A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Author: vak1969 (Page 1 of 18)

Are you doing Yoga or 1/8th of Yoga?

21st June – International Yoga day is less than a week away. On that day Malls, parks, schools, play grounds, office meeting rooms –  will be packed with enthusiastic people twisting their bodies and stretching themselves to do 108 Surya Namaskars. To the layman Yoga is primarily associated with “Asanas” and to a lesser extent “Pranayamas”  that help you on the physical front – improve flexibility, enhance your energy, cure ailments and make you feel fresh and rejuvenated.Its wonderful that Yoga is becoming so popular globally.

However there is a lot more to Yoga than this. Lets take some time to reflect on “What is Yoga”? Are we doing Yoga in totality or are we doing only 1/8th of  what Patanjali documented in the Yoga Sutra’s.

My motivation to write this Blog came after I watched a wonderful talk by Sri M on Ashtanga Yoga. This article is a summary of that Video. I am attaching the link below – do watch the 1hr video. The way Sir explains it with witty stories and anecdotes is a treat to watch.

What is the Yoga Sutra 

The Yoga Sutra – widely regarded as the authoritative text on yoga, is a collection of aphorisms, outlining the eight limbs of yoga. These “threads” (as sutra translates from Sanskrit) of wisdom offer guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life, and the steps to merge your limited identity with the Ultimate.  The Yoga Sutras are considered the most accomplished and well compiled step by step writings on Yoga – but it is not the only one. Even the Bhagwad Gita is a book of Yoga with the 18 Chapters each showing a step or path towards enlightenment.

The Yoga Sutras were compiled by the great sage Patanjali. He is depicted as half man – half snake and is said to have consecrated the famous Shiva temple at Chidambaram. When we visited Tiruchi we were pleasantly surprised to see the Jeeva Samadhi of this great sage in a small temple in the suburbs of Tiruchi – the Brahmapureeswarar temple.

The basic aim of Yoga is to settle the mind down. As Patanjali explains in the 1st chapter the goal of Yoga is ” Chitta – Vritti – Nirodha“. The agitated mind needs to be calmed – and Sir explains it well by saying that this is the tarmac from where you can start the journey.

Like Gautama’s Nobel 8 Fold Path – Patanjali has clearly defined the 8 Steps to follow in Yoga – hence the name Ashtanga Yoga. Many practitioners in the US may credit B.K.S.Iyengar as the founder of Ashtanga Yoga – but he was just a passionate student and teacher of Ashtanga Yoga spreading it in the west.

The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and finally all of this leading to Samadhi. 

Please go thru Sri M’s talk for a thorough understanding of these steps – I am sharing a quick summary basis my recap from the talk.

  • Yama & Niyama’s are the rules and regulation to be followed. Predominant amongst which is simple living. Moderation is the key. The ability to be compassionate and not harm others – Ahimsa in action, words & thought. Following the path of Brahmacharya – which is not necessarily celibacy but having self control.
  • Asanas – the step that is most associated with Yoga, helps the practitioner to a strong snd supple body. A healthy body is a must for the long and arduous journey of a spiritual seeker. If the body is still the mind is still. An Asana is a posture in which you can sit comfortable for an extended period of time. There are over 108 Asanas that help energise all parts of the body – many of the focused on the spine. Asanas also play an important role in activating your ductless gland (Endocrinal Glands). Which is the reason your Yoga Teacher asks you to hold that pose for 6 – 7 breaths so that the effect reaches the glands thru the muscles. Asanas when done correctly move the limbs from a position of being tense & stretched to relaxed. This helps in flow of energy or “Prana” the life force thereby  balancing the body & mind.
  • Pranayam is the science of breathing. Breath is an important part of life. you can live without water and food for days but without breath you will not survive for even half a minute. The ancient Rishis were scientists – they realised that our breath reflects your mood. When you are angry and agitated you breathe faster. When you are at peace the pace of breathing slows down. The Rishi’s questioned  “if the mind can affect the breath – can we use the breath to effect the mind” – and that is the science behind Pranayama.To be aware of your breath is the simplest and easiest way to mediate. (I again see a similarity with Gautama’s teaching – his 1st step to tame the restless mind was to practise Ānāpānasati. A meditation technique where you focus your entire attention on the breath)
  • Pratyahara is the capacity of a person practising Yoga to be able to switch your mind on and off and focus full attention on what you are doing. This is a skill that can be learnt with time. It is a crucial skill and is the core teachings of even the Zen school.
  • Dharana  & Samadhi  – After you have accomplished Pratyahara you use this skill to FIX  your mind with single-minded focus on 1 sound , 1 image , 1 thought and exclude everything else. When you stay in this state for an extended period you slowly dissolve and there is no difference between the meditator and the surrounding – you melt and become one with the universe and that is the ultimate state of Samadhi. You become empty and the divine energy from the universe flows thru you. This is the ultimate goal of Yoga.

The article is based on the talk by Sri M on Ashtanga Yoga in March 2018. Please do watch the video – the talk on Yoga is for 60 Minutes. 

Find Purpose – The Means Follow, 3 Rural Hospitals – A case study in excellence

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to visit divine forces at work in remote rural India. It is amazing to see the transformation that a few good people can bring around with their commitment and passion. There is no adulation, no positive strokes, no awards – the commitment is totally Service, Service, Service. This is Karma Yoga in its purest form, True meditation – and they have found peace happiness and satisfaction.

The 3 Centres we visited are all located in Rural India – about 125 to 200 Km  from Bangalore.

  • Rishi Valley Rural health centre (Near Madanapalli) –  http://rvrhc.blogspot.com
  • Tribal health Initiative at Sittilingi (100 Km from Krishnagiri) – http://www.tribalhealth.org
  • Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement at Saragur , H.D.Kote – 70 Km from Mysore – http://www.svym.org

There are a few common things that have made these initiatives so successful in the last 25 – 30 years since they were started from a thatched hut or 1 room.

  • The dedication and commitment of the doctors who started these centres. They could have had great careers in the cities with big hospitals but they consciously decided to tread a different path. They started small – hands on, and built it brick by brick.
  • The strong focus on community development and awareness. They are Human Centric Organisations focused on Holistic Health. All of them have invested in counselling and guiding people to lead a healthy life. As Dr Seetharam at SVYM pointed out – ” We are not here just to kill the Bacteria & Virus but to ensure that we provide Holistic services to the community to ensure that they don’t fall sick”. And they have taken it to a totally different level with a team of dedicated counsellors and even a Radio Channel to spread awareness.
  • All of which has translated in deep trust and overall development of a healthy community

Dr Regi & Leela started the Tribal Health Initiative at Sittilingi in a remote hilly tribal valley 100 Km from Krishnagiri. It all started with a thatched hut with no electricity – but over time they have built a 30 bed hospital with 3 operating theatres and have earned the trust of the community. Treating over 100 patients every day they conduct ~ 75 surgeries every month. What is more important is their initiative to train the Tribal women as counsellors. The core team trains the local village women  who become the first point of contact to spread the awareness on health , sanitation , pre & post natal care – and this has created wonders.

