Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Ankushagiri – A Forgotten Fort

While researching on the ‘Baramahal’ (erstwhile name of Krishnagiri), I stumbled upon the Fort at 'Ankushagiri' situated close to Shoolagiri of Tamil Nadu. Last Saturday, we went ahead to check out this place. Surprisingly no information about this place seemed to be available either on the net or in the books. Though a book titled ‘Forts of Tamil Nadu’ mentions about this fort, not much information is revealed apart from its location. Initially, I thought of this fort as one amongst the 12 forts constituting the ‘Baramahal’, but while searching for more details about this place, I came across a book titled ‘The East India Gazetteer’ which gave detailed information about the ‘Barramahal/Baramahal’ (more about them in other posts) and Ankushagiri was clearly not a part of it.
Ankushagiri Hill Fort
Since we were familiar with the location of this fort, reaching here was quite easy and being located close to Bengaluru, we planned to reach here in the early hours of the day to avoid the harsh sun. This part in general is prone to harsher summer than Bengaluru. But thanks to the overnight showers, the weather in the morning was cool and the drive through the last stretch of the road to Ankushagiri from the National Highway was simply awesome. We enjoyed the drive stopping by at a few places for photo ops. We finally reached the base of the temple where we also found a good place to park our vehicle. We at first visited the ‘Sri Thimmaraya Swamy’ temple located at the base of this hill. This temple is very popular among the locals and many from Bengaluru and its surrounding areas also visit here regularly. There was a decent crowd for a Saturday morning at the temple and after offering prayers to the Lord and relishing the prasadam served, we decided to head further to explore the hill fort.
Sri Thimmaraya Swamy Temple - Ankushagiri
Almost There
Learning to Blend With Nature
Finding the path to the fort was easy and in a short span of time we reached a place where two big temples were seen in a ruined state. Though unsure about the names of these temples, a vague guess would be that it may have been dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort owing to the presence of Shaiva dwarapalas. What a pity it is to witness such grand temples in a ruined state. After spending some time investigating the temples for the presence of any inscriptions and murtis, we moved ahead. The climb was easy and the route was clear. We crossed two layers of fortification (mostly destroyed), giving us an indication of what a mighty fort it was at once. Then we reached a plateau region from where the walk was simple up to the peak of the hill.
Ruined Temples
Remains of Fortifications
Shaiva Dwarapalas
There was a structure, probably a temple in complete shambles. We investigated the ruins but failed to figure out who the temple was dedicated to.  We found a spot under shade to rest for a while and finished all the eatables we had carried along. Here on we sighted a place which seemed like the remnants of a Palace or Mahal.  It must have been a really grand structure and was built close to a water pond. There are many water ponds here on the plateau which served as life lines for the army stationed here. While descending, we found ruins of another temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his forms. Only the pillars of the Garbhagriha (sanctum) remain with a Garuda Khamba (Garuda pillar) fallen in front of it carrying carvings of Lords Garuda and Anjaneya and Sanka- Chakra. Thus we could recognize that this temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu. 
Million Legs
Not Your Cup of Tea
Please Don't Bother Me!
Ruins of the Temple
Fallen But Not Lost

As we did not find any inscriptions here, it is very difficult to state the period in which this fort was built. It was probably built in the 16th century under the patronage of Vijayanagara kings as the brick work here resembled that adopted by the Vijayanagara kingdom. The descent was uneventful and we headed to explore the other temples scattered at the hill base of which one was dedicated to Lord Anjaneya and the other to Lord Venkateshwara. After this, we decided to stop by and check out the famous ‘Podi Idli’ at Murugan Idli shop which is a restaurant not to be missed. The Idlies were really tasty and a good value for money though a bit pricey. Only the filter coffee was not up to the mark! Overall another fort in the region of Krishnagiri was explored by us!!
One of The Many Water Ponds Here
Entrance to the Palace
Exploring the Ruins
Ruins of Palace or Mahal
Once a Grand Temple
Lord Garuda
Sri Venkataramana Swamy Temple
Tasty Podi Idlis at Murugan Idli Shop
Lord Anjaneya Carved on the Pillar
History of Ankushagiri Fort: This fort was built by King Ankusha Raya after whom the place is named. King Ankusha Raya was the successor of King Jagadeva Raya of Channapatna. Being a weak king, Ankusha Raya started to lose control over the area expanded by king Jagadeva Raya. He was defeated by Masti Palegar (chieftain of Masti)  Chokka Gauda. Later when the town of Masti was captured by Maratha king Venkoji (half-brother of Shivaji Maharaja), Chokka Gauda shifted to Ankushagiri, making it their capital. The Marathas then became successful in capturing Ankushagiri, although a few years later it was recaptured by Chokka Gauda with the help of the Magadi Nadaprabhus. After four months of siege in 1766-1767, Ankushagiri fell into the hands of Hyder Ali and the Palegar ruling Ankushagiri escaped to Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh) which was under the Marathas. However, Ankushagiri was returned to the Masti Palegars (then called Ankushagiri Palegars) after a peace treaty between Hyder Ali and the Peshwa. Later the Palegars joined hands with the British under Colonel Smith. On Colonel Smith's withdrawal, Hyder re-attacked this place and captured it. In 1799 after Tippu's death, this place came under the British rule and was added to the state of Madras. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Ankushagiri migrated to the village of Bastala-palli, otherwise known as Ankushagiri Kottur (new town). 

