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. The majority population in the town is the Iyengar Brahmins. Nevertheless, we got a glimpse of the historic idol of Sri Ranganatha sleeping on a serpent. 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 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 even at 10.a.m. Hailing from a place where the holy river originates, it was a pity to watch the river bed laying 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.

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 and 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 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..

Scaling Asia’s second highest monolithic hill – Madhugiri

That’s what we call bidding farewell in style.. You need to send off a dear one on a happy note; with something that he likes doing and something that he will cherish.. So here’s the one for you Sam : A trek – for the group of people that we are- who are always high on tripping.. 🙂

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

After a dinner party at the ‘Only Place’ 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 at around 4.00.a.m. The initial plan was to reach the top before sunrise to have a good view of the sun emerging out of the clouds.. But, the caretaker at the guesthouse advised us to leave after sunrise as bear attacks were reported recently on the hills.. There was hardly anytime left for sunrise and we all sat up in anticipation.

The Madhugiri fort entrance
The Madhugiri fort entrance

After a coffee break at a petty shop in front of the fort entrance, we started the climb by 7.00.a.m.. The start of the trek made me feel it was an easy climb and was contrary to what I had heard of… A well laid flight of concrete stairs took us to about  1/5 th of the hill… Further, the climb was was tricky- the hill seemed a little steep, the concrete stairs were replaced by well etched steps on the rock itself.. We covered 2/5th of our climb.

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 vanished. 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.

Madhugiri Betta- the supporting rods
Madhugiri Betta- the supporting rods

Somewhere in between, some ruined wall emerged out.. this added to the climbing woes which gave us only limited space to place our footsteps and not sufficient grip to place our hand.. And then, we had to jump over a small(quite a big one indeed) crack in the monolith, on the other side was the steep valley.. Once, we had jumped- every structure that was man made 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 gritty Madhugiri fort- 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 bee hive..

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.. It was a rather difficult way back down with me losing my grip very now and then having nothing to hold onto.. I had to sit and slide down inch by inch at many places.. And finally…. Bang at 12.00. noon, we had reached down….  An awesome trek and the last one for this season with Sam…. Wish you all the success in your career and we all look forward for many more trips with you…

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..!!

We decided to visit the Ghati Subramanya temple on Ganesha Chaturthi day considering less crowd in a Subramanya temple… The place is about 13kms from Doddaballapura.

Ghati welcomed us with a mesmerising view of the hills, lakes (or rather puddles of water) scattered in the meadow and a lot of greenery around.. The boundary of the meadow was lined by a railway track- It looked beautiful.!!

A Welcome view to Ghati
A Welcome view to Ghati

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; and soon I knew the answer: it was the “Makalidurga Ghats” I had seen in an IRCTC- South Western railways hoarding at Cantonment station; I had then gone back home and googled about the place, but had soon forgotten…!! So, this is great !!

Temple entrance
Temple entrance
Ghati (3)
Outside the temple complex

We then proceeded to the temple and finished the darshan early(considering less crowd). And we then straight away followed the milestones to Makalidurga… Just back from a railway trek to Dudhsagar 2 days back- and here— an inspiration for another railway trek- We stopped our car close to the railway station and walked 3-4kms along the track to reach the bridge I had seen in the hoarding… But sadly, there was no train that would pass at that time..:(

The railway station as viewed from the bridge
The railway station as viewed from the bridge

We then explored the place around.. One of the hills offers an amazing view of the villages around.. There are ruins of an old fort atop the hill which makes it a great place for some exploration…

The Makalidurga temple
The Makalidurga temple

I later learnt that the place is crowded with trekkers on weekends who usually come here for adventure sports and camping.. Truly… its beautiful.. That too a place soo close to Bengalooru city??

A view from the road
A view from the road

It was afternoon.. and we did not want to take the risk of seeing the moon(Chauthi) on Ganesha festival day.. and so, started back 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

A great destination…. totally unplanned.. totally AWESOME..!!!