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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

Mandargiri – An ancient Jain Hill temple near Bangalore

1 Mar

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


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)

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.


Kolkata Shining – Well Done Didi

15 Jan

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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 



Kurunji Estates – Lovely Home stay in Kodaikanal

7 Dec

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 (

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. ( 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.





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.