I’ve probably written about three or four posts up until now on Hampi! A lot of these contain the historical relevance and the places that one can see and visit as travellers. A lot of times whenever I’ve been to Hampi, I’ve travelled alone and come back to write my experiences and my journey in the historical and archaeological realm of the empire. Some things that I always have cherished and realized about my relationship with this magnificent place was my Kannada roots and of course more recently my understanding of ancestral connections to this place through Late. Shri N.S Rajpurohit, my great grandfather who was part of excavations of the Talikota battlefield, the place where the Vijayanagara empire marked its death.
This time around, during Diwali, with a couple of old friends and a few new ones, we decided to set foot in the Vijayanagara Kingdom… It was quite a bunch of us friends. Some writers, thinkers, some travelers like me, some who were just like me fascinated with Hindu mythology and its symbolical association with historic cultures especially here. So this blog will be more about the journey and some photographs which embellished quite a memory on this entire trip, making it truly special for reminiscing old friendship while building new ones and some very special ones too.
Our first day began when we left Mumbai in a bus to Hospet. We had decided to stay at Hampi Gowri guest house this time around. This is across the Tungabhadra river on the Anjaneya mountain side. From the minute I had started speaking to Mr. Srinivas, my namesake, I had decided to go and stay there. The very helpful and polite manner that he spoke on the phone sounding very helpful and accomodating was something that made me pick this venue in not more than a few minutes of speaking with him. He also offered to pick us up from a destination enroute Hospet, which is towards his side of the town. When we reached there we mostly freshened up and took a walk to the Sanapur Lake, which was nearby and pretty much chilled out. waiting for the day to get over, finish our wonderful home cooked dinner made by Mr. Srinivas’s wife and crash…
Second day began when we set off in our mini van to take the tour of the city. It was very well spent with a guided tour, by me of course visiting the ancient ruins of Hampi and the various places that we ended up taking great pictures and spending some good time talking about their historical and archaeological significance from the standpoint of ancient India. Our day mostly touring and grabbing a quick bite of Chitranna and some mirchi bhaji was very fruitful especially after witnessing the Stone Chariot, our last and the most infamous and quite enchanting monument in this UNESCO World Heritage site. After we returned, thanks to the wonderful arrangement of a camp fire and a barbequeue! A fitting day to a tiring and yet very fun day!
Third day was mostly chilled out. It began with a late rising in the morning and eating our breakfasts, finely cooked Idlis, very tasty and certainly ones that you could gulp down as many as you could and yet feel the craving for more. We had decided to relax a bit since the second day was quite tiring and hectic and probably start slowly to end the day by climbing the famous birthplace of Hanuman, the Anjaneya temple on top of the mountain. We started off by heading to boating point, to cross the river in the famous round small boat of sorts, the coracle or putti as it’s called in Kannada. This was something one of our friends, Rahul wanted to experience and I had to ensure it was done! And quite an experience it was, for me for the second time, but all the more fun especially with good friends around. We also recorded a video, which I’ll upload later! So after which, we visited the Virupaksha temple and returned to the other side to have our lunch and head towards the Laxmi temple and Anjaneya mountain. Climbing the mountain just about the time the sun was setting, was a great experience. Once out there, witnessing entire Hampi, filled with boulders and mountains as if God himself had thrown mountains from the skies was quite overwhelming. Sitting with close friends seeing the sun set, added a perspective to this. On our way back at the foothill of the mountains, we stopped by to drink some coconut water, which I’d say was one of the best out here in the entire trip. We also happened to meet some really down to earth, humble and truly loving family who ran that shop, Govindappa Cold drinks house. Govindappa, his wife and his daughter ran the place. They were very hospitable, friendly, in fact really good people who offered us some bananas also for free. They were decorating the place as the next day was Diwali and we helped them out in some ideas. They really enjoyed it and thanked us as well. It was quite fun hanging out there as it gave us another perspective of how life is. How people like them still exist and how life is more than the materialistic living that most of us pursue out in big cities like Mumbai… Such was the ending to our 3rd day at Hampi. Surreal but true.
With all this amazing experience over a period of 3 days of staying in Hampi, gave us a lot of time as well. A lot of time to talk amongst each other and get to know each other more. A time to share stories of their own, anecdotes from their lives or the books that they read, was certainly an experience that we all enjoyed thoroughly. Some special moments, some fun, a lot of PJs being cracked, and some profound wisdom and knowledge shared amongst all of us friends. It was something that made the trip even more memorable. It gave us time to introspect on our own life and share some of those with each other to learn something remarkable about each other. Our final day was going to be the one where we explored some of the Anjaneya side of Hampi. We decided to rent mopeds, from Mr. Srinivas. They were reasonably priced as well! We set forth towards Anegundi, the old capital of Hampi. On our way back we stopped by at a place nearby the road. There were open fields staring across the horizon for acres and acres of land. Deepika my friend, had suggested that we go walk in the fields. Quite a good idea, I wondered to myself and decided to stop by. We asked a guy who was sitting near the field, he said it wasn’t his, but he told us to go ahead and take a look and that no one would mind. He had a smile on his face and was very happy that we wanted to explore these beautiful fields within his lands. And so we went, played around with the crops in the field, took some good DP worthy pics and went back on our bikes to go towards the other side of the river to explore the Monolithic bull area and probably do some last minute shopping. While the last minute shopping didn’t happen, we had quite a time in yeilding our mopeds on to a motorboat and taking it to and fro. But we managed to catch some really stumptous meal at Geeta River View…
With heavy hearts we bid goodbye to the Kingdom of Vijayanagara as the first day of Diwali came to an end with the brigh orange sun which we could see on our drive back to Hospet. It was an end to this trip, but a beginning of an alliance of a group that is going for some more travels of this sort and of course raring to come back to this beautiful ruins of Hampi…
Thanks to Mr. Srinivas for his hospitality and kindness. His wife for the awesome food, and to Harsha his son who served us and helped us out very diligently. I’d reccomend this place as a must stay and next time I’m down there, it’s going to be the place to stay
Contact details: www.hampigowri.com
This was from my revisit to the beautiful place, my birthplace Bijapur. As a kid I remember going there a lot of times during my vacations and staying From vacations to some functions most of the times there was always someone or the other who was new to the place and that is when we used to always take tours to the city and it was always fun to go to the same places again and again for they were so wonderful! I was particularly fond of the Gol Gumbaz. Recently I got the opportunity to go to the place that I was born in and that’s when I took a tour again… Some pictures from that trip.
Answer by Srinivas Kulkarni:
I’m in love with this city and this is going to be my pilgrimage destination forever! I have a love for it’s ancient archaeological structures and it’s association with the mythological references of Ramayana. That apart, there is this beautiful aura about the place that mesmerizes you to the core. That is why I make it a point that I visit this place every year. Also, my great grandfather from my mother’s side was a great Late Shri. N.S Rajpurohit, was a famous historian who has a lot to do with the excavations of certain parts which marked significance to Hampi / the Kingdom of Vijayanagara.
Hampi is called Hampi cause of the river Pampa now the Tungabhadra. Pampa was an ancient name for Hampi. According to legends, Pampa the daughter of Bramha did penance to please Lord Shiva. Impressed with her devotion Shiva married her and took the name Pampapati. On the banks of the river (Tungabhadra) there are numerous shrines of Shiva being worshipped.
