1 day trip · 3 day trip

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Hidimbeshwara temple

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Gopalaswamy Honda

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

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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.

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

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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.

3 day trip

Shimoga – Of dreamy palaces and green wonderlands

For our next stop, we headed to the Kavaledurga fort. This time the right one. We sensibly went with ponchos and shoes meant for the heavy rains that accompanied us.

Note: Please do so because we saw most tourists soaked to the skin despite their jackets and umbrellas, the latter is especially pointless since the steps are very slippery and you really better have both hands free in case you fall.It’s not a long trek, just a slippery one- so take your time and walk with care.

The trek starts in a not-so-typical fashion- by walking through a pretty rice field. IMG_2313.jpgA bit of a trek uphill through the dreamy fort walls and you’d reach a temple in the midst of the hills. The outside of the fort itself looks very fairy-tale-like- actually more like the prettiest scenes from Game of Thrones.IMG_2372.jpg

The moss-covered surfaces and the greenery bursting out of the corners of the rocks with the gentle drizzle lending an idyllic look to the whole scene. We walked in silence absorbing the sights at each turn.IMG_2388.jpg

Each layer of the fort has an entryway flanked by guard rooms where you could almost imagine sentries from another time. IMG_2441The first big structure you’d see in the fort is of the Kashi Vishwanatha temple with 2 stone pillars prominently in front of it and the dense forest behind.

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A little ahead and a short climb up later, there exists a huge rock on which you will see a small shrine named as “Shikhareshwara Temple”, despite it being even more slippery a bunch of folks including us gave it a go to climb up the black patches of the rock.IMG_2512.jpg

Most people return from here since the path is covered with grass and not obviously laid out, especially in the monsoons.IMG_2540.jpg

Moving on ahead towards the summit, if you don’t miss the opening through the shrubbery you’d see a few steps leading to the pond. Further on, and you’d come to the most dramatic structure in the fort- the palace in ruins. IMG_2564.jpgSince the base and the pillars are still present, one can experience strolling through the interconnected rooms around a spacious quadrangle at the centre of it all. IMG_2561.jpgWhile this is quite a scene, the highlight for me was the stunning pond behind this. The T-Shaped pond that one can reach via steps was full of water in a natural blue-green shade, even having tiny fish swimming in its embrace. IMG_2592.jpgIt’s quite an enchanting spot surrounded by the overlooking hills with every spot covered with a huge variety of flora in every size.

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Feeling blissfully lost in the perfectly picturesque wilderness

We very reluctantly left the place since it was getting darker.IMG_2610.jpg

The next morning after breakfast we went to the 12th-century Rameshwara temple which was a small non-ornate temple with beautifully rounded pillars in glossy black.IMG_1835It is surrounded by a well-maintained garden frequented by butterflies. IMG_1832Yet again, the yard behind the temple is the most scenic since it’s at the confluence of the tributaries Tunga and Bhadra.IMG_1871

On our way back we made a stop at the Chennagiri fort. This is a fort with 2 layers of walls and a moat. IMG_1939.jpgA small Ranganatha Swamy temple at an elevation and several bastions and a couple of watchtowers. IMG_1891The fort has a small stepped pond too enclosed within its stone walls. IMG_1961From atop the fort, you’d get a 360-degree view of the surrounding village, fields, plains and even the hills in the distance.IMG_2761.jpg

We picked up a friend who had packed lunch and sweets for us too and headed of to the Muruga Rajendra Mutt Park in Chitradurga for a green spot to have our lunch. This is run and owned by a religious organization but is very much just space for the locals to spend a day out with the kids. It is a theme park except that it seems like they couldn’t decide on one theme and decided to do them all. IMG_2002You start off with life-size dinosaurs, funny cutouts to take ones pics, evolution of mankind and civilization, religious figures, poets in Kannada from the ancient times with snapshots of their lives, social messages on alcoholism and other evils, and even a small zoo which was admittedly better maintained than some others we had seen. IMG_2087It’s the perfect place to wander around and do nothing while keeping kids busy with each new display.IMG_2053

And that right there was the end of yet another trip- that had everything from breathtaking scenes from the bygone era to confusing ones from the current one!

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A variant of the banana plant on the Kavaledurga fort
1 day trip

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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3 day trip

Pondicherry and the charm of Rajagiri fort

Continued from here 

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The next morning, without even planning it, the entire family was up and ready early for yet another walk by the beach. I guess we were all eager to make the best of the sand and the seas when we could. Once there, Anand and I walked in the bylanes near the beach while the rest of them enjoyed their morning walk. IMG_1495Just as we returned to join them, we realised there was another unexpected treat lined up for us at the promenade- there was a rangoli contest as part of the Heritage Festival. There were about a 100 participants out there in the morning recreating kaleidoscopic visual treats with just coloured powder and sheer artistry.

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This one was our favorites

Needless to say, this gave us a very colourful start to the day.

 

We had a breakfast at Surguru and realised the restaurants too were in on the Heritage Festival and had special menus with local foods. Much to our disappointment, we entered it to find they only served it in the evenings. Our review of the place – the food was good, but considering the menu only has everyday south Indian breakfast items, the money may be better spent in a simpler place.

We picked up some snacks for Bangalore from the Auro Cottage bakery and made another stop for food to eat on the way from Bon bakes, a little further ahead. Their almond cream croissants are to die for. We only tasted the food later in the day or we’d have bought a lot more of them.

