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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Melkote

I was talking to a friend from Melkote about getting there and all of a sudden Subbu, (another friend) asked why not we ride there tomorrow. How could I say no to such an exciting plan? Soon another six joined.

4 bikes and 8 people; we met near Bangalore University at 5:45 AM on 19th of January 2008, a saturday. We quickly introduced each other and started off. I enjoyed the back seat watching the sunrise, as we rode to Mandya. We stopped at Maddur to fill tank, at MRPL’s first ever fuel outlet, opened only a day before, said the workers there with enthusiasm. They were extremely friendly, which was surprising.

We stopped for breakfast at Mandya. Food at hotel Hari Priya is really good. Srik and I stopped for buying some snacks while others took off. A rightward Deviation to Melkote is about 2KM after Mandya.

We did not find others at the junction as decided, but kept moving. Few km’s gone I get a phone call that Subbu’s bike would not start and they were still at the Hotel. As we had already made few km into the deviation road, we decide to stay there and wait for the others.


Meanwhile Srik and I met a villager who enquired about us. Looking at us taking pictures of the sugarcane fields, he suspected us to be researchers or something from the agricultural department. He shared his story too; he owns a lot of land and the researchers have asked them to plant sugarcanes at 5inch separation from 3 before. This would minimize the effect of worms and other insects and thus diseases. He says it has worked well. But he struggles to find laborers and at his mill he has workers from Bihar. Most laborers from village move to Bangalore for better life, he says.

We slowly rode slightly ahead and stopped at a canal. Villagers were spreading Raagi on the road, when asked why? One said that the moving vehicles would separate the Raagi seeds from the grass; otherwise they need to beat them.

We next stopped at a beautiful location under a tamarind tree. I slept below the tree’s shade overlooking a small hill on top of which was a temple. Srik and I relaxed there until the others came.


After they arrived, we directly rode to Melkote.

We first went to Cheluvanarayana swamy temple. In front of the temple was an Iyengar, who was marketing for his food stall and asked us to have lunch. Iyengar Pulivogre is famous here. He also told us about the nearby places. Cheluva narayana swamy idol is very beautiful indeed. One would not want to move their eyes off such a pleasant looking idol of lord Vishnu. Badrinarayana temple is another small temple opposite main temple.

Yoganarasimha temple is on top of a hill. About 1000 steps would lead you up there. Both these temples are 900 years old and are extremely beautiful with lot of stone carvings depicting stories of Vishnu. One of the songs from film Guru is also shot here on the way to hill.


The view of the entire village from top is truly mesmerizing. The lake Kalyani at the base of hill is a good relaxing place.



We rode back and had Pulivogre, Sweet Pongal and Curd rice at the iyengar’s place. It was very tasty. The food is cooked at home and sold here. He also gave us some back ground of the temples. It seems, a jain king who ruled here had two daughters, one of whom was terribly ill (Effect of Brhamarakshasi is the term referred to). Ramanujachar was requested to arrive and cure her. He took her to Tannur lake and there cured her out of the disease. In turn the king offered him gold, but ramanjachar instead asked him to follow his vishnava principles and convert to a Vishnaya king. The king was renamed to Vishnuvardhana. Ramanujachar stayed there for several years and preached his new followers.

Another famous story about the temple is of the utsav idol which was stolen and then found in Delhi, in sultan’s house being worshipped by his daughter. Lord Vishnu himself came in dreams of Ramanujachar and informed his whereabouts.

This is a major difference I have seen by traveling in India and anywhere else; every place has stories to say, villagers have interesting information about their ancestors and I think this is what makes it so good to be in these places and to be part of history.

We next rode to Danush koti. A cutout in a rock, in which the natural spring keeps water filled, is believed to have been created by Lord Rama’s arrow. While we were there millions of honey bee from nowhere flew in to cover the entire place with black spots. We had to hide behind a rock to save ourselves.

The next stop was Akka-Thangi Kere. Water in one of these is salty and other sweet. Next stop was Raya Dwara – A grand entrance that never got completed. Myth is that the King wanted a grand entrance built within a night. But as the sun’s first ray fell on the incomplete masterpiece, the time was up and till date it remains so.



I recalled the song from film Guru – Barso Re, shot here.
The Sanskrit academy was closed. The library has a wide collection of oldest scriptures.

We took a narrow back route from Melkote to Tannur Lake. It’s a neat place to hang around. We took a coracle ride. The guy in charge there arranges campfires too.We watched the sunset and returned through Pandavpur-Mandya-Bangalore route.



We stopped at Mandya again for food. Reached Bangalore university at 9:30 PM. Dispersed from there to our homes.

