Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hospet Shree Ram & Shree Brahmachaitanya Gondavalekar Mandir

It was the long weekend of Gandhi Jayanti back in Oct 2006. We were planning a trip to Hospet along with family friends. However they were not able to make it. I did not want to spend my long weekend in Bangalore so decided to leave for Hospet anyways. I wanted to visit Hampi a second time too. So that night I went and booked whatever tickets were available. The Volvo tickets were not available for the forward journey however I did get a Volvo ticket for the return journey. I got a red bus ticket. We had never traveled by the red bus and did not what to expect. I had never seen it in Blr. I knew it was the cheapest when I bought the tickets but at the last minute, I did not have any other option.

After a rickety racktey travel in the night and a fussy Dad who kept swearing under his breath, we reached Hospet at 7.0 am. We got off the bus and called up Ravi. If the devotees remember we had a MSN group on Shree Brahmachaitanya Gondavalekar Maharaj. I had met Ravi on this group. He was very generous to help me with the address and details. He was waiting for us at the Mandir along with the trustee and other devotees. 

We took an auto to the temple. It is a little outside the town and in the midst of green fields just off the main road. It's quite peaceful like a typical village temple.
Ravi Hospet, if you happen to read this pl. share the temple address in the comments. I will add it here.
 L to R: Ravi, Dad, some devotees, extreme right Chief Trustee

We were very warmly welcomed by the devotees. They had just finished the Kakad aarti session. We promised them that we will join them for morning and evening aarti while we were in Hospet.

Later we came back to the town center and checked into Hotel Mallige, it's a 3 star, the best in Hospet in those days, I don't know about now.  We kept our promise. We attended Kakad aarti and sejaarti for the 3 days while in Hospet.

The Mandir like most  Shree Brahmachaitanya Mandir is on the top dedicated to the Lord Gopal Krishna as Shree loved cows and other animals.

  In the cellar is the samadhi

There are paintings of Tukamai, Aaisaheb and Brahmananda Maharaj in the cellar.

There are few devotees here but they are carrying out pooja and celebrating all the important days in Shree's life. The routine is similar to that performed in Gondavale all with aarti, bhajan, pher-phugdi, pravachan reading etc. Then followed a lot of conversation and sharing stories of our associations with Shree and the devotees. It is always such a rewarding experience to know about the devotees spread across the country, wherever Shree had traveled. I am touched most when I hear these Kannada vernacular people singing all the aartis and bhajans in Marathi. Even in Bangalore temple I've seen this but Hospet is a small typical North Karnataka town. They learn from books that have Marathi written in Kannada script! They learn it like we recite Sanskrit shlokas without understanding and are very keen to know the meaning of the Bodhavachan of Shree.

When we visited we were the only visitors to the temple yet they served us prasad once. We tried to tell them we will manage out but they insisted that the Archak makes an offering to the God so we can have the same as prasad. We could not refuse when offered with so much love and care. The Archak himself served us that day. He went all out putting a rangoli around our plantain leaves and served us wearing sovaLa/ Madhi.

It was Dasara on one of the days and since we were on travel we did not even remember. However the trustee surprised us by inviting us to his home for dinner. We were in for more surprises when his mother spoke to us in Marathi! They had organized a sumptuous dinner and served us with a lot of aagraha.

On the day we left they gave us tokens for memory along with tambulam.

We felt blessed.

Sri Radha Krishna Chaithanya mandir,PDIT engg. college Road,
Gokul Nagar,
Dam Road,
Bellary -Dist

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finally relish the grandeur of the Mysore: 15 Apr 2010

Mysore Palace, a view from the sports pavilion end

After Dubare. We drove back to Mysore and as we were approaching the city it started raining very heavily. It was very difficult to know where we were on the road the visibility very bad and since the windows had to be pulled up it got suffocating with 5 adults and a kid in there. I made several calls to the hotel to take directions and finally without much problems we reached there safe.

The hotel corridors were crowded and everything was rain soaked. Once before I had visited their restaurant so knew it was pretty good atleast when it came to food. We moved into the rooms. What to say about them, they were decorated in 70's style furniture and can you believe it, they took the Mysore tiger theme so seriously that they had everything done in cheetah prints! Urgh !!! However the building is a heritage structure so I liked the lobbies, the staircase and the facades. This was also the cheapest of the hotels in the KSTDC line up as it is bang in the city and does not have much of a view. However Mysore is a green city so you don't mind that much.

I love this picture of Charu eventhough she is out of focus.

