Travel

Of Poets and Nature

We were at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, one of the early homes of William Wordsworth, a poet known worldwide, amongst his other works, for ‘Daffodils. The Keswick lake nearby was what inspired him to write the poem.

I had taken my parents, who love poetry and nature, to Lake District & Dove Cottage tour of the famous man was on the list.

After the tour of the cottage, my father’s first reaction was that while there were many who visit this place, not many know the birthplace of Kuvempu, a brilliant 20th century poet back home who lived in a equally picturesque place in the Western Ghats.

IMG_20150829_124817_HDR.jpgA time when English was taught in all public schools, he became a Kannada Poet (ironically advised by an Irish poet to write in the native language). He was awarded the country’s highest literary honour, Jnanpith Award for his magnum opus ‘Ramayana Darshanam’ – a poetic version of Ramayana. Through his creativity, one gets to know the native language’s depth and vastness.

His poems strike a chord in our hearts and are part of every school child’s text book. His home in Tirthahalli is one of the most scenic places in Western Ghats.

However back then, I was taken aback by the remark, as I had never thought of it or visited the place. Years later, we made a point of visiting Puttalli, his hometown, where the huge ancestral home stands and is now converted into a museum.

Nature brings out the best in man I guess, as I have never seen such a perfect setting. His home is the land’s end beyond which the forest tales over. A bus driver nearby told me that peacocks come out in the evenings on the street, especially when the visitors are gone.

His home itself looks like a work of art. The laid back home offset with a huge garden is picturesque. The house has slanted tiled roof and is built in the traditional style with rooms all around and an unroofed centre with a pit that drains the rain water. The kitchen looks like a century old with traditional pots (madike) & copper utensils (patre) some of which have disappeared from our modern kitchen homes.

What I liked most however was the poems sung as songs as we entered the gallery that showcases his works. Poems like ‘O nanna chetana agu nee aniketana’ (O my soul, roam free, untethered) and ‘Bagilolu Kai Mugidu, Olage baa Yatrikane’ (Salute the home and come inside traveller), there were many others that were lovely to hear for the first time.

Clutching a few of his books that I bought there, I walked out hoping to get a glimpse of the shy peacocks on the street.

For those who cannot visit his home at Western Ghats, the flower show at Lalbagh, has his home as the theme this time.

-Poornima Dasharathi

(featured image by: manojsaldana.blogspot.com)

The Summer Residence of Tipu Sultan

I touch the teak wood and I am in awe. I am whisked 200 years back because that was when this teak wood became a part of this summer palace. Sometime in 1781-1791, the foundation stone would have been placed,next would have been the stone walls, the wood pillars, beams, the intricate brackets supporting the beams, the decorative arches- what forethought would have gone in designing this ‘Abode of Happiness’ for Tipu Sultan, the then ruler of Mysore kingdom.

Tipu Sultan’s father Hyder Ali started this summer palace in 1781.After his death, his son took over and by 1791 the palace got built. Today more than 200 years later, only a fraction of the palace survives. But what remains, is enough to show you the magnificence of the old palace.

tipu-palace

From outside when I look I imagine that it was one single storey. But as I look closer at the Indo-Islamic structure I gather that it is two storeyed. The misconception resulted because of the teak pillars that stretched out from ground to the first floor giving it the appearance of a single tiered building.

The ground floor houses the museum of Tipu Sultan today. You learn plenty of things here. For instance you may have known that Tipu was an able administrator, was proficient in several languages and boosted the economic prosperity in the State. Yet you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that he was the pioneer of early rockets. The early rockets during the Tipu era  had a bamboo/wood pole with an iron cylinder containing the explosives and a rocket man used to light it. The rocket would shoot up or travel horizontally, light up the ammunition, scatter horses and were a menace to the British. These rockets caused heavy casualties in the British army during the Polilur war which Tipu won.

After Tipu’s death in 1799 in the final British-Mysore war, the British took care to take these Mysore rockets along with them. They were studied, improved upon and were used in the wars against Napoleon.

tipu-summer-palace

From the ground floor there are stone steps to take you upstairs to the cantilever balconies and the Zenana quarters. Tipu apparently held his durbar here and the rooms above(Zenana quarters) were for the ladies to tune in to the court proceedings. The beautiful floral motifs on the ceiling and on the walls makes you realize how splendid the palace would have looked with teak-wood pillars, wooden banisters and pigmented motifs covering the bare walls and ceilings.

The tour of this palace takes you a mere 40-50 minutes. Located on Albert Victor Road it is open on all days. Combine the visit with the nearby Tipu’s armory and the old fort.

