Author: pdasharathi

The South Indian Coffee Story

Growing up in a South Indian family, I took to coffee like a fish takes to water. I never realized back then that India is perceived as a chai country. It still is. From the purest aroma of Assamese tea to the roadside stall that serves a sweet milky chai, India is essentially known globally for its tea. And yet, three states in South India stand out for coffee production and consumption – Karnataka, followed by Kerala & Tamil Nadu.

India produces around 5% of the world’s coffee. It’s unique too as it’s the largest production of coffee under shade. Much of this coffee is the ‘Arabica’ variety which is known for its high quality. 

Karnataka(the hill tracts of Coorg & Chikmagalur) alone produces nearly 70% of Indian coffee and most of these are by individual growers. The beans are sold to bigger corporations and wholesalers who blend the different varieties and sell it as a brand. 80% of the coffee produced is exported to various parts of the world.

A huge commercial enterprise today, one could say. But where did it all start? Let’s rewind a few centuries.

In the 16th or 17th century, an Indian sufi saint Baba Budan had been on a pilgrimage to Mecca. While returning from Yemen, he smuggled seven beans of coffee(hiding them in his beard), to grow them back home in India. In those days, coffee beans were strictly regulated and weren’t allowed to be exported as Yemen had total monopoly over its coffee.

However, thanks to Baba Budan, the seven coffee beans successfully grew in the hilly tracts near Coorg. The coffee story was however small, grown near Baba Budan giri (hill) until the 19th century when the English, who settled in the hills & made a big business out of it. 

Stories of the hill being denuded of its trees & wildlife for coffee plantations makes an interesting narration in colonial books. However the plants couldn’t survive pests such as borer beetles & hence the hills were replanted with trees to make the Indian coffee the largest kind grown in shade. 

“The quality of Indian coffee is good – so good that it is appreciated by the Arabs & Turks” states the Sanitarian, a 1900s NY Publication “devoted to the Preservation of Health, Mental and Physical Culture”. It further explains that the English & French are its biggest consumers.

History aside, a drive through the hills often has a picturesque scene on either side with acres of coffee plants (actually, they are trees that have been stunted for easy pickings) interspersed with silver oak and other straight trees which pepper climbers entwine. The scene is especially pretty in summer when the coffee flowers are in bloom. The coffee flower is white in color and quite fragrant and doesn’t smell anything like the coffee aroma that one is used to!

Coffee flowers in full bloom.
PC: Poornima

But it is during the harvest season, that the charm of the coffee processing sets in.

Coffee Beans laid for drying
PC: Rakesh

There’s a huge processing equipment in Balur plantation in Chikmagalur which we were fortunate to visit. The friendly manager, Rakesh, takes us through the plantation field. I have been here during both the flowering season and the picking season.

Unlike the coffee bean, the fruit is actually sweet. The ripe coffee beans are picked by workers between November to March. Arabica & Robusta are the two kinds of coffee plants, Arabica being of superior quality & also higher maintenance, says Rakesh.

The processing machinery is immense. The picked berries are brought in and poured into a shaft which then sends it for washing & depulping. The cherry-like fruit is sorted while in water with bad or unripe fruits being removed. The ripe ones are sent further for depulping i.e. the fruit & skin is removed for the coffee bean inside. The final bean is dried in the sun. 

A quick online search shows this process as the ‘wet process’. Balur also has dry processing i.e. the coffee fruit dried in the sun – an older labor intensive method.

Coffee Depulping & Processing
VC: Rakesh

The size of plantations vary from very small to very big growers in the Coorg – Chikmagalur area. However they all face similar challenges – labor shortage, unseasonal rains, coffee diseases etc. Coffee cultivation can be lucrative if all things go right or can be a huge loss if the right stages of coffee production does not happen. An unseasonal rain or coffee disease can run up huge losses.

The coffee produced in such plantations are bought by corporate brands who then mix & match to create their brand’s flavor & acidity. Chicory that is added to our South Indian coffee comes all the way from Uttar Pradesh & Gujarat. The production of Chicory is now an altogether another story!

For now, smell the aroma & savor your South Indian Coffee.

The Story of Hampi

Much has been written about, Hampi – a UNESCO World Heritage City in South India. Parallels are drawn to Angkor Wat in Cambodia or to Rome, by visitors and historians alike, while describing its temples or the historical ruins.