Our next stop was only at the Rajagiri fort that we had missed seeing completely the first time around. This time we went straight in and it’s a surprisingly huge area, not apparent from the entrance.

Tip: Rajagiri fort has a huge number of monkeys. They are smart, quick and will take things from your hands even if not food, just out of curiosity. Do not keep your bags down and be very alert of your surroundings when consuming food.

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They’re always watching!

These are some of the structures we happened on.

Granary: A huge granary with vaulted chambers each for possibly different types of produce or maybe produce from different times of the year.

Gymnasium: Just a closed large hall with not as much ventilation as one would think would be needed in a gymnasium.

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The gymnasium

Elephant Tank: This was my favourite place (as always). It’s a very large step pond that had water even in February. Somehow very few tourists noticed it since it’s on the side, which makes it even better. The pond is surrounded by a pillared arcade

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Breathing space

 

Horse stables: These are endless rows and rows of sections used as horse stables and possibly also barracks.

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Kalyan Mahal: This was presumably the vast area in front of the mosque. All that remains now are stubs where pillars were supposed to be and pavilion with a very polished stone in the shape of a bolster.

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Any guesses on what the bolster may be used for?

 

Mohabat Khan Mosque:  It was a multi-tiered structure with layers of windows. Mohabat Khan was a very trusted friend of Raja Desing, the king of Gingee, and fought several battles beside him till his death. We were wondering if there was a way to go up this structure, but nothing seemed apparent.IMG_1606

While Mom went ahead, reached half way atop the stairs to the fort and came back down to find us, we made our way up while she rested. It’s not an easy climb by any standards. However, the steps are wider and therefore less precarious than the Krishnagiri fort. Dad, Sis and I made our way up and Anand reached us after a while too.

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A stunning top-view of the temple after the climb

Halfway up, a splitting headache threatened to attack me in the heat and we decided to find a shady spot to rest on the way till Anand reached us. My very energetic Mom yet again made her way up to meet us and the 4 of us rested and took pictures till Anand got back after exploring the top of the fort. Since it was past lunch time by now, he too came back after almost reaching the top, concerned that the rest of us would be waiting hungrily.

 

At the top there is a Ranganathaswamy temple, a clock tower, an Audience hall, a granary, a cannon, the treasury and a Kamalakanni Amman Shrine and a sacrificial slab in front of it.IMG_1669

As per the Hindu legend, the presiding deity, Kamalakanni, is believed to be the widow of demon king Acalamaccuran.

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Kamalakanni shrine and the sacrificial slab

There were some really beautiful trees of the frangipani flower (chempakam/plumeria) at the point where the rest of us waited for him. That flower’s fragrance is a favourite of both mine and Dad’s. Once Anand joined us, all of us got together on a mission to get a small branch of it for Mom to plant at our home in Bangalore. Since the branches were quite high, it involved a lot of jumping and Anand cleverly using the handle of his camera bag to try to loop it over the branch to pull it a little lower.

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The action spot

Meanwhile, while all of us were engrossed and pitching in ideas to help, sneakily we had a simian friend reach his camera bag and open it up to check for food! despite his angry growling and snatching at the bag, mercifully my reflexes kicked in and I managed to pull the bag away from him. Well, cameras are expensive, you got to do what you got to do. Even if it is intimidating a creature 1/4th your own size and feeling relieved it worked.

 

So after that little bit of excitement, the family walked back down and out of the Rajagiri fort. Just outside of it is the Saad-at-Ulla Khan mosque named after the last Mughal governor who was the Nawab of the Carnatic. However, it’s doors were closed so we could only afford a peak into it through the grills.IMG_1765

We drove a little ahead in the area and got to the Shiva temple. It is well maintained with lawns that make it a nice spot to sit and relax. By now we were ravenous, and mercifully had the croissants and other eats we’d gotten from the bakery. We dug into them with gusto and everyone unanimously agreed that that would keep us going a while longer after which we could lunch. Note that we ate inside the car, there are a huge number of monkeys in the vicinity and they WILL snatch your food if you are in the open.

Tip: We recently purchased a car organiser with an insulated section. We found it very useful during this trip since most places were really hot and we needed to keep such cooked food from going bad. To give you an instance of how sunny it was – At one point it was too bright to look ahead and I asked Anand to help hold my bag to let me replace my regular glasses with my shades. Turned out, I was already wearing shades 😐

Once satiated, at least temporarily, we went inside the Shiva temple, which has 2 structures, the smaller one even surrounded by a moat. IMG_1785.jpgDespite this being such a long post, there was still so much more to see at Rajagiri. There were another larger temple pond, a prisoner’s well and multiple temples. I guess we need some reason to visit again someday. However, we had to drive back to Bangalore and we had a long way ahead of us.

We decided to stop at the Ramana Maharshi Ashram at Thiruvannamalai. We entered into a place with loads of trees and foreigners. It is the ashram of the philosopher Ramana Maharishi who emphasised the personal experience of self-realization. There are quite a few small sections- a meditation hall, an area where the devotees chanted the Vedas (?), accommodation for devotees, a library of related books, a kitchen etc.IMG_1804.jpg

After a short while, we went to a restaurant just opposite to it that mercifully still had good simple lunch (though limited in variety) despite it being 3:30 pm already. Thus satiated, there ended our trip with a glimpse of both Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu that left us yearning to visit again, except maybe in cooler weather 😉

Tip: Thiruvannamalai itself has a lot of old, huge and beautiful temples. If you have the time, they may be worth the visit.

