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History of Guruvayur

17 Nov

This blog is based on “Chapter 5. My Darshan of Guruvayurappan” – by Sri M in his recent book The Journey Continues. All the information is directly quoted from there.

Guruvuyaur  is a small coastal town in Kerala famous for the Guruvayurappan temple where the prankish heart stealer Lord Krishna is worshipped as a boy . In terms of popularity it ranks with Tirupathi. Thousands visit the temple every day mainly from Tamil Nadu & Kerala.

Legends have it that the deity is 5000 years old – although there are no historical records. The story goes that the idol , carved out of a sacred material called Pathalanjana Sila was once worshipped by the great God Maha Vishnu and handed over to Brahma. After many generations it was worshipped by Sri Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki and later installed in Dwaraka and worshipped by Krishna himself.

Before giving up his body Krishna handed over this Idol to his foremost disciple Uddhava and instructed him to hand it over to Brihaspati, Guru of the Devas so that it may be installed in a suitable place and worshipped during Kaliyuga.

Dwarka was submerged in a deluge but Brihaspati with his prime disciple Vayu the lord of the wind managed to retrieve the idol. While looking for a suitable place to instal the idol they met Parasuram who was also searching for the idol.

Parasuram led the Guru & Vayu to a lush green spot behind a beautiful lake.The Yogi God Shiva and his consort Parvati who were spending time there in contemplation permitted Guru & Vayu to install and consecrate the idol there. From then on the place came to be known as Guruvayur. Shiva & Parvati are said to have moved to the other bank and settled down at Mammiyur. The pilgrimage to Guruvayur is to this day considered incomplete without the worship at the Shiva temple at Mammiyur.

That is as far as legends go. Historically the earliest mention of Guruvayur or rather Kuruvayur comes from a Tamil work Kokkasandesam. Kuruvai means sea in Tamil hence the name Kuruvayur. The earliest temple records date back to 17th century. The temple is mentioned in the songs of the Alwars. By the end of the 16th century Guruvayur was a popular pilgrimage centre in Kerala.

In 1760 the Dutch looted Guruvayur and raided the treasures, the gold plate that covered the flagstaff and set fire to the temple. In 1766 Hyder Ali captured Calicut and then Guruvayur. On the request of Srinivas Rao the then Governor of Malabar, Hyder Ali granted a free gift – Devadaya and handed the temple back to the Hindus.

In 1788 Tipu Sultan marched to Malabar. Fearing destruction the priests hid the deity. Tipu Sultan destroyed the smaller shrines and set fire to the temple but it was saved by a sudden and heavy downpour.

Later on people like Chempakassery Namboodiri, Deshavarma Namboodri and the Ullanad Pannikars offered everything from service to property to revive the temple. Worship at the temple started again in 1900. In 1928 the Zamorin of Calicut was reinstated as the administrator of Guruvayur. In 1970 a massive fire broke out and the public irrespective of caste , creed or religion rushed to join the fire fighting. There was massive destruction but the sanctum sanctorum was protected. The temple was renovated and once again opened for worship on April 14th, 1973.

The name of two great and saintly persons who made Guruvayur famous have to be mentioned Melapathur Narayana Bhattathiri ( 1559 – 1632) was one and Poonthanam ( 1547 – 1640) was the other.

Melapathur Narayana Bhattathiri  apart from being a scholar and mathematician was the author of Narayaneeyam.

The Narayaneeyam is a devotion Sanskrit work in the form of a poem comprising 1036 verses and gives a summary of the great Bhagvatha Purana. The story goes that his Guru Achuta Pisharodi had painful arthritis. . Unable to bear his guru’s suffering Bhattathiri by his yogic power took the disease and relieved his Guru. He soon discovered that the pain was excruciating and resolved to make a pilgrimage to Guruvayur confident that Guruvayurappan would relieve him of the disease.

While entering the temple he is said to have met Thunjat Ezhuthacchan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana.