1. Madras District Gazetteer - Salem Vol I - Part -2 
2. The Imperial Gazetteer of India
 Related Posts:
1. Balagondarayanadurgam
2. Ratnagiri
3. Krishnagiri

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Night Trek to Doddabetta, The Big Hill Quest

The past weekend, we, in collaboration with RTC Bengaluru organized a night trek to 'Doddabetta' or 'The Big Hill' near Krishnagiri. Our plan was to begin the trek on Saturday evening to watch the early morning sunrise. We had planned to reach the water spring present mid-way which would be our first resting point. Due to the presence of a natural water spring, this location was also to be utilized for dinner preparations so we could proceed further to reach the peak top and pitch our tents for the night, only to wake up to a beautiful sunrise. We numbered 20 in total with Sunil leading as our trek guide.
Periyamalai - The big hill
Periyamalai - The Big Hill
One group who were supposed to join us had booked for a self driven Tata Hexa with Drivezy which  unfortunately was carelessly cancelled by Drivezy without any prior notice. The group then had to book freshly for an alternate vehicle using Ola outstation. This entire process took much time and the group was delayed by more than an hour. After waiting for them patiently for close to an hour and a half, they finally arrived and we started driving towards our destination. After driving for sometime, we received a message about another car having a flat tyre and had stopped by a mechanic for repair. We waited for them at Krishnagiri toll who arrived after a good 45 minutes. We realized that in this process, we were already delayed for the trek easily by more than 2 hours! While we took a small break just ahead the toll, Piyal rode ahead of us on his bike and lost the route. We helped him back track to our location and driving together hereon, we reached the hill base of Periyamalai around 11:30 pm which was our original target time to reach the hill peak! Gosh we were late!
Star Lit Night
After the formalities of distributing equipment for camping and cooking to all the participants, Sunil helped everyone pack their bags right after which we began the trek. By 12:45 am, we reached the water spring and decided to halt for dinner preparations. The menu for the night's dinner was a cup of hot noodles and some tangy Puliyogare (tamarind rice)! With combined efforts from all in the team, the preparations were complete and dinner was served in the background of music. Some even danced to the tunes of music. With much energy restored, we continued our trek further and after halting for a minute or two at regular intervals, we managed to reach the peak by 3:50 am. It was a good 4 hour trek including an hour for dinner preparation time and multiple breaks. While Sunil helped the others pitch their tents, Dr.Anand, Karthik, Sameer, Nilesh, Me, Adhi and Sunil wished to sleep in the open. The weather was favoring as it was less breezy and not very cold as expected.
Pitching the Tents
Peacefully Sleeping
Morning Scenes
While everyone were busy settling into their tents, I and Karthik tried our skills at photographing the wonderful night sky. Though I managed to click a few pictures, I was less happy with its outcome and realised I needed more practice to perfect the art of capturing the stars. Gazing at the star studded sky was just an out of this world experience! All were asleep in sometime except for Sameer and Nilesh. I woke up early to catch the sunrise and was accompanied by Dr.Anand and Karthik. We took our positions to capture the sunrise and patiently waited making sure not to miss even a glimpse of its gorgeousness! Meanwhile Maneesh and Vishwa woke up and the rest were deeply in sleep. We witnessed the gorgeous sunrise and a few whose tents were pitched exactly facing the sunrise caught a glimpse of it from inside. As everybody woke up one after the other, we packed our tents and all the luggage and started our descent. We reached the base of the hill around 9:45am. While a few who had bookings with Ola decided to leave the place without having breakfast, the rest traveled with us to our usual breakfast point at Krishnagiri. After a relaxed breakfast and greetings, all of us headed back to Bengaluru. It was truly an amazing trek experience for all of us! Kudos to the team for completing the trek. 
Here He comes
Gorgeous Sunrise
The Enlightened One
Love is in the Air
Ek Selfie Tho Banti Hey
Yes, We did it in Style!
Plumeria Alley - On The Rocks!

