Bijapur- Of origami mosques and kite flying

After an overnight bus from Bangalore dropped us in Bijapur one fine morning, and a quick round of freshening up, we hired an auto rickshaw for the day to take us around the historical city of Bijapur.

Jamia Masjid/Jama Masjid/Jami Masjid (all names used in various articles of literature) is said to be the largest mosque in the Deccan plateau during the medieval times. It is a white , large and calm spot within the city. The first aspect of the building one notices on entering it are the arches in clean lines when looking up inside the mosque- for some reason it reminds me of origami folds.IMG_4050.jpg

The tiles in the prayer hall were interestingly made to look like prayer rugs and the most special/ornate part of the mosque is the mehrab with Persian inscriptions inscribed in black and gold. The kind caretaker even translated a line for us on our request. It is said that the mosque was originally built by Ali Adil Shah who was from the Shi’ite sect of Islam- hence the simple structure of the mosque- but the inscriptions were added on later by the Sunni king Muhammed Adil Shah. The money for building this structure is said to have come from the battle of TaliKota were the kings defeated Rama Raja in the 1500s. Aurangazeb contributed to the structure by adding a gate to it in his time. The large square courtyard also has a tank for ablutions before prayer. It is believed that there is sufficient place for 20,000 people to pray in the premises within the gate simultaneously.IMG_6191.jpg

Just a few meters away, the driver then took us to see the facade of Mahtar Mahal Masjid. The pretty jharokas(windows) instantly transport you to Gujarat/Rajasthan despite being on one side of a narrow busy lane. It is said that this 17th century structure was built when the king Adil Shah donated a large sum of money to a sweeper since a soothsayer advised him to do so to cure his leprosy- whether it helped or not is not entirely clear :). So well that gave the structure it’s name that translates to “Sweeper’s Palace”. However there are a bunch more legends around it so we personally cannot be certain of its origin.IMG_4066.jpg

Our next stop was my favourite of the day – Asar Mahal. Asar Mahal said to house two strands of hair from the Prophet’s beard (second strangest thing I’ve heard since the wars over Budhha’s tooth in Srilanka). It functions as a mosque now and therefore women are prohibited from entering it. Didn’t dampen my time there, since I found the reservoir next to it much more interesting – there were kids in all sizes having a great time- some being instructed by a teacher under a tree, some flying a kite, some more playing gilli-danda – all quite interested in us and in being photographed with their younger siblings. It made me wish I too had carried a kite along! The reservoir was built to commemorate Taj Sultana, King Ibrahim II’s 1st wife.IMG_4086.jpg

Gagan mahal– All that’s left of this 16th century palace are the still-standing-wall and the majestic arches aptly aiming to reach the sky. The space in front of it is a well maintained park used by locals to take a break from their day or kids to frolic around. The structure was meant to be the royal residence and the royal court by the Sultan Ali Adil Shah.IMG_4099.jpg

Barah Kaman: is a 17th century unfinished mausoleum of Ali Adil Shah II, his wife, daughters and his mistresses. Earlier called Ali Roza to indicate the king’s name it was changed to Barah Kaman since it was the 12th monument to be built during the reign of Shah Nawaz Khan. It’s quite a dramatic structure that leads one to wonder how it would look complete. Succeeding to the throne at the young age of 18, Ali Adil Shah II struggled with battling the Marathas and the Mughal invasionsIMG_4142.jpg

Jod gumbaz – from outside it’s an almost non-descript old building but was one of the only spaces here that seemed to have a huge section of spiritual followers, even waiting in line to offer their prayers. We were charmed by a lady with stunning tribal jewellery and attire also in the queue. However it isn’t as well maintained as some of the other structures in Bijapur. Jod(pair) refers to 2 mausoleums that house tombs of Khan Muhammad and Abdul Razzaq Qadiri – the general and spiritual advisor of the young Adil Shahi Ruler Sikander who helped Aurangazeb defeat their king.IMG_4151.jpg

We next made our way to Taj bawdi, a pond built by Ibrahim Adil Shah in memory of his wife, Taj Sultana. To avoid the place being dirtied, it can only be viewed from outside today but is still an impressive pond with flights of stairs leading to the water and a few rest houses meant for travelers also seen on the other side. However just outside it we met a huge group that were celebrating their village festival and had taken a break right there to have lunch they’d carried along.IMG_4159.jpg

By this time we were starving and yearning for some kadak roti with ennegayi but unfortunately the restaurant we found had only north Indian food. Only half day in and we gobbled our food to continue on our way.

Update : Belgaum: Chorla Ghat and its surprises

Chitradurga : Of stories of the brave and a cradle for the Gods

The Chitradurga fort is so vast and so filled with interesting information that it’s not possible to see all its quirks without a guide. However, if you miss any of them- it’s worth a second trip to wander around and find new surprises along the way.

The fort is often referred to in Kannada as “elu-suthhina kote“or the fort with 7 encircling walls. Of them only 4 are still standing but doesn’t make it any less impressive. It was designed such that each of the entrances to the circles was not aligned with the other and doors often had walls at a short distance behind it.IMG_1821 This was an effective deterrent to the common method to break open doors ie., battering with a huge log that required them to start from a distance to gain momentum. Also the spikes in the gateways prevented the use of elephants for the same. The fort walls themselves have 2 slots one below the other at frequent intervals to allow for the defending soldiers to watch the enemies and for their guns to fire at them respectively.

Under the rocks were carved out places that were meant for soldiers to stay guard or take turns resting. A noise made while seated within the slots meant for soldiers to sit , echoes and rings out loud thereby working as an early warning system for troops further along the way.


The rocks that make up the fort walls are in a pyramid shape and are each 5-6 feet long- that have allowed the fort to still be standing, centuries after it was built. The door hinges carved from stone to hold the wooden doors are still seen, though the wooden doors themselves didn’t make it this far ahead in time. Apparently one of them even had a bell that would ring the minute the hinges turned thereby providing warning against attack too.

