Belur – A hoysala Jewel

During our recent trip to Western Ghats, we visited Belur Hoysala Chennakeshava Temple. This is a Vishnu temple. This temple was built in 11th century. It took 103 years to complete this marvel. We hired a guide (an official from ASI) to explain us about the temple architecture and history. Parking and washrooms are present just opposite the temple complex.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Halabeedu temple: Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best

Date: 5th May, 2017 (Friday)

Main Gopuram – Top is made of ceramic and the bottom is made of granite

The temple is made of soap stones (local name), which is soft beneath the earth but when exposed to atmosphere, becomes hard and looks like a metal from a distance.

Garuda

Look at the intricate details of the sculpture – this is not metal. This is stone.

Hoysala – Young boy who conquered a lion

Such intricate details on the dancing sculptures. A lady looking at the mirror.

A monkey pulling the saree

Look how the left hand is placed on the drums. Isn’t it amazing?

A sculpture that says love is blind

Varaha avataram

Arjuna during his swayamvar

Ugra(Angry) Narasimha Avatar – Final stages

Maha Vishnu

Vidya Ganapathi

Ananthapadmanaba Swamy

Ravana lifting Kailash Mountain

Surrounding the temple, first tier is occupied by elephants (Strength), second by lion (Courage) and third by horses (Speed). There are about 600+ elephants and each one of them is unique.

Star shaped perimeter

When art meets the right people, you get this. Look at the details.

Outer walls

Balconies were there those days itself

Inside the temple complex – Artistic excellence

Lady with the parrot

Pillars look like metals, but actually they are not! Also this pillar was placed on top of a ball bearing kind of structure, and is supposed to rotate. But due to poor maintenance over the years, it has lost its function.

Art work on the roof

Soumyanayaki (Goddess Lakshmi) temple

Another main attraction is the floating pillar. There is another one at Lepakshi

At the entrance before the main deity. Work and perfection speak for themselves

And finally Mr and Mrs. Vishnu

Even though many sculptures were broken because of invasion and local vandalism, this temple stands tall amidst the test of time showcasing the mettle and skill of our ancestors. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) owns it and preserves it as well.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Halabeedu temple: Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best

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Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best

Have you been to Dwarasamudra? Have you tried searching for this place in google maps? Aren’t you able to locate it? What is its new name?

A tank was built opposite the temple to serve the water needs and due to huge inflow of water, tank always had waves and looked like an ocean and hence the name Dwarasamudra, entry by ocean. The new name which everyone can relate to translates to “ruined city” in Kannada, Halabeedu. We visited this temple during our return journey from Western Ghats to Bangalore. Halabeedu was the capital city of Hoysala empire. This Hoysala temple construction was not completed when Muslims invaded the city and hence inside the temple you can find many unfinished structures.

This is a Shiva temple. When it was designed, it was decided to construct it twice the size of Belur Hoysala temple. Belur has 650+ elephants and this temple has 1300+ elephants.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Belur temple: Belur – A hoysala Jewel

The name board

Huge open space and lots of greenery outside the temple

Ganapathi

Royal Entrance: King would enter the temple from this entrance after worshiping Lord Ganapathi

Which is the largest built Nandi? Many would say the Tanjore one, but that is a close second. The first biggest Nandi is in Lepakshi and the one in Halabeedu is the seventh largest one.

In all the temples, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva will be in order. Creator, Protector and the destroyer. But since Halabeedu is a Shiva temple, the order is Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.

Look at the intricate details on the roof – These are soap stones just like the Belur temple which is as soft as a soap but hardens on getting exposed to atmosphere.

Below sculpture looks like a British man with a stick on his right hand, a hairdo and a long over coat. Isn’t it? But British came to India after 1600s and this temple was built in the 13th Century. A mere coincidence? But as per temple books, these are Saints and this was their attire. So did British copy the dress code of our Saints? Hard to believe, but definitely creates enough doubts.

Who invented or used telescope first? Galileo? Year? 1600s? But look at the below sculpture. This is again from 1300s.

Astronauts of that age?

Chakravyuh in Mahabaratha.

Bhima killing elephants during the war. Anyone remember “Ashwathama is killed”? The famous strategy to kill the Guru Drona?

Rama killing Vali in Ramayana

Rama giving his ring to Hanuman to be delivered to Sita

Dresses of that age? Three fourths and a skirt

Krishna lifting Govarthana Giri

Look at the upper right corner of the above picture – An interesting thing to note is that on top of the mountain, there is a banana tree and a monkey is trying to pluck bananas. Who would have thought of all these minute details ? A magnified view of that.

