Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mullayanagiri Hills, Chikmagalur

After the thrilling experience at Hebbe Falls, we were back on the road to our final destination of the day – Mullayanagiri. At 6,330 ft, Mullayanagiri Hill is the highest peak in Karnataka. Yet again, the ride to our destination was very exciting but not without dangers. At a couple of places we noticed that parts of road were lost to landslides. Some crazy drivers coming at maddening speeds don’t help things either. Add to that the wet roads and you got a nightmare ahead of you. Inexperienced drivers better stay away.

Needless to say, the higher you climb the colder it gets. That we were wet from the waterfalls we visited, only added to our woes. The upward climb seemed not to end, as we take hairpin after hairpin bends on narrower roads. And finally after an agonizing wait and some anxious moments when we had to back up at a hair pin bend to give way for another car, we finally ground to a halt. If you thought, we just reached the highest point in Karnataka, then hold on. What lay ahead of us, we were just not prepared for it. Some 600-700 odd steps that led to a temple (Yes, if there’s a hilltop in South India, there’s a temple sitting on it) is the highest point in Karnataka. But we were all equally determined to reach the highest peak in Karnataka. We huffed and puffed out way to the top. Tiring as it may be, it was well worth the effort in gold.
From the highest peak in Karnataka we had a fantastic view of miles and miles of greenery all around. The clouds hovered somewhere below us and we could actually see them move around the hill we were standing on, completely obstructing our view wherever they moved to. Mullayanagiri, is truly an amazing place to be. And we probably were there at the right time. We only wished we could stay there a little longer. But considering we had to go back that dangerous road to Chikmagalur, we decided to leave early.

We rode back to hotel with a strange feeling in our heads. On the one hand we were a little disappointed that our wonderful little weekend was coming to an end, and on the other hand we were all happy souls within. Happy to have had an experience so few are fortunate to…
Getting-there: Some 30-odd kms from Chikmagalur Town

Must-Do: Drive slowly and carefully and stay off the cliff-edges.
Must-Don’t: Rash Driving, Drinking, Littering.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hebbe Falls, Chikmagalur

Wet and cold to the bone under the refreshing Kalahatti Falls, we were on our way to the next destination of the day – Hebbe Falls. The route to Hebbe Falls is really exhilarating and enriching. The ghat roads provide stunning images of this hilly region. The greenery out here is so overwhelming, it will take your breath away and make you ask for more.

The Z-point, the umpteen coffee estates, the misty mountains, the miles and miles and greenery, the numerous streams criss-crossing, the clouds that always seem to be either above or below where you stand but never around you, chillness in the wind is why a visit to Chikmagalur will remain etched in my mind forever.

Our cab stopped 13 kms before our supposed destination. Apparently, we now have to complete the rest of our journey in a Jeep. Skeptics that we are, we wondered why we needed to board a different vehicle and why needed to pay Rs. 750 for a 13 km ride. The “excuse” of bad roads didn’t sound very convincing, but we had no choice. It was a take it or leave it offer. And we took it.

Less than a kilometer into our Jeep ride, and the clouds of skepticism cleared from our eyes. The path – for lack of a better expression – is nothing like one has ever seen. The 13 km bumpy ride will help you re-visit every bone and every muscle in your body. But surprisingly when it finally ended, after what feels like an eternity, we wished it didn’t. After all, in the age of Volvo buses and swanky cars, how often do you get to have a joy ride like this one?

After getting down from our super sturdy Jeep, we realized the rest of the 1.5 km journey is to be undertaken on foot. Along the way one need to cross the river three times. And each you get out of ankle to knee length water, you need to check your body for free-riders! Yes, you guessed it right – leaches. Keep a twig handy to remove the leaches and try not to stop at any place for too long.

Between losing some of your blood and hurting your feet from all the walking, you are suddenly rewarded with a stunning sight! 551 feet of invigorating downpour. And suddenly you are oblivious to the sore feet and leach-bites. The closer you get to the falls the wetter you get from the water spray. However, one needs to exercise utmost caution treading through those sharp-edged and slippery rocks. What’s worse even the camera lens is not spared from the relentless spray.

