Monday, January 28, 2013

Kukke Subramanya Temple, Subramanya

The Kukke Subramanya Temple in Subramanya village of Dakshina Kannada is a temple of ironies. Devotees from across the country come here to get rid of their Sarpa Dosa (Serpeant Curse). And yet this temple can into existence because Vasuki, the King of Snakes, wanted to protect his ilk from the wrath of Garuda. Vasuki earnestly prayed to Lord Shiva who sent Subramanya to Vasuki as a reward for his penance. Subramanya has ever since been worshipped as the protector of snakes. And that’s not the only irony. The temple houses a silver Garuda tower which is believed to be erected to protect devotees from the poisonous fumes of Vasuki’s breath. Another interesting tidbit about this temple is that devotees enter the courtyard from the back and go round to east-facing entrance.

Interesting tidbits and anecdotes and mythology aside, the Kukke Subramanya temple is a must-visit in the pilgrimage circuit of Karnataka and South India. The majestic Kumara Parvatha in the background, the pristine Kumara Dhara river flowing by the temple and quaint little temple town nestled in the Western Ghats is worth a visit. Subramanya is easily accessible from Bangalore, Mangalore and Hassan. Trekking enthusiasts and devotees arrive here in large numbers. Whether it’s trekking in nature’s lap in the most grueling way or getting rid of Sarpa Dosas from this life or the previous or just getting away from the monotonous city life to a relaxing weekend filled with devotion and nature’s abundant beauty, Kukke Subramanya is one of the ideal locations to fulfill your need.
Getting-there: Overnight buses are available from Bangalore to Subramanya town. There is also a railway station at Subramanya.
Must-Do: Take a dip in Kumara Dhara before entering the temple.
Must-Don't: Littering.
My Rating: 6/10

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kumara Parvatha Trek - Take 2

The last time I attempted to summit Kumara Parvatha and failed by a small margin, I swore to myself that I will never come back to this wretched place. In my previous attempt I got drenched in equal measures from the sweat and the rain. Every bone, muscle and tissue in my body hurt from the 14-km inclined trek. On the one hand where every item in my backpack felt like an extra burden apart from my own modest body weight, in the other, I was losing weight thanks to the depleting water levels in my body owing to dehydration and loss of blood to the leaches. But more than a year later, here I was standing in front of Kukke Subramanya temple with my backpack and staring at Sesha Parvatha in the background. Such is the lure of KP.

As daunting as it was, I was supremely confident of completing an unfinished task with KP. The ease and technique with which I conquered Chembra Peak a month ago had made me to believe that KP will fall. And fall it did, but not before all the travails of a hard trek. Thankfully the blood-sucking leaches were no longer in play, which also meant the Sun was out in full glory. And that really took a toll on us once we crossed the forest cover. This time on the way up we gave Bhattare Mane a miss since we had made it to forest office in good time. Having reached Bhattare Mane before lunch, we gave it a miss and instead camped at the forest office devour the lunch we had packed from home. A good lunch and short relaxing break later we headed to the near 90 degree climb. The Sun being merciless, we had to take multiple breaks to avoid dehydration and a possible sunstroke. But with hardly any trees in sight to provide shade, the brief stops were meaningless.
After we somehow dragged ourselves to the watering hole near the Mantapa, we rested there for half an hour. Some of us even managed a few winks. The final stretch to Sesha Parvatha is where you start questioning yourself if you have gone completely crazy to be doing something like this. As tired as we were, we still managed to pull ourselves atop SP by around 6PM. The progress we made from Bhattare Mane to SP has been slow. But considering the terrain and the Sun, it was a task well done. With light fading away soon, we did not stop to admire the view at SP, instead headed to the forest cover immediately after that to the place we could set up our tents and start a fire. All of us worked in tandem – while some of them put up the tent, some went to fetch water from the stream and the others went looking for firewood. In about an hour we were all set to settle down for the night. Out came all the MTR ready-to-eats and we devoured them all in no time. With an aching body and a full stomach we sat around the fire for a while chatting until we finally retired into the comfort of our tents to call it a day.
Next morning we woke up early but got up somewhat late – if you know what I mean. And right away we headed for KP. The view offered by KP is a tad disappointment. Add to that, the peak is very crowded with a lot of overnight campers. The place chosen by us was just right. We spent about an hour at the peak before we decided to head back to the tents in the forest area. Wrapping up our tents, we started on our way back. This time however, we spent time at SP doing what we do best – monkeying around and capturing them in pixels. The descent proved to be slower than expected with our tired bodies not cooperating with our heads. Finally at noon we were at Bhattare Mane - just in time for lunch. By now I was so hungry, I could eat an elephant. Well I did not eat an elephant but I ate rice portions that probably an elephant would eat. Never in my life have I eaten so much rice at one go. The steaming hot rice, sambar, pickle and majige is like manna from heaven. A good rest and some coffee later we started towards Kukke Subramanya, thanking Bhatta for his hospitality and his quirky small talk. A couple more hours later we were on ground zero, tired and exhausted. A cold water dip under fading lights in the Kumaradhara river brought back much of the life in us.