Spellbound by their architecture. Granular level details at its very best.

Look at the hind leg of the cow – its slightly bent, signifying Shiva’s weight. He weighs more than Parvati. Simply wow !!

And another one: Look at the bench they are sitting. It is tilted towards Shiva

Because of his weight, Parvati is getting tossed around when elephant moves !!

Some commonalities with Belur. Ravana lifting the Kailash mountain and Arjuna during his swayamvar.

On the outer walls

Guides are available in English, Hindi and Kannada. They are part of ASI. They take a paltry amount of Rs 300 for 45 minute tour. The guide said that there are 24 guides in Halabeedu and they share their earnings for the day. They are not monetized by the Government of India.

Halabeedu as the name suggests, a city of ruins, but the architects have left enough sculptures like these which stand tall amidst the test of time and all the invasion and local vandalism.

For complete details of our trip: A short trip to Western Ghats
For Belur temple: Belur – A hoysala Jewel

A short trip to Western Ghats

Planning

It was summer and we as a family had not gone for any trip since my last visit to Muzhappilangad drive-in beach and Bekal fort with cousins. Off late the travel bug started hitting me hard. Chikmaglur, the last time we planned, we could not get any accommodation. My wife’s usual wish is to go to a place and be sure to cover maximum number of tourist attractions there. This time though with the advent of our daughter we were looking for a more leisurely vacation. We were looking mainly for home stays and we zeroed in on Forest Home-stay – Gowdahalli lured by the splendid reviews on tripadvisor.

5th May, 2017 – Friday

We left home 20 minutes past 6 AM. We took Hebbal, Yeshwantpur and Nelamangala exit to reach NH75. Traffic was sparse, but we missed the service road at Nelamangala to take the exit. Hence had to go around and take a ‘U’ turn. Going with my brother, its not new. At least I am glad the ‘U’ happened early . NH75 was smooth but with lots of toll booths. We did a scheduled stop at Swathi Delicacy for breakfast. Butter Dosa, Vada and coffee were too yummy. The restaurant was jam packed. Not a surprise though given the delicious food served. The place also has good parking space and clean washroom.

Swathi Delicacy

Kid Friendly

Nicely laid NH75

After having sumptuous breakfast, we left for Belur – Chennakeshava temple. It was a two hour journey. After Hassan, there is a road on your right that takes you to Belur. A scenic route but with lots of unmarked speed humps. We hit one of them really bad – worst to the point of all three who were sitting in the backseat going and hitting the roof –  and we slowed down thereafter.

We reached Belur Hoysala Chennakeshava Temple fifteen minutes past 11. Sun was at its scorching best. Parking is just opposite the temple. Its a Vishnu temple. This temple was built in the 11th century. It took 103 years to complete this marvel. I decided to dedicate a separate thread to Belur temple just because I didn’t want to miss out on any of the micro details. For more details and photos on Belur temple, look at the thread Belur – A hoysala Jewel.

Architecture, skill and perfection at its very best

We spent close to 1.5 hours at the temple. From there we left to our home stay at Gowdahalli. Turn on your GPS early otherwise it’s very difficult to get the network connection after a point. We reached our rooms little past two and lunch was awaiting us. The care taker Dileep looked after our stay and food. A thumbs up to this guy.

Our home-stay in the middle of forest. It reminded me of my days in Mettur.

From the top

The entrance

A simple and a neat cottage.

A cooler and a TV (which we never switched on)

And a very basic roof

Parking is just in front of the stay

Car’s ramp, a bit risky but nevertheless drivable

They have badminton rackets, shuttle, cricket bats etc. One basically comes here to unwind and laze around. The network connectivity is poor with only airtel and BSNL working at a few places but its a blessing in disguise given that people come here only to switch themselves off from the outside world. We had an amazing time. They had couple of kids’ ride-ons as well. In addition, they have rifle shooting, carom, chess and cards.

The toy horse

Post lunch, we slept for a while. We were served our evening snacks consisting of bhajji, pakoda and hot coffee. Again food was delicious. Post that , we spent the evening playing badminton and my brother did a bit of rifle shooting. After our dinner we retired for the day, but because of terrible power cuts and a lack of in-house UPS, we had a disturbed sleep.

6th May, 2017 – Saturday

My brother and dad went for a trek to a nearby bull shaped mountain called Ethirbujha. It took them close to an hour to climb up. First three fourths of the trek didn’t require much efforts but the rest was literally an uphill task with close to 90 degrees inclination. But if rain gods decide to shower, the first half can become equally treacherous with leeches and the entire place can become slushy and soft. At some places, you had pebbles and the trek was slippery.