This is by far my best experience with a waterfall, since I’ve got the opportunity to get so close to it. Also, the surrounding dense vegetation also adds to the charm of it. Truly, worth all the time, effort and money to reach this place.

Getting-there: 10 kms from Kemmangundi.

Must-Do: Keep some twigs ready to weed out the leaches. Also, could carry some salt to counter these blood-suckers.
Must Don’t: Littering. The place is thankfully pretty clean and plastic-free. Let’s keep it that way.

My Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kalahatti Falls, Chikmagalur.

After a dose of history and - in the words of a funny panda - sheer awesomeness at Armruteswara temple the previous evening, we were ready for our primary objective of coming to Chikmagalur. The hills, streams, waterfalls and mist all beckoned and we answered by hiring a cab and deciding to make a day out of it. First stop according to our over-enthusiastic cabbie was Kalahatti a.ka. Kallathigiri a.k.a Kalahasthi falls near Kemmangundi.

The most interesting and striking feature of Kalahatti Falls is that it flows through, over and between an ancient temple of Veerabhadreshwara believed to be built during the Vijayanagara empire. Also, legend has it that sage Agastya had performed penance here. The entrance of the temple has carvings of elephants, over which the water cascades. The water flowing through here is believed to cure illnesses if one takes a dip. But we Indians being what we are, come with bathing soaps, shampoo packets and all the paraphernalia to have a full-fledged bath.
Despite the freezing cold temperature of the water, we felt extremely temped to get wet. And finally we yielded to the temptation by getting under the powerful downpour. Such was the force of the water beating down on my back that I pulled a muscle. To top it all the uneven stony ground makes it hard to balance yourself against the onslaught.

One could also climb one tier up to witness another mini waterfall. The crystal clear water is difficult to be given a pass for a quick dip. Here you need to tread carefully, since we found quite a lot of broken glass bottles. This is the result of uncivilized burden-on-Mother-Earth creatures resorting to drinking and discarding bottles unsafely. Once we had all the fun, we decided to go back our cab. Quite honestly it’s not really the kind of place where one would want to spend a lot of time. The fun wears out after an hour or so….

Getting-there: You either need to have your own car or hire one. It’s on the way to the hill station of Kemmangundi.

Must-Do: No matter how freezing the water – take a dip!
Must-Don’t: Drinking and littering the place with bottles, shampoo and soap packets, pooja paraphernalia, plastic bottles etc.

My Rating: 6/10

Amruteswara Temple, Chikmagalur.

Located 67kms from Chikmagalur is yet another masterpiece from the highly skilled hands of the Hoysala sculptors. The Amruteswara Temple situated 10 kms from Tarikeri in Amruthapura stands testimony to the greatness of the Hoysala kingdom and their love for constructing jaw-dropping temples. Built in 1196 by Amrutheswara Dandanayaka under Hoysala king Veera Ballala II, the Amruteswara temple apparently built similar to the Veera Narayana temple at Belavadi – also in Chikmagalur.
Amruteswara is part of the Belur-Halebidu clutter of Hoysala temples, but less popular compared to their peers- thankfuly. It is also not being promoted as a tourist destination the temple itself is being maintained pretty well. The lack of tourists might also be one contributing factors to this. The Hoysala workmanship is prominent in every wall and every stone.
Ruvari Mallitamma is credited to be the Sculptor of this temple. The temple has a long hall with the trademark Hoysala pillars followed by a closed shrine, where the deity is still being worshipped. The idols here have all the skills and mastery that every famous Hoysala sculptor is endowed with. Ramayana and Mahabharata and etched into stone all across the exterior temple walls.
For all those who love poetry-in-stone, this temple offers a great deal to wow-about. One could make it part of the Belur-Halebidu itinerary along with Belavadi.

