Ian Lockwood


Archive for the ‘Sacred Spaces’ Category

Slowly Through Past Pallava and Chola Kingdoms (Part II)

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Thanjavur's Brihadishwara temple in evening light, seen from the south-east.

The Brihadishwara temple in Thanjavur represents the pinnacle of Chola architecture and glory. It was built by Rajaraja I (985-1014 CE) at a time when the empire covered most of southern India and Sri Lanka and even included colonies in what is now Indonesia. I was interested to look for linkages with the interaction with Sir Lanka having seen evidence of both the art and wrath of the Cholas in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

Parvati, consort to Shiva, in the Bronze museum in the Thanjavur Art Gallery as well as the north side entrance of the Brihadishwara temple.

Dvarpalas (guardians) at Thanjavur’s awe-inspiring Brihadishwara temple flanking one of the large bronze Natraj statues from the Bronze museum in the Thanjavur Art Gallery.

Elephants in life and stone at Thanjavur's Brihadishwara temple.

Composite image of Thanjavur's Brihadishwara temple seen from the south-east.

Thanjavur's Brihadishwara temple seen from the south-east (black & white version).


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2011-07-21 at 4:05 am

Slowly Through Past Pallava and Chola Kingdoms (Part I)

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Gopuram and tanka at the Sabhanayaka Natraja Kovil, Chidambaram

“The journey is the destination” and this summer after flying into India from Colombo we moved slowly from Chennai southwards to the hills.  Starting in Egmore we took a rented vehicle and were able to visit Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Chidambaram, Gangkondacholapuram, Tranquebar, Swamimalai and finally Tanjavur before ending up in the cool heights of the Palani Hills. The images in this post were taken during this visit using a digital SLR and then reworked and polished using Adobe Photoshop with plugins from Nik Silver Efex. It marks the first time that I have not shot a major trip on film.

Gangaikondacholapuram, South-east corner view with Nandi bull.

Gangaikondacholapuram, North-West corner view

Gangaikondacholapuram was a highlight of the temple visit. Many years ago a friend had suggested that I not miss the temple if I was interested in south Indian temple architecture.  Built by Rajendra I (1014-42 CE) the architecture represents the peak of the Chola period. The temple is a slightly smaller replica of the big temple in Thanjavur. But it was the location, lost in an under populated and ignored corner of the district that made it an unforgettable delight to visit on our way to Tranquebar. The Rough Guide appropriately describes it as “amongst the most remarkable archeological sites of South India, outshone only by Thanjavur and devoid of visitors most of the time, which gives it a memorably forlorn feel.”

Shiva and Parvati panel on north entrance of Gangaikondacholapuram's central gopuram.

Earlier we had made a brief stop at the Croc Bank and Mamallapuram on our way south. The Croc Bank remains one of the best educational opportunities for patents that want to imbibe natural history and a love for reptiles in their children. We look forward to Lenny and Amy attending summer camp here in a few years. Mamallapuram, of course is an old favorite haunt thanks to my uncle Michael’s interest in the Pallavas and their ancient port that was based next to where the shore temple now stands. It is also a great place for kids to explore and climb exquisite rock.

Muggers (Crocodylus palustris) basking at the Madras Crocodile Bank.

Lenny, & Amy exploring Tiger caves just north of the shore temples at Mamallapuram.

Two panels from Mamallapuram’s caves: (Left) Trivikrama panel depicting Vishnu as a eight armed giant warrior transformed from a dwarf. (Right) Mahishamardini panel showing Durga vanquishing the buffalo demon Mahisha.

No visit to Mamallapuram is complete without a filter coffee and dosa at Mamalla Bhavan. The manger graciously put up with our kids and my camera.

The Great Penance (Descent of the Ganga) panel at Mamallapuram, an outstanding Pallava edifice carved onto a granite face near to the bus stand.

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2011-07-20 at 7:23 pm

Auroville after many years

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Auroville’s Matramandir, seen from the visitor viewpoint that is as close as most people get.

It has been nearly 15 or so years since I was last in Auroville. The utopian community and settlement just north of the union territory of Pondicherry (now named Puducherry) was motivated by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Their pioneering experiments with sustainable living in a south Indian context has long attracted my interest and admiration. I use a video that documents their experiments with afforestation, energy use, biodiversity conservation and low-impact architecture in my IB Environmental Systems and Geography classes. The film is a great resource and always makes me want to take the students to Auroville for a week of work-study. So far that has been impossible but I will continue to build links in the hope of taking students there in the near future.

Auroville, of course, has changed a great deal in the years that I have been away. The Matramandir has been completed and there are complex barriers in place to keep the busloads of tourists away from it. Because of this I could not photograph the banyan tree that overlooks it but was able to spend time with several other banyans nearby. The townships on the periphery have grown and the dusty road that leads up to the plateau from the East Coast Road has now been done in concrete. The interiors still evoke the sense of peace with the cycle lanes leading through groves or eucalyptus and native tropical dry-evergreen forest. This time I brought my family and it was gratifying to share the place with them.

Lenny under a banyan (Ficus benghalensis) tree near the visitor viewpoint at Auroville’s Matramandir. The community hosts dozens of impressive trees and, of course, the banyans are amongst my favorites.