Parking at the trek spot

Even with very little rain on the previous day, the path has become slushy

Go though the vegetation

And here is the first glimpse of the summit. The near 90 degree trek !!

From the top

Wow !! Worth the effort

Imagine this place post monsoon

The climb down took around 40 minutes. We spent the entire afternoon in the home stay with the sun beating down hard. At around 4 PM, climate suddenly changed and it became very cloudy. We went to nearby Devarmane hills. The backdrop of sun setting, heavy winds and a light drizzle made our stay at the top very pleasant.

Devarmane Hills

View from the top

Sun setting. How many shades of orange and pink?

And not a lot to climb from the parking,

Western Ghats – You beauty !!

After spending close to fifteen minutes at the top, we descended and visited the Kalabhairava temple. This temple was built by Hoysalas prior to Belur and Halabeedu. It was built in 900 AD.

Tank opposite to the temple

Gatekeepers

It was a nice short trip and we returned back to our stay for dinner. We had neer dosa, a malnad special.

7th May, 2017

We woke up to the tunes of birds chirping on the last day of our trip. We went for a short cycling around the estate. We saw peacocks at a distance. But before we could reach them, they disappeared.

We had idly and kesari for breakfast. We also packed water melon juice for our onward journey and bid good bye to our stay and proceeded towards Halabeedu via Belur. It took close to an hour and a half to reach Halabeedu, a Shiva temple. This is a twin city of Belur and warrants a separate thread and can be reached at Dwarasamudra – Architecture at its very best.

We spent close to ninety minutes in the temple. With not so good vegetarian restaurants in Halabeedu, we proceeded towards Hassan and after an hour journey on the highways just opposite to the famous Kamat, there was an A2B. We had a very good Tamil Nadu style dosa and sambhar. Rains lashed us on our entry to Bangalore and we reached home little after 7 PM.

It was a nice short relaxing trip to get ourselves rejuvenated. The trek and visits to Belur and Halabeedu were the highlights . Both these temples stand the test of time amidst all the invasion and local vandalism showing the greatness of yesteryear artistic skills, perfection and dedication to work.

Bozeman – A photologue

It was a trip of many firsts. First time to US, first time in a sub zero temperature and first time in snow. I had my flight booked with Lufthansa via Frankfurt and Denver and stay with Homewood Suites.

I reached Frankfurt at 830 AM local time (21st January, 2017 – Saturday) and had my first glimpse of Airbus 380

Airbus 380 – Wow !! Its huge

Boeing 747 – Most Intimidating look

Germany – Local train to shuttle passengers between terminals

Sunset at Greenland

Greenland – The land of no greens but Ice. Frozen Ocean

It was the longest Saturday of my life, started from India on a Saturday and arrived in Germany, Denver and Bozeman all on Saturday.

Denver – Just before landing

Frozen lakes

Golf Ball like weird Structures

Bozeman – Early morning before Sunrise

Sunrise on the hills

Post Sunrise – Clear blue skies

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Bozeman

Reception/Lobby

Kitchen

Dining Area

Bison

Elk

Swimming Pool

Outside seating area amidst Snow

Enroute to Bridger Ski Area

Clear Skies

One for the wallpaper

Skiing Area

It was freezing cold and people called it “A pleasant weather”

We saw kids as young as 3 years ski !!!

My Office. What a backdrop !!

Snowing !!!!

And it became heavier

Hotel Parking

Fresh snow next morning

Bozeman Airport (Complete wood)

What a backdrop the airport runway has !!!

Up and Over !! From the top. Bye bye Bozeman. See you next time !!!

Avani – A little known Jewel

We planned for a day’s trip around Bangalore. Plan was to start after 10 AM and reach home before sunset. Most of our previous trips were towards Mysore and Hyderabad. So this time we decided to head towards Kolar. Thats when we came across Avani, a place with so much historical significance and closely associated with Ramayana.

Excerpts from Wikipedia

Avani is known for the Sita temple situated on a hill. This temple is one of the few temples dedicated to Sitadevi in India. There is a belief that the sage Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana, was residing here during the period of Ramayana. Sitadevi lived here in his ashram while in exile. Sitadevi gave birth to her twin children Lava-Kusha here. Even today the room where Sita gave birth to her children exists. The war between Sri Rama and his sons Lava & Kusha happened in this village.

