developed a crack, as if under the evil influence of the unlucky words of praise! Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the legend, it is a mighty sculpture to look at. Another beautiful structure 'casually' carved out, again during rest hour is the Nandi, half a kilometer away from the main temple. It is a remarkable piece of work, about 15 feet high, and is one of the biggest Nandis in the country.

There is also a huge footprint mark on one of the rocks, which is said to be the foot print of the goddess Durga. The unfinished Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall) is another treat to watch, which depicts the marriage of Siva and Parvathi, with the sculptures of prominent guests, including the Ashtadikpalakas carved on the pillars. There are quite a few small shrines inside the inner sanctum, dedicated to Hanuman, Parvathi, Bhadrakali etc. The main god Veerabhadra is considered an angry version of Siva and hence you are not supposed to walk right up to him as you enter the temple. So unlike other temples, as soon as you enter you take a right turn, see an idol of Ganesh, then take a left and see the sanctum sanctorum. The mural paintings all along the walls and roofs tell many an interesting stories. The crocodile and the monkey, and the little prince who killed a calf are some of the uncommon characters you see in those stories, in addition to the usual suspects, the Gods and Goddesses!

A visit to Lepakshi is quite an experience if you have an eye for ancient architecture or structural beauty in general. I consider it a day well spent and my friend Subhasish was for once impressed with me. He now has some reason to believe me when I say I am on a trip to some historic spot elsewhere!

More pictures here.

Conversations with Pluto - Felis Do'mystica'

'What is that fluffy thing outside your door?', Pluto almost barked at me while trying hard to control his breath. Pluto is my neighbor's cat who spends most of his time at my place. He was visibly disturbed.

'It is no 'fluffy thing', it is a dog'

'Oh.. thank you for the info. Who put it there?'

'Nobody put it there. It just came the other day and put itself out there'. The poor dog had walked in to escape the rain and then found my doormat quite comfortable to leave.

'Then, you should throw it out. It is creating issues in my safe transit between places'.
'Let the poor thing be there. She won't bite you', I said.
'Oh my goodness. You never told me its a 'she', Pluto's eyes lit up like a bulb.
'So what?, what difference it is going to make?'

'You have no idea. Soon this place will be full of puppies'
Come on! You are being too paranoid'
'Why do you think they are called Canis 'Family'aris?

Without giving me a moment to understand the pun, he continued 'And puppies, they stink!'
'No, they don't'
'At least their poop does'

'We should perhaps call her Boo'
'That is so mean'
'Not the Boo in Hindi; Boo as in 'Me and you and the dog named Boo..'
'Wow! Never knew you are a Lobo fan'

'You don't know anything about me dude. Cats are always mysterious. That is why we are called Felis Do'mystica', he said with a wink.


PS: Our conversations on Free will and Predicting Future and the Paunch.

Pop stories !

I happened to hear two Pop and Son stories the past week. They weren't really funny, but interesting.

One story is about a Dad, who during one of those knowledge transfer sessions advised sonny boy to keep his tail folded nicely between his legs, tightly wrapped around and protecting the balls, instead of keeping it upright at the face of the world. He wanted the son to take the shortest routes in life than shooting for the longer but cleaner ones. He probably did not want to see his beloved son being stoned by the angry majority as he makes his sermon from the mount, against the so called absurdities of the world. I would have understood the intentions of such an advice if given to some bad ass who joined Greenpeace or campaigned for world peace. But all that he ever did in life was questioning some priests. And anyone who has ever walked into a place of worship, except to escape the rain, would understand this behavior.

I am not sure it is the right thing to sit back and blame the generation for its Lady Gaga culture and not provide real support when it matters.

And there is this other story where the son begs the father to come and stay with him, only to take care of the new addition to the family. The son is annoyed that his parents devoted two years raising his sister's kid, but refused to volunteer for the same profile when it was his turn. Pretty logical..eh? Can't blame him for thinking that he could use the experience they had in raising a bum like him. So he had an argument on the need of him getting his share of their time, while he and his wife could go about making some more money.

Who am I to pass comments on other people's lives anyway!

Conversations with Pluto - The Paunch

"Ever noticed that all the so called happy characters have huge paunches, while our idea of health and well-being is still about six packs and flat stomachs?", asked Pluto as we were enjoying a much deserved siesta after a sumptuous lunch that Sunday afternoon. Pluto is my neighbor's cat who spends most of his time at my place.

I did not give much attention to his rant as the wine in the 'Fish Wine-daloo' we prepared had just kicked in. I thought some chick would have passed a comment on his prosperous belly for which he is cooking up some excuse now. Moreover I generally stay away from any discussion where I am on the losing side. But he was in no mood to let go the argument.

'Take the case of Santa Claus, Laughing Buddha, lord Ganesha, Garfield or Obelix', said Pluto.

'What about them', I asked.

'There was a time when paunch was considered a sign of prosperity and happiness, and not a symptom of gastronomic problems or addiction to beer. That was when Websters had a single entry on stomach, and the definition was devoid of internationally accepted, UN approved measurements for the same'

Without waiting for my reaction he continued.. 'Like the Model T, they used to come in just one size and type- the 'stomach'. Outlandish terms like Pot belly, Beer belly, Apple belly, Pear belly, Pork belly and Muffin top were not part of the language then'

'Ahem! So, what is the point', I asked again.

Now that he got my attention, he stood up and slowly unraveled his theory. 'Eating to heart's content was not a crime those days and its consequence was thus considered benign. The only rules applicable to consumption of food were - Eat when you can, Eat all you can. Convenience, availability & ability to digest were the only considerations. What to eat, when to eat and how much to eat were all rules brought in later by authors of religious texts like Bible, whose idea of a full meal was dividing five breads and two fishes between 5000 people.'

