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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Shelled Shore!!!

She sells sea shells in the sea shore,
But would she sell on a shell shore…  🙂

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Sea Shell Beach – St. Mary’s Island, Udupi

Nature, has built in its own ornaments and placed it beautifully across the globe. Am sure, while building its ornaments, it did ensure that India has a fair share of jewels and treasures hidden in the various parts of the country. The more I travel and explore, I realise that the less I know about this beautiful country. One of such lovely treasures is a small island called “St. Mary’s Island“. A very small island 6 kms off the Udupi beach into the pristine blue waters of the Arabian sea. An Island that seemed to have been discovered by Vasco da Gama.

It was a very tiring day for me as I have been driving for 6 consecutive days travelling from East coast (Chennai) to West coast (Mangalore / Udupi) of India. After having visiting the famous Krishna temple at Udupi (Odipu in Tulu), I wanted to head back to Mangalore which was our base for the day. Half hearted I said yes to heading towards the Malpe beach. I kept saying, “Same water, same blue, yeah!! may be more clear”. Still my partner insisted and I said ok.. I would I have cursed myself more, had I not head her. (Lesson: Listen to your partner often ;))

West coast travel-390The beach brought back my life in a flash, it was the humid breeze that lifted my sagging spirits again and we started to walk around. It was 2.30 pm in the afternoon but was certainly a very busy afternoon, with kids and locals jumping and playing around. The street vendors were setting up their shops.

West coast travel-391As we strolled there were couple of young guys who kept asking, “would you like to go to the St. Mary’s island?” and I was like what’s there??

He said, “Sir, nice beach.. very different from here!!”

What, how can a beach be different, it is a beach and it will be the same all over.. Half hearted I said yes and gave the money after consent from my partner.. It was Rs 150/- bucks per person.

Well we had to wait for 20 mins before we got our ride on.. Clutching my camera bag, water bottles (a must, the sea makes you more thirsty) and cap we started. Once all the Landmass looked so different, and my fear of deep waters started getting the better of me. My little champ kept nudging and asking his 100 questions, which seemed to have helped in my journey of 6 kms in the sea.

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The boat ride

As we got down we were welcome by extremely soft white sand and round pebbles everywhere. While getting down the boat man said one hour and 5.30 pm is the last ride back. Alright, we got down and was admiring the coconut trees and the kids playing in water. I saw a lot of smooth small pebbles that looked like volcanic rocks smoothened by sea waves. At that moment we saw a lot of people walking though the bushes. The curiosity got the better of us and we followed them through a 150 mts patch of bushes to the other side of the island.
Woho, what a view!!! I was awe struck…

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Shell beach

I seemed to have been transported to a different place. The beach felt different against a crystal clear blue sea and hexagonal pillared rocks marking the outlining the beach. A closer look and I was stuck by the beach.. It was a beach filled with sea shells. Never in my life had I seen so many sea shells on a beach. First reaction, it is fake and let’s dig it and I did just to feel the pain of the sharp shells. It was not man made rather a natural phenomena where sea shells had been deposited on the beach along this part of the coast. I was jumping on the beach like a Kid. (Had I continued a little longer Mr.Vasco da Gama would have come down to cool me off)

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Rock with Shells glued to it!!

We spend more than an hour soaking the beautiful sea shell beach and the amazing hexagonal rock structures, which seemed to be prehistoric and volcanic in nature. I still was amazed by this beautiful phenomena. But did feel sad looking at the glass bottles (some broken) people have left behind at various places. One needs to be careful which climbing the rocks and explore.

 

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Shells, water, rocks and horizon… Aha!!

It is a small island but really a phenomenal place to explore and soak in the nature’s beautiful creation.

I am surprised that Indian / Karnataka tourism does not speak much about this natural wonder at all. I do not think across the globe you would see such a marvellous nature “Sea shell beach.”

As we hurried to catch our ferry and head back, I was even more charged up. I was thinking of the rechargeable battery and me. For me St Mary’s was a free soul charging point. I was jumping like the Duracell bunny all the way back to Mangalore that day.

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Shell, Oh Shell, which Shell do I choose!!

The funny part was, normally I had a tendency to pick some shells from any beach that I visit, but here I was spoilt for choice and I could treasure the moments and awesomeness of the place…

St Mary’s.. you will always be shelled in my memory….

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