Up next : China: Beijing- The old Great wall and the new TV Tower

 

2 day trip · 4 day trip

Bidar- Tombs, forts and people

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While the world readied themselves to party the new year in, we decided to visit dusty tombs of dead kings, cobweb ridden forts and a university struck by lightning – so well, Bidar it was.

As we left on a Thursday afternoon, we were lucky to see a winter sunset that was needlessly dramatic – the orb of a gorgeous shade of gold with a sharply defined outline and the bluish-pink sky, on the other hand vying for your attention. Further on ahead, a cop at a highway checkpoint asked for a lift and we obliged. We were well rewarded with recommendations of tourist places nearby. We also got a peek into his life with 18-hour shifts, 24*7 availability, being witness to the aftermath of avoidable traffic accidents every day and the crimes he gets to clean up after every day. We soon felt guilty of how less we appreciate their work every day to keep our cities and villages safe even when often it’s just one of them on a long, lonely and dark highway.

Tip: You could also stop at Lepakshi on the way from Bangalore to Bidar which is a lovely old temple.

On the brighter (sparklier) side, with it getting darker earlier due to the winter, we were taken by surprise at the perfectly clear view of endless stars that lit up the night sky and left us smiling for a long time. After checking in to the hotel and dinner we crashed and woke up to the image of a pretty pond and guava trees outside our balcony.

But we had more road to cover- through tractors full of sugarcane and fields of cotton that looked like they were specific areas blessed with a snowy Christmas. The roads are great except for a small stretch before reaching Bidar since the roads there are being laid afresh. When there, expect your vehicle to be covered liberally with deep red soil on every bit of its exposed surface.

After checking in and a relaxed lunch, we headed off to our first stop.

Chaukhandi of Hazrat Khalil Ullah

Our first stop was Chaukhandi. This is a strikingly designed octagonal tomb of Hazrat Khalil Ullah who was the king’s spiritual advisor. Its distinct shape makes it easily visible from afar too.

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It has a reverent air around it as devotees continue to visit it as a dargah. There is lovely Quranic calligraphy work around its façade. The smaller building beside the more prominent one, was where musicians used to play trumpets and drums as appropriate to the shrine.

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There are 3 graves inside the tomb and are a few smaller ones around it, some with adornments on their outer structure too. There is a small step pond beside the main structure.img_5200

Tip: Make sure you are well covered, including for gentlemen- wear trousers in lieu of shorts. To this place the only pointer, if you don’t have a map, is to look for road signs to “Ashtur”

Bahamani tombs:

This is just a little away from the Chaukhandi and really takes your breath away. It is made of 8 main tombs and several smaller ones. The tall and graceful arches along with remnants of the richly coloured designs made for a sight for sore eyes.The one dome that has crashed in opening up to the sky, lends it a special touch of intrigue and mystery.

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It’s interesting to note how young some of the designated rulers at the time were, some just 8- 12 years old. One wonders what lives those children led. The queens were called “Mallika-i-Jahan” (Queen of the world) very dramatically and were often the regent queens till the children grew up.

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The people there seem to have the opposite energy levels those in the Chaukhandi. Children frolicking around, families playing a joyful game of kabaddi with some of its best participants in a hijab and, a group of young men learning to ride a bike inside the premises and taking ubiquitous selfies of course. It’s the perfect place to spend a beautiful winter evening.

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As we climbed atop one of the structures a young girl of about 9 yrs old approached me asking why we were taking videos(she assumed due to the huge DSLR) and what we’d do with them. I explained as best as I could and then we exchanged names.

“Are you a Hindu?” she then asks.

“Well… I guess…but what difference does it make?” [there wasn’t enough time to express my opinions about religion]

She giggles in agreement.

She continues, “You are very nice…..but………..you have short hair.” More giggling! 😐

She then proceeds to call her sisters too and each one requests a separate picture with me. Revelling in the glory of fleeting celebrity-hood I agree with a grin.

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The setting sun lends marvellous shades of gold to the tombs and their facades adding to their charm. Reflecting on the place we decided that while all of us die, some of our tombs are possibly grander but considering we aren’t around to enjoy them, we might as well enjoy our evening for now.

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Bidar fort:

The next day was the main focus of our whole trip, the Bidar fort. It is considered one of the most formidable forts in the country. However, a few steps from the entrance and you’re instantly transported to another time half expecting sentries to bring down the draw bridge for you at the doors. The 3 moats around it are clearly visible just a short climb up its ramparts. It lends itself to a day of joyous exploration with something new at every turn. Despite it being a sunny day, areas of the fort are deliciously cool with their design optimising for air flow. The inside of the fort starts off with the Rangeen Mahal and the Prince’s Mahal on the left with the Fort’s museum on the right. The Tarkash Mahal and the Solah Khamba Mosque are soon after. Further inside one would reach the Diwan-i-Aam, the Takht Mahal and several other structures.

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Diwan-i-Aam

The hall for an audience with the public – was contrary to its name, well, closed to the public, since it was undergoing renovations. A peek from the gates, however, led us to view a large area for the people to meet their king and walls with tall arches all around.

