Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Boga Nandeeshwara Temple, Bangalore

Strange are the ways of the world. There are some things that I just don’t comprehend. That every Bangalorean has been to or knows about Nandi Hills is a common knowledge. But ask them about Boga Nandeeshwara Temple and they will draw a blank. What’s the connection? Well, the Boga Nandeeshwara temple is situated right under the nose of Nandi Hills. What makes the matter even more intriguing is that this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill temple. This temple was originally built in the 9th Century by Bana Queen Ratnavali. This temple was then expanded and renovated by the dynasties of Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Pallavas and finally the Vijayanagaras. This is also quite easily one of the largest temples in and around Bangalore. Despite all this, the Boga Nandeeshwara temple is off the tourist map for reasons unknown. Also the Karnataka tourism boards that usually display even the slightest place of tourism interest have conspicuously missed out on Boga Nandeeshwara temple. That could be one reason why so few people know about (and visit) this temple – which is good in way because this temple so far has been well maintained with sprawling lawns, well-kept structures and even clean bathrooms!

The Boga Nandeeshwara Temple houses three different temples namely, the Arunachaleshwara, Uma Maheshwara and finally the Boga Nandeeshwara temples. They all together represent three stages of Lord Shiva’s life – Arunachaleshwara depicts Shiva’s youthful life, Uma Maheshwara depicts Shiva’s wedding with Parvathi and Yoga Narashimha depicts Shiva’s renunciation stage.

To the trained eye it is easy to make out the architectural styles of Gangas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagaras. The many stone pillars in the temple reminds its devotees of the temples of Hampi – rich in stone artwork. The also houses a Mahanavami Dibba and a stepped tank called Shringi Theertha a lot like the ones we saw in Hampi. The temple also has a few soapstone sculptures which leaves a Hoysala signature in the temple. The highlight of the temple, in my opinion, is however the Shringi  Theertha (a stepped tank). This pond is believed to be created by Nandi by plunging its horns into the earth to draw water from holy Ganga. We spent at least an hour in the serenity and peacefulness offered by this magical place (but for the annoying “caretaker” who came asking for money every 10 minutes for no reason, which we obviously didn’t oblige).
In the end it was hard to bid goodbye to this temple but then we knew we would come back soon enough.

Getting-there: Cross Devanahalli airport and the take the left which goes to Nandi Hills. This road ends in a T-junction where left goes to Nandi Hills. Take the right here and travel 5 kms.

Must-Do: Check out the Stepped Tank and the stone carvings around the temple.
Must-Don’t: Vandalism and Littering.

My Rating: 8/10

Banashankari Temple, Badami

The Banashankari Temple at Badami is a somewhat lesser known entity compared to its massively popular next-door neighbour - the rock-cut cave temples of Badami, so much so that I’m writing about this temple after almost 3 years of visiting the place. The inspiration came after a couple of friends recently went to this temple on their Hampi- Badami-Pattadackal circuit tour. Thanks to their trip, I start digging into the pages of history for gathering more info on the temple. It’s not for nothing people say that every travel is an education in itself.

Those were the days when my better half worked in Hubli and I in Bangalore. So on one of my visits to Hubli we decided to cover the Badami-Pattadackal-Aihole circuit. As it turned out, we cut short our trip after visiting Banashankari Temple and Badami Cave Temples. That morning we started off from Hubli in a rickety government-owned bus and reached our destination close to noon. After alighting from the bus we enquired about Badami cave temples with a rickshaw guy in our broken Kannada interspersed with Hindi. Whether it was a total communication failure or taking-us-for-a-ride thingy, we were dropped off in front of Banashankari Temple.

This 7th Century AD temple complex instantly catches your attention with its high walls, watch-cum-lamp tower and large temple pond with stone mantapas on three sides. Not one to waste an opportunity of looking at the architectural wonders of our forefathers we entered the temple and offered prayers to Banashankari (a.k.a Vanashankari) Devi. Banashankari is believed to be another form of Lord Shiva's consort Parvathi. This temple was originally built in 7th Century by the Kalyani Chalukya Kings and later renovated in the 17th Century by a Maratha Chieftain Parasuram Agale. Hence, even though the original temple has glimpses of Dravidian style, the later additions are the distinct style of the Vijayanagara era.