–Usha

Few surprising facts about Basavanagudi

For the old kannadigas, the Basavangudi with its wide roads and temples is a sheer delight. Be it shopping at Gandhi Bazaar, gorging at Masala dosas or Rava vadas at Vidyarthi Bhavan or buying the numerous traditional snacks at Subbamma angadi, there is an old world charm in this extension. There may be no surprises here or they may be plenty, depending on how mindful you are walking the open streets of Basavanagudi.

basav

Nevertheless here are  few tidbits about the place.

  • There is a large monolithic statue of Nandi(Basava)in the Bull Temple and people know that the locality got its name from the Basava. But not many are aware that the source of the river Vrishabhavati lies underneath this hillock.
  • There is a unique idol of Lord of Fire -Agni in the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple. What is special about this idol is that praying to this idol Agni cures all eye disorders that you may be suffering from.
  • One of the watch towers of Bangalore lies atop Bugle Rock. Every night a sentry used to blow the bugle and light a torch to signal that everything was safe within the city.

 

 

 

My article, titled, ‘A Temple Replete With Many Legends and Myths‘  was first published in Indian Express on  Nov 13, 2014. The article is presented here as a blog with some more photos.

Kadu Malleswara Temple

Kadu Malleswara Temple, Malleswaram

Set in a busy market-like area, just off the popular Sampige Road is Kadu Malleswara, a centuries old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Set on a top of a hillock in a forest, this simple temple is a kshetra (a pilgrim centre) for Shaivites.

If legends are to be believed, this is a place where sage Gautama is supposed to have meditated. However, there was no temple then.

An elderly man who visits the temple often had a few more legends. The story is set in 17th century when a betel leaf merchant rested near a stone on the top of a hillock. He kept another stone next to it and created a fire to boil rice. But the rice turned red with blood spilling out!

On seeing this, the merchant fell unconscious. Lord Shiva then appeared in front of him and explained that he was the stone (lingam) and that it was a holy place. On the lord’s direction, the merchant built a temple in the typical Dravidian style of that era.

The historian in me could not keep quiet and I told the man about a 17th century inscription (that still stands) that states that a grant was given to this temple by Venkoji, the famous Shivaji’s step-brother, when he ruled Bengaluru. As we exchanged notes, what struck us was the period in which the temple received the grants. Whether it was the merchant or the local ruler, the temple’s structure as it stands today dates back to the 17th century, while its legends and myths precede the date.

The architecture of the temple is quite simple, no highly carved pillars or huge audience halls. Clearly, this temple was a place of worship for a village or a small settlement that lived near this kadu (forest). The lingam is very simple, rising just off the ground with no pedestal. There’s a small nandi in front of the lingam. A bigger nandi built outside the temple must have been an addition made later.

Apart from Shiva, Ganesha and Parvati are also worshipped here. The inner sanctum sanctorum leads to a small passage that goes to the devotees’ hall (navaranga). The hall is supported by simple carved stone pillars.

Beyond the hall, as we come out is the mandatory nandi. A small girl whispers into the ears of the nandi to make her wish come true. A tulsi plant and small shrines are set around the main temple within its compound. A separate temple for Subramanya is situated next to the main temple complex. A lone bilwa tree stands in between these two complexes.

As we sit by the shade of the tree exchanging stories, the vast garden in front of the temple with the many trees, including the huge peepal that gives shade to the many naga stones, and the chirping of the birds still created the ambience of a forest. The lord who gave the area its name ensured that at least a part of it still looks like a kadu or at least a well-maintained garden.

Author: Poornima Dasharathi 

Home by the sea

No, its nothing to do with Genesis, really. No creepy stuff or ghosts here. The home, I referred to is Palm Grove resort, in the sleepy town of Padubidri, overlooking a virgin beach is the perfect getaway for a city-weary person.

My dear husband, who belongs to the category who love staying in a ‘homestay, not a hotel’ took upon himself to enquire in every mom and pop shop to find this elusive place. So driving in the rain on the busy Mangalore Udupi road(NH 17), we were finally able to track this place, I think, through his sheer determination and a bit of luck; the contact number published on the website was out of order and a popular travel website agent informed us that the place had been ‘fully booked’.

From Mangalore, drive along the road, until after you reach Yermal. There’s a road off the main road just before a Cafe Coffee Day. This road meanders through some fishermen’s homes and runs right next to the beach. On the left opposite a beach shack, you will find the place. Ask the locals for directions in case you are lost. We did get lost and traced back our way to this place and were very glad to find it.

The ‘resort’ in its name seems a bit ambitious but its very convenient as a homestay. They are no frills and fancies. The rooms are large and bathrooms are clean and have hot water. I suspect the rooms are part of several homes around which a wall has been built and made into a resort.

The first thing you notice as you step out of the room is that there’s sand everywhere giving one the image of a cottage on the beach. The beach itself is just a few meters away so one can practically go barefoot to the sands, enjoy the sea and return to the room for a shower.

