Friday, July 1, 2022

Rehmangarh/Kaivara Fort

Though we were aware of the presence of two mighty forts between Kaiwara and Chintamani, there was always an uncertainty of the sheer existence of these forts as very little or no information was available   on the internet. This made us more curious to explore and one Sunday, it was time to do the same.  We headed towards Kaivara in search of these forts.
Update:- Now this trek is under Karnataka Eco tourism managed by Karnataka Forest Department and can be booked from their website and is charged Rupees 250 per head. 
Rehmangarh Fort , Chintamani
Rehmangarh Fort
Our first stop was a small tiffin centre at the entrance of Kaivara. After having a sumptuous breakfast, we inquired the owner of the hotel about the fort. He had absolutely no idea about any fort around. When we later pointed towards the hill on which the fortification was vaguely visible, he smiled sarcastically saying that the route to the fort was no longer accessible and nobody goes there now-a-days and is completely abandoned. Additionally, he mentioned that we would not make it there. On asking him why he said so, he replied that though there is a route to reach the fort, no one including the locals dares to do that.  His concern towards us was understandable. But, we would never give up! Once we know there was a route, we were determined to trek up and reach the fort.  . He then challenged us saying that we will not be able to climb that hill and suppose we did, then he would offer us free lunch in his hotel!  This was a real bonus, an exciting adventure plus free meals. It was a challenge to us now to capture the fort! And so we headed quickly towards the hill following his directions. 
Kaivara National Park
The Path thru Forest
Kaiwara Fort, Chintamani
The Fort Wall
Fort Gateway, Kaivara
The Gateway
Tippu drop
Tippu Drop
The View from Tippu Drop
We reached the entrance of a mini-zoo-park maintained by the Karnataka Forest Department. The forest guard there was quite surprised by us when we inquired about the directions to the fort, and advised us not to venture there and if we wished to do so, we could at our own risk. He was not too convinced with our decision to move ahead since the route was not safe and difficult to climb and showed his concern for us.  After a brief chat, he agreed and told us to return by 3 pm. We paid the nominal fee for entering the park and proceeded further. From here began our search for the first fort.  Fortunately or unfortunately, he gave u no directions while we proceeded as though we knew the route to the fort! We made our own way until we reached a path that looked like a shepherd’s route.  The ascent hereon was quite easy and pleasant. Within no time we reached the top of the first hill from where the fort was at a striking distance. We found a way towards the fort and started walking. The rest of the climb was simple and plain.
Forts near Bangalore
Ruined Structure and Water pond

Lord Veerabhadra Swamy Temple, Kaivara
Lord Veerabhadra Swamy Temple
Forts of Karnataka
The Fort Ruins
Lone Microwave Station
The fort was built by local Palegars and later improved by the Tippu Sultan. This conspicuous hill fort rises to a height of 4200 feet above sea level. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Veerabhadra Swamy and a small pond of water besides.  A point on the edge of the hill was served as a place to kill the sinner by Tippu, who dropped them from that high point. It reminded us of Tippu drop of Nandi Hills. Not many structures remain on the fort apart from a few ruined ones.  The strong and lonely fort walls have many stories buried within them. The different views from atop the hill were mesmerizing but for us, the most striking one was that of a hill higher than this with a fort like structure.   After resting a while, we started our descent and reached the park that housed a small zoo having nothing more than rabbits, swans and peacocks.  Though the premises have been fairly maintained, we felt a little extra care needs to be put in by the concerned.  The guard became friendlier once we returned and spoke to us calmly.  Very surprisingly, he was not aware of the exact name the hill carried and quoted names like Kaivara fort, Anegundi fort, Tippu drop, Permachanahalli fort, etc. We headed directly to the shop situated right opposite to the park and quenched our thirst drinking some refreshing mango juice.  The lady at the shop was shocked and said most of the people who get in to climb up the hill return after trekking half way.  Now the time had come to redeem our reward of a free meal and reached the hotel.  The challenger had a broad smile on his face and was not ready to believe we had actually done it. We had to convince him by showing a few clicks of the fort as proof.  Very kindly, he offered us lunch while we thanked him and moved on.
The View
Bird's Eye View of B C Road
At the Tippu Drop
 How to reach Kaiwara/Kaivara: Bangalore - NH75 - Hoskote - SH 82 - H Cross Continue further till Kaivara cross - Left turn - Kaivara towards Kaivara zoo (Fort is inside this Zoo). About 70 Km from Bangalore.
The hunt for the second fort begins…..
Chintamani Fort
Quite Inviting
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Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Lost Chalukyan Town of Ambali, Bellary

