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Jan '18

Visiting the last Shangri La on earth. Bhutan Travelogue

Precisely its after an year after my Badami trip that I am writing this travelogue. Year end shutdown again and time for getting out of the house. 2017 was rather a dull year with almost no travel done throughout the year. Partially attributed to the younger one falling ill often & the rest attributed to the ever increasing work at office. So when the shutdown came in & when we saw that our younger one was keeping fit we were quick to get a plan charted. Bhutan was on our to-do list for a long time. So after a quick check with few of my friends for a travel agent who could book us a package we were all ready with plan.

Few points about package tour:
1) Me not a big fan of these kind of package tours. I prefer planning everything on my own. But then just because this was a international trip & since we had a kid with us i thought of going with a travel operator. — If I do it again I will definitely do it on my own.
2) If you can spare enough time to self drive, then do that –nothing can beat that.

ok so without wasting much time here are the nitti-grittiess of the travel.

Bangalore to Bagdogra to Phuentsholing.
Pretty un-eventful day. Bangalore traffic was very gracious on this day. It just took us 3 hrs to reach the airport. The spice jet flight was scheduled at 1200hrs which took off at the exact time and reached Bagdogra at 2:50 PM.
After reaching Bagdogra we met our travel agent who was waiting for us. After exchanging pleaseantries we quikcly started out towards Phuentsholing.

Find a glimpse of this day in the below video.

Route map from Bagdogra to Phuentsholing:

Place were we stayed:


Phuentsholing to Thimpu
The day started with visiting the immigration office. Immigration office is situated just in front of the Hotel we stayed ( Hotel Druk) so it was quite easy for us to get to the office in time. Our travel agent had done all the ground work required to get the necessary permits for us to visit Bhutan. ( In my opinion this is the only advantage of going through a travel agent ) and hence we had some time to spare so we went for a small walk across the street to see the gate that seperates Bhutan from India

We were done with the formalities by 2:00 PM & then we headed towards our destination Thimpu.
This drive of 165 kms is one hell of ride through the mountains see for yourself what I am talking about

The route:

Place where we stayed:


Day 3:
Thimpu sight seeing and Paro.

Glimpses of the Day:
Buddha Point:

Changangkha Lhakhang:

Handicraft Market Thimpu:

Dochula Pass:

Finally we proceed towards Paro

Route from Thimpu to Paro:

Points to be noted:
1) The handicraft market in Thimpu is a place were you need to put your bargaining skills to the best use.
2) Don’t miss Dochula Pass
3) Punakha was not in our itinerary hence we would have missed Dochula Pass. If not its en route to Punakha so you won’t miss it.

Day 4:
This day was for us to explore the beautiful valley of Paro.

Catch a glimpse of this day here.

We started our day with the visit to the foot hills of Taktsang Monastery, Tiger’s Nest.

This is one of the most celebrated landmarks in Bhutan, However to reach the Monastery you need to survive a day long hike. We had to give this a skip since we had a toddler with us. however we did spent some time soaking in the majestic views of the Monastery and then headed to see the places around in Paro.
While coming back from Tiger’s nest we visited a Gift shop on the road side which provided us with some traditional Bhutanese clothes to try on. We spent some time there clicking few pics here.

By the time we came out of the gift shop it was time for lunch and we grabbed a quick lunch from a near by hotel and proceeded towards the Watch Tower, Ta Dzong. This place is converted to national museum and it overlooks the beautiful valley.

We spend considerable time in the museum going through and learning about the different cultural aspects of Bhutanese people & Bhutan.- Photography was not allowed here.

We proceeded towards Rinpung Dzong towards the evening. It was a very peaceful place and we spent some time in the temple offering prayers.

Sight of the Paro valley was amazing from here

Later in the evening we roamed around in the Central Street of Paro and did some shopping there before calling it a day.

Day 5:
Paro to Phuentsholing

Today we were returning back to the border town and back to our home. The drive from Paro to Phuentsholing was altogether a different experience during the day time.

Route Map:

Few glimpses from the road trip:

Enroute there was a small waterfall which too provided some nice photograpic oppurtunities

We did spend some time in the eve in Phuentsholing exploring its local markets and did some shopping as well. Finally around 7 PM we retired for the day.

Day 6:
Phuentsholing to Bagdhogra to Bangalore:
After an uneventful day we land in Bangalore around 8:30 PM. Thus winding up our amazing trip to the last Shangri La on Earth.

Few Points:
1) For immigration carry your passport or voter id. – Aadhar card is not recognized.- For kids if not passport, birth certificate is a must.
2) Follow traffic rules when in Bhutan. If not then not only the cops but the locals as well won’t spare you.
3) No Honking in Bhutan
4) No littering in Bhutan. The contrast between the either sides of the gate mentioned in the video is very striking.
5) This drive from Phuentsholing to Thimpu is scenic & hectic at the same time. Prepare for delay due to motion sickness.
6) No talking on phone while driving in Bhutan- Traffic cops here have eagle eyes. Our driver got fined and had to go through
20 minutes of grilling for doing the same.
7) No Jaywalking allowed in Bhutan
8) Try the yummy Ema Datshi (National Dish of Bhutan )

9) Avoid shopping in Paro and rather do it in Phuentsholing. We found the prizes to be lesser atleast by 30 to 40%.
10) Looks like land cruisers are the national vehicle here..Have never seen so many of these in one place.


Jan '16

Bangalore-Badami-Hampi-Bangalore – A Tryst with History

Shutdown was planned @ my office & I had a good 10 days at my disposal, however the case was different with my wife’s office. We were completely confused and in two minds about planning a trip during these 10 days. Finally we decided to visit Badami & Hampi during these holidays. We started to looks out for accommodations in these places and that’s when we realized that it was too late for a plan. We were not able to get any rooms in these places in the last week of DEC.
Finally after trying in vain to get hotels in Badami & Hampi,we started searching for accommodation in near by places which worked in our favor and finally the trip was planned.

