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A Travel Blog from India: January 2013

Thursday, 31 January 2013

India Travel Stories from others - Charukesi on Chettinad

Ms Charukesi Ramadurai is a quintessential traveller, free lance writer, filter coffee drinker, blogger.........

More importantly, she is a blogger of extremely popular travel blog

Itchy Feet - Travel Blog from India

I was going through her article on Chettinad in the January Issue of National Geographic Traveller. Chettinad is a region of mansions  built by the mercantile community of Tamil Nadu known as Nattukottai Chettiars. Each mansion has a story to tell. Unfortunately many mansions have been pulled down and very few remain now to tell the story of a glorious past.

Chettinad Palace in Kanadukathan

Read all about it in her blog here

Storied Mansions

For more information on Chettinad, you can see the post in this blog

Chettinad - Magnificent mansions and Mouthwatering menus!


Monday, 28 January 2013

Food Safari - Mysore Pak

A fortnightly column in "The Hindu" newspaper deals with food and the places that made them famous. 

They can be Mysore Pak or Dharwad Peda or Agra Peta or Ambur Biryani or Kumbakonam degree coffee. These write ups makes interesting reading as they go into detail. Being a regular reader of the newspaper, we always look forward to the column. Food and travel is always complementary!

This one is on Mysore Pak. The city of Mysore is famous for the Palace and this ghee rich sweet.

Read more about Mysore Pak by clicking this link.

In search of Mysore Pak

BTW, we strongly feel that the best and authentic Mysore Pak  - honey comb structure, three different colours when you break a piece - is only from legendary Gundappa hotel in downtown Bangalore. Check out these links on this iconic place in Bangalore.

Pamper that sweet tooth at Gundappa's

Sweets @ Gundappa Hotel

Taste that endures

So, if you have sweet tooth, you know where to head when you are in Bangalore next time.......


Friday, 25 January 2013

Skywatch Friday - Sun, Sand and Sky near Udupi

We were in Udupi in South India on the weekend.

We went around exploring the coast line driving along the sea.

We stopped at this lovely stretch palm fringed sand. It was afternoon and the winter sky was blemish-less.........

.........it merged with sea in the horizon

To know more about Udupi and plan a trip there, please look at these posts in this blog

Karavali Vistas II - Udupi, Mangalore and Bekal

Driving Holidays from Bangalore 4 - Karavali and Koffee combo!


Friday, 18 January 2013

Skywatch Friday - Sunrise in Kumbhalgarh

Kumbhalgarh is a massive fort complex near Udaipur in Rajasthan in India.

It is supposed to have the longest fort after the great wall of China. The location of the fort on a small hill surrounded by forest is breathtaking.

Though the fort, the wild life sanctuary and the nearby exquisite Jain temple at Ranakpur is well known, we were not prepared for a beautiful sunrise from our room in Club Mahindra resort.

The sky was a riot pink and blue and was looking lovely as the sun rose over the small hills of Aravali. One of the best sunrises and lovely skies i have seen.

Picturesque sky over the mountains in Kumbhalgarh.

Useful Link

Kumbhalgarh in Wiki

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Road Trip Vignettes - Flame of the Forest in Bloom

Flame of the forest is a beautiful tree. Specially when you see it during this season - January to March - when it is in full bloom.

My vivid memories of train journeys from South India to North while serving in the Army are the vistas of orange and vermillion colours whenever the train crossed Vindhya mountains in Central India. The train passes through deciduous forests of Central India which comes to life when the this tree is in bloom. The onset of flowering these trees covers the forest with colours giving an illusion of a flame in the forest.

Thus the name "Flame of the Forest"!

When we were driving in Central India during the road trip to Chattisgarh and Kanha, we happened to see these trees in bloom along the road. It was in March and some flowers had withered but they still looked lovely. It as a soothing sight.

Next time when you are driving in Central India or traveling by train in January - March , look out for these trees and for lovely sight of "Flame of the Forest" in bloom.