The name Chitradurga itself is derived from the idea that many of the rock structures seem to have taken on a wide variety shapes- from an elephant, frog’s face, rabbit, ship to a chameleon’s face- much left to your imagination. The current name is a simplification of chitra kallu durga– the fort that was made of stones that painted a picture.


The precise cutting of rocks that made up the fort was possible via closely spaced holes made in the rocks with wood pieces placed within them- wearing the whole thing down with hot water and salt to finally split them neatly. All materials for the fort construction were locally sourced, even before sourcing locally was cool! It took all of 211 years to construct the fort across several kings and empires and the space is 2500 acres large with 50 watch towers (Bateri-s).

There are several points of interest within the Fort but here’ll we’ll mention a few to pique your interest :

Ekanatheshwari temple– is built in dedication to the village diety and the family goddess of the rulers. Even today, the village festival celebrates her every year with a fair and a procession where the idol from here is taken around the village. The Jhanda bateri  is where the empire’s flags were hoisted. The Uyyale Stambha is the most prominent structure when viewing the fort from atop, and is the very large cradle to seat the Godess during festivals. Just beside is the Deepa Stambha that is the tall tower where the lamps were lit up in honor of the Goddess.


The kitchen of yore continues to be used as a canteen today that’s the only source of food for visitors in the large fort. Just in front of it is a very small pushkarni where the Goddess is said to have been immersed in turmeric, post which the denizens of the kingdom would colour each other with the turmeric water to celebrate.


The Hidimbeshwara temple is also a pretty temple on a hillock that allows for a view of the city from atop it.

Hidimbeshwara temple

Murugha Matha, also atop a small hillock housed the gurukul (schooling system) of the time.

Murugha Matha

The mint that managed the currency of the day is right beside the remnants of what was Paleyagar Kacheri(the accounts section) of the time. The treasury is only visible via a small opening and is otherwise underground. The opening was covered with an idol (the Shiva linga) and outwardly seemed like a temple to avoid theft.

Paleyagar Kacheri

The Gym is a structure that resembled a warehouse but with a small opening at a bit of a height, the guide joked, so that unfit people couldn’t enter. The granary entrance went a step further and was only accessible via a ladder and had a sentry seated beside it too.

And that, is the Gym door- a fitness entry requirement

Akka Tangiyara Honda: consists of 2 large adjoining ponds with an ancient system that allow for water to be filtered from one of them into potable water within the other. Legend has it that the queen’s committed suicide here when the King was defeated by Hyder Ali.

Akka Tangiyara Honda

Onake Obavva Kindi: Obavva is considered the epitome of Kannada female valour. She single handedly attempted to stop the army of Hyder Ali with a common household pestle when they managed to find a way into the fort through the secret route used by the village milk-men to get curd and milk to the inhabitants. It’s quite a story and is the most famous of the tales of the Chitradurga fort.

Onake Obavva Kindi

One of the first things one would see in the fort are 2 rock cut pits that were used to store oil in large quantities- to support the inhabitants for several years in case of war. IMG_1808A similar rock cut structure lies on a large hillock that has no clear steps to climb up but people still clamber atop. That tank is about 30 ft deep and is called the Tuppada Kola Bateri simply because it housed weapons of all kinds covered with ghee to avoid them rusting.

Sampige Siddheshwara temple: supposedly named after the 300 yr old Sampige tree. It paints a pretty picture with trees that have taken over some of the structure entwining themselves on the outside of the temple.


Gopalaswamy Honda : was and continues to be a perennial source of water within the fort in a naturally built gorge that collects rainwater from rivulets down the hillock. The excess water from here flows on to the Akka Thangi Honda and then onward to the Sihineer Honda.

Gopalaswamy Honda

Gopalaswamy temple: The waterbody itself is named after the Gopalaswamy temple that overlooks the tank.

Gopalaswamy temple

Palace Complex: Not much remains of the palace since it was built of mud and gravel. However the ruins of different rooms and areas with the walls left behind provide a hazy picture of what may have been. IMG_1958.jpgThe reason the palace complex is located at a very interior part of the fort is that the enemies would have had to pass all 7 fort walls to reach the royal family. It is additionally protected by hills on 3 sides too.


The remains of the granaries clustered together are much easier to recognise.


Despite this being a large list, it’s only a part of the many towers, temples,ponds and other points of interest within the Chitradurga fort. So we’d recommend packing a lunch and sufficient water, having good walking footwear, a large hat and making a day of it when you visit.


After a day spent in the past, on our way onward we passed by rows of giant windmills working tirelessly to provide what we hope to have more of in the future- clean energy, that let’s us enjoy this endlessly fascinating world a little bit longer, a little bit healthier, a little bit kinder.

A fort tale: Penukonda and Gudibande

Some days you don’t plan to wake up bright and early and but instead start the day slower, even if you plan a trip. One one such day we headed out with Anand’s brother to find Penukonda fort. If you think of visiting a fort, the monsoons are always lovely, the greenery amidst the resolute ruins make up for a pretty contrast – add to it a little drizzle and it’s easy to find the perfect experience.


Note: Pick up lunch when you visit this place, there is absolutely nothing nearby that even looks like a restaurant.

You may find chips and soda in small stores but definitely not a meal.


And so off we went, we picked up some parathas for lunch and headed towards the Penukonda fort– a drive of about 2.5 hours. Just following maps we reached the entrance of the fort, through the small roads of the village inside of it. At one point we saw a board announcing Gagan Mahal – but the maps pointed us in the opposite direction. Following it, we reached a village road that was a dead end and villagers who kept saying we were in the fort (and they were right), but we had not researched it and didn’t know what else to ask for.


Lesson 1: Follow the board and not google maps towards the last turn.


So we took the only option left, headed back to the direction towards Gagan Mahal. Its structure is in striking white that’s almost hard to look at in the mid-day sun reflecting all the light it can. It looked well maintained but had a closed gate.We had learnt our lesson from Bidar and got out of the car and walked towards the gate only to have the caretaker come over.


