October 2019 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Cappadocia: One of the most magical places in the world

Stunning rock formations at Zelve Open Air Museum, Cappadocia

The earliest record of its name dates from the late 6th century BC. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a place of unique historical and cultural heritage. It’s stories even feature in many Christian books and sources. It is Turkey’s most popular and most visited tourist destination. It has been featured in many Hollywood, European and Middle Eastern movies. I am talking about the mesmerizing landscape of Cappadocia in Central Turkey.

Admiring nature's spectacle at Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Turkey

Millions of years ago, this part of Turkey used to be an active volcanic region. And it were the eruptions from these volcanoes that set the base for the rocks of Cappadocia. Wind, rain, snow and other aspects of mother nature then moulded these rocks into spectacular pillars and minarets. People then carved out churches, cave houses, monasteries and cities from this soft volcanic rock.

Beautiful mushroom shaped rocks of Monks Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

It is this heady combination of nature and man made creation that give Cappadocia its unique flavour. The beautiful marriage of fairy chimneys, rock-cut temples, cave houses, multi-levelled underground cities, monasteries, churches, a rich heritage and an amazing weather beaten rocky landscape makes Cappadocia one of the most magical places in the world. It is a place that would easily be a part of any travel bucket-list and one that would certainly be a highlight of a Turkish holiday itinerary. Cappadocia becomes even more magical during the winter months when the blanket of snow on these fairy chimneys and minarets gives this heritage site an out of the world look and feel. To see this surreal winter world up close, do look up JustFly, find the best deal on flights to Turkey and plan your dream winter holiday to Turkey’s Cappadocia.

Photographing the sunset at Red Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

Whether you experience it from above (in a hot air balloon), experience it from below (through its underground cities) or soak its charms from the ground level (through hikes, walks, treks, biking or quad biking trips), Cappadocia is bound to leave you speechless. Such is the beauty and charm of one of the most unique natural wonders in the world.

Houses inside the Cappadocia rocks

It is the kind of place that appeals to people of all ages and interests. You could be a nature lover, a culture enthusiast, an adventure junkie, a honeymooning couple or a budget backpacker, Cappadocia’s beauty is bound to keep you captivated and enthralled.

Quad biking through Love Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

A simple walk through its heritage circuit, a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, a quad biking session through its many valley and mountains, a trek to its deepest corners, a trip to its many subterranean cities, a stay in its iconic cave houses or even a class of Turkish cooking, there are enough and more activities to keep everyone interested and involved on your Cappadocia holiday.

At Derinkuyu underground city, Cappadocia, Turkey

While most people just visit the UNESCO World heritage site, the underground cities, take a few iconic photographs and then leave, I think one has to let Cappadocia grow on you. Each valley, pillar, cave and mountain have stories to tell you. After all these rocks of Cappadocia have seen everything from the riches of Persia, the peaceful kingdom under Alexander the Great, the Lydian, Roman and Byzantine kingdoms, the time of slavery, the vast defence networks in their underground cities, the rise of the early Christian philosophy to modern day conquests by Muslim invaders.

Love valley and Turkey's tallest mountain

Once these rocks start talking to you, you get to experience one of mother nature’s best creations along with a rich legacy left behind by 8000 plus years of kings, emperors, warriors, invaders, architects and churches.

Cappadocia Sunset at Red Valley

While Goreme’s open air museum, Zelve open air museum, Rose valley, Pigeon valley, Monk’s valley, Derinkuyu underground city, Uchisar castle and love valley are some of the main highlights, the entire region of Cappadocia is full of some magical fairy chimneys and amazing stories. While many have been discovered, there are archaeologists who are discovering more remnants of this fantastic ancient civilization.

Historic houses inside these rocks, Zelve, Cappadocia

So, whatever your interest might be, you would have realized by now that Cappadocia with its many charms is one of the most magical places in the world and is a must-have in your international travel bucket-list. I certainly love this gorgeous place and would certainly return to it in a heart beat. What about you? Have you been there as yet? What do you think of it? Do you wish to visit it soon? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Scenic walk through Monks Valley, Cappadocia

Which is the best season to visit Cappadocia:

Cappadocia looks like a dreamland in winter due to all the snow. This would be a great time to go for photography and for stunning sights. Spring would also be a great season to visit Cappadocia. Late summer months of July and August are best avoided as temperatures can reach as high as 40 degree Celsius and most places of stay do not have air-conditioning. August to December is also a good time, though it can rain from time to time.

