Thursday, July 30, 2009

We, the children of Andhra Pradesh grew up listening to its stories like how a hare chased a dog and how precious stones were sold by weight in this kingdom. Whatever it is, the Vijayanagar empire always fascinated me. By DSC00947the time i planned the trip to Hampi, i had already read about the kingdom, its kings and how this glorious empire came to an end.

Hampi, as it is seen today is situated in the North Western Part of Karnataka near the town of Hospet. The best part of the village is it has still not been affected by the rising tourist population.

Hampi is a place which is hot all through the year and best avoided during the summer. I visited the place in December and still faced very humid conditions and my skin got tanned. There are good places to stay and some are Air Conditioned for the benefit of foreigners. The cost of the accommodation varies with seasons, the least in Summer where there will be few people visiting the place.

Hampi isDSC01082 an area covering 33 square kilometres and the temples and ruins are located in 3 other villages adjoining Hampi. The best mode of transport is a bicycle through which one can navigate to any part of the village. Motor bikes can be rented but there are some places where one cannot reach by bikes and then a bicycle comes in handy.

The whole of Hampi is physically divided into two areas, the Sacred Enclosure and the Royal Enclosure. The area covered under the Sacred Enclosure is full of temples and the Royal Enclosure is the place where you can find the ruins of the palaces and the government buildings. Excavations are held even today giving to the world, new ruins and temples. The ASI needs to be appreciated for a wonderful job.

Before embarking on this journey, it is must that we know something about the Vijayanagar Empire and about the circumstances in which the glorious kingdom came to an end. I will start with a brief history of the empire.

To be continued……

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Continued from the previous post….

As i come to the end of my first of the places, i remember some things that i can never forget of my Coorg Trips.

The way we prepared for the trip for the first time is quite memorable. Everything was bought in Bangalore including alcohol and we had actually taken the bottles to office and placed in the236 office reception. There were people peeping inside the bags and asking us if we were going to Coorg just for boozing.

There is this guy, one of my ex - colleague who is a chain smoker. I mentioned that we boozed a lot. I was scared to see him that day. He smoked somewhere around 70 cigarettes during the one night we were there in Coorg. I cant forget this guy.

My writing about Coorg will not be complete without thanking my colleague Anil and his Parents for the hospitality shown when we visited Coorg for the second time. Anil booked us the accommodation near Kushalnagar, took to his home where his  mother prepared delicious breakfast and snacks in the evening. Anil is currently abroad on an official trip. Thanks Anil, Aunty and Uncle….

There are many othDSC04056er places near Coorg that you can visit if you have time. Coorg is a place pleasant all through the year, but best enjoyed during peak winter. Its a trekkers’ delight. Anyway, the following are the other places nearby.

Irupu Falls :

Originating from the Brahmagiri Range, the river Lakshmana Theertha plunges down from a height of 170 ft. forming the Iruppu Water falls. It creates a ceaseless thunder amidst the silence of the thick wood in two stages. It is located 50kms from the Nagarahole National Park and about 50kms from Madikeri, South Karnataka about 300kms for Bangalore. The other places of interest nearby are Brahmagiri peak, a place called pakshi-patala (Brahmagiri Wild life Sanctuary)

Nagarhole National Park :

Nagarhole National Park also known as 'Rajiv Gandhi National Park,' is located 94 km from Mysore. It is spread between Kodagu and Mysore districts. Located to the northwest of Bandipur National Park, Kabini reservoir separates the two. There were exclusive hunting reserve of the former rulers of Mysore, the park has rich forest cover, small streams, valleys, and waterfalls. Its area stretched to 575 km².

Omkareswara Temple :

There is another lure for the tourists who are religious by heart and it is the Omkareshwara Temple. It was built in commemoration of both Shiva and Vishnu and is almost 200 years old. The stunning feature of this temple is that it is an amazing blend of Islamic and Gothic styles of architecture.

*************************End of Coorg *****************************

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nyingmapa Monastery.. One of the most beautiful and peaceful places that one can visit to spend sometime in solitude. It is situated in Kushalnagar in the Coorg District. Its a must visit place in Karnataka.

It was a rewarding experience the two occasions i visited the monastery. The first time we went to the Monastery with my colleagues, it was in the evening and the other, morning.

