Wednesday, May 31, 2017

At the Confluence of Rivers Tunga and Bhadra, Koodli Sangama, Shimoga/Shivamogga

Kudli Sangama
Confluence of Rivers Tunga and Bhadra 
Kudli/ Koodli Sangama is a small village located at the confluence of rivers Tunga and Bhadra. The mighty Tungabhadra originates here and takes an easterly course towards the Bay of Bengal. It is one among the most prominent rivers of India and has been a centre of activity for many centuries. The surrounding areas of Kudli have been under continuous occupation since the Paleolithic period. Various dynasties have ruled this place starting from the Satavahanas of Banavasi to Nayakas of Keladi. Kudli is home to many temples built during various periods, such as Lord Rameshwara temple, Shringeri Shankar Mutt, Narasimha temple, and Vidyashankar temple. We first visited the Sangama or Confluence of the rivers Tunga and Bhadra with overflowing waters, thanks to the good rains! We enjoyed sitting by, watching the river and people around here. 
River Tungabhadra
River Tungabhadra Flows from Here
Rameshwara Temple, Kudli
Rameshwara Temple 
Bramhalingeshwara Temple
Shikara of  Rameshwara Temple
Hoysala Emblem on Vestibule 
Lord Veerabhadra and Bhikshatana Murti
 The Rameshwara temple here was built in 12th century by the Hoysalas and is dedicated to Lord Shiva in form of Linga. Though the super structure of this temple is of the non-ornate type of Hoysala Architecture, the Rameshwara Linga seems to be of much earlier times than the Hoysalas. This is a simple ekakuta temple with navaranga being connected by three mukhamantapas. There are three inscription stones in the compound of Rameshwara temple out of which one is in Kannada, probably belonging to the Western Chalukyas or Hoysalas and the other two seem to be scripted in Sanskrit/Marathi. The Chintamani Narasimha temple which is closely located to the Rameshwara temple was closed during our visit. It is believed to have been built during the same period as the Rameshwara temple with a similar plan. The Keladi styled Rajagopuram welcomes everyone to the Chintamani Narasimha temple.
Keladi Styled Rajagopuram of Chintamani Narasimha Temple 
Inscriptions Slab Stones 
Shringeri Shankar Mutt
Sharadamba Temple 
Sri Vidyashankara Temple
 We went on to visit the Vidyashankara temple which was under the renovation and finally visited the Shringeri Shankar Mutt. In the premises of this mutt are two temples dedicated to goddess Sharadamba and the great saint Shankaracharya. This temple remains the second choice after Kollur Mookambika temple for the ritual of Vidyarambham or Aksharabhyasa (the ritual of introducing small children to the world of learning and writing). We witnessed a few families performing this interesting ritual wherein small kids write their first letters of their mother tongue in a plate full of rice grains. It was time for the Anna prasadam (Lunch) which is served here to all, and we moved on to have a hearty and sumptuous meal. 
Other places to visit nearby: Shivamogga, Gajanur Dam, Mattur (Sanskrit Village), Sakrebyle Elephant Centre, Bhadravathi and many such. 
How to reach Kudli: Located off the Shivamogga - Honnali Highway, about 15 km from Shivamogga.
Accommodation: There are two mutts here which offer accommodation, though getting one depends on availability. A better choice would be to stay at Shivamogga and make a day trip as there are plenty of options in Shivamogga to suit all budgets. 
Where to eat: A few small eateries are present here as it is a pilgrim center. Anna prasadam is served daily during lunch time at Shringeri Shankar mutt. 
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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Hoysala Temple of Doddagaddavalli , Hassan

