A Short Trek to Krishnagiri Fort, Tamil Nadu

Krishnagiri Town
A Bird's Eye View of Krishnagiri Town

Krishnagiri is one of the large towns of Tamil Nadu and is the district head quarters. It is located on the Bangalore - Chennai Highway. Having traveled this highway many times, we have always eyed on exploring the Krishnagiri fort, which is clearly visible from the highway. 'Krishnagiri' gets its name from a hill here, on which the Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya built the fort. This fort may have been a military outpost kind of fort, which was built to house a section of army to protect their kingdom. None of the structures built here by the Vijayanagara kings survive today apart from its  fort walls. However, a few British structures and a Darga built during the rule of Hyder Ali is still seen today.
Krishnagiri Fort
The Fort Walls of Krishnagiri
British Colony of Krishnagiri Fort
19th Century British Colony
Krishnagiri fort was built during the early 16th century by king Krishnadevaraya which served as a head quarter of the Bara Mahal (12 Palaces). It is believed that  the Vijayanagara kings built/captured about 12 around Krishnagiri and Krishnagiri was made as the head quarters. The fort here is a simple fort by any standards, with the natural profile of the hills ensuring maximum defense. Post the downfall of the Vijayanagara kings, the Bara Mahal came under the Bijapur Sultanates during 17th century after which it was captured by Maharaja Shivaji during his Deccan expedition. Later, the fort was captured by Hyder Ali under the Wodeyar Kings and remained with them until the death of Tippu Sultan. Finally, the British brought it under their control.
Hills of Tamil Nadu
K R P Dam, Krishnagiri
K R P Dam Surrounded by Hills
Climbing Together
Krishnagiri Town
Steps and Krishnagiri Town
Last Sunday morning, we started early and reached the base of Krishnagiri hill. Thanks to the rains due to which the entire area looked green and was full of life! There were many small waterfalls en route to the fort. The steps laid here ensured a moderately easy climb during such season. The trek was quite simple, except for two short stretches which were a bit tricky, owing to slipperiness of the rocks. Atop the hill, we were greeted by a ruined gateway from where there are two diversions, the  route on the left leads to a Darga and the other leads us straight to the other remains of the fort. While we were resting at this point and observing around, we sighted a prehistoric cave settlement. Wow! We explored this small cave settlement and found a few white colored paintings which were quite intriguing and similar to the ones we found at Mallachandram. Hereon we reached the summit of the fort. The terrain was perfect and I spent some time learning to handle the flight of our drone better. Being breezy, it was quite challenging to keep the drone stable during flight although I tried my best. My effort in the form of a short video is posted at the end of this post. Our descent was quick and we reached the place were our vehicle was parked, thus ending another enticing quest.
Slippery Path
Rock Cut Steps, Krishnagiri Fort
Rock Cut Steps
Krishnagiri Fort
The Young Trekker Leading The Path
White Prehistoric Cave Paintings of Humans and Birds
White Prehistoric Cave Paintings of Human and Birds
Pre-historic Cave Paintings, Krishnagiri

 

Places to Visit around Krishnagiri: Mallachandram, KRP Dam, Rayakottai, Theni, Shoolagiri and many such. 
How to reach Krishnagiri: Krishnagiri is well connected and located on the Bangalore - Chennai national highway. It is about 85 km from Bangalore and 280 km from Chennai.

References: 
1. Wikipedia  

Related Posts:
1.  Drive to the Cape 
2.  The Rat Tail Waterfalls  
3.  Kolli Hills 

"Wishing All a Very Happy and Safe Deepavali"

A Winter Trek in the Western Ghats, Ballalarayana Durga Fort, Chikmagaluru

Kudremukha Hills, Chikmagalur
Kudremukha Hill Range in Monochrome
 A long pending trek to Ballalarayana Durga fort finally materialized last winter during our trip to Horanadu. 'Ballalarayana Durga' hill is located about 40 km from Mudigere and the fort can be reached via two trek routes - the longer 2 day trek route via Bandajje Arabi Waterfalls from Mundaje and the shorter day trek from Durgadahalli. We decided to a take shorter route since our partner Adhi was a year and a half year old. Road is laid up to Durgadahalli, where we parked our vehicle and started our trek. The initial path of the trek took us  along a few local estates and a bit of steep climb welcomed us to this hill. The climb progresses amidst lush green grasslands which opens up into a beautiful natural landscaped vista.
Trekking in Chikmagalur
The Initial Trek Path
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
First Look of Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Shola Forest, Western Ghats
Shola Forest of Ballalarayana Durga
Trekking in Western Ghats
Break for the Little Trekker on Demand