History of Hampi
History of Hampi dates back to the chalcolithic and the Neolithic era… Could be proven from the ceramic and handmade pottery found from those ages. Also from the 2nd and the 3rd century there are rock edicts of the asokan empire found here…
Rulers of Hampi
Pre-Vijayanagara era it was ruled by many rulers primarily Chalukyas of Badami, Hoysalas, Yadavas and others. But the main founders of this empire are primarily two kings Harihara and Bukka raya. Also known as Hakka and Bukka who were disciples of Swami Vidyaranya…
Around the 14th century when Mughals made inroads to South India, they captured most part of Hampi and the Kampili chiefs Hakka and Bukka were prisoners… But soon they overthrew the Mughal empire after they were assigned to govern under Mughal Sultanates and retook Hampi… They then gave the name Vijayanagara (Land of Victory) also dedicated to Swami Vidyaranya so it’s also referred to as Vidyanagara.
That was mostly during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya under whose rule this empire saw its peak! He was abig fan of architecture and also was open to various styles of architecture Indian and Islamic… He also was a good ruler and had diplomatic relationship with the Spanish across the east coast and hence Hampi was quite open to trade with Europeans and usually gems and stones were traded for cotton and spices which were abundantly available here.
However after his death and during the reign of Ramraya Hampi faced a gruesome destruction. His son in law Ramraya was captured and killed during the battle of Rakkasatangdi after which the empire was left undefended when the Mughals ransacked this place, destroyed many buildings and later it was left abandoned for a long while for it to become a jungle and ruins remained. It was later on because of the curiosity of many western archaeologists and authors to great books namely Robert Sewell and A.H Longhurst that this place gained significant interest across the world. UNESCO’s World Heritage Site was conferred to Hampi in 1986.
Mythological Association of Hampi
There’s also a mythological association with Hampi. Locals and folklore has it that this area was the mythical Kishkinda Vanara kingdom from the Ramayana and this is where Rama and Lakshmana stayed before they headed off to Lanka in search of Sita. There are a couple of mountains and places which are believed to be the places where Sugreeva, Vali, Hanuman and Ram stayed back then…
Hazara Rama Temple
Which brings me to the Hazara Rama Temple. Hazara Rama… 1000 Rama? Cause of the 1000 inscriptions / sculptures of Rama on the walls of the temple? Well no… actually Hazara Rama comes from the word Hazarumu which in telegu means Entrance Hall This place has one of the most beautiful and intricate carvings lot of them describing what happened back in Ramayana and some of them depicting various Vishnu avatar. It was also a private temple of the royal family.
Stone Chariot in The Vittala Temple
The stone chariot is one of the most amazing structures in Hampi… If you get around clicking photographs of this monument, you wouldn’t just stop… its so beautiful. It’s made of big granite blocks and even though we may think it’s a monolithic structure it actually isn’t. The big granite blocks get covered cause of the intricate carvings on the chariot.
Musical Pillars of Hampi
Another very interesting thing in the vittala temple are the musical pillars in the photo shown above… Check out this video… to see what I mean
Well now if you go there this may not be possible as it has been restricted as there were incidents of damage to the structure in the past.
Just outside the vittala temple, you’ll find the Kings Balance… I belive this custom still exists and it existed back then of course. The kings were kept in the balance which was put on this structure. Weighed against gold and jewellery which was then given away to the priests and the needy.
Lotus Mahal Complex
The lotus mahal and the elephant stables are one of the most intact pieces of architecture in Hampi… This temple was in a Zenana enclosure was believed to be a recreational area for the women folks of the royal family. There are hooks to tie up curtains and you’ll also find these terracotta pipes which are on the ceiling of this structure. They were filled with water from the well besides it and they acted as ventiatory ducts which provided cooling due to the breeze. Ancient air conditioning so to speak. The elephant stables are symmetrical set of stables with central one them being the biggest. These are unlike any other pieces of architecture as they are a mixture of Indo Islamic architecture.
Octagonal public baths are something you’ll find. These are probably one of the oldest bathing structures which are still properly maintained… They weren’t just made out there. The stepped stones were assembled block by block after being made somewhere else. Very beautiful sight to your eyes.
Underground Shiva Temple
The underground shiva temple is in shambles… The most you can do is go and visit it from the outside. It’s completely dilapatated inside a cave filled with stench and loads of black water. There were a 1000 lingas inside, but since I’vent gone I wouldn’t know… After a point it becomes very eerie. The queens bath is a small structure, much like a swimming pool of the ancient times… or a humongous jacquzi if I may say…
This is the first ruined structure you would see when you enter into the Royal center from the Kamalapura (hampi.in)-Hampi main road. For some mysterious reasons this was called as the queen’s bath. But in all probability this was a royal pleasure complex for the king and his wives. It’s a bit an assuming plane rectangular building from out side. But when you get inside, the story is different.The whole building is made with a veranda around facing a big open pond at the middle. Projecting into the pond are many balconies. An aqueduct terminates in the pond.The balconies are decorated with tiny windows and supported by lotus bud tipped brackets. The whole pool is open to the sky. This brick lined pool is now empty. But it’s believed once fragrant flowers and perfumed water filled this bathing pool. At one end of the veranda you can see a flight of steps giving access to the pool. The domical roof of veranda is a spectacle itself.
The Krishna Temple
The Krishna temple is one temple that was commissioned by Krishnadeva Raya and the architecture is significantly his. Interesting and very beautifu carvings such as that of the Mythical lion called the Yallis and the beautiful Gopis can be found here…You can also see carvings of 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and as soon as you enter the temple you’ll find a tortoise there… Like in temples of Halebeid and Belur.
Lakshmi Narsimha Statue
The Lakshmi Narsimha statue is probably one of the most damaged yet magnificient and huge creations. It’s the largest statue of Hampi. Narsimha is seen sitting on a coil of giant seven headed Snake. Shesa. It originally had Goddess Lakshmi sitting in his lap. However when the mughals raided Hampi they hugely damaged it thinking there would be gold and jewellery hidden inside the statue.
Badava Linga Temple
Right next to it is badava linga temple. A monolithic Shiva Linga believed to be carved by a poor woman (badava) in order to praise shiva
Sasvekalu Ganesha & Kadalekalu Ganesha
The Ganeshas of Hampi are well revered. Sasvekalu and Kadalekalu Ganesha. They are named because of the resemblance of their tummies to Mustard Seed and Bengal gram respectively. There’s a story behind the Sasivekalu ganesha. Once Ganpati was very hungry and he ate so much that his tummy burst.. He immediately found a snake nearby and tied it across his tummy and that is what is depicted in the sculpture. Both are monolithic statues.
At he foothills of the great Matanga parvat / Matanga hill near the Hampi bazaar you’ll find this Monolithic bull, much similar to the one in a temple in Halebeidu. You trek for an hour or so you get on top of the Matanga hill from which you can get the most spectacular view of the city and it’s beautiful just before Sunset! A must visit.
Coracle Ride to Other side of the River
One of the best experiences is a ride in the coracle / boat to the Anjaneya hills The place revered to be the birth place of Hanumana. There’s also a cave where Sugreeva hid before he fought Vali to get him killed.
