Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mysore Dasara and Top 15 Attractions in and around Mysore

Lit Mysore Palace
View of Lit Mysore Palace From Chamundi Hills
Mysore/Mysuru/Maisooru is world renowned for its 407 year old tradition of Dasara celebration, popularly known as 'Nadahabba' of Karnataka. Mysore is regarded as the cultural capital of Karnataka. The 'Aane Ambari' or 'Jumbo Savari' is a major attraction of the Mysore Dasara wherein the decorated elephants carry the golden howdah weighing about 750 kg, housing a beautiful murti of mother Chamundeshwari. The Royal couple of the Wodeyar family begin the festival celebrations by offering special puja to mother Chamundeshwari at the Chamundeshwari temple, atop the Chamundi hills. The celebration lasts for 10 days beginning with the first day of Navaratri and ending on the 10th day or Vijayadashami, the day that mother Chamundeshwari slayed the demon king Mahishasura.  This year is more exciting with a few added attractions to this celebration, like the helicopter ride and many such. Apart from the Aane Ambari, the second most popular attraction is the beautiful  illumination of Mysore Palace. The LED bulb lit Mysore Palace dazzles during night and is a feast for the eyes. The lighting timings during festive occasion is between 7 pm and 9 pm on all the ten days. Apart from Dasara, the palace is lit on all Sundays and government holidays between 7 pm and 7:45 pm. There are many other attractions around Mysore in addition to the events during the famous Mysore Dasara.
Mysore Palace, Chamundi Hills
Mysore Palace as Seen From Chamundi Hill with out Lights
1. Chamundi Hills: This is the most important landmark of Mysore which houses temples dedicated to goddess Chamundeshwari and Lord Mahabaleshwara, considered to be the one of the earliest temples of Mysore, dating back to the 9th century. Chamundi hills is very well connected to Mysore with many city buses plying regularly between the central bus stand and Chamundi hills. The temple remains open for most times during Dasara festival, except for an hour in the afternoons and evenings. The best time to visit the hill will be early in the morning to get a glimpse of this mist clad hillock and also during evenings, when the Mysore palace is lit. The view of the lit Mysore palace from Chamundi hills is gorgeous and will make the trip to Mysore most memorable.
Chamundeshwari Temple, Chamundi Hills, Mysore
Chamundeshwari Temple, Chamundi Hills
2. Mysore Zoo: This zoo is regarded as the most beautiful and best maintained zoo in the country. It is also considered to be the oldest of zoos to have been established in India, during the year 1892 by the Mysore King - Sri Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur. The zoo is home to a few of the many exotic animals not found elsewhere in India. This is a must visit place in Mysore. The Zoo is generally closed on Tuesdays, although during Dasara it remains open on all days.
Mysore Zoo
Walkway Inside Mysore Zoo
3. Mysore Palace and Temples in the Palace complex: The Mysore palace or Amba Vilas Palace as it is called was first built in the 14th century by Yaduraya, and has been subsequently undergone various renovations and reconstructions. The current structure was built by the Mysore Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and was completed in 1912, after the old palace was burnt down to ashes. The palace has various exhibits of the Wodeyar kings and queens, including the famous golden howdah/ambari on display. Photography is strictly prohibited here and entry to the palace is ticketed. There are 8 temples inside the palace complex of which, the Swetha Varahaswamy temple is the earliest and belongs to the Hoysala period built around 12th century AD. Mysore is also home to many other palaces such as the Jayalakshmi Vilas Palace, Lalithamahal Palace, Jaganmohan Palace and such.
Places to Visit in Mysore
Amba Vilas Palace
Top tourist attractions in Mysore
Large Temple Complex Inside the Palace Premises
Hoysala Temple in Mysore
Swetha Varahaswamy Temple
4. Karanji and Kukkarahalli Lakes: A visit to Mysore is incomplete without visiting these famous lakes. Both the lakes were constructed by the Wodeyar Kings during different periods, with Kukkarahalli lake being the earliest. Karanji Lake falls under the Forest department and is ticketed.
Karanji Lake, Mysore
Karanji Lake
5. St. Philomena's Church: St. Philomena's Church is a catholic church built in the year 1936 in  Neo- Gothic style and is considered to be one among the tallest Churches of Asia. This is one of the important landmarks of Mysore.
St Philomena Church, Mysore
St. Philomena's Church
6. Mysore Silk Emporium/Factory: The silk weaving factory owned by the Government is another place worth a visit and is great for buying authentic and high quality silk products. This factory was started in 1912 by the Mysore Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV for meeting the requirements of the Royal family. This later developed into a full fledged business post independence after it was was transferred to the Mysore Sericulture Department.
