Attukal Pongala – one of the largest women gatherings in world

It was in 2016 when I witnessed Attukal Pongala for the first time and didn’t know the importance of this mega-event at that time! In 2017 I couldn’t attend it as I was away and this year, I made a point to not miss this festival. But why? Coz this ritual had made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest religious gathering of women on a single day in 2009. The festival falls on Karthika star of the Malayalam month of Makaram or Kumbham, which usually falls in February of March, and is celebrated for 10 days. The Attukal Pongala takes place on the 9th day when women offer Pongala – a sweet dish to the Goddess.

According to a legend, the Attukal Pongala festival commemorates the hospitality accorded by women in the locality to Kannaki, the divine incarnation of the heroine of the Tamil epic ‘Silappadhikaram’ while she was on her way to Kodungalur in central Kerala after destroying Madurai city to avenge the injustice to her husband Kovilan. It is said that she stopped at Attukal for a day’s rest where the local women offered her rice and jaggery for lunch. The temple, located in the heart of the city, is dedicated to Attukal Bhagavathy, believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki.

The Attukal Pongala fell on 02nd of March this year. One week before the commencement of this Annual festival, streets of the capital city of Kerala were lined-up with make-shift shacks selling mud pots, bricks, wooden ladles, the loud-speakers of all temples came alive, and many miniature shrines were erected at almost all the junctions. People from all parts of Kerala arrived into Thiruvananthapuram days in advance to secure a hearth close to the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple and mark their spaces to have their make-shift brick stoves on which they would prepare ‘Pongala’.

It was 05.00 hrs in the morning on 02.03.2018 and I started stirring up in my bed when the women downstairs started making their preparations. Almost all the men will be hooked up to their homes while the women would be on streets in their new golden bordered Kerala Kasavu sarees. When I stepped out of my home, a long row of brick-stoves with mud-pots and bronze vessels neatly placed on top of them caught my eye. After making my visit to the nearest Goddess temple, I made my way to my office by-passing the many women devotes who are waiting patiently on either sides of the road braving the hot sun.

I could see some of our staff along with other women ready with their hearths near to the Ganesha temple. All were busy with washing rice, grating jaggery and crushing cardamom while the temple authorities were keeping a check on their wristwatches and waiting earnestly for the auspicious time. The rituals actually begin when the chief priest lights up the main hearth of Attukal Bhagavathy temple with fire brought from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Finally at around 10.15 hrs, the chief priest of the Ganesha temple lit the temple’s hearth and the fire has been passed on to the other hearths by the burning fronds.

The women were into immediate action. Soon the roads were covered with the smoke from the brick-stoves, women turned into a shade of pink due to the hot sun, heat emanating from their stoves and coughs stirred up. I myself found to have a running nose and eyes because of the smoke. Though the sun was blazing like hot molten lava, it couldn’t break the determination of these women devotes. As if pleased by their devotion, the sky was filled with clouds and a cool breeze started to flow. Breaking away from the temple road, I walked towards the junction.

Here too, the situation is more or less the same – women were cooking, volunteers were helping, police personnel were overlooking the activities. Few women started ululating when the contents of their pots were overflowing and praying silently. When asked a lady she went onto say that when the contents in the pot boil over, it marks prosperity and they ululate to thank the Goddess for that. Most of them started to rest after preparing Pongala, which is rice cooked with jaggery and coconut while few others went onto prepare few more delicacies like the Manda Puttu – a green gram delight, Therali Appam – a dish that is steamed in aromatic bay leaves and Aravana.

It’s time for them to go home. It was 14.00 hrs and I could still see the anticipation in everyone’s eyes as the time for the final ritual for the day was approaching. It’s the Nivedhyam (offering ceremony). When the signal came at 14.20 hrs, the chief priest sprayed some holy water over the temple’s utensil containing the Pongala and thereby making it into a holy offering which would be distributed later to the devotes. Later, he went onto spray the holy water over all the pots of the devotes marking the end of the ritual. I too took my share of ‘prashad’(holy offering) before I left to my home 🙂


Ahobilam – The Adventurous Pilgrimage



There is a pathway onto the left side of the Ahobila Narasimha Swami temple which leads us to the Jwala Narasimha Swami temple on the top of the hill. After ascending a few steps we saw a waterfall, though it doesn’t have much water, I can imagine the flow in it during the monsoons. The waterfall is formed by the River Bhavanaashini which carves its’ way through the jungles. Watch out your steps while walking on the wooden bridge over the waterfall that leads to the trek path, as the bridge was partially broken and a leg can go through those patches!


