Category Archives: Karnataka

Travelling around my home state

The Abbi Villa- A dreamy house of haunted thoughts

<23-Oct-12>

A venue for hundreds of family get-togethers, a reason for annual Dasara shops, a greenroom for hundreds of celebrities, a place where we got numerous forever family friends, a shelter to over a hundred families, a temple for annual pooja offerings, a dining area for hundreds of hungry villagers, a warehouse for all the farm equipments, a bedroom for all the tired souls- adjectives alike aren’t sufficient to describe what this little place once meant. A portico, 2 bedrooms, 1 hall, 1 kitchen, 4 labour quarters and above all- A one of its kind drying chamber for the spices.

A walkway lined by coffee plantations on either sides, dotted by coconut trees in between leads you to this little thatched house with mud smeared walls; just as you enter you are greeted by a stream of water that is diverted from the bigger waterfall, opens into a pond with blossoms of purple lilys and golden fishes and further narrows down running through a garden full of flowers overlooked by scenic hills all around. A matter of everyone’s envy–

This was ‘The Abbi Villa’ in brief.

The Abbi Villa: Then
The Abbi Villa: Then

This is where my grandpa spent most of his life- the busy days of his life- the peaceful moments of his life- This is the place which was home to his heart and his soul.

The stream that widens into a pond
The stream that widens into a pond

No doubt that the warmth of the place passed away with grandpa, but 2012 has showed its negative vibes with the year’s monsoons putting an end to all the glory that this place once boasted of. The Wall has finally given way.. Every bordering wall has collapsed: But when I stood infront of the rumbles- A cold chill ran down my spine. I did feel my grandpa’s presence there.. He stood right there holding on to the pillar and a part of the wall that divided his bedroom and his prayer room.. It was a helpless face that told me aloud to do something about the utter neglect that followed his departure; I looked back at him in utter helplessness too.. There is so much I need to do but very less ways I can put his dreams back in place and reconstruct the entire estate that today lies there vandalised and in the state of horrible negligence..

The Abbi Villa- Now
The Abbi Villa- Now

How I wish…. I could do something..!!! How I wish some miracle happened… How I wish…… The place was as heavenly as it once was….How I wish……

The abandoned tribes and the abuses- Kunde Habba

I always wanted to witness this celebration but have been quite apprehensive about facing the wrath of the abuses that will follow with the joy.. And moreover, this happens in the southern part of Coorg and I get to know that the festival happened only after it has happened..!!

But some wild wishes do come true- this time my encounter was unplanned and I’m glad it happened.. Occasion: “Kunde Namme” a.k.a. Kunde Habba or the “Festival of abuses”.

The tribes belonging to the Jenu-kurubas, Betta-Kurubas, Yeravas, Paniyas, Kembetti and other sects all congregate in a common place- usually a town area to celebrate their festival of abuses and to make merry. By abuse- I mean abuse God, man, machine and everything that they come across on that day. This is a tradition that has passed on through generations among these tribes.

Kunde Namme- The masked men
Kunde Namme- The masked men

Legend has it that the main deity Aiyyappa had taken the tribe into a thick jungle for hunting. Deep in the jungle, he fell in love with Bhadrakali and eloped with her leaving his followers abandoned. Since then, the day is observed every year where these tribes abuse their god for betraying them. They find god in everything and every person they come across and hence abuse them in turn.

The people are togged in weird clothes- some men dress up like seductress, some like ghosts, some like witches and some dress up just random and as weird as possible.

They block every man(outside the tribe) on roads, barge into shops in the town and demand money. If you don’t pay them what they demand- you are abused; If you pay what you are demanded for- you still get abused..!! Remember.. God will not come to your rescue on that day as he himself is in soup 😛 (Kidding..!!)

Kunde Namme- Dressed up men all set to charge into a shop
Kunde Namme- Dressed up men all set to charge into a shop

Also, most of the members of this group belong to the labour class who work in estates, domestic helps etc. Hence, the day doubles as a good chance for them to vent out all the frustration on their masters..!!

Kunde Namme- The band set guys
Kunde Namme- The band set guys

But, at the end of the day- they all congregate in their common place of worship and surrender to their god, plead for his mercy and ask for his blessings for the rest of the year. A part of the total money they collect for the day is used to have a lavish dinner and the rest is religiously offered to the deity.

This festival happens on the 4th Thursday in the month of May and is celebrated in and around Gonikoppal considering its proximity to the Nagarhole National Park where most of these tribes are based.

Visiting the northern-most district of Karnataka- Bidar

Karnataka Bundh: The whole city of Bangalore was protesting against the Kaveri water verdict- 32 buses vandalized in the city and all that jazz. Well, I was away from the entire hustle bustle, where fighting for the water of Kaveri made no sense for the people. That day, I was spending time with my mom who was away from home since the last couple of months, on business travel.

