Sunday, April 25, 2010

Enjoy the hailstorm in Srirangapatna: 12 Apr 2010

Srirangapatna is only 35 mins drive from Melkote. We drove through the Pandavpura Taluk and got on to the SH17. Checking at one small shop in a hut for KSTDC's Hotel Mayura River View. This was our first night's stay so everyone was keen to see the rooms. We checked in at 1.15 pm and a very courteous Bell Man showed us around. It was very well done room. It was a delight to see the newly done resort. It matched any 3 star resort infact there is no 4 star else I would rated it a 4!

The resort has just two options a/c double rooms or a/c cottages. My colleague had been to Srirangapatna just last week and had filled me in that it was warm there. So I booked for 2 a/c double rooms. Panu was free. Charu, Sumeet and Sapna were thrilled with the location and seeing the happy smiles on their faces made my day. This place is on the edge of the river and surrounding fields and orchards add to the serenity. Sumeet started rolling on the bed. We decided to rest for an hour and a half and then go see the historic monuments and visit the temples.

We had eaten the puliyogare and curd rice in Melkote so we were not hungry. At 3 we left the resort and decided to go take darshan of Srirangaswamy to start with. On reaching there we found it closed . We were starving so we felt worse. Everyone agreed that idli vada at a nearby stall would be a good idea. The Idli vada and chutney was good but the sambar went untouched.

After dousing the fires with soft drinks we drove around the fort. Spotting on the way the place were the Tiger of Mysore fell in the final battle of Srirangapatna with the British on 4 May 1799. The Jama Masjid was undergoing repairs so we just saw it from the outside.

We thought it to be good idea to visit Tipu's other monuments and then come back to the temple. So we lined up at the Darya Daulat Bagh. The wooden summer palace of Tipu is famous for its Murals that depicts all his conquests. War processions of different times adorn the walls. The balconies are elaborately painted in vivid colors. The building is now home to a museum with artefacts like clothes, furniture and paintings all belonging to Tipu. There are sketches of his sons and darbaris. The painting of Tipu in a striped shirt with a sword swung across his torso brings alive history from the pages of our text books. While I admire Tipu Sultant for his valor I cannot ignore the fact that he fought other petty princes with the help of the French. The condition of India was really bad at that point consisting of small princely states and the outsiders got the better of us.

The granite cannon balls and the weightlifters

Next we visited the Ganjam or the temple of Nimishamba. It is believed the goddess grants wishes is a moment. Oh but I have grown out of this! I don't ask for anything now, have learnt to live with whatever the superior being has rationed out for me.

The parallel road from Nimishamba temple leads you to the Gosai ghat and Gumbaz. Gosai ghat is nice place with a small temple on the shore with steps built to go down to the river for a bath. We decided to go for a Coracle ride. Our pilot rowed us to the other shore and then in the middle of the river gave the coracle a spin. The vortex caused in the water made the basket boat a merry go round for us. We were screaming with the thrill. Some got scared and others asked for a once more. 

The river had tiny islets in the middle and greenery abundant along the shores. Mandya continues to flourish as a sugarcane growing district of Karnataka and the Cauvery provides the fertile plains and water for it.

Further down the road is the Mausoleum of Tipu's family. In the central chamber  lay the bodies of his parents Hyder Ali and Fatima. Later after his fall, Tipu's body was also buried there. This mausoleum has a large dome on the top hence it gets its name as Gumbaz. Next to the Gumbaz is a Mosque called Masjid-E-Aksa.

Tipu had a love for innovation and the arms he possessed were the best technology of that time. The armory was very advanced. I must highlight here that Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali are know to be the pioneers in rocket technology. Like other things the Europeans took it to the west.
It was past 5 pm and we were quite tired after the day's journey but Sumeet insisted that we go for darshan at Sriranganath swamy temple instead of pushing it to the next morning. I love this old temple with the Vishnu idol in his Sheshnarayan Avatar, where Vishnu sleeps on the coil of the serpent god and Goddess Laxmi  at his feet. It always reminds me of the wonderful Padmanabh temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The Sriranganath temple dates back to the 9th century. It is built in stone and idol is a treat to the eyes. It is lit enough the give you happiness and satisfaction of a proper darshan unlike the Padmanabh temple. There was not much rush and we bowed our heads in peace.
Finally coming back to the hotel it was time for some hot tea and sandwiches after a refreshing bath. Sumeet and Panu went for a swim in the river. Panu was enjoying swimming but we wanted him out of the water as it was getting dark. Charu boomed, "come out else the fish and the gharials will come for your nunu !!" Poor kid scampered out immediately.

We sat in the Gol ghar or the round dinning area which is on stilts and half standing in the river bed. The sound of the flowing river was so soothing, the birds chirping in the background. It was quickly getting dark and now the lanterns were shining making the place magical. Sumeet and Panu went to the room. They wanted to lie down.

Charu, me and Sapna got engrossed in our gossip. It started thundering and raining. The thundering grew louder and rain heavier. We were getting wet so we moved from the edge to a central table watching the lightning suddenly flash on the river. We felt like we were in a jungle. The staff had stopped picking up the toppled glasses and jugs that fell on the ground. Its a storm coming we knew. Just then we heard a shower that sounded metallic and ice cubes being hurled in. Charu almost jumped in joy! This is a hailstorm!! We went crazy collecting the perfect ice cubes manufactured by nature almost tempted to pop them into the mouth instantly. I was concerned if the impact would be too much for the car, but brushed away the thought and got back to enjoying the thrill and the chill that the hailstorm brought with it. We were shivering but stayed put in the Gol ghar. The staff passing us some hailstones enjoying the fun along with us.