7. Regional Museum of Natural History (RMNH): This place is a must visit for young kids simply because it is really interesting and educative. The RMNH, Mysore is the southern regional office of the National Museum of Natural History. The entry to the museum and parking is free.The other museums in town are the State Government Museum and the Wax Museum which one can also plan to visit.
Museum of Mysore
A Painting inside RMNH
8. GRS Fantasy Park: This park is an amusement water park located in the outskirts of Mysore (about 10 km). It is a great place for a full day of adventure and fun.
9. Brindavan Gardens: These gardens are located at a distance of about 21 km from Mysore and is developed around the KRS dam built across river Kaveri (lifeline of South Karnataka). Coming under the taluk of Srirangapatna of Mandya district, it is jointly maintained by the Cauvery Niravari Nigam and KSTDC. The musical lit fountains in the evenings are a major attraction of this park.
Musical Fountain, Brindavan Gardens
10. Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary: This beautiful bird sanctuary and scenic spot is home to many avian species and  is located about 15 km from Mysore on the banks of river Kaveri. The Karnataka Forest Department maintains this sanctuary and operates river safaris to take one around the river for sighting birds.
Inside Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
11. Balmuri and Edmuri Falls: These waterfalls are located about 24 km from Mysore near the KRS dam. These are formed by a man-made check dam. This is a good spot to enjoy playing in the water and quite safe to swim, although with caution. Edumuri, situated close by to Balmuri falls is generally less visited.
Balmuri Waterfalls, Mandya
Balmuri Waterfalls
12. Mysore Sandal Factory: This factory started in 1916 by the Mysore Maharaja along with Diwan Sir M Visvesvaraya is a one stop solution for all sandal products. The sandal  products can at also be purchased at registered art and craft stores.
13. Shuka Vana Aviary: This rare aviary in the premises of SGS Ashram is a rehabilitation center for birds and is being maintained by Sri Ganapathy Sachchinanda Swamiji. It is home to a large variety of colorful species of parrots from all over the world. The experience of interacting with these birds, some of which are free to fly around is quite unique . Entry is free and photography inside the parrot park is strictly prohibited, although one can get photographed with a group of birds at a fixed price. This place is surely worth a visit.
Bird Art Inside Shuka Vana
14. Nanjangud: Nanjangud town is located about 25 km from Mysore and is home to one of the largest temple of Karnataka, Sri Srikanteshwara Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a Linga and is believed to have been built in 11th century AD by the Cholas and later improvised by the Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara and Wodeyar kings. This beautiful temple set on the banks of river Kapila is a must visit place around Mysore.
Sri Srikanteshwara Temple, Nanjangud
15. Srirangapatna: Srirangapatna town is located about 14 km from Mysore and is an erstwhile Agrahara since the time of the Ganga dynasty, who also built the temple of Lord Ranganathaswamy. This town was under the rule of the Hoysalas, Vijayanagara kings, Wodeyars, Tippu, and later again fell into the hands of the Wodeyars. There are many temples, tombs, a fort and bridge and a few British bungalows here. This town on the banks of river Kaveri is considered to be one among the holy places in Karnataka. 
River Kaveri
River Kaveri, Srirangapatnam
How to reach Mysore: Mysore is very well connected by road and rail to other parts of the country. It has a functional airport with regular flights to Chennai only as of now, with mega expansion plans in the future.
Where to stay in Mysore: There are umpteen number of options available for accommodation in Mysore, suiting all budget classes. The Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel is converted into a  luxury heritage hotel and is maintained by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation. Hotels Pai Vista, Park Lane, Roopa, Pai Viceroy, and Maurya Residency to name a few are the best hotels situated in close proximity to the the Mysore Palace as well as the bus stand.
Where to eat in Mysore: Although most of the above mentioned hotels provide complimentary break fast, one can surely try and get the real taste of Mysore by heading to Hotel Mylari which serves the best Mysore Masala Dosa or Hotel Siddhartha which reflects the authentic taste of Mysore. For Lunch, head to High Park Restaurant for a unique revolving roof-top buffet with amazing views, with the other good choices being Hotel Nalapak which offers quite a good range of vegetarian meals and Hotel RRR which is undoubtedly the best place in Mysore for non-vegetarian meals. Mysore also offers a rich variety of street food during night.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

