There is no existence of a place without the people, And with civilisation exists the culture. Madurai has its own share.. Here goes the list:
Art: * The temple art- the sculptures on the temple towers and the wooden vahanas that are used to carry the temple idols. * Handicrafts- accessories used for decorating Devi idols, that are made of delicate sequins, etc. * Mural paintings from the Pandyan era adorning the temple walls (The famous Madurai paintings)
Breakfast – Idly & Sambar, Pongal + a cup of filter coffee
11.00.a.m – Jigarthanda(it’s more like a combination of falooda & kulfi)
Lunch- Puliyogare @ the temple store, curd rice, Sambar rice(similar to Bisibele bath)
4.00.p.m.- Karupatti(palm sugar) coffee Dinner- Anything after 7.00.p.m is called meals. Must try is the ghee roast & rava Masala dosa Costume:
* Sarees for women & Dhotis for men
* Madurai cotton sarees with simple prints and zari borders with temple designs are famous Jewellery: Among the locals- particularly those belonging to the Thevar cast, it is believed that women are prettier with bigger earlobes. Hence, the girl child born in this community is made to wear a particular traditional earring called the ‘Thandatti’ when she is young. Each piece of this weighs 27 gms and is made of gold. This is particular to Madurai. The thandatti is said to evoke the 3 levels of our world: terrestrial, astral and divine and these levels are associated with Mandala. Shopping:
Shopping at Madurai is all about wholesale vendors… and there are specified streets for each of them.
* Cotton sarees/ dress materials- shops are all around the temple complex * Steel utensils- plastic beads & girls’ accessories, gold plated imitation jewelery to name a few. * Pooja related accessories & crafts- particularly inside Pudumandapam * Varieties of plantains / bananas and green groceries among the others. A brief intro to a city full of life and activities.. Justice yet to be done.. Signing off with a hope that it has helped someone somewhere in some form who is seeking for some info on this Pandyan city….
An overnight bus journey took us to Madurai at 6.00.a.m.
We found a decent lodge to stay for the day-freshened up there and left for the main part of the trip- The Meenakshi temple- An abode of the Pandyan architecture. The entire temple complex is fortified by walls, with 4 entrance towers towards the 4 directions. The sculptures on each of these towers are out of the world. Once inside the complex- you start to wonder which world of wonder you have stepped into.. It took us about 3-4 hrs to finish a quick rounr, admiring the beauty of this place and also get blessed with the darshan of Meenakshi Amman and Lord Sundareshwaran. There are a lot of stalls inside the complex selling various handcrafted articles.
The temple art museum within the same premises is a must visit. The central sculpture of Natarajan, or the dancing firm of Shiva is believed to be one of the Pancha Sabhas of the lord. This place representing the Silver hall where Shiva is believed to have performed the ‘Sandhya Thandavam’ dance firm. Also, there are 1000 pillars- all decorated with intricate pieces of sculpture. The dim light used for each pillar adds up to the beauty of the place.
A small walk through the narrow lanes took us to the Thirumalai Nayyakar Mahal built in the 16th century. Fine architecture with elegant paintings on the roofs and vaults is neatly presented in a simple combination of off-white and velvet red colour combination. There is sound and lights show every evening conducted here. However, we could not make it.
The interiors of Thirumalai Naickar Mahal
We took a local bus to Vandiyur. This is where the annual event of the famed Teppotsavam / Float festival takes place to celebrate the birthday of King Thirumalai Nayak in January. This tank is supposedly the biggest of its kind in the state. With the float festival just 2 months away and monsoon season just passing by- this tank still remained dry. When enquired how the event is going to take place in a dry tank, we were told that the water will be fed in January from the Vaigai river through artificially laid underground channels. This is truly amazing how such a concept was laid way back in 16 century. But for a new-commer like me, the dried lake was an eye sore as it was used as a watering hole by many vandals.
Taking another bus from there to Periyar and a small walk from there through the stinking / dirty by-lanes, we reached the Koodal Alagar temple. A quick pooja and a walk around the temple was a nice boost up. The architecture here too, is similar to that of Meenakshi temple.
We had to rush to The Gandhi museum as it would close by 6.00.p.m. However, we could not make it on time. This was once called the Tamakkum palace of Rani Mangammal. Today, the museum supposedly houses 14 articles that were used by Gandhiji, along with his sacred ashes and blood stained dhotis. Gandhiji is said to have visited the city 5 times.
So, we then headed back towards our lodge that was located just infront of the temple’s west gate. But, on the way- we checked into Pudumandapam. This is a 1000yrs old shopping mall- supported by huge sculpture rich stone pillars. The stalls are occupied with tailors, handicrafts vendors, wholesale dealers of pooja related and general accessories. A good place for shopping traditional artifacts at Madurai.
