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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Ruins of Chambal … Bateshwar

IMG_20191002_134805Ever felt lost and found with awe… Bateshwar, near Morena, Madhya Pradesh is just the place that would make you feel that.

When Google fumbles with the path, and you trust technology too much, then be rest assured, you will have a journey of a life time. We went through villages that would take you back in time, roads that will test your driving skills and vehicles shock ups. We quit the maps and went back to the age old tradition of asking people about the directions. It was on their judgement call we trusted and made our way through the villages and battered roads.img_20191002_140047

Finally we reached the destination. Believe me it was a scary space. Apart from the board which looked neat, the rest of the places felt deserted. We gingerly moved in. My partner had plans to leave the place. When we reached the gate, we were welcomed by a neat looking office but manned by none.

IMG-20191009-WA0061We parked the car under a tree and made our way through the gate.  The team from ASI has really worked in making the place look beautiful. The trees are welcoming and all the tiredness went off into thin air.

The site of a peacock was bliss and it felt warm and welcomed as our eyes began to scan the place for signs of a different life and archaeological wonders from the glorious past of India.

DSC_0975 (2)We took a few more steps, the sight of the temple gopuras was fascinating. We forgot all the pain and the delusion of the road and soaked ourselves in the place.DSC_0978 (2)

As the expanse opened up, we were welcomed by a number of similar looking small temples. I was jumping like a little kid who had just got hold of a long desired ice cream. I ran from one flight of stairs to another exploring the series of temples at each level. I was in awe with the symmetry of the temples. Most of these temples would be from 5.5 ft to 6.5 ft. There are  a few that would be some 12 ft high too. These are Shiva temples built during the Gurjara Pratiharas time which would be 7th century CE.DSC_0987 (2)

There are stories that these temples were built by the students as a part of the Guru dakshina pratha post their learning at the school. How fascinating and a wonderful way to pay their tributes to the Guru.DSC_1004 (2)

Bateshwar comes in the Chambal valley and this part was well infested with dacoits who ruled the place. The time I am talking about is not too much in the past. It was in 2005, Bhopal region’s Superintending Archaeologist  from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) K.K. Muhammed who restored close to 60 odd temples here.DSC_0990 (2)

As per the recent folklore, it seems he had a dream of Lord Shiva asking him to come to Bateshwar and restore the shrines. Initially he ignored it especially given the fact that the place was notorious but as the dream kept coming again, he ventured into the heart of the dacoit land and convinced them to start the restoration work.DSC_0988 (2)

Well things did not come easy. But he kept working on his dream and finally gave the world some of the most astonishing temples and the glory what we would have missed. There are a couple of temples where the Lord is being prayed.DSC_0984 (2)

DSC_0985 (2)We spent close to half an hour there exploring the world that was part of a rich tradition. Today there is work being done by ASI in restoring it further.

It seems a lot of these were earlier Vishnu temples which were later reused as Shiva temples. These temples have got simple standard carvings that are fascinating to see the striking similarities. The gopuras are very interesting. Some are very ornate while some are absolutely plain in structure.

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Bateshwar, one does not know much about them from the history books nor is Madhya Pradesh tourism doing much to make the roads accessible or propagating it. Feels sad that such treasures are not being spoken about.DSC_0983 (2)

As we left the place, I was filled with delight to have finally made it to this place and witnessed a part of history that speaks millions of our glorious past.

Things to check:

  • Do not attempt any other route, make the way from Gwalior. This route is safe and has some tar on the road. The other approach roads are really bad.
  • There is not much of signage that will guide you. So hold on to your GPS maps and human maps too.
  • 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 / charges to enter the place and no one asks for money.
  • If you are travelling during summer time, carry your own caps and shades. 
  • Carry your own food & water bottles (BYOB). You do not have shops to buy what you may like. Almost no habitation nearby.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

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Sparsha Linga

DSC_8476 (2)India is a country full of surprises and are hidden in places that finding them itself is mesmerizing. Though we had done good amount of googling to find more about this lovely place, Galagnath hidden in a small village on the banks of Tungabhadra, one can get lost, practically.

After having done a quick stop at Somesvara, we headed towards our destination. The fascination with this place was more with regard to structure in which this was created by the western Chalukya dynasty during the period of Vikramaditya.DSC_8487 (2)

Galaganath village was earlier called as Palluni Village and was later named as Galaganath because of Galageswara. When we read in history that habitations happen on river banks and cultures flourish, this place can stand out to be one great example. The beautiful temple is tucked on the banks of Tungabhardra, It is also called the place where five rivers meet. They are Tunga, Bhadra & Kumudvathi merge with Varada & Dharma.

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The temple is on a real high platform and it gives a great view of the river and village.

We after being lost, managed to slowly move towards the temple after multiple attempts to converse and understand the language. Finally the sign language & humanness took the better of us and we reached this beautiful temple.

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We paused and wondered before we could step further

As one steps into the temple, what catches our eyes is the structure. Though there is a Chalukya influence, but the base makes you feel that this is that of a pyramid base. But as the structure rises it has got beautiful designs and intricate workings. The structure is that of a mandala and the temple opens up to the east towards the river.