The area is habitated by hundreds of Tibetan Monks and students. They spend years learning and practicing Buddhism before going to their country to lead their lives. There are quarters built for them and their lives are also very simple.

As we enter the campus, we find these monks sitting and chatting among each other. There are 5 temples inside the campus. Once we enter the main campus, we see a temple of which the ceiling is coated with Gold and big. That is just a sample of the grandness of the monastery.

Go along and on the right side and you will find a big long temple and in front of it, there is a big bell. The temple is a long one with three doors. Left to the temple is the place where we need to leave our footwear. Enter inside the temple and…… You will see three magnificent statues of three Buddha, 60 feet in height and plated with Gold… Its a marvellous site and you will take some time to awe at the statues before you. The statues are at the other end of the hall. A picture of the Dalai Lama is placed at the foot of the statue of Gautama Buddha which is the statue in the centre. There are miniature replicas of their temples placed in glass enclosures.

It was 20th of December 2008 when i visited the Monastery for the second time. We were lucky to witness an event that happens once in a year. It was the Birthday of one of the founders of the monastery and their great teacher. There were special prayers that were held. A monk rings a small brass bell in rhythm and that was the call to the other monks that the prayerDSC00741 is about to start. Soon some 300 monks, young and old comes inside the hall. There are small desks that are placed on the floor and some scriptures on them.

The prayer starts with one of the teachers chanting some hymns in rhythm and long trumpets blown along with clanks of bells and a big drum. Soon the disciples join the prayer and it is amazing even to listen some 300 people chanting in rhythm. Tea is served  continuously to them by a group of people moving around. The prayer goes for probably till the afternoon. We were there for almost an hour moved around the campus, seen various paintings that depict the life of Gautama Buddha. That was a wonderful experience which i cherish all my life.

Some more pictures of the monastery

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To be continued…….

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Continued from previous post…

Most of us were late due to heavy boozing the previous night. We started late at around 11.00 AM and reached Dubare Forest at almost 1.00. That was not at all a proper time to go. Dubare forest in best visited during early morning hours and one can bathe the elephants from 6.30 AM to 8.30 AM every morning.

The forest is surrounded by Cauvery River and we need to cross the river to go into the forest. There is also a boat ride where you can row the boat. I experienced this when i visited Coorg for the second time. It looks easy but there are places where the water is too deep and we have to row with our full strength. The hands will pain a lot. We also knew that there is an elephant Safari everyday but unfortunately by the time we crossed the river and went to

the Pickup place, the time was up. So we did nothing in Dubare forest and just roamed for some time and started off to Cauvery Nisargadhama.

Cauvery Nisargadhama is an island in the river and is connected to land by a long rope bridge. There are various types of herbal trees and bamboo plantations inside the Nisargadhama. We can get into the water from one side. But in some places the water is very deep and the flow is fast. And moreover, there are rocks in the river. So one can get injured because of the water flow. We walked for at least 5 kilometres before getting into the water. Se spent some time near the river water and left. There is also a rabbit park, deer park and snake park inside the Nisargadhama. There was not much we could see in Nisargadhama. So we moved from there and reached the most beautiful place in Coorg, the Nyingmapa Monastery.

More Pictures of Nisargadhama

To be continued…….

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Continued from the Previous Post…

We were all tired from the hectic climb to the Bramhagiri hill where Talacauvery is located. We had lunch and immediately set off to Abbi Falls.

Abbi means “Waterfalls” in Kannada. This area was a British Colony once upon a time and the British used to called it as the Jessey waterfall in memory of Jessey, the daughter of Madikere’s first Chaplain.

The water falls from a height of almost 300 feet over a huge pile of rocks and into a stream, thereby creating white water. Going to the Abbi Falls in the evening gives a pleasure with water particles falling on your face. A wooden bridge is constructed over the stream at a good height to have a good view of the falls. There were many school children who had come for a trip. In Karnataka wherever i had been, the one common sight i had seen is loads of school children.

We stayed there for half an hour and set off to Madikere Fort.

