Ankalagi Caves (Chandravali)

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80ft below the surface, a thought that can send shivers and goosebumps.. many channels to one room can confuse but at the same time, can also be a safe bet.

The Ankalagi caves, at Chandravali is a delight to be. We had driven all the way from Chennai and reached there by 2.30 in the afternoon. The sun was bright enough even on a winter afternoon. Wondered how hot this place would be in summers.

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The place was ambiguous as we parked our car and walked. All the sign boards were in Kannada and it was a struggle for a stranger like us. We asked people here and there who directed us towards the caves. As we reached the spot saying Ankalagi caves, we were not sure if the caves were the same as Chandravali, only to realize later that this place has a relation to the saints of Belgaum from Ankali Mutt. A flight of stairs under construction took us to an opening of the well structured rock place.

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A team of so-called guides seated there suggested they could help us and the moment we stepped into the cave we realized why. One could get lost in the darkness and the many chambers without a guide.

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Salutations as you enter the cave

Chandravalli caves have a huge significance as they seem to have covered times from Pre-historic to the Hoysala dynasty. These caves have been known for the sages who had visited this place for meditation.

From a Geography point of view, these caves are in the valley between three mountains, the Kirabanakallu, Chitradurga and Chollagudda. There is a lake right before you enter the caves that adds to a beautiful sight. There are rock structures that would make you feel like you are looking at Elephants at the water body.

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Elephant drinking

Now, as the guide took us in our biggest challenge was that of language. Most of the guides are Kanada speaking and they speak in broken Hindi. Our guide got inside and went on a ramble. We had to stop her many a times and reiterate what we understood. There is so many more things that one needs to soak in the darkness down there. The only that helps is the torch lights.

As one steps in one does realize that, the place is airy and not stifling at all. The heights of the passages are quite short may be around 3.5 ft so one has to be watchful. With the clean shaven head, I had to be more careful. ūüôā

Secrecy and escape routes were of paramount importance. As we entered down a flight of stairs, the space opened up into a meditation center with the entrance being adorned by two elephant like structures. Then we moved into the sleeping and the bath chambers of the caves. Even though we were in the cave, the bathing chambers had a space for rain water harvesting and ensuring that the water was let out properly. There were spaces for keeping the Diyas which was the only source for light in the caves in those times.

We also happened to walk through smaller passages to reach a space where the king and his key members along with the sages had discussions. That space was so dark when the lights were off that, if there was any emergency they could escape quickly without anyone knowing. There is also a belief that there were underground passages connected to the Chitradurga fort. These caves also were used to store the treasures of the kings (It is so believed).

What really was breath taking to observe was the carvings and sculptures that were created and still available for us to see after thousands of years. Just imagine, how those fine artisans would have sculpted just using the light of diyas. What a craftmanship it was during those times. The walls are adored with creepers, designs and idols. A treat to the eyes even in such darkness.

Lord Shiva seems to have been a prominent deity to be prayed to. There were too many a sculptures and graphic images that adorned the walls too.

As we came out it took time for the eyes to adjust to the light. Once out, you could see the other structures that were built on top of the caves, though mostly in broken condition.

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After we left the guide, we took time to just soak in the feeling of a history that was not only mysterious, historic but also architecturally brilliant. As we left the place, it felt there is much more than what we saw and the place needs more time for art and architecture lovers.

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The lake in front of the caves

Few points definitely to note.

  1. The road leading to caves is not that great.
  2. Ample parking space to park your vehicles.
  3. Do take a guide as you step in or else you would get lost inside.
  4. If you are not from Karnataka, negotiate well with the guide before getting in.
  5. Torches are the best, not cell phone ones. Carry them. (We missed to get ours ready).
  6. Take your time, if you like something. The guide would ask you to hurry up all the time as they are running their own agenda.
  7. Stay at the place before you leave, breath in the freshness of the place.

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Terracotta Adda – Bishnupur

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The first time that I heard of Bishnupur, it did not rekindle any feelings. Yeah, like any other local town in India, this could yet another city. Now, the mind does play tricks and I happened to start reading about this town and what got me excited was that this small The wingstown some 130 odd kilometers from Kolkata has been on the tentative list of UNESCO Heritage sites. That was more than enough for me to make up my plans to travel to this city.

