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Discovering Kolavara Heritage and the sights enroute

5 Mar

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

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

First the key discoveries 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We visited two such rare jewels.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Parting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Distances and Drive times 

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


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


View of a room at Kolavara

Grover Zampa Vineyards : Day Trips in Bangalore 7.30AM – 3.30PM (Trip 15)

25 Jan

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.

This blog shares the itinerary of Trip 15 to Grover Zampa Vineyard at Doddaballapur near Devanahalli.


Trip – 15 : Grover Zampa Vineyards 

Jan – Feb – Mar is grape season – the perfect time to go on a day trip to a Vineyard in Bangalore. India boasts of two Wine growing areas – Bangalore & Nasik. The Grover Zampa Winery in the outskirts of Bangalore near the Devanhalli airport is a nice day trip.

We left Koramangla at 7.30 AM and reached our breakfast stop before 9 AM ( 52 Km). We had been here a year back – its located a few kms after the International Airport.  The Indian Paratha Company is a great place for fresh piping hot Paratha’s, Chai, Lassi and a lot more. Service is excellent and food was delicious – but prices have shot up in the last one year (a plate of Sarson ki Saag and Makkai ki roti is now Rs 325). On a weekday the place was almost empty.

The Grover Zampa Vineyard is only 17 Km from here – take a U Turn and after a few km take the right turn on the Doddaballapur main road and in less than 30 min you will reach the Grover Zampa Vineyard processing centre. This place has a vistor centre , the processing and bottling plants , and an outlet store.

The tour starts at 10.30 AM and ends by 12.30. The guide takes you to the different sections and covers in detail all the steps of making all the varieties of Wine. You then head to the Wine tasting cellar where you are again educated on how to sample and enjoy Wine. You get to sample 5 different varieties of Wine.

You can taste a few drops or you can get Tipsy with a glass full – its your choice. But clearly the Wine lovers love this part of the trip.  

We were fascinated with the storage Drums – which can be made to stools and table tops – and yes you can buy them in May – June when the crushing season is over since they change the drums once every two years.

From here we headed to the Vinery – 1 Km away  – a well maintained large Vineyard with an eye for detail to ensure that only the best quality grapes are grown.

We were back for lunch at the main centre. We had booked for Grape stomping ( Min 10 people) – this is not like what it looks in the movies – the scale is smaller – but there is music playing , lovely weather and the Wine from the tasting session gets you in the mood to sway while crushing the grapes – fortunately this does not go back to the wine making drums.

Lunch is a simple affair – Soup , Veg Pulao , Raita and Gulab Jamun. We were lucky we had a heavy breakfast – they could have done better with the lunch. A quick stopover at the store to get some discounted Wine and we headed back at 2 PM reaching home by 3.45 PM.

The package costs you Rs 1590/ person  inclusive of tax – the stomping is Rs 500 – its unique but expensive , 10 minutes of stomping for a group of 10 can put you back by Rs 5000/-.

There is a premium for the uniqueness of this trip – weekdays are not crowded but weekends tend to be very busy during the season. Weekend rates are also higher. Children are allowed. A final footnote – Don’t compare this with Vineyard tours of Sonoma Napa – those are on a totally different scale

If you want to book a trip contact Vipin – 9513338752 , 9901636346.


The Sound of Silence – My 2nd Vipassana experience

14 Jan

Its 4.30 AM on a cold winter day in January and I am  sitting in a pitch dark small 10 sft cell in the confines of a beautiful Pagoda. And its pin drop silence – but wait you can hear something , after a few minutes of meditation as your mind calms down  you can actually hear the Sound of Silence. And as you try to observe this beautiful sound with equanimity you hear two more sounds – the soft sound of breath and the rumbling sound of your stomach.

