Saturday, December 31, 2011

Images of 2011

Chandrachoodeshwara Temple, Hosur
Z-Point, Kemmangundi

Hebbe Falls, Chikmagalur

Mullayangiri, Chikmagalur

Belavadi Temple, Chikmagalur

Stepped Tank Hampi
Shiva Temple, Murudeshwar

Mookambika Temple, Kollur

Bhatkal Beach

Someshwara Temple, Kolar

Kolaramma Temple, Kolar

Sree Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatnam

Kumara Parvatha

 Kotilingeshwara Temple, Kolar

Srirangapatnam, Mysore

Mysore Palace, Mysore

Soochipara Fall, Wayanad

Kuruva Dweep, Wayanad

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kuruva Dweep (Island), Wayanad

Continued from here and here.

Kuruva Dweep is a group of islands formed by River Kabini. It is also the most visited place in Wayanad. Kuruva Dweep is a good recreational place. The boulder-infested river is a good place to wet your feet and splash water around. It can be a good picnic spot to spend a lazy afternoon. Be warned that in flow of water in certain parts can be intimidating. The huge boulders though can break the flow can still be dangerous if one falls on it.

But getting to this place is not so easy. There’s quite a lot of walking to do and a handsome price to pay. Right where your vehicle is parked, there’s an entry fees to catch a raft that will take you to the other end of the river. Personally travelling in a raft has been my first experience. What I did not expect was a rope tied from one end of the river to the other. And the navigation of this raft was done with the help of this raft, by pulling them and even taking a 360 degree turn. After crossing the river one needs to walk half a kilometer before you will be asked to pay for another entry fee, plus additional charges for camera. I really don’t understand the idea behind paying entry fees twice. But that’s the way it is. Thankfully the place is not all that trashed, meaning that money goes in the upkeep of the place and also as wages to the many men and women posted in Army overalls.

It’s another couple of kilometers before you get a chance to wet your feet and play in the water. But once you get there, it’s all fun and games if you are coming as a group. Make sure you spare at least 2-3 hours for this location when you plan your trip.

Getting-there: 23kms north of Kalpetta.

Must-Do: Spare enough time to have fun. Exercise caution.
Must-Don’t: Littering.

My Rating: 5/10

Friday, November 18, 2011

Soochipara Falls, Wayanad

Soochipara (a.k.a Sentinel Rock Waterfalls) is a menacing-looking waterfall near Meppady in Wayanad. It stands at a height of 200 metres. Soochi means “needle” and para means “rock” in Malayalam, obviously referring to the needle-sharp rocks that abound the waterfalls. It is supposedly a three-tier fall, but with water gushing down in an intimidating fashion, it looks like a free fall.

The waterfall is a 2 km walk from where your vehicle can go no further. At the gate before the falls you need to pay for the entrance and camera. From here it is a downhill walk of about a kilometer and a half. Thankfully the path is well laid with stones providing an even surface to walk on. Once you touchdown on the falls, the rocks here are very slippery and sharp. Caution is advised while walking across these rocks. They are not only slippery but also razor sharp.

The spray of water falling down is enough to irrigate an agricultural field. And the thundering noise of the falls is enough to silence an explosion. It is this magical environment that I was expecting to find in Wayanad. Looking at the deluge of water gushing down, I could only but imagine the situation during July – August when the famous Kerala monsoon is at its peak. That will be a spectacle to be witnessed at a later date. Having lived a long-cherished dream, I was hoping that this would be the turning point of the trip after a rather disappointing start.

Must-Do: Try Indian Gooseberry (Amla) dipped in Honey, Pineapple dipped in salt and chilly water at the shacks near the waterfalls.
Must-Don't: Littering