The plan was to do the following route.

Day 1:25th DEC


We started from Kengiri around 8:00 am. It seemed like entire Bangalore city was out on the Bangalore-Mysore road on that. It was good 60 minutes before we got to at the Tumkur expressway toll gate which was again facing heavy vacation rush. Finally we made it out of Bangalore city by 9:30 AM and was on the Bangalore-Pune highway. We reached @ Hubbali at around 2:00 PM and checked into our stay @ Akshaya Park. The hotel is nothing to write home about. Given a chance we would not have stayed there. Two things that really matters to me during any outside stay is decent parking place & decent bathrooms, both of which was missing in this place. The parking place reminded me of some old Bollywood movie go-down setup. However the food was surprisingly good & was cheap as well.

We had some time in the evening and wanted to explore Hubbali but could not venture out since our little one was not in a very good mood and we just didn’t want to strain him since we had another 5 more days to go. We retired by 8:30 PM on that day since our plan was to hit the road by 6:00 AM the next day.

Day 2:-


The original plan for today was to visit Badami-Aihole & Pattadakallu and return back to Hubbali since we weren’t able to get accommodation in Badami initially. However some last minute desperate phone calls to a friend and a little bit of luck we managed to get a room in one of the lodges in Badami. The place is called Royal Deluxe Lodge and is right next to Badami Bus stand. This place is a small time lodge and doesn’t have any bells & whistles of the modern Hotels. However it was functional & minimal.However we were just thankful that we got some were to stay in Badami itself.

We took the below route to reach Badami

We started from Hubli @ 6:00 AM and took the Gulbarga-Bijapur-Hubli Highway . The road was just two lanes all the way however it was very good roads with very minimal traffic till the right turn to Badami at somewhere near Khanapur. After this roads became bad to worse. We reached Badami by 8:45 AM and checked into the lodge. After a quick break fast we started off to Badami Cave temples. I will not be able to do justice to this place in writing. Its only next to the Ajantha & Ellora caves that i had been to in comparison of awesomeness. Let the pics do the talking.

Badami cave temples were build by the Architects in Chalukya kingdom

There are mainly three temples here. Shiva , Vishnu & Jain temples.

The Scruptures here were so awesome that i was spell bound.

We hired a guide to explain us about these sculptures and it was worthwhile.

This one particular sculpture of Vishnu God was outstanding out of all

It seemed like i was in a royal court room standing there

Another interesting sculpture was of the Prassana Narasimha. The half human half lion god. It was interesting because I guess this is the only sculpture that i have seen of this god in a smiling pose.

However the insides of the temple gave a haunted experience. It just made me wonder what would have been like in those days when these temples were work shipped with people fol king in from every were.

It was thrilling to see Vishnu ,Shiva & Jain temple in the same complex as it gave examples of religious tolerances that prevailed in that era.

All of these temples were having excellent works on there roofs as well. One of them was a infinity swastika.

The views outside from these cave temples were as exotic as the interior views.

After spending almost 3 hours @ Badami we proceeded to our next destination for the day Aihole. Since we were advised that there won’t be any good place to take lunch en route we took our food in Badami itself before proceeding to Aihole.

The route we took was

Pattadakallu was was en route however we decided to cover it while coming back from Aihole.

Enroute to Aihole we saw some sign boards directing to Nagnath temple again an protected monument but devoid of tourists.

Splendid architecture was at display in Aihole.

We left towards Pattadakallu after spending around an hour in Aihole. While driving back we saw more Protected Monuments in Aihole.

Jyothirlinga Complex

Malikarjuna temple complex complex

We reached Pattadakallu after spending some time at Aihole.

Pattadakallu again was epitome of 8th Century architecture.

After Pattadakallu we visited Mahakutta again another protected temple complex but unlike others in this region this is an active temple.

The road from Pattadakallu to Mahakutta gave us nice photographic opportunities.

We reached back Badami at around 5:30 PM and we proceeded towards Badami Museum. The route this was through narrow lanes and busy market place however by the time we reached the spot the Museum was closed however Agastya lake & its surrounding gave us some splendid photographic opportunities.

After a hectic day we retired around 8:00 in the night. The next day destination was Hampi.

Day 3:

We had decided to stay at Gangavathy which is around 45 kms away from Hampi since all the hotels in Hampi & Hospet which is nearer to Hampi were sold out. We booked our room in hotel SSLR in Gangavathy with a fear that this too may turn out to be a average hotel which to our surprise turned out to be a vary good one. The rooms were very good & modern the hotel had a vast parking area & very good restrooms. This hotel checked all the right boxes on our list. The only problem with this one was the distance from Hampi.

We started our day early and headed towards Gangavathi. The route we took was

Before going to hotel we decided to check out the TB dam ( Tunga bhadra dam).

After spending some time at the dam site we reached the hotel in Gangavathi by the time of lunch.

In the evening we proceeded to Sanapura reservoir 19 kms away from Gangavathy & watched over the sunset @ the serene lake.

The route taken was

We reached back Hotel at around 8:00 PM and had our dinner & retired for the day.

Day 4:

We started early morning towards Hampi. We hired a guide form the hotel itself & asked him to take us to the main attractions.

The first place we visited was Vittala temple the epitome of Hampi & its architecture glory.

Afterwards we proceeded to Virupaksha Temple

After Virupaksha temple we proceeded to a near by hotel to take food & then visited Narasimha statue

We started back to Hotel by 4:00 in the evening since we weren’t able to handle the heat & the. kid was getting really irritated. Hampi deserves a week or more of time each stone here has a story to tell, we surely were not able to do justice to this place with such short visit.

While coming back we quickly visited the pond which has been covered in a lot of movies. This is the Stepped Pond which was used by the Royals of Hampi in the past.

