The Ram Rajya … Orchha

DSC_1104 (2)
The Orchha Fort from the Temple

The lord settled himself as the queen was relentless in her desire but then there can be only one king in the state. When the lord is there, how can there is another king to rule. A big question, so to pacify, the king built a beautiful temple.

The interesting part is that, it took time for the completion of the temple so the lord’s idol was kept in the Kitchen area. When the temple got completed, the lord’s idol refused to move from the Kitchen. Everybody tried their bit and finally everybody gave in and today Lord Ram and Goddess Sita are permanently seated there. The old kitchen has now become the temple to Visit at Orchha.

Raja Ram Temple
Kitchen became the Temple

The only place in the country where Lord Ram is given a Guard of honour Salute everyday. Welcome to Orchha!!! .. Last time I had shared about Orchha’s efforts to save the vultures in their awesome Cenotaphs.

It was a pleasant morning, when we walked to see both the temples. The temple where Lord Ram is prayed and the temple that was built for him.

The current temple is more or less at a ground floor level. It is a flat structure. You cannot carry bags inside the temple, and since I was carrying my camera bag had to wait outside and then later go in alone after others came back. The sanctum is simple and has a typical Rural Indian house construct. The center square is empty with a Tulsi tree while the idols are spread around it.  The main idol is at the center.  The Idol is beautifully sculpted.

DSC_1074 (2)

Once we stepped out, we were off to the Chaturbhuja temple that was built for the lord by the then king. Description by ASI

This temple is quite adjacent to the main temple and has a neglected feel. It has a typical Indian Architecture feel, but the dome structure built later has a mughal architecture influence.

DSC_1073 (2)
The Chaturbhuja Temple that never became an active place of worship!!

DSC_1101 (2)

It is close to 60 feet in height. One needs to walk up almost 25 steps up before you land up at the entrance of the temple. As you enter, on your left is the palace with its grand view and then you enter the temple. It was built in a manner that the king could directly see the lord from the palace without stepping out of the palace, but they say, “Man proposed, God disposes.”..

After taking some good shots, we were approached by a local guy who suggested that he could take us to the upper sections of the temple for 100 bucks and who could resist such a temptation.

Today, there is a small temple inside to keep the sanctity of this being a temple otherwise

DSC_1110 (2)
Inner view from Top of  Chaturbhuja Temple Sanctum

there is nothing much.

We went up some three fights of stairs to finally reach on the top of the temple and realize that there is another 20 feet structure there. We could not go in there as it was not well kept.

The climb up is steep and it does take an effort to move up the steps. Once you land on one of the floors you wonder how people in that time used to go up. I felt claustrophobic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The alleys in the floors are wide enough for two people to walk through. As we reached the 3rd floor level, our man all of sudden asked, “Sir, would you like to go to the top of the temple?”… and we together said, “Why NOT!!”

It was once in a life time opportunity for us, and trust me you will not be disappointed at all rather it is breathtaking.  One could see the whole town from the top.

We could not go higher than that as the doors for the final ascend was locked. We spent close to 15 minutes feeling the breeze and enjoying the architecture around.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After spending some time in the temple, we headed towards the Laxmi temple which is well known for the famous Madhubani Paintings.  We took an auto and mind it, they can fleece you. If you love to walk then it is a good trek up and down the paths. We realized it much later.

DSC_1149 (2)
The Lakshmi Temple!!

While there was no tickets applicable for the Main temple, but one has to pay for the IMG_20191003_120107Laxmi temple. The tickets are to be brought at the fort. We had not but the folks were helpful. They did let us in and what a view it was!!

The walls are decked with Madhubani paintings and they are simply gorgeous. A mere description of the same will not do justice to it.

The paintings depicts Ramayana and Krushna leela in all its brighter sense. Each character is clear and prominent even if it is a mere soldier. The leaves and flower motifs are distinct and clear.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These walls ask for attention and to be taken care off.  You could just spend hours just appreciating the workmanship of those artists who could depict various stories from Mythology, the King’s adventures and even Mughal designs too.

