Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mangalore - Kadri - Dharmasthal - Kuke Subramania

Day 4: Nov 11, 2007

We began the day by visiting the Gokarnatheshwar temple, its new and built by a liqour baron very glitzy and not my type of a place however the cleanliness was striking. The entire area has smaller temples of different gods and flashy Kalyana Mantapa and even a them park of sorts.

The next one was the Manjunath temple at Kadri with its beautiful Brahma idol dating back to 968 A.D. 

This temple was established by Parashuram and has reference to the Nath panth. What is unique about this place is its seven Kunda, or holy water ponds. They are situated at a height and the entire temple area is surrounded by plantain gardens on the hill.

We started our return journey to Blr. On the way we were to go to Dharmasthal and Kuke Subramania. I had heard so much about the rush and my brother's warning echoed in my ears "It is the Pandharpur of the south". Yes it is in terms of the rush yet clean, non-corrupt and organized. Once you get into the line for darshan you have to keep going.

Our last stop was at Kuke Subramania where one can perform rituals like sarpadosh etc. I lost the pictures of the last two destinations. Need to find them or may be another trip is due...

Updated 7 Dec 2010: Found the pictures on a stick. Uploading...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Murudeshwar - Anegudde - Udupi - Kateel - Mangalore

Day 3: Nov 10, 2007
It began in Murudeshwar. The famous 65 ft Shiva statue dominates the skies of the coastal town. Though we were on the beach we were warned not to play in the sea as we were to travel all day and did not want the coach to be smelly. So we just watched others have fun in the sea. There is a restaraunt that caught my fancy as it was built on stilts in the sea.

Our next destination was Anegudde Vinayaka temple. This temple architechture is similar to Konkan region in Maharashtra and Goa. It is said, when Bheema was trying to kill an asura in the form of an angry elephant with his gada, he lost the battle. Thats when this Ganapti gave him a sword with which he destroyed the asura. Bheema heeaped all the killed elephants in a mound hence the name of the town "Anegudde" and  the diety in this temlple is dedicated to Vinayaka.

Nearby there was an interesting place called the temple of Halavu Makkala Tayi. The story associated with this temple goes like this. Kumba-mukhi, the sister of Ravan and Shurpanaka prayed to this Goddnes to grant her children. However when the Goddess appeared before her she was dazzled and instead of asking for children. She asked for the Goddess be granted with children and The Goddess said Tathaastu!

Hence every five years a linga pops up from the ground. It is a strange geological phenomena observed here. In the courtyard of the temple you see these rocks that look like lingas emerging from the ground. Quite miraculous you will agree. This Goddess is offered bettlenut flowers in worship.

From here we went straight to Udupi. It was my dream to go to Udupi after reading the story of Kanakadas for whom Krishna turned around and gave darshan to his devotee. This is the only temple where the diety's back is to the main door. Then on the Darshan is taken at the rear. Sadly even centuries later, after Kanakadas not much has changed here. The Lord is still locked up in the sanct sanctorium and decorated with flashy daimonds and the keys to the temple still lie with the Madhavas. It was also my dream to have prasad at the bhojanshala which is so synonimos with Udupi. Thousands of people are fed here. Though I am used to temple dinning halls and culture associated with it. Udupi is something one has to experience atleast once in a life. We even saw some people eating on the floor, no not even a banana leaf was used. They were observing some austerity in lieu of some favor they might have asked from Krishna. It was a shocking experience for me and definitely opened up my mind a bit more. I do not have pictures of Udupi temple as I did not want to click a picture of the chariot that you see on almost every other site.

We were now off to Kateel to see Durga Parmeshwari. The temple exterior is in Konkani style while the sanct sanctorium is in Kerala style. This temple is built on an island in the river Nandini, connected to the mainland with a bridge.
From Kateel we went to Mangalore and went straight to hit the beach.