Day 5:

Gangavathi to Bangalore

We started of at around 9:00 in the morning and reached back Bangalore at around 3:30 pm.

The return journey was event less and thus we winded up an amazing trip to a bygone era.

Dec '15

A Trip to Mandalpatti

Our new car had brought with it a 2N 3D complimentary stay in Mahindra club as a good will gesture. Mundane work had caught up with us and we decided to avail this offer last week and head out to Virajpet in Karnataka. We were looking out for a relaxed trip and hence there was no plans of running around and covering all the famous tourist destinations near by. However we had heard a lot about this place called Mandalpattii and wanted to visit it.

Why travel:
Mandalpatti hills are located at around 53 kms from VIrajpet. Its one of the most visited tourist spots in coorg. The view from here is just breath taking.
Virajpet is a quick run away from the hectic schedule & work culture of bangalore. A bit away from the more famous hill station of madikeri, this rather serene place gives you all that Madikeri has to offer along with a sense of calmness. Virajpet is not half as crowded as Madikeri but still is close to all the tourist attractions offered by Madikeri.

DAY 1:
We started @ around 7:30 am on 5th Dec towards Mahindra Club Virajpet.
The route we took was Bangalore-Mysore-Hunsur-Virajpet

Reaching Virajpet from Bangalore:

Club Mahindra property in Virajpet is an excellent property and is amidst thick coffee plantations. We did check-in by 2:00 PM and had a good lunch from their in house restaurant.

Later we retired into our rooms and decided to just stay around in the resort.

DAY 2:

We started from the resort around 8:00 in the morning and reached Madikeri by 9:00 am.

The route to Mandalpatii view point is not for the weak hearts and its a pure 4×4 area hence we decided to hire a jeep from Madikeri than risking our brand new XUV. We had our breakfasts from a hotel near madikeri police station and hired a 4×4 jeep from there to Mandalpatti.

Reaching Mandalpatti Hills from Virajpet:

The roads are ok till a point 3KM away from the view point. However after that you need to park your cars and take a 4×4. However since we had hired a Jeep we proceeded towards the view point. Final 3 kms are not for the faint hearted. Its truly 4×4 domain and we had our first true 4×4 experience in this trip.

After close to 3kms you need to trek to the view point. My wife & baby decided to stay back because of the strong winds that we were experiencing however I started of to the view point.

The trek was hardly 200 mts long but that was my toughest trek, not because of the terrain but because of the strong winds. It was almost getting impossible to stay at the top and most of the visitors there were holding on the concrete pillars and the steel rods at the view point just in the fear of flying off. I captured few pics of the magnificent views there.

and returned back to the base were my baby & wife was waiting for me. We started back towards madikeri & in between stopped over at few places to click some pics.

We reached back Madikeri @ around 2:00 PM and straight away went to get something to eat.

After finishing lunch it was around 4 and we started to head towards the tibetan monastery in kushalnagar.

Kushal nagar is famous for its golden temple.

Its inhibited by Tibetan monks and the temple is a testimony of the peace loving nature of them.

We had visited the temple before during our trip to coorg however this place is so peaceful that you always want to come back.

We spent few hours here and around 6:00 PM started back to Mahindra club Virajpet.

We reached back in the resort at around 7:30 pm and grabbed some dinner. Walking in the night in this resort gives some very nice pics as well.

Day 3:
It was time to return home. We spent a couple of hours in the early morning walking around the resort property and clicking few picks after which we checked out and headed towards Bangalore.

Jul '12

With Peace.–Vishwashanthi Ashram,Arishinakunte,Bangalore

Last sunday after a hevy lunch some & some Play station.It was time for a small outing with the family.SO we visited the little known ashram at the outskirts of bangalore called the Vishwashanthi Ashram.

It is located on the Bangalore Tumkur highway, in Arishinakunte village in Nelamangala Taluk. It is located at a distance of around 25 km from Bangalore city.
To reach the ashram from yeshwanthpur.Take the toll higway to Tumkur & then exit at the first sign board that shows a left sign to nelmangala.
The ashram is just about 500mts fro this exit on your left.

Vishwa Shanti Ashram was established by Sant Keshavadas, whose organization is known as the Temple of Comic Religion in the west. Sant Keshavadas was born in 1934 in Bhadragiri, a small village in Karnataka.

The first thing that catches your attention while entering the ashram is a huge 36 foot tall statue of Vittala, an avatar of Vishnu at a distance.

And exactly in front, at the foot of the statue is a Lakshmi-Narayana shrine.

Towards the right of the statue of the vittala , is the entrance to the Bhagvad Gita temple. En route to this, we see the seven rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Cauvery, Narmada, Sindhu and Saraswati – depicted by seven statues.

The bhagvad geetha temple is home to the vishwa roopa (The real form of vishnu) statue.

There is a gayathri temple also in the same building which is quite lovely.

This entire building is depicted as being pulled by the chariot on which Shree Krishna is giving Geetha updesh to Arjuna.

This structure is quite nicely creted.

With a mamoth chriot with horses being depicted.

We sat in front of the vishwa roopa statue for some time.This temple has the entire Bhagwad Geetha inscribed on the walls around it in four languages.That was quite amazing.

Go here if you need a quick break from your otherwise busy life’s.The ashram is quite big i guess around 20 acres or somthing.And there are couple of parks inside were kids could have some fun.

May '12

Weekend trip to Kalasa & Horanadu.

We had enough from our offices & wanted to escape to some place were there was nothing to disturb us.

The planning started & we choose Kalasa to be our weekend destination.We opted for a home stay UPASANA RETREAT(http://www.upasanaretreat.com/) in kalasa as our accomodation & started our journey from banswadi bangalore at 6:30am on saturday.
Kalasa is a small village at the foot hills of Kudremukh peak in chikamangalore district of karnataka.

