September 2020 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava Temple: Hidden Sunday Getaway just two hours from Bangalore

Hidden Hoysala gem of Chenna Keshava Temple, Arlaguppe

It is a 13th century Hoysala temple gem that is extremely well preserved and that takes the intricacies of Hoysala temple architecture to another level. The longer you stay at this temple, the more its beauty will unravel on you. Such is its wondrous architecture. And the best part about this temple is that it is located less than three hours from Bangalore city. I am talking about the Chenna Keshava temple located in a quiet little village called Aralaguppe in the Tiptur taluk of Tumkur district.



Aralaguppe wasn’t always a quiet village. It flourished under the Ganga dynasty in the 9th century and then under the Kalyana Chalukyas and then the Hoysalas in the 13th century. It’s important place in these kingdoms can be seen through its spectacular temples. The older one, built by the Gangas is called Kalleshwara temple and the other is the Chenna Keshava temple that was built under the rule of the Hoysalas.

The offbeat Hoysala era Chenna Keshava temple at Arlaguppe, Karnataka

Today, Aralaguppe is a peaceful village surrounded by lush farms and connected by rickety-rackety roads. This countryside atmosphere sets the right mood for a visit to this 13th century Chenna Keshava temple. Located right in the middle of a Agraharam like setup, you have to cross pretty little houses to reach the entrance of this temple that is beautifully maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Venugopala and Maha Vishnu at Arlaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

The only thing missing here is access to a proper guide as there is so much to see, learn and experience here. Right from the jagati that is in the shape of a sixteen-pointed star, the two different types of Hoysala bands right above it, the gorgeous sculptures on the exterior wall, the entrance porch, the awe-inspiring navaranga (closed hall) and sukanasi (vestibule) to the garbha griha, every bit of this ekakuta (single shrine) temple is amazingly carved with gorgeous sculptures, shapes and designs that tell us stories from our rich past through some magnificent work of engineering and creativity.

Miniature sculptures with temple like structure on the top - unique to Chenna Keshava temple, Aralaguppe

The best way to experience the temples of the Hoysala era is to do a slow pradakshinam (circumambulation) of the temple premises from atop the jagati. Each pradakshinam will allow you to see the sculptures and carvings in new light. At some times, you might decipher stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas or Upanishads. And at other times, you might find unique design elements used to signify a certain position of the sculpture. And you might also see something that is truly unique to this temple from the entire Hoysala era.

Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe enjoys a pristine rustic location

One such unique thing in the Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe has to be the temple bands right above the jagati. Unlike the crocodiles and swans that make up the bands at most other Hoysala temples, the style found on the porch wall has five bands in total. Starting from below, we have elephants with riders going into battle, horsemen with swords and lances along with camels, a long creeper scroll, mythological scenes from Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana and miniature temples with a seated Yaksha. These miniature temples are unique to the Chenna Keshava temple and exist only near the entrance porch. At other places, they are replaced by the crocodiles and swans followed by the large size statues.

Minute attention to detail - Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

The other thing that catches your attention is the elaborately carved doorway and ornately carved mandapa ceiling. I could not take pictures inside the temple and hence cannot share them here, but I am pretty sure you jaw will drop open when you see them up close and in real. The mandapa ceiling is certainly an engineering marvel that will leave you scratching your head. The statue of Lord Chenna Keshava on an elevated pedestal inside the garbha griha is another work of pure art.

Yali or vaishya symbol inside Chenna Keshava temple at Arlaguppe

Symbols such as the one above also caught my attention as they are the traditional symbol of Vaishnavism that is so hard to find in other temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. But, the thing that I find the most impressive is how the entire plan looks like that of a pointed star and how the artisans managed to carve all the way from the jagati to the kalasa on the top. And it is not just plain carving, but one that hands to us Vaishnavism and Hinduism on a platter.

Every inch seems to be carved with rich detail - Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

The large statues on the outer wall that are bound to captivate everyone’s attention are ninety in total. 47 of these represent a male deity and the rest represent a female deity. 44 of these male sculptures depict Lord Vishnu is his various avatars. My favourite male sculptures are Kaliyamardana (Vishnu dancing on his serpent Adisesham), Lakshmi Narasimha (Lakshmi sitting on the left thigh of Ugra (angry) Narasimha), Rama with six hands, Vishnu holding sugarcane and dancing Ganesha.

Lakshmi Narasimha at Arlaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

From the female sculptures, the ones that caught my attention were dancing Saraswati and Mohini. Each one of these sculptures tell you stories that you know or have heard from your grandmother or mother.

