Thursday, August 28, 2014


The fields of Anantapur district motivated me to revisit my garden and plant some vegetables. I began my yearly repotting. Thanks to my aunt, I learnt about Coco peat which replaces sand in the 1:1:1 mixture of Mud:Sand:Compost for a container. They don't drain off like sand and can hold water for long time and would not let the mud harden. I found them in lalbagh. Green Chillies and Mangalore ladies finger were harvested. I also planted some Chow chow creepers. 

On Aug 9th, I met up with my French class friends for a discussion with the new director. I met Gowri, Sangeetha, Neha and Parashuram after a long time. I had to leave by around 10:30 to meet Stefan, a Romanian regarding an art Workshop that I was planning. I shall write about it in my following post. But it was good few hours that I spent with Stefan and his wife yulia discussing their education project at a rural school near Hospet, their experiences and challenges.  

After that meeting, I met my French buddies for lunch. Aman, Manohar and Dipali. It was great seeing each other after a long time. This is one group with whom I instantly bond. The fact is that except Manohar none of the others were my class mates. We know each other via organising the cultural event at AFB. Our common interest pulled us together. We discussed updates and n’importe quoi! for several hours and made plans for the next day.

On 10th of August Aman, Dipali, Manohar and I were joined by Preethi, Suri and Gowri for the movie - The hundred foot journey. It is a light hearted film about a clash between a French and an Indian cook. It was really sweet of Gowri to bring me a Rakhi. After the movie, we all decided to spend some time at the food court and we opened up a Rosé to celebrate our reunion. It was a great evening with lot of pleasant talk. And I remember thinking that with good friends time just flies.

Rest of the month went with lot of busy work. On 15th of August, I drove to Mysore to attend a thread ceremony where I met my sister Akki, Bawa and Deeksha who returned back to Bangalore with me. We spent two days relaxing and chatting. A lunch at Kamath restaurant, shopping at Orion mall and Gandhi bazaar made up the free day. 

Another thing that has kept me busy is the book "Avarana - the veil" by S L Bhyrappa that was recently translated. No other writings move me like that of Bhyrappa. At a point I had to stop reading and think how I was to read this book. I am 100 pages short of completion but yet unsure of what I think of this book. Its definitely a brilliant booked based on several historical facts but I am not yet sure of how I must react to it or how I must accept or reject it. But like any other S L Bhyrappa book this too takes you on a journey and attracts the reader like a piece of iron to magnet. 

The week of 18th was very hectic and taxing; busy days at work and busy evenings at home with preparations for the workshop. In between we had our UB party at Arbor Brewing company. It was good to meet our ex-collegues after a long time. But my mind was all planning for the weekend to come. I was about to realise one of my dream project - Conducting an art workshop for rural kids.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Anantapur District - Day 03

I Continue from here...Anantapur District - Day 02

Next morning, following the same pattern, we were up and ready to leave by 6:30AM. We drove directly to Aluru Kona, which is a right deviation on the Tadipatri-Kurnool road just after the town of Tadipatri. After following some really remote and deserted forest like roads, we reached  Aluru kona. This place is in midst of a forest and has a Ranganathaswamy temple atop a small hill.

Apart from a guest house, a house for the head priest and a shop there isn't anything else here. The environment was again peaceful with very few visitors. There is a small waterfall nearby but again its a few kilometre trek in the forest. This temple reminded me of those in  the remote villages of South Canara. After spending some time there we headed back. On our way back we spotted this peacock dancing in joy.

We got back on the Tadipatri- Kurnool road and headed towards Belum. Belum is in Kurnool district.  On our way we tried to find a descent place to have breakfast but found none. We were also not able to find restrooms. None of the petrol bunks had toilets. So is the condition in our country yet some people question our Prime Minister's spending over Sanitation.

After crossing a cement factory we reach the Kurnool district which is filled with granite factories. Every house had a compound made of stacked Kadappa stones.

