Who doesnt like stories of Buried Treasure and Guardian Snakes ?
Not that we were into investigative journalism , but just as ruins come chasing after Ruin-Spotters , Fairy Tales rain upon Collectors of Rural Gossip.
This time , the Ruin ditched me and grabbed my travel mate instead ,as we drove along a godforsaken stretch of uncultivated land in Tiptur Taluk .....
'Look , look' , she spluttered in excitement , ' like Nallur ! '
A cuboid stone edifice, topless, doorless , id-less . But , aged .
We had to stop . We had to investigate . Because the old stone walls were dressed with some icons in bas relief .
Other than the Dwarapala pair , the walls, all around , showed some randomly placed shallow relief carvings of elephants ....elephants ....elephants ....
.....and here and there , some .....indistinct ...whatever .
Not totally abandoned, it transpired . There were half a dozen workers pottering about behind the cuboid , working on a brand new pillared pavilion .
The old structure had a single cell - navaranga- with four pillars showing sculpted panels of low calibre workmanship , dirt floor and a small idol leaning on a pedestal , dumped to one side .
Our frenzied clicking brought in a gentleman , whose white dothi and striped green towel on shoulder denoted that he was not a labourer but a Supervisor .
"Come see " he invited, gesturing to the backyard , " a brand new garbhagudi is getting ready over there..."
He only needed a short query from us " what temple is this? " to launch into a full blown screenplay about treasures, snakes and looters .
Two workers , bunking work , came in to add support to his grand tale with enthusiatic nodding and affirmative refrains of " hoo(n) howdu ! " ( = yes, true) at appropriate points .
We gathered that the Srinivasa temple belonged, by legacy , to some agriculturists whose fields lay behind the temple .
But it fell to ruin because of " rivalry and mutual mistrust " among them.
We nodded wisely, though none the wiser
One Sidekick piped up: " only after looters broke in , they have taken up rebuilding "
Instant panic on our side . Looters ? Antique -Art Theft ?
No......buried Treasure !
We were shown a dark yawning pit at the northeast corner of cell . 'Thats where the treasure was ....deep down there .....the looters had come thrice ....the first two times , they were hissed away by vigilant snakes ....but the third time , they made off with the loot' .
What happened to the snakes ?.....wrong question ; not appreciated.
Doesnt the Muzrai care for the temple ?
Supervisior waved in derision . " Aiiii ! The Muzrai only cares for well earning temples so they can grab a share! Who needs them ! .....we grama-vasis are pooling in to resurrect our own temple ....if any good hearted philanthropist from outside wants to contribute too , its welcome ......" A hopeful look on his face !
Not liking the turn the conversation was taking , we decided to bid a hasty bye.
While departing , a sign painted on the stone wall caught the eye : The Muzrai Dept had clearly announced its authority over the temple !
Perhaps all those people were employed by the Tahshildar for the Muzrai , after all !
Treasure , Snakes , Clan Rivalry .......just fairy tales to entertain nosy visitors ?
Ah , truth dawns ! Had we fallen for that story and in "good hearted philanthropic gesture " made a donation , it would have gone into the pocket under the green towel ! And that would have been the real loot !
Who said Village folk lack imaginative enterprise !