Pineapples at Madhukeshwara .. Sweetener of Karnataka

IMG_20181229_115347Banavasi, the names connects to being the oldest and the first capital of Karnataka is today a quite sleepy town with its beautiful Pineapple farms and the majestic Madhukeshwara temple.

Looking at the temple one can certainly say that this place would have been a high activity place. The Kadamba dynasty was the first dynasty to rule over the North Karnataka in the 3rd century AD. It is no doubt the oldest places noted in the annals of history of  Karnataka. Banavasi, has its reference in the records of Ptolemy (Dates to 1st century), Kalidasa also had visited this lovely place and there are references of Banavasi in his Meghaduta and also had been visited by monks during Ashoka times.

The Madhukeshwara temple holds its relevance from mythology where Lord Vishnu had killed a demon called Madhu on the behest of Lord Shiva. Initially this temple was built in reverence to Lord Vishnu, interestingly today we see a great Shivalinga, who is called as Madhukeshvaralinga. IMG_20181229_122155

The temple and place was later under the control of the Chalukya and then the Hoyasala dynasties. Both the dynasty have an impact on the temple and its architecture.

As one enters the temple, one is welcome by the openness of the place. The Gopuram of the temple is flat and short, typical of the temple structures in the Western Ghats.

The inner pillars seems to be a combination of structures from different dynasties. The pillars does showcase the fact that India even in 1st Century was so well advanced that it could carve out pillars that stand tall even after 2000 plus years. A marvel and feat to feel proud about this culture. The carvings on the pillars came in much later with the Hoyasala.

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As we enter the inner temple, one sees a huge Nandi (Bull, Lord Shiva’s vehicle) should be at least 6 ft in height.

IMG_20181229_120836The uniqueness of this Nandi is that, the head of the Nandi is at an angle where, one eye is focused on Lord Shiva while the other is intently looking at Goddess Parvathi, whose temple is smaller and adjacent to Lord Shiva’s main temple.

The sanctum has the Shiva Linga which is huge and has a flat top which depicts of the time a little later than the Kadamba time.

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Lord Indra on his Airavata

The outer walls temple has got the idols of both Shiva and Vishnu. A majority of sculptures are that of Lord Vishu and does talk about the temple being dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This may be one of the few temples in India that have an elaborate carving of Lord Indra with his consort on his Airavata, the elephant. The sculpture work is simple yet mesmerising.

In the temple space one would find carvings of the five headed snake with Prakrit inscription from 2nd century.

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Does this not remind you of Pyramids & Mummy movies.

In the courtyard of the temple one would also see a stone cot, with monolithic structures that talk about the craftsmanship of the Shonda rulers.

After spending close to an hour or more in the temple, we stepped out to relish ourselves with some of the sweetest Pineapples that one could ever have. Banavasi, today contributes significantly to the Pineapple production of Karnataka. There are farmlands that produce these sweet pineapples. One could also see factories to package and may be export them.

 

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The monolithic Stone Cot, well preserved within the temple space.

Before we left this beautiful little space well tucked in the western Ghats, we had our simple lunch at a Khanawali. We enjoyed a simple home made vegetarian lunch managed by women. The simplicity of the food and people have got entrenched in our hearts, minds and stomach too.

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The snake carvings with Shiva, Parvathi & Nandi on top of it. The craftsmanship is simply mystical!! 

 

It is said that perhaps, in those times apart from Varanasi, Banavasi was the only other city that had a culmination of many religious beliefs. One can only imagine the magnitude of this place which had laid its relevance more than some 2000 years ago.

 

 

 

Things to check:

  • Banavasi, today is small place mainly connected by road. The nearest station is at least 100 odd kms. 
  • The drive to the place is very pleasing and the trees are you constant companion.
  • It is quite a tranquil place. 
  • You can carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone.
  • The language is mostly Kannada and could hardly find people who could talk English. Hindi a few could speak. And the human language is the best way to connect.
  • Carry your own water bottles or food. Do not miss to try out the Khanawali. That is an experience in itself.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat” & say no to plastics. The place is relatively clean and has been maintained by local people.              

As we left the place, the sweetness of the pineapple and the past architecture lingered through the return journey of ours.

Indeed…. Incredible India!!

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Bankapur Nagareshvara Shiva

Being lost even when GPS seems working I think is something that we have taken up for granted. And, finding newer things and pausing to find something beautiful is a new normal then.

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Well Bankapur fort was one such place. We had read about the Nagareshvara Temple inside the fort and wanted to check that out post our trip from Galaganath.

The fort is some 360 odd kilometers from Bengalore and 23 kms from Haveri. Haveri, does not have great places to stay. It was an “ok” place, where we could sleepover as a pit stop before we headed off further north of Karnataka. We started off after a sumptuous breakfast.