Dr Karthik and Kamkshi at the Rishi Valley Rural health centre had a similar start almost 20 years back. Trained in AFMC Dr Karthik left a successful career to start the centre with his wife Kamakshi – a pathologist. Today they serve over 200 patients a day – some coming as far as 100 Km away. Madanapalli is a district HQ with a Govt Hospital – but the trust and quality of service they offer is so high that people prefer coming to them. They have taken the level of service to a totally different level and even have a local cobbler designing shoes specifically for diabetes patients.

While talking to Dr Kamakshi she introduced us to a young girl from Washington University St Louis who was visiting them on a Fulbright scholarship to research the high instance of Diabetes in the area. Inspite of the idyllic rural setting – the instance of Diabetes, Hypertension & Thyroid are widely prevalent amongst the villagers. Preliminary study indicates the usage of pesticides and extensive use of Palm Oil in cooking as possible reasons. Here again the focus is on counselling & advisory services for healthy living – how to shift to Millets , the right diet , enabling them to access the best of Govt programs etc.

I had written in one of my earlier blogs for India to Progress – you need 3 things Healthcare , Education & Jobs. Most of these places seem to be following this to perfection. They all  have a school that helps the community children get educated. Quality of education is excellent , schools are neat and clean , well equipped , good teachers. They also provide jobs to the local community – the Nurses , technicians , drivers all come from the local community. At SVYM they have even tied up with Mysore University for a 2 year management program in community development.

Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) was founded by Dr Bala when he was graduating from Mysore Medical College and he has not looked back in the last 30 years since its inception. Today the centre has a 100 bed hospital and outreach program that covers almost all the districts of Karnataka. The institute is doing ground level practical research on areas that impact the lives of the local in close coordination with the Govt. The Viveka school of excellence adjacent to the hospital is an excellent facility for overall development of the children. The approach is 100% Holistic – Dr Bala the Secretary explained that SVYM even helps the local get legal help when they face harassment regarding their land , they help them the documentation to apply for Govt aid programs, they even supply them seeds to promote kitchen gardening – they are a one point social connect to the localities.

At all the three centres the doctors were clear that there would be a nominal charge for services. This contributes less than 50% of their expenses – but there are compelling reasons to charge. Dr Balasubramanya explained beautifully why it is important to charge a notional amount. This is what he had to say

Charging helps preserve the poor patients dignity – he is now demanding service. He has the right to question. This puts pressure on the institution. We are a country where we walk in to a guests house with a token gift of fruits or flowers or sweets – even the poor tribal does not like the concept of Free

The other common theme was the element of trust. Dr Anup explained the importance of building Trust thru Human Connect. Rural people are simple folks. You need to advertise to them. They believe what they see. they believe their community. When the same doctor visits them or treats them, is genuine, doesn’t con them – then slowly familiarity breeds favourability. Then the Trust quotient builds up and spreads word of mouth.

These are hospitals that are spotlessly clean, efficiently run, professionally managed with well defined process and as the mission statement at the Tribal health centre says it all  – their mission is to play an integral part in the communities development. India runs because of such people and their selfless service.

They say “Find Purpose – The Means Follow” – and these doctor teams have demonstrated this saying word by word. Dr Karthik, Dr Kamakshi, Dr Regi, Dr Lalitha, Dr Balasubramaniam  and his wonderful team are all testimony to this.

They are helping define what the new age hospitals should look like. Its time the management from Apollo , Fortis , Manipal …. hospitals paid them a visit. And if you ask ” What is the one things that distinguishes these hospitals from the 5 Star Corporate hospitals of Indian cities ? ” – the answer in one word – GREED.

You can play your part – visit their websites and feel free to contribute what best you can – remember that they need help from Corporates and people like you to manage 50% of their operational costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week in fascinating Jordan

How is Jordan different from other countries in the Middle East ?

  • It has no OIL
  • A liberal modern country with no dress regulations. That is credit to the royal family.
  • Diverse landscape – from the depths of the Dead Sea to the highlands of Petra & Amman where it snows in winter. The country is blessed with lovely mediterranenan climate

We had a perfect one week holiday. My first experience with a travel company Byond Travel – and they scored 10/10. Jordan has lots to see. We covered 1500 Kms in 6 days with 4 hops across the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum & the capital Amman. A small group of 9, a dedicated bus to us and a wonderful guide all added up to make this a memorable trip. Jordan is waiting to be explored – we had nice weather (In May) , almost no Q’s (thanks to Ramadan) – and we covered a lot – thanks to the wonderful planning of Byond Travel. When you travel with a good agency it takes a lot of your head – my earlier self planned family holidays were a project , this one was relaxed. I just followed the guide. Since all payments were made in advance we hardly had any expenses right thru the week – barring our lunch bills and  stuff we bought to carry back home.

Detailed Notes 

Day – 1 

There are no direct flights to Jordan from India and we took Etihad from Bangalore to Amman Via Abu Dhabi. An early morning flight on Sat at 4.30 AM from Bangalore got us to Amman by 12 noon with a 3 hr stop over at Abu Dhabi. Etihad is good – better than Emirates and you get Jet Airways miles. Leg space is comfortable, food is decent. At Amman we were received at the gate and whisked past immigration (Jordan has Visa on arrival) and in less than 30 minutes after landing we were in the bus with our luggage headed to the Dead Sea – Holiday Inn Resort. A nice property located on the Dead Sea. A 1 hr drive – past barren land and olive trees ( Jordan is full of olive trees) we reached the lowest elevation on earth – 1400 feet blow MSL . It was warm but bearable. The Dead Sea is shrinking and the locals say it may not last beyond 2050. The salinity of water is almost 10X that of the normal sea so you float. And there is no life on the Dead Sea.

The Holiday Inn resort is one of the many resorts on the Dead Sea – and many come here for the curative power of the water and the Dead Sea salts. After a few hrs at the beach we had a lovely dinner and hit the bed. A long day that started at 2 AM on Sat morning finally ending. Note that Jordan has a 2 1/2 hr lag with India – so when we slept at 9 PM it was 11.30 PM India time.

Day – 2

A 1 night stop at Dead Sea the next day morning we headed out to Petra and on the way stopped by a few interesting sights

Close to the resort was the Bethany church where Jesus was baptised by John the baptist. Thats a famous biblical location and borders Israel. All thru the tour we were almost touching the Israel border and at the Bethany church we could see Israel across the Jordan river a few feet away.

From Bethany we visited Mount Nebo – a famous place from where Moses is said to have pointed towards the promised land before he passed away. We travelled Via Madaba visiting one more church famous for its mosaic paintings and reached the historic city of Petra by 4 PM.

Petra is an iconic city almost 2000 years old – its a city of sandstone mountains. We stayed at a lovely property The Old Village Resort at Wadi Musa for 2 nights. Nice rooms , good food. 