      'Ambali', a small village in Hagaribommanahalli taluk of Bellary district that seemed unusually busy with the harvesting of onions, is home to a very beautiful Chalukyan temple dedicated to Lord Kalleswara (Shiva, Ishvara) built during the 10th century. Ambali is located off the Kottur - Hadagali main road, about 10 km from Kottur towards Hadagali. After travelling a few kilometers from Kottur, we decided to inquire about the directions and realized we were heading away from our destination and had traveled quite far. Hereon, following the right directions we reached Ambali in quite some time. 
The Harvest
Cheerful Posers
       The Kalleswara temple belonging to the Chalukyan era is beautiful and stands tall with pride. The temple is simple in its appearance with fine interiors. The temple facing east consists of a garbagriha, antarala, natya-mantapa and mukha-mantapas on the north, south and east directions respectively.
Kalleshwara Temple Ambali
The Kalleshwara Temple 
  The garbagriha (sanctum sanctorum) houses a Shivalinga and has an ornate pancha (five) shaka (jamb) door frame decorated with lozenges, creepers, musicians, dancers, birds, lions and elephants. The door jambs have dwarapalakas attended by Rati and Manmatha. The lintel of the garbagriha has a well sculpted Gajalakshmi with elephants on either side. The threshold of the door in front has a decorated moon-stone or semi-circular stone slab (chandrashila).
Lord Kalleshwara 
Garbagriha Door Frame
Lintel Carvings
Decorated Moon-stone
       The antarala door way is intriguing with lozenge flower decorated perforated screens. The door jambs have sculptures of dwarapalakas. The lintel of the antarala (sukhanasi/vestibule) has a beautiful carving of Nataraja (dancing shiva) who is watched by goddess Parvati and attendants who include Lords Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi along with Lord Brahma and Goddess Saraswati, and the ashtadikpalakas (guardians of the eight cardinal directions) mounted on their respective vahanas (vehicles/mounts) on either sides. This depiction ends with stylized makaras (crocodile with florid tail) at the ends of the lintel. The exterior walls of the sanctum houses mouldings or friezes consisting of a miniature lions (simha), elephants and makaras with strings of pearl tassels in combination. There are three finely carved miniature shikaras on the three walls of the Garbagriha. The moulded adisthana (basement or plinth) has indentations up to the walls which resolve into manch-bandha pattern whose projections carry niches. These are treated with dravida turrets raised on slender pilasters. The turrets (vertical projecting towers) are crowned with kirtimukha (glory-faced) makara torana. The shikaras above garbagriha is comparatively plain and of Dravidian style.
Makara Frieze 

 The natya-mantapa situated at the center has four lathe pillars with sculpted bases similar to the ones in many other Chalukyan temples. The mukha-mantapas have a Jagati (platform/stone bench) on which are present a set of pillars circular in shape and are lathe turned while the others set on ground along its periphery have dissimilar distinct shapes and are skillfully executed. The ceiling of the mantapa has a lotus motif.
The Dravidian Shikara 
Miniature Shikara
Pillars of Mukha-Mantapa

This temple comes alive and is very well maintained. There is a lady care taker appointed by the ASI who does her job wholeheartedly and it definitely shows off. The garden surrounding this temple gives an increased aesthetic value of the environs. The locals take pride in the beauty and history of this temple.     
ASI Information Board 

References :
1. ASI
2. Temples of Karnataka - Book by KM Suresh 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Kurugodu Sri Dodda Basaveshwara Temple and Panchamukhi Veerabhadraswami Temple

Sri Dodda Basaveshwara Temple, Kurugodu
Sri Dodda Basaveshwara Temple, Kurugodu
'Sri Dodda Basaveshwara Temple' of Kurugodu is the most revered of all temples here. One of its kind murti of lord Panchamukhi Veerabhadraswami is found here and is considered to be the most unique. After visiting various temples of Hale Kurugodu, we reached the Dodda Basaveshwara temple around noon. After seeking blessings of the Lord, we were served with Anna Prasadam  which happens here on a daily basis to all the devotees during the noon time. This temple is believed to have been constructed during the rule of the Vijayanagara kings. The temple complex is quite big, with a recently constructed Shikara and is dedicated to Lord Nandi or Basavanna, the vahana of Lord Shiva. The murti of Lord Basavanna is about 12 ft tall.The recent findings have revealed that the 'Bhavana Sangama', father of Harihara and Bukka (founders of the great Vijayanagara empire) belonged to Kurugodu.
Sri Dodda Basaveshwara Temple, Kurugodu
Nandi Pillar at the Entrance of Dodda Basaveshwara Temple
History of Kurugodu
Information About Kurugodu
Hereon, we visited the Panchamukhi Veerabhadraswami temple which is located in the by-lanes of Kurugodu town.  This temple is completely renovated into a new structure. We visited the Sahasralinga complex besides the Veerabhadraswami temple. Though the main temple remained closed, we were able to have the darshana of the Lord, thanks to the grilled door . The Lord looked  divine with five faces and 12 hands, with Daksha Mahaprabhu standing besides him. It is rather an unusual depiction of the Lord Veerabhadraswami. There is a small murti of Lord Ganesha in the same garbhagriha. This temple is hardly known to many outside the town of Kurugodu.
Sahasralinga, Kurugodu
Rare and Unique Murti of Panchamukhi Veerabhadraswami, Kurugodu
Rare and Unique Murti of Panchamukhi Veerabhadraswami
How to Reach Kurugodu: Kurugodu is about 30 km from Ballari/Bellary. Take NH150A which connects Siriguppa to Bellary and then  take a  right turn at Dammur cross to reach Kurugodu. 
Accommodation: There are not many options available for accommodation in Kurugodu. However,  the best would be to find a stay in Bellary overnight. Our usual place of halt is Hotel Ashoka Residency with an affordable budget.
Places to Visit Around Kurugodu: Sandur, Kudatini, Sanganakallu, Bellary, Hampi, Nittur, Sirigeri, Siriguppa, Kenchanagudda, Kampli, Hirebenakal, Gudekote and many such. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Sri Neelakanteshwara Temple, Madhusudana Ashrama, Jammatige, Koppa, Chikkamagaluru

