Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildlife. Show all posts

Shree Ramagiri Kshetra, Ramadevara Betta, Ramanagara

Having visited here a few years back, we wished to re-visit this time around with our two young travel partners Adhi and Diya, hoping it would not be too crowded owing to the current COVID situation. But surprisingly, this place was crowded as usual portraying one of the normal days. We were now in two minds whether to continue as per our plan or change the location since the parking itself seemed over crowded. As the kids were all excited to explore this place after seeing the pictures of vulture on the sign boards along the way,  they wished to spot one and hence we moved ahead as per plan! They were all the more excited thinking they would get to spot  'Jatayu and Sampati', the vulture siblings born to Lord Garuda (King of Birds) and his consort Unnati.

Egyptian Vulture Couple
Egyptian Vulture Couple

'Ramanagara' is one of the few vulture sanctuaries across India and Asia. We are fortunate enough to have visited the other two vulture sanctuaries across India - Orchha (Madhya Pradesh) and Anjaneri (Maharashtra). Out of the 9 species of vultures found in India, Ramanagara district is home to 3 of them, namely the Long billed vulture, the Egyptian vulture and the White backed Vulture. Although we have spotted Egyptian vultures during our journeys across Ramanagara district over the last few years,  we always wished we could spot one on the Ramadevara Betta. This time, we were in for a surprise! We spotted a  Long billed Vulture and this made our kids very happy. 

Egyptian Vulture Parched on a Hill, Ramanagar

Long Billed Vulture Couple, Ramadevara Betta
Long Billed Vulture
Ramadevara Betta with its  many neighboring hills is closely  related to Lord Rama. There are many stories of Lord Rama associated with Ramadevara Betta, as the name itself suggests. Lord Rama during his 14 years of exile is believed to have stayed and spent some time here. In all likelihood, Lord Rama would have stayed here while proceeding to Lanka to kill Asuraraja Ravana and free Sita Matha. Although most of the stories narrated by the priests here suggest otherwise, that Lord Rama stayed here accompanied by Sita Matha and Lord Lakshmana. This is debatable since the widely accepted place of Sita-haran (kidnapping) is Panchavati which is located in Nashik on the banks of  the river Godavari and Hanuman-milan (Rama meeting Hanuman) is Kishkinda, the environs of Hampi and the capital of Vanara Raja Sugriva, both of them situated towards the north of Ramanagara. Lord Rama's journey during his exile was mostly southward and having spent most of the time during exile in "Dandakaranya", which is believed to be somewhere around Chitrakoot in Chhattisgarh (Central India), it is unlikely that Lord Rama visited this place along with Sita Matha. 

Lord Rama's Journey during Exile
Lord Rama's Journey During Exile

Undoubtedly, there is enough proof to believe that Lord Rama stayed in Ramadevara Betta. However, the time of his stay could be post Hanuman-milan, during the Lord's journey towards Lanka with Vanara Sainya (army of vanaras). One of the most interesting stories associated with this place is Lord Rama's killing of Kakasura (the crow demon, who is also the son of Lord Indra) with an arrow made of a blade of grass (dharbhe hullu), when it was troubling Sita Matha. Finally, Kakasura seeked refuge and pleaded for forgiveness from Lord Rama when the other gods declined any help. As Lord Rama relieved him from being a crow which was the demon's cursed form, it is said that no crows have ever been sighted in and around this place. This story finds its mention in the Ramayana, when Lord Hanuman meets Sita Matha for the first time in Ashoka Vatika of Lanka. It is when Lord Hanuman requests Sita Matha for giving a proof of meeting her so he can show the same to Lord Rama, that Sita Matha narrates this story to him which only Lord Rama was aware of. Along with the narration of this story, she also handed him her bridal jewellery Chudamani as proof. The episode of Kakasura is believed to have taken place somewhere around Dandakaranya (near Chitrakoot ) on a river bank. Therefore, the occurrence of this incident  in Ramadevara Betta is clearly debatable

Bird's Eye View of Dhanushkodi and Sri Rameshwara Temple
Sugreeva's Carving, Ramadevara Betta
Vanara Raja Sugriva's Carving on one of Rock
The other story linked with this place is about the Vanara Raja Sugriva after the coronation of Lord Rama. King Sugriva wished to possess a murti of Lord Rama in the form of a king so he could worship the Lord back home at Kishkinda. He therefore got a murti of Lord Pattabhirama carved and got it blessed by the Lord himself. While returning on his way back to Kishkinda, he heard an 'Akashavani' (a voice from the sky), asking him to stop there and kill the demon Handigundi or Sukhasura, who was troubling the maharishis in meditation (tapas) at Ramadevarabetta. Therefore, King Sugriva placed the murti there, fought the demon Sukhasura fiercely and killed him. The demon after his death is believed to have turned into a hill, which is locally known as Handigundi. Handigundi is located about 4 km from the Ramadevara Betta. A few years back we had the opportunity of trekking this hill too. Post the killing of Sukhasura, Sugriva came back to the place where he had kept the murti of Lord Rama but was unable to move it. While doing so, he heard another Akashavani which ordered him to leave the murti there since the Lord wished to remain there only. Thus Sugriva installed the murti and returned to Kishkinda. An interesting fact related to this story is the rare finding of the carving of Lord Sugriva on this hill. Later, Sri Kempegowda renovated this temple sometime during the 16th century and much of the current structure of the temple is attributed to him. In the 1990's, the temple underwent another renovation. The murti of Lord Pattabhirama here is very divine, where the Lord is seen seated on his throne with Sita Matha on his lap accompanied by his brother Lord Lakshmana and his ardent devotee Lord Anjaneya.