What is perhaps not clear is the context to the area and its unique place whether in terms of geography, history , architecture & culture. So I’ll try to attempt it in a small blog if possible. 

The Hampi monuments that we see today are spread across an area of 16 sq mi (41 sq km). Of course the older 16th century city was much bigger; much of it is now gone save for a few temples nestled among smaller towns between Hosapete (Hospet) and Hampi. 

When you visit the heritage area, the first thing that strikes you are the small hills that are spread across the ruins. These are not plain hills but look like huge boulders gathered up as a pile. The areas of Hampi are planned between such boulder like hills. These boulders of Hampi are dated to about 2.5 to 3 billion years which takes one back to a pre Cambrian age (i.e. before the making of the continents). The unusual boulder shapes are not due to volcanic eruption but due to slow weathering of the hills over a huge period of time. Hampi boulders are one of the oldest formations of the world and are a part of the Dharwar Craton, a continental crust that is the oldest part of India. Much of the rocks of Hampi are granite hills. Not just Hampi, but the nearby towns of Anegondi, Gangavati are also home to such unusual huge boulders.

Hampi or Hampe is a derived word of Pampa who is Goddess Parvati, the wife of Shiva, who is known as Virupaksha here. The city was a holy place and referred as Pampapura during the Chalukyan era (6th -8th centuries) & as Virupaksha pattana during Hoysalan era, i.e. until 1300s.

The fact that this place was also a part of the Kingdom of Kishkindha (from Ramayana), the home of the Ape like brothers, Vali & Sugriva & the strong Hanuman gives this place an additional aura of holiness. Even today, thousands of pilgrims visit the Virupaksha temple, by the river, Tungabhadra, on the holy days, inspite of the scorching heat of April (goes above 40 deg C).

But what attract most tourists are the 14th – 16th century monuments – temples, market streets, royal forts and ruins. Walking through these areas gives a feel of Roman ruins. Hampi with the river on one side and the strong hills surrounding it was an ideal place for a city in the medieval times when South India had lost all its major Hindu Kingdoms, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas & Pandyas, its political stability & its wealth to two invasions from the North. It was a rude shock not just politically but also culturally. The cruelty of the wars, especially on civilians shook the society and the last major ruler, Ballalla III of Hoysalas dying to save Madurai was a terrible tragedy. Safety from the new conquerors was a main issue. So when a small kingdom of Anegondi declared itself independent, its ruler Bukka shifted across the river and built a new city, Vijayanagara, that was fortified by many rings of fort (the European travellers describe it a 7 ringed fortress though we can only spot 3 today).

This city was named Vidyanagara & later Vijayanagara (City of Victory), under which umbrella, much of South India was included .

Vijayanagara is today used as the name of the dynasties who ruled from here, the capital & the empire too.

With its beautiful planned royal areas, the suburbs with magnificent temples, planned streets abuzz with trade from across the world, it was known across the world from Europe to Arabia and the Eastern countries. 

Remember, the 1400s, was the time when Portugal had found a sea route to India. European spice trade rose, Arabian spice trade fell but its horses were in great demand for South India which still had to contend its Deccan neighbours and keep them at bay. These were the times when horse power (pun intended!) changed the fates of battles.

The rule that lasted for a over two centuries (200 years is a huge time!) gave the much needed stability to much of South India, even though the capital waged wars with its northern neighbours constantly. It is one such war after nearly two centuries that it lost and the city was vandalized. The fall is not just sudden but gradual as it gave rise to smaller kingdoms that fought not only their immediate neighbours but the rising rulers called the Mughals from Delhi, to keep their rule autonomous.

But back to Hampi. This beautiful city and its society & culture would have gone unnoticed if not for the writers – merchants, court scribes, poets, royals – who have written about different aspects of the society. The stories constantly tell us about the wealth of the market, the vastness of the city, the beautiful mansions of the rich, the blend of Hindu  & Persian architecture (Prof Settar calles this Vijayanagara Bahamani fusion), the many gods and their temples, the festivals, the political angle and of course the food. Some statements from the diaries of the travellers across the centuries.