We took a local bus from Periyar bus stand to travel 21kms to reach Alagar Kovil- the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu- Meenakshi’s brother. The village is surrounded by an old fort wall, it gives a good view of the green hills around the temple. The architecture is similar to Koodal Alagar temple in the city.
A trek of 3kms uphill though green forests and monkey infested walkways lead us to the Murugan temple. It is one among the six abodes of Lord Murugan and hence important among the pilgrims. A walk of half a kilometer further uphill took us to Pazhamudhir Solai temple. A temple dedicated to Goddess Rakkaya exists close to a natural spring called Nuburagangai here, where devotees take a holy bath. But what seemed strange to me was that the place was probably the only temple I had ever been to, which charges an entry fee into the temple itself. This is where the famed Chittrai festival is observed during the month of April.
From there, we took the next bus back to Periyar, from where we had to take a bus further to Tiruppanakundram. This was a cave temple at the foothills of a rock hill. It is believed that Lord Murugan was wedded to Devyani, daughter of Indra at this place. Hence, this is also counted one among the 6 abodes of Lord Murugan. Up the hills, is the Dargah of Hazrat Sultan Sikandhar Badushah shaheed Radiyallah Ta’al anhu. Owing to time constraint and exhaustion, we thought of skipping the climb.
Other lesser known places we skipped due to time constraints were the Kazimar mosque and Goripalyam Dargah. At the centre of the city is the Kattabomman junction- This is where a part of the old Madurai fort exists. Today this is not more than a public library.
I don’t do this usually, but would make a special mention about the streets of Madurai. Every street in the city has a history behind it: This link to an article from “The Hindu” explains it all- ‘Where moats made way for motorways’
Karnataka Bundh- The whole city of Bangalore is protesting against the Kaveri water verdict- 32 buses vandalized in the city and other jazz…
Well… I’m away from the entire hustle bustle- Very far away…
Left Bangalore on Friday night by bus- and after a journey of 12hrs- I landed in one of the least preferred Holiday destinations in the state- Bidar. I had a roaring welcome to the city- quiet literally..!! An IAF “Hawk” flew past right above my head- during their daily flying practice sessions. There I had my first GK (general knowledge) moment of the tour- Bidar has been an IAFtraining basesince the early 1960’s for IAF and it is the main base for Hawk AJTs & the Suryakiran HJTs.
We freshened up and headed straight to “the Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple”. The myth mentions that Lord Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu and then proceeded to slay the demon Jalasura who was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. After being killed by Lord Narasimha, the demon Jalasura turned into water and started flowing down the feet of the Lord Narasimha. Today, devotees have to walk across a cave with water (1.7mts depth) to worship the idol. With bats flying around, roaches swimming with us and dimly lit path to lead us- it was a very nice experience.
Once, in Basavakalyan- we visited the Basaveshwara temple, 108ft high Basavanna statue, Basavanna Guhe and Akkamahadevi Guhe. Then it was the right turn that lead us to “Anubhava Mantapa”. This is a replica of the ShivanubhavaMantapa- an academy of mystics, saints and philosophers of the ‘Lingayata’ faith in the 12th century.
Started the day by spending some tranquil moments at the “Nanak Jhira”– this Gurudwara is the second super natural occurrences of Guru Nanak, whereas, the first one was ” Sri Punja Sahib (Now in Pakistan & strictly prohibited for free visits), Hence Gurudwara Sri Nanak Jhira Sahib is ” Second Punja Sahib” of India. The sweet water flowing from a spring is believed to clear you off your sins. – Hence, a must visit.
The Nanak Jhira Gurudwara
Next, on the list was the Bareed Shahi park- The tombs of the Bahamani rulers lay here. This is small but a nice park maintained just to provide some lung space for morning joggers and evening walkers. This was a neglected piece of history just a year ago.
The last and final destination was the Bidar Fort: This does not have a quantifiable boundary though a few localites specify some digits to measure its expanse. The entire city is actually within a fort wall which was the area where the citizens lived back during the rulers’ time. Then, 2ndround of the wall is where the ministers lived and next is where today’s tourism is concentrated- the area where the King & the queen lived. This needs a minimum of half a day to explore for a person interested in history, architecture or archeology.
This place has so much to offer for a backpacker on a tight budget. Apart from the travel distance, everything else is very cheap here. The entry to all the places on the “To visit” list is free. Even then, very few people plan a trip to Bidar- Maybe because the name pulls down an image of a dry, barren, hot, poor, drought prone etc. What my eyes met here was contradicting my own thoughts. The city was lush green, raining heavily, clean (at least compared to the cleanest places of Bangalore)…
So- A lesson to take back: Stop imagining how a place would be; go there and see it yourself.
