Category Archives: South

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Enchanting Mysteries of South India

“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 Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore a 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, traveling amongst the locals on 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.

The Marina Beach, Chennai

The 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 ambiance to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm on 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.

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

                                                  Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

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.

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

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.

Hogennakal Waterfalls

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.

Pondicherry Beach

The 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 a 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 life.

Chettinad Food at Apache

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.

Kerala Backwaters

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.

Malabari Parota & 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.

Chinese Fishing Nets

The end of my expedition. Traveling 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

Adventure and Magnanimity – #Timexpedition to Dudhsagar Waterfalls

One of the best things about life and travel is a feeling of adventure that surrounds us. The minute you have tasted any form of it, it becomes an addiction of sorts. In a good way though, it’s the best thing to have happened to me in all my journeys so far. While I love climbing the mountains, trekking and my partner in travel Feet on the Map loves beaches, oceans and water, this was a perfect combination of both. We had the opportunity to see the renowned Dudhsagar Waterfalls which was laden across green, lush jungles on railway tracks and had an element of magnanimity in itself. And around the same time, I had just received my Timex Expedition watch which was a perfect partner in my travel to set the pace to an adventure of a different kind. That’s when we began our #Timexpedition to Dudhsagar Waterfalls! We were raring to go especially after having seen amazing photographs of this beautiful phenomenon across various blogs earlier.

The #Timexpedition Begins...

The #Timexpedition Begins – The day I received the amazing Watch!

Having said that, there was a certain sense of exploration that we hadn’t done before. This was our first trek together and also a first visit to a waterfall in the country. I would be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy this experience, cause this must have been one of the best experiences of our lifetime for sure, and not just for our travels together. One of the tough things about this journey was that we squeezed it over a weekend and we were going rugged backpacking taking a train journey from Pune to Kulem and back over a two day period. So with very less time available we had to make sure we made the most of this journey.

One of the tricky things about this journey was that, we had to make sure that we got off the train very early in the morning at around 4:00 AM at either Castle Rock or somewhere just near Dudhsagar waterfalls. The time the train stopped for, was only a mere 30 seconds, or so we were told by the Mumbai Travelers, a group with whom we were traveling for this trek. So come what may, we had to make sure that we got up as early as 3.50 AM in the morning. Thankfully, the #Timex alarm came to the rescue, especially since I didn’t want to use up my phone battery and save it for some amazing shots in the morning.

Setting the Alarm to rise and shine early

Setting the Alarm to rise and shine early

Well, thankfully the train was delayed and by the time our destination came, we were all up and ready to make sure that we get off the train to take a short hike towards the waterfalls. And what’s more, the train stopped more than 30 seconds so all 40 of us could get off easily and regroup.

Early in the morning as we got off the train

Early in the morning as we got off the train

It was foggy, misty and a bit of dampness in the air made us realize that we are all in for the beautiful escapade and the streams of the waterfalls would certainly make for a delightful view as soon as we reach there. But before we even got there, we could find some teeny tiny waterfalls scattered across the mountains besides the railway tracks. But what made for most of our morning to start off fresh and early was the amazing weather and the beautiful landscape that surrounded us. Couldn’t ask for a better Sunday Morning! 🙂

Foggy Morning and a Beautiful Landscape

Foggy Morning and a Beautiful Landscape

With a little water on our toes, fresh air in the backdrop and after a quick round of introduction among fellow travelers, we were moving towards the enormous waterfalls! It was something all of us were excited to get a glimpse of!

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And boy, what a glimpse we got! This was the distant view of Dudhsagar Waterfalls and if it looked this amazing and this humongous at a distance, I could only imagine how it looked up close and personal!