Posing in front of the Cappadocia ancient living quarters

How long should you plan to stay in Cappadocia:

Even though you can see most of Cappadocia in 2 days, I would recommend you staying here for at least 4 days. That way, you can attempt to experience multiple activities here, like hot air balloon rides, quad biking, trekking, underground cities, historical walks, cooking classes, etc.

Bird's eye view of Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey

The highlights of a visit to Cappadocia:

1) Hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia – Personally, I am not a big fan, but since everyone seems to enjoy it, I am mentioning it here.

2) Quad biking through the different valleys and mountains in Cappadocia. This allows you to experience the lay of the land from extremely close quarters.

3) Ancient multi-levelled Derinkuyu underground city – This is a must experience in Cappadocia as it shows how people of yester years lived underground and had almost all kinds of facilities.

4) Sunset at Red valley is perfect for photographers.

5) Walk through Zelve open-air museum and watch the cave houses, churches and living quarters of people who used to live here many hundreds of years ago.

6) Monks valley for some of the best rock formations in Cappadocia.

7) Love valley for a sunset view and for a view of Turkey’s tallest mountain.

8) And last, but not the least, the Aktepe white hill and Goreme open-air museum.

Naturally carved out rocks at Zelve Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Turkey

How to reach there:

The nearest airport to Cappadocia is either the Kayseri or Nevsehir airport. Both these airports are well connected with Istanbul and are about an hour’s drive to the main tourist attractions of Cappadocia.

Turkey also has very good buses that ply on excellent roads. If time is not an issue and if you wish to travel on a budget, opt for the comfortable VIP buses that connect Cappadocia with the rest of the country.

Kayseri would be your nearest railroad. It offers good connectivity with the rest of the country. One can take a taxi or bus to reach Goreme from here.

Stunning landscape of Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Turkey

Where to stay:

Usually, cave hotels and cave houses are the most popular option of staying in Cappadocia. But, let me warn you that in spite of their innate charm, they can be damp, cold, musty and have very low ceilings. If you wish to opt for a cave room, do make sure that it is really top class.

There are also many Turkish homes where you can stay in Cappadocia. They give you local flavor both in terms of interactions as well as food.

As Cappadocia is one of the most popular destinations of Turkey, there is no paucity of stay options here. From luxury to budget backpacking, the options are aplenty.

The only key thing for you to decide is the location. You could opt for the popular Goreme, the city like Nevsehir, the quieter Uchisar or even Avanos and Urgup.

Astounding Cappadocia Landscape at Monks Valley

Other popular places to explore in Turkey:

1) The city of Istanbul that straddles Europe and Asia

2) The absolutely spectacular Lake Van near the Turkey – Iran border on the east

3) Gobekle Tepe, the oldest place of worship in the world

4) Lycian way, 550 kms of ancient trail on the southern coastline of Turkey that is made up of sensational beaches, great architectural ruins, rich Greek history, stunning views and pure trekking bliss

5) Ephesus and Aphrodisias, two ancient Greek ruins in Turkey

6) The natural hot water springs of Pamukkale

7) The islands in the Aegean sea, especially the ones off Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye

8) The historical town of Mardin that overlooks Mesopotamia

9) The black sandy beaches of Trabzon

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota: Surreal Natural Wonder between Bangalore and Hyderabad

Panoramic Pennar river canyon at Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh

It is popularly referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of India’. It is one of India’s most gorgeous natural wonders. It is so beautiful that efforts are being put to give it a world heritage tag. I am talking about the surreal Pennar river canyon at Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh and the 12th century Gandikota fort that is built along this steep and stunning canyon.

Gandikota, which literally translates into ‘gorge fort’ in Telugu is a 12th century fort that was built during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukyas on the steep  Erramala or Gandikota range of hills by the narrow Pennar river. This gorge is more than a million years old and could have been formed due to a volcanic eruption many millions of years ago. Such lava flows from volcanic eruptions in this region are referred to as Deccan traps. This steep rocky canyon of red granite could be one such Deccan trap.

The East flowing Pennar river is usually a seasonal river, so technically this canyon should be dry most months of the year, but due to the Gandikota dam upstream and the Mylavaram dam downstream that get water from the much larger Srisailam dam on the Krishna river, this canyon usually has water. It is technically a river, but it behaves more like a backwater or reservoir overflow. This constant water in the gorge is what makes this canyon look so beautiful and may be that is why it draws comparisons with the grand canyon in the United States which has such a similar riverine landscape.

