Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Heritage Wine Tour, Chennapatna

After a heavy dose of devotion at Revannasiddeshwara Betta and Ambegalu Krishna, it was time to unwind a bit. And unwind we did, with the constant heady aroma of fermented grapes culminating in a first-ever wine tasting experience. Of course I've had wine at numerous dinner tables before, but it was the first time doing what I would like to call, wine-appreciation. A few kilometers from Chennapatna a left deviation on the Mysore Road adjacent Kadambam Hotel brings you on the doorstep of one-of-the-few-of-its-kind Winery - Heritage Grape Winery. The Wine Tour costing Rs.150 begins with a tour of the Winery where they explain the process of Wine making, right from de-seeding, de-stemming, fermenting, purifying, bottling and racking ends with a wine-tasting.
Your tour guide will also explain the types of wine being produced, the ones available in the market, the process of making it, the kind of grapes used to make these wines and the time it takes to make these wines. The best variety - the French variety - is a separate process in itself taking close to 1 year to produce them, compared to a couple of months for the normal variety. The Winery also has a 4 acre Vineyard where the French varieties of grapes are grown.
After that comes the best part - Wine-tasting. The heritage Winery produces 5-6 varieties of wine. But before you drink the wine there is a short discourse on wine-appreciation. Wine is supposed to be enjoyed by three senses - sight, smell and taste. A glass of wine needs to be first looked at, to assess its texture, color, age and flavor by holding the stem of the glass. You then need to swirl the wine a little and nose it to smell the aroma released by the swirling. Then you draw a sip from the glass and roll it around your tongue to feel the wine. Well it’s a process to say the least, but that is how it is best enjoyed by wine drinkers around the world.

The standard Red Wine, the Shiraz, the Cabernet, the Chenin Blanc and the Sparkle are some of the wines we tasted, much to our delight. This was followed by a video being played charting the history of Wine and its present day consumption and varieties. At the end of it all, it’s a unique experience that can be cherished for a long time.

Getting-there: Bangalore-Mysore Road. After Chennapatna take left at Kadambam Hotel. Follow the red signboards for the next 5 kms.

Must-Do: Learn the art of wine appreciation. Buy wine at MRP.
Must-Don't: Miss it.

My Rating: 6/10

Ambegalu Krishna Temple, Chennapatna

Rejuvenated from the soothing breeze of Revannasiddeshwara Temple, we headed back to Ramnagara and towards Chennapatna. On the outskirts of Chennapatna is a sleepy town called Doddamallur. And the centre of attention of this town is the Sri Aprameya Temple, some 50 meters from the highway. Lord Aprameya (another form of Lord Vishnu) is the presiding deity here. The temple also houses the Ambegalu (Crawling) Krishna Temple and the Rama Temple. This temple is rich in history and stories from the past.
The temple is believed to be 3000 years old. It is believed to be built and expanded by Chola King Rajendra Simha. It is said that the temple is standing on sand rather than a strong foundation. Apparently Lord Rama stayed and prayed here before leaving to Lanka to rescue Sita Devi. It is believed that Sages Kapila and Kanva still live in the temple in some form or the other. Apparently even today you can hear the sound of the garba griha door opening and the sound of performing poojas and tolling of the bells can be heard once the temple doors are closed. Spooky...

But it’s the Ambegalu Navneetha (Crawling Krishna) that is more popular in this temple. The idol of baby Krishna crawling with a handful of butter that has the devotees coming in large numbers to this temple is believed to installed by Sage Vyasa. It is believed that childless couples praying to Ambegalu Krishna are blessed with children after their visit. These couples later return to the temple and tie little cradles as a thanksgiving to the Lord. Legend also has it that some 130 years ago the then Maharaja of Mysore on a visit to Aprameya Temple was so enamored by the Ambegalu Krishna that he took the idol back to his palace to worship it. That night he dreamt about Lord Krishna appearing in his dream and ordering him to return the idol to the temple, failing which great misfortune will befall him. The King dismissed the dream and did not comply with the Lord's demand. Soon enough a part of the King's Palace was consumed in a fire and he promptly returned the idol to its rightful place in the temple.
The town of Doddamallur has a more recent claim to fame. Apparently this is where the next re-incarnation of Sai Baba (Prema Sai) will be born. Numerous devotees of Puttaparthi Sai Baba have been scouring the village looking for their next demigod. Should the prophecy be (made to) fulfilled, this town will lose its significance as a historic and mythological hotspot and end up being a stupefying and fanatical village.