And thus the wings took me off to the “City of JOY” … Kolkata and from there we headed off to the sleepy town of Bishnupur. We had a great cab driver who was quite a chatter box and ensured that we had a lovely time travelling to the Town of RED.¬†Tera HorseThis town today falls in the Birbhum district and was ruled by local kings under the rule of the Gupta Dynasty. Somewhere in the 17th & 18th century, this quiet town was ruled by the Malla Rulers who were followers of Lord Vishnu and had built these elegant structures. There has been a time in history, Bishnupur was the cultural capital of Bengal.

Today stands still to get recognition that it had in the past. The only thing that has got a world recognition is the beautiful Terracotta horse from Bishnupur that stands proudly with the West Bengal Tourism. It has become a symbol of pride from the past.

While heading to this historic place, we enjoyed the “Aaloo Chap” (Potato balls) a specialty from Bengal. It was way different from what we have had so far. One thing to remember is that, if you are heading towards the hinterlands in east, food is something you would have to adjust or carry your own stuff. UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_ed1
UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_ecfYou may not find great restaurants on the way but guaranteed to find some amazing local delicacies in shacks. Offcourse, water is a treasure and do pick your bottles as you head towards your beautiful destination. Not that you may not find them, but just be sure that you have them when you need them.

We rolled down our car and one would tend to have some guides who would reach out and ask. The best part is that these guys are not too pushy here and very reasonable. Our guide asked for Rs 200/- to take us around. You would need one of these guys just to get a understanding of some of the nuances that web may not throw out.

After picking up the tickets, I turned to just be awestruck by the grande of “Rashmancha”.. the base itself is some seven feet high and on top of that is the edifice which to me reminded of the Pyramids.¬† More than anything, it was the usage of Terracotta and red bricks to build this massive structure. UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_f7cOn these red bricks, the terracotta slabs depict the life from Ramayana &¬†unadjustedraw_thumb_f82-e1536476895193.jpgMahabharata. Just imagine, to cover such a huge structure how many just blocks would have first been conceptualized and then molded in heat to get the story done in a¬†beautiful sequence.

The “Rashmancha”¬†was made to celebrate the festivity with Lord Krishna. The villages from nearby and far would bring their Lord Krishna & Radha decorated in their finery best. There were places that were demarcated within the “Rashmancha”¬†where the respective deities were kept. It must have been a scene filled with fun and frolic. Bazars must have been filled with delicacies and handmade art work for people to buy and celebrate the festivities.

After this we went to the “Radha Balabha temple,” which is exquisite art work. The temple is small but a lot compactly built. The square structure is proportionately built with door ways exactly the same way. But, each wall has a different inscription and story to tell. The terracotta work will leave you mesmerized and you would tend to spend more time understanding each of these panels.

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Post this we went ahead to see another beauty called “Jor Bangla”.. Which is also called Twin palaces. “Jor” means joint.. There are two identical structures that look to have been joint in the middle. Except the fact that one has got a door while the other does not. The rest of the structure is the same.

UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_faeThe sad part is that people are not allowed to get inside the place. Am sure the exquisite work would have to be preserved.

As we walked around we found that, apart from the red bricks there were laterite rocks that have used to build these palaces. Both red soil and laterites are common to this place. A beautiful usage of what is available in the vicinity.

Then there is the Madan Mohan temple and many others. All these temples that have been created. Many of these structures are fairly identical to one another and grandeur. This is one temple where the lord Krishna resides and the idol is worshiped everyday. We happened to reach there a little late.UNADJUSTEDRAW_thumb_fcc

Just a furlong down, is the “Large gateway”. It is also made up off Laterite rocks and Bricks. As I walked into the gateway that is still used for smaller vehicles to pass through, one could see the posts that were created for the sentries and Royal army to be stationed. The large dome did make it more spacious.

Each of these places do have something or the other happening right outside. We had a Baul singer, mesmerizing the place. Then you have the tea stall and a vendor selling the local handicraft.