“Oh! Soumitri, see the forest of Pampa, the auspicious one in its appearance… where the mountains or trees shine with their mountainous peaks” – Rama describing (to Lakshmana) the mountains & trees of Pampa, Valmiki Ramayana

“..Traveling about three hundred miles inland(from Goa), we arrived at the great city of Biznegalia(Vijayanagara) situated near very steep mountains. The circumference of the city is sixty miles, its walls are carried up to the mountains and enclose the valley at their foot, so that its extent is thereby increased.” – Nicolo Conti, Italian (1420, during the reign of Devaraya I)

“..It is built in such a manner that seven citadels and the same number of walls enclose each other. Around first citadel are stones of the height of a man, one half of which is sunk in the ground and the other rises above it.”

“From the third to the seventh fortress, shops & bazaars are closely crowded together. By the palace of the King there are four bazaars situated opposite to one another.”

“In this charming area, in which the palace is contained, there are many rivulets and streams flowing through channels of cut stone, polished and even” – Abdul Razzaq, Persian, (1442-44, during the reign of Devaraya II)

“The houses are thatched but nonetheless are very well built and arranged according to their occupations, in long streets with many open places.. there is great traffic and endless number of merchants and wealthy men, as well among the natives of the city, who abide therein as among those who come thither from outside, to whom the King allows such freedom that every man may come & go and love according to his own creed without suffering any annoyance” – Duarte Barbosa, Portuguese (1501, during the reign of Vira Narasimha)

“When the time of the principal festival arrives, the King comes from the new city(Hosapete) to this city of Bisnaga (Vijayanagara), since it is the capital of the Kingdom and it is custom there to make their feasts and to assemble. For these feasts are summoned all the dancing women of the kingdom in order that they should be present and also the captains and kings and great lords with all their retinues.” – Domingo Paes, Portuguese (1520-22, during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, the Augustan era of Hampi)

Today, it’s known for heritage tourism & religious festivals. It’s also a popular place for bouldering and wildlife tourism (it is a sloth bear & leopard habitat & is home to a variety of birds). So, travel, rediscover Hampi in your own way.

ByPoornima Dasharathi

Blog & Image Copyright: Unhurried


Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kanda

A Forgotten Empire – Robert Sewell

Hampi – S S Settar

Hidden Treasures of Nallur

It is easy to skip Nallur. There are no yellow tourism boards here or signages to tout its antiquity. But ancient it is, for there is an important historical source- a 14th century inscription dating back to a Tirumalanatha temple of Nallur. Don’t go looking for it though. You will not find the inscription nor recognize the temple; it is in ruins amidst Lantana bushes with its idols broken, ceiling caved in and wild, tangled creepers very much in place.

Nallur Tamarind Grove:

Nallur today is famous, as it boasts of a biodiversity heritage site -the 12th century Nallur Tamarind grove. As you zip past Devanahalli to Hoskote you will find Nallur, slow down and you will see numerous tamarind groves. This is it. Once again there are no sign boards nearby to say that you have arrived. The major landmark is the Gangamma temple of Nallur.

So, what is special about these tamarind trees? For one, they are around 400 years old-carbon dated by UAS, Bangalore. That’s not their only specialty though. They have sucker roots just like Banyan tree or the Krishna Butter cup. Most of the tree trunks are hollow, yet young roots spring up from these, giving rise to new tamarinds. So, what you see is a cluster of old and new trees surrounding a single hollowed tamarind.

There is a belief that Rajendra Chola planted these trees. This may not be a myth. A few miles away is the village Gangavara that boasts of a temple with inscription referring to Rajendra Chola who is seen giving grants to his generals.

Go around the grove. Don’t expect much. It is a 54-acre heritage site, yet not even fenced. Lantana bushes abound plenty, trash makes its signature here too. Yet, the place is silent only broken by a plane taking off, now and then.

Nallur fort and temple:

Across the grove is the temple of Gangamma. A gigantic peepal tree in front of it, a couple of Naga stones and few broken statues greet you at the entrance. The Google map says Gangamma temple at Nallur Kote. And you realize that Nallur probably had a fort.

A few searches on the net and you come across an interesting story about Nallur kote or fort. It is believed that one Chauda Raya was its chieftain. Nallur also known as Nallurpatna was ably defended by him. The fort itself was strong, so strong that it resisted a siege from its neighboring enemy for three years and only fell due to an internal betrayal. The city and the fort secrets were disclosed by none other than the chieftains’ daughter.

The story goes something like this. The chief of Hoskote and Nallur had declared war in spite of a matrimonial alliance between them. Nallur chieftain’s daughter was married to the Hoskote chief. She accompanied him on the battle field and revealed the whereabout of a subterranean passage connecting the city from outside.  When the enemy scaled the walls of Nallur fort, the chieftain of Nallur blew up his palace.