Magnanimity at it's best - Dudhsagar from a distance

Magnanimity at it’s best – Dudhsagar from a distance

Didn’t take us long before we could reach the foothills of Dudhsagar waterfalls and everything had suddenly become hazy and there was  a huge stream of water falling and blowing and the winds were blowing streams of drizzle all across our face and I could barely see with fog covered spectacles and being totally drenched at the foothills of the waterfalls. Not to say, it mattered much to my #Timexpedition, thanks to it’s 200 m water resist. Heck, it wouldn’t matter if I took a dip in that stream below the waterfalls, but I’d be a foolish adventurer to do something like that. Nonetheless, the view and the experience at the foothills was so amazing that we didn’t want to leave despite spending a good 3 hours at the foothills, followed by some breakfast and tea.

Dudhsagar Upclose

Dudhsagar Upclose

 

At-the-foot-of-Dudhsagar-Falls

At the foothills of Dudhsagar Falls with my #Timexpedition

After all the fun at the waterfalls was over, it was time for us to head back to Kulem. But this time around it was a daunting trek back to the station and it was a good 14 km stretch. I wanted to make sure that I lap this fast so that we have enough time to freshen up, have lunch and then board the train in the afternoon at around 4.30 pm to go back to Pune. Well, of course, the Chronograph came into action. The trek was going to be fun as there were some really amazing sights on the way. Of course it was going to test our endurance, but a close encounter with the nature and the local wildlife it offered was worth the walk.

Friendly Banter with a local crab

Friendly Banter with a local crab

A wild centipide in action

A wild centipede in action on the Railway Tracks

Route towards Kulem

Route towards Kulem

With that kind of view and a beautiful morning, who’d worry about trekking 14 kms! Well, not as easy as it may sound. I haven’t trekked in the last year, so I was a bit rusty. But over a period in time, with a will to keep going, we all set foot and made sure that we got to Kulem on time! Exhausted, elated, beautified if I may say so, it was an arduous trek that gave a grand finish to our journey. And what a journey it was! An expedition, a wild adventure and last but not least a memory to cherish for sure! Truly what makes it a #Timexpedition! Something that’ll be framed in ‘Time’ for life!

Finished the trek in 4 hours!

Exhausted and Elated – Finished the trek in 4 hours!

Fragrance of Culture in Kochi

Fort Kochi - Chinese Fishing Nets

Fort Kochi – Chinese Fishing Nets

While Kerala is infamously popular for its backwaters and magnanimously known for being GOD’s Own Country, there are many other facets that describe the beauty of Kerala. One such part of the state that adds a spice of it’s own to this beautiful God’s own country is Ft. Kochi. Kochi was a fishing village in the Kingdom of Kochi in the pre-colonial Kerala, has a mix of old houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British in these colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi. St Francis Church was built in 1503 by the Portuguese as a Catholic church. 

An Ancient building in Ft. Kochi

An Ancient building in Ft. Kochi

One of the first things you’ll notice when you set foot off the boat, that arrives from Marine drive is the fragrance of the spices. Since early days Arabian and Chinese traders sourced spices, especially pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, sandal wood etc. from the Kochi region. Even today, it is hugely important for it’s spices. But other than that, from a traveler’s point of view there are far more interesting things that you’d love to take a look at.

In fact, Ft. Kochi is a place that’s far more different than any other places in Kerala. Much different from the beautiful, landscape full of trees and water, different from the valley of coffee plantations, certainly a sight far closer to the beaches of Kovalam, and yet has a distinctive look and feel about it that you can’t really spot a place like it elsewhere in Kerala.

Oldest Jewish Synagogue lies in India at Fort Kochi - Pardesi Synagogue

Oldest Jewish Synagogue lies in India at Fort Kochi – Pardesi Synagogue

St. Francis Church - Ft. Kochi

St. Francis Church – Ft. Kochi

A Hindu Temple on Dutch Street in Ft. Kochi

A Hindu Temple on Dutch Street in Ft. Kochi

The ancient, historic confluence of the Church as well as the Jewish Synagogues,  a Hindu temple on Dutch street and the Chinese Fishing nets will mesmerize you while the sun sets across the shores and the most beautiful roadside stalls on Jew Street offer a cultural expose that even the Merchants of Venice would have been envious of.

