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BR Ram Kumar Finds His Passion Through The Kovil Kodai Documentary in Chennai

Today, BR Ram Kumar's dream is to make movies on the ancient heritage, science, art and lifestyles of India

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Temple Umbrellas in Chennai. Image courtesy: templeumbrellas.co
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  • BR Ram Kumar is a filmmaker who is mainly interested in creating documentaries that capture emotions and tradition
  • His recent documentary, Kovil Kodai, captured the traditional hand-made woven umbrella culture in Chennai
  • These umbrellas form a very important part of Chennai’s culture

The founder of Madras Documenting Company, who is 62 years old today, acquired a bachelor’s degree in Physics, and a Master’s Degree from CalArts in the USA. BR Ram Kumar used to work as an ad filmmaker before he shifted to filming documentaries on topics of his interest. Having spent his childhood in an environment of film makers, he had always been very comfortable with all the film jargon. Kumar has worked on around 400 documentaries till date, including industrial films and a feature film as well.

His recent documentary, Kovil Kodai – The Umbrella Of The Gods, is a huge success and has attracted a lot of attention. In Chennai, woven umbrellas of vibrant colors are an important part of the religious traditions. Kovil Kodai is the act of carrying umbrellas by devotees to protect the deity from sunshine and rainfall. It is also considered as a symbolic way to pay respect to the Gods.

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“These umbrellas are made by about 12 Saurashtrian families who live in Chintadripet,” Kumar told Times of India, who uses his own funds to make the films that range from a few minutes to half an hour. “The name of the area is derived from “Chinatari pettai”, when the British East India Company decided to create a facility to supply England with woven cloth at a controlled price. The weavers were settled in the area,” he says.

These families are descendants of the migrants from Saurashtra. Even though each family owns different companies, they all work together in unity to create around 3,000 umbrellas every year. Each umbrella is around 4.5 feet to 18 feet, and ranges from 3,000 to 6,000 INR, depending on the requirements. These umbrellas have assumed such an important role in performing rituals, that no deity is taken out of the temple without their shade. Each god is believed to be suited a particular color palette. For example, the umbrellas for Vishnua are only white and brown, while the ones used for Shiva are multicolored.

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Ram Kumar enjoys capturing these emotions and candid moments to help portray Chennai’s culture. The documentary was shot over a period of 24 hours with the willingness of the families, which made Kumar’s work easier.  Kovil Kodai – the Umbrella of the Gods will be screened followed by a talk on temple umbrellas by C N Magesh at Apparao Galleries, Nungambakkam on 18th June.

-written by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter Handle: @saurabhbodas96

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  • AJ Krish

    Documentaries that depict the great heritage and culture of India makes people aware of the traditions carried out in the country. These documentaries inspire people to know more about the land they belong to.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Inspiration should be taken by budding filmmakers as capturing culture at this point if time in India when there is less importance given to it is an important step. Also, there will be time when a few cultures would be forgotten, this is when such documentaries would be seen as a masterpiece.

  • AJ Krish

    Documentaries that depict the great heritage and culture of India makes people aware of the traditions carried out in the country. These documentaries inspire people to know more about the land they belong to.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Inspiration should be taken by budding filmmakers as capturing culture at this point if time in India when there is less importance given to it is an important step. Also, there will be time when a few cultures would be forgotten, this is when such documentaries would be seen as a masterpiece.

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Mesmerising Temple Towns Near Bangalore

Due to a large influx of people from all over the world into the city, Bangalore is now a melting pot of culture and attracts people from various walks of life

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The center of India's high-tech industry, the city is also known for its parks and nightlife.
The center of India's high-tech industry, the city is also known for its parks and nightlife. Wikimedia Commons
  • Bangalore often referred as the Garden City and Silicon Valley
  • The city is also home to many temples that are regularly flocked by devotees

Bangalore is endowed with many titles that capture the essence of the city. Garden City and Silicon Valley are often used to refer to this culturally rich city. Due to a large influx of people from all over the world into the city, Bangalore is now a melting pot of culture and attracts people from various walks of life. The city is also home to many temples that are regularly flocked by devotees. Apart from these, there are quite a few places of worship around Bangalore that are worth a visit.

Bangalore taxi service is available to anyone wishing to make a journey to these temples.

Ghati Subramanya

Located on the outskirts of Bangalore, at distance of 60 km from the city, Ghati Subramanya temple has Lord Karthikeya as its primary deity. The temple also houses idols of Lord Narasimha and the idols of both these deities are believed to have emerged from the earth.

Subramanya temple has Lord Karthikeya as its primary deity.
Subramanya temple has Lord Karthikeya as its primary deity. Wikimedia Commons

The temple has a history that dates back to almost 600 years and is believed to be developed under the Ghorpade rulers of Sandur. Devotees believe that when couples having trouble conceiving take a vow at this temple, they will be blessed with children.

Also Read: These 5 Ancient Temples are Believed to be the Oldest in India

Chamundi Temple

Chamundi temple, located on the famous Chamundi Hills is a popular temple in Mysore and is visited by devotees and tourists alike throughout the year. The temple is located about 160 km from the city of Bangalore, which makes it a little over a 3-hour drive from the city.

The temple also has a flight of one thousand steps which were built in 1659 and leads to the summit of the 3000-foot hill.
The temple also has a flight of one thousand steps which were built in 1659 and leads to the summit of the 3000-foot hill. Wikimedia Commons

The temple is also believed to be one among the 18 Shakti Peethas. The construction of the temple is credited to the Hoysala rulers, who reportedly built it in the 12th century. However, the tower of the temple is believed to have been constructed by the Vijayanagara rulers in the 17th century. The temple also has a flight of one thousand steps which were built in 1659 and leads to the summit of the 3000-foot hill. The temple also has several idols of Nandi, but the biggest one is the one situated on the 800th step. This idol of Nandi is about 15 feet in height and 24 feet in length.

Also Read: Top 10 Famous Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu

You can book cabs from Bangalore to Mysore to visit this marvellous temple perched on the top of the hill.

Kotilingeshwara

The Kotilingeshwara temple is located 96 km from the city of Bangalore, in the district of Kolar. You can reach the place in around two and a half hours by road. The temple is famous due to its huge lingams (Shiva idol), which is the largest lingam in the entire world, which stands 108 feet tall.

The Kotilingeshwara temple is located 96 km from the city of Bangalore, in the district of Kolar.
The Kotilingeshwara temple is located 96 km from the city of Bangalore, in the district of Kolar. Wikimedia Commons

The temple has ten million lingas as indicated by its name, where ‘Koti’ stands for crore or ten million. These were installed by Bhakta Manjunatha, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva with the help of Maharaja Ambikeshwaravarma and his family. Bhakta Manjunatha, born to a pious Shaiva family was an atheist who did not believe in Lord Shiva. He is believed to have insulted Lord Shiva ten million times. The ten million lingas installed by him were done as an act of repentance of this after he came to realize the divinity of Lord Shiva.

Also Read: 7 Most Famous Temples to Visit in Uttar Pradesh

All these temple towns are located at a short distance from the city of Bangalore and can be easily accessible in a taxi.