If you have read my previous 2 posts- The railway adventure & Dos and don’ts , you’re sure to have got an insight to the adventure part of the trip.. Anyways.. now the trip part of the story.. 🙂
17 of us boarded MAS-Vasco exprs from YPR on Friday night and alighted at Castle rock station the next morning at 9.15.a.m. Castle Rock is cute little station which divides the village into two- on one side is the railway colony, school, hospital, offices etc. and on the other side is the town(if at all it is called so) with basic amenities like a grocery store and a few petty shops. The station is all green and is a treat to the eyes which just landed from a concrete city.
We started to walk towards Dudhsagar- encountering numerous waterfalls where we stopped each time to take good photos..
A total of 11 tunnels before you reach the waterfalls, plus 2 to reach the view point. The 1st one can be approached by crossing a girder bridge watching a scenic view of the valley.
The 2nd tunnel is the longest-at 624m. and the most beautiful one which resembles an entrance into a Castle.
A waterfall we explored after tunnel no.3
With the 3rd one came a waterfall within a vault..
We crossed Goa border after finding our way out of the 4th tunnel.
After a long walk there on, we crossed tunnel no.5 where we were sidetracked by a goods train.
6th n 7th came together, 7th being nothing more than a small arch. Then we crossed 8, 9 and 10…
Finally we had a ray of hope after this 1..We had reached Dudhsagar station-all tired after a long walk in hot sun while on a monsoon trek 😦
Then, the 11th…. We were all hooting, clapping in joy as we were getting out of this one- And there we saw the 1st glance of the mighty “Ocean of Milk”.. Totally.. It was a a great sense of contentment after a long tiring walk- it was alllllll worth it..!!
The only shelter available to pitch a tent was already occupied by a large group and we had no choice but to tent in the open.. As we were basking in the glory of the waterfalls, it was soon dark.. We put up a small campfire sort of a thing so that we had enough light to see each other’s face- but the rain gods who did not appear during the trek spoilt sport now. We had to manage the rest of the night with our torches..
It poured cats and dogs the whole night.. The roaring noise of the waterfalls at the backdrop and the loud hooting sound of the train once in every half an hour, the tent pitched right next to the track with the waterfalls on the otherside- It was indeed a night to remember..!!
Next morning, we all rised with the sun and spent some peaceful time beside the violent waters..
It was already 2 days & 2nights since we last saw the restroom or a bathroom, we looked around to find a little place where we could finish that as well.. A small waterfalls nestled deep inside the woods- We girls just jumped into the water while the guys kept a watch on trespassers at bay.. 😉
Mythology says that the “DevaKannikas or the Apsaras are often seen bathing in the midst of the woods before sunrise.. and if one is lucky, he can see them walk by in wet clothes” LOL… something similar to that, We couldn’t find a place to change, we all wore our jackets and walked 1.5kms towards our tents. On the way, we came across tens of trekkers who desperately stared at us.. Anyways.. the pristine water and the divine girls- deadly combo- Nobody could help the sight.!!
We were told that the passenger train would cross the waterfalls by 9.15.a.m. This meant that we had to be at the view point by that time to get that perfect Internet photo..!!
And so we did…. After a long photo session and before the crowd who had just arrived in the train would spoil the peace, we headed back to our tents.. We had a round of heavy brunch and slowly packed up.. The initial plan was to walk the track all the way to Kulem, but owing to the cruel sun, we decided to take a goods’ train either to Kulem or Castle rock. We missed the goods’ train to Kulem by a few minutes and so we had to wait at the Dudhsagar station for the passenger train going towards CLR.
And with that.. Curtains down to our trip to DDS falls..!!!Note:
1. Clicking credits to “Sam”- our official photographer during the entire trip..!!
2. If you’re camping there, carry tents- no matter what season it is.. Be prepared to get mobbed by monkeys
3. There is a guy who sells tea, dinner on Saturdays & breakfast on Sundays
4. You get booze near the shelter on a weekend night
5. There is a restroom (decent enough in the jungle) attached to the shelter
6. Buy a return ticket from Kulem or Castle rock depending on the direction you are heading to..
When you are back from a trek to Dudhsagar and talk about a “Railway adventure”- the usual things that strike anybody are train spotting, tunnels, wild encounters, the rail line that passes across the mighty waterfalls so on and so forth..!!! And there is ample information available all over the net about this walk along the railway tracks… So that’s the railway adventure…!!!