Tarkash Mahal

Is a corruption of “Turkish” which is what the queen was, and this was made for her. This too was unfortunately closed and seemed to have multiple steps and sections, much left to our imagination.

 

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Tarkash Mahal straight ahead and the Solah Khamb mosque on the right

 

Solah Khamba Masjid

This is still used as a mosque. It has 16 pillars in the front but a total of 96 smooth, round, huge, white pillars beautifully aligned to make up the structure

Rangeen Mahal

This was one structure I was yearning to see and it did not disappoint. Marble tiles in stunning shades of blue, green and white make you long to see how it may have been when it was all in place.

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The courtyard of the Rangeen Mahal
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The splendid ceiling 

 

Prince’s mahal

Just beside the Rangeen Mahal was the Mahal of the prince.  All that was left were strong pillars, sectioned off rooms and wide spaces.

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Takht Mahal

This was a favourite of mine. Easy to get lost amidst its huge sections separating the rooms with beautiful archways and huge windows to look benevolently(I hope) at the peasants in the plains below. img_5551

Renovations are ongoing to put back together the waterbodies in each courtyard attempting fervently to re-create the glory days.

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The Persian influence in architecture is noted in the tiger with a starburst seen right at the entrance of the building.Just behind it are secret passageways and tunnels to escape into the earth in case the enemy attacks.

 

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As we moved towards the exit, we also stopped at some old granaries still in pretty good shape. There are huge canons around the fort area too.

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It’s a delightfully enchanting space to spend a relaxed day stumbling into its various nooks and spaces, discovering a cannon at one spot and a vibrant blue mosaic at another, feeling like an intruder in space you yearn to really see in it’s prime.

 

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We wished we could, if only for an instance, breathe life into those spaces to get a peek into the lives and times of the people of the era, their every days and their celebrations, their joys and their heartbreaks. For now, we’ll never know what secrets the place may be holding close to its heart and what tales the palaces would be yearning to share.

Up next : Bidar : Of Lightning strikes and scenic rewards

4 day trip

Andhra : A short heat respite and a suspicious gate-keeper

Avani -> Chandragiri -> Pulicat -> Vontimitta -> Nandalur -> Siddavatam -> Pushpagiri -> Gurramkonda -> Horsely Capturehills

Continued from here

Day 4 :

It was our last day at Andhra Pradesh and we had a drive of 2 hours via marvellously empty roads for most of it. On the way, we stopped by some people selling honey since Anand wanted to buy honeycomb from them. The language translation app promptly failed to translate what we had to say, but I managed to show them a picture of the honeycomb on my phone. They insisted that the honey came from it and that it was what they were selling. The lady even inserted a lit matchstick into the honey to prove its genuineness. After a while of both of us failing to communicate, Anand went over to see the honeycomb itself that they actually happened to have with them. The lady came to me and then insisted that the communication failure was desperate and then to our shock switched to Hindi asking us if we spoke the language. Much to everyone’s amusement, we did and bought 2 small pieces of honeycomb and continued on our way after sharing some biscuits with them.

After that little incident, we drove further on and finally reached Gurramkonda fort. I thought the name was funny. Also, I was looking forward to the huge staircase leading to it and eager to explore the place for other interesting nooks. We were welcomed by a kingfisher right at the entrance and Anand stopped to take pictures of it while I walked on ahead. There was just one person who seemed to be the caretaker who followed me in at a distance. There were a bunch of young boys there and assuming I didn’t know the language at all, continued a conversation on how to reach out to me and ask for my name [at the least]. By now, the caretaker promptly decided to stand by the side and watch. Anand joined me and the caretaker then was quickly alert insisting that he couldn’t take photos with his camera there, while the rest of the folks there were clicking away. Apparently, cameras on phones were ok! The confusing rule meant that you could only have poorer quality images of the place but clear pictures were simply not ok. We figured he was confused that it was a video camera and told him it wasn’t one. Then went on to ask for someone else we could speak to, and that gentleman also insisted on a call that cameras even for photos weren’t allowed. Siddhavatam fort had asked for a fee with a receipt provided but apparently, even that just wouldn’t do.

By now, the caretaker was quite annoyed with us and insisted we do not go anywhere other than the main building itself. Even though the group of guys had just gone ahead. Overall irritated, we tried to still leave the place without letting the experience ruin the place for us. So we went ahead to the other side, happened to a ruined small structure and a humongous well, and headed to our next spot.

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The lovely stairs at Gurramkonda fort

If there’s anyone who could figure out for us, please do:

  1. Is it privately owned property?
  2. Why the rule about cameras not allowed but phone cameras being allowed?
  3. Why there are no boards around about this ban?
  4. What else is worth seeing there other than the building itself? There was a passage uphill to what was a temple(?) but it seemed purely for groups of guys only 😉

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    The 3-storeys of the building clearly visible from behind it

Our next stop was Horsely hills, “the Ooty of Andhra Pradesh”. We had to admit it was significantly cooler than any place we had been in the last few days. The route to it was also scenic and filled with greenery.img20161101112805 Though it was only 11 30 we were quite hungry post our early breakfast and interestingly there was no place to have a meal! There was just one small shop selling chips and soft drinks and the only “open” restaurant said they’d take open only at 1PM. We picked some snacks and then decided to walk around the area. There was an animal complex with random birds and a couple of crocodiles, separately of course. There was a Manasa Sarovar- “the only natural water source there” but that was dry too. The Nature study centre had a few exhibits of animal taxidermy, snakeskins and trivia about the flora and fauna of the region. img_4515Overall the place had nothing breathtaking but is probably a nice place to bring a book and your own food to spend the day or even come with a group AND food to relax there. At 1 PM, however, the restaurant staff told us they’d only start taking orders at 1:30pm and we decided our stomachs deserved better. We drove ahead and at a petrol bunk staff’s recommendation finally had a modest meal at a newly opened restaurant on our way back.