Useful Links

Flame of the Forest in Wiki


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Sun Rise in Mullayanagiri, Chikmagalur

This must be in last week of March last year. 

We planned to go to Bekal for the weekend. Since it was a long drive to Bekal, why not leave on Friday evening, spend the night in Thotadahalli Home stay at the foothills, watch sun rise in Mullayangiri and then proceed? The plan was workable and we were in Thotadahalli for Dinner on Friday. A sumptuous dinner and good sleep ensured that we were raring to go early in the morning to watch sun rise over Mullayanagiri.

Thotadahalli is at foothills and it took us 15 Minutes to reach the summit. Another ten minutes of climbing the steps took us to the vantage point. It was chilly on top and slightly windy. It was a quiet morning with some birds chirping. There was another car with a couple and a van with a large family who looked well educated. We had to stop them blaring Bollywood music from the van to maintain the serene atmosphere in the morning. It is sad to see people want to create noise wherever they go and can't enjoy silence even for a minute.

The sun started showing up in the distant horizon. The onset of his rise was greeted by brilliant colors in the sky. The horizon was clear and it was not misty. We saw a fabulous sunrise. As the sun came up, there was a shadow play in the hills which looked beautiful too. Take a look at these pictures. 

Sun....coming up slowly 
Notice the colour of the sky....
A closer look through the zoom
The Shadow play over the hills 

The last stretch of narrow road to summit
This is the right time to enjoy the sun rise on Mullayanagiri. The last two KMs is a drive through narrow road and one has to be really careful. If you are not confident, please park it below and walk up. You won't regret it. 

The sun rise over the hills or sea are always spectacular. When you are seeing it on top of the tallest peak in Karnataka, you will cherish it forever. 

Go for it when you travel to Chikmagalur next time.

For more details on Mullayanagiri and Chikmagalur, please take a look at the following related posts

Driving Holidays from Bangalore - Magical Malnad

Did you like this post? If yes, please do share with your friends by clicking on the share buttons. If you need help in planning a trip to Chikmagalur/Mullayanagiri, you are welcome to write @ poorna62@gmail.com. 

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Monday, 14 January 2013

Best wishes on Makara Sankarnti, Pongal

Makara Sankranti is one of the auspicious festivals celebrated all over the country. More so in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Of course, in the state of Tamil Nadu where it is celebrated in a big way as "Pongal". 

A harvest festival when farmers thank gods for a good harvest.  The time when the farmers take their time off to enjoy the fruits of their hard labour. When they get together with family and friend to celebrate the occasion  The festival is celebrated in a grand manner in Malnad region of Karnataka with the Jatre or Utsav on Yellu Amavasya, the day before Sankranti in the town of Tirthahalli in Shimoga district in Karnataka. Take a look at this You Tube Video on this

The weather is pleasant in South India and farming community have time on their hands after harvest. This season is also known for "action" in the Madurai region of Tamil Nadu. I happened to read a fascinating article yesterday in "The Hindu" newspaper on the action in Madurai during Pongal time by the farmers. Though many of these activities are banned as animals are involved, they continue in small pockets. Take a look at this link.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Skywatch Friday - Blue sky and White Marble in Bhedaghat, Jabalpur

This is a natural wonder. Bhedaghat.

A long stretch of marble rocks weathered by dry weather and swirling water of Narmada in Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

We were visiting this place in the afternoon during last year's Christmas holidays. There was chill in the air. The sky was clear blue. 

We hired a boat and did a ride in the waters of Narmada. Boating in Beda Ghat is an experience to behold. The glistening marble rocks on one side and shadows on the other. We in the middle with a boatman singing local folks songs as he oared us. There was a pont when we could see the sky and the water merge.

Here was it. 

Bhedaghat is 30 KMs from the City of Jabalpur in Central India. 


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Kushi Beach, Rameshwaram - Quaint, Lovely and Unexplored!