After¬† going through the regular tourist spot, we were fascinated by some of the dilapidated structures. One of them was this “Radha Krishna” temple. There were still in sequence next to the village pond. Even though it is a locked and broken temple, people have had kept the space in front of that cleaned for their evening get-together.

A further down was an old house of one of the singers from the “Bishnupur Gharana”. This house is now run down and is beyond use. Only after seeing this place, did we realize that Bisphupur, does contribute to the Indian Classical Music in a big way. Felt sad too that such places and art has not been publicized much.IMG_20180429_124950

What really surprises me the heights and the similarity in layout. One would tend to find a similar layout within each structures. Each of these temples have a Tulsi area, a kitchen area right behind the temple structures.

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The top of all these temples have a very beautiful arch which am sure serves both the ways for keeping the place cool during the hot summer days and also, let’s the water recede faster during the rainy season.

There seem to be an alignment to the Vastu requirements of building a place. The vastness of the temples does talk about the fact that these places were not only built from a worship point of view but also a place where people could get together and celebrate various functions. There is a very forward thinking by the kings who ruled this places.  Importance has been given not only to the architecture but also the society that thrived around them.

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Exploring the kitchen area, my imagination on food had no bounds ūüėČ

We had spent almost three hours in this beautiful historical place and still felt we have not seen enough. Our driver then took us to a place slightly away from the main area. This place was further decorated with many a temples. These temples have been built by the local Zamindars and these are no less captivating.

After another hour of exploring the beautiful red structures and soaking in the past, we went ahead to see one last chapter in the annals of history. That is the “Dalmadal Canon”. This canon was the largest manufactured by the Malla Kings. The canon has been manufactured by layers of alloys stripped together and is quite intact. It has not rusted at all.

IMG_20180429_141955We ended our trip at the “Chindamastika temple”, which was really a peaceful space in¬†front of a rather “Ugra roopa” (Violent image) of Goddess Kali.

By around¬† 2.30 pm we were hungry and our driver took us to the “Bishnupur Tourist Lodge” for a simple Fish meal. Well even if you are a vegetarian, the food is really simple and nice. It was really a nice place to end the trip and before we headed back to Shantiniketan for the next part of our journey to soak in the cultural hub of West Bengal. It was quite a fulfilling journey.

A few things definitely would suggest who would like to go and soak oneself in this beauty:

  • Carry water bottle as much as you can
  • Be ready to walk, as there is much more to explore, a CAP is a must as these are open spaces.
  • Do carry some food with you if you can.
  • Try being there during the non summer season.
  • Take a guide, he will help you explore the place from a different perspective.
  • The place is fairly clean and the Archaeological department has done some great restoration. Help them in the cause by keeping it clean.
  • Soak in the local flavours, you will not regret it.
  • Enjoy the place, it has more to offer.

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Blessings!!!

It was a beautiful day when we decided to head towards the Satapada side of the beautiful Chilika lake. Little did I realise that I was in tryst with history and spirituality. Well yes, I was aware that I would be going down the Srikethra road, Puri but the knowledge of the heritage and that too of this small places was absolutely unknown to me. That is when the elders and people in the locality share their expertise. As we took the outer road bypassing puri, we got onto the road to Chilika, Satapada. 20161006_091244I was surprised with the quality of the road that we drove on. The Odisha government seems to have really maimage031de the roads comfortable & driver friendly. The drive on these beautiful road is flanked by coconut trees and lush paddy fields. It was that time of the season when the paddy fields were filled with lily. They gave the place a beautiful combination of white and green.

A drive of 20 kms from the Shree Jagannath temple, we came up to a small
bustling Odisha village of Bentapur at Brahmagiri. The main road divides the village of Bentapur and the hoarding will guide you to the temple. The temple which is hardly a 300 meter drive  of the main road, through a small lane enough for two small cars to pass through.

The narrow lane opens up as we come close to the entrance of the temple which seems to have been bathed in white. The architectural design is similar to that of the Shree Jagannath temple at Puri. One could say this to be a miniature version of the main temple.