Somewhere in Kolimigundla we found a good local restaurant. We had Poori and idli there. We tried to drive to the hill temple that looked impressive but the direction given by the villagers was misleading. So, instead of wasting time to find our way to the temple, which most likely wasn't a paved road as we expected, we decided to head to Belum.

Belum caves was a surprise to me. We reached there by 9:00 AM and had to wait till 10:00 AM for the caves to open. And then another half an hour wait for enough visitors to gather for a free guided tour. The cave exteriors are well maintained with nice gardens and this magnificent Buddha idol. 

We relaxed near the cave gate. It was windy again as it is by a sea shore. When there were about 20 people they let us in. We had a different guide because we did not understand Telugu. So our guide spoke in Hindi. We took an hour long tour within the caves. I was surprised to see how well it is being maintained with translucent lights, neat pathways, blowers for air; just like in the ones I had visited in the US. The caves were explored and mapped by a team of German and French speleologists. These pictures speak more than what I could describe.

These underground caves go up to about 130ft below the ground. On our route, the guide kept mentioning the unexplored portions of the cave and how we could also take those tours with special permission. He finally took us on a difficult non-renovated path to give us a glimpse of the adventure. I verified if my mother could do it and he seemed confident. So we took this untouched route back and it was interesting. We had scroll to get through. I paid Rs200 to him and he seemed happy. He went to his friends and expressed his happiness by showing them one finger first indicating Rs100 and then slowly lifting the second with a smile. That moment made me notice the importance of Language. It was only the benefit of knowing one extra language that had earned him more money than his peers.

We left Belum and headed non-stop to Dharmavaram. Here we first found a much needed veg hotel and had meals. The usual pappu meal. Next we drove to the streets with saree shops and found them to be closed on occasion of Ramzan. What? Are these guys so rich that they close on Sundays and on every holiday? Anyways, we were left with no choice but to return. I drove non-stop again till Bangalore. On my return journey I took a different road that skipped NH7 for most of the way. It took the old Hyderabad-Bangalore road from Dharmavaram to Lepakshi junction via Puttaparthi route. That would save you some toll charges too. Once at Mekhri circle, we were welcomed by a horrible traffic jam. By 6:30 PM we were at home.

On the whole, the trip was very relaxed. I chose not to drive too much and not to be in a hurry to cover many places. We relaxed in different towns and every evening by taking a walk around the town and we tried to settle in with the its lifestyle. I was happy to see rich paddy fields and many growing vegetables. That motivated me to revisit my vegetable garden and plant some more. I enjoyed the drive and the types of places we had witnessed - Forts, Temples and  Caves.

Anantapur District - Day 02

I Continue from here...Anantapur District - Day 01

Next morning, we were ready by 6:30 AM and we made a move to Uravakonda. Light drizzle slowed down further the activity in the town that was just waking up. But we had to get back on the road and head further away from where we had come. 

On our way, we stopped at a small road side shop for breakfast. The hotel is run by a lady in her late 50’s. She offered us seat and slowly moved on with her work to prepare the chutney as the idli’s were getting ready. She seemed in no hurry at all and our waiting did least to speed her work. She seemed to calculate and do every move without haste and lot of confidence. She reminded me of my aunt Jayashree who has a balanced and calculated approach to cooking. We tasted some soft and hot idlis and a delicious chutney. When asked about her secret recipe,  she told us that she used idly rava (1 cup) instead of rice with urad dal (1/4 cup). And for her special chutney she seasoned them with roasted onions and curry leaves. Yes, roasted until they are black and crunchy. We had some coffee as well and thanked her for her delicious breakfast before continuing our journey. We shall always remember this breakfast to be one of our special ones had outside of home.

At Pennahobilam, near Uravakonda is the Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple. The morning was very peaceful. 

Our next stop was at Budagavi. You have to drive straight without taking right deviation to Uravakonda and in about 5-10 kms you shall reach Budagavi village. Here is one of  the three surya temples of our country. A small temple with an idol of Surya riding his chariot with seven horses in the main sanctum is a visual treat.