My Rating: 7/10

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pookode Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad has been a much-awaited, much-delayed and much-cancelled trip, so much so that I completely stopped planning a getaway to these mystic terrains. The breakthrough from this impasse however happened with a trip being planned by my new friends in the travel circle. I had no hesitation in tagging along with a group of eight others. And much like all much-awaited and much-delayed Bollywood movies stretched over a period of time, this one too turned to be a dud…. well almost. The saving grace being a good company.
A long line of vehicles at the forest checkpost in the Karnataka-Kerala border, bad roads and delay in getting our rooms ready in Kalpetta meant we were already behind schedule. After breakfast, which can at best be called mediocre we headed to Pookode Lake. Having seen a few stunning pictures of Lake Pookode, I decided to include it in the itinerary. Had I read the Wikipedia article on Pookode Lake, I may have re-considered this decision. But it was not to be and Pookode Lake turned out to be as disappointing as the morning’s Masala Dosa. The hot November Noon Sun only worsened the experience. So Pookode is a small lake surrounded on all sides with hills and thick green cover. On another day and another time, the place has the potential to look scenic. But this was not the time or the day for that. Paddleboats are available for the visitors to drift across the lake. But a few minutes on these squeaky, outdated, holes-ridden boats and you would rather swim across – had the water looked a little appealing. The far end of the lake is home to quite a few water lilies, which the visitors are strictly not allowed to pluck!

The visitors can also walk along the path or just stay put – like I did. Pookode Lake is a “Plastic Ban Area” where you will find shops selling water bottles, cool drinks, chips and other packaged foods. Thankfully there’s also a botanical garden-shop selling plants with exotic-looking flowers and herbs. And ah… how can I forget the rather mild-mannered monkeys? The visitors have to pay for entrance tickets, camera charges and boat ride charges. So be prepared to spend at least Rs. 100 per head if you have a camera and intend to go for a boat ride.

This was not the start I wished for, from the “exotic” Wayanad. Things get only get better or worse. Which one will it be?

Getting-there: Pookode Lake is about 3kms from Vythiri.

Must-Do: Kalpetta (district headquarters) is the ideal place to stay in Wayanad since all places are at a convenient distance from here. Avoid this place if you are running on a tight schedule.
Must-Don't: Pollute and litter the lake and its sorroundings.
My Rating: 3/10

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mysore Palace, Mysore

The 20km ride from Srirangapatnam to Mysore Palace was covered in quick time. But before we fill our hearts with images of the grandeur of Mysore Palace, it was time to fill our stomachs. After driving round the blocks we stopped at Hotel RRR, totally oblivious of its reputation. To our dismay we found that it was left to the customers to “grab” a table in the overflowing restaurant. And that meant breathing down the necks of customers who appear to be at the fag end of their lunch. Either we were very hungry or the food was really good. Nobody really complained about the quality of food.

Wasting no time after lunch, we headed towards Mysore palace. Arriving at the wrong gate (one among six gates), the Tonga-wallas tried to cheat us by saying there was no parking available at the Main gate and hence it was advisable to park our car there and ride with them. But it was hard to fall for such a cheap trick – it’s impossible to believe that a destination as famous as this, which is visited by thousands of people, doesn’t have a parking lot! And sure enough we were right. There was a parking lot near the Main gate that can accommodate at least a hundred cars. After paying a nominal Rs.20 for entry and depositing our camera (not allowed inside the Palace) and footwear (both free service), we engaged an ASI (Archeological Survey of India) guide for Rs 350 (for five people).

Do you really need a guide, you might ask? And the answer is, if you really need to enrich your experience, then yes, you do need to engage a guide. Without the services of a guide you might easily walk past the umpteen 3D wall paintings, some of which took 5 years to complete, without as much as a second glance. You would also probably not think about the various tiles imported from different parts of the world. Or the expensive gifts showered on Mysore royalty from different Kings and Generals both in India and from abroad. Or the richness and extravagance of the Mysore Maharajas. Or the more than 100 year old photograph which you might mistake for a painting.

Once we were done with the guided tour of the palace, there was only one thing to do – wait for the lights to come on. On weekends and special holidays the Palace is illuminated with more than 1 lakh bulbs. It is only appropriate that this palace gets this illumination since it was under these rulers that the first Hydel Power Project was launched in Asia from Shivanasamudram.

The semi and fully lit Mysore Palace is a sight that will remain etched in your heart for years to come.

Getting-there: Bang in the middle of Mysore city.

Must-Do: Engage a guide, visit on a weekend to watch the Palace fully lit up, utilize the photo-op.
Must-Don't: Vandalism.