My itinerary:
Day 0: Bangalore to Bidar (Overnight bus)
Day 1: Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple, Karanja reservoir, Basavakalyan (Basaveshwara temple, Basavanna statue, Basavanna Guhe, Akkamahadevi Guhe Anubhav Mantapa, Basavakalyan fort)
Day 2: Nanak Jira Gurudwara, Bareed Shahi park, Bidar Fort; Return from Bidar to Bangalore (night bus).

The details:
People in the Mysore-Karnataka region know Bidar and the rest of the districts of Kalyana Karnataka or Uttara-Karnataka mostly through media that only talks about them when there is a drought in the state. This somewhat had influenced me to paint a dry and a dusty picture of the region inside my head. There was not much that I had heard about this part of Karnataka on a typical tourist circuit of state and that’s why I chanced upon travelling to Bidar for a weekend. Since my mom was posted there for some time, I thought it was an opportunity for me to go and see what is in the northern-most district of my home state. Mom usually has a vehicle at her disposal whenever she travels and stays during the entire business trip. This solves most of the commutation problems.

Day 1:
When I reached there after a long overnight bus journey of 12hrs, I had a roaring welcome in the city, quite literally…!! An IAF “Hawk” flew past right above my head during their daily flying sorties. Right then, I had my first GK (general knowledge) moment of the tour. Bidar has been an important training base since the early 1960’s for the Indian Airforce. Bidar serves as the main base for Hawk AJTs and the Suryakiran HJTs. The first thing that I learnt about Bidar and is never shown or spoken about on mainstream media.

My mom received me at the bus stand and took me to the Inspection bungalow where she was staying at. After freshening up and post a quick breakfast, we headed to “the Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple”. The myth mentions that Lord Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu and then proceeded to slay the demon Jalasura, 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 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 new experience for me, and I was seeing such a religious site for the first time.

Sightseeing at Bidar: Jharani Narasimha Swami Cave temple
Inside the cave- enroute to the Narasimha idol

We then proceeded towards our next destination. Enroute, we stopped by the Karanja dam, a small reservoir built across the Karanja river.

In a while from there, we had arrived at Basavakalyan- our main destination for the day. There, we visited the Basaveshwara temple, 108ft high Basavanna statue, Basavanna Guhe and Akkamahadevi Guhe. Then it was a turn to the right that took us to “Anubhav Mantapa”. This is a replica of the ShivanubhavaMantapa- an academy of mystics, saints and philosophers of the ‘Lingayat’ faith in the 12th century. Anubhav Mantapa is often referred as the first parliament in the world.

Sightseeing at Bidar: A view of Hyder Mahal from the Kadak Bijli Toph view point
A view of Hyder Mahal at the Basavakalyan fort

From there we visited the Basavakalyan fort, sparsely visited apart from a few localites who come there to play cricket. But it is indeed a monument forgotten on the maps. The lights falling on the inner chambers of the fort called for some good photography. Some of points of interest inside the Basavakalyan fort for an explorer may be the open-air theatre at the entrance of the fort and the view of Hyder Mahal from the Kadak Bijli Toph viewpoint. With that, it was dark, and we returned to our place of stay.

Day 2:
We started the day by spending some tranquil moments at the ‘Nanak Jira’. This Gurudwara is known for being the second occurrence out of the supernatural powers of Guru Nanak. The first one was ‘Sri Punja Sahib’. This is now in Pakistan and strictly prohibited for free visits. Hence Gurudwara Sri Nanak Jira Sahib is referred to as the ‘Second Punja Sahib’ of India and hence a very holy site for the Sikhs. The sweet water flowing from a spring is believed to clear one off, all sins.

Sightseeing at Bidar: The Nanak Jhira Gurudwara
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. We were told that this was a neglected piece of history just a year ago and good efforts have been made by the authorities for its restoration.

We had an invitation from one of the colleagues at my mom’s office to visit his home for lunch. To think of it, it is by far and large one of the MOST sumptuous and wholesome meal I have had all my life. Hahaha call it the downside or the funny part of relishing such a wonderful meal- My mom and I were handed over a large towel to wipe off our teary eyes and watery noses. The regional cuisine here is notoriously famous for being high on chilly. But even with the hot flames flying out of our senses, we couldn’t resist the taste of the flavorful spread. It was a typical North-Karnataka cuisine with a spread of over 50 dishes. We were overwhelmed by their hospitality and the flavorful cooking. Apart from the Millet roti and gunpowder, most of the dishes were new discoveries for me. I even had a box packed with roti and keema-curry for my return journey by train in the night.