We just dumped our luggage in the room and did exactly that. The area is picture perfect. Calm, clean and pristine. The view is especially surreal in the early hours when the fishermen take their catamarans into the sea.

The only disadvantage of this place is that they dont prepare meals (except for breakfast which is simple and south indian).  

Dinner is bought from a nearby hotel in Padubidri. So the quality of the food is dependent on the hotel they bring from. To be fair, the dinner was good but nothing beats the charm of having food prepared at the place.

The place is ideal for a group who have their own transport and visit places around the area and just spend the evenings by the beach or just want to chill out by the sea or trekkers who dont mind the walk from the main road to the place. Only, it gets really dark post six in the evening and the power goes often; the resort has a generator though they generally reserve it for the night.

Palm Grove Beach Resort

Location: Fisheries Road, Yermalbada, Udupi 574 119, Tel: 0820-257 7115

How to reach: By car/cab/private transport: On the Mangalore-Udupi Road(NH17), take left on fisheries road near Uchila, Yermal. Go on this road for about If you see a Cafe Coffee Day Yermal outlet on the highway, you have just missed the left turn.Go in this road for about 30 mins. The road meanders through fishermen’s homes and right next to the beach. The resort is on the left facing the beach.

By bus: Regular buses ply between Mangalore and Udupi. Padubidri is the nearest bus stop. From here one has to take a three wheeler or trek. 

Rates: Rs 1500/- per couple per cottage. Of course holidays and New year eve’s, these rates increase.

In & Around: Udupi & Malpe are just half an hour from here. Malpe has a few jet skiing and boating option. Further up is Kundapur, Manipal and Maravanthe. The Suratkal beach is slightly rocky and a great place to watch the sunset.

Eat out: Udupi’s Mitra Samaja – a must for its delicious masala dose. Udupi: Woodlands and Diana’s – popular for lunch and dessert respectively. Mangalore is the place for those who love sea food. Of course being a veggie, I cant put a list of places that have the best fish curry meals (I was told by a mangalorean that eating fish is no different than idli!), so sorry.

Mangalore’s Ideals and Pabba’s – popular ice cream parlours.

My quirk: Eating maggi in the shacks just opposite to NITK 

Among Coffee estates of Coorg

It was just the usual. Every year we plan a holiday with a close set of friends and their families for new year’s eve. Time just flies and before you know it, December has come unannounced. So one of us starts the email chain, hectic discussions on places, dates, the group’s size and booking enquiries happen; and we end up getting a homestay in Coorg – a place which none of us have any objections to.

A bit about the region. Coorg or Kodagu covers loosely the area in Western ghats thats flanked by Mysore and Hassan on its east and South Canara and North Kerala to its west. It covers an area of 4000 odd sq km in forest regions of southern Western ghats. The three main sub districts are Madikeri, Virajpet and Somwarpet. 

Nevertheless, for me or many of its visitors, Coorg has always been either Madikeri or Kushalnagara or one of those myriad homestays nestled in the coffee plantations that liberally pepper the forest cover. 

This time too, we were going to a homestay in the region. Our destination was a coffee estate, River Valley, nestled between between Kushalnagara and Madikeri, near Madapur. 

A couple of days before the new year, we were driving on the familiar Mysore road in the early morning to beat the city traffic. As we left the city limits, we had an excellent thatte idli for breakfast at a roadside inn near Bidadi. For those who dont want the hassles of parking near Kamat Lokaruchi, this is a very good place to just pull of the road and have a for a quickie breakfast. The only downside being the constant hoots of a plastic whistle they use to attract the cars zipping by.

The journey till Kushalnagara outskirts was uneventful and then just to amuse us, we were made to wait for three quarters of an hour, due to a flash strike at the city’s outskirts. Fortunately it got cleared and we were on the way to Suntikoppa and Madapur. River Valley is just 5 km from the nearest town, Madapur. But the journey from Madapur through winding roads with coffee plantations on either side and thick green cover gives the journey a surreal feel. 

The location – the estate on higher ground, overlooking a small gurgling stream – is very picturesque. Added to this was the fact the hot lunch was awaiting for us made it all the more inviting. 

The estate/homestay is very family friendly for they had all the amenities – a play area for the kids, some space to play cricket or badminton, swimming pool and steps leading one to the stream, bonfire setup etc or just sit in the hammock with a book in hand.

The staff were courteous and there was no shortage of food, considering one fourth of the group were hungry fussy children and moms like us who had multitude of requests – “could you serve the dinner for the kids at 8 but for the rest of us at 9 and yes please make it less spicy for the children?”

Apart from spending time in the place, we did manage to visit a few places around this area. The first one is called Makkala Gudi Betta – a superb view point from where one can see as far as Somwarpet and Harangi reservoir I was told. Though one can go by car, the last stretch is difficult for a small car. 

