November 2019 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Chintala Venkataramana Swamy Temple: A 16th century marvel in Andhra Pradesh

Epics and Hindu mythological stories on Tadipatri temple

It is yet another offbeat day trip or weekend destination from Bangalore. It resembles Hampi’s Vittala temples in many ways and it is classified as one of the Monuments of National Importance by the Archaeological survey of India. I am talking about the 16th century Chintala Venkataramana Swamy temple that was built during the reign of the Vijayanagara empire.

Offering prayers at Chintala Venkataramana Swamy temple, Tadipatri

Built by Pemmasani Timmanayudu II, a subordinate of Krishnadevaraya of the Tuluva dynasty, the Chintala Venkataramana swamy temple is known for its granite sculptures, stone chariot, striking resemblance to Hampi’s Vittala temple,  Vijayanagara style of temple architecture and for its mesmerizing visual depictions of Hindu mythological stories and folklore.

A bright monsoon day at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Spanning 5 acres and located by the Penna river, the Chintala Venkataramana temple was built around the same time as Hampi’s Vittala temple. May be, that is why they share striking resemblances to each other. While the Vittala temple was built using red granite, this temple at Tadipatri was built using much older black granite.

Hampi Vittala Temple like horse chariot at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

A mighty temple gopuram greets you upon your entry. Right after it is the sthamba and then comes the garuda mantapa that is in the form of a stone chariot with rolling granite wheels. While this stone chariot resembles that of the Vittala temple in Hampi, it is much smaller in size. Right in front of the Garuda mantapa is the large Mukha mantapa with its forty pillars followed by the Ranga Mantapa and the Garbha Griha.

The main mantapa of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

The Mukha mantapa and the Ranga Mandapa are full of images and stories from Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Bhagavatha, all in proper sequence of events. It is certainly one of the highlights of a visit to this temple as each pillar tells beautiful stories through its intricate carvings. The other highlight of this temple is the 10 feet high classical masterpiece statue of Lord Venkataramana Swamy that is located in the Garbha griha. Just as you enter the garbha griha, do pay close attention to the ceiling to see the octagonal shaped flower.

Ananta Sayana Vishnu on the walls of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

If you thought the Garuda mantapa stone chariot, the Mukha mantapa pillars, the Ranga Mantapa and Grabha Griha were beautiful, wait till you begin your temple parikrama (circumambulation). Every inch of the exterior walls of the temple are carved and each carving tells you a lot about our gods and our puranas. There is so much carving on the walls of this temple that it might take you a couple of days just to see them all.

Walking by the beautiful walls of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Built according to Shilpa shastras, this Vijayanagara era temple gem with its eye catching Dravidian architecture will appeal to all kinds of art, culture, history and temple lovers. I don’t know why it is not spoken in the same breath as Hampi. May be Karnataka has done a better job of promoting it than Andhra Pradesh. Whatever the reasons might be, I think this temple is so culturally, creatively and aesthetically rich that it is a must visit in my mind. It’s rustic atmosphere adds to the charm.

Vermilion on the feet of the gods at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadiaptri

If you wish to experience a stunning piece of temple architecture that is not well known in the masses, the Chintala Venkataramana Swamy temple is that offbeat gem. Together with the Bugga Ramalingeshwara temple located a km away, these two temples of Tadipatri are the pride of our nation and are living examples of our crazily good creativity in temple architecture. I recommend both these temples with multiple thumbs up!

The elephant staircase leading to the garbha griha of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Temple timings:

6 AM to 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM to 8 PM (if you wish to enter the garbha griha and see the main deity). The temple campus is however kept open from 6 AM till 8 PM.

Hampi Vittala temple like carved pillars at Tadipatri temple

How to reach there:

There are two popular routes to Tadipatri from Bangalore.

One is to take the 4 lane highway (NH 44) all the way to Anantpur and then take the state highway to Tadipatri. This route would be fast and is about 272 kms long.

The other option is to take NH 44 till Nagasamudram and then take the smaller roads to Tadipatri via Dharmavaram, Narapala and Muchukota. This road would be scenic post Nagasamudram and gives you an opportunity to experience the countryside of Andhra Pradesh. Dharmavaram is also a great place to stop for breakfast if you happen to leave Bangalore real early.

