Puri – The Last Stop of Golden Triangle

Heard of the “Golden Triangle” of India? If not, here is a short brief on this 🙂 The “Golden Triangle” is a pilgrimage circuit which comprises of the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar, the Sun Temple of Konark and the Lord Jagannath’s Temple of Puri. The last stop on the “Golden Circuit” Triangle – Puri is also one of the four great ‘Char Dham (the Purushottam Dham)’ pilgrimage sites and most sacred of India! I feel blessed for being arrived in Puri during a particularly auspicious time – the annual Rath Yatra or the Chariot Parade!

25.06.2017:

It was still raining by the time I woke up! Though it was a disturbed sleep all through the night, the charm of the city and the festival vibes that day made me feel positive 🙂 A perfect way to start a day! When came out the room to check on the guys, I was surprised to see Bhojnadh watching the rain holding a cup of hot tea in the balcony. Eshwar too was awake while Pappu still lay tucked inside his blanket. I asked the bell boy for a bucket of hot water for my shower and he simply rejected my request :-0

We got ready quickly and checked-out from the hotel to go to the temple. The roads were muddy coz of the rain and they were jam-packed with thousands of devotees who are proceeding towards the temple to catch a glimpse of the Lord Jagannath (God of the Universe). Every nook and corner is under the scrutiny of the Armed Forces, Para Military forces and the Odisha Police. The roads were filled up with barricades to regulate the movement of vehicles during these peak hours. Though we thought of parking our car near to the Railway Station, we ended up parking it on road-side, a little near to the temple.

After walking through the narrow streets and alleys, we reached the Bada Danda or Grand Avenue of Puri on which the famous Rath Yatra takes place. The Avenue is filled up with shops of all kinds and various ashrams for the pilgrims. Volunteers were providing drinking water, lemonades and fresh food to the thronging pilgrims and tourists. Further towards the temple, a huge crowd of people were competing to stand as close as possible to the temple in order to get a better view of the deities.

We too started walking towards the huge mass of people. The security forces had cordoned off the place near to the temple for around a distance of 800 mts. As we were closing nearby, we got the first glimpses of the mighty chariots and the temple tower. The great Jagannath Temple of Puri was built in the 12th century atop the ruins of the Gundicha temple by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Ananatavarman Chodaganga Deva and the temple complex covers a huge area of over 400,000 sq ft. The temple tower, built on a raised platform of stone to a height of 214 feet above the inner sanctum, is truly dominating the surrounding landscape.

The temple style here is quite different – it is mainly dominated by colossal cylindrical and pyramid-shaped towers rising skyward in multiple tiers, covered with elaborate stone carvings. A striking feature of the Jagannath Temple is the flag atop and it is said that it always flaps in the opposite direction of wind. Yet another one is the wooden deities! In most of the Hindu temples the icons of the deities are either made out of stone or metal, but here it’s wood and this is replaced every twelve or nineteen years ceremoniously.

Owing to the Rath Yatra, the temple is closed for pilgrims and entry into the temple on normal days is restricted only to the Hindus. This is the only occasion when people of all castes and creeds can catch a glimpse of the gods and hence the annual Rath Yatra draws close to a million of devotees all over India and the world!

Stay tuned!

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.

10.09.2016

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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂 😉

Radhe.. Radhe

Day 2:

By the title itself many of you might have guessed what this post is going to be.. No trip to Agra from Delhi would be complete without a visit to the two beautiful places Mathura and Vrindavan. And we decided the other day itself that we will visit these two places also. We started our journey to Vrindavan from Agra and it was still raining.

After an hour’s journey we were onto a roadway leading to Vrindavan. The places along the roadway are beautiful and serene villages, covered with lush green paddy fields and other millet. The cloud covered grey sky, the lush green cover on the earth, and the drizzle made the scene more perfect. We crossed the villages and were out into the Vrindavan. It is a small town with many activities going around.

We asked a few people how to reach the famous Bankey Bihari Temple and the people, mostly the Pundits (who are like the local guides) helped in locating the temple. The road leading to the temple is very narrow and is potholed. We could see a lot of people walking barefoot enchanting the Krishna mantra and not bothered about the drizzle. Our driver stopped the car at a decent distance from the temple as there is no way of us reaching the temple in a car.

We got down and started walking towards the temple. The sideways of the walkway are full of shacks selling the famous Agra Peta, the Mathura Peda and other sweets, a few selling the idols of the deities and toys etc. As it was Saturday and a weekend, the roads were insanely crowded and there was a long queue of people infront the temple. There is no need of us to walk, as we would automatically flow with the crowd 😉

The interesting thing is there were lots of human-pulled rickshaws, bicycles and local people on these streets and no one honks a horn or rings a bell. They simple say “Radhe-Radhe” 🙂 🙂 (now you might understood the reason behind the title of this post) indicating us to move aside 🙂 :). While I was on this road, it was almost as if I were in a trance.  There was something in the place, in the air, in the people which attracts us instantaneously. Might be it is truly the presence of the Almighty 🙂

It started raining heavily while we were still waiting in the queue to enter the temple. The temple is located in an interior part and it was pretty crowded. We entered the main hall which is decorated with fresh flowers and colorful drapes. A mix of fragrance from the flowers and the incense sticks filled the room and the chants of “Hare Krishna” were echoing. Though we tried clicking some photos, we couldn’t as photography was strictly prohibited inside the temple.