Last but not least the most famous Virupaksha temple of Hampi which also is the only functioning temple in Hampi since the 14th Century which also makes it the only functioning temple in India. Among all temples this is the only one which the Mughals never attacked. Why? Cause of the insignia or the emblem of a pig on the door of the temple. During the Hampi Festival, this is quite the place to go, in fact during Diwali as well this place has a lot of festivities and is totally decorated. One thing to look out for is the Local Elephant inside the temple… He’s always there been there for many years now…
This is my Photo Essay featured on India Untravelled
I visited this land of the lost… a couple of years ago. That time, it was at the onset of my journey as a travel writer. After two years and many a miles covered on the road, I decided to revisit these ruins to enchant myself, only this time I decided to stay in here longer than I did the last time around. While it was a weekend trip and the entire place could be covered in a couple of days, it isn’t much fun if you don’t let the atmosphere and the beauty of these ruins sink in to you. Doesn’t really make a lot of point if you don’t enjoy the beauty of the Tungabhadra river, maybe take a dip or two in it… Doesn’t really give you peace of mind, unless you perch atop the Matanga hill, the very same hill where Sugreev lived… Besides discovering and rediscovering a lot of things from last time, I felt truly close to the place, especially since I took a good 3 to 4 days of time to explore the village and it’s ruins, while at the same time and here’s what I had to discover.
A little about Hampi
Hampi is situated within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Before the city of Vijayanagara, it still is an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple, as well as several other monuments from the old city. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi. As rustic as it may look, this city is beautifully known for its ruins and a grand heritage of ancient archives of a lot of archaeological madness that can only be found out here. You will but obvious enjoy every site without having to worry about what you know or do not, for such is the aura of this enchanting place that it’ll consume every bit of you and make you feel different in an aspect of life. Be it taking a dip in the Tungabhadra river, which I did almost everyday, or be it taking a walk around the village and just meeting people who like you are fascinated by the beauty of this place. Or for that matter, hanging out near the outskirts of the city or taking a cycle down to the ruins of various parts within and outside the town… Every moment has its own variety and charm to it. From the various historic sculptures, the monolithic bull, the Narsimha statue carved out of one stone, the Shiva Linga underground caves or be it the queen’s public bath, the pushkarni… Every monument and every rock in this town has its own story, a story that can’t be depicted without its own style and eternally discoursing philosophy…
Though I visited this place with a lot of interest and I’ll make it a point to visit it every year, I feel that no matter how many times you see this place, you won’t be able to forget or not want to be back here again. Not just for the experience of being in a place where supposedly legends from the Ramayana were written or if this place was part of a historic, mythical and legendary city of the vanar sena (Kingdom of apes) where the great lords Wali and Sugreev, fought their battles and lived among fellow subjects, but for the fact that the heritage that it brings to our culture and India something to be proud of. A place that is etched in history for its most fascinating legends that stood the test of time and the rocks that lived on to withstand the future…
The Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple
The Stone Chariot at the Vijaya Vittala temple has to be one of everyone’s favorites, certainly is mine. The beautiful construct is a wonder of architecture in itself. in the Vittala Temple Complex is a shrine built in the form of temple chariot. An image of Garuda was originally enshrined within its sanctum. Garuda, according to the Hindu mythology, is the vehicle of lord Vishnu. It is also a symbol of Karnataka Tourism. This time when I went I saw floodlights have been installed in the temple complex that provide illumination at dusk, thereby adding to the scenic beauty of the architecture.
Ugra Narsimha Statue carved out of a single rock
Narasimha in his deadly form, this one is a huge Ugra Narasimha, statue of 6.7 meter height in the south region of the temple complex of Hemkuta group which contains the Virupaksha Temple. Narasimha, being half-man and half-lion, is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This gigantic statue is worth seeing. One of the most enchanting things about this statue is that it’s carved out of one rock… Hence it’s part of my top favorites in Hampi.
The Musical Pillars
Now this is certainly fascinating, if not in today’s day and age, certainly in the times of the Vijayanagra Empire… This unique architecture is a fascinating modern art haven and scientifically very interesting to explore. The musical pillars produce a different sound when tapped at the top side, middle (like a bell) and the bottom side of the pillar. If you tap all pillars at same time, they produce a beautiful melodies of musical note.
The Monolithic Bull of Hampi
This structure as you walk across the Hampi Bazaar and the police station in the town, you’ll notice, that the more closer you get to it, the more magnificent it gets and when you reach the place where this bull is situated, it’ll make you realize how much grace this statue has within its enchanting eyes. Locally known as Yeduru Basavanna or Nandi, this monolithic bull marks the east end of the Virupaksha Bazaar. The statue is housed in a twin storied pavilion built on an elevated platform. A heap of gigantic boulders behind the pavilion offers an interesting backdrop. Though partially mutilated and carved in a coarse style, this Nandi attracts visitor owing to its giant size.
Hampi by Sunset at Matanga Hill
This had to be one of the most beautiful sites for me in those 4 days… I always wondered how the town would look at dusk, more than dawn, the fascination of the ruins around dusk brought an aura a golden enchantment to the fact that these ruins now, mean a lot more than just the beauty and the complex stories and architecture that they brought along with it. It stood for a significant lot of history, a history which cannot be told in this blog alone, a history that one has to go through after reading the UNESCO guidebook of Hampi… But all that apart, just the mere sight of the town across the Matanga hill and the beauty of the sunset engulfing this settlement took my breath away. It was as if, it gave me the reason for its mystic nature and truth to the unexplored was brought out, out from the best of all of us… One must explore Hampi to finally realize what it’s true beauty is all about.
The Humongous Elephant Stables
This is another really interesting piece of architecture that you would really enjoy… And as usual, feel really insignificant, when you look at the housing for a really huge elephant back in the day. Although, built by the islamic architects in the later part of Hampi’s era, this building is very significant from the way its combined it’s architecture and the whole ensemble fits into the current scheme of things when you look at the ruins. More importantly, it is one among the few least destroyed structures in Hampi and is a major tourist attraction. This long building with a row of domed chambers was used to ‘park’ the royal elephants.
The Air Conditioned Lotus Mahal
Now, this caught my eye, very much, especially because of the interesting architecture and for a reason that it was very cool. I took a look around and decided to investigate why in the scorching heat is this structure cooler from the inside. To my amazement, and of course to a fascination of one kind, I was told by the guide who was around that this was one of the places in the ancient times where queens used to rest and relax, in fact, it had a built in air conditioning system. The structure had in-built terracota pipes and there was a well beside this temple. Water was filled into those pipes and fans were used to circulate the cool air within the palace with drapes around on its gates.
Hazara Rama Temple (A thousand Ramas)
One of the most enchanting thing about this temple is its beautiful wall carvings and enchanting structure, even though it’s ruined…The reason it’s called the ‘Hazara Rama’ temple is cause of the fact that the carvings depict comic strips of Hindu mythology, Ramayana in long arrays, on to the walls of this temple. Probably this is the only temple in the capital with its external walls decorated and the temple got its name Hazara Rama (a thousand Rama) Temple because of these Ramayana panels on its walls.
Off the banks of Tungabhadra River
Now, one of the things I didn’t hesitate to do this time around, in fact I could thank my hotel owner for this, for he recommended me to cool off by taking a bath in the Tungabhadra river. And believe you me, it was quite a fascinating experience. Be free of yourself, enchanting place that it is, give yourself to the beauty of the river that is part of a lot of places in Karnataka, this was just the experience I wanted to make this trip the most indulging in its own sense. Now the small boats you see are of local fishermen and boatmen, they give you a ride across the river for some 200 bucks to take you to the Anjaneya mountain, one where Lord Hanuman was believed to have lived during the times of Ramayana.
