Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Day Trip to Manthani With An Old Friend

Mohan was my first friend in Hyderabad. We came to Hyderabad in 1977, to a new house in Sundar Nagar, in the wilderness outside the city almost, which has became my home ever since. Mohan was living in Model Colony, a twin colony.
View from the jeep
 There were few houses in our colony those days and fewer boys my age so we hit it off together. We'd play cricket, read books, walk the many dogs that Mohan had, cycle around and when we grew older, watched movies, got into scraps and so much more. We started a cricket team, played matches against each other being from different colonies, played together in a combined team and so on. There was much we did together then.
The school building that got flooded, now abandoned

But we went to different schools and had different things to pursue. Mohan became interested in karate and several other martial arts and certainly life on the wild side. I became more interested in cricket and preferred a more sedate life to Mohan's. We'd meet often though, and exchange notes and it was always a warm and trusting bond. It was Mohan who was with me when I got the news that my father had an accident, who accompanied me on along journey to the hospital, who cried even before I could, when he heard the news. We were 17 then.
View of the temple complex across the rivulet

From exploring his wild side further to a point when everyone despaired and wrung their hands, Mohan did an amazing U turn and became a fine arts critic, an expert on culture, heritage and history, and joined the prestigious NIFT as faculty. I went on with my life and our meetings grew rarer. But he is always genuinely glad to hear of my progress, of my writing career, and was present at the launch of my first book which is a big thing for me. We catch up for 30 minutes or so every year on an average but somehow that is more than enough to know that the old bond exists.
The main Ram temple
More well preserved ruins

Mohan's mother passed away a fortnight ago. I met him that day. Much has been endured by him physically and mentally. I offered to go with him to immerse his mother's ashes and that was how we went to Manthani - just the two of us - on a day trip.
The dhwaja stambham
The river bed across the ruins

We drove off towards Karimnagar early in the morning in his new Bolero and reached Manthani, a small town on the banks of river Godavari by half past ten. Manthani is an ancient centre of vedic learnings and even today there are many scholars in the town who are well versed in the vedas and shastras. Manthani is also called Mantrapuri, or the town of hymns, and is believed to house a thousand brahmin families. Mohan says that the planning of the town is itself a highly sophisticated one.

We took a small single road that led from the town to the river side, where Mohan's friend and guru, Chandrasekhar Maharaj lived in the premises of a temple they have been taking care of for several generations. It is a temple that has three deities, Shiva, Ram and a third that has no deity, but Mohan surmises it is the Sun God. We approach the banks and find that there is nothing else but the temple complex and a devastated school which has been submerged and ravaged by floods in 1994.
Motorbikes being ferried across
 The temple Mohan reckons belongs to the Kakatiya period. It is still in pretty good shape. We went across the rivulet to the other bank where he performed the last rites. I wandered along and saw some more of those old carved stones. On our return I was given a personalised visit to all the temples by Chandrasekhar Maharaj and then we ate an amazing home cooked lunch at his home. After a relaxed hour, we started back to Hyderabad.
Bullock cart ride

It amazes me to see so much of history lying around. The temple architecture is mindboggling because of the way the stones are placed, one upon another, with such intricate carvings on it. How they lifted such heavy slabs and how they placed them so precisely is something the mind cannot fathom.  And apparently the idol was brought down from the top of the temple dome if the local folklore is to be believed.
More carvings in the river bed

It was nice to see the way people used a bullock cart for transport, to see motorbikes being ferried across the rivulet on a boat, to see the poorest of the poor operate cell phones, to see bullock cats cross the parched river bed, to see cow herds wear classy t shirts, to smell a whiff of sweet smelling grass in the neighbourhood. It was also surreal to see the centuries old history lying next to all that's modern, to see this family take care of what their forefathers did.
A grim reminder of a bygone era
 It is an eclectic group of people that surround Chandrasekhar Maharaj, with books that are being read from the epics to the modern day problems that afflict the world. Manthani has several more temples including aDattatreya temple and a museum that we could not visit because of time constraints, but someday soon I wish to return and explore it all more peacefully.


சிறியவன் said...

I am living at new delhi at present from Tamil nadu. our forefathers were migrants from Mantrakutam, which is now called as Manthani. I want to know more about this village.

Harimohan said...

You ought to make a trip to Manthani. It's worth a trip what with its history, museum etc.