Credits: Wikipedia

Getting-there: Chikmaglur -> Birur -> Tarikeri -> Amruthapura. Local buses available till Tarikeri. From there, one would need to take an Autorickshaw. Nearest railway station is Birur/Kadur. It’s also 35 kms from Shimoga.

My Rating: 7/10

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Aranmula Boat Race, Chengannur.

It feels like an eternity since I put on my travelling boots and when I eventually did, I realized I just struck-out one item from my places-to-be-before-I-die list. Kerala has always been close to my heart, not just for its beauty but also for it being my native land. So, it’s natural that everything about Kerala fascinates and excites me. But there are some things that excite any person irrespective of where you come from.

The annual boat races of Kerala is one such event that you would go any lengths to witness. So despite quite a few glitches, I was determined to experience it. And thankfully so, my determination paid of. A hurriedly arranged trip which involved getting stuck in Bangalore traffic for a good 2 hours before I ran on the wet and slippery platform of Yeshvantpur Railway station with two bags cumulatively weighing at least half my weight finally saw me witnessing the Aranmula Boat Race from the steps of Parthasaradhi Temple in Aranmula, Chengannur.

The Aranmula boat race is one among several annual boat races that live under the shadow of the more popular Nehru Boat Race. But unlike the tourist-oriented Nehru boat race, the Aranmula boat race is more a tradition than a competition and the oldest amongst the lot. The race coincides with the last day of Onam on which day the commemoration of the installation of the deity Lord Krishna is done. River Pamba on whose bank the temple resides is where all the action unfolds. The Chundan Vallam (Snake boat) is approximately 103 feet in length and have about 4 helmsman, 100 rowers and 25 singers.

The Vallamkali (boat race) have two categories. The first, where the Palliyodams (snake boats) from different villages of the surrounding areas compete against each other. The main singer leads the team with a vanjipaatu (boat song). The Oarsmen row the boat following the tune and rhythm of the singers. The first part of the competition is not a race, but rather a competition to decide the most synchronous and well sung team. After that comes the boat race to decide the fastest of them all.

Needless to say, it’s a real treat to the eyes watching these men in action. It’s unlike any sport in the world. It also happens to be the sport with the largest team size. The whole event takes about 3 hours to complete and at the end of it, you will be hungry for more. At the end of the race is the famous Valla Sadya (feast) to satiate your physical hunger. The whole charged-up atmosphere, the constant rhythmic vanjipaatu in the background, the lingering aroma of Valla Sadya and holiness of the temple makes it a trip that is truly unforgettable.

Getting-there: It’s a half hour bus ride from Changannur railway station. When in doubt, just follow the crowd.

Must-Do: Witness the boat race, take a boat ride and get a closer look at the Snake boats before the start of the race, eat the Valla Sadya, record a live vanjipaatu of a team.

Must-Don’t: Littering.

Other Attractions: Buy Aranmula Kannadi – metal mirrors. Aranmula Kottaram (palaces).

My Rating: 8.5/10

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chennakeshava Temple, Kaidala

Situated about 80kms from Bangalore, Kaidala is quite literally off the tourist map. So what was my object of interest in Kaidala? The 12th century Chennakeshava Temple built by Jakanachari was something I did not want to miss, especially considering its proximity to Bangalore city. Continuing with my Hoysala Trail which began with Halebidu and Belur I was surprised and excited to hear Tumkur having its own little piece of Hoysala history.

Kaidala is the hometown of Jakanachari – the sculptor-in-chief of the Belur Chennakeshava Temple. What really attracted me to Kaidala was the legend surrounding the temple.