This structure, as the name indicates, is a gigantic bathing area made in the shape of an Octagon. The bath shelter is designed with an octagonal shaped platform at the middle and an encircling pillared veranda around it. The circular section between the veranda and the platform is the water (now empty) area. To the west of it you can spot the ruined bases of numerous palaces.
This particular monument and structure would be seen by you as soon as you enter Hampi, that is if you are coming via Hospet by a bus. This statue has a Lord Ganesha with a snake tied around its tummy, there’s an interesting story behind it too… In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha is known for his eating habits. Once he ate so much food that his tummy almost burst. He immediately caught a snake and tied it around his tummy as a belt to save his tummy from bursting.
This one is also right around the corner as soon as you enter Hampi… This giant statue of Ganesha was carved out of a huge boulder at the northeastern slope of the Hemakuta hill. The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name.
Last but not least, this one certainly deserves a mention in my photo essay as it was quite a place to be… On the last day when i was about to leave back to Mumbai, I decided to just sit in the shady complex of this temple, and read a book, The Book of Ram, by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik. While the experience in itself was great, thanks to the great book, the whole ambiance meant a lot more… The nice cool shade within the complex with the fresh smell of stone and breathing the air of this mystic town was also an added experience. Virupaksha Temple is also known as the Pampapathi temple, it is a Shiva temple in the Hampi Bazaar. It predates the founding of the Vijayanagar empire. The temple has a 160-foot (49 m) high tower at its entrance. Apart from Shiva, the temple complex also contains shrines of the Hindu goddesses Bhuvaneshwari and Pampa. It also is very significant during the Hampi festival, where a chariot is taken into procession and stands right outside the temple on other days. Hampi all in all means a lot to those who are interested in archaeology, mythology, photography and of course travel. But more importantly, for the spectacle of array of beautiful art that it stands for, a culture that it had back in the day and something that we as Indians should still cherish and be happy that we are part of this wonder.
Do let me know what you think about this beautiful place and if you have ever been here?
“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” With these thoughts, I set off on an adventure of a lifetime. A voyage to the mysterious beauties that unravel the most amazing parts of my country. A travelogue to capture the ‘Incredible India’ down South.
My visit to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala had begun. I had heard from my friends, people didn’t speak anything else but their local languages out there. That made me equally foreign to these lands as anyone else who came from any other country. To me, this was a challenge, and a trip that would be monumental after I had completed it. With solitude on my side I had decided to explore over 17 superb locations in 15 days. Most importantly, I was going to discover the beautiful culture South India had to offer and document each and every location as a journal on my blog. With a Vernian, inspiration l had to ensure this journey went down in my books as the best one!
It all started with Chennai. From my helpful twitter friends to the conductors and everyone else warmly responding to my requests, helping me out wherever I went in little or broken English they spoke in. Yet always willfully extending their support without any intent but to help me out. With a sultry atmosphere, one I hadn’t anticipated, I started my journey by heading off to the Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore resemblance to the weather that I was used to during the summers in Mumbai. But, in winter, this humidity came to me as a surprise particularly when it was about 20-22 degrees centigrade back home… Nonetheless my objective was to start off with a beautiful array of sunrise shots to tell a story of this marvel in Chennai! The experience of going to Marina beach, travelling amongst the locals in the train was something I could relate to. Very similar to our Mumbai Locals… Gave me content in the fact that our cities, despite the cultural difference, had a lot in common.
Rest of Tamil Nadu was a quest for my spiritual journey across the fortresses and temples of the most majestic kinds in the country! From a mysterious yet wonderful experience in Kancheepuram, to satisfying and peaceful tryst with Lord Shiva in Thrichy, every temple had a story of its own. The most appealing temple was of course Thanjavur, unique in its own way and its rustic feel gave a nice ambience to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm in its own. Ruled by various dynasties from the Cholas to the Nayakas and the Marathas, it gave a completely versatile feel to itself. The grandeur it had was read between the brightness it shone despite the sun setting down upon its face. Abode to one of the biggest Nandi Statues, the Brihadeeswara Temple was an enchanting destination.
Then there was Rameshwaram. The same island where existed the famous temple of Lord Rama, the mighty king from Ramayana. This was the same location where an army of millions of apes (vanar-sena) built a bridge made out of floating stones engraved with Lord Rama’s name itself. This bridge built to take the army across the borders of India to the Golden empire of Lanka and wage an epic battle of great proportions upon the demons of this kingdom.
Something you can’t forget in Hindu mythology. A battle that spoke to us of the triumph of good over evil! A battle that till today is considered as a conquest of moral right over plain wrong. It was quite an experience, one that I would never forget.
While Tamil Nadu has its own share of spirituality I also enjoyed the beauty, nature and wildlife at the most amazing waterfalls ever… I sat in a small canoe or sort of a paddle boat to take the streams of Hogennakalu Waterfalls. A noteworthy place with perennially flowing streams of waterfalls. Off the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, one can easily reach this place from Salem by bus and literally take a boat towards the Karnataka border on the disputed Cauvery river. With an aquarium and a crocodile rehabilitation center to its attraction, this place certainly is thronged by children, youngsters and elders alike.
Finally Tamil Nadu ended with a short visit to the mystical land of Kanyakumari, popularly known for Triveni Sangam, meeting point of the three oceans that surround the peninsular region of our Incredible India. One that envisages the true feeling of being in touch with the spiritual side of yourself. Known for The Swami Vivekananda memorial rock . A place where the great leader attained enlightenment of sort and found bliss within himself. Visiting the most beautiful temples in our country to being overwhelmed by a sense of spirituality my journey across the state of Tamil Nadu truly gave me an understanding of oneness to myself.
Tamil Nadu certainly took a lot of my time and energy due to constant traveling in state transport buses in this rugged sojourn of mine. Whereas, my stay in Pondicherry was one of great relaxation and unwind. A visit that made me realize how time stood still and made me feel like a recluse of sorts in a land of the unknown.
Highlight of Pondicherry was tasting delicious food of various cultures dished out at the most amazing restaurants in town. From Chettinad food at the Apache Restaurant to french delicacies at the Le Café, Pondicherry was all about living life with the luxury similar to the tastes of most of the Europeans around. Spending three magical days exploring various parts of Pondicherry on a rented motorbike, places like the French Colony, the museum, Auroville and a lot of shopping streets across various parts of the town gave me the feeling of belongingness to that place. Sipping beer at the beach restaurant at night, listening to the roaring waves in a calm that gave most frenzied thoughts a form of tranquil made me realize what we miss in our caught-in-a-rut kind of a life.
Lastly, being in Kerala, God’s own country was like being in heaven itself. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kerala got me close to nature and made me believe in what their lifestyle stood for… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… The melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling of standstill, told me a lot about how people loved and lived life in this paradise.
One of the most memorable trips within Kerala would be my infamous boat ride from Kottayam to Alaphuzza. It’s listed as one of the recommended things to do by Lonely Planet Magazine. From the start it was memorable especially after gorging on the sumptuous Malabari Parota with Kadala Curry.