My Rating: 8/10

Srirangapatnam, Mysore.

Jamia Masjid
As mentioned here, Srirangapatnam deserves a separate mention or two. Being Tippu Sultan’s capital the landscape here is dotted with monuments in connection to this great ruler of South India. One of the first monuments you’ll notice once you enter Tippu-land is the Jamia Masjid. Built in 1787 A.D., the mosque has two Octagonal minarets. A few meters down the road and one can find the place where Tippu’s martyred body was found. There’s a commemorative stone placed here, in memory of the King who stood against the mighty British.

Col Bailey's Dungeon

A kilometer ahead is the Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon. If you thought Colonel Bailey used this dungeon to imprison Tippu’s soldiers, then you are wrong (as was I). The dungeon is so named because this was where Col. Bailey died while being a prisoner of Tippu. This dungeon also housed other prominent British figures like General Baird and Colonel Brithwite among others. Apparently prisoners were chained to the walls in a standing position and dungeon flooded with cold water till waist height. Quite ironically there’s a canon bang in the middle of this dungeon. Legend has it that the canon fell through the roof while it was being used against the British. There’s still a gaping hole in the ceiling, which is testimony to this theory.

Daria Daulat Bagh
 Daria Daulat Bagh (Tippu’s Summer Palace): You cannot come to Srirangapatnam and not visit Daria Daulat Bagh. Even though this is Tippu’s summer palace, it is more of a garden than a palace, as the name suggests. This summer palace of Tippu is nestled in thick green cover and lush carpet of grass. And keeping with the color all around, the palace is painted green. The exterior painting of the palace is just an example of the things to come inside. It wouldn’t be unfair to state that, not an inch of the walls and the ceilings have not been touch upon with a brush. And this is not just a coat of paint. Every wall and ceiling is adorned with paintings of the Tippu’s armies and gardens and flowers and random patterns. The palace is now converted into a museum containing artifacts and paintings – both by locals and Britishers.
The garden here double up as playground for kids who are bound to have a gala time. Must-visit place if you are in Srirangapatnam.

Nimishamba Temple
Next up – Nimishamba Temple. Well, this temple has hardly got anything to do with Tippu and his kingdom. But it was in the heartland of Tippu and on the way to Gol Gumbaz. Hence we stopped by. This timple is situated in the banks of River Cauvery and about 1km from Daria Daulat Bagh on the way to Gol Gumbaz. Now, here’s why you must visit Nimishamba. It is believed that Nimishamba (re-incarnation of Goddess Parvathi) removes all obstacles in your life within a minute and hence the name (Nimisha = Minute in Kannada). It is also believed that whatever you pray for here will be granted. So who doesn’t want to visit here? Let me also mention why you might want to skip this temple. Well for starters, this looks like an average Indian temple. Nothing spectacular in the architecture or the atmosphere. If you are lucky you may get a “darshanam” in half hour. Also watch out for the crows who replace the monkeys as the traditional bullies at sought-after picnic spots. These skilled crows can grab food from right out of your hand while you were contemplating on less important matters like hike in petrol prices.

Gol Gumbaz
 Gol Gumbaz – A fascinating name for a not so impressive tomb. I say this in comparison with the Qutub Shahi tombs of Hyderabad. There’s a single tomb which has the remains of Tippu Sultan and his parents. The complex also houses tombs of various other relatives of the king. By this time the Sun was out and doing a good job at sapping out energies. Considering that we still had to complete our next leg of our tour - Mysore Palace (a.k.a Amba Vilas), a much needed revitalization was in order. The women indulged in some shopping to regain their energy while I hydrated myself sitting in the air-conditioned confines of the car, before hitting the road again.

Getting-there: 130kms from Bangalore. 20kms before Mysore.
Must-Do: Have plenty of time on your hands to have a leisure trip.
Must-Don't: Vandalism.

My Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kumara Parvatha Trek. Day II

Continued from here

Stepping on a rock on an inclined climb I lost my balance and fell backwards. The jerk I caused scared the person sleeping next to me in the tent. I thanked my stars it was just a dream, which also reminded me to pray to the sky for the day ahead of me. It was 5 in the a.m and it was time to hit the terrain again. Three quarters of an hour later we dropped our luggage at the Forest Office and headed to the mountains. The initial 2km is relatively flat grass lands compared to the remaining 5, which is if anything, steep. As soon as we started the ascent I realized why Srikanth and Sandeep were here for the third time. It’s not the ego of not scaling the peak that brought them back nor is it an attempt to prove their physical prowess. It was just the beauty of nature in its full glory that pulls them back to this place again and again.

Focusing all my energy and attention on the climb I had forgotten to admire the surroundings. The clear blue skies, the golden sun waiting to make an appearance, the heavenly white cloud beds, the carpet of greenery and the dark shades of the mountain ranges in the distance all painted their pictures on the canvas of nature. Kukke Subramanya may have a temple some 7kms “downtown”. But he surely resides somewhere right here – among his creation. I could feel His presence in everything around me. With the Sun still not out, we made full use of the pleasant weather by walking as much as we could without taking a break. About a couple of hours later we reached tiny water stream with cold freshwater. The forest officers (possibly) have cleared some area here for the campers to pitch their tent and spend the night. Another option to camp here is the Kallu Mantapa just a few meters from here.

After drinking water and refilling our bottles here we continued our ascent. Another couple of hours of slow ascent mixed with photography sessions we reach the peak of Sesha Parvatha. A quick calculation revealed we do not have enough time to summit Kumara Parvatha which stands at 1712mts. Though its about 1.5 kms from the peak of Sesha Parvatha, we did not venture to forward, since we wanted to avoid travelling in the dark from Bhattare Mane. Our ego was taking another beating that we were unable to reach the peak. But in the war between ego and KP, KP wins. We decided to take the fight to another day. We nevertheless went a little further from Sesha Parvatha to bottle some water in the stream there.

The descent is always comparatively easier and quicker. We reached Bhattare Mane by 3 in the afternoon, and I had my biggest meal in quite some time. Just as we were ready to leave by 4, the skies opened up and let through a deluge of rain. In a fix as to whether it is safe to leave now in the slippery and dark forests, we consulted Bhatta. His advice was clear, if it stops raining now, you can leave as long as you have a torch and walk back slowly and carefully. Since 3 out of 5 wanted to go back to Bangalore, the other two thankfully obliged and we were on our way back.

Never did anyone of us imagine that this return journey from Bhattare Mane to Kukke would be the biggest adventure in our lives. We had travelled half way through before the sun set and we brought out our torches. After it was a slow and painful walk back. Add to that the fatigue, the slippery rocks, heavy backpack, leaches and pitch black forests – a truly memorable experience that one of us will ever forget. By the time we touched ground, I was so tired that I was delusional. I promised myself I will never come back to KP but I knew I was lying to myself. I’m ready to go through all this pain and more to relive the moments we spent in the ranges up there. But most of all I cherish the company who made this trek less arduous by keeping me in high spirits and sharing my load when I was struggling. So, will I make another attempt to summit KP. Heck yeah!
Must-Do: Travel light – just water bottles, food and camera.
Must-Don’t: Littering. Start late from Bhattare Mane to Kukke, unless you want in on an adventure.

My Rating: 9/10

Route1: Kukke -> Bhattare Mane -> Sesha Parvatha -> Kumara Parvatha.
Route2: Somwarpet -> Kumaraparvatha -> Sesha Parvata -> Bhattara Mane -> Kukke

Kumara Parvatha Trek. Day I.

Sesha Parvatha
Ego is a very nasty thing. One cannot imagine the things it can make us do and the heights it will make us scale – literally. Barely some 7kms into the trek and I was in no mood (or should I say no shape) to continue with Mission KP. But looking at 8 year old Anoushka, a couple of 10 year olds and a few middle-aged women had me hanging my head in shame and spurred me ahead. And boy did that help… almost. We huffed, we puffed. We screamed out in pain and we drenched in our sweat. We were sacrificed to a thousand leaches and exposed to the rugged nature. But in the end it was the proverbial, so near yet so far.