The darkish green water, the red granite rocks, the in between greenery and the colours of the sky all add to the dramatic effect of this landscape. It is this heady concoction that makes this place a hot favorite with everyone. Add to it, the beautiful fort enclosure with temples, mosques, granary, pigeon tower, palace, massive fort walls with canons and water bodies and you have an amazing heritage and nature package.

Admiring the Pennar river canyon view on a dark monsoon day

And the fact that it is located right in between the bustling cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad make it a perfect weekend getaway destination. It offers a lovely mix of stupendous nature, adventurous trails, history and rustic location. Have you visited this place as yet? If not, I would recommend you to visit this place on your next road trip from Bangalore. And do remember to tell me your experience in the comments below.

Enjoying the beauty of Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota on a monsoon day

Things to keep in mind before visiting:

1) Drone photography is not allowed at Gandikota. I don’t know if there are people checking this, but I think the ban exists due to the dam nearby. The heavy winds in the gorge also renders drones useless.

2) The rocks by the Pennar river gorge are slippery. Do exercise caution and ensure that you wear footwear with good grip.

3) It can get quite hot here during the day and there is hardly any shade. Do ensure that you carry a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, some power snacks and water with you at all times.

4) You can trek down to the Pennar river through the gorge. Do check with locals for the exact trail.

5) Sunset is the best time to visit Gandikota if photography is your agenda. After 3 pm, the sun shines directly on the Pennar river gorge.

Beautiful Nature - Pennar river canyon at Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh

How to reach there:

The nearest airports would either be Bangalore (290 kms) or Hyderabad (390 kms).

The nearest railway station would be Jammalamadugu (about 12 kms away), though connectivity would be poor. Gooty junction ( 116 kms away) and Muddanuru (about 26 kms away) would be the options with better rail connectivity.

Gandikota is connected by good roads to both Bangalore and Hyderabad.

If you are driving from Bangalore, opt for the scenic forest and gorge route. Bangalore to Koikonda on the NH 44 4 –lane highway. Then turn right towards Gorantala, Kadiri, Pulivendula and Muddanur. The route between Kadiri and Pulivendula is the beautiful gorge and canyon route while the earlier stretch between Gorantala and Kadiri is the hilly forest stretch. The entire route is about 290 kms and takes about 6 hours to drive from Bangalore.

Temple, Mosque and dark clouds at Gandikota

Other places to visit enroute:

1) 7th century Bhoga Nandeeswara temple at the foot of Nandi hills

2) The vineyards and vegetable farms of rural Chikkaballapur

3) Sri Veerabhadra temple at Lepakshi

4) Gudibande fort

5) Penukonda fort

6) Avalabetta

7) Skandagiri hill

8) Chandrayana betta

Juma Masjid inside Gandikota Fort, Andhra Pradesh

Where to stay:

There are 3 options to stay at Gandikota.

Option 1: Stay at the decent lodging at Haritha Resorts, a property run by Andhra Pradesh tourism department.

Option 2: Opt for the local camping services and stay in a tent by the river Pennar.

Option 3: Carry your own tent and pitch it somewhere in the Pennar river gorge. Do remember that this is not recommended, but there are people who have done this in the past.

Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota - One of India's beautiful natural wonders

Where to eat:

There are shacks just outside Gandikota fort where one can find basic things to eat like fried rice, omelette, tea, etc. If you want something more appropriate, head to Haritha Resort, a hotel run by Andhra Pradesh tourism department. For more options, you will have to head to Muddanur, about 28 kms away.

The steep walls of the Gandikota canyon with the reservoir in the background

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The 15th to 16th century Vijayanagara era temples of Tadipatri (Sri Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple and Sri Chintala Venakaramana Swamy temple)

2) Belum caves, one of the largest cave system in the Indian subcontinent

3) The beautiful caves and Sri Uma Maheshwara temple at Yaganti

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

How to track down travel-related class-actions

How to track down travel related class actions

If you have been unlucky enough to have a bad experience while travelling, the chances are you will need to seek compensation. You may want to get the money back that you spent on booking alternative transport and accommodation when your travel firm went bust. Or, you might want to claim back the cost of seeing a doctor and buying medications when poor hotel hygiene leads to you falling sick.

Regardless of the reason for your wishing to claim, there will very likely be other holidaymakers who are also seeking to do so. Provided the problems you are suffering involved the same company and you suffered similar issues you may be able to get compensation using a class action. But, to be able to do so you need to find one first. Here are a few approaches for you to try.