Jakanachari a famous sculpture leaves behind his wife and unborn child and travels far and wide to gain name & fame. Sculpting beautiful statues, constructing temples over a long period of time he forgets his family. He reaches Hoysala kingdom where he agrees to sculpt deity Lord Chennakeshava. Meanwhile his son, Dankanachari leaves home in search of his father. On the day before the Chennakeshava idol has to be installed in Belur, Dankanachari reaches the place & claims that there is a flaw in the idol, Jakanachari refuses to accept that there could be a blemish and proclaims that he will cut off his own hand if a flaw is found.
A test was conducted and the statue was covered with sandal paste, and to his surprise the paste dried up everywhere except in the navel area. They find a live frog living in the sand and water nestled inside the cavity. Jakanachari cuts his hand after his son finds the flaw. Hence the statue became famous as ‘Kappe Channigaraya’ (Kappe means Frog in Kannada).
Later Jakanachari gets a vision to construct a temple at his home town. The father-son duo then moves to Kaidala where it is said that Jakanachari got back his hand after he completed the Chennakeshava statue.

Reaching Kaidala proved a little challenging. While at times we were greeted with empty expressions, at other times we encountered a shake of the head. Then there were those who confused Kaidala with Maidala a neighbouring village and almost sent us on a wild goose chase. But we did eventually made it to the Chennakeshava temple, thanks to some really friendly locals who went out of their way to help us.

Once there, we realized why Kaidala never made it to the tourist map. The Kaidala Chennakeshava temple structure is nothing compared to its more illustrious cousins in Belur and Halebidu. What makes it worse is the fact that ASI has undertaken some restoration work with the temple. And apparently they did not deem it necessary to try and blend new additions into the ancient structure. The result is an ugly mismatch of two different worlds.

As it turns out, the only noteworthy object about the temple is the sculpture of its presiding deity - Lord Chennakeshava. The soap stone composition and exquisitely adorned idol brings back glimpses of sculptural mastery from the Hoysala era. The temple here is still worshipped and hence I deemed it right to not take pictures of the deity.

But for the sculpture of Lord Chennakeshava, sadly there’s nothing of interest in this part of the world. As for me, I’m just glad to have experienced another sculptural marvel from the Hoysalas.

Getting-there: Take the NH4 out of Bangalore to Tumkur. Take the bye-pass road a little before Tumkur town (right after where the Toll gate ends). A little tricky as there might not be any signboards - we missed it too. Then turn left at SH33. From here you can ask the locals.

Must-Do: A mini orchestra machine which has an assortment of music creating devices, the size of a house-hold grinder. I wonder if it can play any music though!
Must-Don’t: Vandalism.

Caution: The pictures provided by karnataka.com are those belonging to the Belur, Hassan and not the one at Kaidala - just so that you dont feel cheated if and when you do happen to go there.
My Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Badami, Bagalkot.

After embarking on the Hoysala Trail covering Halebidu and Belur, I was truly astonished by India’s rich architectural heritage. I decided to explore more. At the same time, I also wanted to see the works of a different dynasty. A different era. An architecturally different offering. Thankfully, Karnataka has a lot to offer in this regard. The Hoysalas made way to the Chalukya Trail.
When you talk of Chalukyas the first name that springs to mind is Badami. Located about 90 kms from Hubli, it’s a perfect weekend getaway for those residing there. If you have more time and your own transport at hand, then you can expand the list to include Pattadackal, Mahakoota and Aihole. There are frequent buses available between Hubli and Badami. Or better still you could catch a bus to Kulgeri Cross and then from catch another bus to Badami. After alighting at Badami we make a quick visit to Banshankari temple which is about 4 kms from Badami bus stand. After that we came back to the cave temples of Badami. The cave temples in pictures always looked totally out-of-this-world, and that’s what we found Badami cave temples in reality – totally out-of-this-world!

They are a set of four temples carved inside a monolith. Another striking feature of this temple is the fact that there are temples Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha and Jain – a proof of Chalukya’s religious tolerance. Though the carvings of Badami are not as artistic and magnificent as Halebidu or Belur, they still hold a special charm for their rock-cut look. The view gets better and better as you climb. The once natural pond with the Bhoothanatha Group of temples and the man-made waterfalls (by the Chalukyas for keeping the pond from drying up) all add up for a wonderful experience. The rains only add to the beauty of the place.