Ezhuthacchan shocked him ( an orthodox brahmin) by saying ” Mean Thottu Kottuka” ( start with the fish). On reflection , Bhattathiri realised that Ezhuthacchan was not asking him to eat fish but to start writing the Bhagavad, beginning with the story of Maha Vishnu’s incarnation as a fish, the Matsya Avatara.

He then started composing One Dasaka ( Ten stanzas) a day sitting before Sri Guruvayurappan and in a hundred days had completed the Narayaneeyam. It is said that on the last day he was blessed with a full vision of Guruvayurappan and got cured of his painful disease. Even today Narayaneeyam which is in Sanskrit is held in great esteem in Kerala and chanted with great devotion.

Poonathanam, Melapathur’s contemporary was not a great scholar but a true devotee of Sri Guruvayurappan. He is remembered for his masterpiece Jnanappana which means ” the song of wisdom” . Poonathanam was married at the age of twenty but had no children for a long time. he is said to have prayed with tears in his eyes for a child and was finally blessed with a. son. Poonathanam called for a grand celebration where everyone he knew was invited. Unfortunately and ironically an hour before the ceremony the child died suddenly. Grief stricken Poonthanam renounced all worldliness and turned to Sri Guruvayurappan. His attitude underwent a sea change and he believed that the child god Krishna Guruvayurappan was his own child. He wrote ” whilst little Krishna is dancing in our hearts , do we need little ones of our own

The Jnanapanna begins and ends with

Krishna Krishna , Mukunda Janardhana,

Krishna Govinda , Narayana Hare, 

Achutananda Govinda Madhava 

Satchitananda Narayana Hare.

“Here !  Krishna Guruvayurappan, has come to take me to Vaikuntam, sing his Parises.” said Poonthanam pointing upwards and letting go of his last breath and passed away to be forever with his beloved Krishna.

 

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.

 

 

Tiruchi Temples in 3 Days

3 Nov

S Indian and specifically Tamil Nadu is a treasure house of Temples. Having covered Chennai, Kanchipuram , Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam and Tanjore – Tiruchi and Rameshwaram were the two prominent ancient cities in our pending list. And we finally covered Tiruchi extensively in 3 days.

A few things that made this trip very satisfying 

  • Amazing ancient temples thousands of years old – architectural & spiritual masterpieces – very well maintained
  • Good Hotel centrally Located – and great food
  • Excellent people all thru – from the drivers , porters , staff at restaurants , people at the Temple, companions in the Train – we met good human being all through our trip
  • Excellent weather ( It was pouring in Chennai as the NE Monsoon had just started – but Tiruchi 330 Km was pleasant and cloudy)
  • But the biggest WOW moment to me was discovering the Samadhi of the great Saint Patanjali who wrote the Yoga Sutras – Nobody knows about this – in an ancient temple in a small village in the suburbs of Tiruchi – more of that later.

So if you plan a trip to Tiruchi this Blog will be useful 

How to reach – where to stay

16232 Mayiladuthurai Express is the only Train from Bangalore to Tiruchi. It covers the ~ 350 KM distance in over 8 hrs reaching Tiruchi Junction at 4 AM. (return timing is more convenient – Dep Tiruchi at 8.30 PM and reaches Bangalore Cant at 5.06 AM) – It has one 2nd AC coach so book in advance.  Tiruchi has 3 Stations – Tiruchi Fort, Tiruchi Junction ( TPJ) and Srirangam – this train stops at the first two stations. We got off at TPJ and reached our hotel KVM Hotels ( WWW.kvmhotels.com) by 5 AM – a 20 min drive. Its a new hotel with good rooms , excellent food and centrally located at Amma Mandapam, Srirangam. A well maintained double occupancy room is Rs 2300/-  inclusive of a sumptuous breakfast. It has 24 hrs check in – check out.  Its a pure veg hotel.