There are no traces of this fort today and also no signs of the palace treasure. Yet it holds a hidden treasure- the ruins of Channarayaswamy aka Tirumalanatha temple.

Perhaps of early Vijayanagara period it is mentioned in two inscriptions- a 1386 AD inscription that mentions the donation of a lamp pillar to the temple by Chikka Ankaiah and a 1401 record that mentions the name Marapa who was connected with the temple work.

There are no signs of the lamp pillar in front of the temple. What remains are the stone walls and their carefully crafted sculpture work. The images of infant Krishna, his antics like the dance on Kalinga are beautifully sculpted and still retain the power to enthrall visitors. The figures have a fluidity and grace that years of neglect have not been able to erase.

This hidden treasure, nearby the renovated Gangamma temple is a sad affair. There is no fencing, no plastering, no repairs; ceiling is caved in, a headless statue of a goddess still lies inside, yet in spite of the neglect, the structure screams its antiquity.

So don’t miss out on these hidden treasures of Nallur-the Nallur Tamarind grove and the Channarayaswamy temple. It is just a 30 minutes’ drive from International Airport and can be easily covered as part of a weekend tour.


My City

She may be loud and noisy

Sometimes black as soot

But she’s lovely, my city,

colorful Bengaluru

In summer, she goes red,

Gulmohar,we call her then

The birds, chirpy and well fed

Make their home in her shade

The monsoons cool her down

As the heat gets to her

The smell of petrichor on the lawn

Removes the sweat and grime off her

Oh then comes the winter

Her roads are a colorful carpet

of flowers pink and purple

A hue,no paint,can own

Yes,she’s smelly,sometimes,horrid,

Tests your patience in the traffic jam

The noise,the wait in summer torrid

Or the rainwater gushing,as if

from a dam

But she’s great in her entirety

As sweet as the akash mallige she adorns

Whenever you have the time,stop and listen

Understand her mood,don’t let her down.

–Poornima Dasharathi

Lalbagh says it with flowers

On the eve of 157th  birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda Lalbagh paid a handsome tribute to the saint by organizing a flower show dedicated  to his life and times. With a generous dose of narratives  of Vivekananda ,statues,paintings and models- around 475 exhibits,  the 211th flower show at Botanical Garden is vivid and colorful.

The 1889 period Glass House is decked up with flowers- masses of Indian flowers, some international and some exotic. At the center of the Glass House stood Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It was beautifully replicated – rock memorial with a temple on top approximately with 3.2 lakh flowers-think roses, marigold,chrysanthemums …. Vivekananda Rock at Kanyakumari was where he meditated and spent three nights in 1892.

A wide variety of roses -Small ones,Kasi gulabi, the bigger multi colored ones from outskirts of the city are displayed. There is the unique Cymbidium orchids from Sikkim and the usual display of insectivorous plants ,the Nepenthes gracilis-the pitcher plant which was a big draw.

Just across this display,behind the rock memorial are life size models of Vivekananda in various phases-a student, a seeker, a a wondering and wandering monk etc..The seated statues of Guru Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi along with Vivekanand are also seen.

There is also a representation of Vivekananda in Chicago. His Chicago address with the words’ Sisters and Brothers of America’ after all has a special place in our hearts and so it did in the Glass House too. The speech was delivered on 11th September 1893 and won the hearts of many. The Chicago’s World Parliament of Religion has always been associated with the memory of Vivekananda thereafter. The Chicago model with white and yellow colors are created using nearly 1.5 lakh flowers. Chicago still remembers his wonderful speech- Greater Chicago has a 10 feet tall bronze statue of Vivekananda,Michigan Avenue is named as Swami Vivekananda Way.

There is some interesting information about Ramakrishna Math. The Math that came in to existence for spreading the sayings of Ramakrishna was founded by Swami Vivekananda. The emblem of this Math designed by Swami Vivekananda is significant. It has the symbol of lotus,swan in water,rising sun and a snake. In words of Vivekananda ,’ the wavy waters in the picture are symbolic of Karma,the lotus to Bhakthi or devotion and rising sun to Jnana.The encircling serpent is indicative of Yoga and awakened Kundalini ,while Swan stands for Paramatma or God .Therefore the ideal of the picture is that by the union of Karma, Jnana,Bhakthi and yoga the vision of God is obtained’

Vivekananda has a close connection with Bangalore and Mysore. He is said to have arrived in the city in 1892,stayed at Kalappa lodge in Majestic. He went to Mysore as a guest of Diwan Sheshadri Iyer and was also invited by Shri Chamaraja Wadiyar who was ready to sponsor the travel expenses of the Swami. But Vivekananda is said to have refused and told that he would take the money if required.