Lesson 2: Don’t let a locked gate deter you. Many places have very few tourists and the caretakers often lock up the gates though they hang around nearby. Show some interest and wait for a while and they will most probably show up.


It had narrow passages and spacious halls with several arches both on the ground level and above. From the terrace, one could have a view of the village inside the fort. Gagan Mahal was the Summer Palace of the kings of the Vijayanagara empire. The windows above allow for a place to sit and watch the people and the rocky hill in the distance.Around the palace, the Archaeology Department has installed the stone sculptures found in the region in an outdoor museum of sorts.


Once done with this, all of us were starving and in the absence of any directions/boards, went to the very end of the road in front of Gagan Mahal. We found a stone bench where we finished every last trace of our packed lunch while wishing we had packed some more of it! At that point through a passageway is a small temple and further down the path we come to what could be a very large lake bordered by the fort walls if it had any water but it was utterly dry despite it being July. On the other side of it was a small park maintained by the local authorities and nothing much else.


Disappointed that we’d made the long trip for nothing, we headed back. At this point, I looked up Penukonda and realised the village was supposed to have 365 temples in it! On the way back we decided to stop at the first temple we saw and as deceptively simple as it looked from the road, there turned out to be a group of temples there with the backdrop of a small hill. IMG_1255.jpgOne of the temples being a Rama temple where supposedly Rama and Lakshmana stopped on their way to Lanka. All of the temples were closed but we could peep into some of the larger halls even from the closed doors.In the centre, one would find a bunch of stone sculptures placed atop a platform like a central area to pray to the whole bunch of deities.



Just as we were about to leave, we noticed a small pathway with a series of boards. We went ahead to see it and the first one said “Thimmarasu Jail“. It says jail but it’s quite a small structure. Legend has it that the king Krishnadevaraya got his loyal minister, Thimmarasu arrested and blinded under suspicion of him having poisoned his young son. Later at the culprit being proven to be the king of Orissa, Thimmarasu was released by the repentant king but spent the rest of his life in Tirupati in poverty, refusing any help from him. The inside of this jail is simple but with multiple arches making up the ceiling.


Besides this is a water tank that’s quite small and makes us wonder what it was used for.


A few steps ahead is what we thought was a temple but was only the external structure without any idols/prayer area inside. Nevertheless, it sported a tall gopura, the top half of which seemed renovated.


The next board was to the Basavanna well that was for us the definite highlight of this place. Walk through the statue of the bull, climb down through the path between the stone walls and you’d encounter a lovely old stepped well with sculptures of different deities carved on its wall. While it had no water it was quite a charming find.


Just behind it is a small Jain temple, that also looked renovated. The priest told us that the local temples were in different states of maintenance depending on who had decided to sponsor them.


Note : there is possibly more to see in Penukonda, however, there is not much literature available online nor are there any boards/notices to know where to head next. While we weren’t sure what else we could have done to explore more, it may be worth a try if you visit.


We next headed to the Gudibande fort– a fort created by a chieftain called Byregowda who was the Robin Hood of his time taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Like most forts, it has a series of steps to the top. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the top. IMG_1328This fort has changed many hands across kings and rulers and is one of the oldest hill forts in Andhra Pradesh.



Just before we reach the top one would find a small catchment of water. There were young boys on a family trip merrily jumping into the water and having a whale of a time. Apparently, these ponds were to harvest rain water and though not too huge in size, definitely seemed to be doing their jobs well.


At the top is a small Shiva temple and a couple of recent structures. In front of the Shiva temple is a tower on which one of the easy to miss images is that of the devotee Bedara Kannappa gouging his eyes as an offering to Lord Shiva.IMG_1400.jpg


The best part of the fort was that right at the top, it’s incredibly windy – so much that your phone is wavy in the wind and it’s hard to take a picture. One instantly feels ones at a hill station of sorts. It’s a charming place to just sit down on the rocks and enjoy the view of the turrets atop the fort, the colourful houses and the weather.


An older gentleman came up to me and told me that there was a lot more to see in the fort. However, I couldn’t completely understand him, though he mentioned there was yet another pool of sorts atop the mountain supposedly at a more discreet place for the women to have their baths during the times of occupancy of the fort. We went to find it and crawling inside a tiny passageway managed to reach the hidden water spot too.


From atop the fort, one can see a large lake that we decided to stop at before we made our way to Bangalore because we do love a good water spot. It’s called Bhairasagara lake. And this as it happened, it is definitely a picturesque spot to end the trip watching birds go by and the gentle ripples in the water reflecting the cloudy evening sky.


Kerala – Kochi: On the beaten path

When you have all of one day to see a place, and the need for surety on time Vs value for your fellow travellers, you do the popular spots. Though this is not typical of us on this site, that’s what I did when taking my uncle and aunt around Kochi from Trichur. So in the peak of monsoons, off we went. We took it slow and only left Trichur by 8 AM. The rains decided to roar and pour over the entire way up there with all the fury it could muster, almost making us regret the choice of time to make this trip, almost. Since just as got there, it decided to bless us with clear weather all of the day.

We planned the route such that we didn’t have to go back and forth within the area- so first headed to the Ernakulathappan Shiva temple. The diety is considered the guardian of Ernakulam- hence the name.

I’ve to admit I’d been misled by a picture online of a humongous Shiva statue that I figured my co-travelers would enjoy. We got there just a moment after the sanctum santorum closed for the morning. Our view of the outside was that it was a nice but pretty typical temple in Kerala with lamps covering the walls and the gold flag staff in the front of the temple. IMG_3302.JPGIf you haven’t ever seen a temple in Kerala it will be worth dropping in. Since we missed it I’m not sure how the main sanctum sanctorum looks/is designed. Just outside and beside it is a Murugan temple in Tamil style- it too was closing just as we got there.IMG_3301.jpg

Note: Temples in Kerala often close the main areas with the deities twice a day. If you want to visit them for prayers you may want to check before you get there.