Sightseeing at Bidar: The Bahamani tombs
The Bahamani tombs

The last and final destination was the Bidar Fort: It is a multi-layered fort to say in simple words. It does not have a quantifiable boundary, though a few localites specify some digits to measure its expanse. The entire city of Bidar is actually within a fort wall which was the area where the citizens lived back during the rulers’ time. The second round of the wall is where the ministers lived. The third and the innermost zone is where today’s tourism is concentrated, the area where the King & the queen lived. This fort needs a minimum of half a day to explore for a person interested in history, architecture or archeology. In a tourist circuit in Bidar that I barely heard of, this fort came in as a surprise when I had least expected. It is HUGE!

Sightseeing at Bidar: The Royal Residence within the Bidar fort
The Royal Residence within the main fort

Bidar has so much to offer for a backpacker on a tight budget. Apart from the travel distance between places, everything else is very affordable. Even the entry to all the major landmarks on the potential tourist trail was free. In spite of it, very few people plan a trip to this district. Maybe because the name pulls down an image of a dry, barren, hot, poor, drought prone landscape. What my eyes met here was contradicting to the imagination that I had, largely based on what I heard in the media. In reality, the city was lush green, well fed with good rains and clean (at least compared to the cleanest places of Bangalore).

Souvenirs to take back: Bidariware is a local form of metal art that has a GI (Geographical Identification) tag and extremely laborious and artistic. It takes an 8 stepped process to create one piece of art and a symbol of royalty, that’s been carried on from 14th century, largely promoted by the Bahamani Sultans.

So, a lesson to take back: Stop imagining how a place would be; go there and see it yourself.

The railway trek to Dudhsagar

If you have read my previous 2 posts- The railway adventure and Do’s & don’ts for a monsoon trek, then you’re sure to have had an insight to the adventure part of my trip to Dudhsagar waterfalls. This post is more on the trip and the sightseeing part of the story. I elaborate on the beautiful vistas that we came across as passed tunnel after tunnel, walking along a railway track, in the middle of a National park and finally seeing the beautiful Dudhsagar waterfalls.

17 of us boarded ‘MAS-Vasco express’ from ‘YPR’ on a Friday night and alighted at ‘Castle rock station’ on the following morning at 9.15.a.m. ‘Castle Rock’ is cute little station that 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. Since we were travelling in monsoon, the station was all green and a treat to all the eyes that had just landed from a concrete city.

With no facilities available anywhere around the station and even the basic offices closed on a weekend, we all freshened up in the washroom of the railway station itself. This is a point from where our railway trek starts. It is less of a trek and more of a walk along the railway track, all the way to our destination: The Dudhsagar waterfalls. But like they say, its is the journey more than the destination that matters, the entire stretch of this trail is what makes the trip all the more special.

We couldn’t and just couldn’t ignore the gazillion scenic spots that we come across for which we had to stop after every minute or 5 minutes of the walk for a photo. The Castle rock railway station itself was so good looking. This green moss laden station is located in the midst of the Braganza Ghats, in the heart of a National park. Take for example, this ART (Accident Relief Train) parked by the side of the tracks. It is adding so much colour to a photospot.

@Castle rock station- in the midst of the Braganza GhatsART a.ka. Accident Relief Train is parked by the side
@Castle rock station- in the midst of the Braganza Ghats
ART a.ka. Accident Relief Train is parked by the side

We continued to walk in the direction of Dudhsagar, but were unable to ignore the numerous waterfalls we encountered on our way. We stopped every time for photos. We had to walk through a total of 11 railway tunnels before reaching the main waterfalls. The first one can be approached by crossing a girder bridge laid over a scenic view of the valley.

The 2nd tunnel is the longest-at 624m. and the most beautiful one. It resembles an entrance of a Castle.

After crossing tunnel no.3, we walked slightly off the track, into the woods to see another large waterfall. Then came another waterfall, plunging down inside a vault kind of a structure built into the cliff.

Top: The vault by the trackside; Below: The waterfall within the vault

The 4th tunnel is special. After crossing this tunnel, we would be setting foot in another state altogether. This tunnel marks the border between Karnataka and Goa.

Top: The first tunnel on the Goa side of the land; Below: The location marked where the actual Goa territory starts

After a long walk from there, we crossed tunnel no.5. While still navigating our way with torchlights on the tracks, inside the tunnel, we heard the hooting of a train approaching us from behind. There wasn’t much time for us to get out and hence, we all decided to get down from the track and stick as close as possible to the wall of the tunnel to stay safe. When the goods train arrived, we literally held onto our dear lives. It was dark inside the tunnel and no place to move.

Run for life..!!
Clockwise from top left: A train passing over the girder bridge before tunnel no.1; Exit of tunnel no.2; Light between tunnel no.6&7; A train inside tunnel no.5

The 6th and the 7th tunnels came together. The 7th one was nothing more than a small arch. Then we walked through tunnel no. 8, 9 and 10.

The 10th one was long and dark. And with exiting it, we saw Light at the end of darkness.. We had arrived at the ‘Dudhsagar station’. This is a de-func station and hence, neither the trains stops nor any tickets are issued for passengers who board from here. However, some lucky visitors manage to get a stop here but, they take a risk with a ticket-less travel. But, this is where we all realized that we were all tired by walking along the tracks. But, the fact that our destination was nearby gave us energy.

