Monday, July 29, 2013

Malnad Monsoon and Magic - IV

   Malnad (Malenadu) more commonly known as the Western-Ghats or the Sahyadris is the air, water and food of South India, including Maharashtra. The Western Ghats cover an area of about 160000 sqkm, spreading across the five states viz, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.  Malnad forms the right lung of India and is one amongst the last few remaining pristine tropical rain forests in the world. The Western Ghats is recognized as one of the top ten hottest biodiversity hotspots in the world and was recently recognized by the UNESCO as a world heritage site. A few areas spread across the Western Ghats have been given the world heritage site tag, which include mostly national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The region of Malnad receives the highest rainfall in the country, second only to North-Eastern India.  The Ghats are richly forested having a rich and wide variety of flora and fauna. The place has a lot to offer to a traveler, being a treasure trove of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, cascading waterfalls, unexplored forests, hidden forts, historic temples, winding roads, chilly hill stations, pilgrim centers, cultural centers and a never to forget tasty cuisine and ever hospitable people.  The warmth and generosity of the people of Malnad is truly unmatched and so is its beauty, magical and magnificent. Malnad surely possesses a mysterious power that makes it so magical especially during the monsoons.

Leaf Diamonds
Satellite Image
Birth of a River
Can you Spot Me ?
Pyramids of Nature
Misty Noon
Colorful Nature Bands

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Prefect Road Trip - " Team G Square"

   On the evening of December 05 2008, I was in a hurry to end my day’s work as I had to join my friends for a road trip. Little did I know that this would turn out to be a life changing road trip. My friends and brother waited eagerly at home so that we could kick start our journey.  As usual we borrowed our sister’s Indica (car) for our trip and with the entire luggage packed and stuffed into the car, headed towards Goa. We drove on the NH-4 up to Tumkur and then took a turn towards Shimoga. It was time for dinner and so we stopped by at a Dhaba (highway eat-out) for a sumptuous meal. Heading on, we kept driving until midnight and decided to halt when we were about 15 km ahead of Shimoga (towards Honnavar). We had a good night’s sleep in the car and the next morning we woke up and found a nice spot to finish our morning ablutions and continued driving towards Goa. We had Jog falls for breakfast and Karwar for lunch. Then cruising along the west coast we reached Madgoan/Margoa, headed towards our family temple where we had booked our stay for the next two days. The following morning kept everyone busy but me, in marriage preparations. I had the privilege of resting as I was the lucky (read it as not-so-lucky) bride-groom. I spent the day’s end by the riverside dreaming about married life. The D-day arrived atlast! The marriage was a very simple affair and went on smoothly. We finished our lunch at the temple and headed towards Margoa railway station. Thanking them for being there, we bid adieu to our friends and family who boarded trains to return to their homes leaving the car to us. This was only the beginning of our new journey. Me and my wife headed towards Colva beach and spent a good amount of time enjoying the cool breeze. We later drove towards Panjim where we booked a room at a lodge that had a riverside view and spent the night calmly just like the river there. The next morning, we explored various forts and beaches around and did some parasailing over sea and spotted some dolphins far away in the sea. After the water sport, we rested for a while and moved on. On our way, we sighted a board directing towards Arvalem caves and falls. Feeling very excited, we inquired a few people and reached the caves and falls. The evening was spent enjoying the falls and late evening we headed towards Karwar. At Karwar, we halted at a fairly good lodge to spend the night.
Go Goa