Our next stop was the Mathhanchery Palace. The first thing one would see would be the calm pond just outside the palace. IMG_3305.jpgThere are 2 temples just outside of the palace but both were closed- not sure if they are open for the public to visit- the Pazhayannoor Bhagavati temple and the Azhithrikovil Mahavishnu temple.

The top of the Azhithrikovil MahaVishnu temple

The palace by itself is more the size of a large home than a mammoth structure one would expect a “palace” to be. And it is converted into a heritage museum of sorts. This structure was gifted by the Portuguese to the Kochi King. It was renovated several years later by the Dutch and somehow the name “Dutch Palace” stuck. Photography is not allowed inside so not much could be captured. However, I’d highly recommend it for a peek into the lifestyles of Kerala royalty. Their clothes, ornaments (I didn’t know one of them was called pulinakham or tigers nail for its shape),  and pretty palanquins.

It’s interesting to see how the children in the royal family were dressed in a loin cloth or small pieces of fabric only distinguishable as the royalty due to a single necklace each. It also has images that represent the evolution of women’s clothing in Kerala across the ages till the saris of today.

The room one first enters into has the most lovely designs carved of wood on the ceiling. There are stunning frescoes in intricate details beautifully painted on the walls of the room where the ladies of the house lived, and the area called the “bedchamber”. The murals depict the entire story of Ramayana and several deities – Ganapathi, Vishnu, Durga, Shiva-Parvati et al. They were the most well preserved of the murals I’ve seen till now in India. My favourite little detail in the palace were the seats right by the window where 2 people could sit facing each other gazing at the waters of the pond or just the city going by their day.

The deceptively plain exterior of the palace

We next headed to the Jewish Synagogue also called the Paradesi(Foreigner) Synagogue. It’s the oldest Synagogue from the then British Commonwealth nations built in 1568. To explain it to Uncle and Aunt I had to look up the word for Jew in Malayalam- it was Yahuda, so that’s that bit of information for you. While I had heard of the Portuguese in Kerala, I’ve to admit I didn’t know of the Jews. The synagogue is at the end of a street in the area simply named Jew town. Apparently, there are only 5 Jews currently living there one of them being our ticket seller, while the rest have returned to Israel. The Synagogue itself shares a wall with the Mattancherry Palace temple and the land for the Synagogue was gifted to the Jews quite literally under the protection of the King since their earlier Synagogue in Cochin was destroyed by the Portuguese because of Jewish persecution.

Yet again, a very simple exterior for the Synagogue

The clock tower outside the Synagogue has letters imprinted in Hebrew, Malayalam and Roman. As one enters the main area, you’d immediately notice the numerous chandeliers and Belgian lamps in different colours and shapes, hanging low from the ceiling. The Synagogue has hand-painted Chinese tiles each tile with its own unique twist to one of  4 landscapes repeated on all of them. Apparently, the prayers require 10 Jewish men of age greater than 13 and since there aren’t sufficient here the prayers require Jews from elsewhere to come over if prayers are to be held.IMG_3323.jpg

If one can afford it, the Jew town is quite the place for interesting antiques. The homes on the street have small torches attached to the door frames that are touched before entering the homes as per Jewish beliefs.

The cat seems to approve of the cushion

Note: The Synagogue closes for lunch between 12 pm – 3 pm so plan your day accordingly. Also no pictures were allowed in both the Synagogue and the Palace but both are quite nice inside.

If interested, this is an interesting short documentary on the life and times of the last few Jews in Kochi(It is in Malayalam but has English subtitles).

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant with a pretty ambience and 2 gorgeous birds sitting casually at the entrance. However, they took 45 mins to get the first item we ordered which was a bit of a letdown.IMG_3329.JPG

After lunch,  we headed to Fort Kochi. I had not looked up too many pictures and I went here expecting an actual Fort. However, it is simply the name of an area with charming homes and pretty structures reminiscent of those in White town of Pondicherry. The beach walkway is the highlight of the place with a huge number of people spending the afternoon there. It’s saddening to see a huge amount of trash washed over from the sea onto every piece of land on the edge of the water.

After passing by the shops selling enticing fresh catch from the sea, we decided to head in the opposite direction of the tourists to the boats. Apparently, the fish come nearer to the beach in the rain and go deeper into the water when it’s too sunny.

An earnest fisherman trying his luck

Just beside it was the first Chinese fishing net I saw. It’s quite a contraption- seemingly simple and yet elegant.IMG_3345.JPG

We decided to spend some time walking along the path munching on ice creams and random eats from the vendors along the way. Just as we walked to the end and headed back we saw multiple industrial looking ships up close and admired them from afar.IMG_3355.jpg While we considered having some seafood after the lacklustre lunch, Uncle, however, wasn’t convinced at the prices for the seafood we make regularly at home, but it’s something one could try during a visit there.

Note : If you’ve more time we’d recommend strolling along the bylanes of the area with beautiful old houses and quaint remnants from the times gone by.