I never felt hungry during my Ten Days program but the stomach grumbled everyday – well it had reason to do so. My last meal was at 11 AM the previous day and post that all I had had was a cup of lemon juice at 5 PM. Thats a gap of 19.5 hrs between two solid food meals. Thats the world of Vipassna – 10 days of Noble Silence, 10.5 hrs of meditation every day starting at 4.30, a light breakfast at 6.30 AM , healthy lunch at 11 AM and a cup of lemon juice or tea at 5 PM.

To know more about Vipassna – read my blog from last year –

This time I was at the Dhamma Khetta Hyderabad – a serene and beautiful Vipassana centre in the outskirts of Hyderabad , the 1st centre set up Goenkaji in 1976 a few months before Igatpuri.

The second experience was easier, a lot more easier. Most of the piled up defilements had cleared up last year and I had led a stress free relaxed life since then. The first few days I felt I was in a resort with a nice room , timely meals and total peace – all of this FREE. The weather was excellent. Everything was perfect. And barring a few storms that came up and helped clear some long pending blocks Vipassana 2 was a song compared to Vipassana 1.

It was also a little repetitive – and the instructions are so detailed that and old meditator may find it an overdose especially when its repeated in English , Hindi and Telugu. But then you have no choice as the program attracts people from all backgrounds and the instructions have to be crystal clear. It was also a little disappointing to see the over harping and sarcasm on rites and rituals that goes on and on over the ten days. But given the benefits you can ignore that. Will I go back – yes I will but maybe for the 3 day or 5 day programs in one language. I don’t think I will be able to manage the repetition of the 10 day program again.

So what makes people go again and again ? The idea is learn the technique and go deeper and deeper and clean up layer after layer of embedded defilements in the mind – not just of this birth but also of the previous births. Its a dry, arduous technique and tests your patience and tenacity. But it does help – I have observed significant changes over the years – especially in Anger management and the ability manage the ups and downs in life with equanimity. And the 10 day program acts like a great detox and helped me lose ~ 4 kgs

But I am just a beginner – a good example of how Vipassana transforms you is my good friend and his family. They are a family of Vipassana practitioners and their house has so much peace and tranquility it feels like an energised temple. This person exudes warmth, compassion and happiness. He is like a conductor of pure joy. He always has a smile and a kind word to people most of us will ignore – From the security guard  to the toll boy in a busy highway , the servers in a restaurant, he even greets and wishes the CISF guard who pats you down in the airport security. He is a conductor of Joy. He is loved by one and all. And it flows from the infinite spring of joy and peace that is deep inside him. Brimming with compassion and happiness. I have seen him face with equanimity the challenges of life. He is a role model to me and he attributes all of this to his many years of Vipassana practise.

So the question arise who should go ? I guess everybody should experience one Vipassana session and see if the technique works for them. Its logical and it works. I have also interacted with people who are at the other end of the spectrum from my friend. People who are conductors of misery. They give a tough time to the people around them. And this comes from the fact that they are full of misery inside. Throttled up tension , ego , sadness, frustration , all tangled up in a complex maze. Vipassana can help you untangle these knots.

As Goenka Ji explains in one of his Dhamma talks – the Sugarcane is full of sweetness , every fibre is saturated with sweetness so people like my friend are like a Sugarcane. And then there are others who are like a Neem tree – who are full of bitterness. Be rest assured – the teacher who was nasty in school , the dominating boss who made your life miserable, a murderer , a rapist –  are all people who are full of misery within , because what comes out is what is within.

I strongly believe that deep down everyone is a small pure innocent child – the situations in life make you full of bitterness and a conductor of misery. These people definitely need to go for a Vipassana session and clear up their defilements and bring that pure child back to life. They will find deep peace and help transform themselves as better human beings

Life is all about getting the Blessings of others, when you show compassion and help people the Blessings flow to you. On the contrary when you purposely make lives of others miserable you miss out on the good will and Blessings of people. Accumulating Blessings and Positive Karma is probably the biggest asset you can build in this life – which is nothing but one step in the multiple lives we will have to purify ourselves in the search of eternal truth.

Cell Inside the Pagoda 



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.   


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 ( 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 –

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   


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.