Day – 3

After a sumptuous breakfast we left at 8 AM to Petra. The visitors centre was a few km from our property and we started the trek thru the maze of mountains by 8.30 AM. There is a lot of walking. 2 Km to the Khazana , 2 Km to the base point of the Monastery and then a trek of over 1000 steps to the top of the Monastery – all in all about 6 Km each way. It was hot – but the history and the stories of the Nabateans the rulers of Petra kept us motivated.

We were back in the hotel by 3 PM and most of the team went back at 8 PM to see candle lit Petra by night. To my consolation they came back and said that I did not miss anything great.

A lot of walking had tired us out – and the next day was relaxed

Day – 4

We woke late, had a relaxed breakfast and left by 12 noon to Wadi Rum. A 800 sq km desert with craggy sandstone mountains – the landscape is martian and this is where many of the movies Lawrence of Arabia , Transformer , Martian etc were shot. Its barren sand dune desert and houses about 30 camps.

We stayed in one such camp in tents for a night. Its hot during the day but gets cold at night. Tents are basic – we had a family tent with 3 beds and an attached modern bathroom – no fans. Electricity and Wi Fi from 4 PM onwards.

The set up and kitchen here is like that of a North Indian Dhaba- I did venture to the kitchen to make some potato curry and dal – as by now we were tired of Pita Bread, Hummus and Olives. The evening would have been alive in a starlit sky with belly dancing – but being the month of Ramadan we had to entertain ourselves with the dance of one of our colleagues. – who did an outstanding job.

Day – 5 

We departed Wadi Rum at 8 AM and after a 4 hr drive reached Wadi Mujib. This is a 2 km river trek. Its not open all the time as the water currents can get risky. We were lucky that it opened a week after being shut. But the water levels were high. This is fun but risky. You are neck deep in water at many places and the current is strong. The river bed is full of poky rocks and even with aqua shoes it can hurt. But this was the high point of the trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it. (Note only Children above 17 are allowed) – the trek took us about 3 hrs and we were back in the bus at 3.30 PM.

The drive from Wadi Mujib to Amman was less than 2 hrs and we drove by the Dead Sea crossing the Holiday Inn resort where we had stayed the 1st night. So we had almost done a round trip of Jordan.

We stayed in central Amman at the Millennium Hotel a nice property. Amman is a modern city with an active night life – but again the Ramadan period limited activities. Our guide took us for dinner to a beautiful local restaurant – buzzing with people.

Day – 6 

On our last day at Amman we covered the Citadel – an ancient Roman site and the Roman Theatre – sights we covered between 8 AM and 11 AM . Amman has a history that dates back to 6500 BC – Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians – all this culture blends into this ancient arabic city which is now ruled by the Hashemite dynasty – direct descendants of the prophet.

We shopped for dates, baklava, olive oil in Downtown and were back in our hotel for lunch.

We had an early dinner at our guide Salah’s house – and his wife had cooked us a delicious spread. It was a wonderful gesture on his part to invite us home. 

Post dinner we walked around downtown and were back in our rooms by 9 PM. Again being Ramadan the streets were deserted and most shops closed.

Day – 7

The last day of the trip – we were free. Being a Fri and the Independence Day of Jordan – all the malls , parks etc were closed in the morning. We walked around Paris square and saw the famous Rumi restaurant before heading back to hotel to depart at 12.30 for our flight.

A week flew by and we enjoyed every minute of it. A big thanks to Byond Travel for planning and executing the trip to perfection. They are a good company – a little pricey but you get excellent service. When on a holiday you want the best. I don’t think we would have seen Jordan so well in 1 week on our own. So thank you Byond for a great trip – and looking forward to more. And a big thanks to the team of co travellers – thanks guys you were great travel mates.

Useful Tips

  • Jordan has pleasant weather all thru the year – winters are cold
  • 1 JD ( Jordan Dinar ) = 95 Rs
  • Veg food is available all thru the trip – though the focus is on Non Veg.
  • Free Wifi is everywhere including in our bus.

Some more Views

 

 

Nothing is Everything, Shunya – A Review of Sri M’s 1st Novel

Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah

An interesting book is one that you can’t let off your hand once you start reading. All of Sri M’s books (Referred to as Sir later in the blog) fall in this category. That includes “Shunya” – his latest book. This is his first novel – but it reads like a real life story. A fascinating story set in the suburbs of ” Tiru – Anantha – Puram” (Trivandrum), Kerala.  its the story of an “Avadhuta” called Shunya – A sage free of all social norms who a common man may describe as eccentric or a Schizophrenic.

There are many commentaries on the Upanishads that talk of how you can achieve the ultimate truth by making yourself empty. Being empty is cleaning yourself of all the impurities that you accumulate in this life , it gets you to the core where divinity exists in its purest form. And in this purest form you are merged with the ultimate. The Universe in all its bounty is trying to give you ultimate joy and happiness – but our cup is so full that there is no place.

This concept may be difficult to understand through commentaries and talks , but it is explained beautifully in this book. The lead character Shunya – who the locals call Shunya Saami keeps repeating that he is “Nothing” – but he is “Everything” – he knows all, reads the mind of people, helps them identify their deepest desires and his grace brings happiness and prosperity to all he touches. he breaks all the rules – lives in a tavern , eats fish and berates people. And he has his share of opponents – organised religion , the priests and the quacks – see him as a threat, but all their acts to get the better of him are in vain – for who can crush the Ultimate Truth.

In one of his encounters Shunya advises a monk running a monastery to run away from establishments – to empty yourself of his ego. I found this narrative an interesting takeaway.

____________________________________

The monk asks “What else should do I do to grasp the ultimate truth , the Brahman wherein lies eternal peace and freedom ? can you help me Saami ?”

‘Fool, said Shunya – “I” Must Go’.

‘But Saami you told me to come. Don’t go away please.’

‘The ‘I’ must go. I,I,I, aren’t you tired of saying “I”? That “I”is the problem – throw it off. That “I” is to pushed off like shit. All your insides are constipated with ego. Take an enema, break your image , get that shit out ‘. First stop chattering – “I did that, did, did, did.” Can you sit quiet for a moment doing nothing. Sit Quiet – be silent . Stop Doing. Shunya , nothing, clean slate , unalloyed joy!’

His guidance helps the monk to ascend  the last few steps to attain the ultimate truth.

_____________________________________

As a child I have heard from my father about the “Yakshas” of Kerala – the hideous demons who are disguised as charming damsels, of the “Kutti Chatans” and the Tantriks who control them – Sir touches upon all of them in Shunya. Everyone will love reading this – but a Keralite would connect exceedingly well with the local lore.

The story is so well written that it actually feels like a real life narration of an Avadhuta who lived in Kerala. Sir has had such fascinating experiences in life and I have a strong feeling that this is more than a novel – there is a wealth of meaning and learnings hidden in every passage of this book.