The path is covered with dense foliage and many trees all the way. Adding to this was the Vanara Sena (the monkey population). This place is full of monkeys and be careful if you are carrying water bottles, food items and your cameras with you. One careless moment, they can snatch anything from you! After a short while, we came across the Varaha (Krodha) Narasimha Swamy temple, which is on a raised platform, but the idol of the God here, which is also a self manifest is in a small cave. The idol here faces upwards towards his left and the Goddess Lakshmi sits on his left shoulder holding one of his tusks. After a small prayer, we left the temple.


There are two ways from here. One is through the sideways of the valley, while the other is through a safer side. We preferred the later. The later is comprised of steps through some distance and then a rugged path and again few steps and so on. The real trek starts from here as the steps are steep and we were getting tired. We stopped here and there, but we kept on moving. After a hike of 2 kms, we stopped at the ‘Malola Narasimha Swami temple’. The deity in this temple appears in a graceful form. As the Lord Narasimha is seen with his consort, goddess Lakshmi, he is known as Malola Narasimha Swami. The word ‘Malola’ means beloved to Lakshmi (Ma-Lakshmi, Lola-beloved). This place is also known as Markonda Lakshmi Kshetra.


There is a path besides this temple which leads us to other interesting place called the ‘Prahalladuni Badi’ (Prahalada’s school) and his cave. It is believed that Prahalada had his schooling here. One can see transcendental letters all over the rocks and these are believed to be etched by Prahalada. We were back on way to continue our forward journey. From the Malola Narasimha Swami temple, we got to see the beauty of those hills covered with the thick blanket of trees. After clicking few photographs, we started walking again. The terrain is getting more rugged. We chose the path through the valley-side from here as we heard that this is like more adventurous and more scenic. Truly, it is!


The path which we chose is less frequented. There is another way which leads to the Jwala Narasimha Swami temple and most of the pilgrims chose this. The best part is there are sticks available here for the pilgrims for supporting their walk and we can choose one, and for the elderly there are the palanquins made of cloth or wood that will be carried by few people for some money. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that trip is truly a miracle for me and besides we running short of time and without having proper food for a long time, we didn’t run out of our energies. Secondly, we forgot to carry water bottles with us and though we started feeling thirsty at the beginning, this thirst never hindered our foot-steps towards the Lord 🙂 🙂

aho viryam aho shauryam aho bahuparakramah
narasimham param daivam ahobilam aho balam 

Ahobilam – The Nava Narasimha Kshetra

06.00 hrs – I woke up when my alarm buzzed while my brother and Bilal were still sleeping. I started to get ready and in the meanwhile, they too got up and while Bilal was busy in checking how to reach Ahobilam and all, my brother went for a jog as his physical test for the Police selection was around the corner! We got ready quickly and left for Proddatur’s old Bus station from where we should get a bus to Allagadda and before doing that my brother insisted us to have our breakfast and we did so. We got into the bus and the distance to be covered is around 60 kms. We reached Allagadda around 10.30 hrs. From there, we took another bus which would be leaving to Ahobilam, located in Kurnool district and only then did we come to know that there are two places called the Diguva Ahobilam (Lower Ahobilam) and Eguva Ahobilam (Upper Ahobilam).

The bus-conductor gave us tickets till Upper Ahobilam. It was around 11.20 hrs we were at the Lower Ahobilam. Ahobilam is the place where there are nine different self-manifest (swayambu) deities of Lord Narasimha amidst the Nallamala hills. The sacred ranges of Nallamala hills are believed to be personified Adisesha whose head is Tirumala, middle portion Ahobilam and tail portion is Srisailam.

The nine manifestations are:

  1. Jwaala Narasimha
  2. Ahobila Narasimha
  3. Malola Narasimha
  4. Kroda Narasimha
  5. Karanja Narasimha
  6. Bhargava Narasimha
  7. Yogananda Narasimha
  8. Kshatravata Narasimha
  9. Paavana Narasimha

Aho-bilam literally means “wonderful cave” referring to the caves in which some of the nine self-manifest deities reside. The Puranas indicate that the Devas (Gods) saw the manifestation of Lord Vishnu as half-lion and half-man and shouted as Ahobala (great strength) as well as Ahobila (a huge cave where the current sanctum is present). It is the place where Lord Vishnu appeared from the Stone Pillar or Ugra Stambha to slay Hiranyakashipu and hence this place is called Ahobilam. According to another Purana, Garuda performed intense penance to have vision of Lord Vishnu and realized him here. And hence these hills are also known as Garudadri.