31 st October, 2016

As planned, we left home little after 10 AM and took the Varthur road to reach the Bangalore-Tirupati highway. But for tolls, drive was a breeze and without much trouble we reached the Avani town, Ramalingeshwara temple.

There are three temples in Avani town.

  1. Ramalingeshwara Temple
  2. Sringeri Sharadha Temple – Adjacent to above temple
  3. Sita Temple – We have to trek up the hill to reach the temple. The temple opens only on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There is ample parking space right next to Sharadha temple. A cautionary note for travelers to carry your own food, otherwise we have to get onto highways for restaurants.

Broken Roads for the last 7 kms

Sitabetta (Hill) seen from the road

Ramalingeshwara Temple

The belief says the main shiv ling was installed by Lord Rama himself. Later Chola Kings built this temple to spread their dynasty.

Temple Entrance

Temple Ratham

There are so many small shrines inside the main temple complex.

Subramanya shrine

Lakshmanalingeshwara shrine

Temple with Sita betta background

Temple complex is maintained cleanly

Carvings in Tamil

Intricate carvings

A small temple between Ramalingeshwara Temple and Sita Mata temple.

Sita Mata Temple

We had our lunch at 1245 PM and started climbing up to see the Sita  Mata temple. It is said that Sita took refuge in Valmiki Ashram when she got separated from Rama. And this is the birth place of her twin sons, Luv and Kusha in the cave on the hill. There is a cave inside the ashram called Valmiki-Gavi, where the great sage Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana, sat in meditation.

There are multiple ways to reach the top. This one is little tougher.

Else walk till Sharadha temple and take the steps.

Then you will reach the midway, stairs give way to something like this with rails to support.

A closer look. Definitely safe and easy to climb.

Our first destination was this setup. The belief was that Sita saw her twin sons fighting Hanuman by sitting here. The black strips on the rock were her tears and the white ones were her milk.

Bee hive – Little did we know that we will be chased by them later in the day

After 20 minutes of leisurely walk, you will reach the Valmiki Ashram. And the view from here is simply amazing.

Valmiki Ashram

Cave inside the Ashram. The belief is that, any child who has stomach problem will become alright after taking the water mixed with the sand here.

A closer look

Luva Kusha house. Behind this you have a shrine that has two shiv lings back to back emphasizing twin sons of Rama.

Lakshman theerth

Supposed to be Sita Devi’s foot steps

Still a lot to climb to reach the temple

And the view kept getting better

Smaller steps gave way to much larger ones, pretty exhausting.

Finally after an hour’s climb we reached the summit. The place where Sita Devi by praying to Parvati Devi went back to earth.

The mountain opposite to Sitabetta Hill is the Mulbagal. The belief says “Hanuman picked up two sets of stones to make a temporary living for Rama and Lakshamna enroute to Lanka. Since he thought one set is enough, he made Avani, and the other set he threw it to opposite end and that beacame Mulbagal”

A panoramic view of the surroundings

A place to just sit and gaze forever.

This was when destiny stuck. We were enjoying the views and suddenly saw a group of honey bees. It stung my brother and around fifteen to twenty started circling him. We were asked to go down without disturbing them. He was bitten at seven places. It took 20 minutes to get down to a safer place. The learning from that is that even if bees come and sit on you, just keep calm without disturbing it. If one bites, then the rest will encircle you. We rushed to the Government hospital at Avani and he had a tetanus and pain killer injection. Also heard from the natives that bees are a common sighting at the top.So I strongly discourage people to take their kids to the top.

Trip Summary

  • Round trip  from Marathahalli – 195 KM
  • Total round trip toll – Rs 119
  • Time to climb up the hill – 115 hrs (leisurely climb)
  • No hotels at Avani. Get on to highways for any restaurant
  • Disclaimer – I neither agree nor disagree with the above said beliefs. Whatever has been said to me, I have documented them.

We left Avani around 415 PM and reached our home at 6 PM. It was such a nice and pleasant trip made adventurous by the honey bees.

My ever favourite Munnar

Munnar is a picturesque place with abundance of beauty , tea estates and lush greenery all around. Head to Munnar if your idea of vacation is to relax and enjoy nature.

A much delayed travelogue. This trip was done in december 2014 – By Preethi

Day 1 – 6th December, 2014

This was a trip planned around my birthday and one more specialty was my parents were also joining in as a surprise. It was supposed to be a sweet surprise but they could no longer keep it away from me as a feeling of guilt!! The confession happened three days before the trip.

