The Hoysala Temple - Mavuthanahalli, Hassan

          'Mavuthanahalli' is a small village in the Arsikere Taluk of Hassan District. We had no much information about the existence of any old temples in this village, except for the presence of a small Hoysala Temple. Therefore, our hunt for this temple began without any expectations. After getting the required information about its location from the temple priest of Haranahalli, we moved as directed and stopped by at a small village to confirm the route. Thankfully, we were on the right track. We were hungry and on a look out for a place to eat. Finding a small hotel in this village serving piping hot Idlis and Bondas, we halted to have breakfast. Surprisingly, the tasty and fulfilling meal for two came at just Rs.30. After this super-breakfast, we moved towards our destination. On reaching Mavuthanahalli, while we inquired about the Shiva temple from the locals, the villagers excitingly and curiously enough wished to know if we were from from the govt. and would help them  improve the temple.  Sadly, we had to answer them that we had come only to visit this lesser known temple. We moved towards the temple only to find a lovely little temple in dilapidated condition. 
Mahalingeshwara Temple
The temple here is the 'Mahalingeshwara Temple' dedicated to Lord Shiva. The exterior of the temple is in a dilapidated condition, with most of its external features either ruined or displaced, while the carvings on the outer walls seem to have completely vanished (except two), giving a very blank look from the outside. The two beautiful carvings that have survived, lets us imagine how beautiful this temple looked when it was intact. As we stepped inside, we realized that the villagers had taken keen interest in preserving our heritage. The temple interiors very well maintained by the people of the village. We had the company of  two very young and energetic girls of the neighboring houses, who kept interest in knowing the history behind his temple and told us everything they knew. 
Ruined Exteriors of the Temple
Rear View of the Temple
The temple is of Trikuta type having three cells, with Lord Shiva placed in the form of a Linga in the main cell. His guardian Nandi is situated right in front of him. The ceilings are skillfully and delicately carved.The pillars and door frames are simple compared to the other typical  Hoysala style temples.
Main Shrine of Lord Shiva
Shiva Linga
Nandi
Central Ceiling
Simple and Plain Pillar
The left cell houses an idol of Lord Hari-Hara, along with their respective vehicles Garuda and Nandi,  present at the base of the idol. Guarding them are the dwarapalakas at the door. The lintel of the door frame has a carving of Hari-Hara with their Consorts. The right cell houses a beautiful idol of Lord Narasimha and the lintel has a carving of Narasimha on it. The temple has several beautifully carved images, some of which include Lord Ganesha, Shanmukha, Naga, and Sapthamatrikas. 
Lord Hari-Hara in the Left Cell
Hari-Hara with their Consorts
Idol of Ugra Narasimha in the Right  Cell
Lintel of Lord Narasimha
Ceiling Panel 1
Ceiling Panel 2
Mahishasuramardhini
Lord Shanmukha
The Only Two Exterior Wall Carvings
Lord Surya
Sapthamatrikas


A date with Pre Historic time

One afternoon while traveling, we reached a spot which looked quite mysterious. We stopped by to peep in and have a look around. The first thing that caught our attention was a single stone standing about three feet tall. Here on, walking a little further, we found a stone circle, made of irregular stones. On spotting these two, our excitement doubled, as we waited further to see what more was in store! By now, we were almost sure that this indeed is the place where we could look for Menhirs. We were sure about this as we had read before, their presence in that particular place and its surroundings. Inspecting the surroundings, we found a Dolmenoid Cist, after which it became a confirmed site for spotting the Menhirs. Knowing that we were close to spotting them, we began wandering with curiosity this vast expanse of scattered stones, small hillocks and boulders.
Inviting Menhir
Dolmeniod cist
Dolmen
Displaced Cap Stone 
   We sighted a few Stone Circles, Cairn Circles and a Dolmeniod Cist. A local shepherd revealed to us that there were more than  a hundred such structures (Pandavara Gudi or Dolmenoid Cist), most of which were removed from place and the stones being used for various purposes. One of the striking features of the  Dolmenoid Cist is the huge undressed cap stone slab placed horizontally on four comparatively thin vertically standing stone slabs,  with one or more port holes. The cap stones we observed were really huge and its thickness varied from about one to two feet, and the vertical standing stones were only about three to four inches thick. We always wonder how  people, 3000 plus years ago, played with stones so easily without any help from the so called technology. We found numerous Dolmens without the cap stone, which then resembled the crude swastika (a Hindu religious symbol and Nazi emblem), while some places were scattered with only cap stones. 
Stone circle with Dolmen in the center 
Stone Circle
Cairn Circle
   Further upon interaction, he revealed finding pottery pieces under these cists and not finding any treasure. Later, he called upon two teenagers for guiding and showing us some intact Cists and Menhirs. They were more than happy to show us around. On our way, we met an elderly person, probably in his 80's, who told us that when he was boy, two Britishers  had visited this site for surveying, which went on for almost two years. Since then, only a few Government officials visited here occasionally. He showed us the biggest Cist of this area, and asked us to return tomorrow so he could clear all the over grown vegetation and we could see it clearly.  A little further, we found a slab stone with port hole.
Inside a Dolmen
Dolmen and Shepherd 
Look at the Port Hole 
  Finally we reached our destination, the Menhirs that stood tall amidst the dry vegetation. There were four Menhirs all around. Menhirs are monolithic undressed stones planted vertically into the ground, which can vary in height and structure size from small  to gigantic. Some researchers believe these to be associated with burials while a few relate them to the Solstice. Though we can get close to the reason behind placing or constructing these structures, the truth remains hidden. At a few sites in India, Menhirs with engravings, also called as Petroglyphs have been found. While we  wondered about these intriguing structures, time passed by and we had to call off our visit since it was getting dark, leaving the rest  to our imagination. We felt that there may be many hidden secrets behind these mysterious structures, that are yet to be explored and discovered.
Menhirs