Our bus stopped just in front of the temple complex of Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swami at Lower Ahobilam. The temple complex was serene and if we have enough time we would be visiting the temple on our way back. The bus soon came to life again and started ascending the hill. The snake-like road is carved in middle of the hills and the lush green trees all along the way makes the journey a pleasant one. Within no time, our bus reached Upper Ahobilam and we got down there. We searched for a cloak room to keep our luggage, but couldn’t find one. But there are few accommodations where the pilgrims can stay and we requested the manager over there to allow us to keep our luggage there.  Once freed from the luggage, we walked to find a route-map and there it was, giving each and every detail. In the meanwhile a guide approached us, but he asked us way too much and we dropped the plan of hiring a guide!


We started climbing up the hill. Initially there were a few concrete steps and it took us around 10 minutes to climb those. We reached the first temple situated in the Upper Ahobilam. This is the Ahobila Narasimha swami temple where the lord appears in his fierce aspect, called Ugra Narasimha. The temple is the main temple and earliest of all the nine temples in Ahobilam. The architecture is pretty much like the other South Indian temples but as told earlier this was a cave temple and the deity here is a Swayambu (self-manifestation). Just infront of this temple complex there is a mandapa, from where one can get the a nice panoramic view of the hills surrounding this temple. While Bilal stayed back, I went inside and took the blessings of the Lord!


The Holy Abode – Veerabhadra temple


While I was in the bus, I got to speak with the locals travelling along with me and when they heard me saying that I was here to see the Nandi, they asked me to visit the 16th century Veerabhadara (Lord Shiva) temple also.


I walked back to the temple, one among the three famous shrines of Lepakshi which is just 10 minutes walk from the Nandi. There are few interesting legends associated with this temple. It is believed that this temple has been built on the spot where Jatayu (the bird God) fell after being injured by Ravana who was kidnapping Sita. When Rama reached the spot, he saw Jatayu and remarked, ‘Le Pakshi’ which translates to ‘rise, bird’ in Telugu and hence the name Lepakshi for this town 🙂


The temple is built on a low, rocky hill called Kumarasilam (Translation – Tortoise hill) and dates back to 1583 and was built by two brothers, Viranna and Virupanna, who were the royal treasurers of the Vijayanagar kings. The temple is built in the Vijayanagar architectural style and has beautiful sculptures adoring the walls. There is also a belief that the original temple has been constructed by Saint Agastya himself.After climbing some 30 or 40 steps, I reached the Dwajastamba and I entered the temple from the left side.


The temple’s main deity is Lord Veerabhadra, the fiery god created by Shiva from his hairs in his rage after the immolation of Sati Devi during the Daksha Yagna. There are also other manifestations of Lord Shiva like the Kanakala Murthi, Dakshinamurthi (Guru of Gurus), Tripuranthaka or Tripurasurasamhara (vanquisher of demon Tripurasura), Ardhanareeshwara (the half-female, half-male form, where Shiva and Parvati are equally represented in one body). This temple also has the fiery goddess Bhadrakali. After the darshan, I walked around the Garbagriha and I noticed what made this temple stand apart!


Those are the finest specimens of mural paintings of the Vijayanagar kings. It is said that the 24 ft by 14 ft fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling, before the main sanctum sanctorum is the largest in India. They are beautiful and the attention paid to their details is amazing. The colors are strikingly contrasted – black limework against an orange-red background with some green, white, black, and shades of ochre-gold and brown make for a stunning visual spectacle. It is said that most of those were natural dyes or pigments and the paintings depicts the scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Most of these paintings are now fading and are peeling off in many places. I think it’s time for the government to act for their better maintenance and expert restoration!


Another important feature of this temple is the famous “Hanging Pillar”. This pillar doesn’t fully rest on the ground and to prove that, the guides over here executes a newspaper test and pass the newspaper from one end of the base to the other! There are about 70 pillars in this temple, but this one is the best known and is a tribute to the engineering genius of ancient and medieval India’s temple builders. However, it is a bit dislodged from its original position — it is said that during the British era, a British engineer tried to move it in an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the secret of its support.