His quotes of work,worship,confidence ,integrity are all around inspiring the youth of India to arise and awake. Hearing his direct and harsh talk Chamaraja Wadiyar told him not to be so hard and direct lest he be poisoned. For this Swami Vivekananda is said to have replied ,’ An honest monk is not afraid to lose his life to speak the truth.If your son asks me about you in future ,then I cannot tell him the virtues that you do not possess.

This directness is reflected in all his sayings.

‘Strike the Iron while it is hot.Idleness won’t do . Throw overboard all idea of jealousy  and egotism once and for all.’

and his most famous saying, ‘Arise,Awake, stop not till the desired end is reached. Be not afraid for all great power throughout the history of mankind has been with the people.

Educative and Informative the Lalbagh flower show is quite engaging. Not just about Vivekananda there are other things worth checking out as well like the Ikebana,Thai art,Bonsai etc. There are also nursery plants on display from Karnataka,Tamil Nadu,Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The show is on display till January 26.



A Tree Walk through NGMA

The world of trees is fascinating. A small glimpse of this was shown by Arun Kumar at NGMA,Bangalore.

NGMA the Manikyavelu Mansion of yesteryear’s has a wonderful set of trees in its premises.It boasts of both native and exotic varieties. We started the walk with a glimpse of Sandalwood tree ,native to India with its pale green and white leaves. Many know about this tree, but what one might not know is that it can turn out to be a parasitic tree sucking up nutrients from other nearby roots. However it is also capable of deriving its own food through photosynthesis. Arun mentioned that while planting the saplings,they are often teamed up with legume plants like toor dal for optimum growth.

The Kokum Tree was next,it is indigenous fruit tree found plenty in Western Ghats.It has earned a  GI tag especially the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Karnataka. Then we were shown the Fish Tail Palm-a palm tree that grows to a height and so named because of the shape of its leaves. An interesting thing we learnt about this ,’ Once the lower rung of tree starts to flower the tree dies.In other words the flowering and fruiting process leads to death of plant.

Photo Credit:

Cassias were plenty. The pink flowers of Javanica,yellow flowers of fistula were perhaps introduced by Krumbiegel as part of serial blossoming of city. The leaves we noted were pinnate with 12 pairs of leaves arranged on its axis.

The Fern Tree native to Western Ghats is often used in landscape.It has an interesting leaf arrangement. Leaves are pinnate and leaf spine has prominent leafy wings.

Ficus trees were plentiful. Arun shared a couple of characteristics common to ficus trees-the milky sap,the aerial roots found in many and unique pollination i.e dependent on wasp. The Peepal tree that we saw had a lot plants underneath -there were saplings of fern,rain tree,amrutha Bali-Tinospora cordifolia etc. This was courtesy of birds that came to eat the fruits. A surprising thing about most of the fig trees is the staggering fruit cycle that they follow. The city has number of ficus trees that are most often full of berry like fruits- a feast for birds.The fruiting of fig trees is quick thanks to wasp which is due to wasp’s short adult life ensuring a steady supply of fruit.

The Octopus tree with its compound leaves is a unique tree in the city. It has maroon colored flowers and grow outwards and perhaps the shape of them has inspired an alternative name to the tree-the umbrella tree.

Photo Credit:

We also saw a Bhadraksh tree with fruits and seeds similar to Rudraksh tree but without any openings in its seeds. The African Tulip tree with its buttressed roots had grown quite tall. One reason-the nearby trees had overshadowed the Tulip and perhaps in search of sunlight it had grown tall. The buttressed trunk gave the necessary mechanical strength to the tree.

Next we met the False Asoka tree whose leaves when crushed gave a fruity smell. The fact that it belonged to Custard Apple family may have something to do with it. The tree is pollinated by bats and is an effective noise barrier.

Photo Credit:

The Indian Coral Tree,the Wood Apple and Jungal Jalebi-Manila Tamarind were other interesting trees. The Mysore Clock Vine native to Mysore was also known as Doll’s Shoes due to its flower shape.

