The Standing Stones of Byse, Shimoga

 Drive through the Nagara-Nittur road was quite a pleasure and went on smoothly until a sign board of a village name Byse, caught our attention. We stopped at the crossing to check our travel dairy for any information related to this place as we vaguely remembered reading about it and its connection with pre history. Well, we were right!  Byse has numerous standing stones/ Menhirs / Nilskal / Rakshashkal. Our excitement only grew as we knew the name of the place matched and we decided to explore this place. When we inquired about the exact location of such stones to an elderly person, he shooed us away saying that, nothing of such a kind exists there. Assuming that this person may be ignorant or misleading, my wife insisted on having a second opinion and so we did!  A little further we met a few people who on enquiring about the stones responded positively, saying that ‘Aane Nilskal’ (Stone used to tie Elephants) is located over an elevated piece of land close by, and for this we had to walk a short   distance as the roads were not in a proper condition. Thanking them, we moved further. Final enquiries ahead lead us to the location of Menhirs. This place is called as “Nilaskal Byana”, meaning the field of standing stones. We could easily spot 6 Menhirs standing tall and a few fallen, here and there. It is believed that these structures are aligned in such way that they fall in line following the solar solstices. The reason behind their placement and their laying still remains a big mystery, just as the stone henge!

Standing Stones
Fallen Stone
Hidden Menhir
Stone Square???

Further reading:
1. A mountain sunrise by Srikumar M Menon, researching on pre-historic sites, especially Byse.  

Happy Ganesha Festival to All !

Hampi Unseen -II

An obvious question that runs in any travelers mind about Hampi is the actual time required to explore Hampi in total. Most people, depending upon the period of vacation, number of places to be covered, purpose of visit, etc., decide the duration of travel which may vary from a few days to months. An elderly friend of ours was quite curious to know if we had explored Hampi completely and when he questioned us about the same, we replied with a smile and nodded our heads in a way that meant we hadn’t, and also affirmed him of doing it shortly.
Long time back, we had read about one, Mr. Robert in a newspaper which stated about him as follows, “He quit his job in Dutch and came to India, traveled many places and finally settled at Hampi. He has been a resident of Hampi and has been painting ever since”. Our search for him began when we stepped into Hampi. Having met him, seen the paintings and interacted with him about his passion for paintings about Hampi, we can say for sure that they truly are a reflection of the grandeur of Hampi and the life style of Lambani tradition. It is quite intriguing to know that Hampi has kept him motivated for a long period of 35 years and is still on. He says with pride that Hampi always has something new to offer him each day. Kudos to you from all of us Mr.Robert! After meeting Mr. Robert, it seems like Hampi is an ocean and any amount of exploration is just a drop in the ocean!
Robert's Workshop
Mr. Robert

Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple, Horakere Devapura, Chitradurga

    According to our source, the temple in Horakere (Kolar DT) houses a very beautiful idol of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha and all our efforts put in to find out the location of this temple went in vain.  Nor were the internet search engines of any help this time. It so happened that once, while listing the places to visit in Chitradurga, I noted down a place called Horakere Devapura which had a temple dedicated to Lord Lakshmi Narasimha. This made me think about the temple we were searching for, in Kolar and a thought crossed my mind about the chances of the location being misspelled in our source (which is a very rare event). During one of our trips, while returning from Chitradurga, we decided to check this place, and see whether it was the same temple we were on the lookout for but in a wrong place! The temple was about 28 Km from the National highway and our journey was a pleasant one. We drove through narrow   roads decked with hills that housed windmills atop.  After confirmation about the route at a few places, we reached the village of Horakere Devapura, which was busy because of the Saturday Sandy.
Wind Mills
Rajagopura and Garuda Khamba
   A unique, magnificent and huge Rajagopura (an entrance gateway) built of stone welcomed us into the temple. By far, it is the most beautiful stone entrance gateway we have witnessed. As it had some structural resemblance to the gateways of Hampi and Chitradurga, a thought struck in our minds that this could be a handiwork of the Vijayanagara kings. This temple has been constantly renovated time to time under various dynasties. We could see some minor contributions of our generation too. The idol was very beautiful and so we had read, thus confirming us about the temple. The temple complex is vast with many of the structures belonging to the Vijayanagara period, except for the basic temple (Garbhagriha) and the beautiful idol which with no doubt, belongs to the Hoysalas.
Temple Complex
Anjaneya Pillar
Shri Lakshmi Narshima swamy Temple
Huge pillars
Kalyan Mantapa
Ceiling of Kalyan Mantapa
Lord Hanuman
Lord Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy
  According to the legend, this place was formerly called Nanjundarajapattanam as it ruled by a cruel king named Nanjundaraja. He had a bad reputation of being demonic, ill treated people who visited other pilgrimages and was against people worshipping god. One day, Lord Venkateshwara (Vishnu) being aware of all the happenings decides to teach this king a lesson and free the people of his town from his evil deeds. On reaching the town, the lord decides to be seated atop a hillock named Krishnachala Betta in order to protect the people. He   destroys the king and his palace within no time. The people of the village then performed Puja to this hill and requested the Lord to stay back in their village. He decides to stay back, though in his other form of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha just outside the village nearby a lake, and hence the Horakere Devapura (Hora-outside; kere-lake; Deva-god; pura-village). There are many more stories from this place.
 On Saturdays, there is special annadana (meals) program for all the devotees.   
Majestic Gateways