The hall leading to the garbha griha at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Other places to visit enroute from Bangalore:

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, another Vijayanagara era temple

4) Gudibande Fort, a great fort and hike that offers some breathtaking views

5) Penukonda fort

6) Avalabetta, a lovely hill full of beautiful nature and great views

7) Skandagiri hill, a climb to see misty mountain top views

8) Chandarayana betta, a great place for a short hill climb

Doing the pradakshanam at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Best season to visit:

The post monsoon and winter months from October through February would be a great time to visit this temple. You can visit during the other months too. Just that it might be a bit too hot and humid for comfort.

Entering Tadipatri's Chintala Venkataramana Temple

Where to stay:

Tadipatri has a few budget hotels to cater to its visitors. If you want something luxurious, I would recommend that you head to Anantpur and if you feel like some adventure, stay in tents by the Pennar river at Gandikota.
If you are traveling from Bangalore, you can also visit this temple as part of a day-trip, thus avoiding any stay.

Beautiful carvings on the temple walls at Tadipatri

Where to eat:

Tadipatri city has a lot of places to eat near the market street surrounding Sri Chintala Venkataramana temple. These are not high quality restaurants, but simple hotels serving delicious food. For something exquisite, you might have to go to Anantpur that is located about 55 kms away.

A moment at Sri Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri, Andhra Pradesh

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple, another Vijayanagara era gem, located just 1 km away

2) The natural wonder of Pennar river canyon at Gandikota

3) Belum caves, one of the longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent

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

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Essential items you need to take while camping

Camping trips are a great way to explore the outback

There are a lot of reasons why you should go camping. For one, this outdoor activity can bring you closer to nature and let you get away from your digital screens. Camping also allows you to exercise, especially if you decide to incorporate other outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking, and swimming. In a nutshell, camping can boost your mental and physical health in a lot of ways.

Camping can be fun, but since you’re going to spend time outdoors, preparation is key. You need to come up with a list of the essential items you need to bring and ensure that these are placed inside your backpack days before the actual trip. It’ll be hard to improvise when camping if you don’t have the necessary gear or tools to start with.

For your next camping trip, make sure to bring the following items:

Campfire Cooking Supplies

The joys of cooking under a camp fire

Daily chores, such as preparing and cooking meals, can become more fun once done outdoors. Aside from having a change of scenery, cooking on a campsite allows you to bond with your friends and family. For kids, this part of the camp can even become their favorite!

For your next camping trip, bring a cooking stove, propane tank, and utensils. Cutting tools such as a knife is vital when cutting food, and a camping saw makes it easy to chop wood for your fire pit.

If possible, decide what meals you are going to prepare or cook weeks before your camping date. You’ll know which cooking supplies to bring if you know what you’re going to cook at the campsite.

Sleeping Bags

The idea of sleeping directly on the grass while gazing at the stars can sound exciting and romantic. If you're a new camper, you might have planned to do this. But no matter how visible the stars are or how great the weather is, sleeping outdoors without the proper equipment isn’t a good idea.

Lying on the grass at night can make you susceptible to mosquitoes and insects. These pests will feast on your body, and by the time you’ll wake up, your body is already full of insect bites and rashes.

The dangers of lying outdoors don’t end there. Since the temperature at night drops drastically, sleeping without the proper gear can lead to chills and even hypothermia.

To ensure that the quality of your sleep or your health isn’t compromised when you’re camping, place your sleeping bags in your backpack ahead of time. This is one of the most basic gears in camping as it provides cushion and insulation as you sleep.

Some sleeping bags also have stash pockets for you to properly store your watches and compact devices.

Tents

Camping in the Western Ghats of India during the monsoons

Sleeping inside your sleeping bags can be a great way to spend the night, but abrupt weather changes might prevent you from doing this. Strong winds and rain will make it impossible for you to sleep outdoors, even if you have high-quality and durable sleeping bags.

For a safer alternative, always bring your tent. This gear can guarantee your safety and security during harsh weather conditions. A properly-installed tent will stay in place and provide shelter during your camping trip.

Water Jugs

Your body needs water. It serves as fuel for your body so you can walk around and explore. Keep in mind that a well-hydrated body is a healthy body. These are just some of the reasons why you should always bring a water jug when camping.

The amount of water you’ll bring should depend on the number of days you’ll stay outdoors. The longer your camping trip is, the more water you should bring. Not all campsites provide a potable water supply, so it’s best to bring your own.