The highpoint of the trip was to check into Lalit International at Suratkhal. It is a 3 star hotel thats going through a rough patch so KSTDC gets the best deal. We have paid Rs.1400 per night for a similar room at other times and this entire package had cost us a mere Rs1900/ person. The restaraunt has been closed down due to lack of customers. So we walked down to Sadanand about 10 mins from our hotel. Yes they are the same guys from Fort, Mumbai and they spoke to us in Marathi as they overheard our conversation. I made it a point to have Gudbad, the Mangalorean sundae and did not find it exceptional but enjoyed the cool treat on that sultry night in Suratkhal.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hornadu - Kalasa - Shringeri - Kollur

Day 2: Nov 9, 2007

In the early morning we reached Horanadu. We were provided a small room that we had to share with 2 other people. This facility was just to have a bath. It was a village guest house but was clean. After a hot water bath we walked down to the Annapoorneshwari temple through dense fog. It was an out of the world experience. This temple is surrounded by bettlenut and coconut plantations as you see in the backdrop of the temple gate below. This is one of the cleanest Hindu temple that I have seen. The darshan was calming, we saw the Goddess being bathed as part of the Shodashopchar (ritual offering of sixteen items). It is a beautiful human sized idol made in granite. This region being home to Annapoorneshwari is truely blessed. I learnt in this trip what it truely means to do Annadan.

Annadan is supposed to be the highest level of charity that one can do in Hinduism. It is said that it is the only charity that truely satisfies the needy. If a man is in need of food he will take only as much as the capacity of his stomach and will say enough when he cannot eat more thus feeling trupti or satisfaction wheres all other needs are insatiable.

Annapoorneshwari is the goddess who can provide endless amounts of food to the needy. In this temple we see in her hand the spoons and utensils that are her tools. We took breakfast at the prasad hall. It consisted of Avalakki/ patal pohe seasoned with red chili and mustard in oil with sugar and salt and sprinkled with water.

From here we went to Kalasa, I don't remember much about this place except that is is a Shiva temple and one has to climb a flight of steps. I do remember the guide telling us that here is where Agasthya Muni stayed when Lord Shiva ordered him to go south to balance the rotation of the earth as it was distorted by the congregation of all the Gods attending the Shiv-Parvati wedding in Varanasi. Agasthya Muni was granted special vision to enjoy the wedding from Kalasa.

Then we proceeded to Shringeri. This place is of high importance as Adi Shanakaracharya established the first peetham here.
He was looking for a suitable location for starting a peetham and at this place on the bank of the river Tunga he saw a snake sheltering a frog from the hot sun under its hood as the pregnant frog was in labour. Adi Shankaracharya was taken aback by this scene of a serpent the natural enemy of a frog actually protecting it and immediately identified this place as a special one. People now feed the fish here on the ghats of the Tunga.
We washed our feet in the river and became Suchirbhut (the act of cleansing) and went on to take darshan of Sharda mata and Vidyashankara. Both the temples are beautiful and distinct. The Sharda temple interior is beautiful where as the Vidyashankar temple is decorated on the outside.
It has carving of different Raashis in the corners. In the Shringeri Mutt there is a hall that displays paintings on the life of Adi. As a child I had a very spiritual impression of Shringeri Mutt in my mind based on the books I had read but it was quite different experience to be there. May be it being Diwali there were more visitors or something else I am not able to figure out. Pandit Gowrishankar is one person we know who has studied Vedic Culture at Shringeri Mutt and he used to visit us sometimes and explain to us all the nitty grities of Puja rituals. We had lunch here at the Prasad hall. It was impressive how well it was maintained. Food consisted of rasam, sambhar, majge/ buttermilk and heaps of rice.

