Tag Archives: Rock climbing

A confluence of south Indian architectural styles- Thiruchirapally

After a long day exploring Tanjavur.. We boarded an evening bus to Tiruchirapalli (earlier called Trichy). We checked into a lodge infront of the central bus stand. Had a sumptuous meal and retired early..

Day 3:
We got ready early next morning and boarded a local bus to Srirangam- the abode of Sri Antya Ranganatha Swamy. This is the Tamilian counterpart of AdiRanga at Srirangapatna and MadhyaRanga in Shivanasamudra, All 3 being island towns formed by river Kaveri. This is an important place of worship to the vaishnavites sect of Brahmins or the followers of Lord Vishnu. All said and done, we got a glimpse of the historic idol of Sri Ranganatha sleeping on a serpent after a long wait in the queue.But pilgrimage aside, we were there to enjoy the architectural marvels of the city. The main temple itself is atleast 2-3 hrs of tour for the legs. To start of with, The main Gopuram or the outermost temple tower is the largest in the world and the latest among the towers in the temple complex. With a spread of 156acres, the temple complex itself is the largest functional one in the world.

But pilgrimage aside, we were there to enjoy the architectural marvels of the city. The main temple itself is atleast 2-3 hrs of tour for the legs. To start of with, The main Gopuram or the outermost temple tower is the largest in the world and the latest among the towers in the temple complex. With a spread of 156acres, the temple complex itself is the largest functional one in the world.

The Antya Ranganathar swamy temple at Srirangam
The Antya Ranganathar swamy temple at Srirangam

The temple consists 7 rounds of walls before you reach the sanctum sanctorum. Each wall was added by the then rulers who reigned in this town including the Pandyas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara, Pallavas and the others. The art specific to each of these eras can be noticed in the complex. After entering the main complex, a ticket of Rs.10 per head took us through narrow stairs leading to the roof of the temple. This is called the temple view point since you can spot all the 21 temple gopurams from this single place, lest you would get lost in the vastness of the complex. There is also a 1000 pillar hall which was once used to host dance events, now remained locked. We admired the fine sculptures on these pillars through the bars of the closed gates and continued our walk further.

Click here for more offbeat tourist places in Tamil Nadu

We walked towards the rear door of the temple towards the river bank. It was more of a run than a walk as we were barefoot and the asphalt road and the sand was already heated up at 10.a.m. Hailing from a place where the holy river originates, it was a pity to watch the river bed TOTALLY dry in this place. But after talking to the localites, I cheered up a bit as they were looking forward for a good monsoon in the coming month, where the river would flow almost in spate (Even submerging the very place that I was standing at). We came back to the temple again where my mom was waiting, had some fresh fruit juice in one of the stalls outside, wore our footwear and took a walk around the temple.

Oh yeah..!! It was BURNING hot and I was pretty sure I’d go back home as a grilled chicken after this walk. But then, we wanted to make the most of the visit because we never knew when we would be visiting again.

Big houses, with very small entrance, compactly built next to each other, allowing no or very less ventilation inside was the trademark style of Srirangam. These streets take pride in being home to one of the highly educated community of the country- the Iyengar Brahmins.

From there, we boarded a bus to Thiruvannaikaval. Though the population mainly comprises the Iyengars(the Vishnu followers), the then rulers have also built temples for the Iyers or the Shaivites(the followers of Shiva). This temple is as beautiful as the Ranganatha temple, however, the history behind the latter has made it more prominent. Though many people visiting this city give a miss to this temple, it should be noted that this is one among the five temples built for Shiva representing the five elements of life. This one represents water or Jala Linga. One of the residents in the complex noticed our interest in exploration and suggested us to visit the Amma or Parvathi temple housed right behind the Shiva temple.

The entrance to Thiruvannaikaval Shiva temple
The entrance to Thiruvannaikaval Shiva temple

From there, we headed to a hotel for a nice south Indian thali. After a filling meal, we headed back to Trichy. We visited the St. Lourde’s church in the city. We did a bit of shopping in the bylanes and the Trichy market around the Teppakulam(Temple tank) before we started to ascend the Rock Fort.

St. Lourde's church
St. Lourde’s church

This single projection of land in an otherwise low/Flat Trichy town dates back to the pre-historic era. It is beyond words to describe how in those days, could someone create such beautiful structures out of a hard monolith. What appears to be just a random protrusion of earth from outside, is infact a haven for the art lovers in the inside. There are stairs, numerous temples, artistic pillars and idols carved out of the same rock all the way up. There is a Ganesha temple at the summit from where one can enjoy the view of the entire Trichy town, the Kaveri river flowing around Srirangam, The temple gopuram, the rail lines traveling in and outside the city. The fun was doubled by the cool but strong winds that blew taking away all the tiredness from our minds.