Sunscreen And Insect Repellent

You’ll never run out of activities to do when you’re camping. Regardless of how long you’re planning to spend time outdoors or who you’re camping with, there will always be activities that suit your preferences.

However, if you’ll end up suffering from sunburns and insect bites during your camping trip, you might not be able to do all of these activities. In worse cases, sunburns and insect bites might become too severe that you won’t be able to get back on track after camping.

Always bring bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant whenever camping, especially if you’re camping with kids. These products can protect your skin and body from the dangers outdoors. By bringing these products, you can engage with the activities set by your companions and experience all the wonders of camping!

Prepare Properly

Aside from using this article as a reference, knowing where your next campsite also helps. By doing some research about your campsite, you’ll know if certain items should be added or removed from this list.

Being prepared can ward off stress, making your next camping trip memorable for all the right reasons!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How to go on that dream trip?

How to go on that dream trip

The once in a life time trip! That dream holiday! That special honeymoon! That dream gap year holiday! All of us have different versions of our dream trips and have bucket-lists of such trips. We hope and pray that somehow we are able to experience such dream trips in our lifetime. So, what do we have to do to go on such dream trips? Well, here are some popular options:

1) Work hard, save money and make time for yourself

We all know this, don’t we? But, it ain’t easy. It does not work out for everyone. You need to be dedicated and focused on your goals. Some times, we lose focus. At times, we get carried away or life has something else in store for us.

The key thing here is not just to make and save money, but create time for yourself where you can happily spend it without remorse or unreasonable expectations. The path can be tough at times, but I can say from experience that the results can be extremely sweet if you are driven towards your goal of living that dream holiday.

2) Get lucky

There are lots of companies out there who organize games, competitions or other events where the winner or multiple winners get to go on a fully or partially paid holiday. In this case, not everyone can win that dream trip, but if lady luck is shining her light on you, may be, it could be your lucky break.

Take this interactive game ‘Trip for Pip by FBS’ as an example. In this game, you have to help Pete (your regular boring office guy), break free from his monotonous routine (Office, TV, bed, repeat), become a successful forex trader, earn at least 100 pips (pip is a forex term meaning the smallest price move) and become eligible to win a dream holiday for two to London, Dubai or Tokyo. If you win, you get an unforgettable round trip to Tokyo, London or Dubai for two people that includes Economy flight tickets and 5-star hotel accommodation.

This game is free and you can try your luck as many number of times. All you have to do is play the game when you are bored, solve the challenges, earn pips and be eligible for the dream trip. It is something like the Candy Crush game, but here instead of spending money, you could actually win a dream trip in return. The key thing to note here is that your pip earnings from this game is only valid till Nov 28, because after that the winners are chosen through a lucky draw.

3) Work with a company where the job takes you to your dream destination

This option is tough to get into, but once you do, it is like you get to go and get paid while visiting your dream destinations. Take the crew of National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, Travel and Living, etc.. All of them visit beautiful destinations across the globe, experience it up close like a local and end up getting paid for it. Of course, there is a lot of hard work involved, but to some, this could be their way to go on their dream trip.

4) Get into the business of taking people on dream trips

There are people who make it their business to take people on their dream trips. Not only do they get to relive their dream often, they even make money out of it. Sounds fabulous, right? Boutique tour operators (photography, wildlife, culture, food, adventure, etc.), tour guides, travel specialists, etc. are some popular options such such travel businesses.

So, which option do you think will work for you?

I have hardly had any luck with competitions, so I usually opt for Option 1. And I have to say that I have been privileged to have gone on many dream trips while availing this option. I hope it continues to work even in my future dream trips. In case you are wondering what they are, here is a small list below.

1) Explore the entire continent of Africa on a motorcycle. Something similar to the Motorcycle Diaries, but may be a much slower version as there is so much to experience in Africa.

2) Live with the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea, learn their culture and study the birds of paradise in this part of the world.

3) Travel to the North Pole and try to live at least one winter in the arctic.

4) Work on a wildlife conservation project in Gorilla land (either Congo’s Virunga National Park, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park).

What is your dream trip? How do you see yourself making your dream come true? I would love to hear about it. Do let me know in the comments below.