Last time around, I had the opportunity to explore this small yet very beautiful temple near Sringeri, dedicated to Neelakanteshwara swami. About 2 km from Hariharapura is Jammatige, a small village located on the banks of the river Tunga. Jammatige is home to a very beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Neelakanteshwara, a form of Bhagwan Shiva. This temple was built in 1654 CE as per the Indian calendar year  (or 1732 CE as per the English calendar). The credit of building this temple goes to Kallanna, s/o Kolluranna of Kalasa, as per the inscriptions found here on the temple base (Adhisthana). A paper inscription dated 1774 regarding donations to this temple by Sri K H Rudraiyya of Holalakere was published by Dr. B Rajashekarappa. The temple authorities also have records of damages occurred to the temple due to floods from river Tunga in the 20th century and details of the restoration activity. Sri Neelakanteshwara temple is built in typical Keladi style, devoid of Navaranga and comprising only the Garbhagriha, Antarala, Mukhamantapa and Prakara, the outer wall that encloses the temple sanctum. The walls of this temple are adorned with carvings from various epics, puranas and scenes from daily lives of people.

Sri Neelakanteshwara Temple, Jammatige

Details of Inscriptions found here
Sri Neelakanteshwara Swamy 

It was quite intriguing to witness Lord Ganesha atop his vahana, seated on an elephant howdah on one side and Goddess Durga on the other side, guarding the temple as dwarapalas of the garbhagriha. 

Door Frame of Garbhagriha 

Lord Ganesha seated on his Vahana on Elephant's Back

There are 2 friezes on the lintel of the Garbhagriha door - the top frieze carries carvings of Dwadasha (12) Jyothirlingas with a Nandi and the bottom frieze comprises of carvings depicting the story of  sage Valmiki along with the Saptharishis in Brahmaloka. 

Friezes of the Lintel depicting Dwadasha Jyothirlingas and Valmiki Kathe

The inner walls of the Antarala are decorated with many interesting and unique carvings.

1.   A beautiful carving of Dashabhuja Chandra deva on a chariot run by 10 horses (Dashashwa ratha) and next to this is a carving of Brahma deva along with Saraswathi Devi seated on a peacock.

Chandra Deva 

2.    Carving of Chaturbhuja Surya deva on a chariot run by 7 horses with Aruna as his charioteer depicted with Mandeha, an asura who troubled Surya deva daily at dusk. Read more about it here.

Surya Deva and his Chariot 

3.     A unique depiction of Lord Anjaneya and his son Makaradhwaja

Lord Anjaneya and Makaradhwaja

4.     One more beautiful and unique depiction of Sapthaloka (Svarloka, Satyaloka, Tapoloka, Janaloka, Mahaloka, Bhuvarloka, Bhuloka) –  7 upper realms on  Asthadiggajja (Airavatha, Pundareeka, Vamana, Kumuda, Anjana, Pusphadanta, Sarwabhouma, Suprateeka  – 8 elephants holding eight cardinal directions of the world) supported by Adishesha and who in turn is seated on Kuruma.


5.     Carving of Panchamukhi Brahma seated on a chariot.

Panchamukhi Brahma Deva with Chariot 

6.     Gopalakrishna swami

Venugopala Swami

7.     Garuda Deva

Garuda Deva 

The front outer wall of  the Antarala carries a beautiful depiction of the beginning and  ending of Kaliyuga along with the Shaiva Dwarapalas.
Beginning of Kaliyuga (when lust wins over righteousness)
End of Kaliyuga (when humans start eating other humans)

 The outer walls of the temples are adorned with carvings of the Dashavatara, Ramayana Katha, Bhagwat Purana, Mahabharata, Kailasaloka, Yamaloka and Naraka.

Ramayana Friezes 

Friezes Depicting Hell, Punishment in Hell and Story of River Ganga 

Kailasha and Yama Loka 

Mahabharata Friezes 

Asuraraja Ravana 

Tripura Samhara Shiva 

Ugra Narasimha Swami 
Shanmuga Swami 
2.  Chikkamagaluru Jilleya Itihasa Mathu Puratatva (Book by GoK)

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