As always KP has been a bone-crunching and energy-sapping trek and puts your mind power rather than muscle power to test and this time we emerged victorious.

Getting-there: The trek starts from Kukke Subramanyam Temple.

Must-Do: Do this trek between October to December. Watch the sunset and sunrise if you are lucky.
Must-Don't: Littering

My Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cheluvanarayana Temple, Melukote

Melukote has been on my travel bucket for long. But as luck would have it, while I finally made it to Melukote, it wasn’t a totally fruitful trip. This was the longest road trip for our 11-month old and as it turns out – the most difficult. It was extremely difficult to keep leash on our hyper-active and restless little angel. She can be quite a handful in such occasions and that takes a toll on her mother too who was all but drained-out by the time we reached Melukote. My mother-in-law is another person who can’t undertake long road trips even if the end result is visiting a famous temple. As a result when we reached Melukote, we visited the Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple and returned back to Bangalore. The idea of climbing some 200-odd flight of stairs uphill to visit the Yoga Narasimha Temple did not find appealing enough for my wife and mother-in-law after such a long journey.

The Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple is built on the foothills of Yadugiri and is situated about 145 kms from Bangalore and about 50 kms from Mysore. The temple is dedicated to Thirunarayana or Cheluva Narayana. On the top of the hill there is a temple for Yoga Narasimha. There is also a beautiful stepped tank at the base of the hill. It believed that the famous Srivaishnava Saint Ramanujacharya resided here for about 12 years in the 12th Century, thus making it a prominent place for Srivaishnava Sect and also home to the Academy of Sanskrit Research.

The exact year of construction of the temple is not known. But it is believed to have existed even before Ramanujacharya retrieved the lost metallic image of the presiding deity. It is also believed that Ramanujacharya using his influence and stature was instrumental in rebuilding and renovating the temple. Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana who was a follower of Ramanujacharya had taken refuge here for a brief period during the Muslim invasion of Dwarasamudra. Glimpses of Hoysala art are also very evident here. But it is not nearly as magnificent as any of the full-fledged Hoysala temples in the area.

For those who enjoy long drives, this is a good place to drive down to. The final stretch of 32 kms after exiting the Bangalore-Mysore road is also pretty good for most part. There are some winding stretches of well-carpeted roads when you can glide at 100 kmph. The village atmosphere, green paddy fields and the fresh air make the drive even more pleasurable.

Getting-there: Take right after Mandya town and follow the road for some 30-odd kilometers.

Must-Do: Visit both temples (Cheluvanarayana and Yoga Narasimha) and the Stepped Tanks
Must-Don't: Littering and Vandalism.

My Rating: 5/10