Dancing Mohini at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

The lathe turned pillars that are a specialty of Hoysala artisans can be seen in the navaranga hall. The dvara palas in front of the garbha griha are also spectacular. There are so many elements to like in this temple that I can go on and on. Such is the beauty and aura of this Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe.

Intricate sculptures on a lotus like platform - Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

Photographs and videos cannot truly convey the real beauty of this place. You have to visit it in person to have the true experience. And under 3 hours from Bangalore, it gives you the perfect excuse for a hidden Sunday getaway. It does not matter whether you are a photo-enthusiast, a culture lover, an art student or just a simple traveler, Aralaguppe’s Chenna Keshava temple is bound to bowl you over with its intricate beauty and rustic charm. I cannot stop recommending this hidden Hoysala gem to all of you!

Maha Vishnu sculpture at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

Best season to visit:

The Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe is open all year around and can be visited even during the peak summer months. But, if you wish for an overall package with greenery, a comfortable road trip and pleasant weather, then visit during the rains or during the winter months.

Dancing Ganesha at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

How to get there:

There are two ways to get to Aralaguppe from Bangalore.

Option 1: Bangalore –> Tumkur –> Gubbi –> Kibbenahalli cross –> Aralaguppe. This is the main highway and is mostly crowded with heavy vehicles. It is not my preferred option.

Option 2: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Yadiyur –> Turuvekere –> Aralaguppe. This is a mix of 4 lane highways that are not as crowded as the Tumkur highway and quiet 2 lane countryside state highways and finally a dusty last 5 km village road. This route has access to many restaurants, gas stations and is greener than other routes.

Extremely detailed sculpting at Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

Temple timings:

The Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe is open from 8 AM to 5 PM. The temple priest is not present throughout the day and may drop by once in the morning for the daily mangalaarti.

There is a security person appointed by ASI who takes care of the temple and also doubles up as a guide. In case you find the temple gate locked, just hang around and call out for the security and he will come by and open the gate for you.

Dancing Saraswati at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

Where to stay:

The nearest places to offer accommodation would be Tiptur or Tumkur. However, if you crave for more variety or if you wish for luxury, you will have to stay in Bangalore.

If you yearn for some greenery, head to Hassan or Chickmagalur for stay inside coffee estates and spice plantations.

The rustic atmosphere of Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

Where to eat:

The nearest place to find restaurants would be Turuvekere, but if you wish for a wider range of options, you will either have to head to Tumkur city or make your way to the restaurants on the Hassan – Bangalore highway.

My favorite place to eat in this region is Hotel Madihalli Naveen, a simple family run place just outside of Tiptur city that has been dishing out traditional lip smacking breakfast items and snacks for the last 40 years.

The tilting sculptures of Arlaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

Other Hoysala era temples nearby:

1) Chennakeshava temple at Turuvekere

2) Ishvara temple at Arsikere

3) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

4) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli

5) Chennakeshava temple at Anekere

6) Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri

7) Panchalingeswara temple at Govindanahalli

8) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu

9) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli

Hindu gods, their life stories, epics and much more on the walls of Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shettihalli rosary church ruins in the Hemavati reservoir

2) Jayamangali Blackbuck reserve at Maidenahalli – a great wildlife getaway super close to Bangalore

3) The temple town of Melukote famous for its iyengars and their delicious puliyogare

4) The Jain pilgrimage site of Sharavanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue

4) The toy town of Channapatna

5) The riverine island and temple town of Srirangapatna

6) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace

7) Ranganathittu bird sanctuary – a haven for birds on the Cauvery

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Top Things to do in Cancun, Mexico

The emerald waters of Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is one of the three constituents of Mayan Riviera, one of the most popular beach destinations that fall across the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. From December to April, millions of tourists visit this spot to relish its white sandy beaches and the clear waters every year. Cancun is known for its diverse culture and rich traditions. It offers a variety of adventurous water sports and other activities and the historical relics and architecture of the Mayan civilization. The best thing about the place is that you have so much to do, and it's moderately cheaper than it should be. Here are a few places to wander around and activities that you should check out if you visit Cancun.

Underwater world


The hidden underwater world is, by every means, a must-visit. The rivers that flow in the Yucatan peninsula are home to the longest underground linkage of rivers and caves in the whole world. The underwater swimming can keep your adrenaline thrusting, and guess what, it can be done throughout the year. These crystal waters can be experienced at a nearby spot called Xcaret. The rivers are clear and quiet, a perfect place for you to lie down and take a break. There are parks as well that you can enjoy, such as Xplor and Xcaret.