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Wide Panoramic Hemagiri Waterfalls: A Rustic Day Trip from Bangalore



There is something calming about the sound of water and when it is tumbles across a wide landscape surrounded by lush greenery, the feeling is nothing short of heaven. Such a heaven can be found in rural Karnataka on the river Hemavathi just before it joins the mighty KRS dam. I am talking about the Hemagiri falls that is caused due to a weir on the wide Hemavati river here.



Located at Bandihole, this weir was created to supply water to the surrounding villages and their farmlands. And when the river has good flow, this weir overflows and forms the Hemagiri falls across the entire width of the river. Due to the copious rains this year, the Hemavathi river is carrying a lot of water amd thus the Hemagiri falls is out in all its glory. When the flow is low, you can safely go under it and take a natural waterfall shower, but when the flow is heavy, all you can do is find a nice spot near it, admire the lush nature around and lose yourself in the roar of the waterfall.

Hemavathi river, Karnataka

So, the next time you are thinking of a day trip from Bangalore, think of this rustic destination. Not only do you get to enjoy this panoramic waterfall, you get to experience the many ancient temples located in the vicinity. And the best part is that there are hardly any crowds here. So, a perfect hidden weekend getaway.

Hemagiri Falls on the Hemavathy river

How to reach here:

The best way to reach this place is by road. There are 2 routes. One via Mysore road and the other via Tumkur road.

Via Mysore road: Bangalore –> Nice road Mysore road exit –> Mandya –>Srirangapatna –> Krishnarajapete –> Bandihole –> Hemagiri Falls

Via Tumkur road: Bangalore –> Nice road Tumkur road exit –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Nelligere –> Kanthapura –> Krishnarajapete –> Bandihole –> Hemagiri Falls

The nearest railway station would be Mysore and the nearest large airport would be Bangalore.




Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Lakshmi Narayana Temple at Hosaholalu

2) The temple town of Melukote

3) The world’s largest monolithic statue at Shravanabelagola

4) Somnathpur Chennakeshava temple

5) KRS Dam and Brindavan Gardens

6) Mysore palace and Chamundeshwari temple

7) The historical town of Srirangapatna

8) Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

9) Belur Chennakeshava temple

10) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

11) Shettihalli Rosary Church ruins

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple: Visit this offbeat gem from the Vijayanagara era

Admiring the sculptures and carvings on the gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy Temple, Tadipatri

James Anderson, an architectural historian who wrote the famous book ‘ History of Indian and Eastern Architecture’, termed the imposing gopurams of this temple as ‘wonders’. Some of the finest carvings of the early Vijayanagar empire can be found here and there are many aspects of this temple that will leave you gaping in wonder. I am talking about the Bugga Ramalingeswara temple in the town of Tadipatri in the state of Andhra Pradesh and that is an offbeat gem from the Vijayanagara era.

Sculptures on the gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple annointed with vermilion

Built in the 15th century during the reign of the Saluva dynasty of the Vijayanagara kingdom, the Bugga Ramalingeswara temple is located by the banks of the Pennar river and is dedicated to Lord Shiva who exists here as a swayambhu linga. The interesting thing about this linga is that a perennial underground water spring keeps flowing from the base of the Shiva Linga even though the Shiva linga is about 17 to 18 feet higher than the Pennar river and that the Pennar river is dry for most of the year. This underground water spring is called Bugga in the local Telugu language and hence the name of this temple.

The musical pillars and the intricately sculpted gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

In spite of having been plundered many times by Muslim rulers, this architectural marvel of a temple has somehow managed to withstand the test of time. While its incomplete, yet majestic gopurams take center stage, it has beautiful carvings and sculptures all over the temple that tell different stories. It could be the sapta swaranga musical pillars in front of the Vishnu shrine (very similar to the musical pillars of the Vittala temple at Hampi), the beautiful carvings on the ceilings (very similar to the Hoysala style of temple architecture) or the epics depicted on the exterior temple walls.

A work of beauty - gopuram at Sri Bugga Ramalingeswara swamy temple, Tadipatri

The other interesting thing to note in this temple is the direction of the Shiva shrine. Unlike other temples where the gods face east, here the Shiva linga faces west and hence instead of the usual east facing gopuram in other temples of South India, the Bugga Ramalingeswara temple has gorgeously carved gopurams in the north, south and west. Out of these the South and the west facing gopurams act as the main entrances and the most intricate ones. The west facing gopuram connects to the Pennar river.