The walk that lasted for 1.5 hours was quite insightful. Coupled with the fact that we were on the premises of a 100 year old mansion that was in 3.5 acres of greenery and silence made it a delightful way of spending a Sunday morning.

Shrines of Old City

There is something pleasant about being in Pete in the early part of the day. For one there is no crazy crowd that you see in the mid-afternoons or evenings. And another is the chime of temple bells at the various shrines of Pete- signaling that the early morning prayers to the numerous idols of Shiva, Vishnu, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Shanmukha are in progress. The myriad lanes of pete be it Aralepete, Cottonpete, Cubbonpete, Nagarthapete, Tigalarapete are full of temples. And an interesting thing about these! There are some 44 plus temples that are associated with the old communities of Pete. Don’t believe me? Then here is a brief overview of some of these shrines and their backgrounds.

Take for example the Chenigaraya temple at Ganigarpete. It is a temple belonging to the community of Ganigas. Ganigas are oil-pressers who used to reside in Ganigarpete and extracted oils such as castor, sesame oil manually. With the demand for such cold-pressed oils disappearing, this community has slowly moved out and has taken up other businesses in the city. What remains today after their profession is the stone oil press –gana in Kannada in front of the Cheluvarayaswamy temple. This gana is said to have belonged to an oil merchant-Doddana Setty. Both wooden and stone presses were in vogue. The last of the oil presses disappeared some 50-60 years ago. The only memory of this once thriving community is the temple of Cheluvarayaswamy -their patron deity.

A couple of minutes away at Nagarthara Pete is the famous Nagareshwara temple for the city merchants or the Nagartha community. Nagareshwara happens to be their patron deity. The temple of 1884, has an idol of Shiva installed in the shrine. The linga is said to have been brought from Kasi. An inscription outside the temple declares this. There are beautiful idols of Nataraja, Shanmukha and the blissful idol of Annapurneswari made of Saligrama stone. Another interesting fact about this temple is that the Tigala community and the Ganiga community visit this temple when they want to start the auspicious process of writing a wedding invitation for marriages in their communities.

A temple closeby the Kamateshwara Kalikamba temple is a shrine that sees the followers of Vishwakarma community-craftsmen, goldsmith, carpenter, etc. When I entered the shrine of the goddess a priest was predicting the future looking at a persons’ horoscope. Apart from the beautiful idol of Kali there is also a statue of Nandi at the entrance of the temple. Another attraction here for foodies is the Lakshmi Nataraj Refreshments that serves smooth idlis with equally delightful red and green coconut chutneys. It has an interesting history behind it but that’s for another day.

Just a few minutes away is the Dharmaraya Swamy temple of Tigala community that specialized in agriculture and horticulture activities. It is a beautiful Dravidian style temple dedicated to Pandava brothers and Draupadi. The famous city festival-karaga begins its festivities from here when a male priest dressed in a saree carries the Karaga pot and weaves his way through the narrow lanes of Pete. There is also the idol of Potharaja- the brother in law of Pandavas who plays the important role of cleansing evil from the earth and has a day dedicated to him in the eleven-day Karaga festival.

There are shrines dedicated to Ganesha and goddess Muthyalamma as well. A lady draped in silk saree forbids me to enter the shrine inside. When I look inside the sanctum I realize that just adjacent to the inner sanctum of the Muthyalamma there are the idols of Yellamma,Uyallama-swing goddess kept in the room and equally revered by the community.

At Balepete main road, you have an interesting temple dedicated to Sugreeva. Sugreeva is the monkey king who helped Rama during his battle with Ravana. The idol is six feet high. Next to it is a  shrine for his brother Vali.

Incidentally, it is said that the idol of Sugreeva was rescued from the Kempambudhi tank and brought here. Opposite to these idols is the Venkateshwara idol. This temple is patronized by the tank diggers of the Woddaru community. Though there are no inscriptions the temple plaques mention that the time period of this structure is 1680.  The priest community resides inside the temple. Their tiny homes are neat, clean and in religious piety with numerous frames of gods and goddesses tucked inside their prayer room.

As you go towards Chikpete there is another special temple endorsed by the Jain community-the Adinatha temple. It is a beautiful marble structure but when the temple started out in 1918 it was a wooden structure. Inside the shrine, there are blissful idols of Adinatha, Parsvanatha, Mahaveera, Neminatha, etc. The ornate work of the temple is stunning, so are the marble inlay work and the figurines of dancers and musicians carved on the numerous pillars of the temple. In contrast, the Jain devotees are plain- in a posture of submission and prayers- some chanting on beads and some hymns.

