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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!”

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Lost Yoginis of Mitawali

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Chaushati Yogini, the word itself takes me back to the time when I had visited this Sakthi pitha at Hirapur near  Bhubaneswar. Especially this being the Dasahara time, I remember how Mahamaya, the central deity of Chaushati Yogini is celebrated.

I had a similar impression when we started our planning some three months earlier. India has got some 12 odd Yogini pithas and Mitawali (near Morena) is one such revered place.

Thanks to Madhya Pradesh Government, the approach road to this place took me back to 1980’s roads of India. DSC_1052 (2)

Anyway, somehow we managed to reach the place by 4 pm. Our plan was to rush of to Orchha at the earliest as we now became worried of the roads. As we parked our vehicle, we were attracted towards a chorus singing.

DSC_1049 (2)We paused ourselves as we were enthralled by a group of village women who had sat down to sing a simple folklore and praise Mother Durga.

As they finished singing we could not hold ourselves back requesting them to sing again and they happily obliged.

After spending our time, we started to climb up a hillock. And this was not before, one of the ladies invited us to come to her home. When we politely said later, she said have some water from the tube well and head off. We had some really sweet, chill water from the tube well and made our way out. It was quite humbling to see the simplicity and warmth in our villages.

As we approached our climb, we realized the walk would be of  some 100 steps up. I kept running up with excitement and literally ran up gasping for breath. The familiar circular structure invite me.DSC_1068 (2)

There was a board there stating us to remove our footwear. As I took the final flight of ten steps, I looked around the inner shell of the temple. It had a different feel. The circular inner shell had sixty four small Chambers and there was the central mandapa.

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We started to walk around and for me it was a gloomy scene, there were no yogini’s inside. I found Shiva lingas been kept inside these chambers.IMG_20191002_152940

The central mandapa was even more disappointing. They had managed to keep three Shiva Lingas where the locals offer prayers.

I was feeling low seeing the plunder that has happened to this magnificent piece of history. This structure that has given India it’s parliament structure was now standing hollow.IMG_20191002_153036__01

With a heavy heart and a tinge of disappointment we headed back to our car, though thankful to Archaeological Society of India (ASI) that such lovely structures and piece of history is preserved the test of time.

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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 except when you are close to the place. So hold on to your GPS maps and human maps too.
  • The climb is steep and has close to 100 odd inclined steps. Shoes are a good option
  • 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). There are local village shops and I doubt if it could be of much help. 
  • People are very humble and helpful.
  • Finally, ensure “Swatch Bharat”.

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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Chota Kila and a Lioness

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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

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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”

 

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.

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!!!

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,

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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..

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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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