The DDS station
The DDS station

Then, we proceeded towards the 11th tunnel…. When we were exiting it, we were all hooting and clapping in joy. That’s because we all got our first glance of our destination. The mighty Dudhsagar: “Ocean of Milk”. The feeling was inexplainable. It was a great sense of contentment after a long tiring walk that was alllllll worth it..!! There was now a sudden spike in our energy levels and we all hurried towards the waterfalls. We dumped all our luggage right there, in front of the waterfall and crashed down in awe. As we were basking in the glory of the waterfalls, it had started to get dark. We looked out for space to unpack our luggage and our tents.

Top: The first glimpse of Dudhsagar waterfall out of tunnel 11; Below: Different views of the Dudhsagar waterfall

The only shelter (a small roofed structure) available to pitch a tent was already occupied by a large group who had arrived before us. We had no choice but to camp in the open, just by the side of the railway tracks. We put up a small campfire sort of a thing so that we had enough light to see each other’s face. But mind you, we were in the middle of a monsoon season in the western Ghats. The rain gods who had been kind on us during the entire hike were now playing spoilt sport. The campfire was put off too soon and we managed the rest of the night with our torches.

It poured cats and dogs the whole night.. The roaring noise of the waterfalls in the backdrop and the loud hooting sound of the train that passed atleast once in every half an hour, the tent pitched right next to the track with the waterfalls on the other side, it was indeed a night to remember..!!

Next morning, we all rose with the sun and spent some peaceful time in watching the water gushing down violently. Apart from freshening up last at Castle rock, it was already 2 days & 2 nights since we had last seen a decent restroom or a bathroom. We looked around to find a little place where we could finish off our stuff in peace. A small waterfall nestled deep inside the woods is what we found instead. All the girls in our group jumped into the water while the guys kept a watch for any trespassers 😉

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” to think of it from a strangers’ perspective, I guess the scene that morning must have been something similar to that. We couldn’t find a place near the waterfall where we could change into dry clothes. Hence, we all wore our jackets over wet clothes and walked 1.5kms towards our tents. On the way, we came across tens of trekkers who desperately stared at us.. I understand the natural human instinct to drool at divine looking girls who are walking wet after getting all soaked in pristine water. Nobody could help the sight.!!

The waterfall where we took our morning shower at Dudhsagar

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..!! It took us to cross the 2 more tunnels to reach the viewpoint. After reaching there and waiting for a few minutes, we finally got the wallpaper worthy photo that we wanted.

Finally.. We got what we wanted..!!
Finally.. We got what we wanted..!!

After a long photo session of the large group that we were and before the crowd who had just arrived in that passenger train would spoil the peace, we headed back to our tents.. We had a round of heavy brunch (carried from home) and slowly packed up. The initial plan was to walk the track all the way to Kulem, but owing to the cruel sun and the tiring walking experience on the tracks on the previous day, we decided to wait to find a train ride, 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 Castle Rock.And with that.. Curtains down to our trip to DDS falls..!!!

Update as on Year 2019:
• Trekking on the tracks in prohibited as it passes through a National park. There is a risk of a human-animal conflict.
• If you wish to visit the Dudhsagar waterfalls, you can sign up with one of the organisers based out of Londa in Karnataka or Kulem in Goa. They can take you through an authorized trail or a 4WD ride to a nearest point can be arranged.

Monsoon retreat- Jog falls

‘Jog’ is a charmer on all Karnataka tourism promotions. Why not? It’s the second highest waterfall in India after all! A glimpse of the mighty Jog at least once in a lifetime is an unwritten rule for every person born or living in Karnataka. And why not see it take a plunge in all its might? This exclusive visit could happen in no better time than the monsoons. So, my mother, brother and I planned this weekend trip to see the Jog. such that we could reach Shimoga by 6.00.a.m.

Our itinerary:
Day 0: Leave Bangalore to Shimoga (Overnight bus)
Day 1: Shimoga to Sagara (local transport), visit Linganamakki dam and hydroelectric project, The Jog falls, Tyarekoppa Lion & tiger safari. Return from Shimoga to Bangalore (overnight bus)

The details:
When we reached Shimoga in the morning, it was pouring not just cats & dogs, but also cows & buffaloes. A jeep’s ride had been arranged by my mother’s colleague to take us from Shimoga to Sagara town. The rains were so heavy that we could barely see the road ahead. With that, we would fall into just every other pothole that was covered under the flooded roads. Finally, we had managed to reach Sagara, the nearest accessible town to Jog falls.