Trek Team:
1. Me, Sunil and Adhi in our Xylo
2. Vishwa and Family had car pooled with us
3. Dr. Anand in his Ertiga
4. Nilesh and Sameer had car pooled with Dr. Anand
5. Maneesh and Family in their KUV
6. Mayank and Friends had taken Ola outstation Innova 
7. Karthikeyan in his Yamaha R15

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sri Eshwara Temple, Anekonda, Davangere

Sri Eshwara Temple, Anekonda
Sri Eshwara Temple, Anekonda

'Anekonda', a suburb of Davangere town located off the Davangere-Jagalur highway is home to the beautiful Sri Eshwara Temple built during the 11th century. Anekonda gets its name due to the army of elephants  being tied here when Bethuru was the capital city of Chalukyas. This town was ruled by various dynasties starting from the Gangas, the Cholas, Chalukyas, Uchchangi Pandyas and the Hoysalas. This temple is believed to have been built by the Hoysalas though the style seems inclined more towards the Chalukyan architecture. The temple finds its mention in the 12th century Pandya and 13th century Hoysala inscriptions. The pillars here bear the trademark of Hoysala architecture of being stellar in plan.
Sri Eshwara Temple, Anekonda
Side View of Sri Eshwara Temple, Anekonda
Miniature Shikaras and Turrets
Closer Look of Miniature Shikara
The temple has been carefully renovated taking care to retain the old structure wherever possible. This temple was built on a  raised platform. Originally a dwikuta temple as per initial plan, it  has now been converted into a trikuta temple as one of its mukhamandapa has been transformed into a garbhagriha during renovation. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the main garbhagriha houses a Shiva linga, while the other garbhagriha remains empty. The central ceiling of its Navaranga has one of the most exquisitely carved Gajasurasamhara flanked by Lords Vishnu and Brahma. In the panel below are 7 Goblins associated with Lord Shiva who are shown playing music for the Lord's dance. In the panel above are 12 Adityas, the sons of Goddess Aditi. The other eight Ankanas of the Navaranga have shallow lotuses with their pendants bearing the carvings of their respective Dikpalas.
Lord Shiva
The Grand Central Ceiling
Central Ceiling with Gajasurasamhara murti
Lord Gajasurasamhara along with Lords Brahma and Vishnu, 7 Goblins and 12 Adityas
Dancing Mohini ( Lady with Scorpion)
Dancing Mohini (Note the Scorpion)
Rati Manmatha
Rati - Manmatha
Goddess Saraswathi
Goddess Saraswathi
Male Dancer in Vaishnava Sthanaka Pose
Male Dancer in Vaishnava Sthanaka Pose
A 32 Angled stellar Pillar
 Right in front of this temple is a small mandapa dedicated to Lord Nandi. The front porch on both sides have 5 friezes with sculptured railing at the top. In the top panels are various figures such as those of the Dwarapalakas, dancing Ganesha, rishis, Rati-Manmatha, goblins and other erotic figures. The ceiling of the eastern mukhamandapa has carving of Lord Indira riding on the elephant Airavata at the center accompanied by heavenly musicians.
Ceiling of Mukhamandapa
Front Porch Carvings