Our last stop for the day was the Cherai beach where we decided to watch the sunset and end the day. We first stopped for some tea and pazhampori (batter-fried sweet plantain) that I’d highly recommend you try during your time in Kerala and that’s a tea time staple. This beach is a small stretch filled to the brim with people in the water so we decided to instead sit at the edge of the walkway and while the time watching the waves slowly form from afar and roar on to the edge with sheer power and grace. As riveting as the view was, it was 6 pm already and the sun showed no signs of wanting to set. I checked and realised the sunset was at 6:50 PM that day. Since it was a cloudy day with high chances of no clear sunset view + we had a long drive back home we decided to call it a day and head back.IMG_3369

We followed maps and came to a spot with a huge number of bikes, a crowd of people and a queue of cars. Only then did I realise we had to take a ferry on the way back! We enquired and it was the easiest way or we’d have to take a circuitous route by road and spend a long time at it. It was the first time for all of them taking a ferry and the first time for me taking a car into a ferry. The tickets were incredibly inexpensive at just Rs.35 for the car with its passengers!  After a short time in the queue, we drove into the ferry. Our view of the sea was almost completely covered by people on all sides having conversations about their day as they headed home from work while we had a fun time finding magic amidst their ordinary, rocking gently inside the car to the rhythm of the sea.IMG_3358.jpg


All in one day: A little bit of Andhra Pradesh and a little of Karnataka

We started off around 7AM (we’d recommend you start earlier if feasible) and after breakfast headed straight to the Lepakshi temple in Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh. Anand and I had both been here multiple times but didn’t mind re-visiting it with the family and we did find some scenes we’d missed before. Much of this temple is cut off of a low rocky hill. Just as one enters the temple are corridors all around, presumably to let pilgrims rest. There is much to see in the temple area but the pillars are a favourite- they have large sculptures of beautiful figures on many pillars there.


When inside don’t miss looking up, for there are detailed murals of people on the ceiling – some looking like mongoloid traders and others like bedecked courtesans of the times gone by in green, red, gold and black. They are meant to be murals depicting the wedding of Shiva and Parvati.


The area ahead of the main shrine is the dance hall and has life size carvings of celestial beings, musicians, and dancers on the pillars. It was, for me, the most beautiful area of the temple.IMG_0011.jpg

In the main structure itself, there is one pillar that seems to be hanging without being locked on to the ground. It’s easy to miss since it is one of the simpler pillars with no specific identification. However, if you hire a guide he/she will probably take you there and slip a paper under the pillar to prove it to you.

Around the main structure in the temple are several interesting sights including small shrines. One is a huge rock with a coiled 7-hooded snake over a linga, while on the other side of the same rock is a carved out Ganapati. 


The most popular spot in Lepakshi


The kalyana mantapa is currently simply a mass of pillars over a raised platform but could have made quite a lovely sight in its hey-day. The carvings on each pillar are supposed to represent the guests at the wedding of Shiva and Parvati.IMG_0046.jpg


There is a huge footprint that local legend says is of Hanuman. The area within the footprint has some perennial tiny source of water too. Beside the footprint are a few thali (plate) like imprints too, presumably to feed the big-footed folks too!

The foot receiving a lot of attention

On one end of the temple is a beautiful, ancient firangi pani tree that’s simply stunning. However what one could almost miss is the tree just behind it. It has a tree with another tree starting from a higher point on its trunk.


A little distance away is India’s biggest monolithic Nandi with a calm face. Near it is a small man-made lotus pond and a park around the structure. A lot of tourist places in India have a large amount of graffiti – and here for the first time every, we saw it on —-wait for it——leaves! For some reason, folks had taken to writing love notes and random initials on the leaves of a tree beside the Nandi statue. Thoroughly intriguing on who started this trend!IMG_0107.jpg

At 27ft in length and 15ft in height, it is a colossal structure, reputedly one of India’s biggest monolithic Nandi.

Behind the temple is the Kalyani- it is not visible and we had to go all around the place looking for it on the map. One could actually reach the kalyani from the temple premises but the door to it stays closed.


We noticed a board saying “Jatayu Ghat” and decided to find the place that the map said was 0.8km away. Jatayu is the mythical bird that tried to stop Ravana from abducting Sita  in the Ramayana. We followed the map and it points to the middle of no-where. We even considered walking but there was simply nothing visible even far ahead on the plains. As it turns out, from the kalyani, there is a freshly laid road to the place called Jatayu Ghat, however, it is an extremely small structure with just one installation. It is probably however still getting excavated so it may be worth a visit a while later.

This is all there is there, and a few simple stone pillars

We next headed back towards Bangalore and post lunch, visited the Bhoganandeeshwara temple there.

Note: On the straight road that leads to Nandi hills, taking a left leads you to Nandi hills and the right towards the Bhoganandeeshwara temple. Unless you’re looking for it, you may not see the board.

It is contained in a vast area. You enter into an open quadrangle with pillared avenues all around. What is impossible to miss however are the 4 gorgeous trees around the small square in the center with nagara kallu (stone images of the snake deities) and strangely a couple of small tombs. Behind the trees is a small kalyani(stepped temple pond).

A lovely place to relax amidst the trees

At one end is a Mahanavami dibba in ruins where the king would presumably look over the celebrations during festivals.


Mahanavami dibba

Just ahead of the sanctum sanctorum is an idol of the king Rajendra Chola also present amidst the various other carvings.The pillars in front of the sanctum sanctorum have very intricate work on deep black stones, especially intriguing are the intricate carvings of many small birds hollowed out of the stone.

One could get lost in these details

There are different areas in the temple as you wander around. The Kalyana Mantapa(to conduct weddings), the Thulabhara mantapa (where you weigh yourself against an offering which is then given as a donation to the temple),  a small well, another Nagara kallu inside the temple. The Kalyana Mantapa has the most delightful carvings in the premises in rich black soapstone.


Drama in every pillar

The Nagara kallu is always the same everywhere- 3 stones, all of similar sizes, one with 2 snakes entwined, one with the Snake god, and another with a single large snake. There are 3 shrines also each for the deities: Girijamba, Apita Kuchalamba, Kamateshwara. The Shiva-Parvati wedding seems to be the running theme during this trip with the carvings here too depicting them.


Tip: Carry a pair of socks when entering the temple, the ground is insanely hot during the day and you will burn your feet if not walking in the area that’s not covered by the shadow of the structure.IMG_0185We’d recommend you leisurely admire the details of the sculptures in all their glory to truly make the best of the experience. There are innumerable deities and details to feast your eyes on- from bedecked dancers, strong demons, Ganesha carrying Goddess Lakshmi, Shiva as the dancing Nataraja to Narasimha tearing apart Hiranyakashyap.