Once there, we thought to see the Linganamakki Hydroelectric project that falls on the way to Jog. There also used to be a cable car ride down the reservoir that we were interested to go on. Unfortunately for us, our visit was timed just about when permission to visit the project was cancelled for some security reasons. Nevertheless, the view of the Linganamakki dam and the scenery around almost evened up for the miss.

Views of the Sharavati project around Jog falls
Top: the view of Sharavati valley; Below: The Linganamakki dam

And then, with an uphill drive of about six kilometers, we reached the place which was the sole motive of our travel from Bangalore. “The Jog”!! But, there was more disappointment awaiting us on our arrival. It was something that caused us total dismay…!!! The clouds paired up with thick mist had enshrouded the waterfalls completely. And our entire surrounding had just blanked out with mist. There was absolutely nothing in front of us except the mist and more mist… To top it all, it was raining cats and dogs. There was no Jog, nothing. ‘What an unfortunate day for us’, we thought and decided to return after a futile wait.

We turned our backs and started to walk towards the jeep with a heavy heart. As we did, I just happened to turn back and check on our luck with the waterfalls. And yes…. we were LUCKY…!! The mist was slowly clearing out… And we could faintly spot the Sharavathi streaming down in full action.

As we stood for two minutes more, the view was then all clear: The Mighty King (Raja), the Graceful Queen (Rani), the Thunderous Roarer and the Storming Rocket – YES… We saw them! We felt a great sense of achievement, very contrary to what we had felt just a couple of minutes ago. While we got some nice clicks, the mist enclothed the falls, back again. We waited for it to clear out to capture a few more photos because this time, we knew that the action was repetitive.

Jog falls in monsoon
Jog, from different view points

After a while we walked around to get different views of the falls. We went to the top of the waterfalls, walked down closer to the bottom of the waterfall, locatiosn from where we got the side view of the Jog, and so on… It was quite an adventure in itself to get around these difficult spots, especially considering the heavy rains and the slippery path. But, the excitement of getting to these locations was all worth the risk! After having an eyeful and heart full of ‘The JOG falls’, we decided to say good-bye to the place.

On our way back to Shimoga, we visited ‘Tyarekoppa Lion & tiger safari’. Along with spotting a lot of deer, sambars and peacocks, we also counted on the big cats like the lion and tigers on a safari ride. It wasn’t a typical safari you would have in the wild, but it was more like taking a ride inside a fenced enclosure. But, it is a well maintained place and great if you are travelling with children.

Tiger safari near Shimoga
Roarrr, a tiger at the safari

And that was all the time we had with us. We had almost reached the end of a fun day-Sunday and we boarded the bus back to Bangalore at night. We had to gear up for the crazy week that was awaiting us…

Conclusion: An experience of the monsoon in the western ghats and a glimpse of the Jog in the monsoon are retreats that should go into the bucket list of everyone visiting India.

A Weekend Drive to Belur and Halebeedu

It was a Sunday morning and our family outing was fixed. We decided to take a day trip to Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola. These are places that I can NEVER get bored of visiting and can go over and over and over again. I prefer to write less in this post because I choose the pictures to speak for themselves.

Karnataka- is One State, many Worlds’.

-KSTDC, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation

As a part of an endless list of things that Karnataka has to offer to every traveler, are its unending list of historical and architectural monuments. With several kingdoms ruling over Karnataka at different points in history, the temple architecture in Karnataka doesn’t fail to get a ‘WOW’ even from a person not interested in art and history. And one such place that has always and always mesmerized me are the temples built by the Hoysalas. These temples are not as big in size as the grand Chola temples but aesthetically BRILLIANT and I run short of adjectives to describe their grandeur.

With the Hoysala style of architecture evolving over centuries, I take it quite seriously to visit and explore as many of these structures as possible.The erstwhile capital towns (now located in Hassan district) of the Hoysala empire hold the finest surviving examples of the Hoysala style today. Out of 900+ temples built across Central and South Karnataka, only around 400+ remain now many of which still need restoration and maintenance. Most of the now inexistent temples are believed to be destructed by the Delhi Sultanates in the 14th century and the remaining smaller ones bit into the dust due to apathy and negligence.

Our first place of visit for the day was Belur, or Velapura as it was called back in the time when it was the capital city of the Hoysalas. The Chennakeshava temple complex is a group of temples and the epitome of this style of art. This complex is located inside a walled fortress and has a tall Gopura at the entrance. For someone visiting it for the first time, the first look of the Gopura from the outside is quite deceitful of what is in store inside.

The Belur Chennakeshava temple complex
Hoysala structures within the Chennakeshava temple premises at Belur

Salient features of the Hoysala temples:
• Although the earliest Hoysala temples were made with the local sandstone, their finest temples are made by carving one of the hardest materials for making stone sculptures- the granite stone.
• The ceilings of the Hoysala temples have extremely intricate and multi-tiered mural designs.
• The pillars are lathe machined and mirror finished.