Sreejith & Thushara accomponied us and we four started for a weekend trip to an unknown hill station.

The route taken was
Banswadi-yeshwnathpur-nelemangala-CR patana-hassan-bellur-kothigere-kalasa.

View Larger Map

we have to take a left from nelemanala to go to hassan.From yeshwanthpur take the elevated toll road to tumkur & after the toll plaza 3rd exit will take you to the nelmangala junction from there take the left road to proceed to hassan.

just before the exit there is a signboard showing the direction to mangalore.and if you miss that,just near this exit there is a hanuman statue made out of rock.

From nelemangala around 100 kms the roads are very good 4 lane roads & one can easily cruise at 100kmph without much worries.However after some time road narrows down to a two lane & then on, the roads are not that great thanks to the widening happening.Expect a lot of diverisons & patch work on these road till CR-patana. After Cr patana till hassan the roads are again two lane but in a better condition.The sign boards will lead you into the city of hassan.Once you take the diverion into the city you have to take the left at the first junction that you come across & proceed staight untill you get another signal.Go staright in this signal & take a left at the T junction ahead.This road goes leads you to belur.Proceeding in this road you will cross few good hotels namely kadmba on your left & then you will cross the famous SDM ayurveda hospital on your right.After the hospital proceed little further & you will come to a Y junction here you take the road on your right to proceed to Belur.

Belur is around 40 kms from hassan.The roads are good till bellur.
once you reach bellur you wll see a junction & that junction you have to take a left which will take you to kalasa.
Kalasa is around 95 kms from Belur.Few of the places that come in between are Mudigere & Kotigere.
Bellur to Mudigere roads are some what good ,but after wards the roads become really twisty and surafce becomes rough.your average speed drops drastically and you need to be extra careful on the turns while driving.However the route is scenic and it takes you through some thick coffee plantations & forests.

Most importantly don’t forget to fill your tanks at Bellur and if you can reach kalasa fill it up there.Because finding a gas station in high range could be calling for trouble.

However when you reach kalasa you will see the Kalaseshwara temple on your left side.Turn Left here (this is the only way you can turn any way) and then proceed till you see the kalasa police station on you left.

Upasana Retreat our stay for the next two days was located further ahead in a place called Samse.Samse is around 24 kms from kalasa.After turning left at kalasa police station proceed staright.Watch out for a sign board on your left which says Samse.At this junction take left and proceed staright,after a km or so you will find a dead end, turn right here & proceed untill you come really close to a tea estate,now on your right side you will see a un-tared road going almost in a u-turn fasion.only other land mark here is a orange box hanging on some telephone line post.Take this road and proceed staright..don’t take any diversiosn from the this road(can i call it a road ?) untill you see a gate were UPASANA is written.

Note:- Don’t try to locate this place after 7:00 PM.

The home stay was awesome with a decent pool & very good rooms.

We were treated by a very intersting mallu here by name Romin (http://tatkalticket.blogspot.in).Intersting because he is one of those few who i knew who had the balls to quit a high paying job & follow there heart. This person was a engineer in GE and one fine morning he decided to quit the job and follow his passion of treking.He is in kudermukh for few months & then he has plans to proceed to some were else & follow his heart.
I wish i had guts to do such things any way..

When we reached upasana it was around 1:30 pm & we were given lunch as soon as we entered the home stay.After the lunch it was time for some rest.Romin told that he had plans to go for a short trek on that evening at around 4:30 and he offered us that we can join him if we wish to.We got exited & at exact 4:30 we were ready for the so called trek.

5 minutes into the trek & we realised that it was not a good idea.The heat was unbearable & our body was completely aching form top to bottom.Very soon we realized that we can neither keep pace with an ace trecker & neither we could manage to come back climbing all the slope that was there.so after a 15 minute walk we gave up the idea & returned to the stay.The rest of the time we decided to spent in the pool & relax.

after spending around 2 hours in the pool it was time for a quick shower,dinner & some chit chat with our hosts.Romin shared his experinces with us & it was very inspiring.

We left for bed at around 10:00 pm in the night.

Next days plan was to go to the near by tea planation in a 4X4 to catch the early sun.

The jeep was ready by 6:00 am and we left for the plantation.We got to see good sun rise

The drive was scenic & fun

We came back to the home stay by 8:30.
We had a awesome breakfast on that day and checked out at around 10:00 to proceed to horanadu temple.
While driving back we met a localite there & he was ready to pose a quick pic for us

To go back to horanadu temple we have to come back to kalasa.

View Larger Map

On the way back to kalasa we got a glimpse of the kudermukh peak

Form kalasa it almost 8 kms but the rough roads & twisties will keep you on road for more time.

The annapoorneswri temple here is famous and very ancient. It is believed that a person who seeks the goddess’ blessings would never have any scarcity for food in life.After having darshan and taking part in kumkuma aarchana here we started back to bangalore at around 12:30pm.

We reached back at Bangalore around 8:00 in the night.

Place:- KALASA;- excellent for treckers.Highly Recommended
Homestay:-UPASANA RETREAT:- Highly Recommended.

Oct '10

Incredible India-Lepakshi Pictures

“Le Pakshi”– Rise Oh bird ,uttered Lord Rama to the wounded Jatayu who lost its wings to Ravanaasura.
said our guide in kannada & broken hindi,four friends stood mesmerized and those frames from the Myhological serial Ramayana passed through our minds a couple of times.
The story is just starting said our guide & he walked towards the corner of the temple to show us a small sculpture of a tortoise & then he said that the entire temple was constructed on a hill which resembled a tortoise.
We were in this small village called Lepakshi in Andhra pradesh.120 kms from Bangalore there was this small village were there stood a wonderful temple which had so much of stories hidden under its each stone.