I entered the outer enclosure of the temple where there is a huge Ganesha in stone, leaning against a rock as well as a massive Naga (the Snake God) with three coils and seven hoods, which shelters the Shiva Linga. The temple is divided into three parts, the ‘Mukha Mandapa’, the ‘Artha Mandapa’ and ‘Garba Griha’ and the ‘Kalyana Mandapa’ with 38 carved monolithic pillars. Legend also has it that Lord Shiva and Parvati were married on the spot where Kalyana Mandapa now stands (the most photographed place in the recent times).


There is also another legend attached to this temple. It is said that Virupanna, the royal treasurer, was accused of drawing funds without the king’s permission from the state treasury to build these shrines and is supposed to have blinded himself. And there are two red stain marks on the western wall of the inner enclosure and these are believed to be the marks left by his bleeding eyes. But I couldn’t find them :(. Might be next time! Time to go, as it’s getting dark and I have to reach Anantapur town!

At the feet of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba..


03.45 hrs – Our bus reached one of the famous shrines in India, Shirdi. Many a people from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat visit this shrine every year to offer their prayers and my mom so wanted us to visit this temple from a long time. Though this was not a part of my plan at first, Mythri told me that we can visit the temple and I readily agreed. I don’t know how it happened, but everything came to us  like a miracle. Firstly, we didn’t know that we will make it to this sacred place. Secondly, the bus reached so early leaving us with a chance to attend the aarti and thirdly, it so happened that today i.e. 14.11.2016 is a full moon day of the ‘Karthika’ month, which is considered to be one of the most auspicious months according to the Hindu tradition.

03.50 hrs – We started looking for an auto-rickshaw to our resort and one needs to bargain hard with these auto-walas, otherwise you will be on the verge of getting looted. Though we bargained hard, as it was the wee hours and there were not many autos around, we paid him a hundred rupees to drop us at our resort and asked him to wait for few minutes so that we can reach the temple in the same auto and thank God, he agreed.

04.05 hrs – Checked-in to the hotel and quickly refreshed ourselves and made a move. The whole idea is to attend the aarti. Aarti is an ancient yet living ritual that takes place every day across India. We left our mobiles back in our rooms as mobiles were not allowed inside the temple complex. Though there were cloak rooms there to safe keep our belongings, we don’t wanted to waste our time there. 04.30 hrs – Started back to the temple and it was so cool early morning. When the driver dropped us at the entrance of the temple, we started running so that we could be among the first people who can get a chance to see the aarti. But we were late by few minutes and we had to stop in the ground floor and watch the aarti in the LCDs that were arranged there 😦

Aarti (aa meas ‘complete’ and rati means ‘love’) is part of a Hindu puja or act of religious worship and is always performed facing the deity. Integral to any aarti puja is the circulation of the lamp around the deity, which acquires the deity’s power. The priest then offers the lamp to the devotees, passing on the deity’s blessing. In the temples of South India, the lamp may use camphor or oil, and it is then presented to the devotees, who hold their hands over the flame and touch their hands to their eyes. The simple gesture signifies a desire for spiritual insight: “May my eyes be opened up to the knowledge of the unity of life.” And the temple icons are often wrapped in silk fabric and beautified with ornaments – these offerings are another way of enhancing the relationship with the Divine, and is part of the ritual of temple worship.

The aarti is performed at Shri Sai Baba’s Mandir, which is the place where his body is resting in Samadhi. We moved towards the deity when once the aarti was completed and we had a good darshan (sighting) of the Lord Shri Shirdi Sai Baba. The Samadhi (resting place) is constructed of marble stones and the railings around it are of ornamental decorations. The unique feature of this temple is that it is visited both by Muslims and the Hindus equally and the Muslims offer Chaddars (Shawls) to drape the Samadhi. The idol present here is made up of Italian marble and is life size.

Shirdi Sai Baba is a guru of the Nath tradition, a tradition formulated by Lord Dattatreya based on the instructions of Lord Krishna. The text Sripada Srivallabha Charithamrutham mentions the saint Sripada, incarnation of Lord Dattatreya, calling upon Hanumanji to take birth as Shirdi Sai Baba. The distinct feature of the Navanath tradition is the absence of formal procedures or teachings; everything happens in the presence of the guru. Proximity to the guru is paramount; by just being present in his energy field, one gets cleansed and liberated.

