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Kolkata Shining – Well Done Didi

15 Jan

I recollect that some years back Kolkata came to the news for all the wrong reasons – it was christened the “Dying City”. This after many many years under the administration of Jyoti Basu. From 1977 he held the CM post for 23 years without a break – a tough record to beat. But Bengal and Kolkata saw no progress.

I remember my trips to Kolkata – from the mid 70’s and till 2005 almost nothing changed. Traffic jams , pavements choked with hawkers, load shedding, appalling poverty , filth – it was a mess. Mother Teresa and Dominiqe Lapierre did not help by positioning Calcutta as a city in deep despair. I remember in a quiz competition in school we were asked to name the dirtiest city in the world and the choice was between Karachi , Dhaka and Kolkatta. Karachi narrowly beat Kolkatta to claim the distinction.

Things slowly changed and in the last 7 years Mamta Banerjee and the TMC have done a phenomenal job in transforming Kolkatta. I visited the city after many years in the last week of 2017 and was pleasantly surprised to see a city that I could barely recognise. The transformation is to a scale that you cannot comprehend. Broad Roads , cars zipping at 50 Km/hr ( restraining themselves as thats the speed limit), clean footpaths and pavements, well lit roads with plants, a maze of flyovers , clean billboards and shop fronts, efficient traffic police, the water bodies or “Pukurs” that dot the city are sparkling clean. In the 3 days I was there I did not see a single pothole or a dug up road or footpath – I could go on and on.

 

I would rate Kolkata as the Indian city with one of the best urban infrastructures in the country today comparable with Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and of course New Delhi. Coming from Bangalore ( Koramangla in specific) where traffic crawls at less than 10 km /hr and it can take you 30 min to cross the Sony Junction Kolkatta felt like a foreign city. Add to this Kolkatta has no power cuts and thanks to the mighty Ganges you will never see water tankers queuing up in front of apartment complexes.

We visited the Dhakuria lake complex – again a very well maintained park with excellent walkways spotlessly clean.

All this is indeed creditable work. Its not easy to change a dying city that has been languishing for decades. Yes good work was started by the former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and if the Nano plant at Singur had happened the industrial pace at W Bengal may have matched that of Gujarat. But full credit to Mamata Di for picking up speed and achieving the impossible. Well Done Didi.

The Indian Press is miserly – all I have heard about Kolkata sitting in Bangalore is Didi’s anger against Modi and the Muslim appeasement – not a word has been reported on how a dying city has been transformed in such a short period of time. You need to give credit where it is due and this change from a. dying city to a sparkling city should have been cover page article and news.

Its not just the infrastructure but also the cleanliness. People have started taking pride in their city – the Bengalis have always been proud of their legacy and now they have earned their bragging rights. I am sure this saga of development will continue. Its a very affordable city and the cost of living would probably be less than half that of Bangalore or Mumbai. A city with history , legacy , sights – a city waiting to be marketed. With all this going for Kolkatta its a matter of time before the builders, brands , malls , companies , jobs flood into Kolkata. And all the  NRI babus who always wanted to be in Kolkata and enjoy their adda will come back. A city on an ascending curve is unstoppable and as the momentum picks up the growth will accelerate.

The trip was also special as I caught up with my college mates from REC Surat and met them after 25 years. We were knocking at 50 but as we met after so many years we felt like 18 year olds. Thanks Manik , Somen and Tutli for taking time to come over.

It was also nice to meet up the folks from ABL township – the colony where I grew up after 30 long years. the hot didis and aunties had aged gracefully. Thank you Ishani and Deepa Di for making this happen. Bengali is a very sweet language and Bengali women are amongst the prettiest you can meet but behind that pretty face and charming smile is a dominating woman – this after all is the land of Ma Durga & Kali.

A trip to Kolkata is never complete without visiting Dakshineshwar & Belur Math. We left our hotel at 5.30 AM and reached Dakhsineswhar by 6.15 AM – spotlessly clean with hardly any crowd we had a blessed Darshan of Ma Kali in all her divine glory. The Ganges was sparkling clean and majestically flowing with Belur Math on the other bank. We could feel the vibrations of the great Sage Ramkrishna in his small room at the temple complex. We didi visit Belur Math also and the Bhog we had was special, don’t miss it – piping hot Khichdi , delicious curry, and Kheer so tasty all served with so much love and affection. Whether its Golden Temple or Puri Jagannath or Dakshineswar there is something special about the Prasad they serve in these divine places.

This is also the city of food – from street food to fancy restaurants all at very affordable prices. We relished the Jhal Modi at the Maidan as we waited for a ride on the iconic tram and enjoyed sweets galore all through the trip. There is no comparison to Kolkata sweets. My fatty liver restricted me from being very adventurous but we did through justice to the amazing food of this great city. The only disappointment was our lunch at Tero Parbon at Hindustan Park where the service was disastrous.