Paddleboarding


Aerial shot of Cancun, Mexico

If you love adventures, then stand-up paddle-boarding is something you should give a try. It is a refreshing exercise that you can enjoy in the clean waters of the city. You can take lessons or just grab the board and start paddling on your own. It's a fun activity that will be on your bucket list if you ever visit Cancun.

Catamaran Cruise


If you're looking for places to visit just to enjoy your family time and relax, then the Catamaran cruise is where you should be. The Catamaran takes you offshore to delight in the striking sun with a cocktail in hand, enjoying the passing sights and the clear open sea. The cruise offers both multicultural and native cuisines as well.

Also, within the city, you can get a pirate ship tour (it's 100% sure you're going to love it). The best thing about it is that this activity it's recommended and accessible for the whole family.

Also, visit this post about things to do in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Chichen Itza


The white sandy beaches and azure waters of Cancun, Mexico

One of the seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza, is undoubtedly one of Mexico's most popular tourist attractions. The city contains a mix of iconic and ancient sites that had been formed in the era of the Mayan civilization. It is said to be one of the legendary cities of Mesoamerica. It has many historical buildings and architecture that have been standing for more than thousands of years. El Castillo, or the temple of Kukulkan, is one of the city's most prominent tourist destinations. If you're interested in archaeology and love wandering around mythical areas, Chichen Itza is the place for you.

Forum by the Sea


Done taking a break and ready to party? Forum by the Sea has got you covered. It is a large shopping area located in the heart of Cancun's nightlife. It is a quintessential spot for you to visit if you love partying and social gatherings. It has malls, access to the beach, and discos. Coco Bongo is the most popular of the night clubs in the city where you can enjoy music, dance, and a full-on party atmosphere.

You can also visit the city breakwater, where you can get incredible shots to cherish and share! (as well as it is a spectacular place to appreciate the sunset and have a bit of calm before living Cancun Nightlife)

ATV Activities


If you want to experience the city's calming nature, there are a lot of opportunities for you to try ATVs in Cancun. You can go through the jungle, explore the area, have a little picnic, and ATV throughout the day.

Xoximilco


Looking to experience some traditional Cancun activities, this Mexican fiesta is a definite activity to participate in. The festivity starts with you getting on a lively gondola. Voyaging through the canals, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and try mouth-watering Mexican cuisines with live music and dances.

How to get Around in Cancun


Gorgeous beach at Cancun Island, Mexico

Getting around Cancun can be a bit tedious if you haven't taken the right steps to acquire the transportation method you deserve.

To move around the Cancun in a safe, fast, and accessible way, you can get a Cancun airport transportation service that will take you to your destination, whether you decide to move around the city on an open service or directly to your destination and without stopping.

If you want to move more freely, you can also rent a car in Cancun or get a Cancun Airport Taxi service. These are usually also economic (although our recommendation is private transportation) due to the security level that these services provide.

What to eat in Cancun?


Eating in Cancun will not be a difficult task at all. There are vegan restaurants, Asian, Mediterranean, and obviously Mexican-American restaurants. Also, many options will adapt to your budget to visit the city or its surroundings.

Photo Copyright: All the photographs in this article 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, September 25, 2020

Talasi Abbi Falls: Hidden Tropical Beauty in the Western Ghats of Karnataka

Talasi Abhi Falls near Mastikatte

Monsoon in the Western Ghats and waterfall holidays are synonymous. This wet season brings to life many waterfalls and streams and their tropical setting, lush environment and thunderous force simply absorbs all of your mental and physical stress. One such tropical waterfall is the Talasi Abbi falls that lies hidden in the Western Ghats between Mastikatte and Tirthahalli in the Malnad region of Karnataka. The place is so remote that you might lose your way a couple of times before you find the right path. And unlike the more popular waterfalls of the Western Ghats, there will be hardly any people here. At the maximum, there might be one or two groups in addition to yours. And unlike the bigger waterfalls, you can actually get close to this waterfall and enjoy a shower right under it.



To me, Talasi Abbi falls is the perfectly hidden waterfall holiday during the monsoons. The green environment, the pristine waterfall, the mountain stream, the sounds of nature, the short tropical trek, the steep climb down the slippery rocks, the water baby moments, the picnic brunch, the lack of crowds and all the other fun and frolic make it a dream come true. A waterfall holiday in the monsoons does not get any better. I would certainly recommend it to all waterfall lovers and monsoon chasers. My only request to you would be to carry every single bit of trash back with you to civilization.