A few more interesting takeaways. The one lesson that Shunya reiterates is the need for a guru to help you in your path. There are correlation with Sir’s first book ” Apprenticed to a Himalayan master – A Yogi’s autobiography”. The young American girl Sri M meets in Rishikesh with stomach cancer – Jenny comes in the form of Diana in Shunya. The good news is that Diana recovers from her cancer by the grace of Shunya and gets happily married and works as a teacher in Pine Grove School at Sheffield, UK. That reminds us of PGS at Madanapalli. The last chapter also talks of a young girl the daughter of Bhavani & Sadasivan ( Couple who host Shunya Saami in their house) who was born thanks to the blessing of Shunya Saami – who left home as a teenager and roamed around like a free bird with her band of mongrels – that sounded very much like “Mai Mai” the divine lady who blessed Sir when he was a young boy.

Overall a fascinating read – get your copy at the earliest and do share the word around.

पूर्णमदःपूर्णमिदंपूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णश्यपूर्णमादायपूर्णमेवावशिष्यते
शान्तिःशान्तिःशान्तिः

For more details on Sri M – please visithttp://satsang-foundation.org

Shirdi Travel Tips

To visit Shirdi you need HIS grace. When the time comes the trip happens. I have been to Pune numerous times over the last 15 years but never realised that Shirdi was so close by. Since March this year I was getting repeated signals that the calling was coming and as per the Masters Grace a wonderful trip happened on Apr 23 / 24th. 2018 is the 100th year since Sai Baba attained Samadhi, and we were blessed with good weather and sparse crowds all of which translated to a very satisfying trip.

This Blog will provide all the details that a first time traveller to Shirdi would need

Getting to Shirdi

You have many options to get to Shirdi. There are direct AI flights from Mumbai & Hyderabad that reach around 4 PM. There are trains and buses. Travelling from Bangalore the best way for us to get there was to take an early morning flight to Pune and then drive to Shirdi (Indigo 6E 408 departs Bangalore at 5.25 AM and reaches Pune at 6.50 AM) – yes that means you wake up at 2 AM to get to the airport. Our flight reached before time and we had our car from Savaari.com waiting for us (https://www.savaari.com) – this is a reliable, reasonably priced company with excellent service for booking outstation cabs.  The distance from Pune to Shirdi is ~ 200 Km’s and we reached our hotel at 11.30 AM. Its a 4 hr drive including a 30 min stop – excellent road, lots of places to stop for tea / restroom breaks.

Where to stay 

Like in any temple town there are multiple options, including rooms  that are provided by Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust(Shirdi) – https://online.sai.org.in. We picked Hotel Bhagyalaxmi a nice hotel, very clean, spacious rooms, reasonably priced ( Rs 2200 per night for a double occupancy room), and a nice restaurant attached. Its a mere 2 min walk from the Temple. (In the map below it is at the bottom where you have Hotels and lodges written)

Other options to stay suggested by friends included Vasavi Bhawan (http://www.saivasavi.com) and Saish Hotel which is owned by the great grandson of Baijamma a great devotee of Baba.

Temple Darshan

Shirdi can get very crowded. So ensure that you book your Darshan online. You can register to get a customer ID and book your Darshan tickets here. Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust(Shirdi) – https://online.sai.org.in. You have two options – you can book tickets for Aarti that happens 4 times a day or Darshan tickets  for slots thru the day. (The Kaakad Arti was priced Rs 600/-  and the Darshan Arti Rs 200/- per head. You are allowed to book tickets for multiple people – but ensure to carry your ID)

  • Kaakad – Early Morning
  • Madhyan ( Noon)
  • Dhoop ( Evening)
  • Shej ( Night)

We attended the Kaakad Arti – its at 4.30 AM , but you stand in the Q at 3 AM even with a VIP ticket to get a front row spot. The Arti goes on for almost 45 minutes. the good thing about Shirdi is it is very well organised and you can get enough time at the Sanctum Sanctorum – its not a Tirupathi where you will be pushed away in a few seconds. ( TIP – while standing in the Q try and be in the inner line – this allows you to to take a U turn and come out from the open space in the front of the Sanctum Sanctorum – giving you a lot more time in the main temple, the outside row exits from the left)

We also attended the 5 PM Darshan on day 1 with pre- booked VIP ticket – there were less than 100 people at that time on a Monday, the Kaakad Arti had over 500 people.

The Temple Complex – What is there to see (On a good day you can cover all that is to see in less than 90 minutes)

The main Temple or the Samadhi Mandir – is where you have the Samadhi of Sai Baba and the marble statue of him in a sitting pose. There are a few more places to see inside the temple complex

Gurusthan – The seat of the teacher. This is right next to the Samadhi mandir. Gurusthan is the place where Sai Baba first appeared to the world as a 16 year old boy. The place is situated under a massive Neem tree. It also has a shrine on which Sai baba’s portrait is placed with a Shivalingam and the Nandi bull right in front of it. Gurusthan means- the seat of the teacher.

Dwarkamai –   They say that Dwarkamai is the heart of Shirdi, the place where the great Sai Baba spent a significant part of his life including his last moments. This site, at first, was a dilapidated mosque. Dwarkamai is probably the only mosque which has a temple in it! The original Dhuni of Baba is still active here. You can walk by it and see the place where he slept and lived.

Chavadi – During his last years, Sai baba used to spend alternate nights at Chavadi. The place is located right next to Dwarkamai mosque from where the procession of Sai baba along with his followers was carried out in a palki. Even today, the procession takes place on every Thursday with the idol of the saint inside the palki. The Chavadi & Dwarakamai are located outside the main Temple complex – but its a 5 min walk after you exit from Gate 3 (Shani Gate)

Lendi Baug – Sai Baba used to spend a lot of his time here watering the plants daily in the mornings and evenings.

Dixit Wada Museum – The Wada museum is located in the vicinity of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan trust that showcases vintage pictures of Sai baba with his followers. It also displays his leather padukas, long robes and a smoking pipe along with gramophone records, bathing stone and cooking utensils, among others. The museum is open for public to visit from 10 am to 6 pm. Between the museum and the Lendi Baug are a few Samadhi’s of Sai Baba’s closes devotees both Hindus & Muslims.

Few Important Points for visitors

  • Cell phones are not allowed inside the temple complex – so leave it in your room. Also leave your belts and bags. Only wallet is allowed.
  • Footwear has to be left outside – you can leave it in any of the shops outside
  • You get prasad as you walk out after darshan – a packet of Boondi and some small pouches of “Uddi” (ash from the holy Dhuni) – you cannot buy extra.

There are a few more important places you must visit. The first of which is the Mahalsapati Kutir – located very close to the Chavadi. Mahalsapati was a great devotee of baba and to this day the afternoon prasad from the temple is delivered to their house. If you are lucky and are visiting around 1230 – 1 you may get the prasad. The house is currently inhabited by the 4th generation

A minutes walk from Mahalsapati’s house is the residence of Laxmibai Shinde Patil. She used to cook for Sai baba and on the day before he left his body he gifted her 9 silver coins. these are on display. Ask the locals and they will guide you to these places.

Between 23rd afternoon and 24th early morning we had experienced to our hearts content the energy and divinity of Sai Baba and left Shirdi at 9.30 AM on 24th. On the way back we took a 90 min detour and stopped by at Shani Shingnapur.