Central Kolkata was buzzing with energy – the stretch from Victoria Memorial , Park Street , Chowringee , the National Museum – is mesmerising and brings back fond memories of childhood when we used to visit Kolkatta from Durgapur. The yellow Ambassador taxis are fast making way to the Uber’s and Ola but I pray that continue for some more time. Kolkata without the yellow taxi and its blaring horns would never be the same again.

Its a paradise for shopping – again great stuff at affordable prices. This was the time of the year when there were melas all around the city. Khadi , Handicraft and a wide variety of clothes and artwork at prices which you cannot believe. From sarees to pyjamas and kurtas, shoes, leather goods you can shop all day long in this city.

Kolkata has so much to offer – it was only on the last day that I came to know of a Jyotir Linga at Baidyanath Temple – a 1 hr drive from Kolkata. I missed it but will come back for sure to visit. There are 12 Jyotir Lingas in the country and most states market them very effectively. These are divine sites blessed with the energy of Lord Shiva – Kolkata needs to market itself better.

I have 3 suggestions to make to help the city sparkle more and attract investments. 

Kolkatta and Chennai produce nearly 50% of the CA’s of the country – Kolkatta with its low cost base can easily position itself as a back office finance hub for the country. The intelligence of the Bengali and the low cost of the city will make this a very compelling proposition.

A lot of day trips can be organised to market the city better. A 7.30 to 6.30 PM trip that includes breakfast and lunch – its easy to identify 10 – 15 such packages and have buses travel on a daily basis to these locations.

Launch a company that can help cities like Bangalore – specially BBMP spruce up the city. You now seem to have the expertise to provide consultancy and execute projects that can bring cities like Bangalore to shape.

And last but not the least Kolkata needs more Gym’s. Given the rich oily diet, lethargic lifestyle, late dinner habits and probably the highest % of smokers in the country   – my friends in Kolkata need to exercise vigorously. But I hardly saw any gyms.  Here is an opportunity for Mukesh Bansal to open many Gyms across Kolkata – so Mukesh please don’t open any more Cult Zones in Bangalore – head to Kolkatta. If Mamta has succeeded in a cleaner Kolkata I am sure she can make it a fitter Kolkata too.

Hospitality is in Bengali blood – my friend and his family took such good care of us we felt we were with family. Thanks Subhashish and Ruma for going out of the way to make us comfortable. I am looking forward to my next trip soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A year after retirement at 48 – Changes & Learnings

16 Nov

Nov 7th, 2017 –  I completed a year after I left the corporate world.

A year back I had written this blog https://vak1969.com/2016/11/12/is-48-the-new-58-the-growing-trend-of-early-retirement/ – and a lot of people came back asking how the last one year has been.

How do you spend your time ? Did you have second thoughts after a few months ? Are you feeling restless ? Are you bugging your wife staying at home all the time ? Etc Etc …. So I felt its time to share how the last 12 months have been  on what have I gained and lost.

In Summary : Its been a breeze – I have had no second thoughts and have been recommending to one and all to pull the plug. Now lets look at some of the key Learnings & Changes

TIME no longer manages me – I am the BOSS 

TIME – Most challenges in life come because TIME dictates us. All our stress, tension , spoilt relationships is because TIME is in total control of us . The day has 24 hrs and you need to do a lot – so you start the day getting irritated in chaotic traffic and all thru the day you fight with TIME and its a losing battle. TIME is your ultimate boss and trying to constantly catch up with TIME wrecks your life.

I am now in control of TIME – I am the boss. The world looks very different when you don’t have multiple deadlines and time pressure. There is no stress – you look around when you drive , you stop by small stores in the neighbourhood , you talk to people in the stores, you admire the flowers in the garden , you observe the birds in the morning walk , you see things you never saw before  – that is a Big Big WIN .

 

You have very few TRUE Friends 

You may have over 500 FB contacts and over 1000 Linked in connects – but if you have a few genuine friends consider yourself lucky. When you are in a position to help people a lot of people keep in touch . For Employee discounts on Apple products , jobs and internships , special deals , references – that translates into 100’s of Diwali , New Year & Birthday greetings. All that vanished- and a few good people kept in touch , to be specific 3, and I am thankful to those 3 people (they know who they are).  So your phone bill comes down – I downgraded from a 1599 Airtel plan to a 799 plan and I am good. I get worried when the phone rings and keep it in DND most of the time as the only people calling me are those wanting to sell insurance products or credit cards or Orphanages wanting charity

A Rupee saved is a Rupee earned 

I was a flamboyant spender – never counted the pennies. But suddenly even if you have enough and more you become very cautious when the monthly pay check stops. It all started one day at the grocery store when I was buying butter and realised that Nadini , Amul and Britannia were priced Rs 40 , Rs 42 & Rs 44 – thats a 10% difference – all 3 brands work fine. The same veggies in two shops 100 m away could be priced differently by as much as 25%. I always had a cup of filter coffee at Adyar Anand Bhawan during my visits to Axis bank – now I drink the same coffee at Udupi Vihar next door – Adayar Anand Bhawan Coffe was Rs 15/- while the one at Udupi Vihar was Rs 10/-.   Same goes with eating out – earlier a family Dinner was in the 4 – 5 K /meal range , we have now discovered lovely places with great food and ambience where it costs us 1000 – 1250 / meal. I never flinched while working paying 30 K / night for a hotel room – we now discover lovely hotels for 5 K / night.