Lepakshi temple is a notable example of the Vijayanagar style of architecture. Though the temple of Lepakshi is claimed to have been constructed by Saint ‘Agastya’ himself, it was developed into the present exquisite shrine by ‘Virupanna’, the treasurer of the Vijayanagar Kings.He conceived the idea as he found the image of Veerabhadra.

India’s biggest monolithic Nandi stood at the entrance of this village.Its said that this temple had 7 rounds of corridor over a span of 175 acres were in earlier days pilgrims could come & rest.Now there are only 3 rounds which exists on around 5 acre of land.All the others have been occupied by the pilgrims who came to this place & they formed a mall village here.
This Nandi is supposedly in the 6th corridor.

Our Guide educated us on various incidents which were attributed to this temple & one of the most interesting one was about this monolithic snake structure which according to the legends were constructed in just 1 hour by the sculptures while their mother was cooking lunch for them.When mother finished cooking she saw this gigantic sculpture & could not believe what she was seeing & it seems that her evil eyes (bhoorii aankhein) fell on this sculpture & it was damaged then & there.

There are some cracks on this structure believed to be caused by the evil eyes.

Another very interesting place in this temple was the un-finished Kalyana Mantap which represents Shiva-Parvathy marriage & the pillars here depicts the various Gods & sages who supposedly have attended that marriage.

There is a tragic story which envelops this kalyan mantapa. Virupanna had to spend a great deal of money in building this stark monument, hence the treasury got depleted to a large extent. The jealous courtiers who knew this informed the King that Virupanna has misused the state treasury for his own personal projects. When Virupanna got wind of this news he foresaw cruel punishments from the King and hence he plucked out his eyes and crushed it against the walls of the very hall he was building.Even today there are two red spots on the western walls of this mariiage hall to mark this tragic episode

Every pillar here is a masterpiece.One of the most interesting one was that of the suspended pillar in the main hall supposed to be the reception hall of Shiva Parvathy marriage.

Also the depiction of Ramba dancing in the Natya Mantapa with her choreographer directing her by standing such that he is seen only by the dancer was brilliant.Just can’t imagine how some one would have thought all these.What an imagination.

The Main deity here is Veerabhadra Swamy & it seems that before having Darshan of this deity its important to pray to Ganesha & for this there is a huge Ganesha carved out of a single stone just outside the main temple.

This temple boasts of the best specimens of the Vijayanagar style of sculpture and mural paintings are found in the Natya and Kalyana Mandapams (dance and wedding halls).

The guide educated us for almost 2 hours & finally after a good Darshan & couple of photos Section we returned back.

Sep '10

Trip to the ever enchanting Tamilnadu—Bangalore-Tiruvananamali-Madurai-Rameswaram-Dhanushkodi-Tiruchendur-Kanyakumari-Trivandrum-Bangalore.

Tamil Nadu is a historic place which boasts of rich cultural heritage and traditions. Its peculiar styles of temples, its movies etc etc.Everything & anything about tamilnadu is incredible. Despite of the diversity in the state, people of many beliefs live together, worship and respect all other religions.

So here ,Myself ,wify,bro & parents decided to visit this enchanting state.
Resons for the trip:-
1)For Me & wife-we know no other way to spent a long weekend.
2)For my parents-They are about to retire and wanted to take leave from office & go some were before they retire ;-) .
3)For my bro -he had just finished his studies & wanted a break.

We had 5 days at our disposal and wanted to utilize these days fully. So after a long discussion the routes & places were finalized.
It was going to be a 2500 km drive from bangalore back to bangalore.
My parents were very comcerned about me driving the entire stretch.so this time we planned to hire one of our family friends Travera along with a driver .but its another case that i ended up driving most of it.you know cannot resist myself on those butter smooth highways.
So without much delay here goes the Travelouge.

4:00 am
Bangalore -hosur-krishnagiri-chengam-tiruvanamalai.
Left my apartment in marthahlli around 4:00 am & proceeded towards krishnagiri.I was at the wheels for the fact that our driver was pretty new to bangalore & was not sure of the way so i offered to take the vehicle out of the city limits.(For people who are wondering how my driver didn’t know bangalore–My parents ,teh vehicle & teh driver had travelled from keral the day before)
It was the first time that i was driving a travera & Few things that quickly stuck me about this vehicle was that it was spacious,its 2nd row was the best of the lot.& its third row also was not bad.i would say more spacious than a quails.& another thing was that in spite this being a 7 year old vehicle & being used pretty rashly the vehicle had power & was moving from stand still pretty quickly ,but once i hit the over bridge at electronic city i started feeling the age of the vehicle.110-120 kph max.that was it.with the entire foot down on the pedal this was it.the needle never went above 120.
We reached krishnagiri pretty quickly & then i exchanged the wheels & preferred to take a back seat.After krishna giri we have to take the chennai deviation & take the 2nd right on this road.this will take you to tiruvanamalai.

We reached tiruvananamali by 10:00 am and visited the temple.

After temple visit we took brunch from a hotel which is just in front of the temple.And then proceeded to raman mahrshii ashram which is near by the temple.

Around 12:00 we left the ashram & proceeded towards Madurai.The route we took was
Tiruvanmalai -asanur-trichy-madurai.
We had initially planned to stay at trichy & visit all the temples near by trichy but then the time constraints & the fact that we will have to drop either rameswaram or kanykumari made us to decide against staying at trichy.
The road from tiruvanamali to madurai starts as a small 2 lane road whose intial 8 km is in pathetic state thanks to the construction going on.but after that the road becomes alright & eventually it merges with the 4 lane highway NH45B (i don’t remember exactly –my mistake-lack of a notepad & pen during the trip) which will go till madurai by passing trichy.I forgot the exact places in between but you can rely on the national GPS system availble ,which is to pronounce the place you want to head to and put a question mark on ur face and any body will direct you.
We bypased trichy sometime around 2:00 and before that we visited samyapuram mahamayee temple just before trichy which was open at noon 2:00 as well.