We started from Bangalore home around  7 AM and had breakfast at A2B Sulagiri. The quality of A2B is always top notch not to mention the appetizing flavor of food. We reached Salem railway station around 11 and picked up my parents. I was overwhelmed with merriment as this was the first trip with them post marriage. Gossiping occured with my mom and also the driver swap. We reached Hotel Duke in Madurai around 3:45 PM. After a brief recess we got going to Meenakshi amman temple. It is the prime tourist attraction in Madurai which draws huge crowds. One can only marvel and be in awe of the splendid architecture. After seeing the main deity we saw the remaining Gods. Since we had visited thousand pillars before we didn’t see it then. There are lots of guides available there and I feel you must hire them to unravel the history and meaning of various sculptures and pillars. Since the encyclopedia of temples (my dad!!) was travelling with us, he suggested we go to Ramana Maharishi house in an adjacent street. It was a special day that day because it was Karthigai deepam and Ramanar is fond of Thiruvanamalai. What a blessing to have visited it that day which we realised it later only. It was a small house and also lodged a meditation hall upstairs. It was supposed to be the place where Maharishi experienced his soul moving away from body. Then Immaiyul Marumai Tharuvar Shiva temple was our next stop. After praying we set forth for our dinner to the famous Murugan Idli shop and also devoured the popular jigirthnda there. We were back to the hotel by 8:45 PM.

Day 2 – 7th December, 2014

There was a complement breakfast at the hotel and we finished our breakfast at Duke’s itself. We were ready for the journey to Munnar by 8:15 AM. Enroute we saw Kilakuyilkudi Karupana swamy temple with Jain bed. Karupana swamy which incidentally was my native God was at the ground level and the Jain bed was at a distant height. One has to climb many steps to reach there. Since it was a laborious task we returned after climbing only a few steps. The backdrop was scenic with lush greenery all around along with banyan trees and temple tank not to mention the rural setting with chirping of birds. Many Tamil movies were shot there.

Temple with a beautiful mountain backdrop

Much closer look at the temple

Steps leading to heaven? We climbed them.

And the view was breathtaking

Big banyan tree and the temple tank

Then we traversed through Usulampetti, Theni and Kundal Ghat (diversion to Kurangini). Kurangini hills was the shooting spot of the famous Tamil movie Myna. Then via Bodimettu we reached Lakezone resort around 12:45 PM. When we planned for this trip we first booked in Club Mahindra and later only my husband decided to surprise me by calling my parents. But by the time they checked for the availability it housed full and so they were staying in Lakezone resort which was just three kms away and it was to become our breakfast/lunch/dinner spot. Misfortune struck with the car tyre getting punctured because of the rough terrain and we got it repaired at Suryanelli where many departmental stores and petrol pumps are present. We had lunch at a small hotel called Mahavir and reached Club Mahindra around 2:30. We rested for some time taking pictures and started off to Periyacanal around 3:40. It was a small falls near Club Mahindra. The weather was pleasant with little mistiness. Next, we headed to Aaniyarangal dam – as the name suggests,herds of elephants visit the lake to quench their thirst. Idyllic picnic spot it was. Then we retired for the day in our respective rooms.

First view of the mountains

Periyacanal falls enroute to Aaniyarangal dam

And finally the dam. What a place if you want to relax

A boat waiting for a ride

Dam was overflowing. Icing on the cake

Much comfortable room

Superb view to complement

Day 3 : 8th December, 2014

We had breakfast at Lakezone resort which was too yummy for words. If anybody is planning to visit Munnar, I highly recommend this place for satisfying your hunger pangs. The rooms are also pretty decent. We set forth for sightseeing with many view points and tea gardens everywhere. Tata has their presence there also with their extensive tea gardens. We reached Matupatty dam around 11:15 AM. I have visited Munnar thrice before during my school,college and family trip and yet it never ceases to amaze me. Boating takes place and there is an echo point also there.Our next spot was Kundala dam. Then we reached Top station around 1:15 PM. It was cold with very low visibilty beyond a point. Mist was engulfing us and we had a stroll.We had lunch there itself at Manasarovar Periyar Residency.We were returning back and shopped for coffee, spices in the local market.

Photopoint: Live to drive

Photopoint: What a view

Photopoint: Clouds playing hide & seek

Full of tea gardens

Our car hiding in one such estate

Views are just mesmerizing

Trees are aligned so neatly with the mountain backdrop

Mattupetty Dam

With so much green, even the water from an angle looks green

Echo Point: Offers a panoramic view

Kundala lake

And finally the dam

Again overflowing

And finally the top slip. What a welcome we had. Full of mist and fog.

With this kind of mist, not many pics.