Do a search online

The first step is always to do a class action lawsuit search online. There are several ways to do this.

By far the fastest and easiest is to visit the top class action websites. These sites watch the news and legal sources carefully to find out when people are taking this kind of action. When they find one, they do a bit of research to find out what it is all about and list it on their website.

Usually, you just need to flag up your interest to be given the details of which law firm is dealing with the case. Once you are in touch with them, after a short interview, you will be invited to join that class-action. Provided of course, your case is similar enough and involves the same company as those who are already a part of the action.

Keep an eye on the press

The press knows that class-actions of all kinds are of great interest to the public. So, they report on them regularly.

To find these stories you can do a simple Google search and click the news tab. But, it is easy to miss something if you have to scan through several pages. It is much more efficient to set up a Google News alert. You can find out how to do it using your Smartphone from this page.

Get involved with others who were there

Often, when things start to go wrong someone will suggest suing for compensation. It is only natural to do so. We all know that when things go wrong, during a holiday, that it is going to cost us money. That is cash most people will want to try to claim back. So, we automatically stow the receipts, take photos and gather as much evidence as we can.

But, in many cases, other people will take things a bit further than you and think about what to do should the compensation not prove to be adequate. Sadly, this is something that happens a lot. They will realise that a lawyer may need to be involved and that a class action is the best way to get things done. In all likelihood, they will start a Facebook page or a forum post, so everyone who has been affected can stay in touch. Generally speaking, this is a good thing, so consider signing up. Often, the best class actions are put together as a result of someone doing this. If you are involved, you can benefit and be included.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

5 simple ways to stay safe when you’re travelling

5 simple ways to stay safe when you're traveling

No one wants to believe that they will fall ill whilst they’re travelling or be the victim of an accident. However, these things happen more often than we care to think. Even the most experienced of travellers can succumb to a sickness bug or become involved in a traffic accident whilst on the adventure of a lifetime – if you’re looking for legal representation after a traffic accident then discover Preszler Law by clicking the link.

If you’re thinking of discovering new and exciting cultures and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer then staying safe whilst you’re travelling can feel like a big ask. However, there are many simple ways that travellers can stay safe, read on for 5 examples.

Do a little research

While discovering a new destination on your own terms sounds ideal, it makes sense to do a little research before you travel. Discover what customs you should be aware of, is the country you’re visiting a conservative one, do they have rules or expectations of what people should wear? Is it safe to go out alone at night? Is the area you’re staying backpacker friendly?

Always wash your hands

It sounds like simple advice but that’s because it is! Washing your hands keeps nasty illnesses and bugs like gastroenteritis and E. coli at bay. However whilst abroad it’s advisable that you wash your hands a little more frequently. Wash your hands before you eat, after handling money, touching things like door handles or the back of bus seats etc. If the hand washing facilities aren’t what you’re used to then many travellers will recommend bringing a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you.

Be sun safe

In order to avoid succumbing to dehydration or heat stroke you need to be sensible during the day. If your destination is much hotter than you’re used to then keeping yourself protected in the sun is imperative. Always wear a hat – preferably one that covers the back of your neck, a pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes from UV rays, plenty of sun cream with a high factor (remember to keep applying throughout the day) and of course drinking plenty of water. Do all this and you should be safe in the sun.

Learn the language

You don’t have to be fluent in the local language but researching and getting to grips with a few basic phrases will not only give you a better experience as a traveller, but it can also be a big help to you if you get lost, want to make sure you’re on the right bus or train, or need medical help.

Be wary when hiring vehicles

There’s nothing wrong with seeing your destination via moped or public transport. Just be cautious and use your common sense. If you hire a moped, always wear a helmet – even if the locals don’t. If you’re getting on a bus or using public transport, ask yourself if the vehicle is dangerously overcrowded and in good working order.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Hosaholalu’s Lakshmi Narayana Temple: Offbeat Temple Gem near Bangalore

A monsoon day at Hosaholalu Sri Lakshmi Narayana Swamy Temple

Increasing Bangalore traffic and pollution eggs us to get out of the city, but sometimes, we end up going to the same places and over a period of time, the experience becomes stale. That is why in 2019 I have decided to explore more of the offbeat gems in our own backyard. Hosaholalu’s Sri Lakshmi Narayana Swamy temple, about 170 kms from Bangalore is one such offbeat temple gem. Built in the 13th century by King Someshwara of the Hoysala empire, this temple is as good an example of Hoysala temple architecture as Belur and Halebid, but unlike the popular temples at Belur and Halebid, this one is a bit hidden and therein lies its charm.