Do not forget to engage an ASI guide to give you a tour of the temples. The guide will tell you a lot of interesting observations of the sculptures. Do watch-out for the 18 armed Nataraja which depicts the 81 postures of Bharata Natyam, the Hari-Hara idol to appease both Shiva and Vishnu, the flat-bellied Ganesha, the smiling Narasimha, the only sitting posture of Vishnu (as opposed to Ananthashayanam) anywhere in the world, the worshipping of Kubera by Mahavira, the aesthetical additions by Vijaynagara Rulers, the fort wall additions by Tippu Sultan… the list goes on. Badami is a must-visit place for all those who appreciate India’s past glory.

Getting-there: Direct buses are available from Hubli to Badami. Else take a bus to Kulgeri Cross and another one from there to Badami.

Must-Do: Engage a guide.
Must-Don’t: Littering, Vandalism.
My Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Kshetram, Thiruvananthapuram.

The Sree Padmanabhaswamy kshetram is one of the 108 Divya Desams (holiest abodes) of Lord Vishnu. Here Padmanabhaswamy in the form of Vishnu rests in the Ananthasayanam posture. Visiting the Kshetram had been a long standing dream and I only feel blessed to have got the opportunity. I woke up early in the morning with excitement matching a school kid who's ready to go on a school picnic. Pants, trousers and shorts are all forbidden inside the temple premises. So the excitement was two-fold having to wear the traditional mundu.

We decided to enter temple from the main entrance - the North Nada. Photography is strictly not allowed inside the temple so took a quick pic from the outside and stuffed the camera back into the car. Upon entering the temple we discovered that King of Travancore was in the temple premises, which meant local devotees will not be entertained inside the sanctum santorum of the temple. It's said that everyday the King of Travancore has a certain time to visit the temple. And during this period other devotees are not entertained. I was told that the King must visit Shri Padmanabhaswamy at the specified hour everyday. If he is late, the King will be fined. The King being fined is not particularly surprising considering the fact that the Kings of Travancore are called Padmanabha Dasas - meaning servants of Lord Padmanabha. It's also said that Travancore was always ruled by Lord Vishnu.

The kshetram is a sprawling one with long magnificiently carved corridors. However some restoration work is going on here, which may result in loss of the original architectural splendour of the Travancore scupltors.

After a few minutes of waiting for the King's departure, we were fortunate to see His Highness exit the temple and acknowledging his waiting subjects. After waiting in the queue for about half an hour we finally entered the sanctum santorum of the temple. The highlight of the temple is that the Ananthasayanam posture of Vishnu cannot be viewed from a single door. The view of the reclining Vishnu can be seen only through 3 doors. Through the first door one could see the face of Vishnu and the Shivalinga. The second door reveals Brahma seated on a Lotus emanating from the Lord's navel and finally Vishnu's feet through the third door.

Another interesting feature about this temple that came to light very recently was that the entire idol of Lord Vishnu except the head and chest is adorned with pure gold. All these years it was covered with Katu Sarkara Yogam to desist attention from the invading Muslim rulers. Yet another feature about this kshetram that attract devotees is its pal payasam, which by popular mandate is second only to the Ambalapuzha payasam. Again, legend has it one of the Kings of Travancore wanted to know why Padmanabhaswamy kshetram payasam was not as delicious or sweet as the Ambalapuzha payasam. He then summoned the entire cooking staff of Ambalapuzha to prepare the same payasam with all the same ingredients over here. But despite replicating the same ingredients and style of cooking, it was found that the new payasam was still not as good as Amabalapuzha. Finally it was concluded upon that it was the water that was used in the preparation that made all the difference. Apparently the water at the Ambalapuzha temple pond is sweeter than the one in Padmanaba Kshetram, which made all the difference.

Having fulfilled one more long cherished dream I returned home happy and devoted.