As we walked up the steps to the top of temple, the sheer height where the temple is built will take your breath away.

We spend a significant time just admiring the beauty of these paintings and the rich culture that India has asking for its proliferation in the current context.

Things to check:

  • Most of the places are close by and if you like walking, nothing like it.
  • Negotiate for your local transport, or else be ready to spend.
  • Pick your water bottles and your shoes, you would need them as there is lots of walking if you are exploring types.  
  • For Lakshmi Temple, pick your tickets at the palace gate. The ticket serves for both, Palace & Temple.
  • It is a small place and though you get food, be watchful.
  • You can carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone, but not in the temple and there is no place to store too.
  • Enjoy the paintings at Lakshmi Temple and respect the space. 
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat” & say no to plastics. The place is relatively clean and has been maintained by local people.  
DSC_1150 (2)
The Ram Temple, Chaturbhuja Temple and the fort in one view from Lakshmi Temple.

 Indeed…. Incredible India!!

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.

edf

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.

IMG_20181229_122023
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.

IMG_20181229_123444
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.

 

IMG_20181229_122730
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.

IMG_20181229_122817
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!!

Check out my New releases @ Amazon and enjoy the short stories.

 

Endangered Vultures in a Cenotaph

Indian history revere this carcass eating majestic bird. This bird has connections to that of Indian history, Parsi community and by large an important part of the Bio-system. This is only bird that feeds on the dead carcass of Cows. Just imagine, they contribute towards 4% of natural scavenging. Sadly, it is said that, the Asian Vultures have dwindled to just a mere 100,000 from 40 million in 1980s. This is a whooping drop.

DSC_6914 (2)

My first interaction with these majestic birds was in Singapore and I never thought I will witness them close again. It was a delight to see these birds in action there, well fed and taken care off.

While the country may not be that concerned as to why is it so concerning, there is one small town in Orchha Madhya Pradesh that is working towards conserving these endangered species. Orchha, also know for its mythological and historical significance is also gaining relevance. This city has a strong significance to the Bundelkhand culture.IMG_20191003_072401

Apart from the beautiful temples and on the banks of the beautiful Betwa river, the Bundelkhand kings created Cenotaphs that talk about their splendor and command over beautiful architectures. The cenotaphs on the banks of the Betwa river has become the natural conservation places of conservation for these Vultures.

IMG_20191003_070607
The vulture houses

IMG_20191003_071055DSC_0293Families of vultures stay there, enabling proliferation of the four varieties of Vultures. It is a delight to see the way the government has taken steps.  There is a clear signage that talks about the care that is being taken. The cenotaphs actually are quite a sight and they are cozy places for vultures to stay and grow. One could see the beautiful little vulture birds trying to take wings too. It is quite mesmerizing.

Today, it seems that we have close to 60 odd Vultures there and they are growing. While I was busy shooting the cenotaphs, these vultures were basking in the early morning sun.

IMG_20191003_073332These cenotaphs have been built in around 16th & 17th Century in memory of the long lost kings.

These cenotaphs have an Indo Islamic architecture and is a clear indication of the Mughal influence on the Bundel kingdom and constructions.

Vir singh deo

The neglected cenotaph of “Vir Sing Deo” is a good example of architectural influence.

When we reached Orchha it had just stopped raining and Betwa was flowing in full spate and the cenotaphs looked mesmerizing against the rising sun and puddles of water.

Things to check:

  • Orchha is a small city and is closer to Jhansi. One can take share auto or an auto to reach Orchha.
  • It is quite a tranquil place. 
  • You can carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone.
  • Vultures are endangered, so do not provoke or disturb them. They are quite peaceful creatures. Remember that they are hunters too.
  • Cenotaphs are great places to shoot, so explore it and avoid stamping on cow dung.
  • Carry your own water bottles or food.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

It is a must visit place, apart from just visiting the cenotaphs, you could enjoy the endangered Vultures up close and live in the beauty of their majestic beings.