You may not have heard about this place earlier. Neither did we, till we bumped into it while on our trip to Rameshwaram last October. The name excited us as we were driving towards the temple town. We happened to check out this lonely, forlorn and palm fringed, beautiful beach just before Rameshwaram. We are not sure who gave the beach its name. It is called "Kushi beach" and is a beautiful stretch of sand. It really makes you "Happy". That is what "Kushi" means in Indian languages. The water was still and wave less. We could walk easily into the water.

Look for the signage before Pamban rail bridge when you are driving to Rameshwaram from Madurai. The beach is two KMs off the highway and the road is good.

Don't miss this when you visit Rameshwaram next time. The beach is empty on weekdays and gets local crowd only on weekends.

Postscript - It is a known fact that Coromandel coast in South Indian state of Tamil Nadu has some of the gorgeous beaches which are not popularised. Whether it is Tranquebar or Poompuhar or Dhansuhkodi, it has some lovely beaches. With peace returning to Northern and Eastern parts of Lanka, the Sri Lankan government is hard selling the beautiful beaches on its north and east coast. These beaches of North Sri Lanka are nothing but extension of our own Coromandel coast. Here in India, we don't seem to care for them.

You may also read the following related post in this blog on Kushi Beach.

India Travel Stories from Others - Soma Basu writes on Kushi Beach for "The Hindu"

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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Halebid - Where Stones speak to you!!

We were awestruck.

Words fail to describe the magnificence of Halebid or Halebidu. It should be seen and savoured.

Going to Halebid was a decision taken in a whiff on the last weekend. The plan was to drive very early in the morning on Sunday and capture the beauties of Halebid in camera in morning light. We wanted to spend three hours to get into minute details of the sculptures. We were doing this detailed exercise for the first time. Not rushing through this time.

We were going there after ten years.

We came back awestruck at the outstanding beauty of the sculptures not seen anywhere in the world. We had seen beautiful sculptures in Khajuraho. But, the details of Halebid in the state of Karnataka in South India is way beyond imagination. You wonder whether it is stone or wax. How can anyone reach such perfection?

As the famed historian and architect George Michell writes in the "Blue guide" on South India.

" The magnificence of these sculptures is "Unsurpassed" anywhere in the world"

How true. It is to be seen to be believed

The wonder of sculptures in Halebid was aptly summarised by KUVEMPU, the late poet laureate of Karnataka. A great poet of India, KUVEMPU as he was known, Dr K V Puttappa wrote thus in Kannada amazed at the wonders of Halebid.

ಬಾಗಿಲೊಳು ಕೈ ಮುಗಿದು 
ಒಳಗೆ ಬಾ ಯಾತ್ರಿಕನೆ 
ಶಿಲೆಯಲ್ಲವೀ ಗುಡಿಯು 
ಕಲೆಯ  ಬಲೆಯು!

Translating this in English - pardon my translation - will read like thus......

Oh thy traveller
step in with prayers on your lips
hands folded in reverence
this is just not a temple of stone
but a wonder of art!

Now, without wasting time, please have a feast for your eyes.........I could not resist to post these many pictures. They are just lovely.

Still there are many in the memory stick!

The Temple complex as seen from Museum
The lovely exteriors of the temple
The temple built on a pedestal and supported by carved pillars
Nandi Mantapas (pavillions) opposite the main shrine
Nandi mantapa with carved pillars
The Eastern or main entrance

The main entrance with beautifully carved Dwarapalakas on either side of the door
A panoramic view of the eastern side of the temple with carved pillars and stone carvings
Close up of the walls. Notice the carvings on the pedestal and immediately on top of it
Carvings on the wall - Varaha, Trimurti, Narasimha, Shiva
Wow! A beautiful capture of the wall
Shilabalikas......look at the symmetry!!
The details on these arrays on the outer walls are just mind boggling .....it celebrates epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, victories of Kings, weddings, festivals..........list is endless
Gods, Shila balikas in different postures
Beautiful carving on the lintel at the entrance of the temple
Myriad figures on the pedestal of the temple