Hotel Rooms , travel , dress , food – you name it – if you have the time to check out a few places there are amazing savings around the corner and without too much of an effort we were able to bring our annual expenses down by 25%.

Do it Yourself. 

Indians are bad at DIY. Our parents were great – as kids we banged nails in the walls , took an entire cycle apart (and fixed it successfully), changed the scooters punctured tyres , and most households managed with 1 maid.

This week I saw in our building Whats App group a lady complaining that the electrician needs to be changed – she has not been able to change her fused tube light for 3 weeks since he did not come. Another  complained that the laundry guy doesn’t come and pick up clothes for ironing. A very good friend calls up HDFC bank to deliver cash at home – we have lost it. And I had lost it too. But now I am starting the DIY journey – and its linked to both TIME and MONEY.

When the laundry guy increased his rate from Rs 5 – Rs 6 ( a whopping 20% increase) my monthly bill went up from 1250 to 1500. I started ironing clothes – 10 a day , most of them are easy to iron – in 20 minutes I can iron 10 clothes – and I am sure I will get better with time. Now you are no longer dependent on anyone and you have saved Rs 1500/- Same with the driver – he hardly had work for 3 hrs a day – his cost to me was Rs 18,000 / month – I let him go with a months notice. We now manage with UBER / OLA and we call in a driver for Rs 350 for 3.5 hrs twice a week – all of this put together costs us less than Rs 6000 /- month – a saving of Rs 12,000.One way of looking at it is I saved 1.44 Lacs – the other way is I just paid for 3 holidays in a year.

We live in comfort – but having a driver who is utilised for 3 hrs a day is unnecessary luxury. My next step is working on reducing our maids from three to two – lets hope that happens soon. For a start we are already washing over 100 utensils a day.

It takes time to change HABITS – but I guess my habits are changing , from becoming extravagant I am now thinking twice before spending money.

And now to answer the main question everyone had for me – How do you spend the day ? Its easy the day flies by – I have watched 3 movies and almost no TV this year. The day can be split into 3 clear sections

On an ideal day I wake up at 4 AM , meditate for an hr , Chant the Gayatri Mantra 108 times and do Yoga/ Walk  for an hr. That between 4AM – 8.30 AM.

We have an early lunch Ashram style piping hot freshly cooked at 9.30 AM. Then from 10 AM – 2.30 PM I have free time to check out mails , make some money on the stock market , read , go shopping , visit Chai point for a cup of tea, go to the bank etc etc

Before the kids come we make some snacks and then its pick up and drop to Tuiton classes , Music Classes , art classes etc – most days that keeps me busy till 5.30 PM. Then I run for 5 Kms (40 minutes) on the treadmill, come home , Chant the Mrityunjay Mantra 108 times , have dinner by 7 PM , spend time with kids and off to bed by 9 PM.

I travel every month to some place – this year has been great and have covered Binsar, Dunagiri , Andamans , Goa , Bandipur , Tiruchi , Chidambaram, Kanchipuram  – and I have Kodaikanal planned in early Dec and Cal / Bhubaneswar / Konark in end Dec. I completed a 10 day Vipassna program and went to Valley of Flowers for an amazing trek. Not just that we discovered 14 new places in and around Bangalore in our Fusion day trips. There is no dearth of things to see and do in India. I learnt swimming ( but got to practise more – Bangalore cold weather not helping) , tried my hand at learning Kannada and failed miserable. Spent a lot of time in doing the interiors for my Villa. Improved my cooking skills , perfected my vegetable chopping skills and with my dish washing ability I am now a great backup if the maid takes leave.

So its been a wonderful busy productive year – not a day have I sat back thinking ” so what do I do today ? ” And I am sure that the next year will be equally busy and productive.

I gained a lot – and I lost a lot – I have lost my anger ( most of the time) , lost my restlessness and have worked on the two most difficult things in life – reducing EGO and minimising DESIRES. I am healthy and fit , 6 kgs lighter and my Fatty Liver which used to erupt every month has troubled me only once this whole year. ( this will go down in history as the most expensive cure for fatty Liver and GERD)

My family sees me at home a lot – and I guess they are happy because they grumble when I say I am taking a few days off. My wife gets to travel more as now there is someone at home to look after the kids.