The unique Shani Shignapur Temple of Ahmednagar district is well-known for the magical and powerful Lord Shani, who is believed to reside in a black stone. The Hindu God symbolising the planet Saturn is referred to as Swayambhu, which means that he has emerged himself in the form of the black stone. It has absolutely no architectural beauty, and just the simple stone with the spiritual aura of the lord entices scores of devotees every year.

The trust of people in the lord is so strong that none of the houses in this village has doors and locks. People believe that Lord Shani is protecting their valuables

The drive from Shirdi to Pune is partly scenic / partly barren. This is home to lovely Pomegranate and Guava orchards and you can pick them up at throwaway prices. So do remember to keep some bags handy.

Our flight to Bangalore was at 10.20 PM and we had time to visit the Samadhi of Dnynaeshwar at Alandi. A 13th century Marathi saint considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu he took samadhi at the tender age of 22. Alandi is located 20 Km from Pune – the Temple complex that houses his Samadhi is located on the banks of the Indrayani river and is accessed by foot. The Dnyaneshwar Samadhi Complex  includes the Samadhi,the Shri Sidheshwar temple and the famed Ajanvriksha tree. The Sidheswar temple is an ancient Shiva temple and a “Swayambu”. The whole complex is a highly energised space – within a few minutes of meditation you can sense the  intensity of the place.

We were back in Pune by 6 PM and met up with a close friend at Vaishali – and as we walked down FC road and JM road could not but help compare Pune with Bangalore. And Pune does score high on all counts. After dinner at Shreyas (A nice homely place that serves authentic Marathi Thali) we reached the airport by 9 PM well in time for our 10.20 PM flight to Bangalore reaching home by 1.30 AM.

It was a long day waking up at 2 AM for the Kaakad Arti – almost 24 hrs of no proper sleep. Two consecutive days of waking up at 2 AM. There was a sense of happiness at having accomplished a lot and we thanked the Masters and Sai Baba for an excellent Darshan and a safe and fruitful journey.

Other Useful Points 

  • Weekends and Thu are very busy at Shirdi – avoid school holiday season – best time to travel is Nov – Feb
  • Nasik is 100 Km from Shirdi – so is Aurangabad. You can make Shirdi as your base and cover these two cities. They both have a lot to see including a Jyotirlinga each. Aurangabad is also the getaway  for Ajanta and Ellora
  • The total cost for this 36 Hr trip was ~ Rs 40,000 for the 3 of us ( Rs 13,000 each ie $ 100 / day ) inclusive of Flight, Cab, Hotel, Darshan Tickets , Food – that is value for money

500,000 Views – Launching the new Website for “A Few Good Things”

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama
 
I do it a lot more than once a year. If the travel bug bites you there is no antidote.

My blog is a live example of the power of compounding. When I started in 2010 after attending a training on Digital Marketing it was an exploration. Which rapidly grew to a passion to share a lot of good things. It took nearly 5 years to get to a 100,000 hits and less than 3 years to get to 500,000 hits. And thats when I said its time to upgrade the Blog to a Website.

The website A Few Good Things –  has a clean , simple layout that is based on the Golden Rule of 3

  • All the 170 Blogs are distributed under 3 heads – Travel, Spirituality and Daily Life.
  • The Travel section is further trifurcated to Day Trips, Short Breaks and Longer Breaks.
  • There is an excellent search engine that can help you navigate with ease

This started as a travel blog. I love to travel and document it in detail so that fellow travellers can plan their trips easily.  I hunt for offbeat locations and resorts and help market them through my Blogs that have a viewership of ~ 500 a day.

Over time I have added other interesting entries on Spirituality and Daily Life (Corporate, Personal Finance, Fitness etc). All these are based on my real life experience.

Some of my Blogs feature high on Google search – for Eg if you search for “What is Rudram”  my blog may well be in the top 3 . Tirupathi Travel Tips, Baevu Village, day trips in Bangalore  are also some of the blogs that come in the top 10 in Google Search. Blogs on Valley of Flowers, Soulitude in the Himalayas, Badami – Pattadakal , Tiruchi in 3 days, Vipassana Experience  –  record a high viewership daily benefiting many. The PIO to OCI writeup has helped thousands in Bangalore to visit the FRRO office and get the necessary paperwork done. A Few Good Places which is an exhaustive list of all the places we have been to and those that are in my list – is used extensively before the holidays.

Many resorts have thanked me  – as they have seen a steep jump in bookings rating their property as a must visit – with all the details on how to reach and spend your time there.

The journey continues and I seek your support to continue the compounding effect – help take the 500,000 to 1 Mn and beyond. Do sign up as a follower and please do share the blogs that you found useful with your friends and relatives.

A big thanks to all my well wishers, followers and travel partners and lets pray that a Few Good Things continue to roll out regularly.

 

 

Discovering Madanapalle & The Satsang Foundation – Sri M

A short 3 hr drive (120 Km from Bangalore) is the town of Madanapalle.Head to old Madras Road and after the 1st toll near Hoskote take a left and get off the highway.  Madanapalle is  famous for its mangoes, fruits  and vegetables and is  the biggest tomato market in Asia. Horsley Hills the highest point of Andhra – a hill station is just 25 km from here. Set in the midst of the E Ghats, rocky hills and lakes the landscape is rustic and captivating. If you leave Bangalore at 5 AM you can be blessed with a divine view of the rising sun as you drive into Madanapalle.

This is also the place where Rabindranath Tagore translated  “Jana Gana Mana ” from Bengali to English and set it to music in  1919 to the now familiar tune.Madanapalle is also the birthplace of Jiddu Krishnamurti the famous Philosopher, Writer and Speaker

My purpose of visiting was to stay at the Satsang Foundation – the HQ of Spiritual Guru Sri M. Sir is a living Yogi, a spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist. I had read his autobiography about 6 years back and met him at a discourse on Karma Yoga. His presence was electrifying. My first two visits to the Satsang Ashram were day trips. It was during my last visit (Thanks to a good friend for making that happen) that I had the joy of meeting him in person. He suggested that I  visit the Ashram frequently . This was my first trip where I spent 2 days at the beautiful ashram.

Its a small and divine ashram. The centre piece is the Shivalaya – which is a serene place housing a statue of Ganesha , Shiva Linga, and the Sri Yantra besides a beautiful peepal tree. This is where the group meetings and the functions are held.

There are two energised meditation rooms – the Babaji meditation room even in the summer heat felt cool and comfortable. These are powerful centres and a 30 min session here feels like meditating for  hours.

The rest of the Ashram has rooms , a dining hall, a meeting room and the administration office. The rooms are spacious, airy, clean and functional. Bathrooms have W Toilets and hot water. Many who revere Sir as their Guru have built their houses in the Ashram. Sir also has his house here. The Foundation  runs a school and a healthcare centre that are alongside. This is not an Ashram where you will be woken up with devotional songs nor are there evening Bhajans. The place was almost empty – its a place to go within and connect with your inner self.