The Samayapuram Mahamayi is a very powerful Goddess with a long legend. Thousands of pilgrims visit every day and the deity is extremely awe-inspiring with her enormous size.
The temple lies on the bank of the river Peru Valai Vayakkal and it is deemed a Mahasakti-Peetha. Many legends are woven round this thirtha kshetra.

The temple was too good & with little rush we finished our darshan & came out by 3:00.after that we took the highway again & proceeded towards maduraii..
The drive to madurai was entirely through well laid 4 lane highway & we managed to hit madurai by 5:00 in the eve,

Before entering madurai we procededed further to tirupanakundaram temple situated 25 kms ahead of madurai on madurai-kanyakumari route.
The highway becomes a two lane road just after the deviation which leads to the madurai city. we have to proceed till we pass 3 toll gates on this route.Ask the people at the toll gates for re confirmation,however my memory tells me that we have to take the 2 nd right after the 3rd toll gate,This road is a small village road which will go ahead and intersect again on a highway,from here we have to take right & then a immediate left (its almost like crossing the the highway diagonally) & then proceed further on the road whcih will lead to a T junction from here we have to take a right turn & that will lead you to the temple.
The temple was a very unique one.
Thiruparankundram temple is a Murugan temple. This temple is a rock cut temple and is one of the six abodes(Arupadaiveedu) of Lord Murugan. This is the Murugan’s first and important shrine among other temples. This is were Muruga married his first wife Thevanai (the daughter of Indiran), in the presence of Sun and Moon. This is the only place we can see Muruga with his first wife Dheyvanai, most(or all)other shrines have Muruga with both his wives Dheyvanai & Valli along with his children and relatives. The presiding deity Sri Subramaniyaswamy is seen in rockcut temple, which is unique to this temple. Abishekam is performed only to the presiding deity Sri Subramaniya swamy. Unlike other temples, where Nandhi is seen in front of Shiva, here Perumal is seen.

We finished the darshan in 1 hour & then proceeded towards Madurai.there was lot of traffic & it took almost 1 hour to reach madurai.It was 8 in the night When we approached mdurai meenakshi temple it was insane rush near the temple complex. we decided to stay close to madurai meenakshi temple so that we could visit the temple in the early morning without bothering to take our vehicle.The hotel we stayed was .We stayed in the so called VIP room in the hotel which was a AC room with a wonderful view of the temple complex.Though the Hotel is nothing to write about & also we had severe pblm with the water pressure in the bathroom because of the tank & our suite being on the same level.but the view of the complex from our room compensated for all these small pblms we faced.The hotels name is sree devi.i guess its the only hotel closest to the templex complex.I would not recommend that hotel but why we selected that was that we were on a strict budget.refer this link for a complete list of hotels near madurai.


Day 2:-
Morning 5;00 we freshned up & went to meenakshi aman temple.There was no rush & the darshan was a soothing experience.

One of the sculptures on madurai meenaksi temple goupuram

After darshan we took breakfast from a hotel near the temple complex.
we checked out from the temple by 9:00 & the Next destination was Palamudircholai.It is 25 kms from madurai & its better to ask the ever helping locals for route.
It is one of the Six Hill abodes of Muruga. A few miles off Alagar boil hill temple, it is one of the Arupadiveedus – six important temples held dear to Murugan. It is visited by all throughout the year. Its legends are many and sanctity, great. Murugan’s boyhood sports were played here. It is called Tirumaliruncholai in legends and Chola malai in Tamil literature. It is surrounded by big trees, shurbs and creepers that bear delicious fruits of different sizes and tastes. And ripe fruits always fall from the trees. Hence it is aptly called Palamudircholai.

There are two more temples here near by one vishnu temple at the foot hill & another kali temple at the top.We visited all the three temples & have to say all of them were very good temples to visit.I want to write about all those temples but then this travelouge will go onto 10-15 pages if i do so.
anyways we came out of this place by 12:00 and then our destination was rameswaram.we had to head back to madurai to take the deviation to rameswram.we were on the road leading to rameswaram by 1:00 pm & after that it was a straight road leading through ramanath puram to rameswaram.we reched rameswaram by 4:00 pm &checked into a hotel called Shanmuga Paradise (ph:-04573-222984,222945,221860).The hotel was decent one with Ac rooms.

Rameswaram is a island which is connected to the indian subcontienent by The pamban bridge.

Rameswaram is as ancient as Ramayana. This place was noted in Ramayana. Devotees hailed Rameswaram as the Varanasi of the south. This island people Trust Sea for their living. It is treated as a holy place, devotees bathe in the sea and bathing gate is popular there. Rameswaram is known for its long corridors and towers and 36 theerthams. Veranda is 197metres long south to north. The temple is facing the east. The sea is just 100metres away from the entrance of the temple. Sea is very calm, that water is considered scared.
There is a wonderful story beside this name Rameswaram. Rama sacred this place by worshipping lord shiva after the war against Ravana. So both devotees of siva & vishne both visit Rameswaram with devotion.
We freshened ourselves and decided to go to the temple by 5:00.we took bath in the sea for some time & then proceeded to the temple for darshan
Ramnathswamy temple was built in the 17th century. Situated close to the sea on the eastern side of the island, this temple is famous for its 1200 gigantic granite columns. The 54 metre tall gopuram (gate-tower), 1220 metres of magnificent corridors and the flamboyant columns embellish and render fame to the temple. There are 22 sacred wells or otherwise called as theerthams inside this temple & it is beleived to be asupisious to take dip all these 22 wells.The water in each of the 22 sacred wells in the temple tastes different. Myself ,dad & mom did this ritual this time and was a good experience.
By 8:00 in the night we were out of the temple after having a nice darshana and then we retired for the day after dinner from a near by hotel.