By far, the most popular view of this temple is that of the Shringi Thirtha which is the main kalyani inside the temple premises, and with good reason. It’s a picturesque location that’s an oasis of calm where you want to just sit by the water dipping your toes in while watching the 2 turtles and the fish in the small pond that’s supposed to flow into the South Pennar river.


Note: the doors to the Shringi Thirtha close at 5 pm even when there’s sufficient daylight and the rest of the temple is open. So get there any later and you may miss this part of the temple.

We headed from here to Nandi hills hoping to catch the sunset. However, we had picked a cloudy day. Nevertheless, it is always a lovely place to catch up with some oxygen and cooler weather amidst the generous cover of greenery and gardens. We wandered around to the viewpoints that had the crowds, feasted on ice candies and walked to the back of the Yoga Nandeeshwara temple and the view of the city from there. The Yoga Nandeeshwara temple refers to the other life stage of Shiva – the older stage of his life. It too has a small kalyani and is less detailed compared to the Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple.IMG_0256

We also noticed a board pointing to the point of origin of the Arkavati river and headed there. It’s significantly underwhelming with just a puddle at this point and not in the best condition either.


Very missable puddle 

Nandi hills by itself has many things to see as you wander around, however, since we had reached in the evening there wasn’t enough time to really make the best of the place. However after a gratifying walk through one of the many tree-lined paths we decided to call it a day and headed back to dinner and home.IMG_0274

Tip: if you still have daylight you can visit the Devanahalli fort, also known as the Tipu fort. It is admittedly a small area with the fort remains that house a village. However, it is the place of the king Tipu Sultan’s birth so it has some historical value.

Srirangapatna : the island town

Capture.PNGContinued from here

We started the day the way Anand likes it, with masala dosas! We headed off to GTR after reading of it. However, the in-house dosa connoisseur rated it just ok and I felt it was too oily for me to even finish it since I was quickly full. We then picked up some snacks to last us the day and headed off towards Karighatta passing by the Sayyaji Rao road in Mysore with its multitude of gorgeous old buildings in all shapes and sizes still being used for different purposes.


Karighatta is a hillock flanked by Lokapavani, a tributary of Kaveri that flows by it. For those who enjoy climbing stairs, there’s also a trek route uphill.  There are quite a few mythological stories surrounding the place. Hairpin bends make up the drive uphill. There are a couple of viewpoints on the way up from where one can get an expansive view of Srirangapatna and Mysore.IMG_4995.jpg There is a small temple on the top referred to as the Tirupati of Karnataka. It is the first temple where we noticed a staircase to climb to the top of the structure.  It was heartening to see there were saplings of various trees planted near the temple in an attempt to regain its green cover. Beside it and a little uphill is also a canopy where one could sit and enjoy the calm munching on some star fruit and peanuts sold by the vendors outside the temple.IMG_4993.jpg


Next stop was at Mahadevapura which was a small town with a water spot. It turned out to be the most Indian-village-like-village I had ever seen. Most buildings were older structures with tiled roofs and pillars. When we asked a shepherd for directions to the water spot- he asked us if it was for shooting(a movie?) or the bird sanctuary. Our curiosity was piqued and we chose to follow the route to the shooting location.img_5026 We reached the Rajaparameshwari Anicut.  To the right was a mud road on the banks of the flowing river with various interesting groups of people, small distances away from each other. First a group of young men playing in the water and some even learning to swim, further ahead a family performing some bewildering rituals on a gentleman with water from the river, and still further ahead a lady with a bunch of other people who had marked territory with washed clothes and refused to let us even carefully walk past them to get nearer to the water! It truly takes all types.

Such delightful perfection

In the area left empty of other humans, however, we were cheered up to see beautiful birds going about their day unperturbed. img_5037To the right of the anicut was a weir over which we could walk up quite a distance. It was a lovely view of the Kaveri with just the river, our feathered friends and us.img_5027


We made our way back to the road the shepherd had pointed us to, towards the bird sanctuary. It was a confusing spot. There was an area with seemingly no entrance from the side we’d reached it. However, there was a board stating “Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary- Gender Hosahalli Island” The Kaveri also continued to give us company by its side. The only other people were a group of young men out to spend a day with their liquor. With no clear directions, we decided we’d have to check it out some other time. If any of you manage to explore it, do let us know.


Starving by now, we decided to have our lunch in a place I’m quite fond of – Hotel Mayura River view in Srirangapatna. It’s a hotel with a restaurant where you can have a meal by the scenic riverside in the open under the shade of the verdant trees.


Our tummies satiated, we moved on to places at Srirangapatna we wanted to explore. Srirangpatna itself has a huge number of places but we also had to head back to Bangalore that evening so we were limited by time. We started off with Dariya Daulat Bagh and hired a guide too. It is a beautiful palace made mostly of teakwood. The outside of the building is quite unassuming. However, the real magic is inside of it. A museum of Tipu sultan’s life and times.

Notice the dovecots on either sides

The walls were covered with beautiful paintings made with natural colours depicting war scenes and a multitude of armies and Indian rulers. Add to this deliciously rich wallpaper made of silk and the elegance of the Diwan-i-khaas and Diwan-i-Aam and it all made for a lovely time exploring historical grandeur. Photography is not allowed inside which is all for the better because there’s no crowd around every exhibit just to take pictures. The summer palace is surrounded by huge, well-maintained, beautiful garden that’s perfect to laze around with a book or for kids to run around and explore.


Well maintained gardens

Just behind the palace, beyond the trees are steps leading to the Kaveri. It is mostly unseen by tourists and an oasis of calm beside the river where we sat watching a lone coracle go by the egrets on the boulders.img_5062

There was a small older structure on our way to our next spot. We got off the car and I entered, only to see cattle inside and some belongings of an old man after which I realised he probably lived there. We asked him if we could take pictures of the place and he was both amused and confused at why we’d find it special.