We came back to the bypass road and took a different route to Gooty via Pamidi instead of originally decided Guntakal route.  This route took us to the remote villages in the district. At Pamidi, we visited two temples in the same compound (Bhogeswaraswamy Temple  and Sri Laxminarayana Swamy Temple). Approach to these temples is via narrow unclean streets of this town. It is believed to be built by the Cholas and one could also find a sasan carved on a rock written in Pali language. Here we met a middle aged lady who spoke to us for about 10 minutes in Telugu. We could only reply in Kannada yet an understandable communication continued.

We stopped next at Gooty. We directly drove to the fort hoping to drive up just like we did in Penukonda. The roads are not motorable. You could try to ride a bike at your own risk. Seeing that it was very high and the sun was already atop our heads, we decided to skip the trek as my mother would have found it hard. So instead, we took a short walk around the British cemetery at the base of the hill fort. It was interesting to see that several British officials and their family were buried here; so far away from their homeland. Some of the writings on the graves were interesting.

We had a quick meal in a restaurant at Gooty and decided to drive to Yadiki. Before reaching Yadiki, if you take a left turn it leads to a village called Kona. Here we hoped to visit some caves. But when we reached the place we saw that it was deserted. Fortunately after some time of driving on deserted area, we found a house of a Kannadiga from Bagalkot who had settled there. He told us that to visit the caves it would be a few hours trek up the hills and that it was dark in there. Disappointed, we decided to return but not before stopping at this beautiful lake where we relaxed for a while. Here we observed the villagers washing cloths and a shepherd having his meal - Rice mixed with raw goat milk.

We then drove to Yadiki and visited Lakshmi Chennakeshava temple which was about to be closed. They held the doors open for our darshan. 

On our way to Tadipatri, we saw this beautiful temple of Chennakeshava in Chukkaluru. We stopped for a quick visit to view this interesting work of  architecture. 

Tadipatri is a small town and as we entered the town I enquired with a Marwadi store boy about a good lodge to stay in. He suggested Maruti lodge. So we began searching for it. We made three U-turns on the main road but never found it. Everyone we asked pointed in the opposite direction. Finally we found it; a pink old building with no windows, almost ready to crumble down. So staying there was out of question. We parked the car near the main road and checked in at Kanchan lodge that looked fairly okay from the outside but wasn’t any from inside. But we had no choice. We quickly freshened up and stepped out to explore the town. We followed narrow streets to reach the Chintala Venkataramana Temple. In midst the busy streets its Gopura seemed to reach the sky.

The outside of the temple compound gave a feeling of a public park as many spent the evening there relaxing and playing. 

The temple is magnificent with several neatly carved pillars. These photos would speak for themselves. 

While I was taking pictures a guy came to me claiming that he was from the temple authority and checked if I was taking pictures for a newspaper and if so i could not do so without permission. When I said no and told him that I was doing it as a hobby he left with still some uncertainty and dissatisfaction on his face.

A kilometer or so away from here is the Bugga Ramlingeshwara temple. According to local legends, the two temples were constructed by two brothers in a single day. Legends also claim that while the former temple was completed, the second was not. Had the temple been completed, it would have turned the place into Kaashi of the South. The architecture of these temples are influenced by the Vijayanagar architectural style.

We relaxed for a while at this temple. The wind blew furiously here like in a  sea shore which was surprising. Since our leg hurt from a lot of walking during the day, we decided to take an auto back to the hotel. We had dinner at a small restaurant near by before retiring for the day.

Continued Here Anantapur District - Day 03

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anantapur District - Day 01

An early morning breeze rushed through the half open window of my car, in which myself, my mother and my wife were traveling towards Anantapur district. In three days (July 27, 28 and 29), I was planning to cover as many places as I could in the district of Anantapur that I had researched on, before the travel day.