The Satsang Vidyalaya – provides free, high-quality, multi-lingual education to rural children from the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. I met the school principal as he was waiting at the gate welcoming the students. It was a joy to see the high energy students trooping in  – some walking , some cycling and some running in at the last minute, all of them stopping by and greeting us Good Morning . The school was spotlessly clean. Most of the teachers have a Masters degree , many are B Ed and one of the volunteers is a microbiologist from Harvard. The students are mainly from the local Lambada community.

The Satsang Swasthya Kendra is a very well stocked, well managed centre. Run by an efficient doctor and her competent  team – the place is spotlessly clean and feels like it was inaugurated yesterday. But its been there for over 5 years delivering excellent service to the local community.

The ashram also has a woman self help centre – but it was closed and I couldn’t visit them. The Admin office has an excellent stocks of DVD’s and Books – Sri M communication is simple and lucid and his explanations of the Upanishad and Bhagwad Gita is a joy to listen. I stocked myself with almost all that they had to offer.

The food at the Ashram is simple and Sattvik. You will love it.

I spent a lot of time at the Ashram – but I also had time to go with Dr Priyam and her team to the villages nearby. Our first visit was to a mobile health camp run by the Govt of Andhra with the Piramal foundation. I was impressed with the process and the efficiency with which this camp was run. Cheers to the committed team of doctors and their support staff.

Our second visit was to the Satsang rural school that imparts education to about 30 children. This is located 12 km from the Satsang Ashram. This is where you see the difference between city children and the rural kids. There was so much joy and happiness in the little things they had. Intelligent , sharp kids with great life skills – but sadly at a disadvantage from day 1. The Satsang foundation has clearly identified the two pillars for India to succeed – Education & Healthcare, without that India cannot progress.

I also found time to visit the local village market (Tue is the day to go) and eat the tastiest Idlis and Vadas at CAM’s idli. Needless to say a plate of idli , Vada and Dosa cost me less than Rs 50/-.

A 20 min drive from the Ashram is a beautiful Shirdi Sai temple on the Kadiri Byepass road. Its spotless clean and has a live “Dhuni”.

Places I could not visit

Mallaiah Konda – which I was told is a beautiful place with an ancient Shiva temple. This is a hillock located off the road from madanapalle to Bengaluru. This is a hillock with a large monolith at its peak. On top pf this peak is a temple of Mallikarjuna Swami (Shiva). One can reach this place by taking a left turn near Vempalli village, while travelling from Madanapalle to Bengaluru. Luckily, the place is still pristine even though it is located near the town. It offers beautiful views of Madanapalle town. One can also see the surrounding Mahamalleshwara hills. The flat area found on peak of the hillock is an ideal location for stargazing during clear nights – best in summers.

Obalesh Temple: A Vishnu temple located on the same road, but still farther towards Bengaluru. This place is located inside the state of Karnataka very near to the border it shares with Andhra Pradesh. It belongs to the rayalapadu panchayat. Unlike the malliah konda, this temple is not on a peak, but is nestled between two tall hills. A good place for silent contemplation. Every Saturday bhajans happen in the temple from morning 7 to 10 am. There was another Vishnu temple I saw atop a hill from the Ashram – this is a trek with about 600 steps.

Rishi Valley – Once a drought ridden valley, but now a throbbing forest. Thanks to the Krishnamurthi foundation which has taken upon itself the task of afforestation in this valley and has done it successfully. Rishi valley is famous for the School. but, deep inside the valley one can find pristine locations, which I feel, equally deserve the fame. One such location is the Enugu Mallamma cheruvu. A natural percolation pond. One can enjoy a swim in the pond and also enjoy the view of surrounding hills.

Peepal Grove School (PGS) – a residential school run by the Satsang Foundation – It is one of the few schools providing alternative education in India.

There is also an organic farm close by that merits a visit. Horsley Hill may be worth exploring – I am told that during weekdays its empty.

The weather in Madanapalli is excellent between Oct & Feb. Summers can get hot. The area gets only a few showers every year and water is a challenge. There were no power cuts when I was there and I was told that things have got a lot better in the last few years. The network is decent – Airtel 3G works but Jio doesn’t.

 

For more details : http://satsang-foundation.org

 

 

 

 

3 Catchy Promises to Win 2019 ?

The golden rule of 3 is the foundation of Communication. Most of what we see is a play of 3. The Trinity , Past – Present – Future, Good – Bad – Ugly , Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner , Introduction – Body – Conclusion , The 3 Little Pigs , Fork – Spoon – Knife ….. I could go on and on . The Golden rule of 3 is a great framework for communication – and when you have to reach out to woo a Billion + electorate it works miracles.

It all started with “Roti – Kapda – Makan”  – a catchy promise that was not met for a very very long time. But it connected with the masses and helped Madam G to be in power for well over 15 years.

And in the last few decades has given way to “Bijli – Sadak – Pani” . I am not sure if this can be attributed to Atalji – but definitely the last 15 years has seen significant progress in Bijli & Sadak. I have travelled extensively across many states and the Urban and Rural roads in India are in good shape. We seem to be generating surplus power and with solar power spreading rapidly the days of 8 hrs load shedding are things of the past. Our villages are getting electrified and Diesel Locos will soon be history.

 

So what will be the 3 key things to focus and connect with the electorate in 2019 ? The last 10 Lok Sabha elections where BJP has lost after 2014 clearly indicates that if promises are not met – the people show you the door. The common man is hungry for more – he has growing aspirations and he wants Acche Din NOW.

Lets look at a few things – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

First the Good Things

Our / Capita income is rising rapidly, inflation has been under control , food prices are stable , the monsoons have been good so Agri production has been decent ( Yet there is discontent in Rural India).

We get our passports in a few days , we dont need baggage tags while flying , the country is cleaner – there are more public toilets and you rarely see beggars in stations or in front of temples. The stock markets have done well in the last 4 years and just when retail investors started coming in droves the LTCG came as a rude shock. There are too many cars and two wheelers on the roads and everyone is a flaunting a nice expensive Smart Phone.

 

And now the not so good things 

The country is going Digital but Aadhar is a pain. I just spent a few hrs visiting a small outlet to get my PayTm activated – and I have been doing this for months now – For my phone , Bank accounts , Mutual Funds , LIC – this is bugging me. its irritating – its a waste of time. And a billion people doing this – is not a joke. There should have been a smarter way of getting this implemented.

The interest rates are coming down and the large population of retired people are fuming. And when they just started moving from Fixed Deposits to Balanced Funds and regular dividend to increase their income from 7 % to 10 – 12% they got hit with a Tax on Dividends. This is a large segment of our population and they are fuming – both with the lower interest rates and with Digital India.

And finally the Ugly things

The 14 M graduating everyday are struggling to find jobs. The only jobs I see are delivery boy jobs. The education system is broken and the quality of Graduates coming from our colleges are not job ready. Skill development projects re yet to take off on a. large scale. Yet again a large population that was hoping for a miracle with Acche Din feels let down. This is the generation of instant gratification – they will not wait for 10 years. Even if logic says that Modi is the best and has no alternative they will not think twice before shooing him out if after 4 years they dont see job prospects.