The heritage cow shed


The next stop was at Dodda ghosai ghat.There is a Kashi Vishwesharaswamy temple on its banks too. However, it was quite full of devotees and so we made our way out in a short while.IMG_5094.jpg


The place simply known as Gumbaz (dome) was where we headed after this. It was a mausoleum built by Tipu Sultan for his father but later continued to be used for himself and his wife too. At the time of Tipu’s burial here that was allowed by the British, a severe thunderstorm is said to have struck. It must have been quite a dramatic scene. Tiger stripes are painted inside the dome to keep up with Tipu being called Sher-e-Mysore (the tiger of Mysore). On the verandah outside are graves of other relatives and further away are those of those who fought beside him in various roles in his Army.IMG_5132.jpg


Next to the Gumbaz is a mosque where prayers continue to take place. On the other side is a vast horse stable too. There were huge dovecots at the entrance of both this area and that of the Dariya Daulat Bagh.This space has a small garden ahead of it that is also well maintained.IMG_5146.jpg


Tip:  If feasible, try visiting Srirangapatna taking a day off from work to have lesser crowds. These are popular places for school groups to visit too so wading through them could be avoided this way.


Our last stop was the Sangam which was the point at which the Kaveri, Hemavati and Lokapavani rivers met. It is yet another functional temple so had several groups of people around.

A well-synchronised team

However, if you could tune that out and sit calmly by the river you just might catch a lovely glimpse of the sun on its way down, its eager rays gradually melting into the water gently drawing the curtains down on another day of wandering and wonder.

To perfect sunsets


Up next : China :The most beautiful location I’ve ever visited

Mysore : The one not-on-a-package tour

CaptureThis trip started non-typically. As an extension of an office trip to Bandipur.There I took the safari and saw the Malabar squirrel, spotted deer in plenty strolling nonchalantly, and birds including the kingfisher. The other bus of people were luckier to see a snake(looked like an Indian python) and a couple of them the next day were even able to sight a leopard at close quarters.

On the way back I got off with a friend at her hometown, Mysore. Anand was to join me there, from Bangalore, for an extended holiday in Mysore. However, her family kept me busy and constantly fed after which she was sweet enough to take me for a view of the Lalit Mahal Palace. Since we didn’t want to have a meal there at the time, it didn’t justify the Re.100 per head redeemable entry fee and so we made do with a view of it from the helipad beside it. A stroll in the gardens there gave us a good view of the outside of the place too. An older gentleman walking 2 gorgeous dogs – a pug and a St.Bernard, also made our day by letting us pet them.

On our ride to the next stop, she was a fun guide and we saw a bunch of things a few of which I can recall now

  • Dodda gadiyara (with numerals in Kannada) and chikka gadiyara that were the big and small clock towers of the city
  • The lovely conifer bending in front of the university that locals liked to point out as a cheeky indicator that everything bows before knowledge!
  • The horse-shoe shaped entrance to the Mysore (Horse)Race club
  • The entrance to the  University and several other beautiful governmental buildings on our way.

She next took me to have yummy Bangarpet pani puri  – the spicy-paani that was inexplicably as clear as water, crispy puris and a south Indian filling of fresh onions, carrots, coriander leaves and cooked peas, and dry gobi – chutney served with deep fried cauliflower florets without the typical gobi manchurian masala. After thus being fed to the gills, she dropped me to the hotel where I was joined by Anand. After a quick dinner for him both of us quickly dozed off to rest for the next day.


We slept in a bit and then left the hotel after breakfast heading straight to Balmuri falls. This was a typical school outing location in our childhood that both of us had managed to never visit. We reached there to see a very tame water-spot that had rice fields on one side and a bridge across it on another.


Simple and idyllic


Nevertheless, the water level near the weir is only up to waist level and so there were folks having a gala time playing in the water.img_4869

We walked over the weir though there are warnings around not to do it presumably when the water is forceful. We then reached the other side with vast rice fields in a stunning shade of yellow-green. While Anand was clicking away, a farmer even came over to us on his bike and struck a conversation chatting about the place and his own son in Bangalore. It’s quite a nice place to relax and watch the water go by with no agenda.img_4866


Tip : Maps may take you to a mud-road, avoid it and take the alternate one. There is also another waterfall called the Yedamuri waterfall that we weren’t aware of. It may be worth a peek too.

The birds just hanging around the place.

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Next, we went on to the Venugopala Swamy Temple on the backwaters of the KRS dam passing by a village that couldn’t choose between Hindi and Kannada to pick its name – Basti Halli! The older temple had been submerged and was only visible during the summer and so this new one was reconstructed like the older one and is quite stunning. img20161119111901

It is still in the process of construction and even in its current state is one of the rare “new” structures that has been made retaining the essence of the old.  One can see individual sculptures The idols yet to be installed were stored in iron boxes filled with paddy. We weren’t sure of why it was so. Do let us know if you’re aware of its religious/practical significance.img20161119112531


Caretakers everywhere meanwhile, seem to specifically view Anand with suspicion as they coolly allow others to click on with their DSLRs in the premises. One of them even wasted 1/2 hr of his own time following us as we admired the temple since he was sure we’d criminally click away the moment he had his back turned on us! Ah well, it felt like a guided tour with a silent guide.img20161119112731


We enjoyed taking pictures on our phones itself and it’s perhaps one of those spacious spaces without too many tourists (as yet) that feels like a calm, cool oasis on a sunny day. There is a pleasant, beautiful breeze all around the temple because of the water nearby despite it being quite hot otherwise. Pictures of the place when the water is at its peak are much more beautiful with the water levels coming up to the temple barriers. There are also stone seats around the temple that make it a tempting spot to come during the evenings and watch the sunset. We plan to visit this place again to enjoy both of them.


The next stop was Meenakshipura that was just on the other side of the Kaveri river but had a circuitous route passing by fields of rice, tomatoes and seafood stalls shaped like fish.


Anyone know what these are called?