The southern wall embellished with array of sculptures - Notice the Ravana lifting Kailasa and Shiva - Parvati on Nandi

Let us now come to individual sculptures
Lord Ganesha
Mahishasura Mardini
Shila balika - Notice the exquisite carving of her robe under the knee.......all in stone!!
Dwarapalaka - Notice the detailed carving of his dress!!
Lord Krishna playing flute- Muralidhara
Lord Surya - Notice the seven horses which draw his chariot the bottom!
Shila Balikas under a tree - Notice the elaborate foliage of tree carved! Outstanding!
Lord Krishna Again as Govardhana Giridhari - Lifting Govardhana Mountain to save his folks. 
Lord Shiva in Dance pose
Shila Balikas
Lord Vishnu in Varaha Avatar
Lord Vishnu in Narasimha Avatar
Garuda - Look at the detailed embellishments!!
Trimurti- Brahma Vishnu and Maheshwara
Is this Parvati under foliage? - Also notice the beads in the finger!!
A nude and voluptuous dancing girl!
A drummer - Notice the intricate carving of the strings of drum!
Is this Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi or king and Queen??
Lord Vishnu
Brahma - Notice the neatly carved beard!!
Ravana, the demon king lifting Mount Kailash. Notice detailed carving of mountain including Shiva - Parvati on top!!
This is the ultimate perfection of sculpture. Notice the girls robe and the wrinkled pattern!!!
Dwrapalakas in front of Hoysaleshwara shrine - Notice small skulls woven beautifully into the sculpture
Magnified version
Interior of the temple. Notice the beautifully carved pillars

Beautifully carved pillar
Minute details of Ramayana on the pedestal
Ramayana - Battle between Rama and Ravana. Notice the array of arrows!!
Piece de resistance - A few erotic sculptures in the temple!! first time we ever saw this in a Hoysala Temple

Travel Tips

Getting there

Halebid is at a distance of 220 KMs from Bangalore and 185 KMs from Mangalore in the state of Karnataka in South India.

By Air - Though nearest airport is Mangalore, Bangalore is a convenient hub with better connectivity. 

By Bus - There are numerous buses plying between Bangalore and Hassan. Halebid is 40 KMs from Hassan and there are frequent buses from Hassan. There are few direct buses to Halebid from Bangalore as well.

By Road - Best option. The road between Bangalore - Hassan has improved and you have a four lane highway for 60% of the distance. The remaining part is being done but the road condition is very good till Hassan and beyond till Halebid. Suggest take the Belur road to reach Halebid rather than the direct one from Hassan.

By Train - Not recommended unless you are a die hard fan of train. You can take Bangalore - Mangalore trains from Bangalore and then take bus from Hassan.

Stay Options

The nearest stay option is Hoysala Village resort. But there are good options in Haasan and Chikmagalur. Halebid can be comfortably explored making either Hassan or Chikmagalur as base. For more information you can look at the post on Chikmagalur here.


Other Information

a) Invest at least three hours to explore Halebid. 

b) There are few guides available at the entrance to temple who can be helpful. They charge Rs 300. But please go beyond what the guides tell and show and explore Halebid on your own. You will not regret it.

c) If you are keen on Photography, go there early. The early morning sunlight lights up the eastern part of the temple beautifully which helps take nice pictures.

d) There are few eating places in Halebid. If you are hungry, these are the only option.

e) The small shops in Halebid sell excellent bananas. Try it.

f) The museum has some excellent exhibits and entrance fee is Rs 10. Go for it.

g) There is a small lake next to the heritage site which has boating facilities. If you want to have a boat ride, you have a chance here.

h) Don't forget to visit the Jain temple and Kedareshwara temple which is close to main site.

i) Halebid can be comfortably combined with a visit to other excellent Hoysala temples Belur and Belavadi. 

If you need help in planning a trip to Halebid, you are welcome to write at poorna62@gmail.com. Happy to help.

Useful Links

For more details on Hoysala Architecture and temples please look at this nice post in Wiki - Hoysala Architecture

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