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.

Chitra & Durga

Stones can be a guardian when used to fortify
Stones can be an art when crafted by an artisan
Stones can beautify when weather does its natural work

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Classic symbol at the entrance of the Fort

Chitradurga, is an fort that is a combination of all where nature has worked along with the kings of yesteryears to build at fort that was a symbol of pride and beauty.

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It was early in the morning by 5:30 that we woke up. Our excitement was so high that in the darkness, we just wanted to jump out and reach the fort. The fort opens up by 6 am and we did not want to be late as we knew that it would get hot so what if it is December.

For the morning to get started we had a cuppa of tea at the local stall and got into a rickshaw to head to our destination.

As we got down, first things first was the tickets… we picked that up at the nominal rates and then the fight was that of a guide. Do pick up a guide as the place is too big and you would need one to understand the place better. Also, seek out with other people who are searching for a guide. Could be a good bargain and a better deal. We did not find many good Hindi or English speaking guides, one of the security guys (Mr. Bholaram / 09741512749) who was on his way to work said he can pitch in and it turned out to be a good choice for us as he could show us the places and the dialect just worked well for us.

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This location, has its existence from the Mauryan dynasty in the 3rd Century AD and later after its fall was with the Rastrakutas, Chalukyas and Hoyasalas. When the Vijayanagara dynasty collapsed, the Nayakas or Paleyars took over this rock bed place. Madakari Nayaka was the last most powerful king of the Nayakas who brought glory to this amazingly mysterious place.

The symbol of snakes, Shiva and vishu’s icons decorate the DSC_8244 (2)otherwise plain straight walls of the fort. They must be at least 40 – 50 ft high and the path way is serpentine too. As we came up from the first gate, realized that the place has similarity to that of Hampi’s natural boulder structures. These rocks have been used to the best possible ways, by creating natural guarding points as well as dwelling places.

Rock structures are abundant. Some have been created naturally while many of them have been man built. They are mesmerizing and one does not have to stretch one’s imagination to visualize them.

The crowd in the early morning hours makes it difficult to move around and to take some lonely pictures. The best time would be on a working day 🙂

The history is rich and there is more to learn about this lovely fort, the best concise history that I could read on the net is by one Barry Lewis.

Our guide took us through the palace pathways, arches and huge stone doors. These pathways, enabled not only the army to move into the palace but also horses and elephants with ease. The structure has been so well built that the enemy if is not aware about the trap doors and points could easily be shot.

IMG_20181223_085955One of the interesting things, that walls have fish symbols and they are significant as they meant that the water place is close by. A representation for the soldiers to access things. They are so huge that one cannot miss noticing them. Fish symbols

Also the palace is so so huge that not only the kings had their army stay but also could practice. It was a small township inside the fort well fortified and kept alive. It was indeed a thriving township.

Our Guide, Bholaram took us to through the paths that once were taken by the proud strong solders of Dakhina Kanada, today is nothing but just wild grass and broken walls.

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After seeing the regular places, like the Gali Mandapa, Obavvana Kindi, Temples, we went started walking towards the place that was not normally visited by the tourists. I think our secret was that we had our security guide and that was clearly the advantage that we had.

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The loneliness of the place even in day time could be eerie. Once we overcame that, we ventured into the broken down areas that took us by surprise. The our attention was the huge water body that has been a major source of supply to the palace that is just a stone throw away from there.IMG_20181223_084038

And talk about local belief, to take off an evil eye there were celebrations that had happened just the day before and the celebration was still fresh on the rock and it was awesome to see the celebrations still being done in a traditional fashion by the local folks. Just the vivid colours on the rock could bring in liveliness to the place. To me it looked like Bhairava being remembered even today for power and getting rid of an evil eye.

We realised that this place was actually the Palace and what well protected towards the center of the palace. This place had the royal chambers, granary place, ammunition center. This part of the palace is yet not been taken care by the archaeology and am sure once done, it will be a delight.

As we moved from the palace, the dilapidated place opened up to reveal a beautiful temple that was just carved out of the the rock. It had a cave and rock carving structure. It was really amazing. We came up to the Kali temple which was carved into the rock structure.

We happen to be fortunate to have met up with the climber Mr. Jyothiraj, who is also called the Monkey man of India, who is going to represent India in Olympics. And dsc_8416-e1555845641369.jpgliterally he showed us why!!

He made the whole interaction so so interactive that one can travel with him on how an orphan made his way and what destiny with hard work can do to a man.

He has broken his bones but his focus to represent India is such a strong urge that nothing seems to be coming in between that. Tried to record this event of him climbing a 25 feet stone wall in just 5 seconds. It is breathtaking to see the ease at which he does this against a background of cheers, awws and claps..

Few things that you would need to remember while being at Chitradurga:

  • Best time to visit Chitradurga would be winter season (October to Feb).
  • The fort opens by 6 am, so be there early. Even the winter heat could drain you out. The biggest advantage is the crowd. It peaks up as the sun gets brighter
  • Wear your shoes as you could end up walking lots.
  • Covered clothes are better, especially Jeans as any of the local shrubs could have thorns.
  • Patience especially at Obavvana Kindi, where every one would like to feel a part of history through which “Hyder Ali’s” soldiers got into the fort secretly.
  • Read a bit about the places, as you have loads of places to shoot. A great place to do video blogs too.
  • Carry your water bottles & food. Though there is a shop in the middle of fort, it may not be open at the times you may need. Do remember Swatch Bharat and keep your trash only for Trash bins.
  • No rest rooms inside the fort.

As we stepped out of the palace, we were still reeling under the mammoth-ness of the place and the grande that the place offered.

Overall an experience to wrap you well and leave you talking about it.

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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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