An easy decision when we want to get away from the city of Bangalore without much of a plan in place, is Mysore. So we drove down there one Saturday morning. Despite having been there before, we headed to the Venugopala Swamy temple in the backwaters of the KRS dam. When we were there last, it was still under construction and now it was fully operational. The original temple had to be submerged due to the construction of the KRS dam and was restored as it is today with the all the slabs from the original temple.
There are a few small pavilions outside and folks were lying for a bit to relax. I can definitely see why. Due to the open space around, there’s a cool breeze here at all times, which in the Indian warm weather, is brilliant at lulling you to sleep.
For those who are religious – do note that they explicitly insist on no offerings(fruits, flowers) to the temple, so don’t bother carrying any. I particularly loved that they had used the tulsi (holy basil) plants all around for landscaping – it made the perfect choice with its health benefits, mild fragrance, and religious use. Within the temple, the corridor has numerous deities both known and not so well known from Hindu religious references. It makes for a fun story-telling opportunity , if traveling with kids, and firstly if your familiar with their stories yourself!
We reached Mysore by late afternoon and decided on a place called The Old house – admittedly because the 2 of us have an instant attraction towards heritage homes and buildings (if anyone reading wants to give one away, we’ll be happy to take it off your hands!). A pizza later we were ready to go onwards to BR hills – this is one place possibly everyone else we know has been to, but we haven’t. We didn’t know what to expect either.
The Biligiriranga Hills or as commonly known – BR Hills is amidst what is both a wildlife sanctuary and a tiger reserve at the border common to both the Western Ghats and the Eastern ghats resulting in a unique ecosystem of its own. On our way through the miles of lush greenery, we even spotted a couple of very impressive looking gaurs(wild bison).
Note : In any route that passes through a wild life sanctuary, ensure you do not stop your vehicle (even to take pictures), and definitely do not feed the animals. Also they have right of way, even for the little frogs crossing the road, so keep your eyes open and alert. Ensure you are respectful and keep your distance from the animals. Also keep noise levels to a minimum and avoid honking.
We reached at 4:30PM and the original plan was to return to Mysore to stay the night, but being the monsoons, it had already gotten quite dark so we had to re-plan. There seemed to be pretty much 2 places to stay there- the govt owned Mayura hotel and one more on the same road. Both were full but the gentleman in the Mayura hotel directed us to another place to stay which while in a beautiful space, we aren’t entirely sure was legitimate so we’ll skip the recommendation. On the brighter side, he also invited us for a dance performance at 6pm that evening within the Mayura hotel premises!
Note : Book your stay in advance to BR hills. There are other places to stay but the internet connectivity was also wonky by the time we got there. Alternately, if you leave early from Bangalore and make no pitstops you could still get back to Mysore in time- so plan accordingly. If interested in rafting and trekking do a bit of research but there seem to be options for that too. The temperature is also colder than Mysore so get a sweater at the least.
We quickly found the place of stay, dropped our luggage and made our way up to the top of the hills before it turned completely dark. The top of the hill houses the temple of Lord Ranganathaswamy (Lord Vishnu) where part of the hill’s name comes from.The bili(white) is said to come from either the fact that the top of the hill has a lighter colored stone surface or attributed to the mists that cover the hill. We followed online maps and reached an entrance that leads to a few steps up the hill. If traveling with people having mobility issues, there’s also a different entrance with very few steps just a little diversion ahead- so do explore.
From the temple itself, there’s a brilliant view of the sea of green only interrupted by a small hamlet of the Soliga tribes who are local to the area.
We made our way back just in time for the event. A group of the Soliga tribes sang and danced and we watched enthralled at the whole performance. Their voices were clear and powerful, the dance form energetic and with very unique steps compared to other dance forms we’ve seen before. Both children and adults performed and we were lucky to be witness to it all just by a stroke of luck.
By now we were starving and food wasn’t yet ready in the KSTDC hotel which again is the only option we found. We requested the restaurant manager for some simple curd rice since we were eager to go to bed. He seemed curt and asked us to wait. Some very spicy chilly bajjis later(they were the only items “ready”), we were craving for the curd rice even more. He finally brought out the curd rice tempered with coriander and onion, and came back in a minute asking for how we liked it. We told him it was very nice and instantly his entire face lit up. Turned out that since we were hungry, he had made it himself though he was not the cook and had tried making it for the very first time! Needless to say we were touched and it brightened up our day too 🙂
We got back to the stay and crashed for the night- waking up to a lovely view of the trees around us. A quick breakfast at a small eatery nearby and we made our way to Mysore. On the way back, we stopped on a whim at the Sri Mahalakshmi Gunja Narasimhaswami Temple at Tirumakudalu Narasipura.
Legend: A washerman has a dream where Lord Narasimha appears asking him to build a temple. He is also told that below his washing stone he’ll find gold to actually use for the temple’s construction. After constructing the temple, the washer man is offered a boon where he mentions his interest to visit the holy city of Kashi. The Lord then declares that whoever visits this temple will have punya of one gunja(weight of a particular seed) more than that when visiting Kashi and declared this town Dakshina Kashi(Kashi of the south). That gives the temple its name and the idol also is seen holding a stalk of the Gunja plant.
The commonality between Kashi and this place doesn’t end there. While Kashi is at the confluence of the rivers -Ganga ,Yamuna, Saraswati, this temple is at the confluence of the rivers -Kaveri, Kapila and Spatika Sarovara. Not sure if allowed due to the legend or not, but people still wash clothes by the waterfront of the temple.
A further way along and we stopped at a large banyan tree for a fun break. Kids were even able to climb into and hide within several portions of the trunk. Some of its branches were so low that they were also enjoying climbing straight up the tree from almost ground level. We spent out time alternately watching them, wishing we had a better sense of balance ourselves and watching the parrots flitting into and out of the trees hollows.
Next, as per what’s become customary for us on a visit to Mysore, we made our way to Karanji lake for a short cycle ride and seeing our feathered friends at the aviary. Unfortunately most of the birds we’d seen earlier seem to have been replaced by only peacocks now. Hopefully not to ill health or just humans’ behaviors. However since it was the monsoons, the peacocks were in the height of their impressing phase and were oh-so-often bursting into dance. The pea-hen seemed disinterested but no matter how many times we’ve watched it, we can’t help but stop and stare at the sheer beauty of the scene.
I have a special fascination with markets- though I genuinely am not much of a shopper. Just passing through them makes me happy- especially those with produce and flowers. So for no other reason other than to smell the fragrance of the flowers sold in heaps and to just breathe in the ambience of the ancient market ,we made a stop at the Devaraja Market. If you’re heading back to Bangalore the same day you can even use this opportunity to do your shopping for all the produce in neat heaps. The market itself has everything most Indian homes need- from fruits, vegetables, flowers to bangles, kitchen utensils in all shapes, sweets and even items used for poojas.
After the trip filled with colour and culture we made our way back to Bangalore already wondering where we’d go next!