Considered to be one of the greatest gurus, it is told that Shirdi Sai Baba often asked for the two coins of shraddha (devotion) and saboori (patience) from those who came to him. The path may sound simple but it is difficult in practice – since even a speck of ego or doership is unacceptable. Had our darshan and gone around the temple complex to see the other important features of it. Dwarakamai, which was an old mosque and Lord Sai turned it into Dwarakamai is situated on the right side of the entrance and has two levels. The importance of this is that it hosts all the things once used by Shri Sai Baba and the legend is that this is the very place where Sai has proved that God is one – Sabka Malik Ek Hai!

They gave prasad (sugar coated boondi) and we were out of the temple by 06.00 hrs 🙂 . For me, this trip would always remain a miracle, as everything was so hassle-free and smooth 🙂 🙂

Aagayi Mein Khandala ;-)

Aey, Kya Bolti Tu
Aey, Kya Mein Bolun
Aati Kya Khandala
Kya,Karoon, Aake Mein Khandala,
Arey Ghoomenge Phirenge Nachenge Gaaenge
Aish Karenge Aur Kya

While the perfectionist of Bollywood Amir Khan asked Rani Mukherjee for an outing to Khandala, the Versatile actor of Bollywood Farhan Akhtar too the most beautiful Deepika to Khandala for a coffee! Not only Bollywood, but also the young super star of Tollywood (the Telugu film industry) Mahesh Babu chose the very same Khandala as home in his debut film! What else could be a more better introduction? Isn’t it? 🙂 🙂



Lonavla and Khandala are two sister hill stations in Maharashtra (7-8 km apart), at an elevation of 653 km from sea level. Located at the top end of Bhor Ghat, Khandala is at the heart of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and a favorite weekend gateway. And if you remember, we just had a quick view of Lonavala and here we are at Khandala. The best viewpoints are Tiger’s Leap and Amrutanjan Point. And our first choice is the Tiger’s Leap. While some told that, that was the Tiger’s Leap, some called it the Monkey point. Whatever it might be, we are there and the salubrious air was soothing.


One can get a beautiful panoramic view of Lonavala and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway cutting those mountains. The view is breath-taking. A quick photographic session and we moved towards the Waghjai Devi temple, a temple dedicated to the goddess Waghjai. The idol of the goddess is quite different from the other shrines which I had visited so far and it is said that the Navratri festival will be celebrated here with much pomp 🙂 We sat there in the temple for a few minutes and started walking towards the back of it.


There were few youngsters walking in front of us and we followed them. There we were, at the edge of the cliff with a valley infront of us and this is also the place where I saw the people’s obsession with selfies. All of a sudden, a youngster jumped on to a tree which is right there at the edge and was trying to get a selfie. He was absolutely careless about his own life and more careful of getting a perfect selfie! How ridiculous!! It’s totally alright to take selfies, but not at the cost of one’s own life. Isn’t it?


After all this, we were starving. Remember, we just had only a vada-pav from the time we stepped in Lonavala. And luckily, there is a small restaurant and it was buzzing with people all around ordering for food and tea. We asked for some paneer pakoda, jeera rice and dahi (curd). A chilly evening and pakoda – what a combo! 😉 🙂 Time to leave these beautiful hill-stations back. Our auto-wala dropped us at the Lonavala railway station from where we would be catching a train to Pune.


17.00 hrs – Again, the demonetization effect, we preferred a second-class ticket for an express train so that we can save a few rupees which we can use for our onward journey. With the tickets in our hand, we are ready to get into whichever train comes next to Pune 🙂

Seeking Divinity.. Being Secular..


The plan is to wake up at 5.30 hrs and start at 06.30 hrs, but as usual we were late 😦 It was only at 06.30 hrs we were up and only at 07.30 hrs we started. We decided to visit the Siddhi Vinayak Temple which is quite famous as almost all the rich and famous, poor and needy, actors, politicians equally visit this temple. The only hope was that it won’t be too much crowded as it is a weekend!


08.00 hrs – We are here! The temple has a tight security system and didn’t allow me to carry my camera and asked me to deposit it in a locker. Careful with these locker people, as they won’t care about the stuff. After depositing the camera, we made a move toward the inner sanctum to seek the blessings of one of the most powerful deities according to the Hindu tradition. As hoped, there wasn’t a big crowd, but it was decent. We stood in the queue and it took us around 10 mins to reach the main deity Lord Ganesha 🙂 . The central idol in the temple is of Lord Ganesha and the inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold. There is also Lord Hanuman in the temple complex.