Murals at Chennakeshava temple complex
Friezes and murals at Chennakeshava temple, Belur

Fun Facts about the Hoysalas:
• Jakanachari is the revered master craftsman behind most of the marvelous temples of this era. Legend has it that he was however challenged by his own son, Dankanacharya about a possible flaw in the sculpture made by his father. Jakanacharilost the challenge when a toad and water emerged out of an idol made by him after which he cut-off his right hand as a symbol of submission to his son’s skill.
• Shantala, the wife of King Vishnuvardhana (One of the most prominent Hoysala ruler) was so mesmerised by the Sculptures of the dancing ladies carved here in different postures, it is believed that she used to dance with these Madalikes or ShilaBalikas in her dreams.

Art at Chennakeshava temple

The capital of the Hoysalas was shifted from Belur to Halebeedu, then called Dwarasamudra. The Hoysaleshwara temple is the most prominent among all. The monolithic statue of Nandi here, is the sixth largest in the world.

The Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebeedu
Hoysala sculptural Art at Halebidu

Although our next destination is not a Hoysala hotspot, we decided to include it in our itinerary as it was just around. We headed towards Shravanabelagola, one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the Jains. Shravanabelagola has two hills- Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. The twin hills offer a panoramic view of the surrounding plains. Chandragiri hill gets its name from Chandragupta, one of the greatest emperors of India who converted to Jainism, gave up all his worldly pleasures and is believed to have passed away on this hill. The statue of Bahubali/ Gomateshwara located on the Vindhyagiri hill is the largest monolithic stone statue in the World.

The statue of Gomateshwara at Shravanabelagola
The Gomateshwara Monolith statue

With this, I wind up with Part 1: of visiting the Hoysala temples. To put it in my words, I survived an ‘Art attack’ at Belur and Halebeedu.

Please do find a day to visit these places and you will not regret, trust me!

A day out at Kaiwara

Our company has recently changed its working calendar and now, we have our weekly off on Wednesdays instead of Sundays. When I woke up this Wednesday morning, a weekend for me and when the rest of the world is working their asses off, halfway through their week… I sat wondering how I was going to kill the rest of the day amidst the four walls of my house, all jobless.

Then suddenly, I remembered a place that a friend had told me about, long ago. She had done her internship at ‘Kaiwara’ during the final year of her MBBS course. I jumped out of my bed and began to google for it. With lot of information available online, I was able to jort down a list of places to see in and around Kaiwara and with a quick route map. I dragged my mum along, pulled the car out of the garage and zooommm we went…….

List of Places covered:
Narayanapa Mutt; Bheemeshwara temple; Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta; Tapovana; Vaikunta betta; MahaKailasaGiri Betta; ChenaKeshava Cave Temple; Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

The details:
It was around 09.00.a.m. when we started from Bangalore. We reached Devanahalli from where we took the Vijayapura bypass road. At an average speed of 60kmph, a drive of a good 45min from the Bengaluru airport is what it took us to reach Kaiwara.

As soon as one enters the Kaiwara town, a small lane on the left leads you to the Narayanappa ģMutt. This is where Saint Narayanappa attained ‘Jeeva Samadhi’ and the mutt is currently being managed by the M.S.Ramaiah trust. Half a kilometer away from the Mutt is the ‘Bheemeshwara temple’. This is where the mythology has it that Bheema killed Bakasura while the Pandavas were in exile. There is a group of small temples there, each named after the Pandavas within the same premises. Overlooking the Mutt is the Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta. We thought of skipping our visit there, considering the number of steps we had to climb up. Maybe a hike that I can plan for some other day.

Entrance to Vaikunta betta
The Entrance to Vaikunta betta

We drove for one kilometer further and reached ‘Tapovana’, the place where Saint Narayanappa used to meditate, back in the days. There is a small garden around there, which can be given a miss if you wish. Few yards uphill from there, we reached the ‘Vaikunta Betta’. At the base of the hill is the ‘Amaranareyana Temple’ dedicated to Lord Vishnu built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. With our climb upstairs, we reached the ‘Yoga Narasimha Temple’. The structure seemed to be ignored by the visitors. But we enjoyed the calm in this cave temple, believed to be the place where the Lord appeared in front of Narayanappa. The temple terrace had an excellent view of the entire town. A word of caution though: With too many monkeys around there, it was no monkey business.!!

A view from The Vaikunta temple
A view from the Vaikunta temple

We then commenced the best stretch of the drive. After an uphill drive of 5kilometers, we wondered how beautiful Mount Kailash (in the Himalayas) could be if the lesser known ‘MahaKailasaGiri Betta’ in Kaiwara was this beautiful. Atop the hill, is a set of newly chiseled man-made caves that houses 3 temples.

