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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ganesha Festival, Bangalore

For the last three years, I have been traveling to Mumbai for Ganesha festival. This year, I decided to head there during Dashera. I missed the excitement and celebration that happens in Mumbai during this particular festival. As compared to that, Bangalore was rather dull. Nevertheless, I got to get around the town to see people excited about bringing home their most adored God. I went to RV road to capture some beautiful idols of my favourite God. 














Gandhi Bazaar was full of road side stalls selling Banana plants, flowers and sugar cane. It was very lively there.



Preethi cooked some delicious food that we ate after offering to Lord Ganesha.



In the evening, I went to Yediyur lake to witness the visarjan but it was so crowded that I could not see anything in detail. 

I also visited the most famous Ganesh Utsav that happens every year in Basavangudi (Where I live). The "Pendal" was very impressive; somewhat in line with those in Mumbai. 




Saturday, September 03, 2016

Bananthimari Betta Trek


Bananthimari betta aka Maribetta aka Karadibetta is one of the less explored hills in the vicinity of Bangalore. I had always wanted to trek here but found very less reliable information on the place. A week ago, when my colleague Sharath and I discussed a trekking plan during the long weekend, this was an obvious choice. As the day approached of the trek (3rd September), we were joined by 10 other people. 

Last evening, I had a tough time finding a descent blog that could direct us properly up to the summit. Several of them had gone lost while trekking here and some seem to have taken a different route along with some established trek groups. So, with an open mind to explore, I set off on the journey today. I had decided that if at all we make it to the top, I would try to provide a detailed direction for future independent trekkers.


The group gathered near NICE road junction on Kanakapura road and proceeded towards Kanankapura. At Kanakapura, we stopped at the famous but crowded Vasu hotel for breakfast. This place is famous for its delicious Masala dosa. However, at 6:30AM, they were not available. So, we settled in for some hot Idly. 


A group of elders outside the restaurant gave us some directions towards the base of the hill. However, they suggested that I keep checking with the locals regularly so that we don't miss the route. Apparently, there are multiple routes that lead you to different sides of Bananthimari betta. Also, the hill can be viewed on the right as you enter Kanakapura while driving from Bangalore. There is one closest route to the base, via  Kanakapura-Ramanagara route that is listed on google maps. If you take this route, you might have to walk through the valley to get to the trail which actually begins at the temple. We took the temple route.


Directions From Kanakapura to Bananthimari Temple - 


Take the Kanakapura-Malavalli route (Or sometimes called Sathanuru route). After taking that left deviation at the Y junction at the town, a few kilometres ahead, you would find a small lake on your right. Well, actually you might not find it there as they are filling it up to perhaps construct concrete structures. So follow the google maps or take the right turn near a public school on the same road. 


Keep driving for about 6 kms to view the temple arch on your right. In case of doubt, check with a local for guidance. The road through the arch takes you into a village and you will find signboards all through the route.  


The roads get really bad as we approach the temple. We had to park our cars at about half a kilometre before the temple. Bikes can manage to ride upto the temple.


Directions From the Temple to Bananthimari betta Summit - 

As you climb up and reach a flat region, you will find the temple on your left. 


On your right is a trail that actually connects the valley to the temple. Take that trail. 


A few distance on this wide trail, you shall see a small pond on your right. On one of the rocks is a tiny shrine for Nandi.




Just after you cross the pond, on your left, on a small rock, you shall see a red arrow mark pointing leftward. This can be easily missed, so pay attention!


If you miss the arrow, you shall reach a huge tree, at the base of which you shall see some "trishul" and pooja material left back by the devotees. If you get there then just return back to find the arrow mark.


So, as soon as you cross the pond, on a small rock, you shall find a red arrow pointing leftwards. This arrow leads you up into a forest and you shall soon see another red arrow mark on a rock above. And then on, just follow the markings. The marks can be simply a red dot or may turn green in colour and at times they may behind bushes. But once you are on this track, I think you are good to go. You can find some way or the other up the hill. 


Our Story - 


We assembled at the temple at around 8:00 AM and took the trail. Based on one of the blogs, we headed towards the route that we assumed to be the trail. But that blog was misleading and it took us to a small hill on the right side of Maribetta. But we realised it very soon and returned back to the tree (Mentioned earlier). It was very clear, observing the hill that we could only climb it from the back side. That is, from the side of the temple. We explored some route near the tree but had no luck. We decided to head back to the temple and see if there were any other trails leading us towards the back of the hill and as we reached the pond, we saw this red arrow mark. That was a relief. 


Once we were on the trail, the trek seemed extremely easy. The initial climb is very steep and first time trekkers may find it difficult. But for regular trekkers, this is a easy or a moderate trek. As you gain height, the trail gets simpler and you walk towards the pointed end of Bananthimari betta.







The hill was filled with beautiful wild flowers and the surrounding was very green, which made this a very pleasant climb. It took us less than an hour to get to the summit.  At the summit, we relaxed for about close to an hour. There are a few cave formations on the hill that could be explored. 









We began our descent at around 10:45 AM. The return to the base was even more quicker. We arrived at this small cave on our way back.


Back at the village, the locals were busy setting the Cocoon stands (Chandrike) or working in the fields. It was a pleasant morning. 




At Kanakpura, we stopped again at Vasu Hotel and still had no luck with Masala dosa. So, we deicded to head back to Bangalore and have lunch at A2B. The town was getting ready for the Ganesha Festival and Ganesha Idols were on display all along.


This was a very short but thrilling trek. I am very glad that we spotted the red markings on time, else it could have been extremely challenging to find a way up the hill. A trek to Bananthimari betta would be ideal post monsoon. The view was formidable with lush surrounding and beautiful seasonal blooms. The weather was perfect with sun hiding behind the clouds all the time and most importantly, the group was enthusiastic. 


Here is the film on Bananthimari betta trek -