Pete is thus a vibrant community full of colorful stories. Be a part of this enriching experience by booking our Life in Pete Walk.


A delightful food walk in Thindi Beedi

VV Puram, a locality named after Sri M Visvesvaraya turned 100 last year. Located near the Sajjan Rao circle in Basavangudi the area is famous for its food street or thindi beedi. One of the newer layouts in the city to come up after the plague, it has quite a number of heritage structures in its fold. Temples, community and charity halls dot this landscape, some of them built by the noted philanthropist Sajjan Rao. The Subramanya Swamy Temple is an ancient structure famous for its annual processions during the month of Karthika. And a stone’s throw away is the alluring thindi beedi with its plethora of tantalizing dishes- buns, bajjis and bondas, chats, holiges….

Difficult to choose when there are so many dishes to try. And that’s why with our expert food blogger Vidya, sampling just became easier and fun. Here is what we tasted at the food street when we went on a food trail in the evening. Spicy masala vadas stuffed with ginger, onion, chillies, curry leaves, sweet buns, flavoured pani puris-think ice cream flavours, coconut Holige and Gulkand ice creams to mention a few. A visit to a sweet corn stall that dishes out more than 50 varieties like grilled corn kernels is also a must-try.

If you are tempted by now, go ahead and book a walk with us, or join us on one of our food trails.

–Usha, Photo credit-Vidyalakshmi


Devanahalli – A fort town

Just 40 kilometers from the city, Devanahalli is a city steeped in history. The town is reeking of fort, ruins, temples and Bazaars. Choose to drive or take the public transport you will reach this city of fort in just an hour or so. You can quite comfortably spend half a day here. Here is a brief history and the list of attractions in this place.

History of Devanahalli

The earlier name of Devanahalli was Devanadoddi and was under a chieftain known as Devegowda. Sometime in 1501, Kempegowda’s ancestors RanaBhairegowda’s son Mallabairegowda wished to build a fort and a temple here. So he sought permission from Devegowda promising to develop the city and give it his name. After doing this he passed the baton of the fort to his brother’s son Sanna Bhairgowda who ruled the city. His family continued ruling till 1749. After this, however, the fort was attacked by Mysore army under a chieftain Nanjaraja and the fort fell into his hands after a prolonged battle of eight months. Hyder Ali was a part of this army and his son Tipu Sultan was born here in 1750.  The mud fort was strengthened using stone by Hyder and his son Tipu Sultan. Later the fort went in to the hands of Lord Cornwallis in 1791.

Here is a list of places that you can see.

Devanahalli fort:

The fort envelops the small town of Devenahalli. And as you walk inside the town, you can see the crumbling fort walls everywhere. The town can be entered through the west gateway or through the east.

The oval-shaped fort is 300 meters high and 185 meters wide. The fort was rebuilt using French military techniques. The wide rampart, the twelve semi-circular bastions, the musket holes make you wonder at the grandness of the fort. If you look carefully there is a moat surrounding the fort. Once there was a wooden drawbridge as well. Small tunnels and pathways throughout the fort ensure that water does not stagnate inside the fort and cause it to break down.

Venugopala temple:

There are more than 100 temples in this town. However, Venugopala temple is quite a popular one. The deity Krishna is flanked on either side by his wives Rukmini and Satyabhama. The temple is of Vijayanagara style with a Dravidian style tower. At the entrance of the temple, there are two idols of Vishnu said to be from the Ganga period. The outer walls have stories etched of Lord Rama and Krishna. You can see Krishna’s childhood antics like stealing of butter, getting beaten up from his mother, dancing on the head of Kalinga-the poisonous snake… Interestingly there are also childhood phases of Rama depicted on the walls. Rama and his brothers being taught archery by their guru Vishwamitra, their adventures in the forest as they accompany their teacher, etc. Inside the Navaranga of the temple, there are four pillars beautifully carved. There are figures of Hayagriva, musicians, a picture of a huntress removing a throne from her leg etc. Every year during Brahma Rathotsava- the idols get decked up in jewels that have been donated by Mysore kings,Tipu Sultan, and various other chieftains. The gods are decked up in silver, gold, and jewels made from precious stone and taken out during processions.