4:45 am.
we get a call from the jeep driver we had arranged on the last day for a tip to dhanuskodi.we had asked him to come by 5:00 and the plan was hit dhanushkodi before 6:00 so as to capture the sunrise.
Dhanushkodi is a 45 min drive from rameswaram.There is road till almost 10 kms & then after wards its all sand.so only 4*4’s can traverse that area.The jeep driver charged as 900 ruppes for this trip but then it was worth it.
Dhanushkodi has the only land border between India and Sri Lanka which is one of the smallest in the world just 50 yards in length on a sand dune in Palk Strait. Before the 1964 cyclone, Dhanushkodi was a flourishing tourist and pilgrimage town. Since Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) is just 18 miles away, there were many weekly ferry services between Dhanushkodi and Thalaimannar of Ceylon, transporting travellers and goods across the sea. There were hotels, textile shops and dharmashalas catering to these pilgrims and travellers. The Railway line to Dhanushkodi–which did not touch Rameshwaram then and destroyed in the 1964 cyclone-went directly from Mandapam to Dhanushkodi. Dhanushkodi in those days boasted of a railway station, a small railway hospital, a post office and some state government departments like fisheries etc. It was here in this island in January 1897, Swami Vivekananda after his triumphant visit to the west to attend parliament of religions held in USA in September 1893, set his foot on Indian soil from Columbo.
On that fateful night (December 22) at 23.55 hours while entering Dhanushkodi railway station, the train No.653, Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger, a daily regular service which left Pamban with 110 passengers and 5 railway staff, was only few yards before Dhanushkodi Railway station when it was hit by a massive tidal wave. The whole train was washed away killing all 115 on the spot. Lot of people died in the cyclonic storm. All dwelling houses and other structures in Dhanushkodi were marooned in the storm . Following this disaster, the Government of Madras declared the town as Ghost town and unfit for living after the storm.Only few fisherfolks now live there.
I had visited dhanushkodi couple of years before when i was a kid & from that day this place has been always a favorite place of mine.

Dhanushkodi was a flourishing tourist and pilgrimage town before the 1964 cyclone.The entire village was washed away in this cyclone along with a train.

Every time I go there the place seems to haunt me with its broken houses & boats.

The drive to dhanushkodi is always a great experience with a striaght road connecting rameswaram & dhanushkodi which is covered from both sides by sea.

Indian govt had declared dhanushkodi as ghost city & nowadays only a few fishing floks live there.

However we could not capture sunrise here thanks to the clouds but we did manage to click some snaps & returned to rameswaram by 7:00.While returnng back we also visited kothandaram temple near dhanushkodi.We came back had a qucik breakfast and after freshening up we checked out of the room by 9:00.The next plan was kanyakumari.before that we visited the ramarpadam a near by temple were imprints of rama’s feet are present & then proceeded towards kanyakumar.

The route was rameshwaram-ramanathpuram-ecr-turicorin-tiruchendur –kanyakumari.
The ecr road was a delight to drive & we reached tiruchendur by 4:00 in the eve,
Tiruchendur is the headquarters of the Thiruchendur Taluk. Tiruchendur is famous for the Murugan Temple on the beach. Tiruchendur temple is located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal. Tiruchendur temple is the second of the six abodes of Lord Murugan, enshrining Senthilandavar and is very popular with pilgrims.

The location of the temple is ideal and draws a perennial stream of devotees. The temple overlooking the sea is an inspiring sight.
The other abodes are situated on top hills; this one is located on the seashore in the southern part of the state.
We got a excellent darshan here & then by 5:15we started our journey towards kanyakumari.the roads were again awesome & then we managed to be in kanyakumari by 7:00 in the night.
we checked hotel sangam which is one of the hotels seen on the left while entering kanyakumari & then retired for the day after having dinner.The hotel is again a decent one with nice AC rooms.

5:00 am
Woke up & after freshening up we went to catch a glimpse ofthe sunrise.it was 6:10 by the time sun rose & then we went ahead for a quick darshan of the kanyakuamri devi.

The temple overlooks the shoreline. It is dedicated to Parvati as Devi Kanya, the Virgin Goddess who did penance to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva. The deity, Devi Kanyakumari is’ the protector of India’s shores’ has an exceptionally brilliant diamond on her nose ring which is supposed to shine out to sea. 
After darshan we took breakfast rom the adjacent saravana bhavan & proceedded towards vivekanada rocks.There were some school kids who had come for an exccursion & thanks to them the queue in front of the counter was too long.we suddenly dropped the plan of viveanada rock then decided to head to trivandrum.
on the way we visited suchindaram
Just 13 kms. from Kanniyakumari, Suchindram has a temple dedicated to a deity who is the representation of the combined forces of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma. It is one of the few temples in the country where the Trinities are worshipped. The temple has a beautiful gopuram, musical pillars and an excellent statue of the Hanuman, apart from a valuable collection of art from different periods.
Then procedded to trivandrum.it was by 2:00 that we reached near padmanabhswami temple(my bro had some official work at trivandrum health service office & hence the delay)& we checked into a near by lodge called Rajadhani lodge near the sri padmanabhaswami temple.Evening we visited padmanabhswami temple & then retired.

day5:-This was the travel back to bangalore.we checked out early morning & decided to take the trivandrum-nagercoil-madurai-dindigul-salem-hosur bangalore route.The roads were excellent.Only pblm with the entire stretch between kanyakumari & madurai was that there was not even a single hotel were we could have some food.We were forced to go to maduraii for lunch & then come back to the highway.Anyways apart from this small problem we reached our home around 6:00 in the eve including a 1 hour break for lunch at maduraii.

Jul '10

Incredible India- Belur,Halebidu-Karnataka

Bellur & Halebidu in karnataka were two places which were on our travel plan for quite long time because of their archeological importance in karnataka,but we never got a good reason to do this trip. atlast a week end we started towards these historic places.