The essence of my new life is based on 3 fundamentals

  1. Nothing is permanent – everything will pass
  2. You are responsible for everything no one else
  3. My belief in destiny has got stronger – do good and good will happen to you

I am happy that I took the tough call to leave a high paying job at Apple at 48 – No Regrets at all. Its helping me inch forward in my quest for Truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antarganga : Day Trips in Bangalore 7.30AM – 3.30PM (Trip 13)

9 Nov

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. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 1000 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itinerary of trip 13 to Antarganga, a nice trek near Kolar.   

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Trip – 13 : Antarganga  

Antargange Hill is  located in Kolar, at just 4 kms from Kolar town. ( 65 Km from Bangalore) Antar-Gange literally means Ganga from Within/Ganga of the deep in Kannada.

It is a huge field of boulders and rocks. Located at an altitude of 1712 m above the sea level, the boulders are amassed one on top of the other to appear like a cave. This network of cave formations makes this place famous for cave exploration and easy trekking.

This is a nice trek up a rocky hill till you reach a set of caves which you can explore on all fours. Its challenging but its fun – and when you are told that in the recent past this trek was done at night , then the day trip seemed like a cakewalk.

On a bright pleasant Wednesday in November we set out at 7.30 AM , traffic on Old Madras road was bad and we reached our Breakfast point Nandi Grand at 9 AM. This is almost 55 km from Koramangla , we covered the 1st 12 kms in 1 hr and the last 43 kms in 30 minutes. Nandi Grand is a convenient breakfast joint – fast and efficient with decent restrooms.

We left at 9.20 AM and the distance from here to Antarganga is about 10 Kms , but the last stretch of 5 Km is thru village roads. Google Maps gets you there – but do not enter Antarganga Trek Point – that takes you to a different place.

Antargange has a long staircase that chaperones to a temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Kashi Vishweshwara. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is often called Kashi of South or Dakshin Kashi. The bull, which is considered the vehicle of Lord Shiva has water flowing out of its mouth. Many people have tried to draw out the source of the water, but have failed. The source of the water still remains untraced. This is how Antargange attained its name.

 

The trek can be split into 3 parts

A 20 minute trek thru well laid steps to the Shiva Temple (Called Dakshin Kashi) supposedly very ancient – This temple is dedicated to Lord Kashi Vishweshwara. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is often called Kashi of South or Dakshin Kashi. The bull, which is considered the vehicle of Lord Shiva has water flowing out of its mouth. Many people have tried to draw out the source of the water, but have failed. The source of the water still remains untraced. This is how Antargange attained its name.

 

From here it takes another 25 – 30 min to get the hill top – some parts are tricky but if you have decent shoes and are careful its not a challenge.

Once you reach the top there is a lot to see – you can spend the full day exploring many caves here and even trekking to a small village. We had to be back in our cars by 12.15 – so we were able to explore only one of the cave complexes.

Getting into the caves is tricky – the gaps are very narrow and you have to stretch and pivot yourself with limited foothold across smooth rocky surfaces . Its dark in many places – but its safe. A well frequented place there are no snakes or animals.

Carry a torch as some parts are pitch dark and you are guiding yourself thru some very narrow crevices , sometimes almost lying flat and sliding past.

In one of my earlier trips I had visited a second cave complex that is the source of the Water Body – that cave is pitch dark and its a struggle to even sit , but you can reach the water body and taste the cool sweet water.

We did have our Panick moments – but the team was Brave , Adventurous and Fit – and when you are a group everyone helps each other out.

The views from the top are great and we had the perfect day to ourselves. We left the hilltop at 11.30 and were down in the car by 12.10.

These treks are impossible with a guide – you cannot venture into the caves on your own. Guides are normally available in plenty during the weekends – when the place can get busy. But we had requested our guide from our earlier trip a week back to be around.  Our guide was a nimble and efficient nine year old Bhupathi. A local kid born and brought up in the hills.

The return journey was quick – we left at 12.10 and reached Indranagar for lunch at 1.30 – ahead of schedule. And were back home by 2.30.

Between Breakfast and Lunch there are no restrooms available during the trek. Do carry some snacks / water. Earlier there were many monkeys on this route but now there are only a few near the temple.

Avoid summers as this place can get very very hot – best time is Nov – Feb.

 

 

Devrayanadurga : Day Trips in Bangalore 7.30AM – 3.30PM (Trip 10)

15 Oct

This blog documents the 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM  day trips by a group from Mantri Classic (Koramangla , Bangalore) . We have been doing this  for the last one 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. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 1000 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itinerary of trip 10   

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Trip – 10 :  Devrayanidurga – a Nice green Hill Temple near Tumkur (7.30 AM – 3.30 PM) 

The trip to Devrayanidurga was more like a day trip to a hill station. It was London weather , misty and cool and we soaked it all in with the green as green greenery engulfing us up the winding road to the beautiful and serene temple of Lord Narasimha. Devrayanadurga means “fort of rock” and this beautiful temple is ensconced between rocky hills with a beautiful water body behind at an altitude of about 4000 feet above sea level. ( Ooty is 7000 feet – so this is high)

Here are two temples are built for God Narasimha, one which is at the foot of the hillock called the Bhoga Narasimha and the other temple which is built on the hillock which is called Yoga Narasimha. Devarayanadurga is steeped in mythological importance. It is said that Lord Brahma the creator of the Universe, has performed penance for many years in the name of Lord Vishnu for several thousand years. Impressed by his penance, Lord Vishnu has incarnated himself as Lord Narasimha here. The temple was patronised by the Cholas and is well over 1000 years old.