The multi-tiered Talasi Abhi Falls between Hulikal and Teerthahalli

Best season to visit:

Talasi Abbi Falls is best visited during the monsoons or right after as that is when the waterfall will be in full flow and the surrounding forest will be lush and refreshing.

Things to note:

1) The trail will be slippery, so do exercise caution, especially when climbing down the rocks from the top of the waterfall to the stream below

2) Leeches will be abundant during the monsoons. They are perfectly harmless, but if they bother you, do come prepared with leech socks or other preventive ideas

3) You will certainly want to bathe under the waterfall. Do come prepared with your swim wear, towels and dry clothes

4) There are hardly any places to find anything to eat or drink nearby. It would be best to carry your own picnic basket so that you can enjoy your picnic brunch in the lap of nature

Posing at the pristine environment near Talasi Abhi Falls

How to reach there:

Talasi Falls lies on the Mastikatte – Tirthahalli road. As soon as you hit Yadur, you have to turn inside towards the waterfall. About 2 kms after the turning, there is a small parking spot where you can park your vehicle and proceed to cover the last 2 kms to the waterfall by foot. There is a good chance that you might not be able to find the parking location and the waterfall. It is best to check with locals on the right way. The trail from the parking lot will lead you to the top of the waterfall. You will have to climb down rocks to reach the bottom of the waterfall.

If you are traveling from the coast, you can take the Hulikal ghat, go all the up to Mastikatte and turn towards the Tirthahalli road. If you are are traveling from Sagara, you first reach Mastikatte and then get onto the Tirthahalli highway.

If you are traveling from Shimoga or Agumbe, you can turn at Tirthahalli and take the Mastikatte highway.

Nearest airport would be Mangalore international airport.

It is best to have your own mode of transportation.

The hidden Talasi Abhi Falls of Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kavaledurga Fort: A 9th century fort surrounded by the forests and mountains of the Western Ghats

2) Nagara Fort: A 16th century capital of the Keladi rulers

3) Varahi and Mani Reservoirs: Large water bodies in the Uttara Kannada region of Karnataka

4) Kunchikal Falls: One of the highest waterfalls of India

5) Hulikal ghat and Hulikal Falls: One of the wettest places in Karnataka

6) Thombattu Falls: A slightly offbeat waterfall in the Western Ghats

7) Agumbe: A village known for its rainforests, waterfalls, King Cobras and Malgudi Days setting

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Maravanthe Beach: The Highway Rider’s Favorite Pit Stop

The sea, the highway and the river - Maravanthe, Karnataka

Many years ago, when it used to be a 2 lane highway, it used to be everybody’s favorite pit stop. It didn’t matter whether you were a truck driver, a motorcyclist or a family traveling by car, you wanted to stop here, feel the breeze, hear the sound of waves thrashing next to the road and soak in the stunning views of two water bodies straddling either side of the national highway.

Today, the 2 lane highway has been replaced by a 4 lane highway. And in spite of the change, this place still continues to be the highway rider’s favorite pit stop. I am talking about Maravanthe beach located by the National Highway 66 on the West coast of India.

The river environment at Maravanthe, Karnataka

To the West of the highway lies the Arabian Sea and the sound, smell and breeze of the ocean. And to the East lies the Sowparnika river that runs parallel to the highway before it travels south and joins the Panchagangavali river and dumps into the Arabian Sea. While hues of blue greets you on the ocean side, the river side greets you with hues of green with swaying palms and lush greenery, thus making for an interesting diversity in panorama.

While you might not be able to walk on the beach here as there are rocks here to prevent sea erosion, you can certainly enjoy the amazing sea breeze and the sound of the waves hitting these rocks. During the monsoons, it becomes more magical as the waves turn rowdy, the winds start howling and the rains pick up in intensity. While the ocean side is always in motion, the river side is a calm sight unless the river is in flood or it has turned brown after some fresh rain.

Maravanthe beach - An iconic highway pit stop of Karnataka

If you feel like a beach, there are sandy stretches to the south of the highway (towards Kundapur) where it looks even better. Olive ridley turtles still come by to lay their eggs every year.

There are a few shacks serving hot beverages and some biscuits and/or chips in case you want some food for company. These shacks are on the beach side and are located at one end of the highway.

The Maravathe beach highway drive

NH 66 is one amazingly scenic highway that winds its way all the way from Panvel to Kanyakumari via mountains, rivers, waterfalls, villages, cities and beaches. And Maravanthe is like a jewel in its crown. Don’t miss to stop here on your next road trip on National Highway 66.