In the evening we reached Kollur. After checking into a Guest house we got fresh and walked to the temple. It was the time for Mahamangal aarti and there was a huge rush. This temple seemed to be dominated by Malayali culture. It is the abode of the goddess Mokambika. We stood in the line for darshan for more than an hour and just at about the time of the aarti hell broke loose. We were squeezed into the mandap and I was gasping for air. I saw the priest coming with the aarti through the crowd pressing against each other. I told Dad to follow him when he would return to the Garbh gruha. Reached in front of the Goddess barely bowed my head and sprinted out into the open space. This temple is not kept clean and reminded me of all the temples in Maharashtra where similar experiences are inflicted on the devotees. I could not take any pictures of Kollur as it was night time and also the temple is surrounded by high walls.

source : Wikipedia

We took prasad at the dinning hall and returned to the guest house to retire for the day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

South Canara Temple Tour @ Rs. 1.36 per km

Day 1 : Nov 8, 2007

Just before Diwali at work they declared a compensatory holiday for the entire organization. I had already planned my other vacation with family and friends and here I was with 4 holidays at hand. I decide to go on a short tour, my criteria, it had to be cheap and only for 4-5 day . I checked with KSTDC and decided to take their South Canara Temple Tour.

Well once I had done a 5 day tour of north Karnataka with them about 2 years ago. The places covered were amazing but the stay at Bijapur had left a bad impression. So this time I just prepared myself for bad hotels and a smelly coach and made the reservations saying to myself this is an unplanned tour so I need not expect much.

This tour starts on every thrusday from Badami house, Blr. at 9.00 pm. As usual we reached early. My first surprise was the new coaches. They had better build more space and more leg room. Also since it had not rained the coaches smelt fresh. It helps to expect less I said to myself especially for the price we pay. Infact during my last trip with them I had suggested that they should offer luxury tours as their standard tour was really low budget.

The tour manager started his announcements as soon as the bus started. He told us that we were going to cover 1400 kms to and fro. Man ! It meant a tour at Rs. 1.36/ km. That is absolutely a steal deal. Yet I kept reminding myself that I should not crib about the hotels they provide. He also announced that if all agreed he could show us a few more temples in addition to the itinerary if we paid Rs. 50 more. It was obvious that it went into the private kitty. After munching on chutney sandwiches that we were carrying with us we went off to sleep that night. The bus passed through dense forests, plantations and ghats. We woke up the next day on a hill covered by mist...

View south canara temple tour in a larger map

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hari Hareshwar, Paradise Calling

This was first posted on Anna Parabrahma

The drama in nature
Hari Hareshwar is a small town just warming up to tourism today yet it has enjoyed importance centuries ago during the reign of the Peshwa's. The town gets its name from the temple it is home to. It is unique in the sense that it has a triple linga representing Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Hari Hareshwar being the family diety of the Peshwa's had great importance in Maratha history. It has enjoyed better days when Shrivardhan a nearby Taluka place was a port with its busy transaction with the Portuguese and the middle east.

It is about 5 hrs drive from Mumbai. We stopped at Wadkhal for a bite and took the Roha -Mangaon road. It was a pleasant drive as the early Dec breeze cooled our skin. We had decided to stay at Shrivardhan that night and then go to Hari Hareshwar the next morning not knowing that Hari Hareshwar has some good home stays. The MTDC resort was full so we couldn't get our bookings done there and they are best you get in this area.
Next morning we drove from Shrivardhan to Hari Hareshwar about 18 kms. The elders wanted to have Darshan of Hari Hareshwar first so that's just what we did. It was 111th year of celebrating the Mahakal utsav. Mahakal temple is adjacent to the Hari Hareshwar temple in the same complex. The temples are built in the Peshwa style and we saw some beautiful wooden pillars here. It is very difficult to date this temple. History mentions that Ramabai, Senior Madhavrao Peshwe's queen visited here to worship Hari Hareshwar to ask the Lord for good health for her ailing husband. Legend goes that Pandava's performed their parent's Pindadan, the ceremonial freeing of the spirit here at the seashore the spot is know as Pandav thirtha.