We started as usual at 7.30 AM and headed to Tumkur Road Via Malleshwaram / Yeshwantpur , and after two toll roads stopped for breakfast at Shree Rathnam a nice and efficient Veg restaurant at 8.45 – It has a big inviting poster and you can’t miss it. (The restaurant is a 10 min drive after the 2nd toll on your left ). As you drive out from the restaurant look around for a flyover and take the access road and then a right from below the flyover – don’t go up the flyover. Follow Google Maps – there are signs that lead to Devrayanidurga and Goravanahalli Lakshmi temple. After a 15 – 20 min ride look for a left turn under an arched gate that takes you up the hill.

When we left Bangalore it was drizzling and the forecast was for rain in Tumkur – but we were lucky to have a misty day with low overhanging clouds amidst lush greenery with rain drops on the leaves and some bright yellow flowers. The drive up is a short ten minute ride – winding roads , you will cross some waterbodies, the views are very nice. Its empty and nice. You will reach a point where the road forks – to the left is the Bhoga Narasimha Temple and to the right is the Yoga Narasimha temple – a person standing there will charge Rs 20 for car entry. We went up – you can go all the way up and reach a point from where its only 100 steps to the Yoga Narasimha temple. Easy ten minute climb. You also have an option to walk up the steps from the point where the person collects the car entry fees – there are steps – that I guess would be a 1 hr climb.

As you climb up you will see a tree that seems to be coming out from the hill. We reached the temple top by 10.45 AM which was perfect – since they have a Abhishekam that starts at 11 AM – its a detailed procedure and you can view the 5000 year old idol being bathed with milk, ghee, butter, Chandan, and many more ingredients. The temple is small – but you can sense it is ancient.

Right behind the temple is a waterbody – there is a path that goes down to the source of the water body – but the steps to that place has been closed.

We spent over an hr at the Temple and then headed to a place called Namada Chilumme. This is on the way back after you have crossed the Bhoga Narasimha temple . (We did not stop at the Bhoiga Narasimha temple – but if you need a restroom break there is one near this temple). Almost halfway down  you take a right turn and drive for ten minutes ( ask the guy who sells the car entry tickets) and drive thru thick forests on both sides before reaching a point that has a Deer Park, A Siddha Garden and  Namada Chilumme.

Namada Chilumme is supposedly the place where Lord Rama stayed and shot a arrow on the ground to get water. Its past the deer park a short ten minute walk – on the way you will see Namada Chilume old guesthouse where Dr.Salim Ali had camped.

Namada Chilumme is a small hole in the rocky ground from where water is flowing out – and you can have a drink of this fresh clean water. Most people will head back from here. But wait – there are interesting views round the corner.

Near this point you will see a small mud trail going thru the forest. Take that trail – keep a stick with you as there are monkeys here. You walk for less than 10 minutes and come to a point that looks like a massive crater lake type cauldron surrounded by green hills with the rocky walls at its peak.

This is a nice place to enjoy the views – it also has a small temple like rock structure with pillars – which is dilapidated and you can try climbing up.

This place was lovely – it was almost 12 noon – and it was bright and sunny , we enjoyed the 30 minutes we spent here and then walked past Namada Chillumme and the deer park to the road where our car was parked.

On the opposite side of the deer park is a 15 acre Siddha Garden – which is full of medicinal plants. The gatekeepers tried to explain in Kannada all the various plants over there and we tasted many a herb and leaf with funny tastes.

This was our lunch spot. A picnic lunch – the good ladies had all prepared some tasty dishes and we enjoyed a lovely meal in the midst of fresh air and greenery.

Post lunch we left at 1.45 and were back by 3.15. (One car took a deviation for a Chai Break at Chitra Kala Parishad – so we were back at 4.15)

Devrayanidurga was another nature masterpiece we discovered. A hill station type place at Bangalore’s backyard was a rare find and I am sure a lot of our friends would love to visit this beautiful place. Its an easy 7.30 – 3.30 trip. 