I parked my car and paid Rs 30/- for parking in front of the temple. There is not much space though to park anywhere there.

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There is a folklore which takes us back to “Satya yuga” where Lord Brahma prayed for Lord Vishu on top of a hill. Being mighty pleased with the way Lord Brahma worshiped and prayed, Lord Vishu asked him to build a four armed idol made of single black stone carrying his four symbols.. Sankha, Chakra, Gada & Padma (Conch, Disc, Mace & Lotus) and since Lord Brahma prayed on this hill top, it came to be named as Brahmagiri (Hill of Brahma).

There are many mixed stories that have emerged with regard to the name and establishment of this temple. One speaks of its connection with North of this country, which brings Rajasthan down here all the way to Puri as the rulers of Alwar, Rajasthan who are supposed to have built this temple and hence the name, Alwarnath or Alarnath.

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While there is another that talks about the high priests from the south, prior to Shri Ramnujacharya, known as Alvars had come down to perform the puja and hence the name Alvar-natha or Lord of Alvars.

This temple as per records was built by King Madan Mahadev in 1128 AD.

It¬†is said that, when Lord Jagannath goes into¬†Anavasara (Two weeks of rest when the lord gets high fever) and is not accessible to anyone. This happens just after the annual bathing ritual (Snana yatra) during the months of June / July every year. During this period, the devotees go to “Alarnath Temple” and get his blessings. The crowd really swells up during those fourteen days.

31280812052_ff353db71f_oOnce you get into the sanctum, one would be mesmerised by the beautiful four handed pitch black Idol. When the crowd is less, the priest also does talk about the folklore of the lord having burnt his thumb and some places on his chest as hot rice milk pudding (Kheer) had fallen on him while HE was trying to have it. It had slipped and fallen over HIM. The priest did remove the flowers to show us the spots. Today the Kheer is the prasad that one could get in the morning and evening hours.

It is said that this idol has resemblance to that of Lord Krishna except that this idol also signifies aggression and protection at the same time.

30618118693_fbf4c089a3_oThe expanse around is beautiful and quite. There are some old stone carvings that seemed to have fallen off. The sculptures do talk about the beauty and grandeur of architecture and craftsmanship of that era.

There is a Goddess Lakshmi temple inside the same compound. It is said that the idol was dug out by a local priest from a nearby place and placed within the same compound as 31425511925_79714a23be_oShe being his consort. The idol has a very peaceful look and one could be mesmerised by being in its mere presence.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu being a great devotee of Krishna and that of Lord Jagannath, has a temple next to Lord Alarnath’s sanctum. It is said that when Sri Chaitanya lay¬†down to pay his prayers, the stone below him melted by his sheer power.

As we stepped out of the temple, on the left is Brahma Gaudiya Math. It houses Lord Chaitanya, Sri Sri Radha Krishna & a small idol of Alarnath. There is a cow shed which is managed by the ashram too.

As we left the place after a couple of hours being there, the idol and the mesmerising aura stays with you for a long time…

I was counting my blessings to have had another opportunity of pure Bliss!!

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Fort Art!!!

“Expect the unexpected!!”

fortkochi-1The word fort raises so much expectations and imaginations of what could be there. I too had an imagination of huge walls, fortification, palatial place … Well, all that was about to happen when we stepped into the ferry to go to Kochi Fort, a small island off the mainland.

As we stepped out, we were welcome by the beautiful Chinese nets that adorn the shoreline of Fort Kochi island. They seem to be a symbol of Kochi, standing there fabulous against the beautiful cloud cover and the ever present Arabian Sea… As we walked further into the fort area the realisation dawned in that there is no more of a fort existing and there are only remains of those classic era in the form of few monuments spread across the island. Today there are many beautiful shops and restaurants that cover the expanses of the island.