Day 4: 9th December, 2014

It was the day of checkout from Club Mahindra and my birthday too :). We did so after having breakfast at our usual place. We decided to go around the resort.

Kathakalli dance

What a place to stay – Club Mahindra, Munnar

A closer look with the misty mountain backdrop

A look at the club house and restaurant

Play Area

We started our journey back home around 11:00 AM. We had a brief stopover at Theerthathotti Arumuga Nayanar temple . The shrine is dedicated to Lord Muruga and it has water oozing out of the earth intermittently.

Murugan Temple

Its a beautiful place indeed

And maintained much cleaner

We had lunch at Saravana bhavan, Theni (not HSB) and reached the same hotel Duke in Madurai by 3:30. After resting for a while we did some shopping and my parents left to Chennai by night train.

Day 5: 10th December, 2014

We had my husband’s friend’s marriage in Virudhunagar to attend and reached mandapam by 6:40 AM. After gracing the occasion with our presence we started back home. Enroute we saw Thiruparankundram temple. We then had lunch at Thoppur A2B and reached home safely.

The above picture says a lot about Munnar. Its misty, ever green, full of mountains, falls and dams. I can never get enough of Munnar and hope to visit it again soon 🙂

Muzhappilangad drive-in beach and Bekal fort

What do you do, when you have leaves at your disposal? Go on a trip? Which place would be the best to go with cousins? Sometimes it could take ages to come to a consensus on the place to visit. Let alone, consensus, even to suggest a place, needs a lot of planning. But sometimes, a picture would be enough to go to a place, and that’s how Muzhappilangad trip happened. Here is our picture,

Cheetah splashing the Arabian Sea all around.

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Here is the picture that inspired us and full credits to Team-BHP and the writer Hemanth to inspire us for the trip.

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Thanks Hemanth, without you this trip wouldn’t have been possible

We started looking out for hotels in and around Muzhappilangad and we zeroed in on our location to stay, Kannur. With previous good experience of booking via Oyo, we booked hotel Rainbow Suites. In addition to Muzhappilangad beach, we decided to visit Bekal Fort as well.

Day 1: 1st July 2016 – Friday

We started from my cousins’ place at Bommanahalli a little past 5 AM. By starting early, we avoided the nightmarish traffic at Mandya and reached our breakfast location, Right-O mall at 715 AM. Right-O mall has food options of UpSouth, Subway, Polar bear etc., ample parking space and clean washrooms. We took an hour break and started again towards Kannur at 815 AM.

After crossing Hunsur, we entered the Brahmagiri forest area. The lush greenery just hits you on your face if you are coming from a concrete jungle. It was literally pouring and the surroundings became really dark.Incredible weather, beautiful roads and an amazing bunch of guys to be with, what else one needs? Now let the pictures do some talking.

Nice road with reflectors

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Come on Bangalore !! When will I get this kind of a road?

Misty Mountains

We left Karnataka and entered Kerala. Scenery got even more beautiful. Greenery even on top of a shop roof 🙂

Raging river enroute

And another river !! I can sit there whole day doing nothing.

We reached our hotel half past 1 PM (eight and a half hour drive with multiple breaks for snaps). Hotel had a basement parking and check-in process was smooth.

Neat rooms with Boutique toiletries complementary from Oyo. Nice touch !!

The hotel had a big restaurant but the food is not up to the mark. The complementary buffet breakfast was surprisingly great.

Buffet setup for breakfast

We had our lunch and we immediately left for Muzhappilangad beach, a 15 KM drive. Direction boards were at plenty to reach the beach but surprisingly we found only couple of other cars. May be thats why its beauty is preserved. We wasted no time in getting out in water, the prime motive of our trip.

 Each one of us, took her inside and splashed sea all around.

We waited for sun to set, but it became really cloudy and we returned to our hotel by 7 PM and ordered room service. The starters especially masala peanut was great. After food we retired for the day.

Day 2: 2nd July 2016 – Saturday

The only scheduled stop for the day was Bekal fort and time permitting, we planned to visit Mahe in the evening to fill up lesser priced diesel. We had a heavy breakfast of Carrot uthappam, Idly, French toast, Omelet, fruits, fruit juices and coffee/tea. Beware !! Do not drink coffee. We started moving towards Bekal fort at 930 AM. Half way through, we spotted a car spa and did a complete wash as we had taken her inside salt water. A good ninety minute wash ensured it was almost noon by when we again started to Bekal fort and we had almost 70 odd kms to cover. By 100 PM we reached Kanhangad and decided to have lunch at Malnad family restaurant. Food was strictly average for vegetarians. We got moving and reached the fort at 230 PM. Because of the road maintenance work, had to encounter really bad patches. Fort had very good parking space. A nice, brisk and heavy shower welcomed us. Entry fee including two SLRs and five people was Rs 125. Couple of observations, one, strictly no tripod stand. Number two, take umbrellas, for sun and rain. Fort closes by 550 PM. As we entered, we realized how neat it was maintained. The fort also houses a temple inside.