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The Unique structure of Galageswara
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Small yet Majestic temple 

As we walked around, we were mesmerized by this small base and the stone carvings. What fascinated me the most was the Shiva linga. It is a huge linga compared to the ones that I have seen so far in Dakshina Karnataka, where the concept of building is huge linga are evident. More, we got to hear from the locals there who spoke some good Hindi and English.

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The eastern entrance of the temple. A Nandi sits there majestically infront of the Shiva Linga. Notice the work on the walls. Simple yet elegant.

It is said that this Linga has a “Sparsha Linga” underneath it. Legends say that, people used to put an Iron rod near the Linga and pray, which used to get converted to gold. When the king got to know about the misuse of it, he got the Linga covered with “Galaga” or a protective layer. Since then the temple has been called as “Galageswara” and the village name changed to Galaganath.

It is not just Shiva, but the walls are also adorned by Vishu avatars, and Lord Surya (The sun God).

The temple has a small mandapa and it seems the temple was used for Art and Dance proliferation. There is no denial that temple were built as culture & Communication hubs and religion was used a binder. On the raised platforms within the mandapa are etching of board games that would have been played during that time.

There are stone inscriptions stating that the temple was built around 1080 AD.

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The inscriptions on the stone talking about the temple and its creation

We spent time talking to the ASI caretaker, the School headmaster and a few locals who were very enthusiastic to share their knowledge and understanding. One could see the pride they carry for the place. They loved to pose and we loved to shoot them.

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The temple shares its boundary walls with the village and the co-existence is so nicely woven in.

It is said that the Kanndiga Literary novelist “Shri Venkatesh Trivikrambhat Kulkarni” was born in Havanur and he had written most of his novels sitting in the mandapa of Galageswara. He is also called as “Father of Kannada Novels”, who had self published and sold his 29 books on the streets to popularize the language too.

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Depiction of Fisherman, Praying woman (Stating normal life) and then the religious belief with Shiva Linga and Nandi

After spending close to an hour we headed for our destination for the day, Haveri and not before we had an impromptu stop on the open field to pick up Byadgi Chilly.

A few pointers:

  • This is a small village and GPS may not locate the temple accurately. Get onto local people network to find more.
  • There is no ASI fees to enter the place and no one asks money in the temple.
  • The place is very peaceful so you could spend some “Me time” 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”

That one hour is well etched in our minds and we just cannot remove the fascination and creative excellence that India had then.

Hats off to Incredible India!!

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Haralahalli Shivan!!

It is so so true that life is a journey and one can discover more beauty that the destination alone.

Our plan was very clear that we reach Galaganath temple before 3 pm so that we could return to Haveri before sun down. We were travelling from Chitradurga fort post our lovely time at the fort. Well, navigating the Indian roads especially when you trust the Google maps, it could be fun and we felt we were lost in the fields. img_20181223_144633.jpg

It is simply a state of bliss though and we did not hesitate to pause and wonder at what the North Karnakata offered us. And when you stop once, It become a ritual to stop again and again. Well the traffic on IMG_20181223_144600the road (Which was very heavy & difficult to navigate) also helped us to slow down. This is when our senses and anxiety also slowed down.

We blended with the rustic nature of what the road and the place offered. As we slowly make through the confusion of what the google maps offered to that of the place, we happened to reach a tri-junction. The map said go straight for Galaganath while the scene of the right was something different and it said, “Come over and visit me”. We looked at each other and the answer was clear, we turned our car towards this unknown architectural feat.  This was a village The stone by ASIcalled “Haralahalli” and it is on the banks of Tungabhadra. This village holds a beautiful temple called Somesvara or Somesaragudi.

The beauty of most of the temples in this region is that they were built during the Chalukya time in around 10th – 12th century. This temple was built in the 12th century by King Vikramaditya VI. These temples also depict the rise of the lingayats in this part of the country. This temple is dedicated towards lord Shiva and opens up to the eastern side. Today one typically would enter from the northern part as the gate is located there for visitors while the villagers still use the eastern gate to enter.

IMG_20181223_150502 There is quite an intricate work that has been done. The sanctum has three gopuras each dedicated to the lord Shiva.IMG_20181223_150423

Today prayers happen only at one of the sanctums as there is maintenance work that is going on still. The surprising part is that there are some of the Vishnu avatars that have been created. Snake structures and Yalli’s are very common carvings that you would notice. The gopura is quite short.

Today ASI seems to have taken up the task to get this temple in place. There seems to be some deterioration in the structure. But what ever said and done it is a lovely place to stop by and appreciate the kind of work that the then kings had done.

It also makes me wonder and think, this place must have been a prime location at one point of time when the king had given the land and money to get this amazing temple up and today it is struggling to keep it self going with only agriculture to support itself. The people there are very humble and humane. IMG_20181223_144900

After the lovely time there, we moved our to our next destination Galaganath.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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