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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Camping Trip - Talakad, Karnataka, India!!

Five friends left Bangalore one weekend to go camping in South Karnataka. Thus, armed with our camping gear, we left Bangalore on 2 motorcycles and in 1 car.
 

The initial plan was to go camping in the forests of BR Hills, but once we reached BR Hills, the forest department officials  didn’t provide us with permission to camp in the jungle and to make matters worse, all the other forest accommodation was maxed out.


Then, we looked up our maps and decided to head towards Talakad and camp on the banks of the Cauvery River. All of us liked the idea as it would provide for a great camping experience and also allow us to explore the underground temples that makes Talakad so famous.


The entire stretch till Talakad was a butt breaker. At some places, the roads had been dug up for re-laying, while the other stretches hosted the omnipresent Indian pothole. The final stretch to Talakad was a super dust bowl.
 

Talakad, situated 180 km from Bangalore is a temple town where the temples are buried under sand dunes. This town, located on the banks of the Cauvery (Kaveri) river has a long history and an interesting mythology.

 
As we were slowly riding through the small streets of Talakad, we found a distinct rustic appeal in the building architecture. We were so impressed by it that we decided to walk the streets at leisure. And, finally, we ended up relishing a hot cup of tea and some freshly prepared snacks.

 
It was getting late in the evening. After walking through the small stone cobbled alleys, we asked the locals for the way to the river bank and returned to our vehicles. As we were heading towards the river, we were stopped by the parking attendant who told us to park our vehicles in the nearby parking arena.

 
The area around the parking lot was buzzing with activity unlike the more quiet and calm streets of the Talakad town. Hawkers were selling varied goods and food and beverages.

 
The parking attendant, who doubled up as the night watchman forbade us from going any further as it was past closing time. When asked about camping on the river bank, he said it was a strict no-no. But, after a lot of sweet talk and a small bribe, he agreed to let us inside provided we clear our camp by 8 am the next morning.

 
Soon, we located a nice spot along the river and set up camp. While, some of the folks pitched the tents, the others carried fire wood and set up a nice camp fire.


Shortly, all of us had settled in. The beverages started flowing while dinner got ready. It was a beautiful yet chilly starry night and we were having a great time.


Dinner was a great huddle around the camp fire. A tribal dance followed the dinner. Close to midnight, all of us decided to call it a night.


It was an early morning and it was extremely pleasing to watch the mist float over our camp site and the Cauvery river. We could see that the day had already begun for the fisherman who had spread his net wide hoping for a great catch.


Slowly, the entire group woke up and watched the sun rise amidst the morning mist. All of us had a great dip in the river, packed up our camp and headed back to the parking lot.


We dumped our stuff in the car, had breakfast at a nearby stall, made way to the entrance and got ourselves a government recognized guide.
 

Thus began our journey of going back in time and exploring the temple excavations. The entire temple site is under the control of the Archaeological Society of India, who have discovered these underground temples and continue to find more.


The entire world around us was covered in sand. At some places, even the trees were covered in sand. Upon seeing our stunned reactions, our guide starting telling us about the curse of Talakad, which is one of the several beliefs about the existence of this place.


This is how the curse goes:
May Talakad become a barren expanse of sand
May the Mysore Maharajas never have children
May there be whirlpools in the Cauvery to avenge the suicide of Malangi.


Some interesting mythology! As we proceeded further, we learnt that this place hosts various temples of Lord Shiva and Vishnu (KeethiNarayana). But, the five Shiva temples that form the Pancha Pathi, makes this place famous.


Some of these temples have withstood the vagaries of time, while the not so lucky ones are being restored by the ASI.


The sculptures and carvings here are very well thought out and are vividly vibrant in detail.


An interesting sculpture that caught my eye was the serpent rings. I was stunned when our guide told us that this was a monolithic structure. Extremely crafty and skilful to have created consecutive rings and a serpent out of a monolith.


Another interesting sculpture is that of a cow offering milk to the Shiva Lingam from its own udders.


In overall, a great camping experience for us, where we got to enjoy the Cauvery river, soak in the sun, admire the temple ruins of Talakad and unravel the various mysteries around it!! 
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