MP Diaries: The Smoky Dhuandhar Waterfalls and Magical Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat

Smoky Dhuandhar Waterfalls
Smoky Dhuandhar Waterfalls
After witnessing a few of the earliest temples of Madhya Pradesh at Nachna and Tigawa, we headed towards Bhedaghat to visit the smoky Dhuandhar waterfalls. We stopped by a roadside dhaba just before Jabalpur and had a hearty meal. We then drove towards Bhedaghat which is about 25 km from Jabalpur and reached there just at the right time before sunset. Walking swiftly towards the waterfall, we immediately hopped into the cable car for a sky ride across this beautiful water cascade which was an out of the world experience. Bhedaghat is the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Banganga. An aerial view of this magnificent waterfall simply gave us an idea of how powerful it is, true to its name 'Dhuandhar' or the 'smoky cascade'. The Smoky Dhuandhar Falls in the upstream of Bhedaghat is quite a spectacle to witness! Plunging from a height of about 30 feet, this voluminous waterfall with its powerful plunge creates vapors that resemble smoke. One can hear the loud roar of this waterfall from quite some distance (do check out the video below in this post).
Dhuandhar Waterfalls, Bhedaghat
Waterfalls near Jabalpur
Bhedaghat is also much famed for the 'Marble Rocks' where the river meanders into a narrow stream, creating a beautiful gorge with soft marble rocks rising high on either sides. This place is calm and serene and one can simply sit by the rocks to enjoy its tranquility. The locally available rocks are used for carving sculptures and other artifacts. It serves as a livelihood to the locals, which is quite evident from the numerous stalls lined up on either sides of the pathway selling articles made of these rocks.
The Cable Car
Smoky Dhuandhar Waterfalls
Smoky Dhuandhar Waterfalls in Monochrome
Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat
Marble Rocks, Bhedaghat

The cable car ride facility is available at a cost of Rs.85/- per person. There is also a boat ride facility, which is supposed to be an unforgettable experience especially during moonlit nights.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Neelakurinji - A Rare Bloom on the Hills of Sandur