Anyways we decided this was our last night halt so it would mean we were just goin to sleep in and leave early morning for a darshan of the ruling goddess of the region. We decided to have dinner at the restaurant and since we had nt got good food or familiar food in in the afternoon we decided to go all out. I placed the order for Soups, Gobi Manchurian, masala papads, 5 Punjabi curries and 12 Naans! That's where I made a mistake. Their Naans were very big and we could not eat even half of the ordered Naans. Also because we ate other things too. So got it packed to feed the dogs in the morning. None of us wanted dessert immediately so we decided to have dessert in bed. Sumeet got Kulfi candy for all. As usual Sapna had hardly eaten and the kulfi was her actual dinner. Ah the delicate darling that she is!

Finally we went off to bed at 10 pm after I had all of them rolling in a one double bed and shooed them off to their own, also warning them not to stay up to late at night as we had to go early in the morning to the Chamundeshwari temple.

I woke up at 5.30 am and had a liesurly bath in the kingsized bathroom. He he the bathroom and bedrooms were of the same size! Any analysis on why? I woke up everyone and by 6.30am everyone was ready to go.  The rain had stopped and the fresh air was envigorating. The trees all washed clean and the road in front of the hotel looked majestic.

We drove up the Chamundi hills. The sun was bright already and the fog was rising over the city. It felt wonderful to get glimpses of the greenery and the dense city at the foothills. We got a good darshan of the Chamundeshwari as it was morning time and the tourist rush had not yet started. We then loitered around a bit, feeding dogs with the previous nights Naans and  had coconut water. After that we returned to the hotel for breakfast of Mysore Masala dosa and hot filter coffee. The dosa was a perfect gold on the outside and spongy white on the inside coated with red garlic chutney. The mashed potatoes perfectly spiced. Making it a hearty breakfast.
 Pranav poses with the demon Mahishasur, the asur with bull's strength whom the Goddess Chamundi killed and saved this land of Mysore

We were all set to go to the Mysore Palace. The Palace opens only at 9 am but we thought it was good idea to go early to buy our entry tickets and we were one of the first in the line. After removing our footwear at the entrance of the palace building we started moving along the marked path oohing and aahing at the grandeur of the Wodeyar Royal's belongings on display and the magnificent rooms and darbars. My favorite are the peacock room and the sports pavillion. The peacock rooms amazing skylight with belgian stained glass. The sports pavillion with its painted ceilings influenced by European style but telling a different story. They narrated the Indian mythology. Every panel in the pavilion is intricately painted. Why the entire palace is painstakingly decorated either with paintings, the doors with silver metal work and ivory inlays. The doors and doorways carved in sandalwood and teak.

It takes atleast an hour and a half to walk around the new palace and atleast 30 mins to see the old wooden palace.

Take the virtual tour through the Mysore Palace.

We then decide to go to the Mysore zoo. It is the biggest zoo I have seen till date. The electrical vehicle was not running when we went there so we walked around. Me and Charu lost steam after a couple of Kms. Pranav was enjoying the Zoo so Sumeet and Sapna walked him around while we short circuited the path and sat under a tree awating them.

I would actually suggest that if you have kids with you plan a separate day at the zoo. You too will enjoy it with the kids. The good thing about the Zoo is it very well landscaped and  you see the animals in almost their natural habitat. It is very tiring to do both the palace and the zoo back to back.
Birds in canopy nets, they fly over our head.

Post lunch at another pathetic place we drove homewards to Bangalore.

In all it was a wonderful time with family but we did too many places in a span of 5 days and that's where Sumeet wanted it slow. I thought it was a good plan for Charu as I know she will not be able to make it again soon.
The tour is over !

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Flashback To Valawal : Aug 2002

My family was invited for a Vishnu Yaag by a very spiritual soul and seeker Prakash Desai, who is lovingly called Prakash Maharaj by people who know him. His grandfather had performed a Vishnu Yaag and so he wanted to do it at his native Valaval / Walawal. This was sometime in the month of Aug, 2002. This was the ideal time to visit the little village in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra.

We travelled from Mumbai to Kudal by the Konkan Kanya. My first trip on the Kokan railway route. As we stepped out of the Kudal railway station our expectations of a wonderful experience were set high. We hired a Mahindra jeep to take us to Valaval. Through winding dense greenery dominated by rainforest the jeep hurtled into the temple compound and stoped with a screech in front of the Deepshikha of the Dev Narayan temple.