08.30 hrs – Breakfast time! For a change, we wanted to have our breakfast at one of the carts on the pavement. While Ryan ordered for a Masala Dosa, Mythri opted for Idli and I chose Misal Pav 🙂 .Misal Pav is one of the traditional Maharashtrian dish and also a popular Mumbai street food! This dish is almost same as that of Pav Bhaji, except that Misal is a thick spicy gravy made with mixed sprouts or moth beans. It is said to have different variants like the Puneri Misal, Kolhapuri Misal, Nagpur Misal etc. My Misal is garnished with mix farsan and served hot. The food here tasted as good as that of a good restaurant. The idlis were served hot and the masala dosa ordered by Ryan is soft, crisp and yum 🙂

09.00 hrs – Time for some juice too! We quickly had our juices from a outlet just beside the Ganesh temple and looked out for a Kaala Billi to continue our religious quest. It was in this car, an interesting thing unfolded. While we told our driver to drop us at the famous Haji Ali Dargah, the guy who is a muslim asked us whether we have visited the Mahalakshmi temple and we told him that we will do that after we are done with the Dargah. And further he was like how come you are visiting the dargah first and the temple next? Do visit the temple first as she is your deity and then visit the dargah. A perfect scenario of religious tolerance. Where else other than India can this be found?


09.20 hrs – We were dropped at the famous Mahalakshmi temple on the Bhulabhai Desai Road. History says that the temple was built around 1831 and the main goddesses in the temple are the Goddesses Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and MahaSaraswati. There weren’t so many people and we had a quick darshan and headed towards the backside of the temple from where we can watch the Arabian sea as well as the Haji Ali Shah Dargah. On our way back to the road, we also visited a small old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the smaller Mahalakshmi temple.


09.45 hrs – We started walking towards the Dargah as it is located just beside the temple. The mosque seems to be floating in the sea and is visited by people of all religions alike. What makes this a unique landmark in Mumbai is the pathway leading to the dargah from the main road and it is said that during the full moon and new moon days when the sea would be rough, this pathway would be covered by the sea water and it almost looks like the Dargah is inaccessible. History says that the Dargah was built in 1431 AD. Haji Ali Dargah has the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and also a Masjid (Mosque).


There were lots of stalls selling the chaddars (shawls), flowers and food along the pathway and lot of photographers who could give an instant Polaroid photograph of yours with the dargah near the dargah. As we entered the complex, while Ryan and I were permitted to visit the tomb, Mythri was stopped as she was wearing a sleeveless frock! The person sitting there handed over her two shawls to cover her head and legs and I too was given one to cover my head 🙂 .


The Haji Ali Dargah is made of marble and the architecture of this monument reflects the styles and patterns of Mughal and Indo-Islamic architecture. It is said to occupy 4,500 sq. meters space and is 85 feet tall. A marble courtyard with the central shrine, and the main mosque brocaded with a red and green sheet welcomes us! Artistic marble pillars, mirror work with kaleidoscopic patterns and minarets sentinel the shrine in the center, making the monument a grand sight for all. We prayed for a while and made a move out of it to continue our quest 🙂

Shravanabelagola – Monk of the White Pond


Time to go back. We decided to try a few water sports at the Yaguchi water sports complex on our way back. To be frank, we doesn’t want to try any, but as we spent some good amount on the package we thought that we shouldn’t miss any part of the package 😉 . We reached there in about 20 mins from Chikmaglur and the path leading to the water sports complex is beautiful. To be frank, we were not at all excited by the sight of the water sports complex. To begin with, it is not a complex at all, there is a ticket counter and few jet-ski scooters and banana boats and nothing more. I wouldn’t suggest this to anyone. We just went around the dam and left for Shravanabelagola.


Shravanabelagola can be reached from Channarayapatna and it was about 15 kms from the main highway. Shravanabelagola is nestled in between two holy hills Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri and the Gomateswara temple is located on the top of the hill Vindhyagiri. Shravanabelagola, a home to 2300 years of Jain heritage is surrounded with the lush green coconut grooves and serene natural water bodies which bear the testimony to the legendary mental strength of Tyaga (renunciation) and the tender message of Ahimsa (non-violence) that embody the Jain way of life. We reached Shravanabelagola at around 4.30 pm and realized that we got a tough task ahead of us.


The Jain Shrine is on top of a hill and one has to climb about 6oo steps to reach the temple. We deposited our footwear at the counter near the foot of the hill and started climbing on. One important thing here is that there are also human-carried-chairs in which the old people and people who can’t climb the steps can be carried to the top by paying some amount to the porters. We came across few such 🙂 It took us around 30 mins to reach the hill-top and there is a temple just after reaching the top, we reserved it towards the end and started walking towards the main temple. It took us another 15 mins to reach the main shrine.


