Category Archives: South

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.

Gomateshwara – Jain Wonder of Shravanbelagola

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.

The Lake - Kalyani

The Lake – Kalyani

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.

Gommateshwara - Bahubali

Gommateshwara – Bahubali

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…

Tyagada Khamba

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)

Gulakayajji

Gulakayajji

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…

Sunset across the horizon behind the temple

Sunset across the horizon behind the temple


Goa Again… Relaxation Galore…

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 😉

Chilled Beer at Danny's Riverside Resort, Goa, Anjuna, Vagator, Calangute, Goa, India, Travel

Chilled Beer at Danny’s Riverside Resort

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!

Anjuna Beach, Goa, Goa, Anjuna, Vagator, Calangute, Bagha, Beaches India, Beach, Indian Beach, Where to go in Goa, Where to chill out in Goa, Anjuna Party, Anjuna Rave Parties

Anjuna Beach

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 😉

Scrambeled Eggs - Continental Style, Food, Eggs, Omlette, Bhurji, Goa Food

Scrambeled Eggs – Continental Style

Fresh Lime Soda

Ft. Aguada

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.

Lighthouse at Ft. Aguada, Ft. Aguada, Fort Aguada, Goa, North Goa, Dil Chahta Hai, Lighthouse, Taj Fort Aguada

Lighthouse at Ft. Aguada

Ft. Aguada, Fort Aguada, Goa, Goa India, Beaches, Forts in Goa, Goa Fort, Fort Aguada, Taj Ft. Aguada

Ft. Aguada

Final tourist destination on this trip of course was Old Goa and it’s beautifully magnificent Church.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus

The Basilica of Bom Jesus

Inside the Church outside the Museum

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.

Inside Crown Resort

Inside Crown Resort

Casino Chip @ Crown

Casino Chip @ Crown

Panajim Bridge

Panajim Bridge

Panajim Church

Panajim Church

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…

Life is a Beach… Truly…

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.

Palolem Beach, Life is a Beach, Goa, Beaches, Beach destination

Palolem Beach, South Goa

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…

Gokarna Beach, Om Beach

Om Beach, Gokarna

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.

Anjuna Beach, Goa, Anjuna, Rave Parties, Trance Parties, North Goa, Beaches

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.

Vagator Beach, Little Vagator, Goa, Beaches, North Goa

Vagator Beach

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.

Pondicherry Beach

Pondicherry Beach

Auroville Beach, Matri Mandir, Pondicherry, Auroville

Auroville Beach

These are some of the amazing beaches that I’ve been to and the top most on my list. What are yours?

Murudeshwara – Lord Shiva’s Magnificence at it’s best…

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.

Sunrise at Murdeshwar Railway Station

Sunrise at Murdeshwar Railway Station

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 😉

A fascinating game played in the village

A fascinating game played in the village

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.

Murdeshwar Beach's Serenity

Murdeshwar Beach’s Serenity

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…

The Royal Entrance to the Temple -  Rajgopuram

The Royal Entrance to the Temple – Rajgopuram

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.

Lord Shiva's Statue as seen from the Temple Gopuram

Lord Shiva’s Statue as seen from the Temple Gopuram

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.

Lord Shiva's Statue at the base of the temple

Lord Shiva’s Statue at the base of the temple

The Story of Murudeshwara

Ravana's Mother worshipping Shiva's Linga

Ravana’s Mother worshipping Shiva’s Linga

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 Promising his Mother

Ravana Promising his Mother

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

Ravana Praying to Lord Shiva

Ravana Praying to Lord Shiva

Narada goes to Vishnu

Narada goes to Vishnu

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.

Ravana asks for Parvati

Ravana asks for Parvati

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.

Narada talking to Ravana

Narada talking to Ravana

So Ravana frees his companion,goes to Pathala and marries a king’s daughter ,assuming her to be the real Parvathi.

Ravana marrying the King's Daughter

Ravana marrying the King’s Daughter

Ravana's mom asks for the Linga

Ravana’s mom asks for the Linga

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.

Ravana Prays for Forgiveness

Ravana Prays for Forgiveness

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.

Ravana cutting his heads as sacrifice

Ravana cutting his heads as sacrifice

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.

Narada approaches Lord Ganesha

‘ Narada approaches Lord Ganesha

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.

Ravana giving the Atma Linga to the Bramhin Boy

Ravana giving the Atma Linga to the Bramhin Boy

Ganesha places the Atma Linga on the ground

Ganesha places the Atma Linga 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.

Enraged he hit the Bramhin boy (Ganesha)

Enraged he hit the Bramhin boy (Ganesha)

Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again.  Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy it.

Ravana uprooting the Atma Linga

Ravana uprooting the Atma Linga

Pieces of the Linga

Pieces of the Linga

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.