Doddagaddavalli, a small village located off the Hassan - Belur Highway is home to one of the uniquely built Hoysala temple. The Lakshmi Devi temple here is the only surviving Chatuskuta (four shrined) temple built by the Hoysalas, while the Bhimeshwara temple of Nilgunda (Harapanahalli, Davangere) is the only other surviving Chatuskuta temple, built by the Chalukyas. Though both the temples were built almost during the same period and are similar in architectural resemblance, the Lakshmi temple of Doddagaddavalli is a more prominent Chatuskuta temple with 4 shikaras still intact. A typical Chatuskuta temple has 4 garbhagrihas in four cardinal directions, with a common sabhamantapa.
Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli
Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli 
Temple of Karnataka, Doddagaddavalli
Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli 
 The Lakshmi Devi temple complex is enclosed within a prakara wall with four small shrines located at each corner. The 8 towers include the shikaras of 4 small shrines along with the 4 main shrines standing in eight different directions, probably intended to represent the cardinal and ordinal directions or the Ashta dikkugalu (North, East,  West, South,  North East, North West, South East and South West). There is another temple in the complex built subsequently by the Hoysalas, contributing to a total of 9 towers here. The main eastern shrine houses the murti of Goddess Lakshmi Devi, with Lord Keshava in the south (though now the original murti is missing), Lord Shiva in the form of a Linga in west and Goddess Kali in the northern shrine. There are two huge nude Bethala sculptures depicted as dwarapalas of Goddess Kali. 
The Four Shikaras 
Hoysala Emblem
Hoysala Emblem 
Inscriptions Etched on the wall
 The common sabhamantapa is square in plan with 4 central lathe turned pillars. The ceilings of the sabhamantapa are a classical representation of Hoysala architecture. The main shikara of the garbhagriha which houses the murti of Goddess Lakshmi Devi is Dravidian in style, while the other 8 shikaras here are of Nagara style. The outer walls of the temple are plain and decorated with pilasters surmounted by miniature shikaras. The beautiful Hoysala emblems adorn the vestibules of all four shikaras here. The image of Goddess Lakshmi Devi at the central portion of the ceiling of the Mukhamantapa is carved in such a way that, it appears as though she looks at us from which ever direction we see her. This is a wonderful artwork of the Hoysalas. The temple is maintained by the ASI and a care taker is appointed by them for the maintenance of this temple. 
Goddess Lakshmi
Shakti Cult Carving on the Lintel 
The Bethala
Devi on the Ceiling of Mukhamantapa
Me with Curious Kid 
Broken Herostones 
Other Places to visit nearby:  Group of Hoysala Temples at Mosale, Shanthi Grama, Arsikere, Belur and Halebidu, Shettihalli Church, Gorur Dam, Sanka Hoysala Temple, Kondajji Hoysala Temple, Garudanagiri Fort, Maharajanadurga Fort and many such.
How to Reach Doddagaddavalli: Located off the Hassan - Belur Highway, about 15 km from Hassan. 
Entry Fee: Entry is free. 
Accommodation:  There is no option of any accommodation here in Doddagaddavalli; one can stay in Hassan where there are plenty of options to suit one’s budget. We usually choose Hotel Suvarna Regency, which is quite affordable with all modern amenities. One can also choose to stay at Hotel Hoysala Village Resort which is an upscale resort located close by. 
Where to Eat: There are no eateries here, although one can stop by at Hassan which is close by with plenty of options to suit one’s taste. Recommended ones are Hotel Suvarna Sagar, Hotel Kadamba and Hotel Sri Krishna.
1. Temples of Karnataka - A book written by Dr.K.M. Suresh
2. The Hoysala Temples - A book written by S.Settar 

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1. Top 50 must visit lesser known temples of Karnataka 

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

MP Diaries - Eco Park, Deori - The Only Crocodile Breeding Center in Madhya Pradesh

After an exciting boat safari at National Chambal Sanctuary, we thanked the forest guard who accompanied us during our ride and headed back towards Morena. We decided to check out the Eco-park at Deori, which is regarded as the only crocodile breeding centre in Madhya Pradesh. We paid a nominal entrance fee and started to explore the park. There are numerous enclosures here housing crocodiles, gharials and turtles of similar age. After they turn 4 years, they are released into the wild waters of Chambal. There are close to 200 crocodiles and 2000 gharials here. We were fortunate enough to spot a mongoose family playing around this place. Though the center was a bit low on maintenance, it surely gave us an insight to the life of the gharials.
Eco Park, Deori
Entrance to Eco Park, Deori 
I'm Watching You 
Grey Indian Mongoose
Playful Mongoose 
Gharial Eggs 
How to reach Deori: Travel on Gwalior - Agra highway, 3 km from Morena on the right side if traveling from Gwalior. About 40 km from Gwalior.
Entry Fee: Rs.30/- per head, free for kids below 15 years.
Accommodation: There is a forest rest house nearby the crocodile centre with the modest of amenities. Though Morena has a few small budget lodges,  one can stay in Gwalior and visit this place along with the National Chambal Sanctuary.
Where to eat: There are many small road side eateries in Morena.