Ornate sculptures on the gopurams at Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple, Tadipatri

These gopurams and the carvings in the temple in overall depict the various avatars of Lord Shiva (Kevalamurti, Dakshinamurti, Uma Maheshwaramurti, Vrishabaruda murti, Natarajamurti, Ardhanarimurti and even the Haryadhra Murti) and his many life stories. Such richness of architectural expression is quite rare and an absolute treat for the true temple and culture lover. There is so much to see and learn here that pretty soon your neck will start hurting from all the looking up at the stunning pieces of art. If you are a Shiva bhakt or a lover of Shiva’s life stories, you will definitely appreciate this visual Shiva purana. In addition to the Shiva purana, you can also spot famous episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and popular mythological stories such as churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan).

The intricate work on the gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

So the next time you are looking for a day trip or weekend getaway from Bangalore, do keep this offbeat temple destination in mind. It will certainly help if you enjoy art, culture and temples, but even otherwise, its gopuram wonders are bound to leave you speechless with their sheer presence and rich work.

The helpful priest and the Sapta Swaranga pillars of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

How to reach there:

There are two popular routes to Tadipatri from Bangalore.

One is to take the 4 lane highway (NH 44) all the way to Anantpur and then take the state highway to Tadipatri. This route would be fast and is about 272 kms long.

The other option is to take NH 44 till Nagasamudram and then take the smaller roads to Tadipatri via Dharmavaram, Narapala and Muchukota. This road would be scenic post Nagasamudram and gives you an opportunity to experience the countryside of Andhra Pradesh. Dharmavaram is also a great place to stop for breakfast if you happen to leave Bangalore real early.

The main gopuram entrance of the Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

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, another Vijayanagara era temple

4) Gudibande Fort, a great fort and hike that offers some breathtaking views

5) Penukonda fort

6) Avalabetta, a lovely hill full of beautiful nature and great views

7) Skandagiri hill, a climb to see misty mountain top views

8) Chandarayana betta, a great place for a short hill climb

Bugga Ramalingeswara temple view from Pennar river

Best season to visit:

The post monsoon and winter months from October through February would be a great time to visit this temple. You can visit during the other months too. Just that it might be a bit too hot and humid for comfort.

The incomplete, yet massive gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri

Where to stay:

Tadipatri has a few budget hotels to cater to its visitors. If you want something luxurious, I would recommend that you head to Anantpur and if you feel like some adventure, stay in tents by the Pennar river at Gandikota.

If you are traveling from Bangalore, you can also visit this temple as part of a day-trip, thus avoiding any stay.

A moment from Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

Where to eat:

Tadipatri city has a lot of places to eat near the market street surrounding Sri Chintala Venkataramana temple. These are not high quality restaurants, but simple hotels serving delicious food. For something exquisite, you might have to go to Anantpur that is located about 55 kms away.

Colorful sarees and monotone colours of Bugga Ramalingeswara temple gopuram

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Chinta Venkataramana Swamy temple, another Vijayanagara era gem located just 1 km away

2) The natural wonder of Pennar river canyon at Gandikota

3) Belum caves, one of the longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent

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

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5 Great States in USA to Move to in 2019

Fall colours as seen from Hogback mountain, Vermont

The daily stress of life have a tendency bringing us down. Work, family, and, the constant grind could be too much to handle. Is there a solution to make ourselves feel better and rejuvenate? I have a small and effective suggestion. Let us have fun and a few laughs together before the end of the year. We can take a memorable road trip. Our adventure shall be visiting five great states to move to in 2019. This is going to be a great diversion from normal. There is no time to waste. The bus leaves in five minutes.

Vermont

Snow covered panorama as seen from Sugarbrush resort, Vermont

Our first stop is the state of Vermont, or the Green Mountain State. One of the safest states in the United States of America, Vermont is home to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Dairy farming is one of the state's primary industries. Vermont is second in the Crime and Corrections category and in the top ten for opportunity. Its location also makes it ideal to visit its northern neighbor of Canada.

In terms of culture, Vermont is a mix of modern, colonial and indigenous, which gives it an interesting mix. And it is also one of the least populous states in the United States of America.