Plan for Day – 1 

After a tasty breakfast we started our day at 9 AM and headed to the Branhmapureeswarar Temple at Tirupattur a 20 min drive. This is an ancient temple ( please note all temples here are 100o years or older) dedicated to Lord Shiva – its unique as it has a sanctum of Lord Brahma in a meditative pose – people come here to change their fate for the good. This is also the temple where you will find the Samadhi of the great Sage Patanjali.

 

If you sit quietly for a few minutes next to this Samadhi you can sense the energy of the place. I am glad that this Samadhi continues to be a secret – that protects the sanctity and energy in this zone. But it is indeed a shame that in todays era of communication – hardly anyone knows of the Samadhi of Patanjali in India.

But there was more to come in this remote corner – a km from this temple is another ancient temple The Kashi Vishwanathan temple – This temple houses the Jivasamadhi of Sri.Vyagrapada,the saint with feet of a tiger. The priest informed me that the idols here are as old as 3500 years and praying here is the equivalent of going to Kashi. (This blog gives more details on this energised temple – http://drlsravi.blogspot.in/2012/05/sri-kasi-viswanatha-temple-at.html)

On the way back we stopped at the Samayapuram Mariamma temple – By now it was 12 noon and we headed back to Tiruchi City to visit my mothers school ( she passed out in 1955 and was visiting Tiruchi after more than 60 years – This is the same school from where defence Minister Niramala Sitaraman passed out many years later) followed by lunch at Sangeeta’s and then we headed back for an afternoon nap.

We set out at 4 PM after tea and headed to another iconic temple – the Jambukesawarar and Akhilandeswari temple at Thiruvanaikaval – a short 1 km from our hotel.

This temple is significant – Its an ancient Shiva temple dedicated to the Water Element. I had Visited Kala Hasti in 1996 (Air) and over the last 20 years had visited Chidambaram (Space) , Thiruvanamalai (Fire) and Kancheepuram ( Earth) – and I was excited to complete the Pancha Bhoota circuit.

The temple is massive and the Shiva Linga has water oozing out from below. The Sanctum Sanctorum is small – do take the Rs 10 ticket that allows you enter the final enclosure. The temple architecture has evolved over 1000’s of year and it is a majestic temple.

A 10 min walk from the Shiva Shrine is the Devi Shrine of Akhilandeshwari – a very powerful goddess . This shrine closes at 5 PM and reopens at 6 PM – and we reached at 5.05 PM – so we had an hr to sit in the quiet space there and meditate ( fortunately the temple was empty with just a few people). After a very satisfying day we headed back to the hotel for dinner and rest.

Plan for Day – 2 

The morning of day 2 was reserved for the grand and impressive Ranganathaswami temple at Srirangam. A masterpiece. It is the largest functioning temple in the world with a perimeter of 4 kms, occupying an area of 156 acres. Its a temple town and there are many Agraharas ( houses and communities) within the temple town.

 

Its spotlessly clean – thanks to the late CM Jayalalitha ( who was the MLA from Srirangam) and the Chairman of TVS Venu Srinivasan who have painstakingly restored and cleaned this temple – some say they cleared 65,000 tonnes of sand , debris etc from inside the temple over a few years. Recently UNESCO awarded the temple for its restoration work.

There are over 70 shrines inside – and it can get as busy as Tirupathi on some days but were were lucky to have it almost empty. The Rs 250 special ticket took us to the main Sanctum devoid of lines and we had an excellent Darshan. There was no pushing and haggling for money , the priest asked us to stay calmly for a great darshan.

I was fortunate – this was the 3rd viewing in 1 month  of  Lord Vishnu Vishnu resting on Shesha in the sleeping position – other recent ones were at Madhya Ranga in Shivanasamudra and at the famous Padmanabhaswami temple in Trivandrum.

Nobody knows how ancient this idol is – some say even Lord Rama came and prayed here – but the temple complex was developed by multiple kingdoms starting with Cholas. A lot of restoration has happened in the last 10 years making it a sight worth visiting.

