A Few Good Things

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

A Few Good Things

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 7)

A week in fascinating Jordan

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

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

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

Detailed Notes 

Day – 1 

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

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

Day – 2

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

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

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

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

Day – 3

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

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

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

Day – 4

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

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

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

Day – 5 

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

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

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

Day – 6 

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

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

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

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

Day – 7

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

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

Useful Tips

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

Some more Views

 

 

Discovering Kolavara Heritage and the sights enroute

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

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

First the key discoveries 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We visited two such rare jewels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Distances and Drive times 

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

 

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

 

View of a room at Kolavara

Mandargiri – An ancient Jain Hill temple near Bangalore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are three things to see here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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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. http://www.groverzampa.in

 

Kurunji Estates – Lovely Home stay in Kodaikanal

This blog is not just about the beautiful homestay Kurunji Estates at Kodaikanal but also the power of positive energy in a team. I am a strong believer that if your energy balance is right everything works out well – against all odds. And if your energy system is blocked – then the best of planning doesn’t help.

We had planned our 3rd annual get away at Briar Tea Estate, Meghamalai – a beautiful home stay amidst tea gardens in Theni district. A place so remote and so beautiful its been on my ” Must visit ” list for a long time. Bookings were made months in advance – but a fortnight before when I was checking for directions found that the last 40 km road was totally broken down and would take 3 – 4 hrs. We ended up cancelling this and the kind people refunded us 100% ( against their standard policy) . We then tried a remote log house called Kuteeram at Chickamagalur – but the property owner never sent us a payment link or responded to messages and calls ( I am glad this did not work out as there was a political clash in that area during our travel days) and finally by sheer coincidence we got lucky the 3rd time and booked Kurunji Home Stay at Kodaikanal thru Saffron Stays.

Saffron Stays is a portal that lists excellent Home Stays all over India – the experience of booking and follow through was excellent and very professional (https://www.saffronstays.com).

It was not just the booking – Other things went wrong too . The Sat / Sun / Mon Holiday had to be changed to Fri / Sat / Sun in the last minute , flights got delayed and even a UBER pick up from Bangalore airport was delayed by 30 min – and we finally left Bangalore at 2 PM. Add to this Cyclone Okhi was wreaking havoc on the TN / Trivandrum coast and there were heavy rains and wind lashing in the Kodai hills. It was against this backdrop that we started off for a ~ 500 km journey , driving into the hills at night with an ETA of 11 PM.

But then when you have positive energy in the team – all of these vanish. We were greeted with blue skies and sunny days and a wonderful holiday.

The roads to Kodai are excellent – and even with pouring rain we managed 80 – 90 km/h on the wet stretches and 120+ km/h on the other stretches. Two short stops at 4PM and 8 PM was all we had – but the long journey melts when you have a good vechile (Innova) and more importantly good company. This stretch across Salem – Karur doesn’t have branded eateries on the way and the quality of restrooms are disappointing.

As we drove up the hills at 9.30 PM we saw many a large oak on the ground but fortunately nothing blocked us and as we reached Kodai to pay the entry toll the electricity  came back in the town. Google maps was accurate and we walked into the warm and homely Kurinji estate at 11 PM for a wonderful and tasty meal. This home stay is a large 1930’s Thanjavur Bungalow with 8 rooms . It is maintained by Natarajan and his wife. The property is owned by Advani Orlikon and till recently was a company guest house. It has been opened to guests in 2017.

 

A 9 acre property it is rustic and peaceful. Clean , warm and homely. Hot water , heaters , neat towels , customised food as per your choice , a nice big TV , Carrom …. perfect place to come as a group or with a few families and friends. It is affordable as a double room costs Rs 5000/- + tax and the food is very reasonable.