The fort is off the main road in the Bankapur area, which is well known for Peacock sanctuary and for Black Bucks (Well we could see none). Bankapur was a glorious place in the past. It was ruled by Rastrakutas, Chalukyas, Suenas, Hoyasala before being ruled by the Bahmani Sultans. This place was also ruled further by Bijapur’s Ali Adil Shah and then  by the Suvanur Nawabs who had to pledge the fort to the Maratha Holkars, who fell to Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. The fort was finally seized by the Britishers. In the due course of time, the fort lost its glory and its structure too.

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Not knowing Kannada and following the GPS, we seemed to have gone around the barbed fencing of the fort and reached at a spot where we realized we were lost. That is where we paused and shot some lovely little birds.

We finally reversed and parked outside a wall and people said, you got to walk through this gate. As we started to walk, we were welcomed by a deserted feel. It had wild vegetation all around and the broken walls. From there on it was a deserted walk for close to one kilometer. The good part is that, there is a shade cover that the government has built. There are no signage to lead to the temple space though.

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As we walked to a small junction point we happened to meet a bunch of school kids who had come on a school excursion. What energy and fun. Reminded us of our school fun days.

After chatting up with them and asking for directions, we headed on our right side towards the temple place. The placed looked deserted yet had a charm of its own. May be still saying I have my mesmerizing effects still on.

This place was the fort area though deserted and not much of visitors except for the locals, there is a habitation. People come and farm inside too. The government has given the local people the lands to be used. The spaces unused are huge.

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Cultivation inside the fort

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As we neared the place, the first side was that of the roof and then the temple space opened up for us. The smallness was grandeur for us. The temple today would be some seven feet below the normal ground height as of today. As we took the flight of stairs, one could feel that ASI has been working on the space. It was very clean and gave a feel of the care that the government is taking for preserving these pristine pasts of ours.

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This ancient Western Chalukyan temple is also called as “Aravattarukmbhada Gudi” or “Temple with Sixty six columns. It was built in the later Chalukya or Kalyani Chalukya rulers. And yes, this is again another Shivan temple, similar to what Western Chalukya kings have been creating. This temple was created in the 12th century.

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We had to remove our footware and get into the temple space, even though we did not find any prayers being done to the linga. The young Bengali ASI person who was bought up in Bihar and had an Odiya girlfriend who wanted to go for a kannada movie that morning with a local friend that day ensured that we all remove our footware there.

As we discussed and started to ask him more questions about the place, we realized he hardly had any understanding of what this place was. He was eager to close the main sanctum and move on for the day.

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Exquisite carvings on the door of the sanctum. There is a lot lost with time and still this art work stands tall.

The sixty six pillars forms the part of the small mandapa, which must have been a place of congregation. Though we stepped  into the sanctum, we could one see a small shiva Linga and it seemed to have been shut because of ASI work. Our ASI man did not let us click any pics inside too.

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The intricate designs on one of the pillars

 

The first impression that we got were the beautifully chilled pillars. It would remind anyone of the Belur & Belvadi temples. The only difference is that, they were build for Vishu and these Chalukyan were for Shiva. And yes, Hoyasala architecture is heavily influenced by the Chalukyan creations. This temple is a great example for it.

When one enters the temple, one could feel the chillness in the space. The floor and the sandstone pillars chill the place. The sandstone structures also gives in to the fact the carvings and structures suggests that it could have been the beginning of stone carvings. Bankapur has a dense population of peacocks and it shows in the carvings too.

We spent a lot of time, walking and feeling the beautiful carvings on the walls. The door especially had some intrinsic workings and one see how the stones have hollowness as well as liveliness at the same time.

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The raised platforms around the inner part of the wall did have similar impressions as that of Galagnath temple, where people must have used this for playing board games. There is something about that place that could get peace and tranquility.

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Board Games

The subsequent time that flew post the creation, the fort’s occupiers in the later years broke a lot of artifacts, statues and today what we see could just be a small part of that beautiful history.

Some of the monuments have been placed at different places of the palace, just as a reminder as to what this place would have been.

As we walked back to our car, we could only talk as to what the stars above us would have seen when the plans for this magnificent temple was laid and then its destruction. Thanks to ASI for having preserved such jewels for this and the subsequent generations to cherish and feel awe about.

Things to check:

  • Haveri is a small place, cannot expect great hotels. And if you are looking at staying before heading to Bankapur, this is the best place only.
  • Food is local but nice and clean. If you are experimenter then a great way to taste local food.
  • Own transport is the best to discover new places.
  • The Bankapur fort is dilapidated and the entrance would like some government place. So check with locals if you feel lost. People GPS is best.
  • There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money in the temple.
  • There is a lot of walking to be done from the gate to the temple space.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades.
  • The place is very peaceful and soak the beauty.
  • Carry your own food & water bottles. You do not have shops to buy what you may like.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”

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Indeed, Incredible India!! and a glorious history of India!!!… Only wanting us to come back again and again.

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. 🙂

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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