“NO…!!! ” I’m not here to speak about such a lame adventure- What if we did not come across any wildlife on our way..? There is always something even better that comes across as a compensation for not having any wild encounters..!!
We were all on our return part of our trip.. and were just happy that everything went on well so far.. And then began the actual adventure unfolding one by one..
We were mocked at, at Dudhsagar station when we enquired about the tickets. Why that? We had even requested the person at the ticket counter in Castle Rock to issue return tickets from Kulem to Londa as we did not want to take any chances. But, our requests were all turned down telling that it was not needed. Like every other tourist/trekker who comes to Dudhsagar, we too decided to travel ticket-less till Castle Rock station. There were more than 500 people who got into the Vasco-Nizamuddin express with us- all without a ticket..!! This is nothing unusual as each and every blog on the net speaks about ticket-less travel. In less than 5 minutes after the train had started, the TT came asking for our tickets. We honestly displayed our tickets(from Londa to Bangalore). He told us to show the tickets from Dudhsagar to Londa and we told him this was the only one we had. His voice sounded a little harsh this time. We explained all that we knew about the reason for this kind of travelling.. But now he told us to pay a fine of 500Rs per head. 17X500???? Noway..!!!! Finally.. he took us all to one end of the bogie and settled the scene for a total of Rs.460. That too- Till Londa 🙂 Now it calls for an adventure of travelling ticket-less right..??
But that’s not the case, everybody knows that there is no ticket issued from DDS, so this kind of checking is a major scam happening in these trains..
Onboard Rani Chennamma Express:
Approx.9.00.p.m.: 17 of us are playing dumbcharades, all seated in the same compartment and the entire bogie looking at us in awe(some jealous of us for the fun we were having, some surprised of the size of the gang, some enjoying the game with us, and some definitely pissed with the loud noise we were making). 2 police men walk across the bogie without bothering to notice anybody in particular.
Approx.11.00.p.m.: We all decide to go to sleep as we were all pooped out of the long trek and most of us had to go to office the next morning. All are dispersed from the seats and preparing the bed.
Approx.11.30.p.m.: Less than 2 minutes before we turned the lights off.. The 2 policemen appear out of nowhere..
“What’s going on here? We have received a call from the control room that there is a lot of noise coming from this bogie. Other passengers have complained about it..!!”
“But, we are sorry Sir, We had stopped playing half an hour ago and were just about to hit the bed”
“What are you playing with all these girls I say? and You.. dressed up like Y*su Chr*sta….” pointing out at XYZ..
XYZ got pissed off and revolted, “Mind your tongue, how dare you talk like that……”
The rest of us dragged him away before the scene got worse..
“Oh not just causing public nuisance, now you are fighting with a cop huh? All of you get off the train at Davangere station and lets talk about it in the station” the Cop asserted..
“But Sir, We will keep quiet now on and take responsibility not to disturb others. We are sorry..!!”
“We don’t know all that, get down at the next station or else pay a fine of 1000Rs. per head”
“Please consider, girls are travelling with us. We can’t get down in the middle of the night and we are on our way back, we don’t have so much money either”
“Just get down and lets see at the station”
This went on till approx.1.30.a.m and the entire bogie was watching the fun with no one even bothering to support us considering that we were all kids(or something like that, atleast out of courtesy)
Finally we all pooled in all the ‘Tens’ we had and settled the matter with Rs.500. A toll for absolutely no mistake of ours..!!
“The Indian Police”..!!! They are more than wild and entertaining who could well give an excellent replacement for the Orangutans- which are critically endangered.!!
Anything for money….. There is NOTHING that can be done to eliminate corruption in our country..!! We all speak volumes about a corruption free nation but we ourselves promote it in absolute helplessness..!! And Ohh?? Safety and respect for women???? what does that mean? I don’t remember coming across any term like that during my journey…
The whole purpose of this trip was to see the Jog in all its might..!! And this could happen in no better time than the monsoons..
So mom, bro and I boarded a KSRTC on Saturday night such that we could reach Shimoga by 6.00.a.m. From there a jeep’s ride was awaiting us to reach Sagar town.
Firstly, we wanted take a chance to go check out the Hydroelectric project , take a cable car ride down the hill which unfortunately we couldn’t do as we were stopped due to security reasons.
Nevertheless, the view of the Linganamakki dam and the scenery around almost evened up for the miss.
And then.. Six kilometers uphill- we reached the place which was the sole motive of our trip. “The Jog”..!!
But, when we reached there, it was something that caused total dismay..!!! The clouds paired up with thick mist had enshrouded the waterfalls completely.. And were all just blanked out..(literally..!!) there was absolutely nothing infront of us except the mist mist mist and more mist.. To top it all, it was raining cats and dogs..