Make sure you climb on the top and take a bird’s eye view of the fort. Worth the climb !!

View from the top

With the blowing sea breeze, monsoon winds, too good a place to be!!

Swach Bharat !! But indeed it was well maintained.

The place where Uyire song from Bombay was shot. Time to get down !!

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Look at those threatening clouds. It indeed rained. But we stayed put and saw through the rains. It was an amazing experience.

Lots and lots of birds

Beautiful Garden, Kudos to the management for maintaining it.

We left the place at 5 PM and had to face a lot of traffic and eventually decided to drop Mahe from our plan and reached our hotel by 800 PM, again ordered room service and retired for the day.

Day 3: 3rd July 2016 – Sunday

We got up to the sound of thunderous rain. After sumptuous breakfast, checked out the room at 900 AM and started our return journey. We had our lunch at Cafe County, Hunsur. Food is again strictly average and reached Bommanahalli at 615 PM.

In short, the below picture says it all,

Stats

  • Bommanahalli to Hotel Rainbow Suites – 337 kms (8 hours 10 minutes)
  • Hotel to Drive-in beach (+return) – 33 kms (35 minutes travel one way)
  • Hotel to Bekal Fort (+return) – 167 kms.  (2 hours 20 minutes one way)
  • Hotel Rainbow Suites to Bommanahalli – 330 kms (9 hours 15 minutes) with a break at Channapatna

Amritsar – A Golden Journey in the Land of Sikhs

This is about my recent trip to New Delhi and Amritsar. As there is already a lot of information on Delhi and my wife never let me do any site seeing (blame it on shopping) except for Lotus Temple, I will sorely concentrate on Amritsar especially the travel to the city, boarding and lodging options, Golden Temple and the famous border with our neighbor.

The best way to reach Amritsar from Bangalore is by a flight to Delhi and catch the evening Shatabdi to Amritsar. The train reaches Amritsar junction by 1045 PM. Catching another flight from Delhi is also an option, but considering the cost and wait time in between, I found the former to be a better option (Shathabdhi satisfies your taste buds by intermittently providing food !!)

We got down at terminal 2, Delhi and shot a picture of the Airbus A 320 engine and its landing gears.

From terminal 2, We had to reach New Delhi railway station to board Shatabdi. The best option is to walk out of the terminal and board a shuttle (30 mins) to Aerocity express metro and take the Metro Express to New Delhi Railway Station (20 mins).

Amritsar
Golden Temple is about fifteen minutes from Amritsar Railway Station. There are loads of options available for stay nearby Golden Temple and the price range starts from Rs 500. Oyo and Zo rooms are also available nearby if preference is to book online. But a better alternative is to get accommodation in the Golden Temple Complex itself in one of the Niwas (http://sgpc.net/sarai-info/). The downside is that it cannot be booked online. The only way is on the spot booking.The advantages of complex accommodation are its proximity to the temple and pocket friendly price (max of Rs 700 for a 4 person stay with AC).

We visited the following places in order.
1. Golden Temple
2. Jallianwala Bagh Memorial
3. Vaishno Devi Temple
4. Wagah/Atari border

Golden Temple
The darshan time starts as early as ~3:00 AM. Anytime post 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM, you have to spend an hour or two in the queue to get darshan. The temple gets crowded on Sundays and hence its advisable to travel on weekdays/ Saturday. On Sundays, the wait time can notch upto two and a half hours.

Camera and mobile phones are allowed inside the complex and photography is prohibited only in the sanctum sanctorum of the complex.

The temple was built on marble and then plated with real gold. The lustre of gold has diminished with blackening at some places especially at the front.

The complex is maintained in a pristine state mostly by volunteers. You can even find small children as young as 6 years serving in some way or the other !! Soon after darshan, you get a hot mouth-watering prasad. You can also buy more by paying Rs 10.

The Langar Hall situated in the temple premises serves free food. Volunteers run the entire show by preparing, serving the food and cleaning the soiled plates.

Large black vessels used in preparing food

The volunteers serially take care of arranging the used plates, so that it can be sent for cleaning.

