Thursday, March 29, 2012

Solo Ride To Kanyakumari - 2

 I woke up around 5:30, I had packed my bag last night. I checked out of Kendra and started with my journey to Madurai by 6:15. I took the same road by which I had came. I was greeted with beautiful sunrise when i reached NH7. I stopped for tea gazing at beautiful sun coming out of huge windmills. 

And once again I was on road to cover 250 kms to reach Madurai. Plan was to reach there by 10 and spend four hours as I had heard temple complex is very big and it will surely take couple of hours to see it completely. I took small breaks for breakfast and air check or to fill petrol. And as per the plan I reached Madurai by 10:15. I had covered 246 kms. Directly I went to temple, road was straightforward no hassles in finding the temple. I entered the temple through south gopuram and was amazed to see the magnificence of the temple. Though I have seen bigger temple like Tanjavur, but these gopurams are colorful with hundreds of statues of god’s.
Once you enter the temple first thing you notice is a colorful ceiling painted with flower designs or picture of gods.  Temple has big lake inside its campus, but it was dry may be due maintenance. As you move ahead, on your left you will find entrance to Meenaxi temple. There is ticket to have darshan, Rs 15 or Rs 100, of course I took ticket of Rs.15.
;) Fortunately my queue was moving almost at the same speed. This section of Meenaxi temple is smaller compared to Sundareshwar temple. There was not much rush, I had peaceful darshan and came out to a bigger section of Shiva temple. And this was not just big it was huge. All sections are of quadrangle shape and at the centre of it lays the idol.

Below picture is of outside walls of the Sundareshawar temple. Almost 100 meter is length and with beautiful carving on pillars, but not as fine as Helebidu or Belur temples. Those temples have delicate and fine carvings but this one big and beautiful. Once I came out of Sundareshwar temple I was not sure where exactly I am. I went back in and traversed the same route I came from and went to same position from where I entered the Meenakshi temple. Then I downloaded the plan of the temple to make sure that I don’t miss any thing. Next thing to see was 1000 pillar hall. I had to literally ask shop owners inside the temple about where it is. Can you imagine the being in such a big temple?
Outer Corridor Of Sundareshwar Temple

Temple is amazing and my words cannot justify its magnificence and beauty. Better you go through below pictures or visit the temple yourself.
Thousand Pillars Hall
South Gopuram
Once I came out of the temple, I searched for decent place to eat. After having lunch I started my journey back to Bangalore. I was on my bike again at 2:15. And plan was to reach Bangalore by 10. No wonder it was too hot on the road. I took frequent breaks though only after covering at least 50-60 kms in a single stretch. It was 6 when I reached Salem. I had covered 234 km and had to go another 200. Traffic was huge after Salem and it was unbearable to drive completely exhausted. Last 100 kms was tough. But I thought of not taking breaks and not stop till I reach Bangalore. I did not even thought of having dinner, as after having it one feels sleepier. It was 9:30 exactly in my clock when I reached Electronic City Flyover tollgate. I might have reached in another 15 minutes at home.

            First thing I checked when I came back home was my Molly fish. Thanks god we both had survived the experience.

View Larger Map

Solo Ride To Kanyakumari - 1

Kanyakumari was in plan for very very long time, unfortunately when Jitu planned the trip with other guys I could not join them. So the desire to go was more stronger. I didn't know i was going to do it solo and also on bike. When i saw 3 day long weekend coming few days back, i thought of going by bus. But later thought came to do it on bike and I did it. Visiting north and south tip of india on one's bike has different kind of satisfaction and achievement. And bikers will know it.

I started preparation of trip by most imp thing i.e. servicing the bike. Other than that I have tyre puncture kit and air foot pump. So that was also taken care of. I had no plan about visiting the places or things to do when I reach there. I just wanted to take as it comes. I packed the bag Thursday night. Started next morning at 5:15. Early morning gives a head start with less traffic on roads. 