Our cities are going dry, the lakes are drying , the rivers are drying – as urban population explodes the cities are not geared to manage this influx. A city like Bangalore lives off Tanker water – the population zoomed from 3 – 8 Mn in the last 15 years and the prediction is it will touch 30 Min by 2030.

Which brings me back to the Topic of the Blog – what are the 3 Most Important things that is needed to be communicated AND implemented in the next decade. Here is a probable list which may matter to different segments of India – and from this will emerge the catchy slogan for 2019 – and lets hope that is not an empty promise.

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Clean Water  & Sanitation
  • JOBS
  • Broadband / Wi Fi across the country
  • Food Inflation at 0%
  • Happy, secure , debt free , successful farmers

But I will end this on a happy note – the Indian economy is on a. long term growth path since 1992 and irrespective of who comes to power the growth engine will remain accelerating for the next 20 – 30 years. We saw UPA – 1 benefit from all the good work done by Atal Ji’s government.

 

In 2014 BJP inherited a shabby economy and its taken them 4 long years to try and get it back on track ( remember the article on the eve of 2014 elections which talked about how UPA 2 was like a retreating losing army burning and marauding everything before they fled) – so irrespective of what happens in 2019 – we will still see a positive economy and health markets for the coming 3 – 4 years. Lets hope for the best and pray that India does not miss this last chance to become a developed nation.

 

 

 

PS – Source of Data Slides – Anand Rathi Chief Economist presentation on “Future of Indian Economy”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Kolavara Heritage and the sights enroute

The Equation – 54 Hrs , 1054 Kms ( 400 Km Ghat Roads) , 5 Ancient temples 1000 – 3000 years old , the beauty of Malnad, Discovering Kolavara Heritage and the lovely W Ghats – All of this for Rs 8000/ person.

This was the second trip that Subhashish and me were making ( our first was to Chidambaram and Kumbakonam in 2017 Feb) – and we accomplished a lot between Fri 2.30 afternoon when we left E City and reached Bangalore at 11 PM on Sun night.

First the key discoveries 

  • A wonderful homestay nestled deep in the W Ghats at Malnad – the Kolavara Heritage was the find of this trip. Thanks to Bharti & Ravi for letting us know about this lovely place.
  • There is more to Hoysala temples than Belur & Halebidu – we discovered two amazing temples , well maintained , almost empty buzzing with energy
  • After “Roti – Kapda – Makan” the buzz word for elections over the last 10 years has been “Bijli – Sadak – Pani”, looks like we have accomplished our goals on that front. We zipped past 1000 Km across remote regions and the road condition was excellent. The bathrooms were clean and we never had electricity or water problem anywhere. For 2019 Modi needs to coin a new slogan. Finally our temples are sparkling  clean and very well maintained. The Sringeri temple is spotlessly clean and so were all the others that we visited.

Lets start with Kolavara Heritage – a beautiful heritage property that is managed by the family over the last 180 years. Nestled deep in Malnad its about 350 Km from Bangalore ( a 7 hr drive ) and 2 hrs from Chickamgalaur. A lovely homestay with 6 rooms in a 25 acre plantation of Rubber , Pepper and Arekanut.

The whole ambience of the place is pure and pristine and there is an eye for detail on every single thing. The rooms are simple and functional but tastefully designed . The food is local and very very tasty. Service is excellent. This is a great place for all types of people. Its a great place for Digital Detox – you have everything but Mobile Signal.

  1. The honeymooners and stressed out folks who want to just relax and enjoy the soulitude amidst nature
  2. The Nature lovers who want to go on treks and lovely drives ( Jog falls is only a 100 Km away)
  3. Religious and spiritually inclined ( Sringeri is a 1 hr drive and Hornadu a 2 hr drive)

All of this is very reasonably priced at Rs 2750 / person / night inclusive of Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner – now that is a steal at times when places like Orange County in Coorg charge you 30 K / night for a room. A great place to come as a group they have rooms in different configurations – 2 Beds , 3 Beds , two rooms joined together for a family of 4 and even a 6 bed combination for larger groups.

We loved the place – and I am sure I will keep coming back here again and again to discover all the enchanting things in and around Kolavara Heritage. A big thank you to Nishchal & Vathsalya for hosting us and managing this place so well. For more details visit www.kolavaraheritagehomestay.com, Phone – 94803 30033

The second big discovery was two ancient Hoysala temples enroute. Most people when travelling to Chickamagalaur will visit Shravanbelagola, Belur & Halebidu. While these are beautiful and crowded places people are not aware that the Hoysalas built nearly 100 temples and many of them are in and around Hassan. (http://www.belurhalebid.com/hoysala-temples.php)

We visited two such rare jewels.

The Lakshmi temple at Doddagaddavalli ( a small village located off the Belur Hassan highway) is one of the oldest Hoysala temples. A Chatuskuta – 4 shrines it houses the main Shrine of Kolhapur Lakshmi and the other 3 are of Kali , Shiva and Vishnu. This is the only shrine where you have a life like statue of “Baital” in front of the kali shrine.  We visited this temple at 545 PM ( left Bangalore E city at 2.15 and drove straight here) – it was wonderful to be here with the setting sun. We had the temple to ourselves with the priest and were able to go inside the Sanctum Sanctorum and do our own private Arti.

The second temple we visited on our way back to Bangalore was the Veeranarayana Temple at Belvadi. This temple has three beautiful deities – Veera Narayana, Venugopala Swami and Yoga Narasimha. Large sculptures in shining black Saligrama with exquisite levels of intricacy – the priest mentioned that as per ASI the Lord Krishna statue here is considered the most beautiful sculpture all across India. The temple also has a  unique architecture – on March 23rd during equinox the rising sun casts its rays on the main deity crossing 7 doorways – demonstrating the level of perfection in design that the ancient rulers. The temple is almost always empty and if you find it locked call the priest who lives next door ( Prashant – 90350 41518) – he was very knowledgeable and his family has been managing this temple across generations. Both temples can be accesses thru Google Maps.

During this trip we also visited two important shrines – the Sharadamba temple at Sringeri and the Annapoorneshwari temple at Hornadu. 

The Sharadamba temple at Sringeri was consecrated by Adi Shankara around 800 AD. Its a 1 hr drive from Kolavara Heritage ( 4 hrs from Hassan and 2 1/2 Hrs from Chickamagalur). Majestic and spotlessly clean the complex houses 3 Temples – the main temple of Sharadamba ( Goddess Saraswati) , a Shiva temple and a temple decidtated to Adi Shankara. We were lucky to find it almost empty and had a great darshan. The deity of Sharadamba is majestic and full decked up exudes divinity and energy that is all encompassing – its a sight to see. They also serve lunch from 1230 – but we left at 1030 ( we drove straight from Hassan – leaving at 5.30 AM , reaching Sringeri at 9.30 AM )

The Annapoorneshwari temple at Hornadu is said to have been installed by Sage Agastya. Its a long drive – winding roads and took us 2 1/2 hrs from Kolavara to reach. Managed by a family trust its nestled amidst verdant hills. We reached at 12 – worried that the temple may have closed but were lucky – this is one of the few temples that does not close in the afternoon. On the contrary they have a special Arti at 2.30 with maps lit – we could not stay back to see this , but our hosts at Kolavara Heritage said that was a must attend (Tickets for this come at Rs 500). We did not miss the Prasad here – lunch was a sit down meal of piping hot rice, sambar and payasam and it was very tasty.