The view of river Kaveri from the summit of Rockfort
The view of Srirangam and the river bed from the summit of Rockfort

After a while, we decided to descend down.. But we realised that a door that remained closed during our ascend was now wide open. There were some beautiful paintings peaking out of the door intimidating us to go see what was there. We stepped inside and it was amusement that followed. It was a vast hall carved out inside the same rock with beautifully sculptured pillars and amazing paintings adorning the walls. A poojari noticed our interest and started explaining each painting and the story it depicted. It was amazing.. He then told us to hurry up inside another door.. There, the maha Mangalaarthi (Sorry I don’t know the technical word for the last pooja of the day.!!) for Parvathi amman was just about to begin. Just as we reached there, they unveiled the curtains for us to get an eyeful of the beautifully decorated goddess. We sipped the holy water and again we were asked to rush through another door, cross a narrow chamber leading to the Shiva temple. The deity was getting ready for the final pooja of the day..Pooja is offered only thrice a day, During sunrise, at noon and before sunset. And we were lucky for being there for the last one. They removed the curtains and I could see my mom in tears. It was a very huge idol being bathed in the pancha-Amruthas. Then, he was neatly dressed in dhoti, decorated with fresh flowers and the pooja culminating with Arathi. The curtains were back signalling us that the god would go to sleep for the day.. We felt truly BLESSED..!! We witnessed an event that was so unexpected. We thanked the Poojari and took leave to descend the stairs leading to the market below.

Again, the presence and strong hold of almost all major south Indian dynasties is felt here with the designs present exquisitely in the art form here..

At the exit of the Cave temple / Rockfort
At the exit of the Cave temple / Rockfort

A final destination to our tour: Evening chai at GR restaurant. It is housed in an old building in the heart of the city(enroute to Rockfort). The valliappam is a must try here. The interiors of the hotel is commendable which has rock pillars, structures & collectibles that reminds one of the grandeur of temple architecture that this region is renowned for. It was a grand ending to our 3 day trip with a cup of piping hot filter coffee..!!

There are many lesser known temples around Trichy and equally artistic which takes up another full day.. But that was all the time we had with us.. So, I shall come back soon..

A farewell trek to Madhugiri

That’s what we call bidding farewell in style…

One of our friends was moving out of India and we thought it was good idea to send him off on a happy note; with something that he likes doing and something that he will cherish. With that, my group of friends hosted him for a dinner and then planned a trek to Madhugiri. Madhugiri is Asia’s second highest monolithic hill and has the ruins of an old fort at the top.

After a dinner party on a Friday night, we started to drive towards NH-4 in 2 cars and 2 bikes at 1.00.a.m. With a smooth highway road and bumpy country sides, we reached the guest house at the foothill of Madhugiri by around 4.00.a.m. The initial plan was to reach the peak for sunrise. But, on reaching the guesthouse, we were advised by the caretaker to start the hike after sunrise. There were recent cases of hikers attacked by bears reported on the hills. We waited in anticipation until sunrise.

From the foothills of Madhugiri - A view from our guest house
From the foothills of Madhugiri – A view from our guest house

It was 7.00.a.m by the time we started our ascent after a coffee break at a petty shop in front of the fort entrance. The start of the trek made me feel like it was going to be an easy climb. A well laid flight of concrete stairs took us to about 1/5 th of the total climb of the hill. However, the climb started to get tricky further from there. The hill seemed a little steep, the concrete stairs were replaced by steps carved out of the rock itself. With this stretch, we covered 2/5th of the total distance.

The Madhugiri fort entrance
The Madhugiri fort entrance

The steps disappeared in the next stretch. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.

A view of the Madhugiri town after climbing the flight of stairs
A view of the Madhugiri town after climbing the flight of stairs

And then the steps disappeared. There was only a rod fixed firmly to the monolith with some barbed wire and the hill had become a little more steeper. This was covering 3/5th of the ascent.

Somewhere in between, an old and ruined wall emerged out. This added to the climbing woes which gave us only limited space to place our footsteps and less grip to place our hand. And then, we had to jump across a crack in the monolith to get to the other side was the steep valley. Once we reached the other side, every structure that was man made suddenly disappeared. It was just one super steep hill stretching into the sky. we had to literally use all four limbs to scale this 4/5th of the hill.

Fort Madhugiri
Fort Madhugiri

And finally, there emerged the first glimpse of the Madhugiri fort- gritty, yet seemingly elegant. This was built by Raja Heere Gowda who owed allegiance to the Vijayanagara kings, which was later reinforced by Hyder Ali. It is believed that this fort was a comfortable hideout for many freedom fighters during the Independence struggle. Beehives on the ramparts of the fort were the only means of sustenance for them and that is said to have given the place its name – Madhu(honey)- Giri(hill).

We walked across the structure in its dilapidated form, where the view on the other side was a treat to our eyes and feast for our tired souls. Our joy knew no bounds when we found a puddle of rainwater, which tasted no less than nectar from a beehive.

A puddle of water atop the hills
A puddle of water atop the hills

We spent some time atop and started our descent so that we could reach the base before the scorching sun made his way. The descent was a rather difficult, with me losing my grip every now and then and having nothing to hold onto. I had to sit and slide down inch by inch at most places. And finally, Bang at 12.00. noon, we had reached the base…

Overall, it was an awesome trek and the last one with our friend.