Plus early morning breeze feels good on bike. I had crossed Salem and stopped for breakfast on roadside eatery. I texted Jitu about my plan and how many kms were still left to reach destination. Jitu replied with appreciation and encouragement and asking to keep him informed about my whereabouts. NH7 is really good and very well maintained without which it is not possible to cover 650 odd kms in a day. I could easily drive at 100 kmph. When I texted jitu it was 9:45 and I had covered almost 300 kms in 5 hrs, 363 was to be covered. With breaks for tea and lunch I reached Kanyakumari by 3:30. I thought it not bad, I could drive 650 kms in a day. That was something I had discovered about myself, i was reluctant to cover that much in single day in our earlier plan.                                                                                       

Once i reached there, I went directly Vivekananda Kendra (a non profit organisation) which has accommodation facility. Fortunately I got decent room to stay. Once i checked in room, I informed jitu and couple of friends.

I got to know from Kendra reception that ferry service will stop from 4pm so I could not visit Vivekananda rock memorial. There are very few things worth the visit in Kanyakumari itself. Vivekananda Rock memorial and Great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar statue and Kannaykumari temple were the things on my list. I spent my evening on the shore clicking pics and observing people. Later I saw sunset and headed back to my room, by 7:45 I had dinner. I went to bed soon after. No wonder I was tired like hell from driving continuously for 10 hours. And next day I had to get up early morning to see the sunrise. 
I woke up at 5:45 to see the sunrise, way before I could hear birds chirping. I reached the sunrise point by 6:15. There was huge crowd gathered to see the sunrise. I had never seen so many people gathered just to see sunrise. And indeed it was beautiful. The one which calms your mind, makes you peaceful and content.  I returned back to room to get take bath and have breakfast. Soon returned back to visit Vivekananda rock memorial to which ferry starts from sea shore at 8 am.
Rock memorial has a quite a history about it. Around 1960, people of Kanyakumari started thinking about constructing a monument on the rock. To start with it, they formed one committee. But when news started spreading about construction of such monument. There were oppositions from local catholic fishermen claiming the rock belonged to them. And they installed one big cross visible from shore. The dispute went to court and decision was given in favour of Vivekananda committee. Hurdles to come in way to construct monument were far from over. There were opposition from Cultural minister of that time stating it will ruin the natural beauty of Rock. Almost same time Ramkrishna Mission too had similar plans to construct such monument. But Kanyakumari committee and Ramkrishan Mission both needed a strong personality who can  negotiate with Madras as well as Central Government. Mr Eknathji Ranade was approached by people to head this mission who then had retired from post of General Secretary of RSS. 
He was intellectual and influential man who then went on to promote the mission of constructing the monument. He obtained all signatures of all 320 odd MPs on a letter requesting Prime Minister. Once the permission was obtained, there were many other problems as financial, design of monument, architectural problems - whether rock will be able to support such construction or not. But the man charged with mission and love of hindu religion in his heart, there was no stopping for him. And after 9 years of hardwork in 1972, it was inaugurated by Vice President of India V V Giri. Later Eknathaji Ranade found Vivekananda Kendra a spiritual organisation in Kanykumari to spread the message of Vivekananda. Vivekananda kedra has two museums which depict the life of Mr Eknathji Ranade and Swami Vivekananda.
Memorial has a two structures one has big statue of Vivekananda and other one contains a footprint of goddess on the rock. Right below Vivekananda structure there is meditation hall with big OM. Its wonderful experience to meditate in such a sacred place.  And no wonder why the great man choose this rock for his meditation. Other than that memorial has few book stalls where you can buy works of Vivekananda available in various languages. Ferry to Thiruvalluvar statue was closed due to maintenance hence could not visit the statue.

Once I came back on shore it was 12:30, I took bike and thought of having a ride through town. Kanyakumari town itself is very small and much commercialized with many hotels and shops selling from seashells to anything what you get anywhere else. And I don't understand why people buy things at such places what they can buy anywhere else too. Anyway while roaming I found the actual sunset point from where one can see the sun going down into the sea. Happy to have found the new place to see sunset I returned back to Kendra to have lunch. Rest of the day was not planned except Sunset. Kendra has their own private beach but has a big wall compound to reach beach which is closed for whole day. Its open only for an hour in morning and evening. But I went anyway to take a look. There is very good statute of Vivekananda just beside the beach of kendra. After visiting the statue I  found the place on right most corner where I could jump the wall compound and reach the beach. Nobody was there on the beach excpet me :) felt like private beach.  Weather was pleasant, wind blowing through hair, only sound of waves and nothing else. I could see monument at long distance and sea other side as long eye can reach. And here I was at the southernmost tip of India. Having satisfaction of visited the Northern and Southern most tip India on my bike.  
And thought came to mind “Sea is life, and people are like waves and you are shore. Some people come in your life like waves and go back leaving only memories behind.”
I spent couple of hours at the beach. Clicked some photos after a while. Came back at Kendra, took some rest and went to see the sunset in the evening. Sunset was amazing at this point much better than what i had seen yesterday.