The walk through the grasslands was quite easy and very pleasing to the eye. Undoubtedly, we spent more time on photography then trekking! As the trek continued through the grasslands, we reached a junction with two diversions and after much deliberation, we decided to take the route on the left and bang on! We were on the right track. We had to cross a few smaller hills in order to reach the base of the hill that housed the fort. We had a clear view of the fort hereon. The early winter weather was perfect for this trek and as usual, this time of the year is always pleasant. We entered the fort wondering about the reason of its being built here in the first place, later only to be abandoned and why no further attempts were made by other kings to occupy/modify/rebuild this fort. Much of the fortification still remains intact  giving us an idea of how magnificent it was, back then.
Trek route along the Grass land
Trek Route Snaking Along the Grass Land
Vigna vexillata Flower WesternGhats
Vigna vexillata Flower
Neelakurinji Flower Western ghats
Neelakurinji Flower
Flower of Western ghats
Forest Malenadu
Another Stretch of Shola Forests
Ballalarayana Durga hill range falls under the Bankal range of Mudigere forest division. This hill is said to have been fortified by the Hoysala Kings in 12th century, which also played a significant role in defence activities due to its strategic location. We did not get any further information regarding the history of this fort. It probably seems like the fort was abandoned with the downfall of the Hoysala dynasty. One can get a view of the entire Kudremukha hill range, Charmadi ghats and other hill ranges. While we were just about to start our descent, we spotted a few trekkers coming towards the fort taking the Bandajje Arabi route. We waited to speak to them and find out their experience uphill and assured them that the descent down the hill from here was not as difficult. They inquired from us about the possibility of hiring a vehicle at Durgadahalli and as we knew, we informed them that the chances of availability of vehicles were quite bleak. We offered them to join us so we can give  drop them all to the nearest place from where they can get a  bus back to Bangalore. Without a second  thought, they readily accepted our offer. After they rested for sometime, we all started our descent. All along, they were quite excited to see our little partner Adhi doing the trek! We reached our vehicle and as promised, we dropped the boys at Kottigehara. Overall, it was a wonderful experience of trekking amidst so much greenery!
Gaali gudda
Gaali Gudda Hills
Bandajje Arabi waterfalls
Towards Bandajje Arabi Waterfalls
Cheering Up the Young Trekker
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Fort Walls Snaking Across The Hills

Other places to Visit nearby: Kalasa, Horanadu, Chikmagalur, Sooramane Abbi Waterfalls, Khandya, Mullayanagiri, Bababudanagiri, Kudremukha and many such.
How to reach Ballalarayana Durga:  Cross Mudigere, proceed towards Kottigehara, take a right turn towards Kalasa and reach Sunkasale. Take a left turn here and proceed till you reach a dead end and take a  left turn to reach the starting point of the trek. This village is located about 34 km from Mudigere and 312 km from Bangalore.
Accommodation: There are no accommodation facilities inside the village, although one can pitch their own tents inside the fort or village premises with prior permission of the villagers. However, there are many home stays in the area which also offer guided treks to this hill.
Where to eat: There are no eateries here; Kottigehara and Kalasa are the closest and better options.
Permission: Not required for this route.  However, the trek through Bandajje Arabi waterfalls route requires prior permission, which can be obtained at Bandajje only. Also, guides are provided by the forest department.

Related Posts 
1. A Monsoon Trek to Kavaledurga 
2. Dandeli Resting in the Lap of Nature
3. Waterfalls of Agumbe
 
Always Remember to Respect Nature and Wildlife. And Do not  litter.
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Chausath Yogini temple - Bhedaghat, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

While we were enjoying the sunset behind the Marble Rocks of Bhedaghat, we realized that we were running out of time to visit the Chausath Yogini temple here. We rushed back to our car and headed towards this temple. Having visited a few Yogini temples such as that at Hirapur (Orissa), Mitawali and Khajuraho, we were excepting this to be along similar lines. The Yogini temples generally are dedicated to the  64 Yoginis, housing 64 small shrines enclosing a Yogini each and thus the name 'Chausath Yogini'. However, this temple houses 81 small shrines along its periphery unlike the 64 celled temples. The word 'Chausath' means 64 in the language of Hindi and 'Yogini' means the power of realization and the names given to the demoness/ sorceress/ woman possessing magical powers.  Goddess Durga created these Yoginis to attend her and Lord Shiva. Also sometimes, goddess Durga is also referred to as a Yogini. While one school of thought says that all the 81 murtis here are Yoginis, the other assumes they are the 64 Yoginis with associated Devi's, including the Saptamatrikas. Originally being eight Yoginis, with other associations they number as many as 64. They are said to have attained the form of grama-devatas or are minor manifestations of goddess Durga.
Chausath Yogini Temple, Jabalpur
Gauri Shankar Temple Inside Chausath Yogini Temple

Atop a hillock situated close by the Marble Rocks is the 'Chausath Yogini temple', built in the 10th century AD by the Kalachuri king Yuvarajadeva I. The temple is a circular structure with no roof. There are 81 cells/shrines at the periphery, out of which 64 are dedicated to the 64 Yoginis and the rest to other deities including the saptamatrikas. The murtis in most of the cells are either partially or completely damaged, with some being defaced. A board displaying the names of each is present below the murti, making the identification process a bit easier. At the middle of this enclosure is the 'Gauri-Shankar temple' dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati. The garbagriha houses an idol of the couple deity riding on Nandi, the bull mount of Lord Shiva.
 Sarvvatomukhi Yogini Durga
Sri Sarvvatomukhi
Sri Vibhatsa Chausath Yogini
Sri Vibhatsa
Sri Erudi (Horse Faced Yogini)
Sri Erudi (Horse Faced)
How to Reach Bhedaghat: Travel along Jabalpur - Bhopal highway and turn left towards Bhedaghat. Drive along to reach the waterfalls and temple, if driving from Jabalpur. It is situated at about 25 km from Jabalpur.
Entry Fee: Entry is free to the temple.
Accommodation: Though we did not stay here,  there are quite a  a few options available for accommodation here. Hotel Marble Rocks maintained by the MPTDC on the banks of the river Narmada, one of the is best available here.
Where to eat: There are many eat-outs, including a few road-side eateries.