 

Kolar & Avani : Day Trips in Bangalore 7.30AM – 3.30PM (Trip 9)

10 Oct

This blog documents the 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM  day trips by a group from Mantri Classic (Koramangla , Bangalore) . We have been doing this  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. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 1000 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itinerary of trip 9   

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Trip – 9 :  Kolaramma Temple – Someshwara Temple Kolar – Avani Rama Lingeshwara temples – Mayyas (7.30 AM – 3.30 PM) 

When you think of Kolar you think of Gold Mines – but there is more to Kolar. I had heard about the “Koti Lingeshwar”  temple in Kolar and as part of my recee went to check the place. We always try to do 3 things in our trips so I kept searching for other interesting places close by – thats how we discovered the ancient temples at Kolar & Avani. We were disappointed with Koti Lingeshwar – it does have many Shiv Lingas – but the place is so commercial and devoid of energy that we decided to skip it for the Fusion group.

Old Madras Road is a mess – so ensure you leave by 730 AM sharp or better 7.15 AM so that you can get past the inner ring road and the crowded sections of Old Madras road by 8.15 AM before the traffic madness starts. Kolar is 71 KM’s from Koramangla – 1 hr 30 min drive in the morning. We left by 7.25 AM and reached our breakfast point by 8.35 AM. Nandi Grand is the best place to stop – has a wide range of dishes – service is fast and restrooms are clean

Kolar from here is a 20 min drive – you take a clover leaf exit ( remember this is a toll road so if you have Fast Tag in your car it helps save time). Our first stop was the ancient Kolaramma temple. Built by the Cholas 1200 years back. The presiding deity in the temple is Mahishasuramardini, who is named Kolaramma by the local people. She is an eight-armed Goddess Durga. The devotees worship her by looking at the mirror which is placed opposite the idol. There is a special pooja conducted on Tuesdays and Fridays, temple is open till 2 PM those days – on other days it closes at 11 AM. The temple also has a large brass idol of a Scorpion that is worshipped.

The priest claimed that the shrine of Goddess Durga is supposed to be over 5000 years old and was installed by Parashuram. This is a shrine visited by Adi Shankaracharya and is considered to be a very powerful deity. Legend has it that the fight with Mahisasura started here and finally ended at Chamundi Hills.

In the center of the temple, there is Saptamatrikas. They are seven mothers placed in a significant key position.

Its a small but extremely powerful temple- the architecture has the stamp of Cholas written all over it with its intricate carvings. I have had the good fortune of visiting this beautiful temple 3 times within a month.

A short walk from this temple is the Someshwara temple – you need to rush as this temple also closes by 11 AM. We were comfortable on time , we had reached Kolaramma by 9.15 and headed to the Someshwara temple 200 metres away by 10.15 AM. Built a little later – this is a grander and larger temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. We visited on a. Tuesday and the temples were empty – the weather was bright and sunny and pleasant and it was perfect to relax and enjoy the magical beauty of these ancient temples. I continue to be amazed at what lies in the vicinity of Bangalore – such beautiful temples at a 100 km distance – less than 2 hr drive and most people in Bangalore have no clue about them.

 

But this was more in store as we headed for Avani a small village located 20 km from Kolar – 30 min drive. Enroute we stopped by at a modern Mayya’s Complex that has multiple restaurants , super clean rest rooms , showers , feeding room and ATMS’s. This complex is world class – I am yet to see a nicer set up in any highway across India. We stopped for a restroom break and then headed to Avani.

Avani is known for the Sita temple situated on a hill. This temple is one of the few temples dedicated to Sita in India. There is a belief that the sage Valmiki was residing here. Sita lived here in his ashram while in exile. Sit gave birth to her twin children Lava – Kusha here. Even today the room where Sita gave birth to her children exists. The war between Lord Rama and his sons Lava and Kusha happened in this village.

Avani is also known as the Gaya of the south and has ancient temples known as the Ramalingeshwara, Lakshmaneshwara, Bharateshwara and Shatrugneshwara, dating back to the period of the Nolamba Dynasty 

A monk from the Sringeri Peetham camped here for a few days and found an idol of Goddess Sharada in standing posture flanked by  Adi Shankaracharya and the Sri Chakra. He consecrated this idol here and established a new Matha and installed one of his shisyas as the head of the new Matha.

 

The temples are built by the Nolomba dynasty and later renovated by the Cholas. The gopurams look a bit like those built by the Pallavas. They are well maintained and the best part is they are totally empty. There are multiple small temples of Shiva each consecrated by Lord Rama &  His Brothers.

Close to the temple is a hillock which is a 2 hr trek ( up and down) and leads to caves where Sita is supposed to have lived. We reached the temple by 11.45 and with a deadline to return by 3.30 we had to keep the Trek for a later date.Photo Credit  http://aravindgj.blogspot.in/2017/

After visiting the main temple complex we visited the Sharada temple which was closed and then headed for lunch at the Mayyas complex. While coming back its on the other side of the highway – but there are gaps in the median that allows you take U Turn with travelling far. A good lunch and we left by 1.30 to reach home by 3.15 PM.

Kolar & Avani were great discoveries – so close to Bangalore , fascinating temples, lots of history & mythology, excellent roads , good food – so easy to cover in a day trip from 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM.