As we walked further, I was stunned with what caught my eyes. It was an expression offortkochi-2 love, emotions, life and most important to me was.. an expression of freedom… All that was spread and beautifully captured on the walls of various houses and shops. Letting people and artists use these empty spaces to express their feelings and emotions in an open public canvas. It was just not one wall that was let to get decorated rather there were walls all through out the space that we walked around.

fortkochi-3On one where there was the expression of freedom and free thinking, there was another talking about an emotional connect. Some showcased the modern trend of love to that of just geometrical graphic designs to express the elephant inside.. There were more of metaphorical connections that one could think off as we walked across the streets and feel awe around.

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Free Birdie

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Life and Fun

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Get those colourful wings on..

It is a delight to see how beautifully these walls have been used as a form of expressions. I had never expected Fort Kochi to be a such a beautiful treasure-house of art work in an open frame… It was like peeking through the Veil..

Such an incredible place and incredible art… Imagination flew along with me as we caught the ferry back to the main land..
What mesmerizes me is how do people get such beautiful creative ideas to express.??

Dilapidated Glory!!!

Tattered and haggled,
Waiting to be known
Yearning for someone to come by,
Hold me and give me back my pride!!

Cud-43On my way to Chidambaram, was enticed by this place, “St. David Fort” at Cuddalore. WoW!! a fort and that too at Cuddalore, a must on my list now. South India having a fort, so what if the google search threw up a small one. I have to go and see it. Set on my GPS to help me reach the destination. As Google map kept showing a closer place, I was getting all eager and excited. As I turned the last right to reach the destination, I could hear the female voice yelling, “You have reached your destination”… And I was like, what, where?? This is a broken place. I went ahead and hit onto to the silver beach just 150 mts away from my fort…

I turned around the vehicle and slowly parked my car next to the gate of a dilapidated house. I could finally connect with that place by looking at the gate which stated that this “Was capital of the english possessions on the coromondal coast, before the French demolished it and later restored in 1785 by the British.”

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Today it is a ruined place waiting for someone to recognise and tell the world that there is a rich history that it owned once. Even though it is 350 Years old but still provides shelter to the locals who seemed to have occupied this place as their own. No one to ask, no one to wonder that this was a glory of yesteryears.

Disappointed I noticed a familiar structure. Aha!! this was the one that I saw in the web, it is the other castle bang opposite this so called fort. As I moved my car inside the compound wall, I was in two minds if I should step down. This place had a haunted feeling. Well at 11.30 am in the afternoon, I pulled in my guts to step up my adventure. My partners in crime decided to chill themselves in the AC environment of the car.

The first sight that welcomed me was the dead tree in front of the castle. WoW!! nice welcome.Cud-38

Well I pulled in my guts and made my steps further into the castle.All my fears vanished and I was only left with sadness and felt pity. This small castle must have really seen its glory days. One could see the richness in the design and layout of the building. The steps would have witness the powerful and rich stepping on them and walking about giving their instructions. The kitchen and Utility space does talk about the richness in concept then itself. The barren broken down bedroom reminds of the lavish spread of space. The Chimney in the back yard gives the feeling of castle in a place which is known for more thatch or flat roof structures.

What is left today is broken stairways, walls scribbled all over with obscenity and vulgar creativity, the tiles and slabs that others could not break and take up. People seemed to have looted it well over the last 200 years and left it to the bare minimum for it to survive with its tell tale signs of lost and grief. They seem to be looking up for help and asking for some recognition from the locals who would use its verandah for their afternoon siesta or their drinking sessions.

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Backyard view of the castle

As I got into my car, I was wondering a past glory well recognised by Google but in reality is a history in wanting. I felt it as a piece of history lost in the sands of time which could have been an attractive site for tourism.

Indian Grand Canyon – Gandikota

They are persistent,
He is all pervasive
They cut through to make their way,
He says, I will show you the path to make.
They giggle with joy in the lap of beauty he created…

 

I could think of how mighty and wonderful can nature be, the Penner River flowing so peacefully but grande, passing through huge 100 ft tall walls guarding the sacred water. Welcome to the Indian Grand Canyon, Gandikota!!!¬†(I really wonder why do we have to add a western connotation when the place could hold and attract many on¬†its own…)

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This amazing place sits beautifully in the lap of Kadapa district in Andhra. Kadapa, a place famous for the Kadapa slabs that it supplies to the whole of India. One thing that I have noticed is that, any of the beautiful picturesque places in India always has some amazing royal history to it and Gandikota is no exception to that. The gorge and the river gives a natural protection to the fort that any kingdom in the past would certainly look out for.  The Gandikota fort has a glorious history which is now 893 years old.