Photo in this post credited to chocolatesalil

Laxmi Narayan Mandir - Walawal
 Dev Narayan Temple
source: chocolatesalil

It was a typical coastal architechture with Mangalore tiles. A huge mandap as one enters it with built-in seating along the walls. One step up is the podium to perform pooja and inner most is the garbh gruh or sanct sanctorium.

The idol is made from sand is what legend says. The peculiar thing about this idol is that Laxmi is a small idol at the feet of the large Vishnu idol. Which is unsual as Laxmi is always seen as an equal partner of the lord but not here!

From the rear side there is a side door from where one can walk down a few steps towards the beautiful lake. One can barely see the other shore. During our stay at the temple we almost every single day sat on the edge of the lake enjoying bhajke ChaNe (roasted bengal gram) and NaraLi Pak. It was the season of breeding for birds and we saw lots of woodpeckers, kingfishers and pelicans. Spectacular colorful birds and treat for the eyes. I have rarely seen so many different birds on a tree before. We did not need to do any stunts to get a view.

Walawal Lake - Walawal village
Valaval Lake 
On one of the day's we visited a nearby hill home to the Mauli Devi. It was a shocking site to see a huge well filled with wood offerings. Some in the form of toys, books and some errie ones shaped as organs. People in this region believe that Mauli can grant any wish, she can heal any disease and solve any problems. The common man exploits this belief and interpret as wanted. Some come here to offer wood offerings and wish to harm another person. It gives deep insights in the psyche of the people of this region and how deeply they are involved in the occult sciences.

The hill is covered with rainforest and makes for a good trekking trail. we walked around a bit and then returned to the temple.

Walawal Forest
Valaval Forest

We visited a the Datta Mandir built by Tembe Swami in Mangaon. My father was discussing something really deep with the priest but I don't recollect much. The temple spells a strong Kokanasth Brahminical way of life even today.

The Vishnu Yaag was attended by people from the neighboring areas in large nos. In the late evening we went to bed listening to the bhajans being sung in the temple by the village folks. It was an amazing cultural and rural experience in Walawal and I always recollect it with warm memories.

Valaval google map

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Get endeared by Elephants at Dubare: 14 Apr 2010

We left Talacauvery and returned to Madikeri town in time for lunch. Madikeri town has a very limited choice for vegetarian food. So we went to a typical yelle oota place. My SIL refused to eat there. It was not really a neat place. We ate and got out as quick as possible. It was almost 2 pm and we wanted to start back for Mysore and reach there by late evening. On the way we decided to catch a glimpse of the elephants at Dubare.
Dubare is about 34 kms from Madikeri. As we neared the right turn for the elephant camp from the main road it started raining. It was a wonderful experience to drive in the rain through semi jungle like terrain and narrow roads. It almost felt like a safari. It cooled the air and was amazingly fresh. When we reached Dubare the boats were not yet ready to ferry us accross the Cauvery. There were many people crossing the river on foot but we decided not to as we were to travel ahead to Mysore for another 2.5 hrs and did not want a mess in the car. It had made the ground mucky so we lined the car floor with lots of old news paper.

As soon as the rain stopped we jumped into the canopied boats and paid for the rides. It was a 7-8 mins across the shallow river bed. It stopped at a make shift jetty. Everything is so basic there truely gives you the nature experience. We climbed up the slope to reach a entrance area to the Dubare forest where elephants would be brought in for a show.
It wasn't time yet. So we climbed onto the tree house/ machan for a better view of the forest. The rain had cleaned the trees and they looked lush green and the gulmohars were flaming glory truely. We saw some cooks were preparing large balls of ragi for the elephants. Each was about 3-4 kgs in weight. They told us each elephant ate 12 of those huge balls. The muddy ragi balls looked almost like elephant dung.

The elephants were roaming in the jungles and waiting for them to come out so that we could see them was getting a little boring. Here is proof.

Suddenly we saw the royal beast striding towards the open areas. The men, women and children clapped their hands thrilled at the sight.

Then followed the circus like salams from the elephants. The mahuts took them to the river for a bath and it was very endearing to see them enjoy the water and so luxuriously.

 A spectacular sight

See how the elephant lifts his leg to let the mahut climb on to his back.

This one loves coconuts

Finally we came back on the boat and back to the car to proceed to Mysore. It was drizzling and we needed rounds of coffee and some biscuits so did that before whirring the engines.

However one thing that was gnawing me, "Why do the elephants have to be subjected to this choreographed show?" I would love to see them in their natural habitat.