Pillow Lava-World’s Oldest Rocks – Mardihalli, Chitradurga

 ‘Mardihalli’ is one among the 26 National Geological Monuments of India (GMI), and is being maintained by the Geological Survey of India (GSI). Though we were aware of the existence of this place and have traveled many a times through this route, we had never made an effort to visit this place. This time around, we made a conscious effort to explore this place and drove towards the village of Mardihalli in Chitradurga. We reached the village without any difficulty. A couple of enquiries lead us to a small rocky hillock near the village.  The catch now was to sight, or rather spot the old rocks.  
Welcome To Mardihalli
Pillow Lava
Pillow Lava

Rock Piles
        Though we were directed rightly towards the rocky hillock, there was none who gave us proper directions to the old rocks and we assumed that the rocks we were seeing were the ones we had come in search of, until we found a few sign boards belonging to the GSI confirming the same. The information board reads, “This is one of the best preserved Pillow Lava surviving in the world. The Pillow Lava rocks are formed when hot molten lava erupts under water and solidifies in the form of roughly spherical or rounded pillow-shape. The Lava gets chilled so suddenly that, part of the flow separates into discrete rounded bodies a few feet or less in size. This Pillow Lava has been dated 2500 million years”. The shepherd we met on the hillock also said that occasionally people   visit this rock from foreign countries in order to study it. This being one of the 4 GMI sites in Karnataka, the others are located at Lalbagh (Bangalore), St Mary’s Island (Udupi) and Peddahalli (Kolar).
Pillow Lava Rock
GSI Board
Information Board

Mulbagal Fort

    Mulbagal/Muluvayi/Moodalabagilu/Mudalabagalu is the eastern gateway of Karnataka. This town is quite popular for its Hanuman temple and Namkeens (Savories, Mulbagal Mixture). This place also boasts of a fort on the hillock, which is difficult to miss if one is travelling towards Tirupathi from Bangalore. A long time pending visit to this place finally materialized one Sunday. This place is only 35 Km from Kolar and is situated on the NH 4. A drive on this road has always been a pleasure. Being a Taluka and a developing town, this place is busy and always crowded. Without much trouble we reached the base of the hill and with no path visible, we had to make our own way to the top. Walking across the rocks and through the shrubs was quite an experience. After a few minutes of climb, we reached the first tier of the fort. 

Way thru theTunnel

Hero Stone and Small Temple

Rama Thirtha
Laxman Thirtha
   We crossed the first tier of the fort, walked a little further and found no way to the next tier. We found a   small tunnel like structure which we thought would lead us to the next tier of the fort. Without thinking much, we entered the tunnel that opened into a cave that was being used by the shepherds as a shelter from rains and the hot sun. The cave was big enough to accommodate a herd of about 30 animals. At the entrance of the cave was a ruined temple containing a hero stone? Proceeding further we found two big water ponds named Rama Thirtha and Laxman Thirtha. A few locals were enjoying a summer bath here. Walking further, we went on to explore the fort wall that was intact.  We were only left with conquering the hill. The route to the peak of the hill was quite interesting and began from a cave. We found a beautiful carving of Lord Hanuman inside the cave.
Fort Wall
Fort Wall and Ruined Structures
Lord Hanuman Carvings
Way to Mahadeva Gundu
Lord Shiva Temple on Mahadeva Gundu
Colorful Mulbagal Town
        There are 2 big boulders on the peak of this hill called Mahadeva Gundu (as it houses a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at its top) and the second one is Babaiah Gundu, on which a Muslim saint regularly read his holy prayers (Namaz). We first reached the Mahadeva Gundu. Though nothing much remained inside the temple, the view from the top was simply out of this world. We descended down and looked out for a way to reach the Babaiah Gundu but of no avail, until a local present at that spot came to our help. Climbing the steep rock cut steps without any kind of the support was enthralling and awesome. At the top of Babaiah Gundu, we found two hand marks of the saint, and can only imagine how divine it would have been for someone to offer prayers at this height. We also found an Arabic inscription just at the base the Babaiah Gundu. Our descent was quick and a normal one.
Way to Babaiah Gundu
Arabic Inscriptions
Left Hand etchings of the Muslim Saint 
Photogenic Me
My Partner in Crime