And there ended our trip with more highs than lows and an opportunity to look back in wonder at its sights and scenes. What will stay with us other than the grandeur of Sidhhavatam is probably the magic of Pulicat that we were lucky to witness.

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Up next: A different country, a personal favorite of mine

4 day trip

Andhra : Nail-biting adventures and new favourite places

Avani -> Chandragiri -> Pulicat -> Vontimitta -> Nandalur -> Siddavatam -> Pushpagiri -> Gurramkonda -> Horsely hillsCapture

Continued from here

Day 3 :

We woke up to the sound of the conch shell from the Vontimitta temple. We freshened up and headed off for another round of camera work there and had some of the pongal they were distributing as prasad. After breakfast our next stop was Nandalur. We’d read it had remnants of an old Buddhist site.

We followed maps and reached a place with an extremely rusted gate that led to a path overgrown with thorny plants on either side. In a moment of bravado, and a scene befitting a horror movie with stupid explorers, we continued in, almost expecting the gate to close behind us at any minute. The path ended at a grave like that in a dargah, wrapped with chadar . There were steps with a hand rail that led uphill too, but visibility to the top was not very good due to the shrubs everywhere. The place was completely deserted, the only sign of life nearby were the small rice fields around it.

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Just a few steps up were 2 caves, both very dark and filled with bats so we chose not to enter. Some way up and we saw the promised stupas.

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Can you see them?

It was very hot by then and I chose not to climb up but Anand did. From the top, we had a view of what would have been the Cheyyeru river but was completely dried up and so looked more like a distant desert.

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Desert or river?

While I waited, an older gentleman came climbing up from the other side of the site, perhaps from the fields below, probably thinking we were lost. He started a conversation with me but I had to tell him I was pretty useless in the Telugu department. Disappointed he waited for Anand to come down but met with the same fate there too. There had been nothing more to see from atop than a larger area than what I had seen. “Arming” me with a pen-knife for my safety (?) Anand went on ahead following the hand-rail. However, that too seemed like a never-ending path with no clear boards and so he returned in a short while.

We next headed back into civilisation and the Sri Sowmyanatha Swamy temple. The temple was functional and at first glance, looked quite huge too. It also had a small pond in front of the temple. Unfortunately, it was also a place where we were severely visually appraised despite being completely covered in appropriate clothes. The devotees also took it upon themselves to insist we do not take any pictures in the temple, even of the pillars and walls, despite no sign stating so.  It is supposedly a temple with interesting architectural and mythological details, however, we were turned off by the cold stares of the people to really enjoy it. We sat a while at the temple pond beside a mum feeding her child the prasad and then headed out.

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From here we went on to the place called Sidhout fort, that we’d seen in a picture hung up in our previous hotel. However, I preferred the local name Sidhhavatam instead. We could view the fort even from the bridge on our way towards it. We loved it right from the get-go. It lies on the banks of the Penna river. Since we noticed a board just before getting there, we drove ahead to what was the Lankamalla sanctuary/reserve forest. Though understandably because of the traffic through it, there were no animals or birds visible, it was a pleasant drive after which we returned to explore the fort itself.

Right beside the entrance was a small rice field that had a bird making a point sitting right on the scarecrow.

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Cheeky fellow

It was hot but we were lucky that it drizzled twice while we were there, reducing the temperatures to pleasant levels.

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Can you see the approaching rains?

There are 2 entrances to the fort and both of them had beautiful work on their halls and pillars.

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The fort itself houses multiple temples, mosques, Hindu and Muslim burial places and interesting little structures in various levels of ruin.img_4322-cr2 One, I decided, must have been a charming little area to store potions or makeup!

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Beside the mosque is a house where they sell soft drinks and snacks. This is the only place inside or around the fort with anything to eat/drink at all.

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The sun and the moon, all at once..

A couple of meters ahead from here is a small narrow passage with steps leading right to the Penna river! That was quite the little treat to come out to the river and dip our toes into its calm waves so easily.

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A tiny stairway led us here!

The fort has vast lawns the allow for children to have a fun time playing there. We were the only non-locals around. IMG_4410.JPGThis place had so much to explore, admire and learn from that we could have easily spent the day here if we had food along. img_4277-cr2It has very surely been added to the list of our most favourite places.img_4307-cr2

Tip: carry water, wear comfortable shoes and have a hat/scarf to protect your head from the sun. Give this place enough time to enjoy its little treasures. Also, you may have couples canoodling at various locations inside so you may want to make yourself heard to avoid mutual awkwardness 😀 Sometimes a loud voice like mine is a gift.

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He seems shocked.

