Saturday, 25 July 2009

Sketching holiday - Senji

My wife, daughter, and I are all very keen art enthusiasts. A few years ago we decied that we would try and take a break once in a while to go on a sketching holiday together. The first of these was to Senji. We drove there on a Friday morning and returned to Chennai on Sunday afternoon. The drive was very pleasant. Senji does not have many hotels, but our stay was reasonably comfortable.

Since Senji has three main segments we decided to spend half a day on each segment, and use Sunday to revisit whatever caught our fancy. However, there was so much to see in and around Senji that we soon realised that one weekend was just not enough.

In any case the holiday was a resounding success. We had all enjoyed ourselves immensely and since then, apart from our periodic sketching holidays together, we have also started sketching outdoors whenever the opportunity presents itself.

My sketch shows my daughter busy sketching near the approach to Krishnagiri. I did this on location as a charcoal sketch, and then did a cleaner version in pen and ink. This is the ink version.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

View from Krishnagiri

Senji (or Gingee, as it was known during the British rule) is located about 160 km south of Chennai. It has one of the few surviving forts in Tamilnadu. Originally the site of a 9th century Chola fort, it was intensively modified and further fortified in the 13th century by the Hindu rulers of the Vijayanagar empire. Between then and the mid-18th century it passed through the hands of the Nayaks, the Muslim rulers of Bijapur, the Marathas, The Mughals, the Carnatic Nawabs, and the French.

Senji was so well fortified that Shivaji considered it the most impregnable fortress in India. The British called it the Troy of the East. And, Aurangazeb had to lay siege to the place for 7 years to capture it.

The Senji Fort complex consists of three hills connected by a continuous wall enclosing an area of around 7 sq. km. The entire complex is known as Senji Fort, but each of the three hills has its own self-contained fort. The three hills (and forts) are called Rajagiri, Krishnagiri, and Chandragiri. Rajagiri is the tallest and most formidable. It is about 880 feet high.

My graphite sketch shows the view on a hazy morning from midway up the ascent to Krishnagiri. I sketched it on site and would have probably completed it entirely that morning itself. However, a troop of monkeys seemed to be fascinated by what I was doing and when their inquisitiveness proved to be too much of a hindrance, I closed up shop and completed the sketch at home.

Friday, 10 July 2009


Recently I visited Nashik to attend a wedding. Nashik is one of the more important cities in Maharashtra, a state on the West coast of India. After Mumbai and Pune (formerly known as Bombay and Poona), Nashik is the third most industrialised city in the state. It is also the vineyard of India and enjoys a very pleasant year-round climate, something that cannot be said about too many places in India. It is located about 180 km from Mumbai and is connected by an excellent road.

Nashik is also a very old human settlement and is associated with many of the events narrated in the Ramayana. It has many old and important Hindu temples, and one of these hosts an extremely well attended congregation of devotees, priests and sadhus once in every twelve years.

The Ramayana is one of the two major Hindu epics. It relates the story and adventures of Prince Rama who spends 14 years in exile along with his wife and brother to uphold a carelessly given promise by his father. Most Hindus believe that the Ramayana is based on fact . Many also believe that a major part of Rama's exile was spent at Nashik. In fact there is a place, not far from the river, called Sita Gupha or Sita Cave which is where Rama, his wife Sita, and Rama's brother Lakshmana are believed to have lived. This stretch of the river is also considered holy and there are several temples along its banks.

My sketch shows the narrow street, lined with very old buildings, through which one walks from the river to Sita Gupha. The ladies in the sketch are my wife and my colleague. When I showed them this sketch each instantly identified the other, but not themselves.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

TOMCO, Ernakulam

TOMCO, Ernakulam
What you see in this sketch was once a prosperous soap factory in Kerala, a very picturesque state on the south-west coast of India. My father worked here for many years.
When I was very young, which was more than half a century ago, we lived right next door to this place. A huge amount of my time was spent watching the workers enter and leave the factory. Very few people owned cars then. Most of them either walked, cycled, or rowed to work. Yes, Kerala is ridden with canals and backwaters, and even today the waterways are in popular use.
The long tiled shed to the right of the factory entrance was the cycle shed. The factory and staff housing was flanked by the backwaters on two of its sides, and these had several jetties (piers). The employees who rowed to work would leave their canoes tied to one of the jetties and pick them up again at the end of their work shift.
By the standards of those days, there were excellent support and recreational facilities for both the workers and the residents. My memories of the place and those years are therefore very pleasant.
Unfortunately, this tiny bit of paradise did not survive into the twenty-first century. A few years ago the entire property was sold to a multinational giant who seem to have bought it only for its real estate value. When I last heard, the factory was idle, the staff quarters were lying vacant, and the entire property wore the look of a ghost town.