Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A glance at Bellur, the birth place of Guruji

Bellur is a small village in Kolar district 55 kilometers from Bangalore in Karnataka, India with around 500 houses and an average population of 2000 people. It is in this village, the Legendary Yogacharya Sri. B.K.S. Iyengar was born on 14th of December 1918. Bellur was an 'Agrahara' during Guruji's time of birth. agra means front and hara means the garland. According to traditional Hindu practice of architecture and town planning, an 'agraharam' is held to be the two rows of houses (mainly of Brahmins) running North-South on either sides of the road resembling a garland, at one end of which would be a temple of 'Shiva' and at the other end would be a temple of 'Vishnu'.

The two temples of Shiva at one end of the village and a temple of Rama (incarnation of Vishnu as per Hindu Mythology) are still present in the village of Bellur. Both these temples are quite old and are chosen as National heritage sites by Archaeological Survey of India. Both of these temples were in ruins. Guruji with the permission of Archaeological Survey of India renovated and revived the temples without disturbing the historic design and architecture.

Here are the images of renovated Shiva temple. This was once a priests' village but now priests are finding difficult to survive here. As a result, they are migrating to other areas. 
With Brahmins taking up professions in Urban areas and some migrating abroad agraharams are now vanishing fast. 
The condition today is such that this Shiva temple remains closed most of the time as there is no full time priest here. He visits only on call or on festive days.
Adjacent to this temple, is the World's first ever Patanjali temple built by Guruji as a gratitude and devotion to Patanjali who is considered the father of Yoga.
It has a beautifully carved 3 feet tall statue of Patanjali built by a renowned sculpture Padmanabhachari.
There are three other temples in the compound. One is of Hanuman, Valmiki and the Navagraha temple at the entrance. 
A priest family is personally appointed by Guruji to do the Worship here as the temple is established by BKSSNT.
But a strange observation came to my notice. Only the Iyengar yogis were visiting the temple and not others. On asking the local villager, I found that they don't believe in Patanjali as he is not known to them. For them, he is a God for Yogis. In a way, they were right as well, as they only know what they have been taught. If you are made to believe from the very beginning you can even pray a tree, rock, water, fire, form, formless and may be anything as God. This is how it happened in the past, is happening and will happen in future. 
This site is one of the major attractions of Bellur village. Just to the adjacent trees to the Patanjali temple on the road sides you see these species in huge numbers. Yes! You guessed it right, they are bats. The number of bats have increased tremendously this year.
I got an opportunity to take some really beautiful closeup shots of these bats hanging on the tree.
I learned few interesting things about bats which many of you might know. They are night predators and rest in the day hanging downwards on branches. One of my friend said that bats eat and excrete through mouth. In a google search I learned that it is a myth. The fact is bats are placental mammal with exactly the same excretory organs as ourselves. Due to their rapid digestion (approximately 20 minutes) and their inability to digest fiber, they chew the food they eat, extract the juice and split out the remains. The silly myth about bats excreting from their mouths is simply a misinterpretation of this behavior.
These two bats were actually fighting and when I was clicking the photos they were stopping and looking at me. One of my friends argued that bats can't see but I could see them through the lens that they are actually seeing. You can clearly see in the picture they are seeing and I googled and found that bats are not blind, they can actually see. While most bats do have advanced ears that give them a form of vision in the dark known as echolocation. They have good ears that doesn't mean they have a bad vision. So this myth is broken.
Look how beautifully they are sleeping on tall tree tops.
Beautiful! Isn't it? All these shots came on different days. You got to be really fortunate and patient to take the shots of birds. Since we stayed for a long 19 days in Bellur, I can take some good shot of these giant birds.
I got some great shots of these flying bats with full flex of the wings. My photographing skills capturing flying objects improved compared to last year.
This was the most difficult one to capture as I was shooting against the Sun.
It's not easy to capture flying birds with normal 180 mm cameras but I still managed to get some good shots.
You can see how the wings are shining in the sharp Sun light. 
There is no agrahara at the moment. Houses are built everywhere. Few steps away from the Patanjali temple there is a Village Panchayat School for elementary education. This school was also built by Guruji in 1976 but was later developed by the gram panchayat.
200 meters opposite to the Patanjali temple is the site where Guruji was born. This was at this place Guruji was born in 1918. It must have looked different then. I took this photo 6 years ago when I first visited Bellur. This year, they demolished even this site and are building a new concrete house here. It is learned that Iyengar Yoga fraternity wanted to buy this site and build a memorial of Guruji here but the family that is living here didn't agree to sell the house.
There is a beautiful lake on the outskirts of the village. The lake was full of water this year due to adequate rains.
Agriculture happened to be the main occupation of Bellur few years ago but now several factories have come up in the area that are providing employment to them.
This was the time of Harvesting. Most of the crops were cut and harvested. Behind BKSSNT there is a beautiful lotus pond. We came across this scene, went there and interacted with the people working and had great fun.
Men at work. Loading the grass on the tractor. The agonizing part is that people are now selling their fertile lands to factories and leading their lives as workers in those factories. Due to boom in real estate, some of them are converting their agricultural lands to plots.
Everyone had their hand on this tractor and had great time enjoying.
Tulsi donning the role of Tractor driver and Sridevi the companion.
Now Virupaksha, the village Patel driving the tractor with his friends Ram and Gaurav from the town.
How can I stay behind? I also tried my hands on the steering wheel.
These children are always a point of attraction in Bellur. They loved to be photographed. What I love the most is that they pose as what they are. Whether on camera or off camera you find them the same. This remind me of my childhood. The damaged Tyre used to be our vehicle. A great fun to play with old tyres. I hope many of you have played with it.
Another good thing for these kids is that they still play with bicycles and not with the video games just moving the fingers like city kids do.

Their photographs have travelled different parts of the World through Iyengar Yogis visiting Bellur. 
 Some even do the stunts for photographs.
I love this picture. You can see his smile; so cute and genuine.
Not only children, the aged also love to be photographed. Everyone love to capture them because they pose really natural. They don't become conscious as urban people do when they see the camera.
In spite of the city influence, people of Bellur are still innocent and generous hearted people.
Let me share you an incident that disturbed my mind in Bellur. I and Virupaksha went to these people in the photo below and took some photographs. With great hesitancy we requested to give one radish and they granted. We picked up one but they happily gave a bunch of radish and even insisted to take more. We thanked them and happily walked up to the campus. Just before the gate, a truck driver approached and asked one radish from us. Virupaksha said something in Kannada. By gesture, I understood he denied it and he started insisting, one.. just one... please. I felt like asking Viru to give one but I didn't say a word and walked in. It was disturbing my mind for a very long time. Why didn't we give? When we asked one and the villagers gave 5 and even insisted to take more and when a villager asked one, we the Urban people and so called civilized people did not offer one radish and that too given by some one without taking any money. We call ourselves yogis where as the real yogis are the poor villagers. A very regretting incident of my life. A lesson learned and I reckon for the rest of my life.
This is the beautiful Banyan tree near the snake temple besides Lotus Pond. It must be few hundred year old tree.
This is that Lotus Pond, I mentioned above. These are the assorted images of two years.
This year the lotuses were not very big but beautiful.
It was Rita Keller who showed us the way to the Pond last year.
She used to see them from her Balcony.
The following are the images shot last year. I even shared with Rita Keller and she says that she still had them in her laptop. No more words, you please watch and cherish these beautiful lotuses.

 I hope you liked it. Keep watching the space for more updates. Thank you.