Enough devotion for the day, time to unwind at our next stop.

Getting-there: Bangalore-Mysore Road. On the outskirts of Chennapatna is a village called Doddamalur. The temple is in this village right on the highway on your left while going towards Mysore.

Must-Do: Take a closer look at the beautiful idol of Ambegalu Krishna
Must-Don't: Photography, vandalism and littering.

My Rating: 6/10

Ambegalu Idol Picture Courtesy: Vibaa

Revanna Siddeshwara Betta, Ramnagara

Sometimes when the big fat plans flop, smaller ones take their place and grow so big (in the experience) that they dwarf their predecessors. When the much-awaited Sirsi Waterfalls-hopping trip flopped because of a significant number of last-minute dropouts, three of us decided to go for a short drive nearer to home. Unlike in the past, we chose to go in a car rather than biking.

The primary idea was to go to Revanna Siddeshwara Betta in Ramnagara, taking off from the Ramadevara Betta from a couple of weeks back. The plan then reworked itself to a "high" by including a wine-tasting experience in Chennapatna, a reward unto ourselves for still making it a weekend out of the disappointment from the cancellation. And eventually, a proverbial last-minute-inclusion involved a visit to Ambegalu Krishna Temple in Doddamallur, Chennapatna.

Revanna Siddeshwara Betta is dedicated to Jagadguru Sri Renukacharya founder of Veerashaiva Siddantha (Shaiva dharma). Renukacharya was ordered to re-incarnate on Earth by Lord Shiva to stem the dwindling of Bhakti of the earthlings. Renukacharya went about his business spreading bhakti and installing Lingas (about 3 crores) wherever he went - even as far as Lanka. Renukacharya now became Revannasiddeshwara and during one of his missions, lived in a hill called Averahalli, which is today's Revannasiddeshwara Betta in Ramnagara.

A 60-odd km ride from Bangalore sets you on the foothills of Revannasiddeshwara betta. There are three temples on this betta vying for attention. At the foothills is the Sri Renukamba temple and in the middle of the hill is the Bheemeshwara Temple and at the summit is the Revannasiddeshwara Temple with a few ponds sprinkled around here and there. To keep the humans in check and keeping company to the Gods are thousand-odd monkeys. There is a motorable road from the foothills to the Bheemeshwara temple. And from there it’s a walk through intervals of flat ground and rock-carved steps. At certain points the gradient is a little steep but nothing as nearly intimidating as the ones in Shivagange or Ramadevara betta. At the topmost point of the hill are two mantapas dedicated to Rudra Muneshwara and Sidda Rameshwara. A few more steps down to the other side of the hill and you reach the Revannasiddeshwara Temple.

A quick visit to the temples and it’s time to admire nature from the summit of the hill. The cool breeze, the oh-so-familiar Ramnagara landscape, a little water catchment and the azure sky relaxes the mind and rejuvenates the body. The camera stops clicking, the friends go into silent-mode and the mind retreats into a cocoon. The only conversation is between man and nature. Time flies with your mind at such an enlighted state. It’s time to head to our next destination, although we would have loved to spend a few more leisurely hours here. But Alas! It’s not to be so. We head back to Bangalore-Mysore Road. Next stop Ambegalu Krishna Temple.

Getting-there: Bangalore-Mysore Road. Left deviation after Ramnagara town and before Kamat Lokaruchi. Follow the yellow signboards.

Must-Do: Enjoy the breeze and the sights from the summit.
Must-Don't: Carry plastic bags (sure way of getting attacked by the monkeys). Littering.

My Rating: 5/10

Information Courtesy: Here and here