The first row of men clean the plates with running soap water and send it to their peers in the background who rinse it with water and then the cleansed plates are stacked up for serving food.

Zoom in to see the way the plates are being washed.

The room check-in/out timings are between 12 PM to 12 PM. Inside the Niwas, you also get cloak rooms. They are free for pilgrims. Each cupboard can easily house 4 to 6 airport trolleys. There are also resting areas where pilgrims take power naps and chat.

Pilgrims also take rest at this massive spot. From here you get a nice view of the temple.

Jallianwala Bagh
From Golden Temple or for that matter from any of the niwas you can walk to Jallianwala Bagh in about 10 minutes.

Wikipedia says “Jallianwala Bagh, is a public garden in Amritsar in the Punjab state of India, and houses a memorial of national importance, established in 1951 by the Government of India, to commemorate the massacre by British occupying forces of peaceful celebrators including unarmed women and children, on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year on April 13, 1919 in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.

The Entrance (Brick Wall)

Amar Jyoti

Place from where the bullets were fired all around

Well Maintained Garden !!

Martyr’s Well

Bullet Marks !! You just end up with a heavy heart after seeing these.

Closer look and each square represents the bullet mark

The Memorial

Vaishno Devi Temple and Wagah Border
The Wagah or Atari or Indo Pak border is about 30 kms from Amritsar. If you are wondering how to get to this place, just walk out of Jallianwala Bagh/Golden temple and you can find cab drivers buzzing.The rates are nominal at Rs 120/person. They take you to Vaishno Devi temple and then to the border. The trip commenced at 230 PM.

The temple is about 20 mins from Amritsar and has a good architecture mimicking the original Vaishno Devi temple and at some places, we have to crawl, traverse water stream, climb up the stairs etc. Many episodes from Ramayana are depicted through marvelous sculptures.

The entrance to the temple

After seeing the temple, we proceeded towards the border. On the way there is Ram Tirath temple which is of historical significance as it is considered to be the birth place of Luv and Kush- Rama and Sita’s twin sons. We did not get to see the temple as we were running out of time.

The retreating ceremony starts at 530 PM and goes on for half an hour. But the entry to the gallery closes by 4 PM. Please carry caps or head gears to beat the sun in the open gallery.

Leaving Amritsar !!

The four-way toll road take you to the border

For some reason, our driver took a detour. Initial impression was that he was skipping the toll booth but that wasn’t the case, since the toll gate came after we re-joined the highways. The reason he gave was “traffic” (Bangalore guys please excuse).

Back to the highways and the most coveted border is just 5 kms away

The board at the background says it all 🙂

After this point, we have to get down and proceed by walk for the next one km. Brief frisking at two spots. Bags of any kind are prohibited. You are allowed to take only water bottles.

Separate queues for gents and ladies. But after a point the queues merge and there is utter chaos.

Finally on to the gallery. It gets really crowded on Sundays and the heat is unbearable. From the gallery, the border is just 50 metres away.

Two Snipers standing on either side of the flag.

The Indo Pak Official Gate. Gates are mostly closed and they are kept open for an interval of ten minutes during flag retreating ceremony where both the army officers exchange hand shakes with an animated footwork.

“So near, yet so far”

Our country’s/neighbor’s emblem, one behind the other

Officially from the Indian’s point of view the ceremony starts at 430 PM with some ladies (a select few from the crowd) dancing to the tunes  of Bollywood patriotic songs and after a point the enthusiasm decreases. In my personal opinion, it is a turn off what with the crowd pushing and shoving each other for a place to stand in the sweltering sun.

The Band getting ready for the ceremony.

The crowd you see in the background are Pakistanis.

The flag retreating ceremony begins with an even more aggressive, animated footwork. It happens simultaneously in both sides of the border.The flags are beginning to come down.

Half way down or Half way up?

The official gates are now open.

Barbed wire fencing.

No, we cannot enter this area. Officially the last point we Indians can go to!!

From the border, it took us an hour to reach Amritsar, Ganga Niwas, where we had deposited our luggage. We picked up our luggage and left for our overnight train to New Delhi.

Lotus Temple
At New Delhi, as I said earlier, we got to see only Lotus Temple. Lotus Temple is a meditation hall. The entire area is maintained using huge tonnes of recycled water.

The structure looked amazing from the skies while landing in Delhi.

From the temple

With that we completed our first North Indian trip together though a short one but which I am sure is a precursor of more to come. I will leave you with this photograph wherein the gold is less blackened with an amazing white backdrop and the pool in the foreground.