Related Posts:
1. Mitawali Chausath Yogini temple
2. Temples of Orchha  
3. Bateshwar Group of Temples 
                                                                                                                       

Tumkur Fort, Sri Ramadevara Betta, Kyatasandra

Tumkur Fort, Kyatasandra
A View from Top of the Ramadevara Betta, Tumkur
We had been eyeing this big hill since a very long time as every time we stopped by the Tumkur toll booth, the hill was visible and seemed inviting. But somehow, we never got a chance to visit here. I requested one of my colleagues, a local of Tumkur to gather information about this hill as the internet searches failed to yield much results. It was only after he gave out a few details that I realized the name of this hill as 'Ramadevara Betta'. Now that I knew its name, I searched the net again and found that some people had already explored this hill and their pictures tempted me to explore it as well. One fine day, I was joined by a few of my colleagues and together we attempted to climb this hill. After packing some food from Kyatasandra, we reached the base of the hill. There is an Anjaneya temple at the hill base where we parked our vehicles and first visited this temple. We inquired about the route to Sri Ramadevara Betta and moved on.
Ramadevara Betta, Tumkur
Entering The First Tier of The Fort
Following the directions of the temple priest, we headed towards the hill. The weather was perfect for climbing, not too hot, but cloudy and breezy. We had to cross a small hillock before we reached the base of the main hill, from where the actual trek began. The trek was wonderful, with the entire  hill range of Devarayanadurga being visible. After climbing for some time, we reached the first tier of the fort or rather the first surviving tier. As we climbed further, we reached an open flat terrain where we were welcomed by a beautiful lotus pond filled to the brim due to the recent rains. Hereon, the top most tier of the fort was at a striking distance.
The Beautiful Lotus Pond
Tumkur Fort and Temple
The Temple and Pond
Ramadevara Betta, Fort Tumkur
Inside the Top Tier of the Fort
We entered the last tier of the fort which had a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a linga. Going by its architecture, the temple seems to have been built in between the 9th and 11th centuries, probably by the Hoysalas/Cholas/Gangas. It's close resemblance to the 'Rameshwara Temple of Kaidala', situated very close to Tumkur in all likelihood indicates that these temples were built during the same time. The temple structure has a garbhagriha, an antarala and a  navaranga. The Shikara is lost and many portions of the temple are ruined and lay scattered. There is a small mandapa close by to the temple where we rested and enjoyed eating our packed food, ensuring to keep the premises clean. We later went around exploring the surroundings and found a few ruins. We were able to spot two caves, one of which had a perennial spring with a few Shiva lingas while the other probably was a meditating/resting place of a sage. It started to rain heavily by the time we reached this cave and taking shelter in this cave, we wondered how someone could stay here, secluded and away from the outside world.
Ruins of Some Structure
Arisaema sp.
There are many interesting legends associated with this hill. As it is believed that the Linga here was originally installed by Lord Rama himself, the hill is called as 'Ramadevara Betta'. During the exile of Lord Rama, he along with his wife Goddess Sita and brother Lord Lakshmana stayed here for a brief period. Once during their stay, Lords Rama and Lakshmana were away and Goddess Sita was having a bath. When she heard them returning, she hurriedly went away from that place as she dragged her Saree while draping it. The villagers here believe that the mark present on the hill nearby the pond is that made by Goddess Sita while dragging her Saree! Quite interesting it is! However, this story may not be completely true, since Sita was kidnapped by Ravana in a location somewhere in Maharashtra, and much before they entered Karnataka. But then, the association with Lord Rama cannot be discarded as there are many places in the surroundings which prove the same.
The Mark Made by Goddess Sita's Dragging of her Saree
Though not much history of the fort is known, it seems to have been built during the same time as the temple here, without undergoing any later modifications. The fort must have either been 2 tiered originally, which is quite unusual or it may be that the outer tiers failed to survive the test of time to give us an exact picture. Our descent was quick, though at a few places it was quite slippery due to the rains. We were pleased to have done this trek.
How to reach Tumkur Fort: Drive on NH 4 - Reach Kyatasandra - Take a right turn towards Siddaganga Mutt - Cross the Mutt, drive further and take a right at a brick kiln to reach the hill base, where there is an Anjaneya temple.

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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. The celebration this year started on the 21st of September 2017 and will end on the 30th of September 2017, details of which can be found at the government website dedicated for the same. 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.
KRS Dam
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.

Related Posts:
1. 101 places to visit around Bangalore within 125km.
2. Top 100 lesser known temples of Karnataka
3. Travel Guide to Madhya Pradesh

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