'Thus came the idea of over-eating and ugly-paunch', he concluded.

'So you mean to say that all this hoopla about abdominal obesity is just lunacy?' I wasn't ready to take his argument lying down. I got up and leaned my body against the wall.

'Precisely', said Pluto. 'If nature wanted us to have flat stomachs it would have created us that way. After inhaling all this nourishing air day and night, all this while, if our nose can stay pretty much in shape, then it definitely isn't a mistake that the stomach is growing in size'

'Wonderful. So if I translate your rant into plain English, the claim that central obesity is associated with a higher risk of heart disease is just eye wash...eh?'

'You got it! I don't remember reading about Obelix or Santa Claus dying of heart failure. Do you? Is it that they did not have hearts after all?' He chuckled.

'Aha! Then there are no side effects of having a pork belly. Is that what you suggest?'

'No.. no.. Of course there are side effects. There is reason to believe that a prominent paunch can hamper normal sex life', He said with a wink.

'Now how do you arrive at that? Because Obelix & Santa Claus doesn't feature in Masters & Johnson?'

'Oohoho.. it is much simpler dude. Tell me the name of Santa Claus' daughter.. or Obelix's son?'

'They didn't have kids', I said.

'Now, that's the point!', I could see his stomach making waves as Pluto laughed away to glory.

PS: Our conversations on Free will and Predicting Future.

4 reasons to watch the 1st half of Enthiran !

Let me make myself clear, I am not suggesting that you should watch just the first half of Enthiran. It is that I cannot comment on the second half as I was forcibly removed from the theater a short while after the interval. Couple of my friends told that I did deserve every bit of that treatment, though they had a difference in opinion about the exact reason. While one attributed it to the excessive sound of my snoring, the other placed it one degree higher - the arrogance and utter irreverence of sleeping through a movie of his Rajniness.

I know that I am kind of late to come up with a review on Enthiran. Grady Hendrix has already written much about the awesomeness of the miracle birth, mysterious evolution and elevation to fame of Rajnikanth. In a momentary lapse of consciousness induced by jet-lag, India Today editor Aroon Purie also shamelessly reused a part of the Grady article in an edition of the magazine dedicated to the superstar from 'Tamilnadu, a south Indian state'. I also understand that I am trying to comprehend something which is beyond my grasp, like trying to explain what prompts a dog to lift its leg every time it sees a telephone pole. But anyway, let me add my two cents to what has already been said about his Rajniness.

The Double Role
We all know that no one character can completely accommodate all the acting power of Rajnikant. You cannot let the same character be a Rocket scientist and a rock band guitarist, right? Effectively that prevents his Rajniness from showing off his mathematical and riffing abilities in the same movie. He needs a range of different characters to express his talent properly and that is where Enthiran has at least tried to do some justice. By acting as the villain and the hero, his Rajniness has showcased the two contrasting extremes of his acting repertoire here. Don't think it is easy to wear a wig and act loony one moment and then switch to a funny robotic attire and blast cars the very next!

It's a name changer
Rajni movies are always game changers. While some idiotic movie makers spend years writing the script and scouting for shooting locations, the wise ones down south just rope in his Rajniness and think of the story during post production. But this time the movie is not just a game changer, but a name changer. I just heard that the Peruvian government is planning to officially change the name of Machu Pichu to Kilimanjaro. That is the only option available, as their tourism department now receives an average 300K inquiries a week about the right time to visit Kilimanjaro. That is the power of his Rajniness.. he shot a song titled 'Kilimanjaro' in front of Machu Pichu and half the world now thinks it is Kilimanjaro. I personally think it is a good move by the Peruvian government, as his Rajniness CAN (and only he can) hold an apple and say it is a pig, almost immediately ratifying the old Greek belief that pigs are grown on trees. I always had this suspicion that he is the one behind the Madras-Chennai, Bombay-Mumbai name changes!

The Science
There are so many hypotheses floating around in the academic and scientific circles about the awesomeness of Rajnikant. Though most people (except for the Japanese) think that Rajni movies are all about idiotic and impossible stunts, I personally think Rajni is probably the very proof of time travel, wormholes, multiple universes and the Grand Unification theory wrapped into one. They say two dimensions or universes only differ by the outcome of a quantum event. So if a quantum event has a particular outcome in our universe, some other universe would have had the opposite outcome as well! So for all those logic defying acts, all Rajnikant needs to do is to travel between the different universes and guide the desirable outcome to our own. I bet he uses time-travel to accomplish this feat, through wormholes between the dimensions. And to do something of this magnitude, you wouldn't argue if I say that Rajnikant needs absolute control over the electric, weak & strong forces of Nature. In short his Rajniness IS that what unifies all the forces of nature - proof of the Grand Unification Theory people like Einstein were searching for ages.

His Rajniness
I for one never underestimated his Rajniness. But if you really want to get sloshed by it, watch 'The Expendables' before the Eindhran experience. Both the movies got a sexagenarian acting as the protagonist. While Sylvester Rambo Stallone looks like carrying a glued-together, botox-filled face on his shoulders, his Rajniness shines like the sun with his wrinkle-free, pimple-less face. I could even see the reflection of Aishwarya Rai on his face whenever she came close to him. What do you mean 'Its all makeup'? It wasn't available in the Holy-woods for Mr. stallone or what? And with all the muscles and inflated body, Mr. Rambo could handle only a Noveske N4 in The Expendables, while his Rajniness was celebrating an early Diwali with half a dozen Bazookas in Eindhran, that too with his left hand.

So the final score,: His Rajniness - 2, John Rambo - 0.
Do I need to say more?
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