Florida

Cruise ship arrives into Miami, Florida

Where do birds migrate for the winter? They fly south to warmer weather. Florida is our next destination. The cultural neighbourhood diversity and exciting entrepreneurial spirit make Florida a vibrant state. If you are looking to reside in Florida, it may be a good idea to consider the Jacksonville real estate market. Florida provides several possibilities in starting a new business venture and learning about its ethnically diverse neighbourhoods combined with mostly amazing year-round weather.

If you love the beach, open ocean and the sun, Florida has to be one of your top choices. You could even explore Cuba, the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America while staying here. And did I forget to mention that it is home to some of the best theme parks in the world, so the kids will always have a ball.

Minnesota

Gorgeous sunset colors at Pose Lake, Minnesota

I suggest you find your heavy coat. We are now traveling to the northern state of Minnesota. The average winter temperature is 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice hockey appears to be the preferred sport in this state due to its frigid weather. It is not always cold in Minnesota. The health care sector is red hot within this state. Plus, the drinking water and air quality are higher in this state than the national average. Their citizens enjoy easy access to health care services and the healthy yet freezing outdoors.

One of the northernmost states of USA, Minnesota is fondly referred to as the land of 10,000 lakes due to the many water bodies it has. It is home to a diverse culture and a lot of nature thus offering many interesting avenues for a wide variety of travelers. And for those who feel like an international trip, Canada is just a short drive away.

New Hampshire

A lush New Hampshire lake and forest landscape

We are commuting back to the East Coast. The next state on our list to visit is New Hampshire. New Hampshire was one of the 13 original colonies. Traditionally, New Hampshire has played a role in one of the nation's greatest tasks, holding the first primary election during election years. Today, New Hampshire has advanced with their "Smart Manufacturing" and high-tech industries account for a large segment of their overall economy. New Hampshire is a state combining their colonial beginnings with 21st-century technology and great educational institutions.

Again, it is one of those states that offer great avenues into nature, forests, mountains and water bodies, thus making it perfect for outdoor lovers. This small North Eastern state is a beautiful mix of nature, culture, colonial history, quality education and lots of job opportunities.

Washington

The gorgeous forests and national parks inside Olympic Peninsula, Washington

The number one spot goes to Washington state. Washington has a diverse landscape that includes everything from mountains to deserts with a lovely Pacific coastline. This state is known for the humble beginnings of Starbucks Coffee, the Boeing Company, and the Microsoft Company. U.S. News & World Report informs us Washington is in the top five for health care, education, economy, and, infrastructure. Washington state is the number one state to move to in 2019.

I would move to Washington state just for its gorgeous Olympic peninsula and national parks. Add to it moderate weather all round the year and excellent job opportunities, especially in the technology sector and you have a gem of a state.

This concludes our road trip together. We had a great time crisscrossing America. There was plenty to learn while visiting these five great states. America presents quite a few national treasures with lots of rich history and culture. What is your favorite state in the USA or where are you thinking to move in the future?

Photo Courtesy: Some of these photographs have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Friday, November 08, 2019

Getting back on the road – ways to get your money back after a holiday cancellation

So, where were you headed? Thailand? India? Europe? Maybe Australia? There’s nothing better than planning an incredible tour around some of the most culturally rich countries that the world has to offer. You can plan everything from the seat on your flight, to which iconic monuments you want to see, the food you want to try and of course how far you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It all makes for an incredible travel experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

You probably know how much time it takes to plan these trips, and how much financially you’ve invested in your journey, so to be told that your flights or your holiday is no longer available and its been cancelled indefinitely, is simply devastating. Take a look at this website for an infographic all about retrieving money from your cancelled travel plans.

How to get your money back if your holiday gets cancelled - 1
How to get your money back if your holiday gets cancelled - 2
How to get your money back if your holiday gets cancelled - 3

You now need to focus on getting your money back. But where should you start? Is it likely you’ll be refunded? How long does this process take? Luckily, I’ve included a helpful infographic below which will guide you through the process and highlight the options you have available. Check it out.

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Thursday, November 07, 2019

Melukote: Of Temples, Rustic Life, Iyengars, Puliyogare and Dark Deepavali

Stunning monsoon view of Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple, Melukote

Once you turn off the Mysore highway from Mandya, the sweet smell of sugar wafts in the air and the lush sugarcane plantations and coconut groves greet your eyes. The abundant waters of the Cauvery and the fertile soil ensures that this land is as beautiful and green as an Indian countryside can be. As you keep driving while getting high on the sweet fragrance of molasses, you start gaining elevation and the landscape changes from lush farmland to hillocks and rocks.