A Road Trip to Kolhapur and Satara from Bengaluru

Our desire to witness the 'Kaas'/ 'Khas'/'Kas' plateau, popularly known as 'The Valley of Flowers' was long overdue. The best season to visit Khas being September luckily coincided with the vacation we planned. Thus our travel itinerary of Maharashtra was mainly based on visiting 3 places namely the Kaas pathar, the Reverse waterfalls and the sacred Marleshwar apart from others. It is well known that this entire region is a blessing to travel during the monsoon. Thus a 9 day road trip to Kolhapur, Satara and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra was planned. As we were building our itinerary of places to visit in these regions, we realised that 9 days is too short a time to cover all the places and decided to visit whatever possible within the planned time. Our overall journey was good as we managed to travel across as per plan though there were a couple of hiccups for our vehicle, involving a running repair (starter motor not working) and tyre punctures. The same was handled well without much disturbance or deviation.
We stopped by at a road-side hotel about 45 km before Belagavi for refreshments and took a bio-break. While we were all set to proceed further, our vehicle refused to get started. We tried and checked all possible ways but in vain. Even calling the service advisor from Mahindra and acting as per his advice did not produce any fruitful result as the starter motor was not in working condition. We took help from the hotel staff who kindly obliged and pushed the vehicle up-slope for some distance. Thankfully our vehicle started and we moved on after thanking the staff.  We informed the  service advisor about the same for which he advised us to drive down our vehicle to the next available showroom at Belagavi and also told us to call the helpline. We reached Sutaria motors, the authorized service centre for Mahindra in this region who were of little help, who even refused to even check our vehicle for the problem and told us to go to Kolhapur since we were driving in that direction. We were a little disappointed at their behavior as it was an emergency and they were of no help. We had taken care to keep the vehicle on all along and proceeded further as we were racing against time to reach the next available Mahindra showroom.
Without wasting much time we drove towards to Kolhapur and after a few rounds of U turns, we finally made it to Trendy Wheels showroom at Kolhapur.  We reached here by 5:45 pm, 15 minutes prior to their closing time! We were anxious as the next day was a Sunday and most of the service providers remain closed. The staff here were extremely helpful and made immediate arrangements for my wife and kids to take the much needed rest and also arranged for some tea and snacks. Heartfelt thanks to them for their kind hospitality. Suraj, the service advisor who attended to us gave us first hand information that their workshop remains open on Sunday's too. We felt more relaxed now. He also  asked us if it is an emergency so that he could get it rectified the same evening by requesting his staff  to work over time. We were already much grateful to them and did not want to overload their staff.  Meanwhile, the technicians who were working on the starter motor detected the cause of the problem and assured us that the vehicle will be ready by the next day afternoon. We packed the necessary luggage and reached the main town of Kolhapur as the service centre was located off the Bangalore - Pune highway. We chose to halt at a lodge close by Sri Mahalakshmi temple, so that we could move around without any vehicle and much hassle. It was late evening by the time we refreshed and had dinner. We were fortunate enough for having a good darshan of the mother goddess that night. The atmosphere here was electrical. We returned to our hotel and retired early. 

