The Patterns of the Cholas, Part 3

In Part 2 I introduced you to the Cholas, an empire that governed parts of South India many centuries ago. While they ruled, they built enormous and astounding stone temples for Hindu gods during the 10th to 12th centuries. Several temples are now protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They’re called The Great Living Chola Temples:

I haven’t yet had the chance to visit temples from the Chola period and photograph them myself. So to show you some patterns from them, I purchased stock photos from

Via anandkrish16, 123RF Stock Photo:

Via anandkrish16, 123RF Stock Photo:

Via dimol, 123RF Stock Photo:

Via anandkrish16, 123RF Stock Photo:

Above are close-up photos I found of bas relief and patterns carved into stone. But you’ll find beautiful patterns on the exterior too. Via obelix, 123RF Stock Photo:

While researching temples of the Chola period, I learned a few interesting things:

  • The Gangaikondacholapuram temple was deemed a good source of stones by a British officer, who ordered its demolition. Locals protested and the temple was saved. Really, I’m cool with knocking down an old Pizza Hut building and replacing it, but some architecture should be left alone!
  • My suspicions were confirmed — that the Dravidian style architecture carried forth by the Cholas was also the inspiration for Angkor temples, including Angkor Wat. The steep towers and the columned galleries should be recognizable to visitors of both South Indian and Angkor temples.
  • The granite used to build massive Chola temples at Thanjavur is not native to the area. So huge granite blocks were transported from very long distances away. It would be interesting to see how they designed/engineered the transportation but unfortunately I don’t think there’s an Indian da Vinci who left drawings for us.
  • Ruling empires that came after the Cholas sometimes built onto the temples or painted over Chola art. So to be honest, I really don’t know if the patterns above are truly “Chola patterns.” It takes obsessively diligent tracking to identify the provenance of an area of a temple, much more than you get from a stock photography website’s descriptions!
  • In one area of the largest Chola temple, there are 108 carvings of dance postures. Doesn’t the number 108 show up everywhere in history.
  • The inner sanctum of these temples is designed as a home for the deity that is there. It’s not designed to hold throngs of human worshippers. This is why these areas are small. I did not know that. This explains why, after a harrowing climb up two sets of 70-degree (plus or minus, doesn’t matter, they’re steep!) stairs at Angkor Wat, reaching the inner sanctum for Vishnu was so … anti-climactic. It was not designed to thrill tourists. And yes that’s a surprise many people may not know and another connection between Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and India — Angkor Wat is a temple for the Hindu god, Vishnu.

I found gorgeous photos of many more patterns carved into temples throughout India. More will be shared here!

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The Patterns of the Cholas, Part 2 (with a little side trip to Angkor Wat)

In part 1 of this series, I revealed that I’m seeking design and pattern inspiration from South India for our apartment there. The Chola era is first up for inspiration. Let’s get onto this journey into history!

So, who were the Cholas? They were a dynasty that ruled parts of India and beyond for many centuries during the Middle Ages. They spoke Tamil, a language with lyrical-looking letters that lives on today. They were a literate, educated society that connected with other cultures through overseas trade. Roman and Chinese coins can be found in the Indian earth they ruled.

Chola Parvati
Chola Parvati (Photo credit: Peter L Barker)

They were builders of massive temples and lovers of many arts: sculpture, dance, music, theater and architecture. I’m sure they had their own versions of Michelangelo and DaVinci in their time; we just don’t know today who the Chola creative geniuses were.

The Cholas left a legacy of temple architecture and bronze sculptures that extends beyond India, into Southeast Asia. In fact there’s some resemblance between the architecture of South India temples and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat! This connection, you will see, will pop up a few times while I explore Chola patterns.

Here are temples from the Chola period in India:

A temple from the Chola period. The Cholas uni...
A temple from the Chola period. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: This is the architectural marvel buil...
Temple built by Raja Raja Chola. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Rajarajesvaram Temple, Chola Dynasty,...
Rajarajesvaram Temple, Chola Dynasty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Compare with Angkor Wat photos from Cambodia, taken during our trip there:

Most Chola pattern inspiration for the India apartment will come from the stone temples built by the Cholas. To find patterns, you have to step up close. Because the profiles of many temples are so iconic, rather than repeating those photos, I like to stand close to get the details you don’t often see. I like to imagine while standing there, photographing a carved column, that a person stood in the same spot so many centuries ago. Carving. And carving, and carving some more. Seeming endless carving.

How long were they there working? How old were they? Did they have children or were they still children themselves? What were they wearing? Did they enjoy their work here? Or were they under duress? Did they get injuries? Was their blood and sweat on this same stone? What did they think about while carving? What did they talk about with their fellow craftsmen? Did they sing while working?

Yes, I close my eyes for a moment and try to see the people who were here in this same spot, making this place possible. Imagining who made sights like this possible at Angkor Wat:

When I think of patterns from India Chola temples that I’d like to weave into the India apartment, it is carvings like these from Angkor that I had in mind.

And, I have found some! To be shared in the next post …

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Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around

The next time you visit someplace for the first time, look all around. Look far and look close. Be curious:

Look for interesting patterns:

Look for the energy in color:

You never know what you might find on the ceiling. May be some inspiration up there:

I admit, never before in my life had I thought of removing those ceiling tiles, leaving the grid and ductwork exposed, but leaving a handful of tiles here and there, and decorating them. If you have this type of ceiling, think about what else you can do with it besides removing and replacing it.

So where did we go? Oh just Libertyville, Illinois only about a half hour drive from our home. We rarely go that direction, and this time we stopped the car and walked around. The windows at Wisma caught us — glasses of wine and hand-crafted beer? With lunch? Sure! We had Madras Curry and Thai Curry. With reisling of course, it’s great with spicier Asian foods. Oops we forgot to bring home some of the excellent butternut squash soup. Everything there can be to-go. But we did come home with goat cheese and pesto dip, and will enjoy that this evening.

It was a visit that was rejuvenating and refreshing for the eyes and the palate. Much more so than a visit to another Panera or Starbucks.

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Photos of Scrapbook Paper

So I was bored in my office long after business hours, waiting for a customer service response one day. What else to do but take Instagrams of scrapbook paper hanging on the wall?

The above image is a small part of the design from this piece of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper:

Which is part of this group of papers mounted on wood panels, hanging on my office wall (see the DIY post showing how to make this):

There are an endless choice of patterns in scrapbook papers. And these photos are making me think, why not take photos of small sections of paper patterns, to make new patterns? Then if you’re really ambitious, you can also manipulate the images in Photoshop or other program. Then print them out. You have new images! Fun!

Here are more Instagrams I took of the above papers, and applied Instagram filters to some of them to make them look different. This pattern is in the center bottom in the above image. Here it is lighter:

This is just a corner of a paper:

More pattern:

If you photograph just a part of the pattern, such as the one above, and manipulate it in Photoshop, you can easily create a new look:

This could be cool if you wanted to create an Andy Warhol type effect of four different colors of a scrapbook paper you own.

I have a whole stack of papers, and will look at them with an entirely different eye now. The possibilities!

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