This place is located about 60 km from Bangalore.

Other Prehistoric Sites visited :
1 Chandravalli Gardens, Chitradurga  
2 Stone circles of Varlakonda
3 Cave Paintings of Anegundi 
4 Rock Carvings of Usgalimal, Goa
5 Pandava Caves of Rivona .

References:
1 "Kuvalahala" - A book about Places of  Interest in Kolar
2 The Megalithic Culture in South India - By B.K.Gururaja Rao
3 Wiki

A Trek in Charmadi Ghats

One Saturday early morning, we woke up to an idea of trekking in Charmadi, the priced possession of the Western Ghats. Our plan was to climb up to the nearest peak. We reached the base of the hill, and hereon had to walk up to start our trek. The trek begins on a seasonal dirt track meant for jeeps, which had become unusable due to the heavy monsoons during our visit. The driver instinct in me only forced me wish that, some day, we could do this route on a vehicle.
Charmadi Ghats
Curvy Roads of Charmadi Ghats
 Twenty minutes into the trek, we realized our jackets which meant to protect us from rain, were not of much use, as the chances of rainfall at that time were meager, and it only made us uncomfortable wearing one. We removed our weather gears and walked further, through tall green trees, bird songs and millipedes crossing our way.  After a while of nature trek, we reached a small human habitation, with few houses and even fewer people. The home was situated amidst tall green trees and we were welcomed by the owner of the house, an old man and his wife. While we walked in, a group of young boys just walked out, to start their trek. The elderly person very kindly offered us water so we could quench our thirst .Water never tasted this good, by the way!
Lucky Home
The Happy Family and the Little one 
 While we shared our interests to visit a certain peak and requested for a guide, we were told to join the group of boys who had just left, as they were already being guided by a person, who fairly knew the terrain. He then showed us directions to the trek route and also cautioned us about rain any moment in the woods, which could continue for days. We also inquired about the movement of elephants there and the reply assured their presence deep inside the forests and that there were no immediate signs of threat of any kind from them. The atmosphere there was cool and humid.  It was greenery all around. We wished to remain there all through the day, even before starting the trek! We rested for sometime and put our feet down to start the trek. We also had to catch up with the guide along. We temporarily bade good bye to the lovely family and moved on with a lot of vigor and excitement.
Initial Trek Route

Grazing Cattle
Trek Company

Tall Green Trees
Rock on Edge
Trekking along the directed route, we walked past a cattle group who were busy grazing and looked equally excited as us! Not quite far away, we spotted the group of boys and picked up pace, so we wouldn’t miss the route. The vegetation was quite dense as we walked along, at a few places. Very soon, we were at a high altitude and looking down, we had a beautiful view of the curvy roads of Charmadi, which disappeared often due to the moving clouds. After a few clicks, we went further and reached a lone rock standing at the edge, in the background of the charming Charmadi, though not sure of the name it carries. The view from here was fascinating and hard to miss. As we moved further, we were accompanied by two cute puppies having anklets around their necks. Wagging their tails and sniffing us, they refused to let go, until their owner forced them his way. A boy from the group got lucky while he spotted a snake, though it was too late for the rest of us.
Slippery Path


Germinating Seeds
Underside of The Purple Leaf
We were stuck at a junction as nobody was sure about the route from here, and since the person serving as our guide was not very well versed with the terrain, neither did he, nor us wanted to risk it, going too far and inside. As we had come a long way, we rested for sometime and started our trek back to the starting point. We reached the house and thanked the family for their support. We made friends with a little cute girl and enjoyed conversing with her. The family exchanged a few words with us and told us about how their timely guests, the elephants, entered their fields and created havoc after drinking the locally prepared liquor! With all smiles, they told us to come back again. We were touched by their kind gesture and just as we were leaving, the girl’s mother brought us a plate of freshly cooked ‘Anabe’ (Kannada word for mushroom) fried with onions and turmeric. Mushrooms thrive here during monsoons and are widely available. The art of picking the edible ones though, is attributed only to the experiences hands.  We enjoyed it to the last bit and bade the final good bye. We had to walk back to our vehicle and while driving back, had a few clicks of the beautiful Charmadi. A lot more waits to be explored during our next visit to the Charmadi.

Charmadi surely has an inherent quality to it that makes it so magical and enchanting.