Once I came back at kendra it was 7:30, and went to see the museum inside kedra on life of Eknathaji Ranade. Here I met Mamaji, 77 year old man who had spent his whole life for the social cause. After I saw the museum I went on discussing things with Mamaji about his life and work he had done in Kendra. This man had fascinating stories about Rock Memorial, Eknathaji Ranade and his experiences in Southern India (He is Gujarati). Later story went on to how he came to Kanyakumari from Gujarat. After dinner our talk went on till 11 and it was getting late. I had to start early next morning to reach Madurai to see the Meenakshi temple. When I said I had come on bike, he too had done some biking in his young days. So there followed another story of biking of mamaji :) I said goodbye to Mamaji after having really nice conversation.
Tomorrow I was going to visit the Meenakshi temple of Madurai and cover the long distance to reach Bangalore.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Somnathpur and Talakadu

Me: Hi Jitu, whats plan for tomorrow?
Jitu: nothing.. have 1-2 small tasks to do, what is your plan?
Me: Lets have bike trip to to Somnathpur tomorrow.
Jitu: What time should we leave?
Me: How about 7:30 am?
Jitu: All right.
Me: I will call you around 6:30.OK.
Jitu: OK.
Me: OK then. See you tomorrow.
Jitu: Yep.

       As planned we started around 7:30, feels good on bike after so long time. Crossing small villages we enjoyed the ride. Idea was to visit Somnathpura and Talakadu, and if it gets late in the evening spend the night in Mysore. We took Bangalore-Kanakpura-Malavali-Talakad-Somnathpur route which is not in a good condition. Alternative is Bangalore-Mandya-Somnathpur-Talakadu route. Still Somnathpur to Talakadu road is in very bad condition, a strech of 10-12 kms which you can not  avoid. On the way we saw many people with their bulls marching. Going ahead we saw fair where bulls were on sale. It was big event, around 400 bulls were on sale. And we went on doing window shopping. One pair of bull costs around  Rs. 50k. And you would be surprised to know that these bulls were insured too. Its high time now if you don't have a life insurance. :D

       At the end of Talakdu village there is Lord Shiva Temple. The tower of this temple look like it has been recently constructed. At the door of the temple we see two Dwarpal carved in stones. Temple has a typical Vijayanagar Style of architecture which one finds in Hampi. There is nothing striking or special about this temple or its architecture when compared to Somnathpur or Hampi temples. This place was found under the sand on the bank of river Kauvery. And it is believed that around 30 temples are still under ground. And there is a mythical curse behind the temples buried under the sand. the curse called “Curse of Talakad” by Alamelamma on the Wodeyar dynasty (erstwhile Maharajas) of Mysore. "Talakadu Maralagi, Malangi Maduvagi, Mysooru Arasarige Makkalagadirali"- the female Alamelamma cursed this way. (translation- May Talakadu be filled with Sand, Malangi be a Whirlpool and Mysore Kings shall not have offsprings")

       Behind this Shiva temple you will find another temple excavated from sand dunes. Construction work is going on to renovate this temple. These temples were built in Ganga Dynasty which preceded Hoysalas. There are small other Shiva temples surrouding this temple. You can skip if you are not here for pilgrimage trip. There is small place where you can have decent lunch.