A ten minute walk leads you to the Devi Shrine – and most people will head back after this. But do make a point to visit the Ramanujar Sannidhi . You will have to ask for this. Its a shrine dedicated to sage Ramanujar and his body is mummified with saffron and Camphor in a meditative pose. A very impressive Sage – he is big and saintly.

On an empty day it took us about 2 hrs to have a nice relaxed visit of this temple post which we headed to the Samadhi of Sadhguru Sri Brahma. Sadhguru of Isha fame talks about his life as Sri Brahma in his previous life. This is a small samadhi next to the highway and you would come here only if you are an Isha Follower.

A 15  minute stop here and we headed to the city to visit a few more locations my parents had frequented 60 years back and then for lunch at Ajanta’s. ( the lunch at Sangeeta was far better)

Driving the bylaws of this ancient city we reached our next stop – the Rockfort Temple , the most iconic temple at Tiruchi. Its a 20 min climb – and fortunately the weather was pleasant at 2 in the afternoon to walk barefoot up this rocky outcrop. Enroute there are a few more temples – but they were closed in the afternoon.

 

This completed our morning circuit and we were back in the room by 2.15 PM.

At 4 PM we headed to an ancient Murugan temple at Vayalur located in a scenic village and were back by 6 PM at our hotel.

Plan for Day – 3

We headed out at 8.30 AM to the Malai Koil or Erumbeeshwarar Temple – again an ancient Shiva temple on a small hillock  with a lot of mythological significance. The Shiva Linga here is made of mud and hence not washed with milk and water.

On the way we stopped back at the Jambukesawarar and Akhilandeswari temple at Thiruvanaikaval where the 12 Noon Puja is famous.  Lunch was at an Iyengar mess run by a Brahmin family – a simple homely affair.

We had the evening free to ourselves – but the other famous sites to visit were far away ( if you have an extra day try and visit these places )

  • Viralimalai – 40 Km , famous for a Murugan temple and a Peacock sanctuary
  • Sri Kokarneshwar temple
  • Sittanavasal

Sittanavasal is a rock-cut  monastery or temple. Created by Jains,  it is called the Arivar Koil, and is a rock cut cave temple of the Arihants . It contains remnants of notable frescoes from the 7th century. The murals have been painted with vegetable and mineral dyes in black, green, yellow, orange, blue, and white. Paintings have been created by applying colours over a thin wet surface of lime plaster. Many evolved saints are said to have meditated here. Sounds beautiful – but its a full day trip. 

I went back to the Samadhi of Patanjali and Vyaghrapadar and was back by 6PM – well in time to pack up , settle our bills have an early dinner ( Note in temple towns Dinner is Tiffin) and head to the Station for our 8.30 PM Train. As we headed back it started drizzling – but the rain gods had been merciful to us.

We had an excellent driver – so reach out to him if you are travelling to Tiruchi , Ramesh – 98434 35991. It make s a lot of difference to have a local with you to navigate the town.

A big thanks to all the people who helped us plan the trip – we would have missed. a lot of things if not for their valuable inputs. We left on Mon night and were back home on Fri morning – 4 nights , 2 in the train and 3 days at Tiruchi – the total trip cost was Rs 25,000 for 3 people inclusive of 2nd AC , 2 Rooms , Car , Food  etc – that is very reasonable considering that in the recent past we spent 30K a night at the Taj Coorg.

Small towns are nice , people are simple , down to earth and trustworthy. Its just the weather – Tiruchi boils in the summer , Nov to Feb is the only time you can expect pleasant weather. the Cauvery that has flown for millions of years is on the verge of drying – the impact of the last 50 years has been severe my mother was able to see the change in her lifetime. Lets just hope that the rivers revive and Sadhguru’s Rally for Rivers is a grand success.

So that completes Tiruchi – we enjoyed it thoroughly, which gets me planning for my next trip to the historical town of Rameswaram.

 

 

 

 

 

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