A few months ago, my mother expressed her desire to visit Lepakshi and other regions of Andhra Pradesh. Having not traveled much in Andhra myself, I thought this would be a good opportunity to expand my district wise travel research beyond Karnataka. On July 27th, a Sunday, at around 6:30 AM, we took the NH7 and headed towards Lepakshi. On our way, we stopped for breakfast at the Kamath restaurant where I always prefer to have Raggi dosa. As soon as you cross the state border, take a deviation towards left to reach Lepakshi. Well maintained signage will guide you to this small temple town. We directly headed to the Veerabadhra temple. As I have covered this place in detail, in one of my earlier posts, I shall skip duplication and for further reading would guide you Here.

After a quick tour around the temple, we continued our journey ahead. Our next stop - Penukonda. To Penukonda, you have to get back on NH7 and continue on Bangalore-Hyderabad road which is in fantastic condition. Like to every town, you need to take exits on the NH7 to get to this one as well. Before you hit the main town, a left deviation would lead you to the fort. Tar road ended almost at the base of the hill and rest of the journey uphill was on mud road. After a little apprehension, we finally decided to drive up and see what these deserted hill hid at its summit.

And what we found was a pleasant surprise! A full fledged ancient city in ruins. The remains of the market place, kalyani (Pond), temples, and magnificent entrance made us feel thrilled and sad, both at the same time. This place reminded me of Hampi. Being the only ones up there and exploring the abandoned city by ourselves made us feel like we were taking a journey back in time. I imagined how a kingdom would have once flourished here and how thriving with life this place would have then been. The fort was built during the Vijayangara empire and then taken over by several other islamic rulers who attacked India.

After spending some time exploring the ruins, we drove back to the town. Here, we saw a few ancient architecture being excavated, renovated and preserved by the Indian archeology department. Here are a few - 

Thimmarusu Jail

Water Tank

Basavanna Well!

Jain Temple being renovated

Gagan Mahal (Vijaynagar Architecture with islamic details)

Rama Temple

Shiva Temple

Gagan mahal and the temples were closed so, we could not enter them. Penukonda means - a big hill and it is said that it had once housed 365 temples; perhaps one for each day. But sadly only a handful exist today. 

We headed back to the town and enquired for Vegetarian restaurants. We were directed towards Hotel Vaishali located on the junction where the bypass road meets NH7. This place has both veg and non-veg food though. We settled in for a veg meal that included Chapati, rice, Chutney, Sabji,  Pappu, and more Pappu. An Andhra meal is never complete without a delicious Pappu, which is a local variant of Dal. The food was spicy but delicious. 

After lunch, we headed towards Dharmavaram. Straight on NH7 until you see a sign to take a right deviation to reach the town. Driving off NH7 was an amazing experience. The roads took us closer to the villages and well cultivated fields. However, at Dharmavaram, the entire town seemed to be shut down on Sunday afternoon. We headed to the saree and leather puppet stores and after following several narrow streets ended up between closed shops. Well, they don’t seem to work on sundays here; not a single saree shop was open! So we decided to revisit Dharmavaram while returning and continued our travel to Anantapura.

Anantapura, is the biggest town in this district and at town centre is a clock tower, surrounding which are busy streets with lot of people and several shops. Pretty much everything seems to exist on those four roads that meet the clock tower. We settled in at Namma lodge very close to the clock tower. I chose this place because it looked fairly descent, it was on a cross road and most importantly had car parking in front of the lodge and was guarded. I also found it easy to communicate in Andhra, as most of them can understand or speak Hindi. 

After freshening up we drove to ISKON temple. To reach the temple, head back to NH7 and drive towards Hyderabad. In about 5kms you shall find the temple on your right hand side. The beautiful pink coloured, chariot shaped temple architecture added charm to the plain lands. In an hour or more that we spent there, we witnessed pooja, bhajans, and lot of devotion. It was not very crowded. It was interesting to observe everyon praying to Lord Krishna with a broad smile on their faces, which seemed to fill the place with lot of positive energy. 

We drove back to the hotel, parked the car and decided to walk around a bit. Had dinner at a Vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed some Pessarat; a variety of Dosa special to Andhra. We bought some Karachi biscuits from a  local store close to the clock tower before returning to our room and calling it a day.

Continued Here Ananatapur District- Day 02