Getting-there: In the heart of Thiruvanathapuram (formerly Ananthapuri or Trivandrum)
Must-Do: Men must be bare-chested and wear mundus while women must wear saris or wrap-arounds.
Must-Dont: Photography.

My Rating: 6/10
Credits: Wikipedia.

Updated in July 2011: Based on a petition by a retired IPS officer, the Supreme Court ordered that the six secret vaults of the temple be opened for stock taking. What ensued has left the whole world in utter disbelief. The team after opening four of the six vaults (which have not been opened for the last 135 years) have found a treasure, which at first estimate, crosses Rs. 1 Lac Crores. This easily makes the Shree Padmanabha Kshetram the richest in the country.

There are two more vaults yet to be opened - A and B. There is however differences in opinion on the opening of Vault B. Some believe that opening this vault might be a bad omen for the people of Kerala, while other believe that the Vault B is actually a tunnel that leads to the sea, while some some others believe it is an esacape route for the Royal family to exit the city. It was found that the Vault B has a complex set of locks, which the team has not been able to open yet.

Ironically, the retired IPS officer who petitioned the court died of natural causes, within a fortnight of unsealing of the vaults. Is this what they call Divine Retribution?

Shanghumugham Beach, Thiruvananthapuram.

It's been close to 2 months since I did any kind of travel and a strange feeling was creeping inside me. So when the Kerala trip - though an official family trip - came up, I couldn't help but get excited. I knew with the kind of schedule we had for the 4 days, sightseeing was the lowest on the list of family-priorities. But I was determined to squeeze-out at least two destinations. The Shree Padmanabha Kshetram was definite go-ahead. After all who could say No to The Almighty Himself :-)

Luckily the second one worked too. We were basically looking to make it to one of the 3 main beaches in Thiruvananthapuram. We opted for Shanghumugham over Veli and Kovalam for no apparent reason. Shanghumugham is notorious for its menacing, fear-inducing tides. You get a feeling the Moon is three times closer to Shanghumugham than anywhere else in India.

Being in the heart of the city, its no surprise that Shanghumgham was a sea of humanity on a hot and humid Friday evening. Again its no surprise its a rather unkempt beach. Sunset was a no-show what with the cloud cover that seemed to have formed on an ad-hoc basis just to play spoilsport. But it definitely is a place to beat the heat and the humidity.

Getting-there: Bang in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram.

Must-Do: Visit the children's play park if you bringing kids along.
Must-Don't: Venture into the waters with or without kids, even if you are a seasonal swimmer. Littering.

My Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Belur, Hassan.

Halebidu and Belur though taken in the same breath are actually 17 kms apart. You cannot however come to either one of the temples and not see the other. The Chennakeshava temple in Belur is not very spectacularly different from the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu. Considering the fact that the two temples were built in the same century (or there abouts) it’s no surprise, they resemble almost the same. In fact, you will find at least four or five duplicate sculptures between Halebidu and Belur temples.

Whilst comparing the two temples it’s not hard to notice that the Belur temple is only half the size of the Halebidu temple. Another major difference one would notice is that the Belur temple is thankfully complete - after 103 years of artistic perseverance.

The Chennakeshava temple was built by fourth ruler of the Hoysala dynasty after he was converted to Vaishnava faith from Jainism by sage Ramanuja.The most striking architectural marvel of the Chennakeshava temple is the richly adorned Narasimha pillar. Until the 18th Century one could turn the pillar at will which used to be suspended from the equally adorned ceiling. But the wrath of nature took its toll when the roof from where the Narasimha pillar was hanging slightly caved-in covering the tiny gap between pillar and the pedestal. The Narasimha pillar is one among the forty-six distinctly carved pillars in the temple. Such is the wizardry of the Hoysala sculptures that one could notice that the earrings on the lobes of the dancers could be rotated. They have even carved stones into the pendants of the dancers. You could also notice the gaps between two overlapping necklaces!
Sadly, this temple has also not been spared of vandalism from the countless visitors and treasure hunters. And despite this vandalism the government apathy continues with no police presence to guard this invaluable Indian culture. Funnily the only two policemen posted at the entrance of the temple diligently check for cell phones of every visitor and deposit it with them for the time of their visit. I’m sure they would go back home with their head held high for saving an Indian monument!!
Such is the brilliance of these stone poets that devotion takes a step backward. You constantly need reminding that you are in a holy place and that presiding deity should be getting all the attention rather than the magnificence of the sculptors. Halebid and Belur are a must-visit for those searching for the rich Indian Heritage and culture. Truly mesmerizing and worth all the trouble getting there.