Gommata devam vandhami panchasayamdanuha  deham ucchatham

devakunanthi utti kesara kusumattassa uvarammi

(Oh, Gommata Deva! Tall and proportionate in height, saffron in color and beautiful in complexion, fulfilling five sacred ceremonies, I salute you)

Finally, there stood the 17.5  m (57 feet) high monolithic statue of the Jain Deity Gomatheshwara (Bahubali) just infront of us when we entered the main temple. This statue is also considered to be the world’s largest monolithic statue. History tells us that the statue of Gomateshwara or Lord Bahubali was built by Chavundaraya, a general in the service of Ganga king Rachamalla. Carved by the great sculptor Aristenemi from the huge rock at the peak of Vindyagiri hill in Shravanabelagola, the statue was completed around 981 AD.


The temple was quite small with the main statues standing in the middle and small space in front of it for the pilgrims to sit and perform puja or bhajans and there are few more small temples around it which hosts all the 24 thirthankaras of the Jain religion. We had a round around the temple and went near to the feet of the statue where stood a Pundit giving the prasad and blessings.Another small statue is placed in between the feet of the monolith and lots of pujas were being done to it.


One important thing is that there takes place a ritual called “Mahamasthabisheka” or the Head Anointing ceremony here every 12 years as wished by Kalaladevi, mother of Chavundaraya . Large number of people come here to take part in the ritual. The next one is going to be in 2018 and will definitely try to attend this if possible 🙂 We started walking back to the temple at the entrance and on the way we found few inscriptions on the stones and hill which are preserved by the ASI. We went into the main temple which is situated on a raised platform and took a round around it and one can get a good view of the town from here. We were also able to see the Chandragiri hill and a temple situated on top of it. Alas, we don’t have that much of time to visit it 😦


We can get a glimpse of the Kalyani (temple pond) while descending down the steps and also the temple on the other hill. We resumed our journey back to Bangalore at 5.40 and 9.30 PM, am enjoying a good meal at my aunt’s home 🙂

I don’t call it an end to my trip as there are few more places around Chikmaglur which needs to be explored and also planning to attend the coming Mahamastabhisheka 🙂 😉

The Splendid beauty of BELUR


We started off to our next destination “Belur” which is located at a distance of about 22 km from Halebidu at 3.30 PM. We stopped at the Angels Multi-Cuisine Restaurant, to be frank it’s a Bar-cum-Restaurant, but one can only see the board – Restaurant. It was 4 PM when we entered the restaurant and we ordered our food. Food is a sort of ok, but the service was very slow. I would recommend this one 🙂 🙂


After a good meal, we resumed our journey and reached Belur which was built by King Vishnuvardhana commemorating his victory over the Cholas at Talakad in 1117 AD. Located on the banks of the river Yagachi, Belur, earlier referred to as Velapuri was the early capital of the Hoyasala Empire.  We walked towards the Raja Gopura (main entrance) and entered the temple complex. The Chennakesava temple or the main temple is situated in middle of the complex facing the east. The temple almost resembles the Hoyasala temple in Halebidu, though it is not overly decorated like the latter. This 500 year old temple which took 103 years for completing its construction is made of soapstone and is made of interlocking components giving it a structural integrity.


This temple has three entrances with doorkeepers carved on both sides and is pretty dark inside. While the Hoyasala temple at Halebidu doesn’t have much of inner architecture, the Chennakesava (a form of Krishna) temple at Belur is famous for its inner architecture. It is said that the temples were built by the famous sculptor Amarashilpi Jakkanna. There are multiple intricately sculpted pillars supporting the roof and each of the statues on those pillars is different from each other. While one is said to Mohini, the other statue is that of a lady holding a parrot while the other pillar is called the Narasimha pillar. But what attracted me the most is the finely carved ceiling in the main temple hall infront of the sanctum where the Lord Chennakesava is seated.


The Belur temple is famous for its large size splendid carvings of various Gods and Goddesses on its outer walls. A temple dedicated to Saumyanayaki, which has a Garbhagriha, surmounted by a tower is located to the south-west of the main temple and the Veera Narayana temple raised on an elevated basement is to the west and this temple has beautiful sculptures on its outer walls.