The highlight was taking Lenny to visit Johnny Allen (now Auroville) at his hermitage in Fertile. There are a kaleidoscope of personalities and lifestyles in the community but Johnny lives my idea of the vision. He uses locally available materials for construction, the power comes from the sun and biomass and the impact on the ecology is minimal. He is still using a biomass-fueled Stirling engine to make peanut butter and dosa mix and chutney every Saturday. This was the engine that had first brought my father Merrick here. I had tagged along on several trips in the early 1990s. Johnny’s home is set amongst towering trees, thatched workshops and cowsheds. He is just the sort of teacher that helps you understand the practical side of sustainable living. Lenny was given a personal tour of the Stirling engine, a compost toilet and models of housing units that Johnny is designing for young people. The significance of Johnny’s example may have eluded Lenny this time but he enjoyed playing in the tree houses and variety of swings created from recycled life preservers.

Collage of Lenny interacting with Johnny Auroville…friend, teacher and amazing human being living in Fertile, Auroville.

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2011-07-03 at 4:56 am


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Invite for the upcoming "Paths to the Peak" Exhibition at the Barefoot Gallery

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2011-05-10 at 4:47 pm

Stones and Spaces of Silence

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The 10th Century granite relief of Vajrapani at Buduruwagala near Wellawaya are a striking mix of craftsmanship and natural serenity with shades of Pallava inspiration.

Last year, on a long and patient drive to visit friends on the East Coast, we discovered that some of Sri Lanka’s most serene and stunning archeological ruins are far from the Cultural Triangle in a land reclaimed by the forest.

Man soaking in a pool below Diyaluma Falls. This impressive waterfalls draining out of the Central Highlands is the 2nd highest in Sri Lanka. It is a popular rest for travelers from Colombo traversing the long road to the East Coast.

Mudu Maha Vihara, downtown Pottuvil by the beach. This shrine marks one of two landing points of the legendary Queen Maha Devi.

Kumuna Kovil off season.

Panorama at Maligawila Abhaya Mudra.

Saxicoloides fulicata singing on the hand of Buddha at Maligawila Abhaya Mudra.

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2011-04-25 at 3:49 pm

Portrait & Panorama in Anuradhapura

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The Abhayagiri moonstone is said to be the finest in all of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s ancient capital city at Anuradhapura is one of the country’s most important archeological and cultural sites. For 900 or so years it was the capital city of a prosperous and strong kingdom whose wealth was built on the foundations of ingenious water management and irrigation. Its embrace of Buddhism is celebrated and witnessed in the many dagobas, moonstones, carvings and other archeological artifacts that lie scattered over a large area. At its center is the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree that was brought as a sapling from Bodhgaya during the reign of King Asoka in the third century BCE. The tree is of enormous symbolic importance to Buddhists on the island and is the site of many modern pilgrimages. These images were taken with a combination of film and digital cameras in October 2009.

( Top) Basawakkulama tank at dusk, looking towards Mirisavatiya dagoba. (Lower Left) Dwarf at Abhayagiri (Lower Right) Moonstone detail near Ruvanvalisaya

Lankarama dagoba and complex

Collage illustrating scenes from in and around Anuradhapura. (Clockwise from upper left) Guardstone duo at Thuparama, Abhayagiri complex area, guardstone at Ratnaprasda, Ruvanvalisaya dagoba and ruins in foreground

Thupurama dagoba, north view

North entrance at Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura

Ruvanvalisaya dagoba at sunset, Anurahapura

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2010-05-31 at 5:25 pm

Black, White and Color in Tamil Nadu’s Sacred Spaces

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Decent of the Ganga/Arjuna’s Penance Panel, Mamallapuram (Noblex with Kodak T-Max film)(July 2009)

The natural landscapes and the complex relationships and features of South Asia’s ecology have motivated much of my photo-documentation and writing. Yet I have a deep running fascination with the architecture, temples and old buildings that dot the subcontinent. Some of this tricked down through my grandparents and parents who visited and wrote about these sites in the early and late 20th Century. My uncle, Dr. Michael Lockwood, has been passionate about the Mamallapuram temple complex since the 1960s when he took up work as a professor of philosophy at Madras Christian College. There are no better guides to the temples than his little book: Mamallapuram: A guide to the Monuments. On a recent family trip I rediscovered the allure of these 7th Century Pallava temples. I found the same ambiance and tranquility when I spent time in Thanjavur and Madurai’s Meenakshi temple. The following images are a few highlights taken with a digital camera and with my trusty Noblex 120 panoramic camera.

A riot of color and imagery on the south gopuram of Madurai's Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple (July 2009)

Potamarai Kulam (Tank of Golden Lotuses) in Madurai’s Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple (Noblex with Kodak T-Max film)(July 2009)

Brihadishwara temple, Thanjavur (Noblex image with Konica Infrared film) (December 2001)

Thirumalai Nayak Palace, Madurai (Digital)(July 2009)

Lenny Under Krishna’s Butterball, Mamallapuram (Digital)(July 2009)

Decent of the Ganga/Arjuna’s Penance Panel, Mamallapuram (Digital)(July 2009)

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2009-11-18 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Sacred Spaces

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