It appeared to me like I had lived 2 days in one. What a long day it was; lovely places; interesting history; enthusiastic villagers. Few back routes that we took have not seen buses yet. Few paths are only meant for bikes and they pass through the real village life.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Thadiyandamol & Kabini

Bangalore Mountaineers club, of which I am a member, arranges treks and hikes to several mountains in Karnataka. Last weekend (Dec 22-23) we hiked Thadiyandamol peak in Coorg. Srik and I met up at MG Road which was one of the pickup points. 30 People from various backgrounds, unknown to each other sharing this experience together was an interesting aspect of life that I did not want to miss.

We reached the base camp at 7:45 AM. There was slight confusion in finding the place due to some miscommunication. I spoke to few localities for getting directions to the Palace, which was our base camp.

We freshened up and had a quick breakfast. At 8:15 AM we started our hike up the mountain. 6 or 7 of us moved forward. It was an amazing view out there. My poetic mind had found limits at place such as this; Wild flowers hiding from the humans; mist’s romance with the earth, as though symbolizing the mixture of earth and the skies.


On the way I spoke to few villagers and as usual enjoyed my interactions with other members. Business analysts to game designers to software engineers to professors were all there. Village kids walk about 3 kms for school; and in between all that spectacular view of the mountains.
We reached summit at about 10:50Am. It was 2.5 hours hike; beautiful and amazing. I embraced the excellent view there. Slowly the entire group was up there, except few others who were tired; met other groups who were camping. The feeling that is attained after reaching the peak is simply unexplainable.



We started back after an hour and reached base camp in a time of 1.5 hours. We visited the palace. It’s a neat palace spoilt by negligence but now reformed. People had painted over the beautiful paintings on the walls which later were recovered partially by the archeology department through chemical treatment. A Film shooting team has created their own art work on the walls for some song. Luckily now there has been awareness to protect this monument. I noticed the old tiles of 1883 bought from Mangalore. King had built a Kalyana matapa for his sister’s wedding. The palace is supposed to have a secret room in the third floor to which no one is allowed now. It is also true that it was here that the king was captured by the British.



We left to Kabini at 4:00 PM. We had food in between, in a very small village. Again there was some miscommunication that led the driver to go to Kerala border. We reached campsite at 11:00PM instead of 7:00 PM. Even after reaching there we had some confusion. There was a road block so we had to walk for another kilometer, carrying all the tent and stuff. Leader sent few girls and cooking materials in a sumo. We walked to the campsite led by few villagers.

Our campsite was near the kabini backwaters. BMC has leased out the land from forest dept. Elephants were already there. They were happily moving around and bathing in water. We set up campfire, pitched the tents and found out that the team that drove in Sumo is missing. They have landed on other side of the backwaters, almost 10 km’s away. Another miscommunication! By the time they reached, it was 1:00Am. After which the villagers started cooking for us. We started baking papads. Vegetables and chicken barbeque began. There was a fight too in between to maintain safe distance between veg and nonveg sticks. :-)

Few people got really angry for poor organizing. They slept hungry and angry. By the time food was ready it was 4:00 AM. This was first time in my life; I was having dinner at 4:00 AM. And the food, it was horribly spicy….toooooo hot. Had quick food and went to bed.



Next morning when I got up at 7:30 AM, the sun was out. It was a beautiful sight. I took a walk, with few others. It is interesting to notice that how we adjust to certain environment. I never thought I could stay for two full days without bathing and manage without proper sanitary arrangements. But it’s all in the mindset, I guess. It’s how we learn to survive even without these things, and well it’s not difficult at all.

We had breakfast prepared by the villagers. We were supposed to go for coracle rides but there seemed to be nothing happening. A middle aged lady, who is a professor, spoke to leader to start off something. Finally the coracle rides started off. Speaking to villagers was fun. They shared their thoughts, their views. They were disappointed that they could speak all local languages but not English; they thought the modern education system is much higher than what they had studied; few shared their memories of a major kannada film shot there (Gandada Guddi). The villagers have built tree houses and they stay awake all night to guard their home and fields from the elephants.



We had good lunch, this time I sat by the villagers to make sure they do not make it spicy. It was interesting to notice several villagers involved in this cooking. They were fighting, agreeing and disagreeing. Rice, Sambhar, Sabji and Papad were a treat.





We left To Nagarahole National park at 4:00PM; reached there at 6:00PM. I was pretty sure that we will miss this safari as I had very well planned my previous trip to Coorg, were I had enquired the park timings and last safari, so we obviously were too late and missed the last safari.

We returned back to Bangalore at 12:38 AM.

No matter what the miss happenings were, it was an amazing experience for me to hike and camp, with strangers who later became good friends. To be on a trekking itself is a treat and you are ready to ignore any miss planning. To me, the moments spent during the trip were more special than anything.

Finally by the end of the day, the beautiful mountains, spectacular views, interesting team members and helpful and innocent villagers out do all the negatives. It was an amazing trekking experience.