memories of family outings.....


Fringe treasures

Visits to Places Of Interest are usually severely circumscribed by notified tourist trails and reduced to a meek following of the almighty Tourist Brochure. The Powers- That -Be who publish brochures assume dictatorial right over our movement, badgering us to Go There ,See That . and we, a mass of nerves, dare not rebel against Brochurocracy lest we return home to face the damning accusation : You went all the way there and dint see This !!!!!!

A person who goes to Agra for the first time and does not see the Taj Mahal is logged into family annals as a certified freak. There's one in our family who has since become a sort of reference point to quirkiness.

So one goes to SRIRANGAPATNA and faithfully sees The Gumbaz, the Ranganatha Temple, The Lal Bagh & Summer Palace, The Sangam , the Jumma Masjid, The Dungeons and the stone that marks the place where Tipu Sultan's body was found. ( I remember, as youngsters, we also used to go up to a breach in the fort wall and faithfully spit into a ditch saying " Mir Sadaq, thoo thoo" ; a ritualised insult to condemn the infamous traitor. The breach has a sign board now, but no longer do visitors spit ! I guess that would be politically incorrect in these climes !)

No doubt the above mentioned 'places of interest' are indeed interesting. Wonderful monuments. Rich in history, art and cultural significance. But there is Srirangapatna beyond the brochures too.
There is the river.

The Sangam, being hugely popular with visitors, has always been a busy place with the crowds milling around the ancient stone steps,picnicking in the shade of the tall aged trees, resting inside the crumbling mantapas and the queing up at the muddy jetty from where the coracles used to sail forth. The Paschimavahini ghat, sought out by pilgrims giving Tarpana to the ancestors, has always been a humming hive of activity too.
"Once upon a time ", if one wanted some peace and quiet and privacy to enjoy the river, one used to head towards Gosai Ghatta, an enchanting stretch of bank by the bend of the river in the hamlet of Ganjam, with a small, hoary temple and a few brindavanas for some unknown saints. Here , one could have the whole river all to oneself. Undisturbed.
There was no road or even a halfway decent mud lane to reach the place. we just drove over beaten paths meandering through cultivated patches. The only people to be seen around were a couple of shepherds, resting under the stone shelter as they waited for their cattle to return ; and an ageless mendicant , powdered in holy ash upto his dreadlocks, diligently smearing vermillion on the oily bas- relief on the outer wall of the eternally closed Viswanatha temple. Herons and Egrets went gallivanting fearlessly. The occasional disinterested buffalo cast insolent looks at us as we shrieked and squealed like crazed monkeys , frolicking in the water. We spent hours together, barbecued brown in the sun, soaked skin shrivelling up like a raisin's. But never tiring of the river.
On some early summer midmornings, when the river ran low,we'd discover crocodiles basking on the exposed rocks in mid stream. Dark, motionless and lumpy, these creatures often looked like part of the rock itself.
The name "Gosai Ghatta" used to evoke a delicious tingle of horror when i was very young and had not learnt what it meant. It sounded quite ghoulish then and made one imagine perhaps it was the secret nook of rascally goblins. My grandfather's bedtime stories about " red goblins" ( "Sho'ppu kullan", in tamil )was always mentally pictured as taking place in Gosai Ghatta ! Later came the revelation that Gosais are the exact opposite of goblins and ghouls ! They were colourfully attired ministrels, singing praises of Hari and going around collecting rice and fruit in their uniquely shaped brass bowls. They wore peculiar caps and their songs were distinctly different from the music of the native Dasayyas, another group of alms-collecting devotees whose signature "caller-tone" was the deeply resonating " boooiiiingggg !" on the bronze gong. I have seen both types in the old parts of our city, but never near that riverbank. Gosais being common in the bengal coast, i wonder how they came to be associated with the Ghatta in Srirangapatna. Never discovered the connection.