IMG_20191003_070849

Machkund – A slice of Rajasthan

Being spontaneous is a great thing and being open to listening is like a dash of lime on a Bhel Puri.

Well, while having to reach Gwalior we had to cross a small part of Rajasthan, Dholpur on NH44.  We did not trust our beloved GPS and stopped to check with locals and have a local Chai. The moment we did that, one added to another and someone said, there is a place which is not too far and is of historical and religious significance. Post the chai, we took the detour. Though not a part of the plan, we said “why not!?!”. May be worth half an hour spend.

img_20191002_110206.jpg

And the huge arch on our right welcomed us to get into Machkund. The approach road is good but one can feel lost and we had to ask a few locals to reach the place. As the vehicle rolled in, we were welcomed by the traditional Red stone, Rajasthani structure. We gingerly got out of the car and started to walk towards a small gate on the left hand side, which happened to open into the temple complex and believe me, “It is a world in itself”.IMG_20191002_103335

The beauty about Indian history is that there has to be some Mythology behind a structure. It is said that a demon by the name of Kaal Yamaan unknowingly woke Raja Machkund who was sleeping at this place. The Raja had a divine gift, a boon by the Lord that he could destroy any person. When the Raja was disturbed, he burnt, Kaal Yamaan at this place.IMG_20191002_105805

The architecture and grande is worth the time. The lake right in front is supposed to be sacred and was built by the suryavanshi kings. Well the overall structure came up later. As we stepped into the place, the other aspect that greets one is the serenity and calmness of the place.

One cannot state that this place is dedicated to a particular deity. It seems that most of the shrines came up between 915 BC to 775 BC. Off course the outer structures were built much later.

IMG_20191002_105239

At the entrance we had the Shiva shrine in the open, which has been placed on an open high raised platform with a covering only on top. HE is placed right infront of Krishna temple. The whole set up was placed inside a temple structure. It was like a temple within a temple.

We walked a little further to see the Jagannath Temple and many others smaller shrines. The Jagannath shrine had a small “Gowshala” (Cow shed) too.DSC_0948 (2)

This place is also a space where you find a lot of small samadhis (Cenotaphs) of the kings and royal members also. The cluster of these makes the place spiritual and mystical.

IMG_20191002_104453

While we were there, we felt the water of the pond to be extremely still. So still that one could see the reflection of the boats and trees crystal clear. It was a mesmerizing feeling.

It is said that there is a mela that happens there, when one finds a lot of crowd or else this is a very quite place and indeed it was. I am surprised that such a lovely place is hidden in the folds of the country and it is not published or spoken about.

PANO_20191002_104547

As we left the place, we were not only soaking ourselves in a bit of Rajasthan but also a question as to why these lovely places are tucked in some corners of the country.

Things to check:

  • Dholpur falls in a cusp zone as you cross UP and heading towards Gwalior. The roads leading to Muchkund is really great.
  • There are hardly any one who will bug you for anything. You could peacefully walk in and walk out.
  • You can carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone.
  • Soak in the beauty. There could be a lot to walk around. We saw boats in the pond, but hardly anyone to ferry at that hour. 
  • Carry your own water bottles or food.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

Soak in a bit of history, mythology and beautiful Architecture. Basically, soak in the beauty of Rajasthan..

Indeed “Incredible India!!”

DSC_0955 (2)

Taj – A photo Essay

The Taj Mahal a monument built in memory of emperor’s wife… Here is an essay the way I looked at this wonderful monument. And as we enter the space post beating the queue by booking online by booking on https://asi.payumoney.com

DSC_0803 (2)

Archaeological Survey of India and made the whole process so easy with the online mode.

DSC_0804 (2)
Any colour and it still stands tall and beautiful

The nature that day, wanted to play with this mammoth structure and it was a delight to capture it in all its splendor.

DSC_0806 (2)

And as we proceeded to the monument event the entry gate looked mesmerizing. The whole place is so so spread and grande. Even with so so many people in the place, we still managed to find space to shot the emptiness.

DSC_0839 (2)

It is so beautiful, that even the half of the monument delights one. The white marble just mesmerized us with its massiveness.