Pranav was maha thrilled with Dubare and so were the other kids present there. So was happy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bow at the Ugam (starting point) of Cauvery river, that's Talacauvery: 14 Apr 2010

This is the sole picture we took at the entrance gate. Beyond this point the camera is not allowed.

Talacauvery is of great religious importance to the Kodagu people. This is where the cauvery river emerges. It is a small spring opening into a little pond and a large tank in front of it. People stand in the water to take darshan and offer pooja to Cauvery who is considered to be a goddess. We took darshan and sat for a while and then came back to the car to start back for Mysore. On the way the plan was to have lunch at Madikeri and stop at Dubare for couple of hours.

My Dad had actually advised us to drop off Talacauvery, when he had visited it was a badly maintained place inspite of a lot of people visiting there but we decided that we must take darshan of the holy river. Especially since it was the Ugam or the place of emergence of the Cauvery. Good we did that. Eversince my Dad had visited many things had changed there like everything else in India. It was clean and some what a landscape. It is definitely to be included in your itenary for one visit if you are on this side of Karnataka.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spot the Kerala influence and Kodagu women in Bhagmandala: 14 Apr 2010

It was 9 am by the time we finished our bath and breakfast of fresh vegetable sandwiches with wonderful cups of tea that too in coffee land.

I took a glance at my itinerary one time it said 40 mins for Bhagmandala from Madikeri. It actually took us a little more than a hour as the road was under construction in some parts.
We knew very little about Bhagmandala so was quite surprised to find the temple of the residing diety was in Kerala style. Covered platforms for resting and performing pooja are built along the compound walls. The roofs characteristically low. I was reminded of the small Ayyapa temple we have in Nerul. I love every thing even distantly Kerala.
Just in front of the temple is the Treveni sangam of the holy rivers Kaveri, Kannike and Sujyoti which is as mythical as the Saraswati. We had a wash in the clean waters where there was no crowd before we went into the temple.
The Bhagamandaleshwar temple is home to Shiva as it is obvious from its name. We spent about 1/2 hr there and then proceeded to Talacauvery. In the picture above you see Kodagu women with their ulta sarees. There is an interesting story of why the saree is wrapped this way by the Kodagu women. It is believed that the River Cauvery had become violent and washed away everything in Kodagu region causing heavy losses of life and wealth. In the floods the women's sarees were swirled from the front by the force of the washout and the pleats were turned around. To appease the violent Cauvery and restore the normalcy, Kodagu women promised to wear the saree as a mark of  submission to the power of the holy river. Ever since they drape the saree with the pleat at the back and the free end of the pallu falls over the right shoulder.

Here you see a priest making a garland woven with bettlenut palm ribs and flowers that caught our eye.

You are following me to Talacauvery right? See you there...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Soak in the golden hues of the sunset and sunrise in Madikeri: 13 & 14 Apr 2010

The route to Madikeri from Nisargadham is an ascent, driving through winding roads shaded by Bettlenut and Coffee plantation is a thrilling experience. The greenery soaks you up and young hearts are bound to flutter. It was almost a 1.5 hours journey right upto our Hotel Mayura Valley View.

Owned by the KSTDC meant prime location and the best views. This is a hill station and  so it was not very warm even though it was the summer season. It was pleasant. We had booked in advance non a/c rooms for the night's stay. They were neat and clean. The front side of the hotel had a balcony cum corridor for an uninterrupted view of the valley. The room had huge windows framing the other side of the descend of the hill steeping into the valley.

The evening sun lit the room in a dreamy gold color. The kid looked an incarnation of the divine sitting at the window gazing down at the lush green valley.
I love this picture capturing the hues of the sunset reflecting on the child's face.
We sat there undisturbed watching the dusk fade into dark shadows of the evening till my sis Charu came into the room after her bath hurrying us towards the dinning terrace. It is aptly the highpoint of the Hotel, antique lamp poles and open terrace on the edge of the valley and sky above you. What else does one need? I was wrong, when hot plates of Kanda Bhajji and tea were brought in by the waiter. One plate was not enough! they had made it my family special way and that was a surprise for us here in the south!! We ordered a second and we still wanted more. When he said that he was not able to offer us more we ordered 2 plates of sandwiches to douse the hunger the kanda bhajji had agravated,Uff !! But they too were good, we found out later the manager had served at the Taj at Mumbai. Humm some connection to the food we love in a new place.
The picture on the dinning terrace was taken in the morning after breakfast so you see the bright sun.