Getting-there: A couple of Trains and numerous buses ply from Bangalore to Hassan frequently. From Hassan it’s another one hour to either Halebidu or Belur.

Must-Do: Engage a guide to take you through the interpretations of the epics depicted in stone.

Must-Don’t: Engage in vandalism or speed-up the destruction of such great works of art.

My Rating: 9/10

Monday, March 22, 2010

Halebidu - II, Hassan

A short half km walk from the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu and you find yourself at two more such temples from the same era - the Basadi Halli (Jain Temple) and the Kedareshwara Temple. The Kedareshwara temple looks an exact replica of the Hoysaleshwara temple except that it has only one entrance as opposed to three of the latter.
Basadi Halli: This temple is about 300 mts from the Hoysaleshwara temple and less visited by the tourists who come to Halebidu. In fact we found the temple totally deserted but for a local who was found enjoying his afternoon siesta. The notable wonder of this temple is the richly polished stone pillars where you can actually see your image, and that too inverted! Though its a Jain Temple, the Sanctum Sanctorum belongs to the bats!

Totally deserted and quiet temple but thankfully not much vandalized. Do not miss it if you have made it to Halebidu.

Kedareshwara Temple: Another 200 meters from Basadi Halli and you reach the Kedareshwara Temple. Built in 1220 AD this temple still stands majestic in its wake braving all the odds. More info about the temple can be found here.
Unfortunately the temple is locked but you can peep through the door and see the inside of the temple as there is enough natural light that come through the perforated walls of the temple.

A must-visit if you have made it to Halebidu.

My Rating: 8/10

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Halebidu, Hassan

Other names: Halebid, Dwarasamudra.

After yet another cancellation of a Wayanad Trip (it's become totally jinxed now!) we made a hurried plan to visit Halebidu and Belur since we had only one day to spare.
Caught a 6 AM Karnataka Sampige bus from Kempegowda Bus Station, Bangalore and reached Hassan by around 10:30. From there we took another bus and reached Halebidu by 11:30.
The 12th Century Hoysaleshwara Temple stood majestically in the blazing sun. And no, I’m not talking about ruins here. Every stone, that has not been vandalized, stands its ground. Quite unbelievable that a 12th Century monument braved the wrath of nature and more importantly careless human vandalism.
When you come to a place as historic as this, it would be criminal to not engage a guide and learn more about the place. For Rs. 200 (with a receipt) you would end up earning more than you bargained for. Our guide turned out to be quite eloquent with the history of the temple and Hindu mythology in general. Hence you can imagine our shock when we found out that he was actually a Muslim! It was quite embarrassing to note that a Muslim knows more Hindu mythology than (a Hindu) me.
Coming to the artwork of the temple, all I can say is that it will blow your brains out of your skull. The imagination, the visualization, the talent and the execution is simply numbing. Attention to detail is buzzword among the Hoysala sculptors. Giving shape to their imaginations looks like piece of cake for these extremely skilled craftsmen. Jakkanna Achari is believed to be the chief architect of the Hoysala Temples in Halebidu and Belur.