Like the Chennakeshava temple at Somnathpur, even the Lakshmi Narayana temple at Hosaholalu is set in a quiet little village and therein begins the rustic temple journey. Even though most of the temple that we see today was built during the reign of the Hoysalas, it is said that the Hoysalas built on an already existing temple that was built by the Gangas and the Cholas. And there are some small elements that were added to this temple during the era of the Vijayanagara kings. But, mostly, a lot of it is Hoysala style and hence for simplicity, we shall refer to it as a Hoysala temple.

Above video: Watch in 4K for best resolution. A walkaround of the exteriors of the Lakshmi Narayana temple at Hosaholalu.

Garuda carrying Mahavishnu and Lakshmi Devi on his back - Hosaholalu temple

When you enter the main temple enclosure after crossing the temple gate, all you see is a simple rectangular structure and a big lawn surrounding it, but as you get closer to it, its beauty dawns on you. I would recommend you to make a pradakshinam (clockwise walk) of the temple before you enter the main temple interiors. As you circumnavigate the temple, you will see an advanced level of Hoysala temple architecture with stories, sculpting and intricacies that is bound to blow you over. The true beauty of its look is visible from the back and you get the true understanding when you climb its first level and try to decipher the sculptures and their stories.

Different avatars of Vishnu and Indra on his Airavat in sculptures at Hosaholalu, Karnataka

Carved out of soapstone, I absolutely loved each and every bit of its carvings. Some of them are weather-beaten, but they still convey the stories that they were meant to tell after close to 800 words. Be it Garuda carrying goddess Lakshmi and Mahavishnu (where Lakshmi sits on Vishnua’s left thigh) on his back, Lord Indra on his Airavat (white elephant), Mohini avatar of Mahavishnu, Mahisasura Mardini (an avatar of Goddess Durga), Lord Krishna playing his flute while Adiseshan (the multi-headed serpent) protecting him, Lord Krishna dancing while standing on Adiseshan, Lakshmi Narasimha (where goddess Lakshmi is sitting on the left thigh of Narasimha (avatar of Maha Vishnu)), or the thumb sized Lord Anjaneya drinking coconut water, each sculpture and carving are bound to captivate your imagination.

Lakshmi pati sculpture and other beautiful carvings

Add to it the intense details of Bhagavatha, Ramayana and Mahabharata, the beautiful Samudra Manthana image, the rare Ashta Bhuja Lakshmi (8 handed Lakshmi), the various avatars of Vishnu and sculptures of Shiva, Paravathi, Brahma and Ganapati and you have a 800 year old temple gem. And all this is just the exterior of the temple. All my photographs here and the video above show you only the exteriors of the temple, but it is the interior that is the icing on the cake. I didn’t share pictures of the interiors for two reasons. One, because it is a fully functional working temple with daily pujas and hence I did not want to spoil the sanctity of the inner sanctum. Secondly, I want you to visit this temple and see the interiors for yourself with your own eyes.

Krishna playing his flute - Hosaholalu Temple

The interiors are made up of a mantapa with four super polished lathe turned pillars that support the roof and a variety of floor to roof carvings that again depict various sculptures and tell more stories. The ceilings are so well decorated that you will pretty soon notice a cramp in your neck and hence I advise you to lie down on the temple floor and admire it at leisure. The mantapa then further divides into three sanctum sanctorums or garbha griha. The one facing East is the main one and houses Lord Narayana with goddess Lakshmi. Fine lace work can be seen at the front of this garbha griha and beautifully sculpted dwarapalikas can be seen guarding the garbha griha. One can also notice the Dashavatars sculpted on the Prabhavali. Facing North is Ganesha and Sri Venugopla swamy and facing south is Sri Lakshmi Narasimha swamy. Their grabha griha also contains elaborate embroidery work.

The true highlight of the mantapa area has to be the polished granite pillars. Like other Hoysala temples, this one is a pure work of art that even artisans of the modern world with all the technology, tools and machines will struggle to replicate even in the 21st century.

Intricately magnificent - Sri Lakshmi Narayan Swamy temple at Hosaholalu, Karnataka

Even though this temple is much smaller than the ones at Halebid and Belur, most of its exteriors and interiors are in much better condition and hence an absolute treat for the true culture lover. Add to it the rustic surroundings, lack of crowds and easy access from Bangalore and you have an offbeat temple gem that should be high on your next weekend getaway list from Bangalore!