The gorgeous Maravanthe beach of Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kodi beach – This is a beautiful beach where the Panchagangavali river mees the Arabian Sea.

2) Udupi Krishna temple – This is one of the iconic Krishna temples of India.

3) Hulikal Ghat – This is one of the wettest places in Karnataka and is known for its waterfalls, forests, views and flora and fauna.

4) Agumbe – This rainforest, also one of the wettest places in Karnataka is famous for its waterfalls, sunset points and the King Cobra.

5) Kollur – This quiet town in the Western Ghats is known for its Mookambika temple and the Kodachadri hill that offers gorgeous views of the Linganamakki reservoir.

6) Hebri – This place is known for river rafting on the Sita river during the monsoons and for the trek to Kudlu Teertha waterfalls.

7) Ottinene Beach – This pristine beach is formed at the place where the Sumana and Byndoor rivers join the Arabian Sea.

8) Murudeshwar – The sea side temple town that is known for its large Shiva statue and for its beautiful Shiva temple.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hulikal Ghat: The Monsoon Giant of Karnataka

The panoramic Shola forest view from Hulikal ghat, Karnataka

It is one of the wettest places in Karnataka, in the Western Ghats and also in India. I am talking about Hulikal Ghat or Balabare Ghat, the monsoon giant that is nestled in the Western Ghats just south of Shimoga and Tirthahalli. Connecting the Shimoga district with the district of Udupi, this lush mountain and forest expanse of the Western Ghats attracts monsoon laden clouds like clockwork every year between May and November. Such is the quantity of precipitation here that it gives birth to one of the tallest waterfalls in India – the Kunchikal Falls. Not many know about it as it is part of a hydro electric project (Varahi project) and hence off limits for the general public. This Kunchikal falls is said to be taller than Jog Falls of Karnataka and the Noh Kalikai Falls of Meghalaya.



But, Hulikal is not just about the Kunchikal Falls. The heavy precipitation (6000 to 10,000 mm every year) that it receives gives birth to many streams that travel in all directions to join different rivers. And not just streams, but an entire ecosystem spanning shrubs, fungi, evergreen forests, rainforests, shola forests, insects, birds, animals, reptiles and so much more. Riding or driving through the Hulikal Ghats during the monsoon is nothing short of magical. The innumerable waterfalls falling right next to the highway, the floating mist cover, the vast expanse of greenery, the beautiful curves and the richer environment all make for a heady concoction. Add to it a tiny village, a cup of steaming hot coffee in your hand, the melody of the forest and you think you are living in a dream.

The grogeous Hulikal Ghat road

It doesn’t matter whether you are on a bicycle, motorcycle or inside a car, Hulikal ghat is bound to bowl you over with its amazing beauty. And if you happen to be a monsoon chaser or love rains, you are bound to fall in love with this monsoon giant. After all, not many places in the world get as much rainfall as Hulikal Ghats and this abundant rainfall gives birth to vibrant nature, one that is pleasing and calming for the senses. Do let me know what you think of Hulikal Ghat when you plan your next road trip there.

Gorgeous Hulikal Falls on the Hulikal ghat highway

Where to stay:

There are no places to stay on the Hulikal ghat.

If you don’t mind simple places, PWD has a rest house near Mastikatte. You could try there.

If you wish for luxurious accommodation, do head to Sagara, Shimoga, Kundapura or Udupi.

If homestays are your thing, you will find quality homestays near Tirthahalli, Agumbe and Sringeri.

The lush green expanse as seen from the Hulikal ghat of Karnataka

Where to eat:

The best place to eat would be Mastikatte as there are a few restaurants serving good food. There are also a few small hotels serving simple food and snacks on the Mastikatte-Tirthahallli road.

Hulikal Falls by the Hulikal ghat highway of Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kunchikal Falls – one of the tallest waterfalls of India

2) Talasi Abhi Falls – a remote waterfall ideal for a short trek and offbeat picnic

3) Kavaledurga Fort – a 9th century fort that commands stunning views of the Varahi reservoir and the Western Ghats

4) Thombattu Falls – a wide waterfall on the Thombattu river

5) The rainforest village of Agumbe known for its King Cobras, waterfalls, treks and sunset points

6) The reservoirs of Mani Dam and Savehoklu

7) Nagara Fort – a gorgeous fort built during the reign of the Keladi dynasty

8) Chandikamba temple – a pretty temple located on the main ghat turn and that offers great views of the lush forest

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