But rewind a little and I find that the picture was not all that grim. At least that’s what I imagined. For someone who travels a lot, walks a lot and hits the gym oh-so-frequently, I never had a doubt that Mission KP would be any trouble at all. But in the end I’ve narrowed down the “struggle” to not having hit the gym for the last 2 months following a bout of viral fever and having lost 3 kilos in the process. That defense should hold fort in any court of law. Shouldn’t it?

Bhattara Mane

Lessons learnt from this failed attempt:

- Travel as light as possible. And when you are satisfied, empty a few more contents.

- DSLRs are as much a liability as they are an asset in such treks.

- Stay in a good shape consistently.

- Leach socks are a must.

 Though I was a frequent traveler, this was my first real Trek. It has always been a dream to go on an all-encompassing walk in nature’s lap. It took me all of half a second to say yes to our organizer and frequent travel companion, Srikanth when he put up the idea. Srikanth and Sandeep, a veteran of 2 failed attempts (for their own set of reasons) to summit KP were determined to complete the mission this time round. The first-timers in Kishor and I were renegaded to back. But another first-timer in Somashekar showed surprising agility throughout the trek.


An overnight bus from Bangalore dropped us at the foot steps of Kukke Subramanya temple. After the morning ablutions and a satisfying breakfast at the highly-recommended Neo Mysore CafĂ©, we shouldered our bags and walked in the direction of the forest trail. Our first pit-stop was the renowned Bhattare Mane (House of the Bhats). The almost 7km trek from Kukke to Bhattare Mane winds through a dense leach-infested forest. Let me dedicate a few lines to leaches, since I won’t be talking about them later. The leaches are your constant companion in the 13 km trek to KP. If the land is marshy and wet with the slightest hint of shade, then you can be sure of finding them there. Do not stop (for more than 10 seconds) to take leaches out. Keep walking as much as you can. You might also want to try leach socks. Expect to be bitten at least 20-30 times by their blood craving creatures. Also watch out for the vampire leaches – the ones that fall from the trees and go for the neck.

As if the steep climb and the leaches were a deterrent by themselves, the rocky terrain adds to your woes. In retrospect, the rocky terrain serves dual purposes – to give you a good grip while traversing and stop soil-erosion during the rains. There’s absolutely no possibility to lose your way as long as you stick to the beaten track. The final 2km stretch to Bhattare Mane is, thankfully, through grass lands. Bhattare Mane is oasis in this rugged terrain. This is place where you get to eat, drink, rest and sleep – all for a nominal fee. Bhatta has a consort of transporters who make at least 3-4 trips a day to Subramanya town carrying heavy loads. It’s a highly commendable job these people do. The food is prepared at Bhattare Mane and served hot, three times a day. A satisfying meal of Rice, Sambhar, Majige, side-dish and Pickle come at a miserly Rs 60. The man of the house is a humble, witty, quirky and wise man who fluently speaks Kannada and Malayalam.

Sunset as seen from Viewpoint

After a sumptuous meal we lay in the hot Sun to soothe our aching bodies. A quick power nap later, we were raring to go again. We unloaded a few stuff at Bhattare Mane and walked in the direction of the Forest Officer’s check post. But looking at the cloud formation, the Forest Officer advised us against going to the peak. He suggested us to camp near the check post and start early in the morning. The nice man he was he offered us to stay in the guest house and also asked us to leave our excessive baggage with him and carry only water bottles the next day.

We decided to heed to the Forest Officer and since we had a tent with us that could house 3 people along with the luggage, 2 of them decided to stay in the guest house while the rest chose the tent. It could not have been a better place to set the tent than the viewpoint. The panoramic view from the viewpoint is worth all the trouble we took to get here. On all four sides we were surrounded by hill ranges as far as the eye can see and beyond. The sunset was a bit of a let-down what with all the clouds wrapping the sun in its arms. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing on the benches and monkeying around taking pictures and conversing with other trekking groups. After dark set-in we collected wood from the forest and started a campfire. We cooked MTR’s ready-to-eat rice items for dinner and retreated to our tents/guesthouses for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we summit KP, if only the sun and the terrain cooperate. I also wish my le..g….s……

Getting-there: Overnight buses and trains available from Bangalore and Mysore. It is around 280kms from Bangalore.