Sri Pattabhirama Swamy Temple, Ramadevara Betta
Sri Pattabhirama Swamy Temple

Lord Pattabhirama Murti, Rama Devara Betta
Lord Pattabhirama Murti
Lord Rama during his visit to this place installed a Linga known as Sri Rameshwara to offer daily worship to Lord Shiva. This temple too was renovated during Sri Kempegowda's rule in the sixteen century. The Rama tirtha/ Dhanushkodi / Nydile tirtha is a beautiful ದೊಣೆ (spring water pond) between the two temples. This tirtha/ doNe/ honda is believed to be the creation of Lord Rama when he shot an arrow there in order to get drinking water. The depth of this tirtha however is not known. An elderly person we met here shared many interesting stories about this tirtha (will be shared in a separate post). In 2014, when we visited here in April, this tirtha was full with clear water. The water from this tirtha is used for the Lord's abhishekam (bathing of the deity) and in the preparation of Naivaidya (offering of food to god). The water is also believed to have many medicinal properties having the powers to heal many incurable diseases. 
Sri Rameshwara temple, Shiva linga Installed by Lord Rama
Sri Rameshwara Temple

Nydile Tirtha

Wherever there is a kote/fort, there is our Lord Anjaneya! There are 5 murtis of Lord Anjaneya in total on the Ramadevara Betta. However, none of them here is seen carved with either his 'gada' (mace) or him carrying  'Dronagiri' parvatha (hill). All the carvings depict the Lord in 'Abhaya Hastha' (blessing hand) posture. As per the archakaru, this posture also means the Lord declaring that he is here to protect his devotees. The carvings are believed to be a swayambhu or self manifested. Except for the one at the entrance of the Ramadevara hill, the rest of the murtis are depicted with sowgandhika puspha (flower) in one hand, similar to the ones across this region especially in places associated with the Kempegowda and family. We happened to visit 4 of the 5 murtis here during our visit. 

Kote Anjaneya Swamy, Ramadevara Betta
Kote Anjaneya Swamy

To be continued....

Road Trippers Club Expedition to Neelakurinji Blooming at Kodaikanal

Neelakurinji Blooming 2018
Neelakurinji Bloom
August 2018 was the much awaited month for witnessing the rare Neelakurinji mass blooming that occurs once in 12 years in most of the areas of Kerala.  Last year we visited the Hills of Sandur to witness the rare Neelakurinji bloom, though in a small scale. This year around, we were sure it was going to be on a grand scale as we were planning to visit Munnar which is home to the largest mass  blooming of Neelakurinji. However, I received a message on whats-app one evening about a road-trip being planned to Munnar during the long weekend for witnessing this rarity and decided to tag along. But as the blossoming season was hit by the unexpected spell of rains across the state of Kerala, Munnar was distressed and as days passed by, the situation only deteriorated due to the continuing heavy rains leading to the floods all across the state. Also the news coming in from Kerala was not very encouraging to continue our drive to Munnar, and hence the team at RTC relocated the destination to Kodaikanal.
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As the D-Day arrived, the members of the team began their journeys mostly from Mumbai, while a few started their drives from Hyderabad and Bangalore. We reached Kodaikanal on the 16th evening as per the plan after visiting a few beautiful temples in Tamil Nadu, built during the Chola period.  After a good night's rest at Kodai, we were all ready the next morning  to go in search of the bloom. We all drove down to Vattakanal and much to my shock, this place was already crowded. After all the hustle and bustle of parking our vehicles, we were all set to start our trek. However, we were still unsure of the occurrence of Neelakurinji blooming on the hills there. Though the feedback after an initial inquiry about the bloom was not much encouraging, yet we all decided to continue our trek down and see what lies ahead.