There was a barricade separating the idols and the pilgrims and we were allowed till the barricade to have a peek at the deities Radha and Krishna and many of the pilgrims were offered sweets and seek the blessings from the Pundits. The rain turned into a heavy downpour and the roads were filled with water up our knee-level. All of a sudden the roads turned dirty, people struggled to pull out their vehicles in the water. Though we thought of managing with the only umbrella which we carried along, it wasn’t of much use and we started forgot about getting drenched and started enjoying the rain and our walk which almost seemed like a swim 🙂 😀

Soon we were at our car and resumed our journey to Mathura. On the way to Mathura we were able to see the Prem Mandir which was huge and lit by colourful lights. As it was raining heavily and we don’t have much time, we thought of visiting only Krishna Janmabhoomi and started moving towards it. But to our bad luck, there was a jam and the traffic was packed upto kilometers. The time was around 6.30 and we still have a long way to go, to reach Delhi and it was raining badly. So we were left with no other options rather than saying – some other time 🙂 🙂

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We hit the Yamuna Express way after a wait of an hour and half in the traffic and stopped for some food in the mid-way at Pizzahut though we didn’t eat any except a Gulab Jamoon on the Haldiram’s outlet beside it 😉 🙂 It was 11.30 by the time we reached our room and soon retired to our beds.

P.S – I couldn’t take any pictures of this place as it was raining heavily and was too crowded to stand itself 😦

NANDI HILLS – HILL OF HAPPINESS

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Nandi Hills or Nandidurg or Nandi Betta is an ancient hill fortress situated at a distance of about 65 kms from Bangalore, Karnataka. These lie at an average elevation of about 4850 ft above the sea level. A popular weekend destination and it can be easily reached as it is well connected by roads with Bangalore as well as Chikkaballapur. The route from Bangalore to Nandi hills is so scenic and interesting, as it gives us a chance of seeing some good temples, old forts, grape vineyards and mustard fields.

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And the curvy roads leading to the top of hills are best to trek or cycle. One can go for a road trek or a wild trek on the backside of the hill. Plenty of opportunities 🙂  If you own a bicycle, well fine and good otherwise there are lots of bicycling clubs which organizes weekend cycling trips. Can try one!

 The main attraction is the statue of the Nandi Bull which is located on top of the hill. And the belief is that the hills resemble a sleeping Nandi Bull, and hence the name Nandi Hills. There is also an ancient temple of Yoga Nandeeswara atop the hill. There are also temples dedicated to Sri Ugra Narasimha and Yoga Narasimha.

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The hill is the Sultan Tipu’s Summer Residence and there is a palace which is not open for public 😦 . Interesting place is the Tipu’s Drop, a 600 metre high cliff face, where prisoners and convicts during Tipu’s reign used to be pushed off this cliff. There is also a children’s park, for a while we too can be children swinging on the cradles. Lol!

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Nandi hills is a haven for nature lovers with magnificent views and enticing scenic spots, if we are lucky enough we can spot some wildlife too. One should not miss the sunrise here. The wind, fog and the clouds that blow towards us when we are in the midst of the tall trees on top of the hill before the sunrise is just amazing and a life-time experience. One won’t regret waking up at 4 in the morning after enjoying the sunrise here!

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Why can’t be this weekend itself? 🙂

Kappil – the confluence of sea, river and the backwaters

About 53 kms from Trivandrum and 7 kms from Varkala, Kappil beach is one of the most picturesque destinations of Kerala. It is not just another tourist spot, but a must visit place.

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On the west is the true blue Arabian Sea and the east is Edava Narayan Lake. The true confluence of backwaters and sea with some lush green coconut grooves.. Road runs as such for about 1 km. Kappil has its own fishing community, and the true fun is the backwater ride.

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Ponnumthuruth Island:

Situated about 12 km south of Varkala. Have to board a country boat from Neduganda and take a tour through the backwaters for about 30 minutes to reach Ponnumthuruthu. Ponnumthuruthu, the name literally means Golden Island. This lush island is a perfect gateway for those who seek a break from the hustle and bustle of the urban life.

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This island is known for the Shiva Parvathi temple, which is more than 100 years old. A royal family owns the island and the temple.

In all, this place is for a good drive and fits in for a short trip.. 🙂 🙂