Jew Street

Jew Street

Sunset at Fort Kochi

Sunset at Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi has a thing of it’s own to offer to most travelers. You have got to experience it in a way that you’ll never experience any other place across India. And while you’re at it, you must breathe in the synchronicity of rich heritage and various cultures that still forms part of this magnificent country that I’d like to call India!

Gokarna Galore, A trip to remember!

While a journey can never be forgotten if there is no adventure, what makes a best memory is the company you keep and the way you enjoy your trails. Of course, I’ve ridden the paths across the wild and awesome route of Goa to Gokarna the trip I took a few months ago in December, a week before I got hitched was one crazy ride altogether.  Especially when I also had with me the power of a Thunderous Avenger!

This was a journey I took along with my cousin who had come all the way from NY. We had been to Goa the last time he was here, so this time I decided to bring in some more adventure and take a bike ride all the way to Gokarna from Goa.  The journey was something to look forward to and most certainly everything seemed like an amazing adventure trip about to begin.  We wasted no time and booked our tickets as soon as we thought of the destination through Wego.  Since our trip was only a 3 day long trip with at least ten hours spent on the road, we had to make up for the remaining time  by booking our Jet Airways flight which would give us enough time to spend on the pristine and very famous Om beach of Gokarna!

Usually December is a peak season in Goa and Gokarna both. So I didn’t have the liberty of going there and then looking for a place to stay at. Thankfully cheap accommodation is not a problem in Goa and Gokarna, however it’s always a safe bet to book online and or call them up and tell them to hold a place for you. Especially at Om Beach and Namaste Cafe. With all the things sorted before we reached, we had little to worry than the beautiful weather, the highway and the most amazing stretch of beautiful road alongside the coastal reigon that cross into Karwar across the Karnataka border and into Gokarna. One of the most fascinating things about this journey is that on most occasions you’ll end up seeing nothing but the wide horizon with clear blue skies and by the time you step your feet onto the wider horizon of the Om Beach in Gokarna, you’ll be so mesmerized by it’s beauty that you’ll stop looking around you and just stare into that blue sky which turns orange at Sunset and disappears in a shade of dark with a tinge of golden smiles across your face.

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The most amazing thing to do in Gokarna, is to go take a ferry and visit the Dolphins. You’d be lucky if you’re in a huge group and that’d give you good room to negotiate with the guys. But it’s certainly a thing you could do. If you’re a fan of Seafood, then this place is paradise for you. We decided to spend most of our time drinking beer, chilling out at the beach and I even did a bit of running on the beach early in the morning and soaking in the sun with a few dips in the sea. But the most beautiful experience at Om beach is the view of the sky from the top and that is something I couldn’t miss out on at any cost. And of course the beauty of the boats by the bay especially after the boat riders or the fishermen are done for the day. With a serene silence the boats sway to the shore across the waves of the elegant sea and you can just be tranquil, especially with your eyes on it.

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Gokarna certainly had an aura about it when I visited it the first time, but the second time was even better and if I get another chance, I’d just jump at it and follow my footsteps back into the beach without second thoughts… For sure!

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Hampi Ruins – Vijayanagara Empire with Friends

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…

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The Photo Journey
Day 1

View of Hampi

View of Hampi

Reaching Hampi

Reaching Hampi

Hampi Gowri Guest House

Hampi Gowri Guest House

Hampi Sunset Day 1

Hampi Sunset Day 1

Day 2

Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple

Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple

Underground Shiva Temple

Pondering...