We next headed to Pushpagiri to see the temple by the river. We love rivers and so this was something we couldn’t miss. We checked-in to the AP tourism hotel at Kadapa and then left from there following maps. However, when we reached the end of the road, we realised that what we wanted to see was right there, but on the other side of the river!

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So near, yet so far

There were a couple of temples on the side we had reached but I instantly lost interest in them in my longing to go to the other temple instead.

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The Pushpagiri group of temples are quite lovely, except to an impatient lady

Tip : Search for Chennakeshava temple in Pushpagiri when you try to go here. Looking for just Pushpagiri will lead us to where we had reached.

It was already 5:30pm by this time and we had to go quickly to the other side by going all the way back to the highway and then going on a parallel road to that we had come on. The route was 13km long and we were worried if we’d get there before dark to be able to enjoy the temple and more importantly the sunset on the river.

On the edge of our seats, we drove on but the situation had decided to turn as dramatic as possible. First, a rickety auto decided to block the narrow road by going as slow as it could for most of the route- the kids seated at the back decided to also judgmentally snicker at our poor car that was still awash with slush from the Pulicat lake. Next, a pair of buffalos decided that the best place to mate was just ahead of our car on the road. And after that, a rooster jumped right on top of the car while the villagers laughed out at the scene to their heart’s content before getting it off . By now, a cow decided she was in love with Anand and insisted on kissing him throw the car window. After that series of comical moments, we finally got to the temple but daylight was fading.

Anand stayed back to take photos of the temple while I rushed in, completely ignoring the devotees, the priests, and the idol, running directly to the back of the temple and the river. And there it was, worth it all, a beautiful evening scene with everything we had hoped it’d be. By the time Anand joined, the sky had turned a delightful shade of pink that was eagerly reflected in the placid river.

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Sigh!

A few people were performing a pooja on one side and letting into the water, small lamps in containers made with leaves stitched together by sticks. Yet again, we seemed to be the only tourists around. We sat by the water watching people, the river, the sky and truly absorbing the perfection of the moment. We were the last people to see the curtains closed on the idol in the temple, but well, we weren’t complaining.

 

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Chennakeshava temple

 

 

We headed out as it had gotten quite dark and it wasn’t a very well lit place. Just as we drove off and looked at the river one last time, our last view of the place was that of a single oil lamp floating away in the river alongside us on the road. Now if that’s not a great Diwali, I don’t know what is. 🙂

 

Coming up next : The Ooty of Andhra Pradesh and some not-so-welcoming places

4 day trip

Andhra : Avani and Chandragiri

Avani -> Chandragiri -> Pulicat -> Vontimitta -> Nandalur -> Siddavatam -> Pushpagiri -> Gurramkonda -> Horsely hills

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Day 1:

Andhra has held our fascination since our past trip when we realised it has a lot of places to explore that are not popular at all. So on a 4 day holiday, we decided to use it as a chance to discover what it holds.

Just as we started off on the road, we noticed a signboard by Karnataka tourism to Avani. We took a detour to check it out. It’s a small group of temples with no visitors other than ourselves .

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Perfect to be alone with your thoughts

The only other people around were the caretakers. The places houses a group of small temples, each having mostly lingas in the names of not-so-frequently seen characters from the Ramayana in addition to Rama, of course. Shatrughaneshwara, Lakshmaneshwara, Vali and Sugriva, Bharatheshwara – there are lingas supposedly installed by each of them to make up for the sin of fighting against Lava and Kusha without knowing of their being related to them. There’s also a small temple for Sita too with a very pretty Ganesha idol sculpted on one of the pillars in there. As typical, each of the temples with the linga also has a Nandi facing it. One of the temples had a fine ceiling.

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This group of temples has a rocky hill making up its backdrop.And atop it is said to be one of the few temples dedicated to Sita and a couple of other temples. Lava and Kusha were supposedly born there.  We decided to come back for it some other time since we had quite a distance to cover and it looked like small trek that would probably be better earlier in the day when the weather was cooler.

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The hill behind made a lovely backdrop to the scene

Beside the group of temples is a large temple pond that’s easy to miss because of the shrubs growing around it. But we love temple ponds, so visit it, we did.

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Pretty scenes

We had also seen a board to Mulbagal and we went in search of it. It was a Someshwara temple but in our opinion, its charm was lost by painting over its natural shades of stone to make it a more technicolour palette. It also had a smaller temple pond in front of the temple.

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The one I skipped

We got back on the main route towards the Chandragiri fort while munching on some sweet, fresh guavas we bought from kids on the way. The route was scenic with marigold fields in brilliant shades of orange and yellow cheering us on.

Chandragiri was the place for royalty to stay when they visited Tirupati. The Raja mahal and the Rani mahal are the 2 structures you’d see as you enter the area.IMG_3803.CR2.jpg

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Seems a half-hearted attempt for the Rani, me thinks

The Raja palace houses, across multiple floors, a museum of artifacts from various historical places in Andhra Pradesh including our special favorite- Gandikota. What we found interesting were the idols of the various planets as per Indian mythology, each with its animal of choice. Apparently, Krishnadevaraya was housed in this palace till his coronation, so just as a reminder are life-size statues of him, his brothers and each of their consorts made in plaster of Paris. [Spoiler alert : he is much thinner than one may have imagined him to be.]