The pictures on google really got us excited to head towards this beautiful, majestic place. The pictures reminded me of Hampi (the vijayanagar dynasty)

We reached Gandikota by 10.30 am and I was worried that the Kadappa heat will kill us. Surprise surprise, it was way better than I thought. As I turned the car towards Gandikota, was surprised to see the vastness of open spaces and the lone road leading us towards the fort. The nothingness all around is stunning meandering road in the midst of vast empty lands. In the distance one could see the huge wind turbines.

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Road to Gandikota

As we came closer to the fort, we were welcomed by the huge walls of the fort, which tells how well these were fortified and it has stood witness to the history of the past. At first as I parked my car outside hesitantly, that is when the shopkeeper there suggested you could take it inside. Inside!!! Alright… oh boy what a feel as I turned my car inside those huge walls.. could feel the pride an army would take marking in an out of the fort.

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As I took the final turn inside, I was stuck in a huge traffic .. Oh boy, not here too was the thought as I smiled end to end. This was a different kind of traffic, there was this simple old shepherd with his flock blocking my passage. This was one traffic I could really wait to clear without honking ūüôā

 

I moved in and parked it next to the Jama Masjid there. A replica of the Charminar at Hyderabad. A magnificent structure which am sure was very much in use in its pristine times. It had a square structure which seems like a fountain structure build by the rulers then. The pipe structures carrying water are still there.

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Jama Masjid

Right next to that is the huge Granary. We had the privilege of meeting up with the man managing the place now. He took us to the top of the granary. After having walked through the narrow steps we were awed by the scenic view around. I do not think my camera could do justice to what the eyes saw. On one side we had the beautiful Gorge made by River Pennar, while the other side were the beautiful mountain ranges with the windmills on it.

Could not hold any longer to see the beautiful gorge and we slowly rushed towards its. Low and behold as it opened up, the beautiful gust of sweet chill breeze rising from the gorge welcomed us. Telling us to hold back the moment and soak oneself in the eternal natural beauty. We seemed to have been fortunate to see a good amount of water flowing through. The rocks looked very artistic and over imposing. But at the same time peaceful. We stood at the rock cliff for a while before we started climbing and shooting our selfies.

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Pennar River

After having spent time at the gorge we started walking towards the other end in search of some hidden treasures near Madhavaraya temple. As we walked around the temple, we were welcome by this beautiful uneven road made by the villagers for their daily usage. On one hand we saw the lovely fields while on the other was bushes and small trees. The beauty of the fort boundary wall pulled us, but there was no proper access road. Well when you are out for an adventure why not be one with that. We hopped through boulders and small crackers just to be standing in front of the 40 ft tall rock walls.

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Magnificent walls

Which seemed to have been testimony of time. We climbed up the wall stairs and explored the beautiful length. The sun heat did not deter us and our caps were very handy. After a good photo shoot we headed back to the temple.

After a hot day of walk the Kakatya style temple was a bliss. The entrance of the temple is huge but welcoming. While the inner sanctum is a flat structure with a well laid out carved pillars. The inner walls did not have much carvings but there seemed to be etched art work on them depicting the lords. There seems to have bee significance of Lord Vishu and Seshnag (The snake lord). We removed our shoes, and stretched ourselves out and caught a wink soaking in all the energy. Our flat feets on the cool floor of the temple was like being in a spa.

Finally we started after about 4 hours of roaming and soaking ourselves in the lost beauty of the Pennar river and the magnificent structures of history. This place does have many visitors and the calmness was a treat to the ears and body. There is no major restaurant that we could find. And you would certainly need loads of water there to hydrate and explore. Do not forget to have your exploring shoes on as there is so much to walk around and be surprised.

The rock structure around it looked more like an UFO carved picture. It was truly a Colorado moment. It is not only beautiful but also gratifying.

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