        After having lunch we were headed towards Somnathpur. As mentioned earlier road is in very bad condition. Somnathpur temple is built by Soma who was DandaNayaka (Danda-Punishment, Nayak -leader) in Hoysala Dynasty under the king Narsimha III in 1268 AD. This temple is maintained by Archeological Survey Of India. At the right side of the entrance there is 60-70 feet tall Deepstambha (Deep-light, Stambh-Pillar) carved out of single stone. On the left hand side of the entrance there is big stone carved in old kannada language with details about the temple like donations made, sculptor name etc.   As you enter the temple the first thing strikes is the symmetry of this temple. This is trikuta (tri-three) temple, which means it has three garbhagruhas ( centre or sanctorum) where three idols of Krishna are place in same building. Temple at Bellur is ekkuta having only one Garbhagriha, Halebidu having dwikuta (dwi- two) having two Garbhagruha. And Bellur and Halebidu temples were built much before Somnathpur temple. So one see the pattern here Ekkuta(Bellur), DwiKuta(Halebidu) and TriKuta(Somnathpur). Unlike Halebidu or Bellur temples this temple is complete which took 68 years to built. And one finds the names of the sculptors below the sculpture. This temple is dedicated to three forms of Vishnu which are Keshava, Janardhana and Venugopala. The carving on outer walls are magnificent with fine details. At the bottom of the wall you will find the lines of Elephents carved representing stability, next line of Horse representing power, next line is of flowers representing beauty and so on. Outer wall carvings also show Ten Avatar of Lord Vishnu similar to Bellur. Unlike other temple there are few statues of representing Kamasutra positions. And when our guide says this temple is complete unlike Halebidu or Bellur, no wonder why this temple is called as “Complete”.
       This temple is highest degree of Hoysala Architecture which is fusion of South indian and north indian style of architecture. On the outer walls there is examples of of both south indian and north indian style of architecture. Inside temple you will find  panchsheela (panch-five, sheela-stone) pillars. These pillars are made out of five stones which are carved separately and grooved together later. The ceiling of the temple is astonishing. It represents various phases of Banana flower from bud till the fruit is ripen. Any description of temple will not do a justice to the beauty of temple one has to see and experience it. That's why we visit the places instead of watching all the photos on the net.

And as day recedes we start our journey back to bangalore. Happy to have seen amazing temple built 700 years ago.


                                          Bulls for Sale

                                          Shiva Temple at Talakadu

                                           Excavated Temple at Talakadu
                                          Keshava Temple at Somnathpur                                      

                                          Style of Architecture

                                           Style of Architecture

                                           No need to explain ;)

                                          No need to explain ;)

                                           Ceiling of the temple                                      

                                          Ceiling of the temple

                                          Panchasheela  Pillars

                                          Lord Vishnu

View Larger Map

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sharawathi Valley Revisited

So you have visited this place before and your friend asks if you would like to come again .. most of us will say no, justifying that visiting a place once is enough. But Sharawathi Valley is not one of them. So here is account of a second trip. 

And this time it felt better than previous one.

So plan was same, go by bus till Kargal, get private vehicle to reach kattinakaru. And following two days visit waterfalls where few souls have been. This time we were five. We were late to reach Kattinakaru as there was no private vehicle to pick us up from Kargal. We took bus which started at 8, by the time we reached it was 9:30. By the time we started our day's trek it was 11. Our target for that days waterfalls was around 6-8 kms. Though we had started late we were happy to be back again in same valley. We could feel the pleasant changes.

As route through jungle was full of leeches, our guide suggested the river stream route. I had done it before but not in monsoon. This was fun. Taking the jungle route whenever it was not possible due to deep water level or stream becoming fast. We trekked through river. It was around 3 pm and we had not reached the waterfall. We had to reach back to our homestay, which could take 3 hours. We guessed that by the time we reach back it might get dark early due to cloudy day in a jungle. So we decided to return. On the way we found a decent waterfalls where we took bath and enjoyed a while in the chilled water. The way back was from jungle with lot of leeches. It took less time than we anticipated. Once we came out of jungle on a green patch, lunch was ready. The guys we left just before jungle started had prepared it. Happy to be back before dark. We had lunch around 5:30 and headed to our homestays which was around hour or so walk.

 Homestay this time was really amazing, we experienced great hospitality.

The best thing about such outings is morning. You wake up getting out from your warm sleeping bag and feel gentle breeze. You step outside the house bare feet, hear birds chirping, sweet fragrance in the air of rain, flowers, grass and trees. You look around everything is so beautiful. And you say to yourself thats why I come here.

 Next day after having breakfast we headed towards Bhimeshwar waterfalls. We took cab ride, which dropped us five kms from waterfall. The route to the waterfall is gentle, we reached there in hour or so. There is beautiful temple just next to waterfall. From here you can see a splendid view of the valley of thick forest. Our guide got busy preparing lunch for us and some of us got crazy and had fun in waterfall. I took lot of pictures of temple. By the time we had bath in waterfall, lunch was ready, nice rice and sambhar.

We were ready to be back after a while though heart wanted to stay there forever.