What a way to start off a journey across the Venice of Kerala. Going to Venice has always been my dream… Until I get there, I have to make do with this one! A notable thing we did on our way back was to stop by at the very famous RBLOCK Island. We ate some good food and had local coconut palm beer, also known as Toddy… This Island was manmade by over 5000 villagers led by Mr. Baker. This was done in order to get more land to cultivate Paddy… A fantastic place for you to take a pitstop and eat some delicious food.
Lastly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than finishing my trip with a visit to Fort Kochi, a place that will be etched in my memories for its diversity and remarkable beauty, especially with its blend of cultures and religions. The Jew Street and the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue… gave me a mesmerizing feel of being in a place of some rarity. You will find a very different setting out here and experience a different feeling while walking on this street. The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Then there are the Chinese Fishing Nets, with magnificent fixed installations for an unusual form of fishing makes for great photographs.
The end of my expedition. Travelling around, wandering like a nomad for 15 days. A feeling of bittersweet, told me that my journey was over, just like the setting sun when I left Fort Kochi. Indeed at the end of that 15th day I felt like Phileas Fogg, whose surmounting adventure had successfully come to a fulfilling end. One that I will cherish forever until I come back to soak it in yet again…
P.S This is my writing sample to Glimpse‘s ’Correspondent Program for Fall 2011‘, Also the shortened version of it is my submission to WorldNomads , Travel Writing Scholarship for 2011 which can be read here
© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved
These have been places that were on my itinerary from the time I’d been researching on Ancient Indian Technology, for my BarCampMumbai talk. Certainly fascinating, this & Hampi… Hampi was last on the agenda, but this place equally fascinating, for it’s wonderful and truly magnificient architecture that it shares with us from the ancient times of the 11th Century… Remarkable in it’s own stature, this has to be a place that is not so pompous and done to death by a lot of tourists, at the same time the places have a significant relevance in Karnataka tourism. Many tourism buses take tours and get people from all over the world to visit this fascinating place of art, history and significant culture. Why has it been so fascinating? Well, this relatively long but enchanting blog post that I’d like to write now, will probably tell you all about it.
Beautiful Belur, the quaint little town set elegantly on the banks of river Yagachi, amidst lush surroundings was earlier known as Velapuri. It was chosen as the capital of the Hoysalas, after the ascking and destruction of their capital at Dwarasamudra (Halebeedu) by delhi Sultans. The Hoysalas ruled the reigon between 44th and 13th Centuries. They were great patrons of art and architecture and built a number of magnificient shrines during their 300 years reign. The temples and monuments at Belur are amazing with their sculptures and architecture. Belur was revered for its magnificent shrines and came to be known as Modern Vaikuntha. Heaven on earth.
The Hoysala temples are characterised by Typical star shaped ground plan and are usually set on a platform. They are compact structures. Ornately careved shrines indicate the musica and dance were highly regarded by the Hoysalas and used to express religious fervor. The temples of Belur are carved out of soap stone.
Hoysala dynasty is believed to be named after the words ‘hoy Sala’ meaning ‘Strike Sala’, which were called out to Sala, the legendary head of this dynasty. When he was combating a tiger single handedly. Sala killed the tiger and this act of bravery was immortalised in the royal emblem of the dynasty. The Hoysalas ruled the Deccan and parts of Tamil Nadu between the 11th and 13th centuries. They had their origins in the hill tribes of the Western Ghats converted to Jainism in 10th century.
How To Reach:
By Rail: Hassan around 37 kms. And then take a local bus.
By Bus : It’s easy to take a bus to Hassan from Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore. From there take a local bus.
Chenna Keshava Temple:
The magnificent shrine dedicated to Lord Vijayanarayana, one of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu was built to commemorate the Victory of Hoysalas over Cholas in the great battle of Talakkad. Some believe that it was constructed when Vishnyvardhana adopted Vaishnavism under the influence of the great guru Sri Ramanujacharya.
The construction of the temple commenced in 1116 A.D. at the instance of King Vishnuvardhana, his son and later on his grandson actually completed the construction of the temple. As per historical records, around 103 years to complete this beautifully sculpted temple complex. It is definitely the masterpiece in Hoysala Architecture.
This is another important shrine in the temple complex, it is towards the south west of Keshava temple and is adorned with an elegant Viman a, said to be resembling the vimana atop the Keshava temple, which was dismantled in 1879
Godess Andal Shrine
The sacred shrine in the temple complex is associated with poet saint Alwar. Its outer walls are also decoreated with rows of large image. Other smaller shrines in the complex are of Ramanujacharya, Krishna, Narsimha, Anjaneya, Ramchandra.
This unique 42 feet high pillar carved out of a single rock and stands on its own weight. The paved compound of the temple complex has a pavilion near the bathing tank. Sculptures of Vishnuvardhan and Krishnaraja Wodeyar can be seen here. Other statues of note are Garudagambha and Garuda, the celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu.
Halebid, the ancient acpital of Hoysala’s was founded in the early 11th century and was known as Dwarasamudra, after a huge artificial lake of the same name, dating back to the 19th century. The flourishing capital city had a small fortress with a magnificent palace. It was fortified with the lake of Enormous boulders and a moat that was connected with the lake. Halebid attained glorious height during the reign of Ballala – II. the grandson of Vishnuvardhan. The Hoysala Empire extended from river Kaveri in the west to Krishna in the east and was enriched by the fertile deltas of the rivers. It’s prosperity attracted the forces of Delhi Sultanate, who invaded and annexed the town in 1311. Malik Kafur, is said to have taken away camel-loads of jewellery, gold and silver from here. In 1326, it was again attacked by Mohammad bin Tughlak.
After repeated attacks and the killing of king Ballala II, in the battle against the Sultan of Madura in 1342, the Hoysala were forced to relinquish their beautiful capital. The town was then nostalgically referred to as ‘Halebeid’ or old capital. It was never reoccupied again and the Hoysalas shifted capital to Belur. The Hoysala built over 150 exquisite temples in southern Karnataka, but the temples here are considered to be the most outstanding. The most important temple is Hoysalesvara and Kedareshvara, which are considered to be masterpieces of traditional Indian art forms. The figure carving at these temples are larger than any other temples nearby.
Karnataka and it’s beauty… always is amazing. I love every bit of it. This was another huge sculpture / statue that I had in mind and wanted to visit this for a long time… From Bangalore, I took a bus to Hassan. There are direct buses to Charannayapatna from Majestic bus stop in Bangalore, but very few and the one at 8:00 AM had already left. From Charannayapatna, there are local buses which take 15 bucks to Shravanbelagola. Nonetheless, I decided to go to Hassan. It takes about 4 hours to reach Hassan and from there you get a lot of buses to Charannayapatna, Haleibedu, & Belur as well.
Once I reached Shravanbelagola, I decided to check in to a local restaurant at the foothills of the Gomateshwara statue… Really dirt cheap room for Rs. 200 bucks a night. Awesome!!! I had enough time to climb the top of the hill and hang out till sunset to experience the beauty of Shravanbelagola & Gomateshwara!
Then began my exploration of Sravanabelegola & the beautiful statues and here’s what it had to say:
Shravanbelagola is a well known place of pilgrimage which gets tourists from all the world. People from allover the country visit this place. The world famous image of Gommateshwara is here. ZVery ancient and beautiful Jaina temples are here. This is a sacred place especially for Jains. Also very famoys is the occasion of ”Mahamastakabhisheka” (great head ablution ceremony), it’s every twelve years.