      Making inquiries the next morning at the lodge reception about places of interest nearby, we got to know of great places such as Yana, Mirjan fort, Gokarna and so on. We headed toward Gokarna and offered our prayers and moved on to the beach. Without wasting much time we decided to explore Yana since we had heard a lot about this place before. We walked by foot to enjoy the bliss of the Western Ghats during winter. With no breakfast our 12km trek to Yana was wonderful and an unforgettable one.  We reached a village on Sirsi-Kumta highway and stopped by at a small shop and ate everything they offered us. So hungry we were! From here, we decided to head towards Unchalli waterfalls near Sirsi. We reached the crossing where we had to deviate towards the waterfall at around 5pm and had to travel 20km more to reach the waterfall. We were now in a dilemma whether to proceed or not as it would turn dark by the time we reached. We decided to head towards the falls and were greeted by a swiftly moving deer which in no time vanished into the woods, thus giving us a signal of the wildlife activity here. Finally, we reached the point from where the trek to the falls began. The Sun had already set and darkness gradually started to engulf the area. With a lot of courage, we walked towards the falls. After walking for about half a kilometer, we realized it was too dark to proceed as nothing was visible. We safely returned to our vehicle and headed to our friend’s house near Honnavar, where we had our night’s meal and crashed onto our beds.
     After a sumptuous breakfast the next morning, we were at the jetty point waiting for the jetty to take us to an interesting place revealed by our friend, the Mavina Kurve Island. Mavina Kurve is a small and serene Island nestled in the River Sharvathi. The jetty ride was quite pleasant and rewarding. Hereon we moved towards Mirjan fort, which was under restoration by the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) during our visit. We had no idea about its history at that time. The guard there told us not to take photos using a camera though he allowed mobiles to do the same. After a good stroll inside the fort, we   drove towards Karikana Parameshwari temple located atop a hill close by to Honnavar from where we had a good view of the Arabian Sea, Sharvathi River and the surrounding hills. Now it was time to head towards the Mighty Jog, considered to be the highest plunge waterfalls of India. On the way we stopped at a view point to get a wonderful view of the Sharvathi River. We reached Jog, and as the water trickled down the rocky hills, we only wondered about how wonderful it would be during the monsoons. We were curious to we see the spot where a scene for the movie “Mungaru Male” was shot.   Later, while driving towards Sagar, a board directing towards Ikkeri caught our attention and in no time we were in front of a huge and magnificent temple built by the Keladi kings during the 17th Century.  We were quite surprised as we were not aware of such a temple. It was late evening and we reached Heggodu, a village that houses a famous cultural organization called NINASAM, started by K V Subbanna (a famous Kannada artiste). We were quite hungry as we had forgotten to have our lunch and went in search of the canteen here. The hot Idlis with chutney served here were the best we have had till date.  We inquired about the route towards Mangalore and were directed to reach Thirtahalli first. Driving on the winding roads in the dark was a pleasure. People at Thirtahalli recommended us to head on to Sringeri for halt, where we crashed for the night.
     We woke up little late in the morning and moved towards the temple of Sringeri. At South Kanara border, we turned towards Kudremukh and reached the Kudremukh Nature camp. Unfortunately we were not let into the camp as we failed to get a prior permit. He suggested we visit the Lakkya dam and Hanumangundi waterfalls. On reaching the Dam site, we realized the visiting hours were in the evening. Not wasting much time we reached Hanumangundi falls. After paying the required fee, we had to walk down to view the falls. The falls looked majestic and seemed like it awaited for its first visitor of the day. We spent a lot of time here enjoying and exploring the surroundings until a noisy crowd walked down.  Our ascent was tiring. We decided to end our exploration here and reached home for lunch.
A Wonder Called Karnataka
    Personally, this was the perfect road trip I had ever been on. To have started this road trip as a bachelor with friends and ended the trip with my friend for life (my wife), having traveled in a borrowed car through unfamiliar routes, without much preparation or planning was an adventure by itself and a once in a life time experience. It was undoubtedly an amazing road trip, but most importantly it opened a new avenue in our lives.  “Team G Square” was born with a desire to explore and discover every inch of Karnataka and beyond. We only wish that this journey never ends…..