IMG_20191002_075529_531

The Black & White picture threw a class with a little beautification help from the clouds. One can not just take your eyes from it.IMG_20191001_201204_829

It was pristine and beautiful space to be in.

Things to check:

  • The Yamuna express Highway is a great road to drive to Agra from Delhi. There are trains too from Delhi. 
  • Book your tickets online through https://asi.payumoney.com .. you will save money and time.
  • You can only carry your camera bag / camera / cell phone, rest all in the cloak room. There is normally a long queue there.
  • The number of people who throng the place are plenty. So keep that in mind. 
  • Photographers there asked us Rs.600/- for some 60 pics. It is worth as they very well know how to shoot.
  • We did not find much value in picking a guide there, but if one wanted to then you could at Government rates. You could negotiate further.
  • If you happen to go to the interior of the mausoleum, pick up shoe covers from people outside the monument at Rs.5/- a pair.
  • Carry your own water bottles, food is a no-no.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

 

 

 

 

Chota Kila and a Lioness

img_20190912_140536

Rain kept pounding that day, when we thought we would like to make a quick visit to the fort which had been spoken about with pride in the Ghara Kingdom.  A kingdom that may not be well known in the Indian dynasty but has produced legends that are well imprinted in the local legends in and around Jabalpur.

img_20190912_134807

In an era where we are talking of women empowerment and women power, this small kingdom had a queen, Rani Durgavati who revolutionized the way she ruled the kingdom after her husband died at a young age while her son being too young to rule.

She took over the reigns and ruled for 14 years. She is known for bringing in a lot of prosperity to her state which got into the sight of the Mughals. In 1564, at the age of 39 she was martyred in the last battle.

For her, “The pride to live respectfully was more important that living a disgraceful life”.

img_20190912_134824.jpg
The steps that lead us to the fort

She lead her army to a battle and seems to have mounted an elephant for the battle. In a battle of unequal, when she realized that she had lost all her army, and there was no other go, she preferred to kill herself. Her martyrdom on 24 June 1564 is commemorated as “Balidan Diwas” even today. This shows us how a revered and powerful lioness she was.

In her territory at Jabalpur, Madan Mahal is one of the small forts that was built. It has been built at such a height and so small compared to the forts that one imagines, that it could have doubled up as a watching post.

This mahal is situated on a hill top and one has to take close to 100+ steps to reach the fort base. The steps give you a mesmerizing feel of the Jabalpur city as you keep moving us. As you reach at the base, one could be surprised by the remains. On the right had side, there is the horse stable and on the left is the small fort.

The FortThere seems to be many more places underground but as it had been raining heavy, these places were submerged in water. The distinctive thing is the huge smooth oval shaped rock that will make you look at the fort with awe. Horse Stable

We walked up a short flight of stairs, that tell you the signs of presence of bats. The stairs img_20190912_140419opens up onto a small landing base area and a few rooms at the end. Should have been used by the solders to keep an eye on the kingdom down below. The place is quite breezy.

There are many tunnels that had been built which opens up at various places that could have been used for safe movements. Today they have been closed down by the ASI and understandably why. It seems that people have found pots of gold while digging the grounds to construct their houses in the new Jabalpur city.

Spot the Squirrel
Had a little friend up the Fortress wall
The watch Tower
The watch Tower
The doorways
The doorways that tell us of the beautiful life it must have been. The horsemen and the soldiers who may have guarded it.

We walked around the space and enjoyed shooting ourselves with selfies with this “Chota Kila” (Small Fort) and as we left the fort, it reminded me of the glory that this place would have seen during the reign of a wonderful administrator Lioness.

img_20190912_142226

The slight drizzle that started as we made our way down made the place even more mesmerizing for us.

img_20190912_142518

A must place to be when you are at Jabalpur.

Things to check:

  • There is a lot of walk in and around the place, so make sure you have your comfortable shoes on.
  • There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades. It is quite a rocky place so heat may through you off guard.
  • The place is very peaceful and soak the beauty, especially during rainy season.
  • Carry your own food & water bottles. You do not have shops to buy what you may like.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”

 

Colours of Faith .. Bannari Amman

IMG_20190708_180604Faith comes in many colours and are blissful especially in a country like India.