View of Kodaikanal from Vattakanal

Mountains and More Mountains
Towering Heights
Eagerly Walking Down
We reached the first view point named the mountain view, from where the sight of Kodaikanal was breathtaking. While I inquired with a local regarding the Neelakurinji bloom, he replied in the affirmative directing us to the next view point. With much enthusiasm, we continued to descend and proceeded further to reach the Dolphin's nose view point (named so due to the shape of this rock) and lo! There it was! Blooms of the beautiful Neelakurinji!. This light purple colored flowers bloom once in 12 years and grow only at an altitude between 1300 meters to 2400 meters above MSL. The patches of Neelakurinji blooms here seemed much stressed and disturbed owing to the crowd movement and irresponsible plucking of the flowers by flocking crowds. We stopped by the echo rock point and rested for a while. As we continued our walk further down, we could spot more pockets of the Neelakurinji bloom. When we inquired about where the path would lead us to, we were informed that this route would end in Munnar in about 16 km. At this point we decided to halt our descent and head back.
Dolphin Nose Kodaikanal
Dolphin Nose
Cyanotis tuberosa
Neelakurinji Mass blooming At Dolphin Nose
We Trekked Till the Last

 The climb up was a bit tiring and uneventful. We regrouped at the start point of the trek,while a few  headed to the parking lot to bring up their vehicles. One of our vehicles halted up slope and due to the terrain and the narrow space available for driving, it was tricky to either go back down to the parking or come up. However, a good Samaritan came to our rescue and with the combined efforts of RTC, the vehicle was driven up slope and we moved ahead. The evening was enjoyable and to top it up, the wild Gaurs visited the resort and spent quite sometime alongside. The entire experience was a wonderful one! It was great meeting like minded road trippers from various parts of India. Kudos to the entire team for having completed this expedition successfully! Read more about the drive here. If you wish to join us on such drives, kindly visit the website of Road Trippers Club for more information and  be a part of many such fabulous drives across India. We are very thankful to Vineet and the RTC team for tagging us along for this drive and ensuring that we witness the rare phenomenon of Neelakurinji blooms.
Experience and Curiosity
Young Explorer
Clouds Kissing the Mountains
Wild Gaur with Cow

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Gudekote, Bellary - Cave Paintings, Fort and Bear Sanctuary