The rear view of Sri Lakshmi Narayan Swamy temple, Hosaholalu, Karnataka

How to reach here:

There are two routes to get to Hosaholalu from Bangalore. One is to take Mysore road and the other is to opt for the Nelamangala-Kunigal road from Bangalore.

If you opt for the Bangalore – Mysore road, your route would be Bangalore –> Nice road –> Ramanagara –> Maddur –> Mandya –> Melukote –> Krishnarajpete –> Hosaholalu.

If you opt for the Bangalore – Hassan road, your route would be Bangalore –> Nice road –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Yadiyur –> Belur cross –> Nagamangala –> Kanthapura –> Krishnarajpete –> Hosaholalu.

Both routes should be between 170 to 190 kms depending on which part of Bangalore you live in and the commute time should be between 3 to 4 hours.

Mohini Avatar shown at Hosaholalu temple

Where to eat:

The nearest place to find good local restaurants would be Krishnaraja pete (KR pete) that is just a couple of kilometers away, but if crave for international cuisine or something specific, you should head to Mysore that is located an hour away.

Sri Lakshmi Narayana Swamy Temple at Hosaholalu, Karnataka

Temple timings:

The temple campus is usually open from sunrise to sunset. However, the temple interiors might be closed from time to time when the priest heads outside either to his home or for some work. The good thing is that the priest has mentioned his contact number on the door of the temple. So those of you who find themselves at the temple but find it closed can call the priest and usually he is extremely accommodating of visitor’s requests.

The intricately carved Hoysala era temple at Hosaholalu

Nearby tourist attractions:

1) The temple town of Melukote

2) Hemagiri falls

3) Somnathpur Chennakeshava temple

4) KRS Dam and Brindavan gardens

5) Mysore palace and Chamundeshwari temple

6) The historical town of Srirangapatna

7) The Jain pilgrimage town of Shravanabelagola

8) Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

9) Chennakeshava temple at Belur

10) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

11) Shettihalli Rosary church ruins

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Friday, October 18, 2019

11 South Indian Temples with the most scenic locations

The famous pillars of Hoysala architecture at Belur, Karnataka

India is a land of temples and this temple riches can be seen all over the country. While each one of them are beautiful in their own right through their spiritual significance, cultural riches and glorious past, there are a few that are set in some of the most scenic locations. The temples located in the Himalayas usually enjoy such heavenly locations, but there are some in South India that enjoy pretty locations too. Here is a list of 11 South Indian temples that enjoy the most scenic of locations.

T A M I L    N A D U

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam

Sesaharayar Mandapam art work, Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam

It is the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world. It also has the largest temple complex in India. It’s southern gopuram, at 239.5 feet, is the tallest in Asia. It is a major pilgrimage site for Srivaishnavites. I am talking about Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, one of the 3 temples of God Ranganatha that are situated in the natural islands formed in the Kaveri river. The Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple is the most downstream one (Antya Ranga), while the other two upstream ones are Ranganathaswamy temple at Shivanasamudra (Madhya Ranga) and Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangapatna (Adi Ranga).

This temple is famous for the Anantasayana Vishnu or Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture, but the interesting thing to note here is that the lord faces south unlike other Hindu temples of India where the lord usually faces the east direction. Built during the Chola empire, this temple rose to its current prominence during the Vijayanagara empire. Today, it is one of the most sacred spots in the country. On one side of the temple flows the beautiful Kaveri river and on the other flows its distributary, the Kollidam. Pilgrims visit this temple to absolve of all their sins, to immerse the ashes of the departed and to find the path to vaikuntam, which means no more cycle of rebirth. If you are offering any special prayers or wish to catch the abhishekham or opening of garbha griha doors, do keep a tab on the srirangam temple timings as everything works according to that. You might have to wait for a long time if you happen to miss these time slots.

Papanasanathar Temple, Papanasam

Neeranjanam offering at Papanasam Shiva Temple

This 1000 year old Shiva temple is located by the banks of the Thamarabharani river and is surrounded by the pristine forests of Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve. A few kilometers from it is the Agastyar falls and the Papanasam dam that stores water and generates power for this region. While it is surrounded by sensational nature of the Western Ghats, pilgrims come in droves to this temple to get rid of their sins. They usually take a bath in the Thamabharani river and climb the steps from the river ghat straight into the temple to offer their prayers.

Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram

Corridor of 1000 pillars at Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram

This island in the Bay of Bengal is considered one of the holiest places in India for Hindus. One of the four char dhams in the iconic Hindu pilgrimage circuit, this place is where Lord Ram built a Shiva linga and worshipped to get the blessings of Lord Shiva in the Treta Yuga. People visit this temple and drench themselves in the water from the different wells inside the temple complex to absolve of all their sins. A lot of people also immerse the ashes of the departed here. The highlight of a trip to Rameshwaram is the wave less ocean, the iconic Pamban railway bridge and the vast blue spectacle.

Murugan Temple, Tiruchendur

The Sea Shore Tiruchendur Temple

One of Tamil Nadu’s richest temples, this temple dedicated to Lord Subramaniya is located just a few metres from the Bay of Bengal whose waves lap the beaches of this temple. One of the 6 holy places of worship for Lord Murugan, this temple designed in Dravidian style is known for the different looks of the lord on different days, its stunning gopuram and its lovely seaside atmosphere.

Shore temple, Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram Sea Shore Temple

Another Shore temple, but this time a 7th century UNESCO World heritage site that is located at Mahalabalipuram. Built by the Pallava kings, it is one of the oldest structural stone temples of South India. The highlights of this gorgeous temple are the lion monolith, the Ananta Sayana Vishnu, the cluster of temples, the Pancha Rathas (five chariot like monolithic structures named after the Pandavas of the Mahabharata) and the laidback sea side location.


Vittala Temple, Hampi

Ruins of Hampi and the rocky landscape

One of South India’s most intricately carved temples, Hampi’s Vittala temple that is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra river in northern Karnataka is a class apart. It’s musical pillars (that make sounds of everything from oceans to rivers to ragas and instruments) and its horse chariot (only 4 such chariots exist in India – Konark Sun Temple, Modhera Sun Temple, Airavateeswara Temple and Vittala Temple) are the main attractions. But, its main attraction according to me is its rocky landscape that surrounds the temple and through which the Tungabhadra river flows. This medieval wonder, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site was built by the kings of the Vijayanagara empire when Hampi used to be their capital.

Mahabaleshwar Temple, Gokarna

Om beach, Gokarna

Sandwiched between the mountains of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, lies the temple town of Gokarna that is shaped like a cow’s ear (land that lies between the Aghnashini and Gangavali rivers). Amidst its rustic setting, lies the Mahabaleswar temple and inside it is the Atmalinga that is believed to have gifted to demon king Ravana by Lord Shiva himself. One of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centers, Gokarna’s Mahalabaleswar is as popular for its spiritual significance as it is for its natural surroundings. Pristine white sandy beaches, cliff walks, beautiful waterfalls and a green setting completes its ensemble.

Bhutanatha Group of Temples, Badami

Bhutanatha Temple, Badami

A 7th Chalukyan wonder, the Bhutanatha group of temples were built right after the famous cave temples of Badami. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this cluster of sandstone shrines contains architectural forms from different periods due to every Chalukyan king leaving a bit of their mark behind for close to 400 years. Located next to a large temple pond, the Bhutanatha group of temples is surrounded by the rugged sandstone mountain landscape of Badami and during the rains, even waterfalls seem to adorn this view.

A N D H R A    P R A D E S H

Kailashagiri Temple, Visakhapatnam

Beach line view from atop Kailashgiri, Vizag

One of the best coastal views of Andhra Pradesh is visible from this mountain temple. It is a modern temple, but it offers some legendary views of the beautiful Coromandel coast near Vishakapatnam. A large statue of Shiva Parvati and a simple temple premises make Kailashagiri. A plastic free environment, a hilltop park and a cable car service completes this temple experience.


Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad

Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary near Thirunelli temple

This Vishnu temple built by Lord Brahma himself is located on one side of the Brahmagiri hill in Kerala. Located at an elevation of 3000 feet, this valley in northern Wayanad is surrounded by mountains, streams, waterfalls and beautiful forests of the Western Ghats. The place is so pretty that even Lord Brahma was enamoured by it and how this temple came along. There is a nearby mountain stream called Papanasini that is believed to carry medicinal water and that locals consider very sacred. Go to this temple for a full on forest, mountain and nature experience.