The temple which is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List has a Kalyani (Tank) in the north east corner of the complex. This tank is also known as Vasudeva Sarovara and the periodical temple rituals are carried out in this tank. The temple complex also has a well, whose water is used for various activities in the temple and a gravity pillar showing the scientific skills of our earlier days. The annual Ratha Yatra at the temple takes place between the months of March and April.


We also visited the Panduranga temple on our way to Chikmaglur and it was another 30 min drive from Belur to Chikmaglur. It was cool in Chikmaglur and the roads were buzzing with people and vehicles by the time we reached here. Our accommodation was arranged at F.J.Comfort Inn which was located a bit interior and away from the traffic. The receptionist gave us a warm welcome and guided us to our room. It was clean, hygienic and importantly the washroom is clean enough 😀


We quickly refreshed ourselves and went out for a walk through the streets of Chikmaglur and had our dinner at one of the veg restaurants located on the M.G. Road. The food is alright and as we were too exhausted we went back to our hotel without exploring much. We quickly decided our next day’s plan and asked our driver uncle to be ready by 6 AM in the morning 🙂

Time to sleep 🙂 😉

Halebidu – The Hoyasala Beauty

Time for another tale 🙂 This time it is a blend of history, heritage, nature and adventure. One of my childhood friends and I decided to go on a short trip around Karnataka. Though we thought of going to Mangalore and Murudeshwar, we changed our mind and decided upon Chikmaglur. After a thorough discussion of the plan with some of our other friends, the only ones who could make up to the plan remained the same. That’s me and my friend 😀 . Though we decided to drop our plan initially, we hit the road on 10th of September finally 🙂 🙂

As it was only we two into the trip, we thought of choosing a package instead of driving ourselves to this place. In our search over the Internet, we came across a 2-day, 1-night package and found it feasible enough. The package was offered by the Karnataka Vacations and we contacted Mr. Mahesh, Manager of KV. He is an amicable person and made few quick changes we have asked for and the payment was done.


We set on our trip from Bangalore at 10.00 AM from Bellandur, Bangalore and the cab driver Vasanth Kumar, though a very reserved person found to be quite friendly. We had our breakfast on our way and managed to be on the outskirts of Bangalore by 11.30 AM. The drive from here was smooth as the roads are in very good condition and there wasn’t too much of traffic. About a distance of 200 km from Bangalore, situated is the Hassan district and it took us around 3.5 hours to reach here and a further drive of around 30 kms left us at our first destination Halebidu.


We got down our car and started walking towards the famous Hoyasaleswara temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple which was previously known as Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra, or the entrance to sea is believed to derive its name from the Hoyasala ruler King Vishnuvardhana Hoyaslaeswara. The temple has four entrances on east, west, and south and the visitors usually enter through the entrance on the north side. The temple is dark inside as there are no lights other than the light entering through the entrances.


Inside the temple, there are huge pillars, highly polished and carved diligently and also few statues and it is said that no two statues looks like the same. There is a garbagriha (sanctum) inside the temple where in which the deity Hoyasaleswara is seated. We walked around the temple whose walls are carved very well; probably the best handiwork in entire India and the sculptures depict the mythological epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. This art which has been preserved so well even after many invasions and lootings by the Muslim rulers is truly astonishing 🙂


There are two large mantapas hosting two large Nandi (the Bull god) statues in each one of them located such opposite to two of the temple entrances. And one of these is known to be the most beautifully decorated Nandi statue in India and is also amongst the largest statues among the world. The temple complex also has an archaeological museum which preserves the important excavations in and around the area.


We finished our tour around the temple and headed towards Jain Basadi, which is located at a distance of 2km from the Hoyasala temple, and has three Jain temples dedicated to Parsavanatha (west), Adinatha (central), and Shantinatha (east) thirthankaras. We entered the temple complex through the gate at the West and walked towards the temple which is just infront of the entrance. This is built of soapstone and had a garbagriha. The most important attraction of this temple is the 18 ft tall Parsavanatha Tirtankara statue in the Garbhagriha (sanctum). The temples were so dark without any lamps and we should be very careful while walking inside the sanctums as we will be hardly able to see anything.


The temple complex is not very rich in architecture on the outer walls of the temple. Though we can see some fine architecture inside the sanctums, we can hardly see any carvings on the outer walls of the temple except for some inscriptions. But the striking thing in this temple complex is that, while in one of the temples the pillars are highly ornate and coarse, the pillars in the other are highly polished and has a glossy look and touch. In all, Halebidu is a place which shows how secular the kings were in the good olden days.

Time for the next! 🙂 😉