Must-Do: Travel light. Carry sleeping bags, tent (if you want to sleep in natures’ lap), lots of water, ready-to-eats, leach protection socks, first aid kit, raincoat.
Must-Don’t: Littering, smoking, alcohol consumption, wear shoes inside Bhatta’s house.

Best Time to Visit: October to January.

My Rating: 7/10

Watch out for the concluding part of this trek here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple, Ernakulam

Kerala is truly Gods Own Country, not only for its heavenly beaches or serene backwaters or misty mountains or magical monsoons but also for the existence of many renowned temples dotted across the state. One such temple of prominence is the Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple in Ernakulam District.

The Divine Mother known as Rajarajeshwari a.k.a Adiparasakthi a.k.a Chottanikkara Devi is worshipped in three forms – Saraswathy in the morning, Lakshmi at noon and Durga in the evening. The pedestal also includes the idol of Mahavishnu and hence the deity is called Ammenarayana, Devinarayana, Lakshminarayana, Bhadrenarayana. It is believed that if you visit this temple for 12 consecutive days, then you will get a lifetime of blessings.

The doors of the sanctum sanctorum open at 4 in the morning. It is believed that Sree Mookambika Saraswathy is also present in the temple in the morning. That is why the Mookambika Temple in Kollur opens after the Goddess Saraswathy returns to Kollur late in the morning.

To the east is a temple called Kizukkavu. The idol here is facing west. People suffering from mental illness visit this temple in a bid to cure the illness.

Getting-there: 22kms from Ernakulam.

My Rating: 5/10

Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayoor

The Sri Krishna (or more fondly, Sree Guruvayoorappan) Temple in Guruvayoor is probably the most important temple to Malayalis in Kerala - perhaps more important than Sabrimala. But that’s not a debate I want to venture into. This temple has a lot of perceived and factual history attached to it – history that goes back to 5000 years.

According to folklore, Lord Krishna knew that after his time on earth, Dwaraka will be submerged under the sea. He however wanted his Vishnu idol to be worshipped by others. Hence he instructed Deva Guru and Vayu Deva to take his Vishnu idol to someplace safe and allow devotees to worship it, before Dwaraka is submerged. Deva Guru and Vayu Deva on their part found the ideal resting place for the Vishnu idol. Unfortunately, there was a Shiva idol already in that place. Deva Guru however prayed to Lord Shiva, who obliged to move his own idol to a different location – now known as Mammiyur, a kilometer away from this temple. The temple town thus got its name from Deva Guru and Vayu Deva.

But it has not been so smooth sailing for the temple. It was time and again plundered by different rulers and fire mishaps. In 1716 AD The Dutch had plundered and set fire to this shrine. In 1766 AD Haider Ali captured Calicut. But the temple was spared after a huge ransom was paid to the ruler. In 1789 his son Tipu Sultan set fire to the temple. But before he could do that the main idol was hidden underground and the procession idol shifted to Ambalapuzha. During the time of the British, the idols were reinstalled and the temple started to prosper. In 1970 a fire broke out in the temple, causing quite some damage.

The temple unfortunately is under the control of very Orthodox Brahmins. It was only in 1930 that untouchables were allowed into the temple. But non-Hindus, to this date are not allowed into the temple. The most glaring irony is that, despite the temple opening its doors with the melodious voice of KJ Yesudas’ devotional renderings, he has been denied entry into the temple on multiple occasions for being a Christian. It’s a sad state of affairs, this partisan treatment of devotees by the temple authorities.

This temple is also the most-sought-after location to get married. The number of weddings happening here in a day during peak seasons is mind-boggling. The crowds are so huge in numbers that there were occasions when grooms and brides were mistakenly exchanged.

Getting-there: Guruvayoor is about 30kms from Thrissur Railway Station. From Thrissur you can either go by road or rail.

Must-Do: There’s very strict dress codes for men and women. Men must wear mundus (white or saffron only). Pants and shorts not allowed. Men must be bare-chested. Women must wear saris, salwars and chudidhars only. Until recently only saris were allowed.
Must-Don’t: Consume Alcohol. Strictly no-alcohol area.

Caution: Maddening crowds during festivals and marriage seasons.
My Rating: 6/10

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatnam.