The Hoysaleshwara temple is dedicated to the King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara. The temple was built by one his Ministers. The temple has two main Nandi idols. The 9 ft Nandi is dedicated to King Vishnuvardhana and the 8 ft Nandi is dedicated to his queen Santhala. The facts regarding the temple, its idols, its structure (like a star), it’s artwork, it’s story telling through sculptures are all but staggering. Just when you find a dynasty spending 87 years with thousands of money and manpower as shocking, comes the biggest shocker of all. This city and hence with it, the temple, has been abandoned by the Hoysala rulers after two attacks by the Delhi Sultanate and then shifted base to Belur where they undertook the exercise all over again!
Two hours after we started our tour of this magnificent temple, we still wanted more of it! And more is what we got in the form of the Jain Temple and the Kedareshwara temple just half a kilometer behind the Hoysaleshwara Temple. The Kedareshwara temple is just like an extension of the Hoysaleshwara temple, whereas the Jain temple has some finely polished stone pillars where you can see your reflection – inverted!!!

While we were at Kedareshwara temple it started to rain, the first for the year, and it was just magical. The soapstone structure of these temples suddenly looked all the more appealing. We surely got more than we bargained for, from this trip to Halebidu, talking of which we still have Belur to devour…
Getting-there: Frequent KSRCT buses ply between Bangalore and Hassan. From Hassan you can take a bus to either Halebidu or Belur, whichever you chose to cover first.

Must-Do: Engage a guide to get a sneak peak into Hoysala Dynasty and interpretation of the sculptures.

Must-Don't: Vandalize the rich culture of our country!

My Rating: 9/10

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Colva Beach, Goa.

The only reasons we came to this beach was my desire to see the beach where I almost drowned 16 years ago and the fact that we had time on our hands to kill while we were in Madgaon.

The visit to Colva turned out to be a bad idea right from the start. Firstly, we reached there on a mid summer hot afternoon, with the Sun at its cruelest best. Even then to our surprise we found the beach choc-a-block filled with people. It being a sunday and with the Carnival to begin in a matter or coupla hours, this was already turning out to be a bad idea. With the Sun so hot and the beach so crowded, we walked straight towards one of the shacks on the beach. without even bothering to touch the water. After a good two hours of surf parasail watching we left, much to our own disappointment.

The only positive about Colva is that parasailing here is much cheaper than what it was at Benaulim. This beach is best avoided, if solitude is what you are looking for.

Getting-there: Colva is bang in the middle of Madgaon, around 6kms from the city central. You can hire a bike and move around. Ask the locals for direction.

Must-Do: Adventure sports, as they are cheaper here.

Must-Don't: Littering.

Ups: Cheaper adventure sports, one of the best white sandy beaches in Goa.
Downs: Too crowded.

My Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Palolem Beach, Goa.

Much has been heard about Palolem being the best beach in Goa. At the same time, many have also claimed that Palolem has lost its charm with too much commercialization. But still I was determined to check out the place, thanks to pictures showing the palm trees extending into the pristine white sands. And so on Day2 we checked out of our resort in Benaulim, and hired a bike to Palolem - one of the southernmost beaches in Goa. The 35km ride from Madgaon to Palolem (in Cancona Town) was one of the best I’ve experienced in recent times. Most part of the journey through the ghat roads were thankfully less crowded and sometimes even deserted.

Palolem did indeed turn out to be highly commercialized. The entire stretch of the beach is lined-up with shacks apart from numerous other hotels, guest houses, restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores, internet cafes et al. But luckily the beach in itself is not much of a disappointment. The geometrical dimension of the beach though, is a little weird. The small alphabet "u" best describes the shape of this unique beach. It also reminded me of Kudle Beach in Gokarna as it lies cuddled between two hillocks. Palolem as we found out is a good place to pick up some good-looking shells.

The sunset was a slight disappointment as it just disappeared towards the fag-end of the phenomena. On the whole, but for the extreme commercialization, Palolem is a great place to relax and rejuvenate.

Getting-there: 35kms from Madgaon. First beach after the Ghat roads.

Must-Do: Enjoy the Sun, Sea, Sand and the Shells.
Must-Don't: Littering.

My Rating: 6.5/10