Neelakurinji Bloom on the Hills of Sandur
Neelakurinji Bloom on the Hills of Sandur
An article published in Bangalore Mirror on the 12th of September, 2017 about the rare phenomenon of 'Neelakurinji Flower Blooming' in the Swamimalai hill range of Sandur, followed by subsequent photographs of the same on twitter by a few friends instigated me to visit Sandur and witness this phenomenon. This rarity is an indication that the hills of Sandur should be left on its own and nature will find its own way to recover. It is also high time that Sandur follows the footsteps of Kudremukha by the way of completely banning mining practices to restore its natural wealth.
Strobilanthes kunthianus
Neelakurinji Blooms
NeelaKurinji rare flower
Purple Carpet Amidst the Green
'Strobilanthes kunthianus' or 'Neelakurinji' as it is commonly known, blooms once in 12 years in some parts of the western  and eastern ghats. It is a shrub belonging to the family of Acanthaceae (dicotyledonous flowering plants) and is monocarpic, producing flowers and fruit only once before dying. They are Plietesials exhibiting mass flowering and mast seeding once in 12 years. The color of its flowers vary in shades of purple. There are more than 40 species of 'Strobilanthes' in India with different life cylce lengths. Their blooming at long intervals is attributed to  a survival strategy they practice known as 'predator satiation', which basically reduces the probability of complete destruction of the species. This behavior has also been observed in bamboos, cicadas and a few other species.
Neelakurinji Shrubs in Monochrome
After a tiring night journey, we reached the site of Kurinji flowers on Sunday morning around 11:00 am. The bloom was present in a few parts covering small areas. There were many people thronging to get a glimpse of this rare occurrence. Seeing their behavior, I felt the concerned authorities must have taken a step or two to protect this precious site by  restraining people form moving into the  Kurinji shrubs  and behaving irresponsibly  being unaware of its rarity and biodiversity value. At least, a board stating 'touching and plucking of flowers is prohibited' would be helpful (only if followed though) !. A kind request from our side to all wanting to visit here or any other site of importance is to 'Please be sensitive and responsible, and enjoy without causing any kind of damage or destruction to our natural wealth'. Also remember not to litter. Thank You.
The bloom this season at Sandur hills may last another 10-15 days.

Reckless Crowd
Rare flower which blooms once in 12 years
Selfie Crazy People

"We Save Nature and Nature Will Save Us"


Friday, September 15, 2017

MP Diaries - Lord Vishnu and Kankali Devi Temples, Tigawa

After spending a good amount of time at Nachna, admiring our ancestral architectural skills. Thereon we drove to our next destination Tigawa which was the most memorable of all drives. The drive was mostly through village roads that were least populated and spotless! The best stretch though was through the forest of Muhandra  and we thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. We covered about 140 km within 2 hours time and reached the temple complex of Tigawa which is home to two small and beautiful ancient temples, the Kankali Devi Temple and Devi/Lord Vishnu Temple.
Kankali Devi Temple, Tigawa
Kankali Devi Temple, Tigawa

The Kankali Devi Temple can be easily classified among the earliest temples of India, built by the Gupta dynasty. This temple complex probably housed many other temples, which is quite evident from the vast ruins spread across the complex of which only 2 survive today. This  temple dates to 5th century AD and was originally dedicated to Kankali Devi. The sanctum now houses a murti of Lord Ugranarasimha. The sanctum entrance is flanked by images of Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna and. The inner wall of the porch bears beautiful carvings of Lord Vishnu reclining on Shesha and Goddess Chamundi which are marvelous specimens of Gupta sculptural art. The roof of the shrine is flat without any shikara but has a front porch (ardhamandapa) supported on columns bearing  patterns of foliage, miniature kudu arches framing small human/animal faces and lions sculpted at its top.
Tigawa Temple
Kankali Temple Doorway
Heavy and Beautiful Pillars
Probably Jain Tirthankara Parshvanatha (??)
Goddess Chamundi and Lord Vishnu
Tigowa Temple
Kudu Arches
River Goddess Ganga, Gupta dynasty
River Goddess Ganga
River Goddess Yamuna on door frame
River Goddess Yamuna
Lord Ugranarasimha
The Devi/Lord Vishnu Temple has a torana (arched portal) at the temple entrance built during the Gupta period datable to 5-6th century AD.. The remaining portions of the temple seems to have been constructed at a later period. The sanctum houses a murti of Goddess Durga and the outer wall in the front has carvings Lord Vishnu with all his incarnations depicted around the main image apart from Lord Surya, Goddess Chamundi and Ganesha. This temple has a front porch resting on four pillars.
Durga Devi Temple/ Vishnu Temple Tigawa
Durga Devi Temple
The Torana
Goddess Durga Devi
Lord Vishnu with His Ten Incarnations
Lord Vishnu with His Ten Incarnations
How to reach Tigawa: Tigawa is located about 65 km from Jabalpur, close to Bahoriband. We reached this place via Pawai - Muhandra - Raipura - Tigawa - Temple complex is located just off the main road while at the entrance of the village.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MP Diaries - Chaumukhanath and Parvati Temples of Nachna