Melukote - the land of Vishnu temples, iyengars and Puliyogare

Somewhere in this hilly terrain is located a pretty little town that is known for its temples, stepwells and Vaishnava community. This town is Melukote, where you can hear more Tamil being spoken than Kannada and where you can see a lot of cultural fervour. A favorite destination for movie shoots, Melukote is a perfect cultural day trip getaway from Bangalore.

A rustic view of Melukote

It all started in the 12th century when the great Srivaishnava saint Ramanujacharya moved to Melukote and made this town his home for 14 years. Pretty soon, a large number of Iyengar brahmins followed him and settled here forming the Mandyan Iyengar community. Thus began the growth of cultural riches through temples, learning and institutions.

Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, Melukote

The Cheluvanarayana swamy temple existed even before the arrival of Sri Ramanujacharya, but it certainly grew in prominence and importance post his arrival. Legend has it that the utsavamurthi, a metallic image of Cheluva raya or Rama priya, was worshipped by both Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. It is believed that this utsavamurthi was lost before being recovered by Sri Ramanujacharya.

Lovely view of Melukote with the temple and the Kalyani

The temple grew in importance and stature under the able guidance of Sri Ramanujacharya and later under the patronage of the Mysore Maharajas. So did the Melukote town. Once Mysore Maharaja Raja Wodeyar I (1578 – 1617) adopted the Srivaishnava faith, he donated a lot of precious jewels and crowns to the temple and granted a lot of real estate to the brahmins and the custodians of this temple. Thus, began the story of riches of Melukote and its Mandyan Iyengars. This story of riches continued till the Marathas grew in strength.

The beautiful climb to Yoga Narasimha Swamy hill temple, Melukote

Once the Marathas grew in stature, they kept attacking different regions of the South and during these attacks, they plundered Melukote many times, including its temples. And then came the darkest day (November 10th, 1790 – the day of Naraka Chaturdasi or Deepavali) in the history of Melukote when Tipu Sultan slaughtered more than 800 Mandyan Iyengars for secretly working with the East India Company to dethrone him. To date, the people of Melukote mourn this event by not celebrating Deepavali.

Lush green view as seen from the top of Dhanush Kote near Melukote

Today’s Melukote is a combination of all these hundreds of years of history, architecture, culture and rustic charm. A trip to Melukote begins at Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple, the most important attraction of Melukote and that is situated right in the middle of the town. With some Hoysala, Vijayanagara and Chola temple architecture, this temple is more known for its large area than it is for its intricate work. It does not hollow pillars like that of Hampi and beautifully carved pillars, but carving is not its forte, but the aura of it.

Stunning carving work inside Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple. Melukote

The next important location in Melukote is the Yogi Narasimha temple that is located on a hill overlooking the town. It is this hill and the fort around it that are behind the name ‘Melukote’. A beautiful climb of 300 some steps (don’t miss out on the buttermilk or majjige on the way back) surrounded by trees takes you to the temple and the hill top. It is from here that one can see the big kalyani, the Melukote town, the Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple, the Raya gopura, the beautiful surrounding landscape and even Savanadurga hill in the background. A truly majestic view!

The Apsara on the mighty Raya Gopura overlooking Melukote

Another fort and view point is Dhanush kote. It is located about 3 kms behind Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple. There is no temple on the top, but it is home to a fort wall in ruins and some fantastic views. Enroute are the Akka Thangiyar Kalyani and the incomplete, yet magnificent Raya Gopura, that is a popular location for Kannada movie shoots. On the other side of the temple are the larger Kalyani, some more smaller temples, the narrow lanes of Melukote with traditional buildings including the library and an amazing village like character.

A rustic motorcycle ride to Melukote, Karnataka

And just outside the Melukote town is the Melukote temple wildlife sanctuary that protects the wild denizens of the land and that is an absolute joy to drive through. It’s remoteness and pristine environment is an absolute treat to the eyes and it is also a great place to spot many species of birds. And then there is lush farmland with paddy, sugarcane, coconut and vegetables.