According to the scriptures, people of this area were harassed by the demon Durgamasura. Answering the fervent prayers of the inhabitants, Shakambari Devi was sent to protect the people. Not surprisingly the demon was killed in a fierce battle and peace restored in the area. The forests around the temple provided enough food for the people here in times of a famine. Hence the Goddess got the name Shakambari. It is definitely worth visiting this temple which is rich in history and mythology.

Getting-there: From Hubli take the Gulbarga-Bijapur highway and take right at Kulgeri.

Must-Do: Check out the age-old lamp tower and temple pond.
Must-Don’t: Vandalism and littering.
My Rating: 6/10

Mahabaleshwar Temple, Gokarna

The Mahabaleshwar Temple in Gokarna is believed to be one most significant temples in South India from a mythological perspective. The presence of an Atma Linga here makes it one of the holiest and highly revered temple. Legend has it that Ravana’s mother who is a staunch devotee of Shiva was performing a penance for her son when Indra jealous of her devotion, disrupted her penance by throwing the linga into the sea. A distraught Ravanna, performs a severe penance in Mount Kailash to please Lord Shiva. Impressed by his devotion Shiva bestows a boon to Ravana. Ravana asks Shiva for the Atmalinga. Shiva then gifts Ravana the atma linga with instructions that it should not be placed on the ground. Perturbed by the powers bestowed on Ravana, Shiva’s sons approach Vishnu to redeem the situation.

While Ravana is heading back to Lanka, Ganesha intercepts him taking the form of a little boy. Ravana asks the little boy to hold the idol (and not place it on the ground) while he would be back after offering evening prayers. But when Ravana does not return in the stipulated time, Ganesha places the idol on the ground and leaves. Once placed on the ground, Ravana tries with all his might to lift the linga but it stays put, thereby forcing Ravana to return to Lanka empty-handed. It is this atma linga in the temple that draws devotees in the thousands.

Our original plan after visiting Viboothi Falls, was to go to Unchalli Falls and if time permits Kumta Beach. But some mystical power forced us to re-draw our plans to end the Sirsi trip with a visit to the Mahabaleshwar Temple in Gokarna and a beach trek from Gokarna to Kudle. As soon as we entered the temple we were confronted by a battery of poojaries. They cornered us like salesmen and started rattling out a list of poojas that they can perform for you. And the a la carte included poojas of varied denominations starting from as high as Rs.500 to as paltry as a sum of Rs.50. And that frankly was a big turn-off. Thankfully we got a quick darshan and we were out in no time. The best part however was that you get to touch the Atma Linga in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
After the tryst with the atma linga we walked to Gokarna beach and without spending another minute(going by past experiences) started walking towards kudle beach. Kudle has been one of my favorite beaches ever since I went there almost 3 years ago. But going there after all those good memories I was a little apprehensive. In the last 3 years, surely Kudle must have been commercially sold out. There sure is going to couple of resorts, some tens of night clubs an hundred little shacks. I dreaded the thought of watching such a sight. Thankfully I was not entirely proved right. But Kudle is slowly and surely going that route. Another couple of years and Kudle would have gone the Goa-way. Sigh! After another wonderful Sunset (a Kudle speciality), we headed back to Gokarna. A laugh-riot dinner later we started to head back to… Damn I don’t even want to mention that name… L

Getting there: In the heart of Gokarna town. The temple is right on the beach.

Must-Do: Touch the atma linga.
Must-Don’t: Waste time at Gokarna Beach. Instead head straight to Kudle.

My Rating: 6/10

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Viboothi Falls, Sirsi

When we first planned to visit Sirsi, the idea was to go waterfalls-hopping. Sirsi and its surroundings have so many waterfalls that we were skeptical of being able to cover them all. But ironic as it may seem, after one and a half day of travelling, we had so far seen just one waterfall. Days prior to the trip when we were reading up on Sirsi, we stumbled upon places much more interesting than just waterfalls and so it came to be that we were going to the second and last waterfalls of our trip.

Viboothi Falls is a mere 8kms from Yana, but the winding and treacherous road makes it look longer than that. From the end of the motorable road it’s another 2 km walk to the waterfalls. Viboothi is as pristine as they come these days. Nestled in the Sahyadri Ranges and formed on River Gangavali, Viboothi gets its name from the limestone formations in the area. It is a 3-tier waterfall that forms a tiny pool, worthy of being called heavenly. The riverbed in this pool is haphazardly stuffed with big boulders, making it very perilous for the tourists. You have to be extremely stupid to dive into these waters. Unlike Sathodi, this is the kind of falls where you can relax, unwind, take a dip and refresh yourself in the pristine waters. It is an ideal picnic spot where you can spend a couple of hours playing in the waters and not know the time fly-by. Though Sirsi has many waterfalls, not all of them entertain the tourists to play in their laps. Viboothi is one such falls that embraces her visitors and leaves them wet, fresh and recharged. A must-visit waterfalls for your Sirsi itinerary.

