Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pearls from Crown of Karnataka...

We can spend days together arguing on- “Location” vs. “Place”. I say, every location may not be beautiful. But, every place is always beautiful. This time around, when monsoon was about to set, I enjoyed a two day vacation in one such place, exploring Gulbarga, chest of Red grams, and Bidar, crown of Karnataka (Trust me, both place looked more to be in Maharashtra!), and also visiting Mantralayam, in Andhra Pradesh (Trust me, it looked more like a place in Karnataka!)
Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Saheb

That Saturday was legendary, interviewing two achievers for and attending a family function. Train was scheduled at 9pm from Yeshwantpur. 8pm around, 6 of our friends were waiting for me and my cousin, who was in a hospital consulting with a doctor for the sudden health upset of his mother. We ended up missing the train, for the first time! When situation got under control, we searched for tickets and luckily, were able to book last 2 seats of an Airavat travelling to Mantralayam, starting in less than an hour. I took a deep breath after catching the bus, 5 min prior to its departure!
Bidar Fort Entrance

Sunday, 6.30am, we arrived in Mantralayam, to visit Guru Raghavendra Swami Vrindavanam. It’s built somewhere in 18th century, interestingly, while entering the Vrindavana, Guru Raghavendra Swami stated that he would be there (in the Vrindavana) for 700 years! It was heartening to see the wall pictures (around 30) depicting life of Guru Raghavendra Swami and his previous incarnations tracing back to Bhakta Prahlada and Madvacharya(known for Dwaitha philosophy). River Tungabhadra looked dry but the cloud filled sky made sure that we didn’t encounter the heat this place is known for!

After a heavy breakfast in “Pannaga Udupi Hotel”, we set off to Gulbarga- via Raichur. An hour of bus journey took us to Raichur and to reach Gulbarga, it was a train journey of 4 hours. This is where I penned down…
I see blue horizon kissing soil,
Arch in Bidar Fort
Glittering black fertile soil…
Those scarcely flowing waters,
Midst occasional tall single trees…
I saw an immensely blessed soul,
Toiling under the Sun for our life…
Ensuring us a square of meal,
Forming backbone with his torn attire…
I saw an immensely blessed soul…
Monday morning, after catching well deserved 4 hours of sleep; we were ready for Bidar, couple of hours away from Gulbarga. Bidar indeed had lot to give. We first visited Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Saheb, built by none other than Guru Nanak, around 500 years ago. Pond of never drying clear water, Punjabi neighborhoods and surprisingly, green landscapes. Peaceful delight!

Then we went to the highlight of this trip, a Narasimha temple in a cave. We were in our regular jeans and t-shirt. Guards stopped us when we entered, advising us to change our clothes for better. We found a locker room and just wore a towel to cover our lower half. We entered a cave which was at least 8 feet below the ground. Bats were flying and this cave of approx. 500mtr length, took us by surprise as soon we entered with its water level- almost close to my chest (say 5ft. from ground!). After making our way, we saw the Lord Narasimha at the end of the cave. Storyline goes like this- a demon named Jalasura was killed by Lord Narasimha and for his salvation, Jalasura exists in the form of water in this cave of the Lord.
Narasimha Temple

After changing the clothes, we visited Bidar fort, built by Bahamani rulers and later altered by Aurangzeb of Mughals. Master piece with limited premises open for public. Museum here is really astonishing, with guns to barrels to wooden works to Stone Age utensils to craft works, delight for any art lover. Once we found that it’s too big, even to explore limited premises, we gave up and left to last place for the day in our list, Papanashini Shiva Temple, believed to be worshipped by Lord Rama after his victory over Raavan and Sita Parityaga, to overcome the wrath he gained. This place had serene lake and we decided to trek to the main road, and it was very enjoyable.
Bidar Palace

All the places in Bidar were in radius of 5kms and we (7 of us) travelled in a single auto rickshaw, unbelievable but true! Once we returned to Gulbarga, we visited Market area for special Paani Puris and delicious snacks. Later in the night we caught the train back to Bangalore.

If you are pondering over the missing Sunday night, here it is- it was a jovial occasion of Nikah of our dear friend, colleague at Special mention for the ambience of hall, KBN guest house, Saath tombs, tasty dinner, amazing weather and loads of fun together, indeed, it was definitely great place to be!

[Wishing Iqlas Ameen and Roohina a happy married life. Thanks to Sharath P R, Kiran E, Vinod B, Basanth S, Ravinder A, Ambarish, Jaikrishna for being part of it. Photo Credits: Sharath P R]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Flying to the Fort of Imagination...

Some places are just frozen, their hidden eternal beauty try to tell those tales that can mesmerise anyone. I was on one such trip this time. Main motive of attending a wedding, constantly kept us helping- to get back to the reality. Yes, I was constantly pulled by those ancient times, a privilege of visiting those places that were built way back in 9th, 11th, 13th and 19th century! An attempt to go back, from where we come, to who we are!