The trek up the hillock is pending and thats is on our To Visit list soon.

 

 

 

Malleshwaram : Day Trips in Bangalore 7.30AM – 3.30PM (Trip 8)

9 Oct

This blog documents the 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM  day trips by a group from Mantri Classic (Koramangla , Bangalore) . 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. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 1000 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itinerary of trip 8   

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Trip – 8 :  Veena Stores – Malleshwaram temples – Kote Venkatramana Temple – Mahabodhi Society – Little Italy (7.30 AM – 3.30 PM) 

As usual we started at 7.30 AM and headed to Malleswaram via MG Road and Windsor Manor and reached our breakfast point by 8.10 AM. Malleswaram is old age Bangalore – narrow well maintained roads , smells of jasmine flowers , dotted with temples – its a good mix of TN & Karnataka – full of great economical eateries – of which Veena Stores is amongst the best. Located at 15th Cross , Margosa Road Its a small 100 sft store which serves piping hot delicious food – take away only. Weekends can be a mad rush with waiting time of over an hr as Mercs and BMW’s line up for pick up – but on Wednesday we were served in minutes. Kesari Bath, Idli Vada, Sweet Pongal, Kharabath, Filter Coffee and a few more authentic tasty dishes all of which cost 30 – 40 Rs a plate.

A few minutes drive from here is 15th Cross Rd which is home to 4 majestic temples – adjacent to each other. The Kaadu Malleshwara Temple, Sri Dakshinamukha Nandi Tirtha Kalyani Kshetra, Gangamma Temple and a beautiful Vishnu temple. The Kaadu Malleshwaram Temple dates back to 1600 AD – and was built during the period when the Marathas held sway over Bangalore and is said to have been built by Venkoji Shivaji’s step brother who found a “Swayambu” there during one of his Tax Collection drives. its a well maintained beautiful  green temple on a small hillock with lots of open spaces. There are 40 steps that lead to the temple top.

Diagonally opposite to this is a unique temple worthy of the UNESCO world heritage tag – The “Dakshinamukha Nandi Tirtha Kalyani Kshetra“. Some say this temple is 1000’s of years old and was unearthed recently. Water from the Nandi gushes on to the Shiva Lingam and then flows to a pond which some say is the underground source of the Sankey Tank. Of the 4 temples on this road – these two are outstanding and we spent most of our time here. But do visit the Gangamma and the Vishnu temple also. In all you can budget 90 – 120 minutes to cover these 4 temples. Right next to these temples is a Brahmins Coffee Bar – so if you want to grab a coffee before you head out – you can do that

Our next stop was another historical temple – Kote Venkatramana Temple. The 17th century Venkataramana temple is located near the old fort (“fort” is kote in Kannada language) adjacent to what was once the residence of Mysore Wodeyar royal family, and later became the palace of Tipu Sultan. Temple closes by 12 noon – and we made it comfortably by 11.15 AM . Its a 20 min drive from Malleswaram. The green lawns of the fort adjacent to this temple looked inviting but we decided to keep the forts and palaces visit to another day. You need a drive – as parking is an issue at all these places.

Keeping the Fusion spirit in mind our next stop was the Mahabodhi Society of Bangalore located next to Freedom Park. A 10 min drive from the Kote Venkatramana Temple.

A zone of peace and equanimity – the centre has a large meditation hall , a beautiful Pipal tree, a stupa and a small garden . They also have a lovely store. This is a residential centre for Monks in Training so keep the chatter low.  If you are a meditative person you will love this place and can spend a few hrs here – but we had to move on keeping in mind our 3 PM return deadline.

It was 1 in the afternoon when we left the Mahabodhi Society at Gandhinagar and we drove past the tempting stores of Chickpet and Avenue Road heading back to Koramangla – on the way stopping for a roaring lunch at Little Italy ( Tavarkere Road near St John Woods apartment). One of the members of the group is a partner owner here and she magnified an already delicious buffet spread. The lunch buffet here is also a well kept secret – the variety of food is impressive , very tasty all of which is backed by excellent service. And to top it all its reasonably priced.

Home was a short 10 min ride from here and were back by 3 PM – we had seen some amazing places in the heart of Bangalore. This is an easy trip to replicate – packed with good food , history , architecture , mythology, spirituality and tranquility – the perfect elements for a Fusion trip.

 

Shivanasamudra ,Talakad, Somnathpura : Day Trips in Bangalore 7.30AM – 3.30PM (Trip 12)

4 Oct

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. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 1000 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itinerary of trip 12 – a slightly longer trip from 7.30 AM to 7.30 PM.  

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Trip – 12 : Shivanasamudra – Talakad – Somnathpura (7.30 AM – 7.30 PM) 

We covered a lot of ground and were almost 30 kms from Mysore. As usual we started at 7.30AM from Koramangla and reached the Nice Road by 8 AM and hit the Kanakpura Road by 8.15. Our breakfast stop was at 9 AM at a place called Mandarathi garden – a 45 minute drive from the Nice Road Kanakpura junction. Fast , efficient , economical with functional rest rooms – lunch was to be at 1.30 / 2 – so we had a heavy breakfast of Idlis. Dosas , Vadas and Coffee.