The first thing which meets our eyes as we enter Shravanbelagola is a big lake. Beautiful steps have been constructed around it. A fort and also “Kala Mantapas” surround it. This lake is called ‘Sveta Sarovara’ or white lake. It’s Kannada equivalent is ‘Biliya Kola’ or Belagola’. the place connected with Shravana or Jain ascetics. Hence the name Shravana – Belagola.
We see the beautiful and artistic statue of Sri Gommateshwara Swamy on the summit of Indragiri. Gommateshwara is also called Bahubali.
According to Jainism theology, there was a period in the world when happiness and peace reign supreme. Truth and dharma flourished during that period. It was called Utsarpini. There was another time when justice, truth and goodness decline everywhere. This period is termed Avasarpini. During this time of deterioration, twenty four Thirthankaras (realized souls) incarnate this world and guide people in the right path, by teaching them canons of truth and dharma.
Among the twenty four Thirthankaras, the first one is Purudeva. He is also known as Vrishabhadeva or Adinatha. Vrishabhadeva had two wives. The elder queen was Yashaswathi who gave birth to Bharatha and other hundered suns and a daughter by name Bramha. The younger queen
Sunanda gave birth to a son by name Bahubali and a daughter by name Saundari.
Vrishabha ruled over his Kingdom with pomp and pleasures for many years. After a while he renounced the world. While he did so, he made his elder son Bharata the King. Bahubali was crowned as the Yuvaraja (Heir apparent). Bharata conquered the whole world and in his conquest of the world he also waged war against his brother as he was told by the priests that there were enemies within the city and they were not submissive to Bharata. They were none other than his brothers. All of his brothers were disgusted by Bharatha, and renounced their kingdom to join their father, except Bahubali. He came to fight Bharatha.
Battke was about to take place between the armies of Bharatha and Bahubali. At that moment the ministers fearing that both armies would suffer heavy losses in the battle suggested that only the two Bharatha and Bahubali – might fight other. The winner would be the emperor.
The last battle was to be fought by hitting heads with fists. Bharat had the first shot, because he was older than Bahubali, which knocked Bahubali nearly to the ground. Then, it was Bahubali’s turn. Bahubali’s name means ‘Bahu’ – Arm, and ‘Bali’ – Strength, he was known for the immense strength of his arm. Everybody knew and worried, that if Bahubali’s blows struck Bharat, Bharat would probably die. This contest could have been easily won by Bahubali striking Bharat. But as Bahubali raised his arm to land a blow, he paused, realizing that fighting his elder brother for land, wealth, and power was neither sane nor righteous. Indeed, it would have been a grievous moral failure for a son of a Tirthankara.
As a rule for a Kshatriya, once he has taken action, it is not possible for him to withdraw or retreat. So, instead of landing a blow on his older brother with his raised arm, he simply changed direction, pulling out his own hair with the same hand, thus avoiding striking Bharat. With this, he put aside all of his possessions, and became a solitary renunciant. Learning from this example, Bharat came to understand the folly of his greed for land, money, and power forgiving his younger brother. Bharat continued to ruled for some time, until eventually joining Lord Rishabdev as a solitary renunciant.
The fight with his brother troubled Bahubali, so after much contemplation, he decided to give up his kingdom and take up the ascetic life. He took to meditation with a thirst for truth, but – it was for ego that he took to meditation on his own.
So before you entere the place there is an amazing architectural fascination called Tyagada Khamba…
Tyaga Kamba at the entrance of Gomateshwara. Erected by the minister Chavundarya in the 10th century. Its believed that this is the place he distributed gifts to the needy. Some theories also believe he choose this place to renounce all material things including his life. It’s a pillar that seemingly is hanging from the center. A handkerchief can easily be passed from one side to the other under this hanging pillar. This spot was being used by the people for giving away things as gifts. Hence it’s called by the name Pillar of Sacrifice or Tyagadha Khamba. (Tyaga – Sacrifice)
Overall this is a place where you will feel totally amazed, amazed by the serenity and peace that it has to offer. The magnificence and silence at which the Bahubali statue stands… You’ll feel really amazed by the amazing carved black stone statues of 24th Thirthankaras inside. After visiting the temple I decided to explore the cliff at the back of the temple… The sun was about to set and what better place than to sit at the edge of the cliff and ponder into the horizon, reflect upon life thoughts and beauty of everything around me… Just don’t need anything else in the world… than this beautiful memory.
So I leave you guys with this amazing snap of the entire town that could be seen. A view from the edge of the cliff… The view of the city and the sound of the town in the backdrop. Cattle making noise, birds chirping, kids playing, autos. Still very Peaceful… Serenity at it’s best…
Not so recently, I flew to Goa and back for a short weekend trip. A short one albeit, was quite a lot of fun. One of the many times when I’ve been to Goa, I’ve usually taken the train or the driven down… This time as time was short, we had to fly in and out… my cousin and I. More often than none, trips to Goa are down south. South Goa is the most beautiful place of all the places in Goa according to me and that is where I usually chill out at.
One of my favorite beaches have to be Palolem of course. The deep serenity, the beautiful clean waters, the misty nights and of course the most amazing part of this beach is the sunset point. Besides enjoying the chill atmosphere that Goa has to offer, south Goa and especially Palolem, has to be one of the most cleanest, and quite serene of all the beaches. While it does take time for you to adjust to the utmost calm and the peaceful nature this beach has to offer, it sinks in quite fast after you have acclimatized yourself. One of the most interesting places in Palolem has to be it’s beach lounge bar, Cocktails and Dreams… Besides being open late until night and almost every day of the year, it has one of the best music that they play at the beach. Much different from most music that you hear at other places across Goa.
However, since time was short, we decided to chill out at Anjuna, see a few places in North Goa and hang out at a resort in Panajim. Which was not so bad after all. We did completely relax and rejuvenate ourselves and also got to see a few places in Goa. But this story is not just about that… Something interesting happened on our way back and that’s something I’d like to share with you guys. But before that, a brief travelogue of the amazing places we explored with a tit-bit of something interesting I realized at the end of the trip…
So our day began after checking out of Dabolim Airport, after which we headed straight to Madgaon. That’s where my regular contact for renting a bike is, yeah, quite a regular at Uncle Periera’s rental near Madgaon bus stand. Best thing to do, especially if you keep going to Goa often. No worries of haggling over a price for rentals and probably expect a discount depending on whether it’s an off season or not. Nonetheless for a Rs. 250 per day, I got a good deal and we set off to explore Goa.
Our first stop was Anjuna beach… It was some 30-40 kms away from Madgaon… On our way, there’s a very interesting place that you might wanna stop and chill out especially for it’s view and most importantly, the relaxing feeling you get, before you get to any beach of course. A resort / restaurant by the river called Danny’s Riverside Resort. Spectacular place, where we had a couple of chilled beers with some breakfast… Of course, it’s Goa, what do you expect
Anjuna Beach a.k.a Funjuna
Soon after, we headed quickly to Anjuna, where we stayed at Sea Horse… And considering the torrid heat in May, we had the option for an AC, beach shack. Quite something that was needed, when you aren’t out there getting tanned under the sun or swimming in the sea. But more than that, the place had a perfect Beach View!