Mahadev Temple, Tambdi Surla

Mahadev Temple, Tamdi Surla, Goa

This 12th century Shaivite temple is the only structural temple of the Kadamba dynasty to have survived the Muslim and Goan occupations of the Goan territory. Set deep inside Mollem National Park, this Shiva temple enjoys as much nature, wildlife and greenery as any of the other popular forest zones of Goa. A forest trek and temple waterfall are some of the perks of being located in the Western Ghats of Goa.

Photo courtesy: The photographs that do not have the beontheroad logo has been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Savandurga: Rustic Sunday Motorcycling Day Trip from Bangalore

Riding towards Savanadurga, Karnataka

It is considered to be one of the largest monolith hills in Asia. It is one of the more serious slab climbing routes in the world. It is a hot favourite with rock climbers, cave explorers, trekkers and temple lovers. The fort on the top of this hill is referred to as the ‘fort of death’. I am talking about Savanadurga hill that stands at 1226 m above MSL and that is just 60 kms from Bangalore city.

Savanadurga is a hot day trip destination from Bangalore as it offers easy access from the city, a rustic route for a short drive or ride, a beautiful tract of forest, a couple of temples (one a village temple and the other a hill temple) and a short trek. And then there is rock climbing for the more adventurous.

Old Temple structure at Savanadurga

Formed by two hills, Karigudda (black hill) and Biligudda (white hill), Savanadurga was once the secondary capital of the Magadi kingdom and it is believed that the fort on top of the hill was built by them and may be fortified by the Mysore kingdom, Tipu Sultan and the Britishers thereafter. It’s steep slippery rock surface was its safety hallmark and which gave it strategic importance to the then kings. Today, the fort is mostly in ruins, but in its place lies a Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple and stunning views of the Magadi-Ramanagara-Mandya-Bangalore landscape. And then there is the main Veerabhadra swamy temple at the foot of the hill that holds religious significance for the people living in this region.

Bikers and their beasts take a break in lovely rural setting

More than just the Savanadurga hill, I like the entire day trip package of going past pretty little villages with beautiful farm land, the gorgeous Dodda Alada Mara tree just off Mysore road, the Manchinebele dam on the Arkavathy river, the small, yet pretty green highways through the Savanadurga state forest, the Veerabhadra swamy temple, the megalithic burial sites and of course the climb to the top of the hill. Add to it a rustic atmosphere, clean air and quiet environment, you have a great way to unwind on a Sunday. I think it is the perfect rustic day trip getaway from Bangalore. Doesn’t matter whether you are on a bicycle, motorcycle or in a car, you are bound to have a good day out!

A lush green pit stop overlooking the famous rocks of Ramanagaram district of Karnataka

How to reach here:

The best and the most scenic route to Savanadurga is Bangalore –> Nice road Mysore road exit –> Dodda Alada Mara –> Manchanebele Dam –> Savanadurga State Forest –> Savanadurga.

The total distance would be close to 50 kms and it should take you about 2 hours if you drive non stop and a bit more if you stop at the many beautiful pit stops enroute. This route takes you through beautiful villages, a stunning lake and a gorgeous tract of green in Savanadurga state forest.
To reach the top of the rock, add at least 2 hours of trekking (more for slightly slower individuals) from the Veerabhadra temple at the base of the Savanadurga hill.

Veerabhadra Temple at the base of Savanadurga hill

Things to keep in mind:

1) Savanadurga rock gets hot during the day. Either you should plan your trek early in the morning or prepare yourself for the heat by carrying sun protection and water, etc in case you are planning to hike a bit later in the day.

2) Opt for a reliable rock climbing operator in case you wish to do some rock climbing.

3) During the rains, the trail gets very slippery. Do plan accordingly.

4) It is best to wear a good pair of walking shoes or boots to climb this rock.

Riding through rural roads of Karnataka to reach Savanadurga

Where to find food to eat:

The villages in the vicinity may offer you something to eat, but if you want something of a menu with decent washrooms, I would recommend hitting any of the decent joints on Mysore road. It is carry some water and quick bites from home in case of any emergencies.

A motorcycle ride towards the hills of Savanadurga, Karnataka

Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Manchanabele Dam, a scenic, green and rustic location near Bangalore

2) Adventure Sports at Dabbaguli, Manchanbele Dam – a great weekend getaway from Bangalore

3) Dodda Alada Mara – Bangalore’s 400 year old banyan wonder

4) Rock climbing at Ramanagara, amongst the rocks where the iconic movie ‘Sholay’ was shot

5) The world of toys at Channapatna, one of India’s traditional handicrafts

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