Gudekote Fort
Exploring Gudekote Fort with our Young Trekker
'Gudekote' is a small town situated on the Bellary/Ballari - Kudligi State Highway. As usual, having passed by this place many a time, we had an urge to visit here but never got a chance to do so. Finally during the last year Dasara holidays, we managed to plan a visit to this place. It was quite hectic and we started the day by exploring the Fort at Ramadurga, Shree Ramalingeshwara Cave Temple, Nayakanahatti Temple and the Prehistoric Sites of Kumathi and Hulikunte. We reached Gudekote around 4.15 pm and were contemplating whether or not to climb the hill fort as this place has been declared as a bear sanctuary. We inquired at a few places and found it safe to climb the hill and decided to give it a shot. We parked our vehicle and walked towards the hill in pursuit of another exciting adventure.
Gudekote, Bellary, Karnataka
Four of the Five Hills surrounding Gudekote as viewed from the Doregala Hill
Birdseye View of Gudekote
Bird's Eye View of Gudekote
History of Gudekote and Fort: Gudekote is derived from two Kannada words, 'Gudi' meaning  Temple and 'Kote' meaning Fort. Hence, Gudekote literally means a Temple-Fort. There are 5 hills surrounding the town of Gudekote namely, the Doregala Gudda, Someshwara Gudda, Agasara Gudda, Harijana Keri Gudda and Karadi Gudda. Gudekote was occupied since the Neolithic period, and many prehistoric artifacts have been discovered by researchers here. Later this place is said to have been under the rule of the Mauryan dynasty, based on the Ashokan edicts found at Brahmagiri, Ashoka Siddapura and Jatinga Rameshwara. It then came under the rule of the Satavahanas, the Kadambas, Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Kalyana Chalukyas, Hoysalas and the Palegars (chieftains) of Hosamaledurga. Subsequently, the Gudekote Palegars under the patronage of Vijayanagara Kings ruled this place between 1506 AD and 1757 AD and gave a tough fight to the Bahmani dynasty. King Gundala Nayaka established the Gudekote Palegar Kingdom, followed by Bommatharaja, Chinnayaraja, Immadi Rajjappanayaka, Jatingi Raja, Ramappanayaka, and Shivappa Nayak. The Gudekote Palegars improved the mud fort here by replacing it with a strong stone fort during the 16th century. This place was captured by Hyder Ali and later went fell into the hands of the British with the defeat of Tippu Sultan, who had control over this place till 1947 which later was added to the then state of  Mysore.
Gudekote Fort Trek
The Initial Climb
The Young Trekker Growing out of Shadows
After a short climb, we reached a site that seemed like a prehistoric settlement or rather would have been a perfect place to have one! The cave paintings here only confirmed that this site indeed was a prehistoric settlement. Though most of the cave paintings have been vandalized by modern graffiti, we were able to identify a few, with most of the remains seeming no less than a puzzle! The paintings were similar to the ones at  Jatinga Rameshwara and Anegundi, and hence must have belonged to the same period. We spent quite a good time here trying to decipher these paintings, as it always arouses the sense of creativity, imagination and humor in us. Deciphering paintings has always been a fun activity and hence we enjoy it. After a while, we proceeded further.
Prehistoric paintings Gudekote
Cave Paintings
Prehistoric rock shelter Gudekote Bellary
Cave Paintings and The Rock Shelter
Gudekote, Forts of Karnataka
Gudekote Fort
We were greeted by the first tier of the fortification which opens into a flat land, perfect to have a settlement. There were remains of a few buildings and also a stepped well. On exploring the area, we found another building structure of a much later stage, probably built by the British. This place seemed like a storage place for food, being devoid of any doors. We found a unique carving on a rock further, resembling that of a soldier with a spear in hand, and with very assertive and alert eyes! We continued our climb further only to realize that there was no clear path hereon, except a few ruins spread here and there. We settled here for a few minutes while the sun was setting behind us and after sometime started our descent. We reached the village and went straight to explore the Tangalli Mahal built in Indo-Islamic style by the Palegars  and  enjoyed the cool breeze there. This must have been a grand two storey structure which sadly today is in shambles. The hills and forests around Gudekote have been declared as a 'Sloth Bear Sanctuary', according to a notification of 2013 and second only such wildlife sanctuary after the Daroji Bear Sanctuary near Hampi of Bellary district.  This however, is yet to be opened for visitors and is considered to be larger than Daroji.
Gudekote fort entrance
2nd Fort Gateway of Gudekote
Stepped Well Inside Gudekote Fort
Dried Stepped Well Inside Gudekote Fort
Stepped Well, Gudekote, Bellary, Karnataka
Another Dried Stepped Well
Carving, Gudkeote fort, Bellary, Karnataka
Unique Carving
Gudekote, Forts of India
Ruins Inside Gudekote Fort
Store house, Gudekote Fort, Bellary, Karnataka
Store House Probably Built by the British
We also remember seeing a few rock paintings on the Gudekote - Bellary road during our other travels. Being very curious each time we saw them, we decided to check out what was in store this time and reached that spot, which falls inside the limits of a Bear Sanctuary. There were a few unique cave paintings under rock-shelters which were quite difficult to decipher. The sunset was an indication to end the day's adventure. It was a great day, one of those where we explored 2 forts, a beautiful cave temple, a popular local pilgrim center and 3 prehistoric sites. Hereon, we drove towards Bellary for our next adventure.
Tangalli Mahal, Gudekote, Bellary
Tangalli Mahal
Gudekote Bear Sanctuary Karnataka
Prehistoric Rock Shelter With Paintings
How to reach Gudekote: Located on the Bellary - Kudligi road, it is about 60 km from Bellary and 30 km from Kudligi. 
Accommodation: There are no options available for accommodation in Gudekote. One can stay at Kudligi which has limited options, 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 Gudekote: Sandur, Kudligi, Kotturu, Ujjaini, BrahmagiriAshoka Siddapura, Jatinga Rameshwara, Sanganakallu, Bellary, Hampi, Nayakanahatti, Kumathi, Hulikunte and many such.

1. Book on "Ballari Jilleya KotegaLu" By Dr.M.Kotresh
2. Journeys Across Karnataka

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1. Channarayana Durga Fort
2. Ambajidurga Fort
3. Kavaledurga Fort 
4. Rock Engraving of Usgalimal 

MP Diaries - Vultures of Orchha, One of the very few Vulture Sanctuaries in India

Indian Vultures Perched on Chaturbhuj Temple, Orchha
Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1994 along the river Betwa with the main objective of conserving the critically endangered species of Vultures. Vultures are listed as critically endangered in the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.  Sadly, the vulture population declined in the 1990's due to unregulated use of the toxic diclofenac in cattle.  As per vulture census conducted here in the year 2013, 125 vultures have been found belonging to 4 different species. While having a casual interaction with one of the forest guards here, we were informed that the current estimate of vultures is close to about 400 and is definitely showing an upward trend with every passing year, which is good news! While the task of working towards increasing vulture population remains challenging owing to its slow breeding rate (a female vulture lays a single egg per every breeding season), it is worthwhile noticing that much awareness is being spread around this region about the importance of vultures and their role played in balancing the environment. Bundelkhand region has many breeding sites where vultures have found a safe home for themselves. There are a few sanctuaries across India for protection and conservation of vultures, one such is found in the Ramanagar district of Karnataka.
Hey There! What's Up??
Alright...I  Know I'm Handsome!
How Many Pictures Are You Taking My Friend!?
Hoping This Is The Last One!
Enough is Enough!

More details on Orchha in the next post.

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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