Next day, we started a bit slow and lazed around while we got a call from Mahindra informing us to collect the vehicle by 2 pm. We walked around in the temple premises and decided to visit the temple again, but were taken aback by the huge crowd. We later realised that it was Krishna Janmasthami that day and during Shravana month, a large number of people come to offer prayers. We visited a few more places around the main temple and then reached Mahindra showroom. Our vehicle was ready and after the necessary checks, we were all ready to continue our journey ahead with much enthusiasm. They had done a great job in a short time and their service was impressive. Knowing that we would be their one time customer and that too for a running repair problem, their action and efforts were highly commendable. We witnessed the striking contrast between the customer service provided by two Mahindra authorised dealers, where one even refused to look at the problem and the other acknowledged with exceptional service! Trust us! This kind of quality customer service is rather quite rare in today's world. Thank you again Trendy Wheels, Mahindra at Kolhapur!
The same evening while returning from Khirdapur, our vehicle had a flat tyre, this time luckily right in front of a puncture shop at Ichalkaranji. The mechanic took less than 5 minutes to fix the puncture and we were back on the road. We continued to explore various places the next four days until Friday, when we were a bit relaxed and hence planned to take an adventurous route to Chiplun from Mahabaleshwar. This route is not advised by the locals as it is not much frequented and less traveled as it is amidst densely forested area coupled with a few bad stretches of roads. The route passes through the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and the drive for most of the stretch is alongside the river Koyna, making it the most beautiful one. We were all excited and started driving along this scenic route. We traveled about 35 km along this route and it was heaven! We had another 60 km to finish this stretch. About 7 km from Chaturbet, in between the villages of Dabhe Mohan and Dabhe Dabhekar is a small bridge across a stream that connects them. To our dismay, our vehicle had a flat tyre again! This time around, the puncture was severe as the short stretch just before the bridge had eroded due to heavy rains and consisted of sharp aggregates. I had to change the tyre and made arrangements.  At the same time, a ST (state transport) bus passed us from the opposite direction taking extra caution as it was a single lane road and our vehicle was parked there. Post this episode, I managed to change the tyre successfully only to find out that the back up tyre was not inflated enough to drive. It was around 4 pm that evening and time was running out. We had to cover that stretch before the sun went down. Without panicking, we rested for a while and discussed about our next move.
Meanwhile, a local who was grazing his cattle conversed with us  and witnessed the entire situation. He informed us that there is not a single tyre puncher shop in about 20 km radius!!!! The next question to him was about the availability of any public transport to the nearest town to get the puncture repaired. He replied  that the ST bus which passed by a few minutes back was our only option! The next bus to Mahabaleshwar would arrive only the next morning at around 8 am. That apart, no other private transport is available. Upon inquiring further for any availability of vehicles in the village, he said that there was only one person in this village who owns a bike. So, we both decided to meet him and reached his house. Though we saw his vehicle parked outside, we had to trace him as he was not around. We explained the situation to him, but he replied that his bike did not have enough fuel. Nevertheless he came along with us to analyze the situation. He gave up the idea of taking his bike as it was quite risky amidst forest area and advised us to inquire if the car was available in the next village and moved on.  While I went with the local to the next village, my wife inquired with a passer-by who was very kind, and obliged by giving the phone number of a mechanic he knew who was located about 20 km away. He was damn sure that the mechanic would come by and resolve our problem. He tried calling him but the area had no signal. In fact, the passer-by was himself walking all the way up so he could get signal and told my wife he would surely call the mechanic and inform. When my wife called the mechanic and requested to come by, he replied that he was out of town and would not be able to make it. As the signal was weak, the conversation could not be continued and the call was lost. The news of our vehicle breakdown had spread across the village and a few more villagers gathered near our vehicle. At the neighboring village we found that no one was around in the house. While people around me went in search of the car owner (Sanjay), I was waiting in front of his house. In the meantime, the person (Manish) whom we had approached initially came hurriedly in search of me to inform that he had stopped a car which had come to drop someone from Mahabaleshwar and had agreed to take us to the nearest tyre puncture shop. While I was walking down with him, the passer-by (teacher) called us and told us to wait as he was on call conversing with the mechanic as promised and requested (or rather pleaded) him to come and help. Finally the mechanic was convinced and agreed to come by. We walked quickly to the car that was stopped and thanked the driver who was patiently waiting for us. It was really heartwarming to see each one's kind behavior. As we waited for the mechanic's arrival (which would probably take an hour or so), Manish invited us home for some tea and snacks. As we had our two little partners with us and it was getting dark, it was a safe call. It also began to rain heavily. The mobile connectivity here was questionable as there was a lot of struggle in getting any signal. Finally, the call connected between Manish ji and Shinde ji (the mechanic) and we were told to come near the vehicle. The mechanic tried all possible ways to fix the puncture, but as the cut was big, he was unable to repair it with tools. He gave up at last saying that he will not be able to fix it. We requested him to check the back up tyre and as he inflated it and checked for any puncture, he found none. Luckily now we had one tyre ready. Everyone around advised us to abandon our journey further and told us to go back and take the highway. We thanked everyone who came to our rescue. We drove slowly until we reached the highway and halted at Khed. This was probably the best experience we have had in sometime, where the entire village came to our rescue. We will always remain grateful to the kind teacher who literally pleaded with the mechanic for our sake, Manish ji who was kind and hospitable all along, Shinde ji who came all the way in the rains, riding through the forest and had to go back in the dark and all  the others who helped us directly or indirectly.
'Maharashtra' is one of the most vibrant states of India and is very rich culturally. Their love for the great Shivaji Maharaja is indispensable and significant, so much so that every place here has an association with the great king. The Western Ghats/Sahyadri Hills in Maharashtra comes to life during the monsoon with innumerable waterfalls taking birth from amidst the hills, and the hills exhibiting splendid colors as the flowers are in full bloom amid lush greenery. Though rains had subsided, most of the places we visited greeted us with rains. The plains were hot, but the mountains remained cold. Overall it was a satisfying trip. Maharashtra, truly a great state turns magical during monsoon!
Kolhapur - Satara Road Trip

Route we took 

To be continued....