Eccentricity On Wheels – Goa to Gokarna

Gokarna, truly a land of beauty and serenity… It was quite a ride for me to get here and I’m sure as hell that it was worth it. At certain points I felt that it couldn’t get worse and might as well think of better alternatives or simpler solutions… But no, it wasn’t meant to be… I had to be here… Well, it had to be it!!! I had to make this one a road trip… What better than having my own set of wheels! I had made up my mind that I’d go biking it across about 150 Kms from Goa to Gokarna! Eventually that’s what I did and boy, am I glad that I did it that way… But before I reached Gokarna, Om Beach to be precise, I wanted to take a short detour to Cotiago WildLife Sanctuary and check the beautiful place out. Beautiful that it was I couldn’t find many animals as I ended up going there in the afternoon… Yet, after spending a few hours looking for animals, I enjoyed the nature trail and certainly made my Journey to Gokarna in the evening, much more pleasant. Riding on the fast lane with the sun setting by my side, I couldn’t have asked for anything more…

Besides that there were a couple of interesting things and an interesting bunch of people I met down here… But I’ll save that story for the next blog post. Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of my journey from Goa to Gokarna.. Truly a roadtrip of eccentric proportion, catching up with my solitude yet again..

My Lunch before I started the Ride

My Lunch before I started the Ride

So this is how it shaped up, I began my journey after a heavy lunch from Margaon, Goa. Eating the traditional Thali as I always do before I head out for long journeys, it was certainly going to last me for quite a while. Seeking out a new destination on my own set of wheels meant a lot more adventure and fun, besides of course having the independence to just stop anywhere I wanted to… So I had made up my mind that it was going to be a motorbike journey to Gokarna across the border of Goa into Karnataka. An eccentric ride filled with some panoramic views of the sun setting across the mountains. It was not just the ride but the adrenaline that pushed me into going on the biking trip. Suggested by a friend of mine on twitter, it was a really good recommendation.

The Speed Monster I chose

The Speed Monster I chose

This was it… This was my roadster.. One that was going to take me all the way to Gokarna.. Was quite a new bike and certainly riding smooth. Was fun riding with this baby!

Inside Cotiago Wildlife Sanctuary

Inside Cotiago Wildlife Sanctuary

Since I had my own set of wheels, on my way to Gokarna… I decided to take a little detour. Between, Goa and Karwar happens to be this amazing Wildlife Sanctuary, which claims to have Panthers, Cobras, Babboons and other wild animals… I did go there in the afternoon…Didn’t know what to expect, but I took my bike deep into the forest till there was a road to ride it on. After that I did a bit of hiking and went on a nature trail inside the dense forest. Maybe not so scary, but it was quite thrilling entering their territory. 🙂

 Since I went there in the afternoon, all I saw there was a few deer, a couple of snakes and a few birds… Maybe next time I’d go early in the morning…

Rescued Birds

Rescued Birds

Serpentine...

Serpentine...

This one's tryin to tell me something...

This one's tryin to tell me something...

There was something about this Deer… I was trying to get photographs of most of the Deer inside the enclosure… But they all kept running away, probably scared… But this one stood it’s ground… It stood next to the cage as I clicked it a multiple times. It was as if this one had something special to tell me. In fact, it shared a kind of connection with me that I can’t really express or explain in words. It was truly amazing and at the same time a bit depressing to see them so out of tune from their own self…

Warship Museum in Karwar

Warship Museum in Karwar

 As soon as you enter Karwar town, you’ll see this Majestic ship standing across the ocean out there telling it’s tale of glory. Karwar is a coastal city and a majority of their occupation is to do with fishing, especially since Karwar beach is quite a catch for most of the fishermen. Also Indian Navy has a huge base in Karwar… So that’s something that this place boasts of. It was quite something to catch hold of these pictures on my way to Gokarna.

Sunset at my behest

Sunset at my behest

Since I took such a huge detour, by the time I was about to reach Gokarna, the sun was about to set… So just as usual, without wasting much time, I stopped by and took a few shots of the sunset and a few great views that followed me across the journey on this beautiful stretch of NH17….

Sunset by the Bridge

Sunset by the Bridge

If I had come by the bridge, say about 10 minutes earlier, I could have most certainly caught the Sun actually set in those mountains and the view from this bridge would’ve been even more ecstatic… Well, nonetheless, it was a glimpse that caught my eye instantaneously and I had to stop by for a great capture…

A sneak preview of Gokarna...

A sneak preview of Gokarna...

That was also a sign for me to just speed up and make sure I reach Gokarna before it’s way too dark… So I decided to up the anti and turbo boost my wheels into Gokarna… On my way, this is a sneak preview I got… What I did in Gokarna and how interesting the stay was would have to wait for another blog.. Yes, folks, it certainly was interesting so I’m going to have to continue it in the next post… But I’ll tell you, you guys won’t be dissapointed… So stay tuned, and until then do tell me how you like this journey so far. What say guys?

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