There was no one around but we did manage to spot a few of these birds nonchalantly pecking on the ground. There also seemed to be a moat-like formation between the water and land presumably to reduce the incidence of erosion(?) This was yet another place that would be perfect in during early morning or at sunset with a picnic basket and a mat. Calm, undisturbed and un-spoilt.





We were recommended Anima Bhavan for our lunch and went ahead to this place we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. We reach there through a narrow staircase and were pleasantly surprised to find meals served on banana leaves while we sat cross-legged on the ground. The food was simple vegetarian fare cooked without onions or garlic. It was a satisfying meal and their payasam made with poppy seeds, Anand warned, was very sleep-inducing too! Despite it being November, we Bangalore-spoilt tourists were already feeling the heat of the Mysore and after a quick stop for ice-creams decided to take a nap before tackling the rest of the day.


There are few places we re-visit, mostly because there’s always so much more new to see. But we had to drop into the aviary at Karanji lake that we fell in love with. Ignoring the lake, we headed straight for the lovely aviary and returned as before with a little more love for the birds and a little less for humans who annoyed them.


Just one of the beauties at Karanji lake



Since we had come just post Dasara, my friend recommended trying out the Dasara exhibition near the Mysore palace.

The city all decked up even post the Dasara celebrations

At first, it looked like just another exhibition since we decided to go around the edge of the space- cotton candy, stores selling every kind of bauble, carousels and Ferris wheels, small shows of stunts and funny mirrors, food stalls with every imaginable food and crowds, lots of crowds.

Ferris wheels are pretty much the logos of fairs


We even against my better judgement, paid Rs.50 to see a show called Amarnath yatra. It was hands down the weirdest experience I’ve had after paying! Just as we thought it was over, we got to the area we should have started with. Every district in Karnataka had a display area there. It was interesting to see what they chose to focus on. Some on the how developed the district was, some of the produce and handicrafts, some on the clothing, and some others on the lesser known tourist places there. Since it was the fag end of our walk of the whole area we were tired but egged on by curiosity and managed to see all of them.

Hungry anyone?

We quickly shared some Mallige idli also recommended by my friend and resisting the urge to have dinner there, headed off to Metropole for a meal.


Anand had been wanting us to visit it since long since he was certain I’d love the ambience and I did. It’s a charming heritage hotel that was once the King’s guest house. A meal under the open sky with tinkling old lanterns hanging from a tree like oversized fire-flies made up an ending to a busy day with just the right amount of magic in the air.


Up next: Srirangapatna, the island town

Karnataka : Udupi in a day

The morning of the day we got to Udupi was spent at a family engagement. I was excited as this was our first trip (even if only a day) where we’d decided to entirely use public transport or autos(where unavoidable). We checked-in to the hotel and rested except for getting out of our rooms for a delicious dinner (anjal meen pulimunchi for me and roti and a couple of other dishes Anand). Next morning we were well rested and still ready by 8 AM when we headed off to Woodlands hotel nearby, skipping the complimentary breakfast at the restaurant much to the bewilderment of the staff who called us twice (midnight and early morning to check if we reallllly meant that).


We checked out and followed a map to Woodlands restaurant. Though located in multiple places in Bangalore too, Anand was particularly fond of these for the local items incorporated in their menu and the place itself. It was a restaurant at basement level with lovely wooden pillars and partitions throughout. Also on the ceiling in the centre, there are some fixtures made of glass that were also quite interesting. I wasn’t particularly enjoying a good appetite so stuck to chow chow bath while Anand ordered avalakki upma(which for some reason, I didn’t expect to be just upma with yummy avalakki on top), and mini-idlys drowned in sambar with a coffee of course.


My faithful walking shoes were to give me company all day today. We started with walking up to the bus stand and finding a bus to our first destination – Malpe to the Dariya Bahadurgad Fort we had read of online.
We had been to Malpe previously to visit St.Mary’s Island which is quite a pleasant spot. After giving the entry fee of Re.1(!!!) to the fishing port, we walked up to the boats and realised boats don’t go to the fort which was on a separate island. However, on walking back we were stopped by the boatsmen who told us they’d start immediately so decided we might as well see St.Mary’s island again. A nice ferry ride to the later, we had a pleasant time just sitting by the water, dipping our toes in, reminiscing  and admiring sea shells. After an hour, the ferry got us back to the shore and we decided to get back to Udupi for lunch.
The famed Diana restaurant that poor Anand had tried to get us to try even the last time we were in Udupi, turned out to be mostly an ice cream place and we quickly made do with whatever was available. We walked back to the Udupi bus stand and then took a bus to Thimmana Kudru. The place seemed calm and green from what we’d read and was known for a hanging bridge that piqued our interest. The bus driver coolly forgot to tell us where the stop was, and we had to take an auto to the bridge. He dropped us off at a point and we continued walking trying to find the bridge for a km or more. The place itself was evocative of the backwaters of Kerala.


Coconut trees all over the place, boats floating around. We finally found a family sitting outside their home and asked them of the bridge and they directed us back to where we had gotten off the auto! Turned out it was just on the left but not directly visible from where we had gotten off. The well-used bridge was across the Suvarna river . The best part of it was that it was built by NCC cadets in just 11 days! Just shouted to us about the apathy of systems if something provided such connectivity to far-flung areas with relatively such less time and effort and yet wasn’t already in place. It was one of those bridges that were shaky as people walked on it and that made me giddy if I looked at the floor of the bridge for too long. Nevertheless, we spent a few moments watching the water from there and then made our way back.


The place itself isn’t a “tourist” place so there are no amenities/benches to sit on/clearings to spend some time. Otherwise, it was a tranquil place away from the clamour of the city. There was also a beach at the point the bus left us, but it was too hot and we were quite away from Udupi to risk waiting till sunset to enjoy it, so we decided to get back to the city.


After getting back, we had a few hours to kill till our bus later that evening. We wandered around the city and after an ice-cream heavy dinner, picked bags from the hotel and made our way back to the bus station and Bangalore.

Up next : What secrets Andhra Pradesh holds