It is wonderfully said, “Unplanned events are sometimes more mesmerizing and fulfilling than what a planned event can give”.

This was my second visit to Bannari Amman Temple, down south of India. This place was very famous because of “Veerapan” – the famous Sandal wood & Ivory smuggler who ruled the hills of Sathiamanagalam. He also gave the governments and police personnel of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala many sleepless nights. Well that story for some other time.Bannari Amman

I happened to be here for the first time while returning from Mysuru driving through the Sathi Ghats (One of the most enchanting Ghats of India).

That time, it was a stop for break and the visit to the temple was just a routine plan. This time, it was an unplanned trip that I landed up in the temple around 5.30 in the evening. The drive through the beautiful tree lined roads can lift any down spirits.

As we reached there, the evening Arthi was in full swing and there happened to be hardly ten people in the queue. We patiently waited for the Arthi to be over and our turn to visit the powerful Amman.MMD-467

There is a beautiful folklore, where the traders used to carry their goods from one side of the hill to the Mysore to sell. Once a local herdsman saw a cow stopping near a tree and the milks from her udders started to flow. The herdsman saw it over a couple of days before sharing this with others and the local villagers dug the place up to find a “Swayambhu” of a Linga  that emerged on its own. As the news spread it seems the goddess made her presence felt to bless the traders and their safety. This folklore is some 400 years old but even today, the travelers to pay their obeisance before heading ahead on their respective journey. She is also known to ward off any evil that may befall one as we keep hustling in our lives.

IMG_20190710_181949

Though the sanctum is small, but the place is huge and is busy with activities through out the day. Just sitting there and soaking in the environment will enlighten your spirits.

What ever be the folklore, but I did feel a serge of a positive vibration there. The idol is a very small one but the eyes that spark in them will leave a very positive feel in one. It was indeed a blissful evening as we walked around and soaked ourselves in the bliss of this powerful Amman or Goddess.

IMG_20190710_183035
There are salt beds, where people keep throwing in the salt to ward off the evil thoughts and incidences. A faith that has started to grow recently.

People indulge in buying the threads and idols that they could carry with themselves as a blessing.

A mother who treats all in the same way, and all are grande for her who are living their legends and she is just there to help them in their journey.

IMG_20190710_182123

She is such a delight to be with and take back the smile and faith that life is indeed Beautiful!!!

IMG_20190710_182459
The playfulness of the little girl defined the spirit of the place for me!!!

Durga Foodie

IMG_20181222_181725Food is always the backbone of any city and little towns of this beautiful country is always mesmerizing. One such place that we happen to visit was Chitradurga during December. The temperatures were down but this rock city still held its warmth in the air. The hotel was not that helpful and it prompted us to step out. The long drive from Chennai was not too worrisome. edf

It was getting dark as the lights started to come out to bring out the night life in this little city and we got curious as to what this city could give. The smaller lanes and rumbling tummies made us ask people about the eateries around. Unanimous was the “Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin Center” and the path brought us to the first fort edfgate and right adjacent to the gate was a small eat out, our nostrils pulled us to the aroma and we could not resist ourselves from experimenting food there. If you happen to be there, do not miss the aloo bondas there, they are simply mind blowing. They happen to shut down by 6 pm.

From there we moved on to Lakshmi Bhavan Tiffin center. It seems that the shop closes by 7 pm and so by the time we reached there, the

stocks had run out. But we did manage to try the Dosa and the Gulab Jamun. They were good and it left us asking for more. We felt it was more hype than the quality of the food that we could have.

The beauty about travelers is that they could be hungry for exploring and asking people shamelessly about things especially food .. 🙂

We headed off towards the next destination but not without having the “Mirchi Bajji” and walked munching the spicy delicacy,

IMG_20181222_190101

This lead us to walk the streets to “Sri Basaveswara Hot Chips & Condiments”, this lead us to hog on “Thata Idli“, Vadas and bondas apart from the savories that were flying off.