The Ghatta was our favourite place for any ritual that required flowing water : for dispersal of the sprouted "Paalikai" ( Nine Grains) seedlings after a wedding or a Brahmopadesam; for Aadi Perukku Snanams ; sometimes even for Ganapati Visarjanam (the 15 mile journey was wholly worth it.)
And for immersion of the ashes of cremated beloveds. Years ago, my father's. He who had introduced us to the river there, he who was as much a "water sprite" as any of us and participated in our madcap water games without reserve. He who had loved the Ghatta became part of it as a handful of ashes, remaining after immersion in the river, was buried in the shade of the pillared stone mantap. With that he was truly gone.

Somehow that visit signified the end of our dalliance with our secret nook. For, not long after that, the State Tourism Department put up a bright blue sign board pointing right on the Ganjam Road and also laid out a motorable kuccha road right upto the little old temple. And the Brochure -wallas gleefully added one more "Sightseeing spot " to their list.

We no longer go to Gosai Ghatta for anything.
I hear the herons and egrets have also packed up and moved to Ranganthittoo. No news of the crocodiles.
The first time i saw "our" lovely Ghatta on silver screen, i felt so cheated !
But thats the way the cookie crumbles.

Two week ago, as my son was driving a bunch of us to Mysore, i had a sudden urge to see Gosai Ghatta. We made our way through the fields and what should we see but a " Parking Lot " just before the stone mantap ! The walls were now whitewashed and painted over with an ad. for a low cost roofing sheet. Closeby, a snack vending kiosk had sprung up, spawning the consequent plastic trash. The place was crawling with mini vans, Omni Taxis, motorcycles, cars, even cycles. As we paused in disbelief, a parking attendant sped towards us with a ticketbook, tootling on his tin whistle to guide us into a parking slot. We din't bother to park and just left.

Now we know "our" Ghatta is truly dead and gone with the wind.


Dibs said...

I have never seen this place...guess I will not bother now that it has hit the brochures!

Tatha was a water sprite alright, jumped into the middle of the rough sea in mahabalipuram!! God bless him!

Hey I cant remember any Shoppu Kullan Stories! I just remembered Kollu Tatha telling us those stories from his arm chair in TDR! Must catch up on those stories with you soon!

Chitra said...

I remember how Appa explored new places just for us and taught us to celebrate nature.The Horse shoe valley, Tondanoor yeri,Bommana agrahara where the river gushes along the paddy fields,the Moyar river side - I wonder if these places remain the same now.

YOSEE said...

Dibs,my mysore-thatha would have stopped telling stories by the time you were born ! And i think you kids have seen this Ghatta too. only , you may not remember it by that name.

Chitra, thanks for bringing back those names from the past ! Thondanoor Yeri is still good, saw it 4 years ago. Other two, have to re-explore.

LG said...

not sure whether my previous comment came across. It is sad to see that urbanisation disturbing the historic places. Nevertheless, it was good learn about the place coz I learned how it was in the past :)

YOSEE said...

Thanx Lakshmi. I guess, sighing about "those days" is just a symptom of getting old ! :-) Places never ever remain the same. Besides, the beauty of Nature is everyone's inheritence, i cannot claim it for myself only ; nor grumble if others are given better access to it, isn't it ?

Rwitoja said...

Mysore was a part of the whirlwind package tour we had undertaken,when we had come as tourists to Karnataka,six years ago.After reading your post, I am feeling tempted to revisit it,this time, on a leisurely pace.I had wanted to spend more time in St. Philomena church,but under the dictatorial thumb of the tour guide, we spent just a few minutes there.Sad about Gosai Ghatta.One place,Time seems to have overlooked,is Raghunatha Malyavanta hill in Hampi.It has an ancient temple and other ruins,is crawling with monkeys and absolutely gaurantees a trip back in time.The reason being,it is not under government care.

YOSEE said...

Rwitoja, St.Philomena's is definitely worth at least an hour. Hampi, overall, has managed to retain its vintage charm except the Elephant stables and Lotus mahal, over run by picnicking crowds. Yes, Malyavanta with its monkeys is a perfect treat ! Also,the Ganagitti temple in the early morning.
Its a paradox really that we want the Govt. to do something about crumbling heritage ruins, at the same time dont want their ( unimaginative) caretaking ! :-D