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Corridors of history

There are monkeys all over the place, one even threatening to snatch my wallet as I tried to pay the entrance fee! The place has a huge oak (?) tree and the monkeys will tease you by eating its fruit and throwing it at you. They may also pee on you from atop the tree. You have been warned. The littler ones, however, are painfully cute as they scamper around the place.img_3805-cr2

There is a small pond with pedal boats but they didn’t seem functional. There is also a sound and light show towards the evening but considering how far we were from our next pit stop we didn’t deem it worth the wait. Also, there were people exploring the area behind atop the rocky hills but with no lunch in sight yet, we didn’t have the energy to try.

We visited the small Rajarajeshwari temple with a big well near the fort too.IMG_3842.CR2.jpg

Tip : Eat a meal at whatever place you can find, however modest, BEFORE getting here. There is nothing in the surroundings, and the canteen inside the premises was closed. The place is perfect to have a packed meal.However, the monkeys will make it very hard, if not impossible to actually eat in the open.

We reached our pit stop for the night at the AP tourism hotel at Kalahasti. The food was not the best, but the rooms were decent. We played a while on the swings in the kids’ park and called it a day.

Tip : If you see “Snowfeast” ice creams, do not eat them. They were the first ice creams we have ever discarded 😐

Coming up next : What lies in store for us at the 2nd largest lagoon in the country!

9 day trip

Maharashtra : Aurangabad and its secrets

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued from here

The next day was one I was excited about. We had a list of places in Aurangabad we’d decided to visit. After some haggling with a cab driver, the contact of whom had been shared by a friend, we hired him for the day for Rs.1400.
First on our list was the Daulatabad fort. We severely underestimated its vastness when we started. It was huge, imposing and hot.

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A gorgeous view

 

I could imagine it being even more beautiful in the rains. It was apparently, the only undefeated fort in history. And supposedly only ever won over by bribery or corruption much like the Great Wall of China.

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A castle with a story

I guess no amount of preparation could beat that, then or now. The fort had 4 concentric walls each with entrances not aligned to each other. The moat was the first one I’d seen in a fort with actual water and we spotted a water snake in it too. We found interesting the temple with a huge hall of ‘Bharath Mata’ in its premises.

 

 

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Seen a Bharat Mata temple before?

The most intriguing part of the fort, however, was its bhool-bhulaiiyya/andheri/labyrinth. It had confusing passages with strategic locations to place one’s own soldiers so they could attack the enemy that tried to penetrate the fort with boiling oil, poisonous gases or the classic beheading amongst other charming methods.

 

 

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A long walk, but worth it.No wonder the child needed to be carried – Down right

There were quite a few squirrels around and we had an entertaining few minutes at the top feeding them chikkis and watching them eat. The climb up and down easily takes half a day and we then headed off to a nearby eatery for lunch and next to ‘Panchakki’ which I thought was a dam as I hadn’t done any reading on it.
We had just enough time for a short nap in the car and we reached the place. It was a calm, cool oasis in the hot surroundings. We hired a young lad who offered to guide us around the place for a tiny sum and it was worth it. Panchakki itself was formed with pani+chakki = water+grinding stone. It was essentially a turbine system which caused a grinding stone to continually grind away.

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Oh to see water and feel its cool breeze on a hot day..

 

The speciality being the water itself came from 8kms away in the mountains via pipes made of mud. Quite a feat in the 12th century AD. The saint of the place was someone called Baba Shah Musafir who was supposedly from Russia and who brought this in place to be able to grind flour in huge amounts to feed the poor and needy. Using a syphoning method, later, they have managed to make a waterfall of sorts falling back into a small pond in the premises.

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  • My very first dargah , one of Baba Shah Musafir, which sadly ladies weren’t allowed to enter 😦 However I did get a blessing with a bunch of peacock feathers so it’s a start.
  • They had a small ‘museum’ of the Baba’s clothes and utensils.
  • There was a resting area for the poor/travellers below the pond, which meant that the place below it would be pleasantly cooled by the water overhead.
  • Inside the spaces are now being used by different officials of the Wakf board; quite a scenic place to have an office.

Next on our wish list was Bibi ka Maqbara, the tomb of Rabbia-Durani, the wife of Aurangazeb; built by her son Prince Azam Shah. I loved it instantly. It was a calm, white structure that had beautiful art across its surfaces.

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Who needs Taj Mahal 😉

 

Inside the actual area with the tomb ,there was appropriately not much adornment. The tomb itself was housed below ground level within it. Despite a notice not to, people had thrown in money there. We sat a while under a tree in its sprawling lawns and then headed back.
Last on our wish list was a factory tour of Himroo and Pathani saris that we’d heard of online. It was quite a let-down though 😦 It was essentially 2 looms and an older gentleman attempting to use the loom with most of it left to the imagination. In my quest for local saris I, however, did buy one as a souvenir, though not completely convinced of it being a good deal.img_1730

Up next: Mumbai’s cityscapes

9 day trip

Maharashtra: Wandering in Pune

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai

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Some vacations are not for chilling in the typical sense. They are for wonder and fun and meeting people, places, and new and interesting versions of yourself that you didn’t know could calmly hike 6kms after the more hectic 3 days of foot-work or stay awake without fatigue till 1AM.