Vanivilasa Sagar
Early Sunday morning, I pulled out my old hat from the cupboard and set off to Davangere, 300 Kms away from Bengaluru, on a car. Once we arrived at Yeshwantpur, outskirts of city, Asian Highway-47 welcomed us. I personally haven’t seen any better road than this- imagine a road- with 4 lanes, no humps, scientific deviations, beautiful landscapes, and fertile fields with crops, ornamental flowers in the divider, clouds, drizzles and very insignificant traffic- this is how AH-47 treated us!

Here goes the Eight places that I visited, in visited order-->

#1. Vanvilasa Sagar or Mari Kanive, built by Mysore Maharaja, is a dam constructed over Vedavathi River. It’s 12kms off Hiriyuru, a major town in AH. We first visited Mariamma Temple, local deity, and started climbing the steps which was carved out in a unique zig zag fashion from a locally available big stones. We were awestruck when we reached the top. This dam was artistically built, which clearly showed out the great taste Mysore Maharajas had for building classic monuments! Long walk on the top of this dam between 2 mantapas (which were at the ends of dam), amazingly carved out 100 odd years back, will definitely make you think- why are we so incapable of building wonders now?!

#2. Halurameshwara Temple is 40 kms from Vanvilasa Sagar, towards Hosadurga. No doubt, was the highlight of this trip. As far as I know- this is neither historic nor beautiful, but it has stories to tell everyone. It has an astonishing well (Ugamagange) in front of Goddess Gange, were you sit and make a wish, and you are sure of getting Prasada in the form of things like- jaggery, grains, dates, bananas, coconut,etc.. The priest interprets the Prasada that you receive and predicts if your wish will come true or not. I laughed my gut off before I went to this place, and just to be a rebellion- made 4 wishes instead of only one that I was supposed to. I received “jaggery with curd”- which comes very rarely, and priest told me that my wishes will come true and that I had made multiple wishes!
Chandravalli Caves

#3. Chandravalli Caves is 40 kms from Halurameshwara temple or 3 kms from Chitradurga (again in AH). History dates back to 9th century here and a meeting room at a depth of 80 foot down from the entrance of caves took me by surprise. Initially a pious saint chose this place for his meditation and later, it stored a treasure chest. The dressing room, bath room, place to keep the treasure and ways they employed to keep it secure- is the reflection of the intellectual capacity back then. Also, serenity here is defined by- dense forest in one side, caves that are enthralling, river that is shining blue, waterfalls roaring down the rocks and gardens with pleasant colors!

#4. Chitradurga Fort is 3 kms from Chandravalli caves, or very close to AH itself, was built in
13th century and it took 211 years to build. It is heartening to see the Rainwater harvesting system being adapted here. A fort that is strategically built in a shape of a rippling snake has 7 mighty doors, surveillance (battheries) centers for soldiers and provisions for them to use rifels and canons, a palace built from mud to keep it cooler in the hot summers, 14 temples, vast ground over 3 kms radius, caves for soldiers and very famous, “Vanake Obbavva Kindi” makes this place special. For around 800 years this fort was safe from invaders. Haider Ali attacked this fort thrice and succeeded in the last. First and second attempts failed only because of the extremely secure architecture of fort. Here we got a chance to catch “Kothi Rama” live, India’s very own Spiderman, he climbed the walls without any help in less than a minute!

P.S: “Durga” means fort and this place is blessed with stones that can be imagined (mentally) to be a frog, elephant, human face, lion, etc. (any shapes, forms- chitra). Hence the name Chitradurga! Modern Chitradurga has Asia’s second largest windmill power generating stations and city looks like as if it has arranged for table fans around it!

#5. Guru Kottureshwara Benne Dose Hotel, 60 kms from Chitradurga, is in Davangere. This is located in Gundi Chowltry road of extremely delightful city of Davangere (formerly known as Devanagari). Crowded place, no money for ambience, but priceless Benne Dosa!
HariHareshwara Temple
#6. Harihareshwara temple is 15 kms from Davangere and is off AH again. This was built in 11th century by Hoysala’s and has their signature star-shaped architecture. Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva being worshipped together, beautiful carvings, majestic pillars, recreational chess board like structure in verandas, gigantic stones consisting of whereabouts in clear Halagannada (mother of modern Kannada) will uplift your mood!
Siddaganga Matha

#7. Siddaganga Matha is in Tumkur, around 70kms from Bengaluru. Has schools and hostels, provides education with no or minimal fees. Completely conceptualized and executed by the pontiff, who is 106 years old, known as “Nadedaduva Devaru”, Dr. Shivakumar Swamiji. Here we finished mangoes that we had bought in Davangere, delicious!

Last, but extremely important and reason behind this trip-

#8. SS wedding hall of Davangere and Silverline guest house (inside Bapuji Institute of Engineering and Technology) where we spent a night. We enjoyed dumb charades and some new innovative games before we signed off for the day at Silverline. Bapuji institutions are all over in this city and herds of sheep that pass by your car will definitely teach you a lesson or two!

[Photo Courtesy: Pranitha K S. Thanks to Rakesh, Vinu, Manju, Sanjay and Siva for being part of it. Also wishing a Happy Married Life to Santhosh and Soumya. Cheers!]