IMG_20181222_190225How can it be that the evening would end without something sweet. Just across the road were hot Jalebees freshly made. It was just the right food to seal off the evening.

It was simply juicy and sweet. The tangyness was just right. It was crispy and hot to tell you that this was made right there and just for your taste buds. The only sad part was that it was served on plastic kept over news paper. I wish there could be some other way.

That evening when we retired to the room, we kept talking about this little city and its gastronomic flavours. It was simply wow..

IMG_20181222_191128

Byadgi Chilli

dsc_8536 (2)Chilli, Red and spicy… one of the major ingredients for any preparation in India. The mere thought of Red Chilli sends one in an imagination of a Red or deep Orange coloured shriveled crescent moon structure filled with capsaicin seeds.

Chilli as such is not a native of India but rather an origin from New Mexico, Guetamala, Peru and has been domesticated in an around 5000 BC. Columbus was the one who img_20181223_172012brought these beautiful fiery fruits to Europe and from there this has moved to Asia. It came to India in around 1584. It was initially used as a crop to protect the crops from the birds but today is a main crop as such. I was largely aware that Chilli production happens at Andhra Pradesh & Rajasthan but never knew that Maharashtra, Odisha & Karnataka are also major contributors. While Assam’s city Tezpur produces one of the spiciest chilies the world has, Naga Jalokia, the rest of the country produces chilli that are used in food and cosmetics (which was a surprise to know for me!!).

Well the other big surprise were the chilies being produced in Karnataka. I never knew about its Chilli producing capability and the variety that it produces. One of the largest producing areas is Byadgi region, near Haveri. The chilies from Byadgi are known for their red colour enhancement in food and less on the spice content. They are also exported for usage in cosmetics especially Lipsticks.dsc_8547 (2)

We happened to be travelling from our visit from Galaganath to Haveri and thanks to our GPS, it took us through some of the most lovely interior villages of north Karnataka. As we were crossing the village of Agadi, I pulled over to the sides of a paddy field on the sight of red chilies being dumped in the fields.

I had never seen harvesting of Red chilies and the sight was really exciting. We got down and literally ran into the fields with excitement. In a large clearing of the field there were close to 9 people working in sorting and packing the chilies in sacks. There was an air of excitement in them when my partner started talking to them.

She had no clue of Kannada and they had no clue of any other language. Actually, my partner amazes me all the time in the way she communicates with strangers and has good laughter with them.

Our broken discussions lead us to discover that this variety of Chilies that were produces was to be shifted to Byadgi which is the central zone for all Chilies production in the region. Here they were drying, sorting the chilies based on the colour and then packing them in sacks.

Chili Bugs

It was interesting to see the bugs in the chilies. They reminded me of the bugs from “Mummy” movie.

We took photos and videos of them doing the various activities on the land. The laughter that they had was coy and their simplicity was just contagious. It was a time that tells one that the heart of India is in its villages truly.

As we left from the farm land, we did manage to pick up some chilies for ourselves too, off course we paid them for the generosity. It was a beautiful evening to spend time in the rural part of this beautiful country.

Few lovely travel tips:

  • Always be on a look out for the beauty as you drive to your destiny.
  • Travel is for your pleasure, so pause when you feel or find something special.
  • Speak to the locals even though you may not know their language. The heart knows best to connect.
  • Request the people before you would like to take their photos or videos.
  • Carry a simple empty bag, just in case you would like to buy local things.
  • Keep change, it will always be handy as the rural side does not have many ATMs or swipe machines.
  • The last one, just soak in as much as you can.. 🙂
Sunset
India is beautiful

Ankalagi Caves (Chandravali)

IMG_20181222_143722

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.

IMG_20181222_144813-EFFECTS

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.

IMG_20181222_145648

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.

IMG_20181222_150218
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.

IMG_20181222_155611
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.

dsc_8193

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.

IMG_20181222_155936
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.

dsc_8227