Explore town, Bazaars and other shrines:

There is plenty to see inside the town. Apart from Venugopala Swamy, there is a temple of Shiva- Nanjundeshwara temple said to be from Chola era-however there is no evidence to this. It is the oldest temples in the town. The pillars are carved with beautiful Vase and creeper designs and have the shrines of Shiva, Parvati, Bhrama, Saraswati etc. Then there is Chandra Mouslishwara temple-albeit in not a great condition. It has the idols of Shiva, Ganesha, and Parvati. The courtyard is of Vijayanagara style.

There are various temples belonging to different communities- Siddeshwara temple of Veerashaiva community, the Gangamma temple of fishermen community, Vasavi Kanika Parameshwari temple for traders, etc. The main bazaar enveloping the town is worth checking out-printing presses, ayurvedic shops, dance and music schools- all chockablock and lively.

Check out the Pomelo:

Today’s Devanahalli is synonymous with Airport, but eons ago it was famous for its chakkota or Pomelo, a juicy fruit. No wonder you see it plenty-in shops, stalls and interestingly growing besides many a home in this quaint little fort town. The history of how the tree came to the town goes back 350 years ago when this bittersweet fruit was said to have been introduced during Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’s time.

The soil and the water of this town have given the fruit a zippy taste. However, beware. If you are buying from the innumerable shops near Devanahalli you might end up buying bitter ones too. Your best bet is to sample a cut fruit, or perhaps buy from a farm which is harvesting this juicy fruit.

Apart from this, there is a small plaque at the entrance of the fort which announces Tipu’s birthplace. There is also a small tank built by Diwan Purnaiha towards the right of the fort.

The Devanahalli town and the fort enveloping it take you back in time. And you never realize that you are so close to Bengaluru yet you find yourself in a timewarp. If you would like to experience this  and get to know the history of the town a bit then do reach out and book a walk with us.


Kaidala- A hidden treasure

During the reign of Hoysala king Narasimha-I, a chieftain named Guli Bachi ruled Kridapura. Guli Bachi seems to have been a secular overlord and he patronized all religions-Jainism, Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism building temples and Basadis. In honor of his father and grandfather, he built the temple of Gangeshvara and Chalavaneshvara respectively. Another temple for Krishna- the Chennakeshvara was also said to have been constructed by him.  Can you guess the identity of the place?

If you cannot, here is another interesting tidbit. The idol of Chennigaraya inside the Chennakeshvara temple is said to have been sculpted by the famed Jakanacharya who is also credited with Chennakeshava temple at Belur.Any guesses?

It is Kaidala- a place just five kilometers away from Tumkur and rather popular. It was here that Jakanacharya’s hands or kai were restored back to him by the grace of Chennigaraya. Hence the name Kaidala,Kaydala. Though no one knows whether Jakanacharya was just a legend or really a master sculptor, this town was said to be his native place.

At first glance, Kaidala does not seem impressive. Mud roads with fields on either side lead to the Chennakeshvara temple,Kaidala. The temple is simple. It has a garbagriha-inner sanctum and a hall-Navaranga. There is rather a modest gopuram at the entrance and the outer walls are bare, unadorned except for a few carvings here and there. However, looks can be deceptive.

The black stone idol of Chennigaraya carved from saligrama stone is impressive. Five feet, six inches high it is flanked by Sri Devi and Bhoodevi his consorts. The idol is a masterpiece in itself and is a tribute to Hoysala craftsmanship. Behind the idol, there are the carvings of ten incarnations of Vishnu.

At the entrance of the temple, you can see a figure with a dagger and folded hands. It is the figure of chieftain Guli Bachi. Some opinion that it may be the figure of Jakanacharya as well. The gopuram of the temple was built during the Vijayanagara period. The walls have scattered carvings of riders, yalis and some figures from Ramayana as well.

In the east of Chennigaraya temple, there is the Gangeshvara temple. It is a Dravidian style temple dedicated to Shiva. The outer stone railings of the temple have the carvings of elephants and flowers. The Navaranga inside has four black stone pillars of the Hoysala style. An inscription slab inside the temple in Hale Kannada credits both these temples to Guli Bachi, time period 1150 AD. There are six hero stones at Kaidala and one of them can be found in the temple vicinity.

So many treasures and stories abound in the dusty hamlet of Kaidala.

Come join us on Devarayanadurga day trip and uncover them one by one!