Mercara, the headquarters of Coorg or Kodagu district, was founded by a prince Mudduraja of Haleri Dynasty in 1681 A.D and was named after him as “Muddurajanakeri” which turned into “Muddukayray” and later “Madikere” by locals. The British called it “Mercara”. Mudduraja built a mud fort and a palace inside in the last quarter of the 17th century. This fort was later re – built in granite masonry. It was captured by Tipu Sultan who named it “Jaffarabad”. In 1790, Doddaveer Rajendra took possession and later in 1834, the British took over.

Madikere Fort Complex today, houses the Local Administrative Offices(palace renovated by Lingarajendra Wodeyar – II, built in 1812–1814) and a Church (built in 1855). The building which houses the administrative office is old and with good architecture having statues of horses at the entrance. There are statues of Black Elephants which are very good. Part of the Madikere Fort holds the local prison and it is not accessible to outsiders.

The fort has an elevated wall with holes big enough to insert a gun through it. There are enclosures to keep a watch on the outside. There are six circular bastions at the angles. The entrance at the east is intricate and circuitous and guarded by three successive gates. After Madikere Fort we set off to the final destination that day, the Raja’s seat.

If you have not visited Raja’s Seat while in Coorg, you are missing something. Raja’s seat is an elevated platform on which the Raja of Madikere used to Sit and watch the Sunset.

The Sunset is in its best here. Once the light starts fading, you will see a mixture of orange and yellow in the sky and that is amazing. There is a deep valley on one side and its not fenced. Better to be careful here. This is a perfect place for lovers to spend the evening watching the sunset. The local administration has setup a beautiful park over here and its one of most busiest tourist spots in the evening.

There is a good musical fountain setup here and the show runs for half an hour from 7.00 PM. I found this far better than the one in Brindavan Gardens, Mysore. Its one good thing to watch. After the show we spent in the garden for some time and set off to our stay.

Its not over yet.

We returned to our stay and took bath in hot water. We were too tired and so, the hot water was a relief. The weather outside was dead chilling and the boozing program started. We started boozing sometime at 8.30 PM. That was the time when i boozed the most quantity ever in my life. The housekeepers setup a bonfire and that was amazing boozing sitting all round the fire. It was 3.30 AM in the morning until everyone was asleep. So we were boozing for 7 hours talking and talking and talking.

We got up at around 8.00 AM the next morning. Due to the heavy boozing the previous night, many could not get up on time. By the time we were ready to leave, it was 11.00 AM. Again we had nice breakfast with local cuisine. Before breakfast many of us boozed again a bit. We bid the coffee estate and the housekeepers goodbye, thanked them for the hospitality and set off to our destination, Dubare Forest which was a 2 hour drive from Madikere.

To be continued…..

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Continued from the earlier post.....

It was almost 1.5 hrs drive from our stay and Bhagamandala. When the River Cauvery flows downhill, it is joined by two more tributaries - Kanake and Sujyoti. The spot where all three converge is called Bhagamandala. From here, it flows through, supplying water to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and then ends in the Bay of Bengal.

The intersection of the rivers looks like a small Pond and the water just reaches you knees. There is a temple nearby dedicated to Bhagandeswara (Lord Siva). The area was occupied by Tipu Sultan during 1785-1790 and renamed Bhagamandala to Afesalabad. Then in 1790 King Dodda Vira Rajendra took Bhagamandala back into an independent Kodagu(local name for Coorg).

We stayed just for 15 minutes, took some photographs and set out to Talacauvery which is at a distance of 8 Kilometres from Bhagamandala.

Talacauvery is the Birth Place of the river Cauvery, which is on a hill. Its a dangerous Ghat Road to the top. On one side you have a dense forest and on the other, you have the hill. There is always danger of Landslides during rainy season.You reach the top and wow… its a view that no one can forget. You are above the forest and you can see the clouds moving among the hills… The Sun glowing at its best and there is a chill in the air. Its best experienced personally.

There is a small pond and on the other side of it, there is a small pit from which the Cauvery River spawns of of nowhere.. There is an idol of Goddess Cauvery near the pit. The water flows through the hill down and reaches places like Bhagamandala and some beautiful waterfalls.

There are some temples of Lord Ganesha and Siva which are built in Kerala Style structures… You can find this kind of architecture in Bhagamandala. After we had the darshan of Goddess Cauvery, we moved further to the Bramhagiri Hill.. To reach the top of the hill, there are exactly 365 steps. Man!! It was very tiresome specially to me because of my body weight…