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Malnad Monsoon and Magic - III

Drenched Rose
In Search of the Sun 
At the Confluence
Orange Tip
Ready To Hop
Dog's Umbrella (mushroom)
Zip thru the Woods

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Adventure called Jatinga Rameshwara - Part 4

    There was something on a rock that looked like a painting from far! Coming close, we realized that it was indeed a painting (a single one) but faded in color. It was hard to recognize the subject of the painting, though for us it looked like a design pattern painted with red ochre color. Thinking this place would not offer much, we were back to the base of Dodda-betta (the big hill), and generally started wandering around the hill surroundings. The place looked like a perfect habitat for wild animals. Walking along, we found a small cave that had enough water in it and some figures drawn with red ochre and white colors. After investigating these pictures closely, we realized that the red ones were surely pre-historic in nature but the white ones were the not so useful contribution of our generation! A few red ochre paintings were clear and the color was distinct.
Faded Cave Painting
Small Cave
Cave Painting
  The cave paintings were of men riding various animals and of humans, but sadly most of these paintings have been carelessly vandalized by the modern art of our generation. We searched the neighboring caves too but found nothing. We moved a little further and spotted another group of cave paintings of which, only one was clearly identifiable as a Deer. We found many other caves and ventured into a few in search of paintings, but in vain. We had to move on to other places and so we decided to return to our vehicle, though this time we chose to descend from the other side of the hill. The path chosen downwards was an adventure by itself. Without a proper route and surrounded by thorny vegetation, our descent proved less easy than expected. The descent though, was the second best part of our adventure after the spotting of the cave paintings!
Men riding various animals
Water inside the Cave

Deer Painting
Balanced Rock
Cave Entrance 
We were able to sight another ruined temple on the neighboring hill and decided to explore the same. Our next destination was Bramhagiri which is about 5 km from here. At Bramhagiri, we met Mr. Manjunath, the official caretaker of all the Asokan Edicts present in and around Brahmagiri. While discussing about Jatinga Rameshwara, he very excitingly told us about his experience during his last visit to Jatinga and that, one early morning he was chased away by three sloth bears.  It is a fact that the locals of Jatinga regularly sight bears on this mountain and hence people always prefer to go well equipped and in groups. We were frightened for a second listening to all this and thinking back of our adventure in Jatinga. It sent jitters as we remember strolling around Jatinga leisurely and fearlessly!
View of the Hill
Ruined Temple
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Tuesday, July 2, 2013


   For a while, we were absorbed in witnessing the place that had connections with one of the greatest of emperors of India and the last ruler who ruled the entire Bharatkanda. Hereon, we moved towards the Rameshwara temple complex. As per the legend and one of the inscriptions present here, this place is believed to have been the place where Jatayu, the bird that courageously fought against the demon Ravana to save Goddess Sita from his evil hands was killed. Lord Rama installed a Shiva Linga in memory of Jatayu and hence the name Jatinga Rameshwara. According to an ASI official whom we met later during our journey, there is a grave on the hill top made of big bricks, probably of the same bird. 
Lord Anjaneya
Elephant Carving at the Entrance
Entrance to Temple Complex
   According to another inscription, this temple was a ruined brick structure with beautiful Shiva Linga in it, which was later renovated in AD 962, using stone by a person named Lingshivaji, who was responsible for building the other temples in the complex. Lingshivaji supposedly was a beggar. Later in AD 1064, the Kalyana Chalukyan King Vijayaditya made more improvements to this temple. There are at least 5 stone inscriptions present here that describe stories relating Jatinga Rameshwara to the Ramayana, Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Nolambas and Palegars.   
Rock Inscription
Rock Inscriptions

 The most important temple in the complex is the Jatinga Rameshwara temple. There are many small temples dedicated to Lords Virabhadra, Ganesha, Parushurama, and Mahisasuramardhini. The most striking feature of the temple complex for us was the Keerthistamba (Pillar). The pillar stands tall and is beautifully carved.   

Jatinga Rameshwara Temple
Temple Complex

According to the book ‘Bramhagiri’ by Dr. S.Y. Somashekar, enough evidence exists to confirm its association with pre historic times.
 The real adventure had just begun…………….