Our first halt was at the town of Shivanasamudra – which is 120 Km from Bangalore. You can reach Via the Kanakpura Road or Mysore Road – we preferred Kanakpura road – less traffic , scenic with more greenery , even if its a single road you can travel comfortable at 80 – 100 km / hr.

The town of Shivanasamudra is famous for its twin waterfalls Gaganachukki & Barachukki. River Cauvery splits into two forming a small island – which is also home to the famous Madhya Ranga temple of Reclining Vishnu – a 4000 year old temple which is part of the threesome on Cauvery – the Vishnu temples at Srirangapatnam and Srirangam.

We reached Ganganchukki View point at 10.45 AM – its empty on a week day , walk down a few steps and you reach the viewing gallery for a very impressive massive waterfall. The best time to do this trip is in Sep – Oct after the rains when the waterfalls are gushing – and we were there on Oct 3rd after heavy rains. Roads are excellent – Google maps gets you to the right spot – search for Gaganchukki View point and not Shivanasamudra. The place has a small restaurant , rest rooms , a few shops selling coconut water – budget 30 minutes here.

 

From Gaganchukki we headed to Barachukki and on the way visited Madhya Ranga ( the 4000 year old reclining Vishnu temple) – a small temple under renovation and a Shiva temple where the Sri Yantra was consecrated by Adi Shankara. These temples have mythological significance but are not architectural marvels.  Ganganchukki to Barachukki is 14 Km – a 30 min drive thru small village roads in excellent condition. The View from Barachukki is equally good – the place is cleaner and there are steps that can take you right down the water body where the waterfall crashes down – sadly the step are closed and not accessible.

We left Barachukki at 12.30 and reached our next destination the Submerged / Excavated temples of Talakad – 31 kms from Barachukki – a 40 min drive and were there by 1.10 PM. Talakad has 5 temples – that date back to the Ganga / Chola dynasties over 1000 years old, the town on the banks of the Cauvery was submerged under sand on account of the curse of a Chieftains wife who was harassed by a Wodeyar king. Its a 30 – 45  min walk to cover the 5 temples , the whole place is full of sand so you may find it easier to walk by removing your sandals or shoes.

This where we had lunch at a local villagers house – its a Udupi mess , excellent tasty food served on plantation leave – normally they charge Rs 75/- but we had requested for a special meal with sweet , curd , unlimited servings – and we’re charged Rs 120 / person. The meal was a feast – Roti , Rice , two sabjis, salad , sambar , rasam , papad, curd , butter milk and sweets – and on a nice sunny day the mood was to take a nap  – but we had to move on.

Before leaving Talakad we spent a few minutes at the banks of the Cauvery – you can take a dip or venture out for a Coracle ride if you have time. Water is very clean and the river is peaceful here.

We reserved the best for the last – Somnathpura is a small village 30 kms from Mysore that is home to a beautiful  Hoysala temple from 1100 AD. The Hoysala Architecture is unique with its intricate carvings and this is one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture at its prime. A well preserved temple – sadly it was defaced by the muslim invaders and is not a temple where prayers are offered.

Talakad to Somnathpura is 26 kms – a 30 min drive – again excellent roads thru the rural hinterland of Karnataka. This is fertile Cauvery basin so the landscape is lush green , lots of lakes and ponds. We reached Somnathpura by 3.15 PM.

We engaged a guide for Rs 350 – who did an excellent job of detailing minutely all the intricacies of the temple. The start shaped temple with 3 tiers of intricate carvings is a treat for any history lover.

We left Somnathpura at 4.15 PM. We could have come via Mysore Road or by Kanakpura Road – Google Maps advised that the Kanakpura road route would be shorter by 20 min – so we zipped back the same way we had headed out in the morning – a ten min tea break at 5.45 and were at the nice road by 6.10 PM and at Hosur Road by 6.30 PM – unfortunately it was peak rush and it took us 70 minutes to cover the last 10 kms reaching home at 7.40 PM.

We had accomplished a lot in the last 12 hrs – driving almost 350 Kms. The per person cost was Rs 1025/-.

One last thought I am left with  after driving in the rural heartland of Karnataka. There is a lot of development in Rural Karnataka – its only Bangalore ( specifically Koramangla) that sucks – if the Govt can build rugged roads in rural Karnataka that has survived well this years rains ( we did not encounter a single pot hole as we zipped at 80 – 110 km / hrs thru the villages) wonder why our roads in Bangalore need surfacing every year. Maybe thats the game plan of the Siddaramaiah government – focus on the villages and ignore the City that provides 80% of the states revenue – after all 25 seats from Bangalore don’t make or break the Government.

Some more photos