Cheers..!!

P.S.: photo credits to Sam (I’d left my camera in the safe confines of my home)

Re-visiting the Happy Valley – Makalidurga

I had already been there before.. I knew what to expect (Click here to read more) and so had declined repeated requests for my participation in the trip.

Even then, the second visit to Makalidurga happened. I was forcibly dragged out of bed on a cozy Sunday morning. I was supposed to be the guide to the first timers so that they could hike up the hill.

I knew the way to reach Makalidurga- but could not guide them any further to the exact spot from where they could get the photo of the train crossing which they wanted.. Considering it was around 11.00.a.m, the sun had already reached a good position to suck the fluid in us..

Alighting @ the Happy valley : Makalidurga railway station
Alighting @ the Happy valley : Makalidurga railway station

We had left home without breakfast hoping that we could have something on our way and pick up some water bottles.. Hard luck..!! We could find neither!!

The Makalidurga railway crossing
The Makalidurga railway crossing

All of us reached a railway track finally.. And randomly climbed a hillock, climbed further up.. We continued to climb hoping to find some shade to sit and wait till our catch of the day appeared… But again, no luck- no water, no food, no shade. We randomly stopped on a considerably flat area without being able to proceed further under the ruthlessly shining sun and waited for the train..

After about half an hour, the smoke from the engine chimney appeared near the horizon.. We all got excited.. As it neared, the engine emerged from behind a bush, then a bogie.. Before our cameras reached their position, we saw the end of the train 😥 It was a small train with just 1 engine and 4 bogies…

So, we continued our wait.. After a while again we found some smoke at the horizon. So, this time we hoped that our tiring wait would end soon and we could get that perfect internet photo of a blue passenger train passing across the frame… Hard luck once again- It was indeed a super long train with over 55 bogies: But, it was a goods loco and not the one that we had waited for and moreover its colour did not match the background 😥

This meant that we still had to wait. We were restless… We decided to walk further up hoping to find some shade atleast..!! And we did find a small tree (or rather a bush). Something that was better than nothing, we thought. All the five of us squeezed into that small patch of shade and continued to wait….

After a while, we heard the hooting of a train at a distance… This time, we couldn’t see any smoke rising up… The sound became louder and louder but still- there were no signs of the train. But, we knew for sure that the source was somewhere closeby. And suddenly, a Nizamuddin-Yeswantpur bound passenger train came buzzing into our visibility. We all took our cameras out and started clicking… The train was really long and it stretched beyond the 2 ends of the frame. Yet, this was not the photo we wanted. The train was actually in the opposite direction. So, even if the engine is very much in the frame, it appears like it is gone beyond 😥 But, anyway it seemed like we could not hope for anything further because we were all dehydrated.. So, we had to be contended with what we got and return back to pavilion 😦

The Nizammuddin-Yeswantpur passenger
Our prized catch- The Nizammuddin-Yeswantpur passenger

Makalidurga Ghats- Inspiring the Indian Railways

This one was totally unplanned…!!

My family decided to visit the Ghati Subramanya temple on Ganesh Chaturthi day considering that there would be less crowd in a Subramanya temple. A short drive into the Bangalore outskirts, Ghati welcomed us with a mesmerizing view of the hills, ponds scattered in the meadow and a lot of greenery around… The boundary of the meadow was lined by a railway track- It looked beautiful.!!

Some views of the Makalidurga valley

And just as we slowed down to appreciate the view, a freight loco came zipping along the line- and now it looked picture perfect…!! And just as I thought that this scene was familiar- my mind wandered to recollect where I had seen it. Soon I knew the answer: it was the “Makalidurga Ghats” that I had seen in an IRCTC hoarding of the South Western railways at Cantonment station. Back then, I remember that I had gone back home and googled about Makalidurga but had soon forgotten. So, this felt great today!!

We then proceeded to the temple and finished the darshan early (considering less crowd). And we then straight away followed the milestones to Makalidurga. I was back from a railway trek to Dudhsagar just two days ago and here, I was with a view that inspired for another railway trek. We stopped our car close to the railway station and walked 3-4kms along the railway track to reach the bridge that I had seen in the hoarding. But sadly, there was no train that would pass at that time…

Top: The Subramanya temple at Ghati; Below: The naga pratishtapana installations outside the temple

We then explored the place around by foot. One of the hills offered an amazing view of the surrounding villages. There are ruins of an old fort atop the hill which makes it a great place for some exploration. I later learnt that the place is crowded with trekkers on weekends who usually come here for adventure sports and camping. It is a nice place if you are looking for a quick and a random drive just around the city.

We had guest dropping by at home and hence, headed back home early.

The IRCTC photo that I couldnt capture :'(Picture courtesy: IRCTC hoarding at Cantonment station
The IRCTC photo that I couldnt capture 😥
Picture courtesy: IRCTC hoarding at Cantonment station

I visited this place again with friends on a later date. That time, exclusively to do train spotting. Click here to read further.