The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is situated in the heart of Srirangapatnam about 35kms from Mysore and about 130kms from Bangalore. Srirangapatnam is perhaps more famous for being Tipu Sultan’s capital. In fact a lot of historic places related to Tipu Sultan are at a stone throwing distance away from this temple. Even though Srirangapatnam is more famous for being Tipu’s capital, it is in fact the temple that gave its name to the city. All Tipu-related monuments will be covered in a different blog at a different time.

For the time being I’ll stick to the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, which is located in the first island formed by River Kaveri. It’s a popular fact in this part of the world that Kaveri makes three islands in its course and in each of these islands there is a Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. They are collectively called the three Rangas - the Adi (First) Ranga at Srirangapatnam, the Madhya (Middle) Ranga at Shivanasamudram and the Anthya (Final) Ranga at Srirangam. This temple is also among the famous Pancharanga Kshetrams (Srirangapatnam, Srirangam, Kumbakonam, Trichy and Mayiladuthurai).

Sri Ranganathaswamy temple was initially built by Gangas in the 9th Century as later taken care by Hoysalas and Vijaynagaras. But mostly the temple has a distinctive Gangas and Vijaynagaras style of architecture. The idol of Lord Vishnu here is in a reclining position. Being a temple with historical and religious significance, you can expect a decent crowd on weekends.

Getting-there: Bangalore -> Srirangapatnam. Take a right turn on Mysore Road at Srirangapatnam and follow the crowd.

Must-Do: Arrive early to beat the crowd.
Must-Don’t: Vandalism and Littering.

My Rating: 5/10

Chennakesava Temple, Somanathapura.

Every travel has a purpose. As did this one. The purpose being pushing the throttle on a 350 CC brand new you-guessed-it Royal Enfield. Well no, I was not the lucky soul pulling the clutch and shifting the gears. I was still stuck with my Yamaha FZ 16. The only time I use the word “stuck” is when I’m comparing with RE.

Seeking Somanathapura for testing this beast of a machine (by Indian standards) was a no-brainer. 130kms of flat-as-a-runway glistening asphalt is a biker’s definition of “paradise on earth”, unless of course you are talking about “The Himalayan Odyssey Challenge”.

The annoying potholed roads of Bangalore first gave way to the less-than-decent Kanakapura Road and finally to what we have been waiting for – Mysore Road. A wise man once said, “It’s not the destination but the journey that matters”. This holds true for Mysore Road. It’s an entirely different world the moment you get on it. In the third gear, the Yamaha and the Bullet kept abreast with each other at about 50kmph. And in the fourth gear, the Bullet throttles ahead with a new found gusto. While Yamaha revs up to about 65kmph, the Bullet touches about 75kmph. And finally in the fifth gear when the FZ is going steady at 80kmph the bullet leaves everything behind to touch 100kmph without breaking a sweat.

Somanathapura is a quiet town in Mandya district, 35kms from Mysore city and approximately 130kms from Bangalore city. The main and only attraction of this village is the famous Chennakesava Temple. This temple completes the famous trio of Hoysala temples along with Halebidu and Belur. It was built in the year 1268 by a Commander Somanatha in the Hoysala kingdom. A large stone with Kannada inscriptions tells the tale of this village.

Chennakesava temple here is less magnificent compared to its more illustrious cousins in Halebidu and Belur. But it adheres to the blueprint of all Hoysala temples with the star-shaped structure, the richly adorned ceilings, depiction of ancient folklore in exterior walls and the finely polished pillars which is the mainstay of every Hoysala temple ever built. The three sanctum sanctorums each house Lord Kesava, Janardhana and Venugopala. Unfortunately, the main idol of Lord Kesava, which is usually very well adorned, is missing.

Anybody who loves the Hoysala style of architecture or who appreciates the artistic brilliance of our forefathers will love spending time here admiring the artistry.

Getting-there: Bangalore -> Srirangapatnam on Mysore Road. About 3kms before Srirangapatnam, take a left deviation. Ask for directions from the locals from here.

Must-Do: Take a closer look at every stone, for they tell a story of their own.

Must-Don’t: Vandalism and Littering.

My Rating: 6/10