Getting-there: 8kms from Yana.

Must-Do: Take a dip in the water and get totally refreshed and rejuvenated.
Must-Don’t: Diving into the pool and littering the place.

My Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Yana, Sirsi

Bhairaveshwar Shikara
It pays to have good friends, more so when these people are random guys you met in blogosphere. So, on Day1 of our Sirsi trip when we had given up hope on finding a room (all rooms in all hotels occupied, thanks to Dassera) in Sirsi, this blogger friend of a fellow traveler turns out to be our knight-in-shining-armor. All it took was one phone call and within minutes the six of us were given two of the best rooms in a hotel which belonged to a relative of our blogger friend. As if that magnanimity wasn’t enough, the hotel refused to take a single penny from us for our one-night-stay! A hot water bath and a good night’s sleep ensured all of us were all charged-up for the next day. A sumptuous breakfast later we were headed towards Yana.

Bhairaveshwar Shikara with Shiva temple
Yana is famous for two massive rock formations. Essentially, these rock formations are black crystalline limestone. The entire village of Yana is known for these rock formations. But there are 2 such formations that are of mythological significance, namely, Bhairaveshwar Shikara and Mohini Shikara. Yana is as much a geologist’s delight as it is for a pilgrim. The Bhairaveshwar Shikara is popular for a Swayambhu (self-manifested) linga. Add to that water drips on to this linga from the rocks thereby making the alliteration that it is holy Ganga flowing. However, the scientific reason for the formation of the swayambhu is attributed to phenomenon of stalactites and stalagmites.

Most of the pictures you find of the two shikaras on internet do no justice compared to the real deal. These are massive rock formations, standing as tall as 120 metres (Bhairaveshwar Shikara) and 90 metres (Mohini Shikara). These rocks are not without its share of mythological stories and prominence, as the names suggest. As per the mythological stories, the demon king Asura through persistent penance obtained a boon from Lord Shiva whereby on whomsoever’s head Asura places his hand, would turn to ashes (hence the name Bhasmasura). But Asura turns a Frankenstein’s monster and wants to test his strength on Lord Shiva Himself. After being chased by Asura, Shiva seeks refuge and advice from Lord Vishnu. Vishnu takes the form of damsel Mohini and entices Bhasmasura with her beauty and dance. An infatuated Bhasmasura agrees to a dance competition between the two. In one of the mudras (dance pose) Mohini places her hand on her head which an unsuspecting (and blindly in love) Asura copies, only to be turned into ashes by his own foolishness. The resulting combustion was believed to be so intense that it blackened the limestone formations of entire Yana. The Bhairaveshwar Shikara (Shiva’s Hill) and Mohini Shikara (Mohini’s Hill) thus got their respective names and temples (Mohini Shikara houses a Parvathi temple).
Mohini Shikara
Just like in Banavasi, the priest of the Shiva temple here gives all the devotees a briefing on the mythology of this temple. The pradikshina of the temple here is probably the longest and toughest of them all as it involves walking around and between these rock formations on barefoot. Once you are done with Bhairaveshwar Shikara, there are steps downhill that takes you to Mohini Shikara and the Parvathi temple.
This area once used to be a dense Sahayadri forest. And it took a trek of nearly 17kms from civilization to just reach these rocks. But crass commercialization and road-laying has done away with all this. And now visitors need to walk just half a kilometer from where they can park their vehicles. The day is not far behind where you can drive right up to the base of these hills. There’s a popular saying in these parts of the world - Sokkidhavanu Yanakke hogutaane, rokkiddhavanu Gokarna ke hoguthane, meaning, the one with tremendous guts and determination goes to Yana and the one with money bags goes to Gokarna. Unfortunately that is no longer true in these times of rapid and unbridled development.

Getting-there: Around 40kms from Sirsi town.

Must-Do: Check out the rock formations and the Swayambhu.
Must-Don’t: Littering and Vandalism. 

My Rating: 8/10

Information Courtesy: Wikipedia, OurKarnataka