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PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MP Diaries: National Chambal Sanctuary, Home to Endangered Gharial

On day 11 of our road trip to Madhya Pradesh, we decided to visit the Chambal Sanctuary after reading about it being home to the critically endangered Gharial, Red Crowned Roof Turtle and  the Indian Skimmer. Though the fog continued to be deterrent, we decided to visit there and check it out. We reached Chambal with a lot of hope of sighting the Gharial and Indian skimmer, but the forest guard here informed us initially during our discussion that spotting a Gharial in such weather is next to impossible, though we had great chances of spotting the beautiful Indian Skimmer. We decided to continue with our boat safari, hoping to spot some good water birds. River Chambal flows across 3 states - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and the entire region is declared as a national sanctuary. There are many spots along the river managed independently by the state forest department. This is considered to be the longest river national sanctuary in India and also the cleanest. The entire area around this river until recently (2007) was under the control of the infamous dacoits of Chambal, including the popular bandit queen Phoolan Devi, which is probably one of reasons that this region has remained pristine. The boat safari was unique and we spotted many birds such as the Indian Skimmer, River Lapwing, Red Wattled Lapwing, Gulls, Bar Headed Geese, Sociable Lapwing, Crab Plover, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Owls, Montagu Harrier,  Ruddy Shelduck (Brahminy Duck), Little Ringed Plover, Thick Knee and many more. We also got an opportunity of spotting a few Red Crowned Roof Turtle. 
Bar Headed Geese
Welcomed by Bar Headed Geese 
First Look of the Indian Skimmers 
Indian Skimmers
Aah! Orangeeee!!!
Green Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper 
Rajaghat Bridge
Foggy Day 
Red Wattled Lapwing
Red Wattled Lapwing 
River Lapwing 
Indian Skimmers
Resting after a Flight 
Indian Skimmers
Indian Skimmers in Flight 
Red Crowned Roof Turtle
Red Crowned Roof Turtle 
National Chambal Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh
National Chambal Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh 
Brahminy Duck 
Great Thick Knee 
How to reach Chambal:  Travel on Gwalior - Agra Highway, about 60 km from Gwalior and 70 km from Agra. This is the northern most point of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Rajasthan. There is a small setup by Madhya Pradesh forest department for the benefit of tourists. 
Entry Fee:  A. Rs 100/- per head for Indians and Rs 600/- per head for Foreigners, entry for kids below 12 years is free, while the others are charged full.
B. Boat ride - There are 3 slabs, though the price is not fixed, it may vary as per the prevailing rules of the forest department and availability of boats; wearing a life jacket is compulsory. Package includes the guide fee.   
    1. 3 km one way - Rs.1750/- per boat for the entire trip 
    2. 5 km one way - Rs.2050/- per boat for the entire trip
    3. 8 km one way - Rs.2750/- per boat for the entire trip  
Accommodation: There is no accommodation here, though there are a few lodges in the near by town of Dholpur (Rajasthan). Better option would be to stay in Gwalior/Agra and cover it as a day trip. 
Where to eat: There are no places to eat in the vicinity of this national park, Dholpur is the closest town with many options. Kindly plan accordingly. 

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PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MP Diaries: Gwalior, The crown of Madhya Pradesh