For the last day of our exciting road trip in Madhya Pradesh, we had in our itinerary three places to visit namely Nachna, Tigawa and Bhedaghat. We started from Khajuraho early in the morning so we could cover all the three within our time limit. We reached Nachna which is home to two beautiful temples built between 5-7th century, our first destination for the day. Though reaching Nachna was not at all difficult, there was something special about this place probably owing to its remoteness. After a final enquiry at the village of Nachna, we were directed to this temple complex.
Nachne/ Nachna
Chaumukhanath Temple, Nachna

The Chaumukhanath Temple is an old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and built during the reign of the Prathihara dynasty. It is  datable to the post Gupta period around 7th century AD and is regarded as one of the earliest temples built by the Prathiharas. The sanctum houses a very beautiful four faced Shiva linga (chaumukha). The four manifestations of Lord Shiva depicted on the four directions are as follows: facing east is Tatpurusha (three eyed and represents the air element); facing north is Vamadeva (expresses feminine qualities and represents the water element); facing south is Aghora (expresses wrath with bulging eyes, raised nostrils and a widely opened mouth and represents the fire element); and facing west is Sadyojata (expresses calm and serene qualities and represents the earth element). The shrine is square in plan with a porch in the front and has a covered ambulatory path pierced by perforated windows (Jali). The porch in its front seems to be a later addition. The Jali windows are exquisitely carved with depictions of musicians and dancers, and river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna on either sides. The shikara is plain and simple with an amalaka and kalasha at its top.
Entrance to Chaumukhanath Temple, Nachna
Chaumukhanath Shiva Linga
Future Care Taker of This Temple
Tatpurusha Form of Lord Shiva
Aghora Form of Lord Shiva
Sadyojata Form Of Lord Shiva
Vamadeva Form of Lord Shiva
Unique Depiction of Kurumavatar and Vamanavatar of Lord Vishnu
Mithunas and Vidhyadharas
Carving of Animals on Porch Window

The Parvati Temple is datable to the late Gupta period around 5th century AD. The temple has a square grabhagriha and probably housed a small square chamber above it. The sanctum is  devoid of any idol. The entrance of the sanctum carries ornate floral designs and is flanked by river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at its lower portion. The inner band of the doorway shows carvings of tendrils emerging from the navel of dwarfs on either sides and the outer band carries images of mithunas (amorous couples). The lintel bears the carving of Vinadhara Shiva in the center with Parvati along with various attendants and vidhyadharas (semi-gods) on their either sides.The outer walls of the temple have perforated Jalis with the depiction of Lord Ganesha, musicians and dancers.
Parvati Temple, Nachna
Parvati Temple, Nachna
Door Frame of Parvati Temple
River Goddess Ganga on her Vahana
River Goddess Ganga on her Vahana Along With Shaiva Dwarapalaka
River Goddess Yamuna on her Vahana
River Goddess Yamuna on her Vahana Along With Shaiva Dwarapalaka
Beautiful and Small Craving of Lord Ganesha on the Window Jali

Vinadhari Shiva With Parvati on the Lintel
There are many ruins of pillars and other portions of the temple lying besides the temple in the open. On one such pillar are seen images of  Lord Varaha, Lord Narasimha,  Lord Trivikrama and a defaced image probably of Lord Parashurama. Also seen around  is an old shivalinga placed now under the shade of a tree and a widow panel.
A Part of Dashavatara Pillar

How to reach Nachna: From Khajuraho - Panna - Devendra Nagar take right towards Saleha - Take Right turn here and a Left turn to reach Nachna, about 100 Km from Khajuraho.

1. Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent -  By Takeo Kamiya
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