Enroute to Kailasa
Enroute to Kailasa

Unlimited food is provided to every pilgrim/visitor at KailasaGiri temple and the Mutt between 12.30.p.m and 3.00.p.m. So, we decided to hog some yummy temple food at Kailasa Giri itself. By this time, we had covered all the places I had enlisted in Kaiwara. But it was still 2.30.p.m and we had a lot of time left. While coming downhill, we decided to follow a signboard which indicated the way to ‘ChenaKeshava Cave Temple’. But it was quite a disappointment after reaching there. We could’ve probably skipped the visit to this place.

I then remembered someone mentioning about ‘Venkateshwara Temple’ in Alambagiri, located about 10kms from Kaiwara. The place is supposedly famous for Paper made handicrafts. So, we decided to explore this place too. But some renovation work in this ancient temple was in progress and there were absolutely no shops in that place (forget handicrafts stores). We were disappointed again by the unfruitful drive until there.

Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple (1)
Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

As per google, there was ‘Ambaji Durga Cave temple’ 7kms away from Kaiwara, and we tried to enquire with a few locals about the place. But nobody seemed to have heard of it and hence, we thought of giving it a miss too. With this, we thought it was time for us to return back to where we belong to- The Bengaluru city.

Conclusion:

  • Kaiwara alone is a nice place to plan a drive with family or a group of biking friends. Though it was a small trip, it was a pleasant one.
  • Kaiwara is famous for silk rearing & weaving. You will come across several houses stacking up the cocoon rearing trays for most of your way. Maybe you should try to pick up some silk stuffs while you are there or get hands-on working experience at silk rearing.

Devanahalli- The town within a Fort

On a casual weekday off, dad and I decided to take a train trip to some random place on the fringes of Bangalore. So, with tickets that costed us Rs.4 per head, we headed towards the platform. We boarded the Yeswantapur-Devanahalli Passenger train. What surprised us what this train with 5 bogies had just 5 passengers, for a round trip. That makes it 1 passenger per bogie 😛

Anyway, the journey towards Devanahalli began and considering that the train still plied well within Bangalore, it felt like we were riding through some unknown green route. We alighted at Devanahalli Railway Station, a small structure from the colonial era (Updated as on Yr.2019, the structure doesn’t exist any longer. It has been demolished making way for a newer station that now welcomes modern passengers who alight here to go to the Bengaluru International Airport) We decided to undertake some exploration and started to walk towards the main town area of Devanahalli.

Places of interest:

Birthplace of Tipu Sultan, Fort Devanahalli, a few ancient temples located within the fortress.

Devanahalli railway station
Devanahalli railway station

The Details:

Enroute, we came across a large stepwell (the only memoir of an once existent temple) which was all dried up now. As we continued to walk further from there, we came across several ancient temples along our way.

Things to see in Devanahalli
An Old temple pond

Before the Bengaluru Airport was shifted to the neighbourhood of this little village, Devanahalli was already popular as the hometown of Tippu Sultan, often referred as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. We arrived at a small mantap like structure which has an engraved stone that mentions it as the Birth place of this controversial ruler in South India. With this structure lying right by the side of the main road, it didn’t seem very exciting to me to think of whether this famous ruler was born by the road side (or so it seemed).

Tippu's Birth place
Tippu’s Birth place

As we continued to walk further, we came across a large walled structure. With rain water stagnating by its side, excavation waste from the city dumped at the entrance, unpaved dusty roads and all that, it seemed to me like it was a neglected piece of history with a first glance. As we passed through the super narrow doorway in this wall, we realized that we were entering a fortress.

After entering it, we decided to walk on a raised platform along the inner side of the fortress wall. It was a walk longer than we expected it to be and we soon realized that it is one whole town that actually exists within the walls of the fort. The actual ‘Devanahalli’ from the history books existed within the walls and what one knows around the highway is just an extension of the town that overgrew the walls due to the boom in real estate that followed the commencement of the airport.

Things to see in Devanahalli

But after walking so much around this place, it felt like there was nothing much in this place that spoke about Tippu’s valour that is often spoken about in history books.Talking about back in the time in history and with my experience of visiting Srirangapatna (a stronghold of Tippu & his father), Devanahalli as a town lacked development.We walked around the place till evening and were able to cover one half of the Fort. But, with that we had already exited from the other end of the town. We boarded a BMTC bus back to the city from there.

Closing Remarks:
• A good day for a jobless person like me seeking for offbeat places around the city
• It isn’t an exclusive place, but if someone has couple of hours of transit at the airport and don’t know what to do, this is an option. It is the nearest place to venture out in a taxi from the airport as Bengaluru city is too far to reach.

Gold Market to Gold Fields in a Railbus

One Saturday off in a month and the crunch for exploration was at its peak… Dad and I decided to board the train to sit in a bus that runs on rails.. I mean.. We wanted to travel in the “RailBus”. There are only 2 railbuses still running in the country, one runs on narrow guage and the other runs on broad gauge. While the former is a part of the Kalka-Shimla mountain railways, the latter is operated by the South western railways. And we were interested in the one closer to home i.e. in South India. It plies between Bangarpet (literally translates to Gold Market in Kannada) and KGF a.k.a. Kolar Gold Fields.

Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station
Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station

It leaves Bangarpet at 9.00.a.m and returns by noon. Again leaves Bangarpet by 5.30.p.m and returns before its dark. So, technically we wanted to reach Bangarpet before 9.00.a.m. But the laziness that had set in because of a hectic work week, we woke up late and boarded the Bangarpet-Bangalore express at 9.45.a.m from Cantonment railway station. So the entire idea of railbus travel flopped even before it happened. Jeez..!!!

Once at Bangarpet, we walked from the railway junction to the dusty town and boarded a private bus that took us to KGF which had passengers 2.5XFOS (2.5 times the Factor of Safety) the bus was designed for..!! And our arrival at the destination was rather fast considering the time we had before we died of suffocation due to the availability of very little air to breathe(forget Oxygen) in the completely choked up bus 😛 (I seriously don’t know how to put our plight in words..!!)

The Cyanide Dumps
The Cyanide Dumps

KGF.. The road welcomes you with a continuous stretch of this really awesome looking hill on one side and an old dusty town on the other side. It is dusty because it is a mining hub and it has a hill because of the same reason.. These hills are called cyanide dumps- the slurry left over after gold extraction from the mines using Cyanide based alkalis are dumped here and this has hardened over time making it look like a hill. It reminded me of the formations in the Grand Canyon for some reason.

Kotilingeshwara Temple
Kotilingeshwara Temple

From here, we again boarded a bus to reach the “Kotilingeshwara temple”. This place is said to have more than 1 crore Shivalingas, all donated by people. Though I’m not a very religious person, I wanted to visit the place for the history it unfolded. It was soon pack-up time for us as the scorching sun had sucked out most of our energy. But, most importantly, we had to return to Bangarpet before we could miss a glance of the sole reason of our trip..!! And.. We were back at BWT junction as per schedule.

The loner was resting in the shade of a tree. And the loco pilot obliged to open the door and let us have a look inside of the train. It felt nice to see the last one left in the country but the trip ended soon. Ofcourse, it was with a heavy heart that we could not travel in it 😥

The RailBus in Karnataka
The RailBus
The RailBus in Karnataka

Have you been in a bus that travels on railway lines???? Do share your experiences below. I’d love to hear them!

A Green University Campus in the City – GKVK

This is quite an old story. But, nevertheless worth writing about, especially if you are looking for a quick outing in Bangalore within a short driving distance…

GKVK is the short form for Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra a.k.a. University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS). It is a research institute funded and managed by the Karnataka state government. With several sub-campuses located across the state, their main campus is located near Jakkur in Bangalore. If one travelling to Bengaluru airport is alert, he may find it on his way.

My cousin who was studying her undergraduate course in Agricultural science at that time, informed us about the “Agri-Mela” happening in her campus. It is an annual event organized sometime in November. Hailing from a farmer background, our family has the natural instincts to learn more about various crops, research and related advancement in technology. With that curiosity, my dad and I went for a bike ride to the venue. The bike ride was intended with two basic ideas. One, of getting some fresh air from their vast campus and the other was of course to look out for any suitable technology that we could implement in our farm back in my hometown. This is an excellent place for bird watching too.

The Gulmohur trees inside the GKVK campus
The best stretch in the city- The Gulmohur Avenue

Although this 1000 odd acres university campus serves as a good lung space in the overburdened concrete city at any given time of the year, this is a season when it beams with extra life. The various plants across the campus will be bearing fruits and flowers in full bloom. Since the research in agriculture covers a range of topics, you could walk or ride around different patches of land with different types of crop, all mostly grown and managed by the students as part of their curriculum.

There are stalls covering range of topics like horticulture, sericulture, apiculture, cattle farming, poultry, food processing, storage, logistics, marketing, irrigation etc. covering almost all areas of agriculture and provides a platform for farmers from the state to share and learn newer developments in this field.

Images from Animal husbandry and horticulture stalls during the annual Krishi mela at GKVK
The exhibits at the agricultural stalls at GKVK

It was well over afternoon by the time we finished roaming around just a portion of the campus and exhausted. We bought a few homemade & processed foods from the stalls with an excitement to try newer flavors and decided to head back home. All in all, it was an afternoon well spent.

Things to do (on any day of the year):
• Take a drive if you want some fresh air without going too far from the city on a lazy evening.
• Spend a day bird watching here, there are often bird watching workshops conducted by hobbyists.
• You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables at their outlet on campus, many a times organic and sold at relatively cheaper prices as compared to the city.
• Sign up for one of the several training workshops conducted on campus, throughout the year.
• Visit the annual ‘Krishi-Mela’ and interact with farmers from across the state and the country.