A chilly Gwalior welcomed us after a hectic drive from Shivpuri. The temperature here was below 10 degree centigrade, typical of the Northern Indian climate in January. We checked into Hotel Ambassador and decided to rest for the day due to the weather and the temperature only kept going down, creating uneasiness to our little one. As he started to catch cold, he became more uncomfortable and woke up from his sleep crying loud. We tried to comfort him and gave him the required medicines. As the hotels there did not have a heater installed in rooms, we had no other choice but to request for a separate heater and only wished their response was positive. Fortunately, he obliged to the request and did the needful, which helped us much that night. Our little one felt much better after getting the room heater and slept peacefully for rest of the night. We woke up late the next morning only to realize it was totally foggy outside and decided to stay indoors until the situation improved. We stepped out at around 10.30 am to check out the town of Gwalior, though it remained foggy with a slight drizzle too.
Gwalior Fort
This is How Gwalior Fort Looked at Noon 
Gwalior always has been in our list of places to visit for various reasons, right from its role in India's first war of Independence to the Nanda dynasty rule of Pataliputra during early 6th century BC. The state of Gwalior rose to prominence with Chieftain Suraj Sen. He met saint Gwalipa who lived on the hilltop where the fort now stands and was cured of his disease by the saint. In return, Suraj Sen founded the city and named it after the saint. Thus Gwalior was founded. Man Singh Tomar, the great ruler of Tomar dynasty improved the fort here and built the most famous palace of Gwalior, the Man Mandir Palace. Later this fort was captured by the Mughals and remained under them for a long period, after which in 1810, it came under the control of the Scindia dynasty and finally the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, led by Tantya Tope and  strongly supported by Rani Lakshmi Bai. Both the brave warriors gave up their lives during the struggle for independence of this great country.
The Scindia Chhatris: The lesser known Chhatri complex of Scindia rulers stands mute in the busy lanes of Gwalior. This was the first place we visited in Gwalior and reaching this place was easy. We were greeted by two huge and magnificent cenotaphs. The larger Chhatri was built in 1817 to commemorate Maharaja Jiyaji Rao Scindia and the smaller Chhatri was built in 1843 in memory of Maharaja Janakaji Scindia.
Scindia Chhatris of Gwalior
Maharaja Jiyaji Rao Scindia Chhatri 
Gwalior Fort: This most impressive structure of Madhya Pradesh is built on a small hillock. Other monuments inside the fort are the Man Mandir Palace, Hathi Pol, Karn Mahal, Vikram Mahal, Gujari Mahal, Shah Jahan Mahal, Jahangeer Mahal and many such.
Gwalior Gate
Qila Gate/ Gwalior Gate 
Blue Tiled Walls of Gwalior Fort 
Man Mandir Mahal
Inside Man Mandir Palace 
Saas-Bahu Temple (Mother-in-law Daughter-in-law Temple): Built in the 11-12th century by Mahipala Kachhwaha, this temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Saas - Bahu Temple Complex, Gwalior
Saas - Bahu Temple Complex 
Chaturbhuj Temple: Here is the world's first written zero found! The inscribed slab is believed to be of a much earlier period than the temple which was built by Pratiharas in 9th century.
Chaturbhuj Temple 
World's First Written Zero
World's First Written Zero 
 Teli Ka Mandir: This 9th century temple built by Pratiharas is the tallest temple, with its unusual shikhara.
Teli Ka Mandir, Gwalior
Teli Ka Mandir 
Jain Rock Cut Temples:  These were built over 800 years, from the 7th century and are dedicated to various Jain Tirthankaras. The tallest murti (idol) here is that of the first Jain Tirthankara, Adinath.
Lord Adinath
Moti Mahal: This 19th century palace built by the Scindia kings was the Secretariat of Madhya Bharat government back then. There is a beautiful garden with a neatly done network of fountains in front of this palace.
Moti Mahal, Gwalior
Moti Mahal 
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus: This huge building crowned with a large dome is dedicated to the 16th century Muslim saint Mohammad Ghaus.
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus
 Tomb of Tansen: It is a small tomb dedicated to the greatest classical singer Tansen, who was the leading singer in Akbar’s court. He was also one among the navaratnas (nine gems). The tomb is in the same complex as that of the Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus and is much smaller in size. The tomb is located besides a tamarind tree, whose leaves were chewed by Miyan Tansen for a sweet voice.
Tomb of Tansen and Famed Tamarind Tree 
Light and Sound Show:  Every evening the MPSTDC runs an hour’s light and sound show at the Man Mandir Palace inside the fort in the two languages of Hindi and English.
Lit Gwalior Fort during Light and Sound Show
Lit Gwalior Fort 
Others Places to Visit: Jai Vilas Palace Museum, Nag Dev Mandir, various parks, and many more.
Entry Fee: The Entry fee collected for various sites are as below,
A. Man Mandir Palace - Rs 15/- for Indians and Rs 200/- for Foreigners
B. Royal enclosure - Rs 15/- for Indians and Rs 200/- for Foreigners
C. Gujari Mahal/ ASI Museum - Rs 5/- for all, Monday Holiday
D. Light and Sound Show - Rs 100/- for all
E. Jai Vilas Palace Museum - Rs 60/- for Indians and Rs 350/- for Foreigners
Accommodation:- We stayed for a day at Hotel Ambassador which offered very basic amenities and held a decent and friendly staff, though not very clean. Our second day accommodation was at Hotel Shelter, a bit upscale hotel with nice ambiance, centrally located, mid-range and friendly staff. Being a popular tourist destination, there are many options tailored to meet the varying budgets. Hotel Tansen Residency is another good one being maintained by MPSTDC.
Where to eat: Options are many. There should be no difficulty in finding a suitable place for meals.
1. RBS visitors Guide India Madhya Pradesh
2. DK Eyewitness Travel India

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PS: A new page has been added to our blog, which has a collection of our Vlogs. Click here to view.