Halebidu was the 12th century capital of the hoyasalas The Hoysaleswara temple was built during this time by Ketamala and attributed to Vishnuvardhan the Hoysala ruler. It enshrines Hoysaleswara and Shantaleswara, named after the temple builder Vishnuvardhana Hoysala and his wife, Queen Shantala.

Then it was sacked by the armies of Malik kafur in the early 14th century, after which it fell into a state of disrepair and neglect.

Currently Halebidu is facing serious problems of decaying infrastructure, including a lack of basic amenities like toilets and drinking water.The temples are said to be in a dilapidated state.

some of the sculptures here was very famous for instance the Darpan sundari is of great historic importance

and also famous is the famous sculpture of the lady with drums..

after watching these places we moved on to see the shiva temple situated in bellur,which is near by halebidu,karnataka .

But the main attraction of the entire trip was the huge nandi sculptures in bellur temple which gave me this beautiful picture

Jun '10

One day trip to Muthathi & Mekedatu

Myself,Wifey & 3 of our school mates were dying for a break from our monotonous lifes & this last weekend we could no longer bear the usual chores of our lifes and we decided to hit the road.Few google searches & suggestions lead us to Muthathi Forest & Mekedatu.

Muthathi is a quite little village in the midst of a reserved forest, 98 Kms from Bangalore. It is also known as the “Elephant Corridor” as it has one of the highest densities of wild elephants in the country. It is famous for river Kaveri, the wild animals, and the breathtaking views .

Muthathi is situated ahead of kanakpura.After kanakpura we have to head towards a small village called sathanur which is around 18 kms from kanakpura from this village there is a road whcih leads to Mutahthi & another one which leads to mekedatu.

The climate was awesome during our travel with no sun at all & some slight drizzle in between made the trip all the more enjoyable.
We started of around 7:00 in the morning picking up people from Domulur & Silik board ,we proceeded towards Muthathi.On our way just after Art oF living ashram we saw a newly built temple which attracted us becasue of its huge statues.This temple was on the udayapura -kanakpura main road.

After spending some time here we proceeded towards Mutahthi.We reached Mutahthi around 10:00 & stopped near cauvery river for our breakfast.We spent enough time by the banks of cauvery.We got some surprise visitors too while we were taking our breakfast.

After breakfast we entered the forest range by paying 50 bucks for god knows what.& then we drove almost 5-6 kms inside the jungle.While coming back we were lucky enough to spot 30-40 spotted deers near a hillside.we managed to click some pics but our quest of getting more pictures forced us to get out of our car & go near them that scared the animal which fled away in no time.

We remained there for couple more minutes thinking that some of them may return but then no one came & we went from there after clickng few pics.

After this we drove back to Sathnur and on our way back stopped at a feild for some pics..

After reachng sathnur we took the road which goes to Mekedatu.It was roughly around 25 kms away & in between we lost one diversion which made the overall journey a little longer but it was very good climate with intermediate rains.

‘Mekedatu’ is the place where the Kaveri (Cauvery) River flows through a narrow ravine. Legend has it that the channel was so narrow that sheep would jump across, and hence the name Mekedatu (Meke = sheep/goat, datu = cross in Kannada).
After around 20 kms we reach sangam & have to park our cars there.The next 4-5 kms we have to either trek or go by govt provided transport to reach mekedtau.We opted for a jeep drive for a price of 400 bucks & enjoyed it a lot .

We spent some time taking snaps there & returned back to sangam after 20-30 minutes

Crossing the river @ sangam was fun & i was very reluctant to step into the water for the fear of ruining my car seats.We did not carry any extra clothes & that was one of the greatest mistakes.As luck would have it two times i fell on my face & got completely wet.I stayed away from clicking any pics here for the fear getting my cam wet & the only thing i shot was

Around 4:30 pm we started our journey back,after drying ourselves for some time .

During our way back my car sped over a chameleon but luckily i was able to get it through the middle of the tyres & later that posed for me & gave some real good pics..

We reached back bangalore around 7:30 thanks to the heavy traffic en route & stopped over at Dhabba near HSR for a heavy Dinner.

The trip had exhausted us & the moment i stepped in my home i was lying on my bed snoring.

The Roads were excellent for the entire strecth.Only problem was at kanakpura were road widening was happening.Apart from that the entire stretch was laid with beautiful roads.

I am sharing some pics taken by my wife during the trip here..

Mutahthi-Mekedatu trip
Jun '10

Incredible India-Mysore Trip

Last week had a chance to visit Mysore with my family.Though i have visited the Mysore palace a zillion times,this one was the first one with my D90.Mysore palace is the one of the most visited palace in the city.

History of Mysore Palace–Courtesy Wikipedia.
The Kingdom of Mysore was ruled by the Wodeyar dynasty from 1399 until the independence of India in 1947.The Wodeyar kings built a palace in Mysore in the 14th century, But the Raja Wodeyar shifted his Capital to the island fort town of Sriranagapattana in 1610 and Mysore lost its importance as a seat of power. But this palace was partially damaged by a lightning strike in 1638. It was repaired and expanded by Ranadhira Kanteerava Narasa Raja Wodeyar. With the usurpation of the Kingdom by the Hyder in 1762 Mysore Palace further lost its importance. But Hyder son , Tipu Sultan demolished the entire fort town including the Palace in 1787 and used the fort material to build a new town near by known as Nazarabad (now part of the mysore City). Fourth Mysore war in 1799 brought an end to the reign of Tipu sultan and then Governor General of India, Lord Mornington ( later Marquis Wellesley and elder brother of Arthur Wellesley – who rose to become Duke of Wellington and is famously known as Iron Duke) decided to restore part of the conquest to the ancient Hindu Royal family and shifted the capital of the newly defined territory of Mysore Kingdom to Mysore.