For other temples in the vicinity : https://www.sringeri.net/pilgrim-info/other-temples-nearby

The drive from Hornadu to Bangalore is almost 9 Hrs – including a 1 hr stop at Belvadi and a few small breaks for coffee. The entire stretch of roads after Chickamagalur is winding thru the ghats going up and down – this can affect even the strongest of stomachs. So be careful when driving with kids.

Parting Notes

We covered a lot in 54 hrs – this was all the time we had , but this itinerary is a 3 – 4 day trip. Plan for at least 2 days at Kolavara Heritage.

Spend a night at Hassan – that breaks the long drive – we stayed at Mallige Residency a lovely spanking new property – nice rooms and they have a pure veg restaurant. Rates were very reasonable at Rs 2750 for two http://www.malligeresidency.com

Sep – Feb is the best season to travel to Malnad , the rains can be severe , it would be wonderful to be here in Sep after the rains when the hills would be lush green and Jog Falls would be brimming.

Here is a list of things you can do at Kolavara Heritage ( All drives distance are 1 way)

  • 1/2 day trip to Sringeri 34 Km 1 Hr drive, there is a temple dedicated to the rain god close by called Kigga
  • Kundadri Hills – ancient Jain temple 38 Km 1 Hr drive – sunset view point
  • Agumbe – the forest with the largest concentration of King Cobras – Sunset View – Very close to Kundadri Hills. Agumbe also has connections with Malgudi days
  • Trek to Jamalie hills – 1 Hr trek from Kolavara
  • Kavale Durge – 1 /2 day trek
  • Plantation walk 45 min – 1 hr
  • Visit Poet Kuvempu birth place – 30 – 45 min ( 10 min drive from Kolavara)
  • Kochadri Hills – Original Deity of Mookambika is located – 72 Km
  • They have a swimming pool – a small one and bikes to ride around
  • Plan a trip with a few families – it would be more fun as a group.

Distances and Drive times 

  • Bangalore – Hassan 165 Kms – 3 Hrs ( Excellent food joints on the route – recommend Swati Delicacy 100 Kms from Bangalore , while driving from Bangalore comes on the other side)
  • Hassan – Chickamagalur – 65 Km – 1 hr
  • Chickamagalaur –  Kolavara Heritage, 100 Km – 2 1/2 hrs
  • Kolavara Heritage – Udupi – 85 Km
  • Kolavara Heritage – Managlore – 140 Km

 

And one last thing on the history of Kolavara and mythology associated with it

 

View of a room at Kolavara

Mandargiri – An ancient Jain Hill temple near Bangalore

This blog documents the 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM  day trips by a group of enthusiastic Bangalore explorers from Mantri Classic Koramangla.  We leave after the school bus departs and are back home when the kids return. Thats what we have been doing for the last 1 year – discovering amazing places in and around Bangalore. Energised ancient temples, architectural marvels , 1000’s of years old, lovely ashrams, treks, nature resorts all packed with simple and tasty food makes for a great day trip. Its a Fusion trip and thats the name of the group we gave to this team.

This blog shares the itinerary of Trip 16 to Mandargiri – An ancient Jain Hill Temple near Tumkur

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  :  https://vak1969.com/2017/09/13/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-to-3-30-trips-1-3/
  • Trips 4 & 5 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/17/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-am-to-3-30-pm-trips-4-5/
  • Trips 6 & 7 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/26/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30-pm-trips-678/
  • Trip 8 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/09/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-8/
  • Trip 9 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/10/kolar-avani-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-9/
  • Trip 10 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/15/devrayanadurga-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-10/
  • Trip 11 : To be published
  • Trip 12 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/04/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-12/
  • Trip 13 : https://vak1969.com/2017/11/09/antarganga-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-13/
  • Trip 14 : Bangalore Palaces & Forts (To be published)
  • Trip 15 : https://vak1969.com/2018/01/25/grover-zampa-vineyards-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-15/

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Mandargiri, also known as Basadi Betta, is a beautiful, round hillock housing a number of Jain temples that are ~ 1000 years old. It is an important pilgrimage centre for Jains in Karnataka. Located at Tumkur District near Dobaspet it is ~ 75 Km from Bangalore. Trekking on this monolith is relatively easy as it has around 460 steps that will take you to the top of the hillock. A ten minute walk. Mandargiri is surrounded with boulders of many shapes and sizes, a haven for photographers.

We left Koramangla at 7.30AM and were fortunate to get clear roads and a blue sky – a perfect day , and reached our breakfast stop near Dobaspet at 9 AM. Shree Rathnam is a nice and efficient Veg restaurant – It has a big inviting poster and you can’t miss it. (The restaurant is located after a 10 – 15 min drive post the 2nd toll)

Mandargiri is a short 15 min drive from here – you an locate it on Google maps , lookout for a right turn that will take you thru an arch leading to the Mandargiri hillock.

We reached the place by 10 AM and spent a few hrs here. It was a bright sunny day but as you climb up the hill it gets windy. The steps are well laid out and takes less than 15 minutes – you also have the option to drive up by car across a mud path .

There are three things to see here

A Pinchi shaped 81 feet Guru Mandir – the first of its kind in Jain history. The Guru mandir is dedicated to the Digambara Jain ascetic Sri Shantinsagarji Maharaj.

The mukha mantapa next to the Pinchi has a tall statue of Chandranatha Tirthankara. Looks similar to that of Bahubali – but smaller , was installed recently in 2011.

And at the top of this hillock is a temple complex with 4 small but ancient temples that date back 800 – 1000 years. Two are dedicated to Chandranatha and the remaining two to Parsavnath.

The temples are spotlessly clean and very well maintained. there is no crowd – and remember to take the keys from the base when you go up ( Shivaraj – 8550036564 – is the caretaker). Its a nice calm serene place. 

Lock up the temple and go to the back side of the Temple complex – you will see a beautiful lake. You can be adventurous and try walking down – but the slope is steep.

The views from the top are gorgeous and so are the views from near the lake.

We did not enter the water but you can stop by the banks and admire the lily flowers

We wrapped up all we had to see and left Mandargiri by 12 noon ( we had plans to visit the Narasimha temple at Seebi – but it was late and we had to head back to Bangalore for lunch.

Lunch was at a wonderful new place called JustBe at Sadashivnagar. Its a wonderful place – pure veg , vegan , no oil cooking. The fare they served was delicious and very healthy. The enterprising smart owner of the place Nidhi dropped by and spent some time explaining to us the rationale of the place.

If you are looking for an offbeat healthy Veg restaurant – dont miss this one. Rates are very reasonable and servings are large. Ambience and aesthetics are 10/10.

We left JustBe at 2.45 and were back home at Koramangla by 3.25.

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