It was 7 pm when we realized we had go to the Omkareshwar temple. It would be auspicious to go there in the evening just in time for the aarti we agreed. It was not very crowded and we got a peaceful darshan of the Shivlinga. The temple is unique in its architecture which is an hybrid of the islamic and hindu styles. The temple reminded me of the temples in Goa and the Konkan. The pujaris looked really spiritually inclined and non commercial. It was night and I could barely get a click of the shadow of the little temple in the pond in front of the main temple.
We returned to our hotel and on the way back stopped to check on the timings when the Raja's seat park would open the next morning. We had planned to wake up in time to catch the sunrise over Madikeri and then walk down to the park for some pure envigorating air.

We returned to the hotel and spent some time playing catching cook with the kid. It has been many moons since I played antakshari, sliding down a grass slope and all the gang things. Pranav made us do all those things. He is a cool kid at times. 

Suddenly we realized it was 9 pm and rushed to the restaraunt. They were almost going to close. We ordered a quick paneer masala, alu mutter and rice. The chapathi timing was over by then and we had to make do with just rice. It is less said the better about the food, it was a confused marriage between the north and the south! I had never tasted such rubbery paneer is a tamarind soured gravy, so this was my first! ;)

It was a slightly warm night and we gulped down bottles of cola and sprite to help us keep a fit tummy. We talked into the rest of the night on the cement benches linning the parking area and loved walking on the cobble stones. Their coolness tingling our feet only slightly.

The morning next was spent in the hotel corridors leaning against the balcony and welcoming the Suryanarayan in all its splendour as it lit the sky in picturesque hues.As usual I was silent all the while the intermittent mischief my brother was doing with his wife was also a hindrance. A not so newly wed probably found his wife more beautiful than this sunrise, anyways :P may it last that way. God bless. 

However for me it was a moment of oneness that I always seek with nature and the superbeing and it is my unfailing experience to be able to get a certain headiness out of this. I must learn to enjoy that feeling and move ahead on my spiritual path without lingering there too much on the out of body experience bit. Was it real or my imagination of my spirit floating accross the hills swept by the Irshanya winds just like they depict in the Chandamama comics.

I was irritated by some silly giggling of the other four and I scold them that they do not know how to enjoy the experience. I was reprimanded immediately in return. We then decide to walk down to the Raja's seat park. 

It's a neatly maintained park for a small town like Madikeri with a jogging track and its again on the edge of the hill with well located cement benches which allow you the pleasure of a maharaja with the Nilgiris at your feet.

The Burshe' Maharajas and Ranis here :P LOL. 
(Burshe' is the unclean and just out of bed look in Marathi)
Sumeet was very irritable by then, I did not figure out why till the end of the trip. Sometimes even siblings change and you cannot figure out why. I hope I was not the reason. Never want to be. Intermittently he was smilling and enjoying too like you see in this picture with a gorgeous canine that we became friendly with as we walked back to our hotel which is near the Raja's seat Park.

I am a dog lover! and I wear it on my sleeve wherever I go!!  

When I look back at my albums I have atleast one picture with a dog from the place I visit ! is that some trivia about me ;) 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Scamper around the bamboo forest and tree houses at Nisargadham: 13 Apr 2010

After lunch I was sleepy and from Kushalnagar, Nisargadham is only 3 Kms. so had to give up th hope of a power nap. I was feeling heavy to even step out of the car and exploring anything was not even remotely on my mind. The entrance of Nisargadham is very dense and green and that is where you get fooled. 

The rope and plank bridge enables you to cross the water body. I was least interested to find out if it was an island or was it a man made moat around a piece of land. Reaching the other side you are even more disappointed. Sumeet almost told me we could have skipped this one destination.  Our shadows on the water looked more interesting.

We started walking on the bamboo lined pathways. I was imagining that a misty morning would make the place adorable. The squeaking of the bamboos was eerie even in day time. Pranav who is a avid movie watcher came up with a bright conversation which engaged the bored me for a while. He commented, "This is like a House of Flying Dagger's setting". He started performing all those Karate chops. It was very entertaining to watch him do the power shouts and a podgy little tummy jiggle with all the throws of hands and legs :)


Sapna, Pranav and me freaked out climbing up and down tree houses suddenly our energies all high. Sumeet and Charu joined us and there was lot of mischief, shaking the tree houses and screaming like Mowgli or may be Tarzan. Thank God no one attempted the monkey act.

We went to the deer park, fed them some cucumber...

and finally rest our tired heavy butts on a swing. Had it been dusk or a morning I guess we would have loved Nisargadham or atleast if it had been cooler weather. Give it a skip if you have better things to do.