Pune : 2 days

After a birthday spent mostly at the bank either physically or mentally, the highlight being a lovely lunch with (mercifully) a group of folks who did not know of it being my birthday, and being interrupted even during the lunch with 2-3 bank related interruptions, all I wanted was to head out the next day with a reasonable level of things settled in.

After starting work from 6 AM and going on till 11 AM (we had booked tickets mid-day by mistake instead of the evening in our holiday planning rush) and wading through Bangalore traffic we managed to get into the flight that would take us away, just long enough for us to be away to be glad to get back home too🙂

We landed in Pune and headed to our hotel room only to be absolutely delighted with it. Cosy and carefully decorated with attention to detail it was just what we needed for a quick nap to start off our vacation. Early in the evening we were up and decided to ramble around the Koregaon park area with my walking shoes (that I was eternally grateful for throughout the trip). Our first stop was German bakery that was just a couple of minutes away from our hotel. It was the first eatery I’d ever been to with a security check and metal detectors, no thanks to the nasty bombing of 2010 that killed and injured many. Keeping that thought aside, we tried to focus on the bakery itself and decided amongst ourselves that we liked it. Some satisfying cheese filled jalapenos and coffee later we decided it was enough nourishment to tide us over our walk of the area. As popular as the kheema pao was, as a speciality in Pune, I didn’t feel up to finishing that for tea and decided to try it some other day.

We continued walking in the area past the Osho ashram that we considered visiting, however stumbling upon a Quora post on a very weird guy describing the place made us decide against it. Nevertheless, it was an interesting stroll through residences of people we’ll never be as rich as. The Ganesha idols in pandals were also all over the place.

 

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Pandals everywhere for Ganesha Chaturthi

We stopped at a sufficiently interesting place for something to drink and had drinks called Boom(Musumbi,Khus,Lemon) and Jhoom (Musumbi,Rose,Lemon) to satisfy our thirst and our tickled curiosity. The cheese from the previous meal still filling us up, we walked back to the welcoming hotel to rest enough for another interesting day.

 

Interesting dreams paid us a visit : a visit to the heavens and being chased back to the earth , form-changing creatures and floods for me, and a honey badger attacking a cat for him. We took a rick to pick up the hired car for the day and headed off to yummy breakfast of alu vada, puri with shrikhand, and sitaphal milkshake. Following the maps to Sinhgad lead us to a suspicious fine of Rs.250 for a toll ‘missed’ because we were in a hired car. But that was also the first time we passed by the war cemetery. We couldn’t help but stop there even if only by the road, every time we passed by it on our trip. This was only the first.

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On the way to Sinhgad

 

After a bumpy ride with beautiful purple and yellow blooms and thriving plantain plants on either side of the rocky surfaces ,we did reach Sinhgad and were welcomed by the sight of thinly sliced amla, raw mangoes, guava, cucumber, kulfi and boiled peanuts.  We headed off on the trek uphill to reach the top. For all places on this trip, the recurring theme was to carry as much water as comfortable, good walking shoes and hats. Even despite it being expected to have mild weather/rains, it was predominantly sultry. We passed by towers and pools of water randomly showing up along the way. The walking route, however, was quite confusing with it forking every few minutes.

 

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Lots of prettiness

 

After Kuvempu’s in Shimoga, this was yet another scenic samadhi, this time of Raja Ram Mohan Roy one of my favourite social reformers.

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A samadhi with a view

 

Other than the view from there, it also had a catchment of water and a small Ganesha temple beside it. Once we reached the top it was scenic with the Khadakwasla river also visible. The beautiful breeze gave some respite and sufficiently revived us to make our way back down.

 

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Warning : These yummy looking peanuts have no salt 😦 But try everything else!

 

After some disappointing boiled peanuts (they were steeped in turmeric and didn’t have any salt!), we entered an area that promised ‘unique art’ for an entry fee. It turned out to be metal etchings depicting Shivaji’s life starting from the time his parents were wedded till his own demise. It made for an interesting overview of him. Just as we were about to leave we also stumbled upon the horse stables of the older ages that were essentially a rock carved out into sections for the animals to rest.
We were quite hungry and decided to head out to the thatched hotel of the guy who first called us over when we had parked the car. We got to sit on chairs at an angle due to the inclined mud-floor, and what a view it was.

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A great view and delicious food. Life doesn’t get better

 

I had the most delicious usal made with green gram. Turned out that the rest of the trip would disappoint me as I continued to order it everywhere hoping for a repeat of the taste. Anand merrily consumed 2 tiny pots of the matka curd too and it was clear that was not a day for food complaints.

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This is certified yummy

 

We lingered a bit more, bought some bottled water, promptly left it behind and then headed off to the Khadakwasla dam in search of some soothing water views.

It was, however, teeming with people and we just went around it without stopping. Looking for places to cover the rest of the day we headed to the Pataleshwar temple within the city. It was a rock cut temple below the ground level, but otherwise wasn’t much to write much about.

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Pataleshwar temple

 

To further our culinary adventures for the day, we headed off to Kalyan bhel which was supposed to be the best in Pune. We did have bhel puri but our Bangalore- bhel- puri-adjusted palate found it too sweet to be completely happy about it. We had to return the car, so stopped again on the road by the war cemetery, then returned the car, packed some dinner of a salad and some chilli-cheese toast from German Bakery again and walked back to the hotel to rest for another day.

Up next : A mix of old and new in Pune