The sugarcane route to Melukote, Karnataka

As you can see, there are a whole lot of attractions in this day trip getaway from Bangalore, but that is not its only charm. To understand Melukote’s culture better, strike a conversation with the friendly Mandyan Iyengars, hear some stories from them, understand their mannerisms, taste the Puliyogare (tamarind rice) that is their specialty and watch how they go about their daily life.

Melukote aerial view from Yoga Narasimha swamy temple, Melukote

For a day trip from Bangalore, Melukote packs all the right ingredients. It has a bit of history, some culture, good food, a couple of climbs, beautiful countryside, a rustic environment and most importantly, it is just 3 hours away from Bangalore city. A perfect off-beat day trip idea from Bangalore. Have you visited this place as yet? What did you think of it? Do let me know in the comments below.

The beautiful carvings on Raya Gopura, Melukote

Best month to visit Melukote:

Melukote can be visited all year around, but the climb to the top of Yoga Narasimha temple and Dhanush kote can be a bit tiring during the hot summer months. Winters would be best for such climbs, though my personal favorite is the monsoon season or just after the monsoons as that is when the entire landscape and the countryside is dressed in fresh green and the clouds add some drama to your pictures.

A serene Sunday morning at Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple, Melukote

Things to prepare for a trip to Melukote:

1) Two of the tourist attractions in Melukote require climbing steps and rocks. You will have to climb one of those barefoot, while for the other you can wear your footwear. Do carry a cap, sunscreen and/or sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. And may be a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

2) Do plan a full day visit if you wish to explore Melukote properly. A rushed visit will not allows you to experience the true character of this place.

3) The temples of Melukote close by 12 noon and reopen by 4 pm. Do remember this schedule if you plan on visiting the two temples.

Inside Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, Melukote

Top attractions in Melukote:

1) Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple, the highlight of a visit to Melukote

2) Yogi Narasimha Swamy temple, the hill top temple that offers great views of Melukote town

3) Raya Gopura, an incomplete carved gopuram that overlooks the Cheluvanarayana swamy temple and Melukote town

4) Dhanush kote, a fort and that offers great views of the lay of the land

5) Melukote wildlife sanctuary, a protected forest reserve that is known for its wolfs, jungle cats, leopards, macaques, langurs and many varieties of birds

6) Akka Thangiyar Kalyani, a beautiful stepwell just behind the Cheluvanarayana swamy temple

A Melukote panorama

How to reach Melukote:

There are two main routes to reach Melukote from Bangalore. One is from Mysore road and the other is Hassan-Mangalore road. Both of them are about 140 to 150 kms and take about 3 to 4 hours.

Bangalore to Melukote via the Mysore road: Bangalore –> Nice road –> Maddur –> Mandya –> Beechanahalli –> Melukote

Bangalore to Melukote via Mangalore road: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Yadiyur –> Nelligere –> Nagamangala –> Melukote

The nearest airport would be Mysore, though Bangalore would have the best air connectivity.

The nearest railway station would be Mandya.

Mighty big carved pillar at Ray Gopura, Melukote

How to commute in Melukote:

The various tourist attractions in Melukote are spread far and wide. It is best to have your own mode of transportation or else you can hire a local autorickshaw.

To reach Dhanush kote, Raya gopura and Yoga Narasimha temple, you will have to climb between 10 and 400 steps. Do be prepared for that.

Akka Thangi Kalyani at Melukote

Where to eat here:

Melukote is famous for its puliyogare and hence you can see many makeshift shops and stalls selling this local delicacy. If you are happy with just puliyogare and may be a cup of tea, then you can try out these stalls. If you want more options, try out the Subbanna mess that offer a wide range of delicious meals and snacks.

For good quality restaurants with a wide range of cuisines, you either have to head to Mysore, Mandya or Krishnarajapete where there are restaurants that would cater to your many culinary requirements.

Beautiful carvings on hollow pillars inside Melukote temple

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Sri Lakshmi Narayana Swamy temple at Hosaholalu – an offbeat temple day trip from Bangalore

2) Hemagiri Falls on the Hemavathi river

3) KRS dam and Brindavan gardens

4) Somnathpur Chennakeshava temple

5) Shravanabelagola Jain temple and Bahubali statue

6) Mysore palace and Chamundeshwari temple

7) The historical town of Srirangapatna

8) Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

9) Chennakeshava temple at Belur

10) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

11) Shettihalli Rosary church ruins

12) Thonnur lake for birdwatching and for a nature retreat.

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