If I reckon any beach in North Goa, then it has to be this… Quite chilled out, unlike Calangute or Bagha and your evenings are also quite good especially with some of the shacks playing really good music and the food of course rocks out here. While we spent just one day here, it was quite worth it… The next day, we headed out after breakfast and some amazing fresh lime soda at this beach cafe called Om… Serves quite good food, continental, Italian… But if that’s not your taste, I’d reckon you skip it… A little pretentious this one
Next stop was one of the beautiful places in North Goa, Ft. Aguada. Fort Aguada and its lighthouse is a well-preserved seventeenth-century Portuguese fort standing in Goa, India, on Sinquerim Beach, overlooking the Arabian Sea.
Final tourist destination on this trip of course was Old Goa and it’s beautifully magnificent Church.
And after some real good biking across Goa… it was time for us to just chill out at the Crown resort in Panaji, one with a terrace view… Perfect for the remainder of the trip, especially to unwind… All we did was drink some good Corona beer, eat some really good food, some Blackjack, tried our luck, won some, lost some…
Some swimming and last but not least a really rejuvenating spa therapy. Besides that of course, checking out the amazing Panajim church, which was right across the street for us.
While it was time for us to leave and catch our flight, we realized that our flight was early in the morning… Thanks to Crown Resort, they provided us with a drop to the airport and we were sorted. That’s when this interesting incident happened, one that made me realize something really important… How important, travel insurance was, especially for international travel.
We were waiting in the queue for our boarding passes. Unfortunately Goa doesn’t have kiosk check ins and we didn’t check in online either… Nonetheless, we decided to wait behind this guy, he had a lot of luggage and had his passport in his hand… He was Indian, but was wearing a blazer, suggesting that he had a long flight, maybe connecting from Mumbai probably out to U.S.A or U.K… My guess was right, he had a U.K Passport and was having a long conversation with the representative at the counter. He seemed a little pertrubed to begin with, he was constantly trying to explain something to the rep at the desk, however something seemed to bother him. He realized that he was holding the line and decided to make way for others while he made a few calls. We got our boarding passes and headed out to security check.
We grabbed a couple of coffees and sat at the chairs in the waiting lounge. I was busy on my iPad and while I was reading something on my app, I quickly glanced and saw the same man coming near me. He sat next to my seat and was busy sorting some stuff and figuring out some of his documents. He seemed much relaxed, than earlier… I was a bit curious and asked him as to what happened?
“Ahh nothing, actually I have a connecting flight to London from Mumbai… But this flight from Goa to Mumbai has been delayed…”
“Hmmm, strange..” I thought to myself as he didn’t look disturbed as he was earlier.
“So how come you are so relaxed now?”
“Well, I don’t have to worry about it, I called up the customer care for Moneysupermarket, where I booked my travel insurance, and they said they will take care of it and give me a flight ticket for another connecting flight, which is right around the time that I reach Mumbai… So I’m cool now.
“Ahh, that’s great.” I said, acknowledging politely, not realizing how big a deal Travel Insurance was up until now… Most of the times, I do click on travel insurance when I book flights, but really don’t fancy it much… Hence I make sure that in most cases, if I take connecting flights, I take them from the same flights, thus, the airlines can’t play the blame game… But yeah, considering that it could be such a big deal, I thought I’d go back and do some more research on travel insurance especially if I’m taking an international trip next time…
Soon, our flight started boarding and I bid the gentleman goodbye and wished him a great flight! He smiled at me and wished me the same…
So the other day, I was watching, Life is a Beach on NDTV Good times, that’s when I thought to myself, How many beaches have I traveled to? Come to think of it, I’m more a mountain person than a beach person. But nonetheless, there are some beaches that I’d love to die for. The early morning sunrise, the long walks on the beach, the non-stop swim for hours, the amazing sound of the ocean and the waves hitting at you, the cool breeze blowing across your face and of course, the best food and some alcohol to give you some company. How can I not like the beaches?? That’s when I decided to list down some of the beach holidays I have been to. Here’s the list:
1. Palolem, Goa
This has to be the prize catch. Of all the beaches that I’ve been to, this is the one that I have visited at least thrice. South Goa has it’s own charm and Palolem rocks when it comes to a clean beach, nice blue water and one of the most amazing beach shacks and restaurants across Goa. This has to be one of the best considering the beautiful Sunset point, the Kayaking and the dolphins it has. Not only that, it also is near the Agonda fort, and another similarly serene and calm beach, called Agonda. Both these destinations are a few kms away and one can bike it up. If you are in Goa, taking a bike ride is not new to you, but of course.
2. Gokarna, Karnataka
Gokarna has it’s own charm. Besides being renowned for it’s historic and symbolical reference when it comes to Lord Shiva, this destination has an isolated beach called Om, beach. Everyone has a relaxed laidback attitude and this beach is perfect if you want to just put your feet up and have a really chilled out long weekend. I’ve been here once or twice, taking a bike ride from Goa to Gokarna is quite adventurous. Fun if I may say so, especially if you are into riding. The beach has about seven eight shacks and they are pretty reasonably priced and they most certainly serve one of the most amazing dishes. If you are a food buff, this one place called Namaste Cafe’s to die for…
3. Anjuna, Goa
Mostly in Goa, I prefer south Goa, but if you are in North Goa and cannot go further, then I’d recommend either Anjuna or Vagator. Anjuna wit the first preference. Most people like to hang out at Calangute or Bagha if they are party mongers. I prefer Anjuna for it’s serentiy and its beauty. But besides that, Anjuna is world famous for its trance parties held on the beach during the tourist season. Anjuna also hosts the famous flea market wherein you can purchase many things, ranging from fruits to jewelry, clothes and electronic devices.
4. Vagator, Goa
This is my place of solitude. I’d like to call this beach as one of the hippie beaches that still hasn’t lost it’s charm. This is totally isolated and if you have to get here, having your own bike or car is the best option. The whole amazing look and feel of the beach is what adds to the whole charm. Vagator Beach is the northernmost beach of Bardez Taluka, Goa. It is located on the opposite bank of the Chapora River from Morjim in Pernem. To the south of Vagator is Anjuna, one of the first hippy haunts of Goa. Vagator Beach has dramatic red cliffs looking down on the shore and two fresh water springs within a stone’s throw of the sea.
5. Pondicherry Beach, Pondicherry
I went here a couple of years ago, this beach was certainly one where you’d love to relax and enjoy if you are into good food. This destination has a variety of cuisines. From French to Portuggese to Chettinad, you’ve got it all. While Pondicherry beach is near the town and quite a bustle it does not give you the serene and calm nature. For that, I’d recommend Auroville beach. The famous Auroville Ashram a few kilometers away from Pondicherry, the beach is enchantingly beautiful and one of the most calmest and cleanest in South India.
These are some of the amazing beaches that I’ve been to and the top most on my list. What are yours?
So it had been my desire to visit this place for quite a while now. The last time I was near Murudeshwara was when I had stopped by over a long weekend, a ride taken to visit Gokarna. Too bad, I didn’t realize back then that it was hardly 70 kms from Gokarna. So I had made it a point to ensure that this visit happened this year. And thankfully, it did happen. I had planned a trip in Karnataka, specifically off the locations that had interesting stories with regards to it’s grand mythological and historical references. A seed had been planted in my head, after reading Dr. Devdutt Patnaik’s books on mythology. I was all the more fascinated and had read two books of his on Lord Shiva. A belief doesn’t become stronger unless you have corroborated stories or beautiful understanding about any subject. That’s when I realized that this trip was going to be even better.