At ~ 7000 feet Kodai is one of the highest hill stations in India. The drive from the foothills to the top is almost 75 Km and takes 90 min ( this when the roads were empty). Like most Indian Hill Stations there is nothing much to do in Kodai – barring the regular boating , horse riding and a few frequently visited spots. This was my 3rd trip to Kodai and thanks to Cyclone Okhi Kodai was empty and all to ourselves but we stayed away from the touristy spots. (All we did was a walk by the lake)

But we did visit two off beat places

The Kuzhanthai Velappar Temple (A temple of lord Muruga)  has three thousand years of history and was consecrated by his holines Bhogar. Its in a small picturesque village clued Poombarai – 20 km from Kodaikanal.

Bhoganathar or Bhogar was a highly evolved Siddhar and is considered to be the guru of Babaji. (http://palani.org/bhogar-biography.htm). Its a small but highly energised temple – no crowd.  Located in the Palani hills it is considered a sub temple of the main Palani temple. It was again a coincidence that I visited the temple on the Karthikai function

15 km from this temple is a the beautiful Mannavanur grass lands and a pristine lake – the location for many a film shoot. This place is beautiful – fresh air , almost empty and you can soak in pristine nature. The place also has a central govt sheep research centre. Lucky sheep.

Visiting these two places is a day trip – depart Kodai at 9.30 after a heavy breakfast and you are back at 3,30 for tea and snacks – we skipped lunch as the breakfast was heavy. After a tasty snack of Pakodas and Chai – which was perfect in this weather we headed out for a long walk to the Kodai lake and were back by 7 PM to enjoy the warmth of the lovely fireplace.

It was Dec and just after heavy rains – but Kodai was barely 10 Degrees. Not very cold. The effects of Global warming are evident. The same place 20 years back would have been close to Zero.

The next day we left at 10 AM making a few stops to buy some fresh carrots.

A lunch stop at Karur at Shiva Muruga and a short tea break at Adyar Anand Bhawan a few hrs before Bangalore and we were back home at 7.30 PM. A great break and thanks to the divine powers and the positive energy of the team, everything worked out perfectly.

We will keep the tradition going, so 2018 is back to the Himalayas and we have been talking about this place called Narkanda in Himachal – again a beautiful homestay with cherry farms at 9500 feet. And 100 km from there is Sarahan. One of our team mates visits this place every Dec – so he knows that area like the back of his hand. Its tempting and we don’t know if we can wait till Nov 2018 !

Finally a big thanks to Natarajan and family and Saffron Stays for making this trip a successful one.

 

 

 

 

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

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.   

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  :  https://vak1969.com/2017/09/13/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-to-3-30-trips-1-3/
  • Trips 4 & 5 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/17/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-am-to-3-30-pm-trips-4-5/
  • Trips 6 & 7 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/26/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30-pm-trips-678/
  • Trip 8 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/09/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-8/
  • Trip 9 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/10/kolar-avani-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-9/
  • Trip 10 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/15/devrayanadurga-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-10/
  • Trip 12 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/04/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-12/

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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

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)

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   

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  :  https://vak1969.com/2017/09/13/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-to-3-30-trips-1-3/
  • Trips 4 & 5 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/17/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-am-to-3-30-pm-trips-4-5/
  • Trips 6 & 7 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/26/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30-pm-trips-678/
  • Trip 8 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/09/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-8/
  • Trip 9 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/10/kolar-avani-day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-9/
  • Trip 12 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/04/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-12/

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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)

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   

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  :  https://vak1969.com/2017/09/13/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-to-3-30-trips-1-3/
  • Trips 4 & 5 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/17/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-am-to-3-30-pm-trips-4-5/
  • Trips 6 & 7 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/26/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30-pm-trips-678/
  • Trip 8 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/09/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-8/
  • Trip – 12 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/04/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-12/

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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)

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   

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  :  https://vak1969.com/2017/09/13/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-to-3-30-trips-1-3/
  • Trips 4 & 5 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/17/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-am-to-3-30-pm-trips-4-5/
  • Trips 6 & 7 : https://vak1969.com/2017/09/26/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30-pm-trips-678/
  • Trip – 12 : https://vak1969.com/2017/10/04/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30am-3-30pm-trip-12/

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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.

 

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