Kote betta is the second one; a trekkers’ route and one of the highest peaks of the region. The view atop the hill is enchanting and looks like the grasslands of Europe, minus the sheep. There’s a small gudi at the base of huge boulders atop the hill.

2012. Amidst all the revelry in the coffee valley, New Year arrived. But we could call it a ‘Happy’ one only on the 2nd day. Never make a mistake of driving on a Sunday, especially if its the first day of the year, on the Mysore road. 

I still dont understand why a state highway between the state’s two important cities shouldn’t have a bypass near the towns. Or for that matter why the common man should suffer for want of a ‘nice’ road between Bangalore and Mysore. 

Camping in the Ghats

I’m always charmed by the Western Ghats, the Sahyadri Mountain range that separates the sea coast from the south Indian plateau. 

Blame it on the eco-diversity of this area, the wildlife sightings, the enchanting valleys, the coffee plantations or the sprawling bungalows now waking up to tourism; a region tailor made for the typical traveller who loves to click and capture the ambience into digital bytes. 

I always loved Coorg and Nilgiri regions but never had been up north, rather north-west of Bangalore – to the Sharavathy valley.  So in this summer, when a friend suggested camping in this region, I was keen to explore. Going to the Ghats has the uplifting feeling and this time to an unexplored part was like the icing on the cake.

The region lies between Shimoga and North Kanara (Uttara Kannada) districts; Sagara or Sagar is the nearest town to the famous Jog water falls. Like the coffee plantations in the Coorg belt, this region is famous for its acacia plantations (betelnut). 

It’s a six hour journey from Bangalore to Sagar ; one can reach by an overnight bus or car. From here, our camping site was another half an hour away at Nandigodu; next to this is Heggodu which is home to the popular travelling theatre, Ninasam. 

We were to camp in the fields of Ganganna(Gangadharappa), a farmer who owns land in Nandigodu.Ganganna, like hundreds of other farmers, lost his land when the Linganamakki Dam was built. However, he has been quite resourceful and has shared his traditional home with tourists who use the facilities at this home and camp on his fields. Of course the monsoon is an added attraction for the travellers as the sowing season begins.

This eco escape is the brainchild of Nidhi Tiwari, an avid traveller and writer who wanted to give something back to the community she belonged to. She started a couple of eco tourism projects that promotes the ecology and culture of the local region. With a trained team picked from the local community, she aims at building awareness of the local communities and the travellers.

Ganganna’s home 

His century old home reminds one of old Mysorean and Manglorean style of housing with low tiled roofs and small wooden doors.

Sitting in his ancestral village home, one can observe a small flower garden, beyond which is open fields dry during the summer. Far beyond that are acres of green betelnut trees. Life is hard here but for an urban visitor, the greens and the fields paint a soothing contrast to the urban chaos of Indian cities.

Some customs were familiar; I could relate to the Ganganna’s mother collecting flowers from the garden for her daily puja. It reminded me of my paati (grandmother) who went through the same routine everyday albeit in our tiny urban home in the 80s. 

Activities

The main attraction of this place is the Sharavathy backwaters. A few kilometres from the camping site  is a huge water body. Our guide, Ganapathy, enlightened us that this is the Sharavathy backwaters released from the Dam. To our surprise the water is very sweet and warm.

We were given life jackets. “It can hold a hundred kilos” informed our guide. So with the jackets on we floated, swam, played all under the watchful eye of our guide. For a person who has never swum, I was able to manage thanks to Ganapathy. The feeling of being in water is that of elation; it was only during the return three hours later that our limbs started to ache.

The simple home cooked food that awaited us was simply delicious. Rice, chapathi, kosambari, palya rasam , sweets and the inevitable banana freshly cut from the trees in the nearby thotas were delicious from start  to finish. Needless to say that we did a full justice to it. 

Heritage

There are two historical towns in the vicinity of Sagar – Keladi & Ikkeri. Once a powerful kingdom that ruled the coastal & central Karnataka, it became a vassal to Mysore Kingdom during Hyder Ali’s reign. Today, these towns are famous for the centuries old temples built during the reign of Keladi chieftains. Keladi has a museum next to the temple that is home to many inscriptions and statues that were found around the region. An auto ride from Nandigodu to these towns can cost around Rs 300-400.

Nidhi’s team has other activities too – trekking, rope climbing, culture and heritage tours. However the main attraction of this place is certainly the backwaters.  With the monsoons coming up (June-July), it would be just the right time to travel up there. There is another camping site that’s much more remote & pristine. Maybe it’s time for a second visit.

(This post was originally written in May 2011 for my personal blog,  http://coffeenirvana.in/