Night Train to Murudeshwara
A night’s journey in the Matsyagandha Express was smooth as I traveled sleeping like a log and woke up to realize Murdeshwar had already arrived at 4.30 in the morning. I had anticipated that I’d reach there early in the morning, but had not thought about what I’d do after reaching there so early. Having said that, as always, I tried my luck in the Railway quarters, only to realized there was one room available and there were a middle aged couple along with me who had to visit someone in the town and I decided to go into the waiting room and sleep some more before I headed to the temple.
Fresh early morning cold with beautiful breeze certainly enchanted my mind and made me realize that my week long tour of Karnataka had already begun. After taking a short nap for an hour, I decided to stroll near the station and see what’s around. Silent as a grave, yet serene, the railway station was quite a beauty. I decided to click some snaps of the sunrise which certainly gave solace to the mind.
After freshening up, the best thing I could do is get a cup of tea and head towards the temple. But since I didn’t want to carry my backpack, I decided to keep it in the cloak room and come back in the afternoon and collect it. The problem was, my backpack, didn’t have a lock and they wouldn’t accept it. But thankfully, the railway employee suggested that I can keep the bag safe with the canteen guys and collect it later. I picked up my DSLR and my mobile phone with me, after which I didn’t have any valuables and I felt free to keep the bag with him. Nonetheless, the best part about travelling across South India, is that more often than none, you will encounter really amazing people who would help you out at each step of the way.
So there I began towards the temple, it was hardly 3 kms from the railway station and I decided to walk it up enjoying the early morning breath of fresh air…
Amazingly, Murdeshwar is quite unknown and secluded and hadn’t it been for the second largest statue of Lord Shiva constructed by the R.N Shetty trust, it’d not be as fascinating as it is or attract so much crowd. Yes there is historical significance of this place connected with the Atma Linga story of Ravana and Lord Shiva. Which is probably why it’s more significant and hence someone took the initiative of building something here. Also, just across the Murdeshwar beach are the Nettrani Islands where you can Scuba Dive, which I’d had to save for later as this was a shoestring budget trip
While I approached the village and I could see the Lord Shiva statue’s head in the distant horizon, I saw a crowd that had gathered nearby. Just near a small tank near another temple, there was a group of onlookers to this interesting game of fetching the bananas. To begin with, there was a pulley on which a bunch of bananas were attached. On the edge of the tank on top of the wall, a group of young boys, decked with flower crowns waited their turn to jump in the air and try to bring down that bunch. While they tried their best to do so, the person who controlled the pulley tried his best to not let them have it. Enjoying this activity with a playful spirit others were cheering for these boys. While I’m sure there must be some significance, symbolic, religious or historic, when I asked around, very few knew what it was. All I got to know was it was a sacred activity performed by boys of the landlord’s family. My best guess is that these boys were entering into adulthood and this is a significant symbol of them trying to fight for the price catch (Metaphorical: A wife, materialistic life, food for themselves, responsibilities) well that was my best guess.
As I walked past the village, and reached closer to the Temple, I could see the Murdeshwar beach in the vicinity and it was truly beautiful. Something that gave joy to my sight and peace of mind to my soul. The next thing was to of course, visit the temple itself and then behind it the Lord Shiva’s Statue…
There is a lift that will take you to the top most floor. All you have to do is pay 10 rupees and wait a bit with other people. But once you go on top, you’ll realize that the wait is worth it… From the top, you can see the Lord Shiva’s Statue, which will give you the top view and that is also very enchanting, with the sea in the backdrop.
Inside, the temple is very serene and there’s ample space for you to just sit and meditate. It’s a blissful experience. But, one of the fascinating things you’ll notice is the Temple’s smaller gopuram has enchanting encryption and engraving which is also gold plated. It contains the entire story of Ravana being tricked by Ganesha with the help of Lord Vishnu in order to protect Lord Shiva’s Atma Linga. (The source of power to immortality.)
After that, to get an up-close and personal view of Lord Shiva himself, I headed to the base of the statue, which has the cave, in which a description of the entire story of how Murudeshwara became a significant place in the context of Ravana, Lord Shiva and the Atma Lingam. They also play an audio clip inside the cave, which tells you the story in Kannada and English if I remember correctly.
The Story of Murudeshwara
Ravana’s mom just like Ravana, was a stout devotee of Shiva. Also, she knew about the Atma-Linga of Lord Shiva and the powers it could give his son. The Hindu gods attained immortality and invincibility by worshipping a divine Lingam called the Atma-Linga. She convinced his son Ravana, to pray to Lord Shiva and attain the Atma Linga.
Ravana promised his mother that he’ll seek out Lord Shiva, pray to him and conduct penance but at whatever cost, he’ll get the Atma-Linga
By this time Narada had asked Lord Vishnu to change Ravana’s mind. By this time Narada had asked Lord Vishnu to change Ravana’s mind. As a result of this plot, Ravana asks for Goddess Parvati, and Lord Shiva offers her to him.
On his way back to Lanka Narada tells Ravana that Lord had not given him the real Parvathi and that the real Parvathi was in Pathala who was a King’s daughter in the world below the earth.
So Ravana frees his companion,goes to Pathala and marries a king’s daughter ,assuming her to be the real Parvathi.
He then returns to Lanka, where his mother asks him for the Linga. Ravana then comes to know of the tricks played on him by Lord Vishnu.
He therefore prays to Lord Shiva again, begging for his forgiveness. This time, it’s even more difficult to get Lord Shiva’s attention. He then decides to offer sacrifice by cutting his heads.
Lord Shiva is moved by this dedication and restores his heads. Also when he appears, Ravana requests the AtmaLinga as his boon. Lord Shiva agrees to give him the boon with the condition that it should never be placed on the ground. If the AtmaLinga was ever placed on the ground, all the powers would return to Lord Shiva again.
Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka. Sage Narada, who came to know of this incident, realised that with the AtmaLinga, Ravana may obtain immortality and create havoc on earth. He approached the Lord Ganesh and requested him to prevent the AtmaLinga from reaching Lanka.
Lord Ganesh knew that Ravana was a very devoted person who used to perform prayer ritual in the evening every day without fail. He decided to make use of this fact and came up with a plan to confiscate the AtmaLinga from Ravana.
As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk. Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the AtmaLinga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At this time, Lord Ganesh in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the AtmaLinga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the AtmaLinga on the ground.
As predicted, before Ravana could return after completing his rituals, Ganesh had already placed the AtmaLinga on the ground. Ravana got angry and in an enraged state, he hit Ganesha.
Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy it.
Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. One such piece from the head of the linga is said to have fallen in present day Surathkal. The famous Sadashiva temple is said to be built around that piece of linga. Then he decided to destroy the covering of the AtmaLinga, and threw the case covering it to a place called Sajjeshwara, 23 miles away. Then he threw the lid of the case to a placed called Guneshwara (now Gunavanthe) and Dhareshwara, 10–12 miles away. Finally, he threw the cloth covering the AtmaLinga to a placed called Mrideshwara in Kanduka-Giri (Kanduka Hill). Mrideshwara has been renamed to Murudeshwara.
Quite enchanting and after having spent more than an entire day in this enchanting place, I returned to collect my backpack and take a bus to Bangalore… From there, my next stop was Sravanabelegola! Another ancient and yet very enchanting place full of beauty and history.