I was flooded with memories of stories told by our staff who came from nearby villages of Paja, Diva, Bharatkhol etc. They always described the ferocious sea in this region and how it had caused the immigration of the villagers of Paja to move to Jivna where the sea is less ferocious. Stories of lost lives of adventurers trying to explore the steep Rockies. To me it was images of the sea lashing out at the low level mountains. The sea deep at the shore and lots of turtles. The sinister stories of turtle egg eaters moving around in the dark moonlit night with a torch in hand. My elder aunt visited there to ask for good health in the tradition of Ramabai in her younger days. She also went there to bring back staff who had gone on a holiday and never seemed to return, she was a successful Nakhwin ( Lady Head of fishing business) in those day. It was these stories that had put Hari Hareshwar on my list of places to visit.

Waves cut the mountain at the bottom

After the darshan we took directions from my aunt and started climbing the mountain using the stairway. My elder Uncle R and Aunt P are not able to climb stairways due to age so they decide to sit near the temple. As we reached the peak we were pleasantly surprised to see a valley like descending path and the Arabian sea till the end of the horizon. It was an absolute Aha! moment. On this descend is a little lover's seat that gives an illusion of suspension in pictures taken there. This path is also considered holy circumvention or pradakshina and if done thrice legend says we earn blessing equivalent to a visit to Kashi. Not for nothing Hari Hareshwar is called Dakshin Kashi. Yet I came here for a different reason for the mystery and intrigue it held.

The descend

As we reached down to Pandav thirtha we were awe struck. All along that mountain was a WAVE CUT PLATFORM and designs caused by the lashing waves. The fury of the sea had caused erosion forming intricate carvings in the rock. This was natures art gallery or rather theatre I'd say with the dramatic backdrop of etched out rocks. We sat at the edge of the wave platform and stared at the patterns the sun and the reflection of the sea playing a dance. The water sparkled in the bright sunshine. I could sit there for hours lost in my world of fantasy.

The sparkling water

The designs of Nature's fury

Wave platforms are dangerous sites if you explore on your own. It is a must to take a person from the village along with you. We are Koli and our elders know the behaviour of the sea plus my elder Uncle is ex-Navy so he knows every detail of the Arabian sea. He was with us so we were safe. What makes the wave platforms dangerous is that the sea is very deep near it and if it is time for high tide the water rises suddenly leaving no way for escape or retreat. Also the sea slices the mountain from underneath so there are area that crumble slowly when dry but may crash out during high tide. My Aunt tells us she has seen the platform widen over the last 50 years.

Gayatri Tirtha

There is a crevice in the mountain called Gayatri thirtha that has a tiny spring of fresh mineral water. It is natures ways of surprising us with fresh water juxtaposed next to the sea. As we walked along we were surprised to see Uncle R and Aunt P on the other side of the platform. They could not resist the temptation of showing us all the things that they knew about the place so they took the opposite side of the circumvention which is flat and came there. Uncle R beckoned us, see Aunt P wants to show you something he mocked. She pointed to a white line running along the platform and ending in the sea, telling us that it was a trickle of milk that came from Kashi. A closer look told us it was a thin layer of marble seen sandwiched in the all latrine mountain.
The trickle of milk from Kashi or is it?

Suddenly we heard someone gasp, Turtle! Turtle!! It had just hopped out on to the natural moss laden ramp but the yelp scared it away. We stood there patiently but none showed up though we could see a lot of them popping their heads and shells in the water. They were quite huge and in large numbers. They are now protected and that definite made us happy.
And the turtle dived back into the sea

In this visit it was low tide period so I missed seeing the ferocious avatar of the sea. I loved the beach too but the wave cut platform completely captured my being. Next time I go there I want to sit in an armchair in the moonlit night and watch the sea and witness its fury that results in places that are so romantic.

Hari Hareshwar is a wonderful place to visit over the weekend if you are in Mumbai. On the way back we also visited the Dive Agar Ganapati temple that is home to the Gold Ganapati Mask found in 1997. Janjira fort is about 40 kms from here. May be a Murud-Janjira-Hari Hareshwar over a week would be great. May be a voyage on the sea.....I dream on....