The hailstones and the pathway carpetted by them.

We called up Sumeet and Panu and they too were enjoying the ice shower from the balcony of the room. It had been a hot day and this icy surprise was going to be stuff for memories in the future. Only after the ice showers stopped and there was more rain pouring but still navigable for us to go back to our rooms. We went back and ordered Chili paneer and Fried Rice and Noodles. Finally snuggling into bed recounting the exciting day.
After the hailstorm... The river was swollen with storm water. The environs looked greener and cleaner.

It was a bright morning the next day promising us another exciting day ahead. We began by bird spotting in the balcony as we got ready to start our drive to Coorg.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Climb the hill in Melkote with me: 12 Apr 2010

It was 4.30 am, inspite of the late night on the previous day I woke up with a jump start. Panu heard me moving around and he was up and asking for the tooth brush. I had told the driver that we will start at 5.30 am so as is usual he arrived at 5.45 am. We were all ready and excited to start on our vacation. As we got into the car I told the driver to take the Mysore road and head towards Mandya town and reach Melkote by 8.30. We drove non stop. The weather was cool and the morning hours are always free of traffic. The Myosre road is a smooth highway SH 17 and once we turn right at Mandya it is the SH4 that we follow.

We passed through the roads with swaying sugarcane fields and over Ragi harvests spread on the roads. We were doing the threshing for the villagers by driving over the dried yield. After many such mounds my driver stopped to clean the wheels free from the grass, that stuck in. The villages we passed by were tiny and sleepy. As we reached the temple town we spotted the Gopuram perched on the hill. That's when I did the vibhajan of "Melkote" Mel is top and Kote is fort in Tamil. Hummm... everyone echoed. 

We got off near the gate of the Kalyani and parked the car in the open space in front of it. My nephew who until then was busy eating one or the other thing started opening his mouth to ask endless questions. Why are we visiting here? What do we see here?

This town of Melkote is dominated by Iyengars. Yes but aren't Iyengars supposed to be Tamilians. Well history says the saint Ramanujacharya lived here for 14 yrs of his life. So came his followers from Tamil Nadu and made this little town their home, in the middle of Karnataka. They are so traditional and conservative that it almost feels like we are living in Malgudi days.

The Kalyani was inviting and felt like taking a dip however out of our environmental conscientiousness we have decided not to wash our sins in pilgrimage places our home and leading clean simple lives is a better way of doing it. So we got suchirbhut

My driver though familiar with the town showed least interest in being our guide excusing himself in the name of guarding the car. So we decided to climb the hill first , to  avoid the sun. We had reached the foothills by 8.15  am itself. It was not so sunny but it was a very bright day. As we climbed up the 1000 steps slowly we blessed the souls who planted the trees along the path. At a few hundred step there were shelter domes too.


On reaching the top of the hill and the entrance of the temple we realized the door was closed. So it was an opportunity to sit at the gopuram and taken in the views of the scenery around. Swaying palms, a hill with ridge that looked picturesque. 
The cool breeze brushing gently against the Champa flowers and intoxicating with the sweet smell.

See the yellow gopuram there, that's where we went after we went down the hill to the Cheluva-Narayana Swamy Temple.

At 10 am the priests came up to the temple on the hill, they told us that the deity was Yoganarashimha. I let everyone go in and stayed back at the edge of the hill to enjoy some silence. As I sat there alone the cool breeze against my skin gave me goose bumps and a rush of energy! I knew this is what I would remember Melkote for the rest of my life, my spiritual experience. I travel places to seek this. 

I was guarding everyone's  footware so once they were back I went in for darshan along with Panu. We went behind the temple where we found a strange window with huge paduka. Was it where Ramanujacharya meditated?
This is the foothill temple gopuram. We took the road around the Kalyani and walked thru the sleepy town passing by vendors selling Puliyogare rice and curd rice. At first we hesitated. They were also selling the masala packets. I check it out and then put it back.

After trying to find the beautiful face of the Lord Vishnu in the heavily flower decorated idol we did circum-ambulation walking through the stone carved pillars.
As we stepped out we saw aarti being done for Ramanujacharya's idol and the temple musicians playing the auspicious tunes. Then followed some excellent chanting of Mantras.
We then bowed are heads one last time at the temples and drove off in the direction of Srirangapatna but we did pick up 2 leaf cups of Puliyogare, 1 curd rice and 2 packs of the masala for home cooking.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Unique Mandya And Coorg

I had been inviting Charu to Blr for the last 5 yrs however she was not able to make it. Then a month ago Sumeet told me he would be visiting me for a week. It was Sapna's idea to bring along Charu and ofcourse the half ticket had already told me last time itself that he would come back for his summer vacs.

I began my planing, the idea was to make it memorable for Charu. She rarely gets to travel so while she was visiting I had to pack as much action as possible. The time frame 11th Apr 2010 to 16th Apr 2010.

I had done the KSTDC tour of Mysore and Srirangapatna so planning that part was easy. I wanted it to be a mix of what I had not seen and where I had already visited. Part playing safe and part taking a risk to explore in this summer season.

So if you want to join me on this journey that I am accounting here follow on...

A post a day with unique experiences from the districts of Mandya and Coorg in Karnataka!