Pondering…

In conversation with Uday

In conversation with Uday

Carving Inside Hazara Rama Temple

Carving Inside Hazara Rama Temple

Uday and his Politician Pose

Lakshmi Narsimha Statue

Lakshmi Narsimha Statue

Virupaksha Temple From Hemakuta Hills

Virupaksha Temple From Hemakuta Hills

Kadalekalu Ganesha

Kadalekalu Ganesha

On Hemakuta Hill

On Hemakuta Hill

Mel & Rahul with some kids we met inside

Mel & Rahul with some kids we met inside

Chandikeshwara Temple

Chandikeshwara Temple

Watchtower in the Zenana Enclosure

Watchtower in the Zenana Enclosure

Lotus Mahal in Zennana Enclosure

Lotus Mahal in Zennana Enclosure

Krishna Temple

Krishna Temple

Hampi Bazaar Pillars

Hampi Bazaar Pillars

Me outside Krishna Temple

Me outside Krishna Temple

Bal Gopal inside Krishna Temple

Bal Gopal inside Krishna Temple

Barbequeue

Barbequeue

Day 3

Coracle Ride

Coracle Ride

Banks of Tungabhadra

Banks of Tungabhadra

Calf feeding from her mother near the Virupaksha

Calf feeding from her mother near the Virupaksha

Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha Temple

Inside Virupaksha

Inside Virupaksha

Idranna a local kid at the Lakshmi Temple

Idranna a local kid at the Lakshmi Temple

Lamani Woman with her kid near the Lakshmi Temple

Lamani Woman with her kid near the Lakshmi Temple

View of Hampi from Anjaneya

View of Hampi from Anjaneya

Monkey climbing down Anjaneya

Monkey climbing down Anjaneya

On top of Anjaeya...

On top of Anjaeya…

Govindappa and his family

Govindappa and his family

Day 4

All set to ride

All set to ride

Entrance to Anegundi

Entrance to Anegundi

Fields of Gold

Fields of Gold

Riding away...

Riding away…

Villagers of Anegundi

Villagers of Anegundi

In the fields...

In the fields…

Sadhu Baba outside Anegundi

Sadhu Baba outside Anegundi

Mr. Srinivas and his family from Hampi Gowri

Mr. Srinivas and his family from Hampi Gowri

Picture Courtesy: Deepika Gumaste, Uday Mane, Niha Khan, Rahul Wakude & Melanie Joe 🙂 Thanks guys for the clicks….

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

Bijapur – Land of my roots

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.

 

 

View from Gol Gumbaz

View from Gol Gumbaz

Lord Shiva Statue

Lord Shiva Statue

What is the historical significance of Hampi and which places do I visit there?

View of Hampi from Anjaneya

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.

Pampa River

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.

Over the years Vijayanagara (hampi.in) (popularly called as Hampi) developed a unique style of architecture, came to be known as Vijayanagara (hampi.in) Architecture

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.

King’s Balance

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 Bath

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…

Queens Bath

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.

Monolithic Bull

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.

 Virupaksha Temple

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…

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Hampi – Revisit to the ruins…

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…

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Stone Chariot at the Vijaya Vittala temple

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.

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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.

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Inside the Vijaya Vittala Temple (The Musical Pillars)

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.

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The Monolithic Bull near Matanga Hill

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.

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Sunset at the Matanga Hill

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.

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Elephant Stable in the Lotus Mahal Complex

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.

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Lotus Palace or Kamala Mahala

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.

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Ruins of the Hazara Rama Temple

Carvings on the walls of Hazara Rama Temple

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.

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Off the banks of Tungabhadra River

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.

Octagonal Bath in Hampi

Octagonal Bath

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.

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Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

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.

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Kadalekalu Ganesha

Kadalekalu Ganesha

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.

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Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha Temple

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?

Enchanting South India – A route to rediscovery

“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.

The Marina Beach, Chennai

The Marina Beach, Chennai

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.

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

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.

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

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.

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Hogennakal Waterfalls

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.

Pondicherry Beach

Pondicherry Beach

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.

Chettinad Food at Apache

Chettinad Food at Apache

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.

Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Backwaters

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.

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

Malabari Parota & 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.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

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

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Belur & Halebid – For the Love of Hoysala Architecture

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.

Belur

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.

Saumyanayaki Temple

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.

Gravity Pillar

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

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.