We turned our backs and decided to walk towards the jeep with a heavy heart .. As we did, I just happened to turn towards the falls to check on our luck.. And yes…. we were LUCKY..!! The mist was slowly clearing out.. And we could faintly spot the Sharavathi streaming down in full action..
2 minutes up and the view was all clear: The Mighty King (Raaja), the Graceful Queen (Rani), the Thunderous Roarer and the Storming Rocket – YES… We did it..!! We felt a great sense of achievement very contrary to what we felt a minute ago..
While we got some nice clicks, the mist enclothed the falls again.. and we waited for it to clear out to capture a few more photos because this time we knew that the action was repetitive..
After a while we walked around to get different views of the falls- we went to the top, almost till the bottom area, sides… and so on.. It was a difficult task considering the heavy rains and the slippery path-thanks to the moss and algae; But totally worth the risk 🙂
By late afternoon, we visited a nearby zoo and also went on a lion and tiger safari.. Not a typical safari in the wild.. It is more like a fenced enclosure.. Also we spotted deers, sambars and peacocks..
And it was all the time we had with us. We had almost reached the end of a funday-Sunday..
We boarded the bus back to Bangalore at night and we had to gear up for the crazy week that was awaiting us..
There is much ado about the Western Ghats getting tagged as a World heritage site by the UNESCO.
So, like everyone around me here, I too am excited about sharing my views on it.
Firstly the stronger points for consideration:
The western Ghats is home to very rare species of flora & fauna- many snakes, frogs, birds etc. are critically endangered and also unique only to these Ghats.
These ghats stop the wind from the east and bring rainfall to the south.
The major rivers of the South are rain fed and originate here.
I being an ardent nature lover would definitely support to save the ever lush green ghats.
Now, the points not to consider:
There are a no. of tribes living in these Ghats like the Soligas, Kurubas, Maleya-kudiyas etc who will all be forced to vacate the forests and will be disturbed from their natural habitat though the government may promise them of providing alternate homes.
The Coorgs (Kodavas)- by themselves are a very small community fighting hard against the “Jamma Bane” issue and now have yet another blow. Many localites holding lands in the identified areas will be forced to vacate and this will inturn force them out of Coorg.
Myself being a hardcore Kodavathi, I would never be able to take this by my stride.
And now, the strongest of them all:
The Ghats are a rich source for mining, timber and a major hub for tourism leading to severe deforestation in the name of building resorts, nature sports and the likes.
It is important to consider that our beloved elected representatives are frequently in the limelight for the mining scams. The major share of resorts in this region are owned by big names and are tucked away deep in the core area of the jungles which compete for providing the best tiger spotting, elephant spotting, wild hunting, etc. etc, activities for their guests. So there is a valid point for these scamsters to fight against the prestigious tag.
The heritage tag limits the human entry to most regions. Let alone restrictions on activities like trekking, hiking etc. just walking around this place without knowledge would lead to high penalty.
But, what if this has an impact on a Coorg’s lifestyle: the tag has come as a much needed respite for a nature lover like me. We are Coorgs at the end of the day. We have lived our way through thick jungles, heavy downpours, deep dark nights, wild animals in our porticos. And that’s the way we enjoy our life at it’s best. So we can definitely live strong with thick jungles. We want our Green cover to be saved…!!
I am frustrated of being helpless and just a mute spectator watching the depletion of green cover in the name of development. I can hardly see any development in my area other than the fact that big names (let me say powerful people) are buying properties by offering good money and settling down in Coorg, becoming stake-holders in resorts etc and turning all their black money white.
I used to eagerly wait for the rainy season to start so that I would get my monsoon holidays while I was in school. And now, I am even more anxious that this rainy season may pass by without even seeing a “rainfall”. Yes, only conservation of these ghats can bring us the rains that we need.
I am frustrated with the fact that the place where is grew up catching little fishes and crabs with my cousins as a little girl beneath big boulders is now nothing but a fully concrete platform for the tourists to rest on.
What I once knew as a beautiful waterfall and a place where my grandpa gave me my swimming lessons is now nothing but a pool of sewage flowing from the town littered by ruthless tourists. The stench of this mess gets tears streaming down my eyes everytime I stand on the very same concrete platform and try to recollect the good old greener and cleaner grandpa days…
The Bramhagiri hills
And here I sum up…:
Give me some sunshine… give me some more rain….
Give me another chance… I wanna grow up once again…
I want more rains….. I want to re-live my grandpa times…
PLEASE SAVE THE WESTERN GHATS..!!!
getting lost in traveling through places and time…