January 2021 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Thamirabarani River Delta: A Motorcycle Route full of Rustic Gorgeousness

A scenic motorcycle ride through the lush Thamarabharani delta of India's deep south

This perennial holy river is the lifeline of India’s deep south. Originating in the Agasthyamalai biosphere reserve, the Thamirabarani river criss-crosses through tropical forests comprising of medicinal plants and herbs, tumbling into many waterfalls, crossing many lush agriculture driven ancient villages before it joins the Bay of Bengal between Tiruchendur and Tuticorin. In its short journey of 128 kms from start to end, it leaves a significant impact on the people of South Tamil Nadu. Not only because it is the only perennial river of Tamil Nadu, but also because its presence has given birth to a rich ecosystem, a spectacular landscape, a vibrant culture and some fantastic people.

The story of Thamirabarani river is so rich that one can do a road trip tracing the journey of the river from top to end. But, if you don’t have that kind of time, you most certainly can explore the Thamirabarani river delta that is full of lush green landscapes, magical villages, gorgeous temples and some amazing traditions.

Thamirabarani river, which literally means copper colored leaf or river of red leaves, is recognized as a holy river in the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and ancient Sangam Tamil literature. Many famous temples can be found on its banks. Some of these temples were built during the reign of the earlier Pandyan kings, while some are from a much earlier time. It’s year round water supply and many irrigation channels ensures that most of its path remains lush and fertile throughout the year, thus giving birth to multiple cycles of paddy, banana and other agriculture. This abundant farmland along with pretty little villages is one of the main charms of following the Thamirabarani river and more so along the delta where this green view spreads as far as the eyes can see.

Umpteen bridges, miles and miles of paddy, fresh banana plantations, palm trees and the Thamirabarani river and its tributaries and distributaries greet you along the route. Sivalaperi village, where the last tributary ‘Chittar’ joins the Thamirabharani to Punnaikayal and Pazhayakayal where Thamirabarani joins the Bay of Bengal at the Gulf of Mannar is the stretch of the rich Thamirabarani delta. Sri Kailasanatahr temple at Murappunadu, Amman Kovil at Ponnankurichi, Srivaikuntam, Alwarthirunagari, Agni Teertham beach and the Tiruchendur Murugan temple are some of the key highlights on this eye catching route.

The colors of the Thamarabharani delta of Tamil Nadu

The villages of Thamirabarani are its main charm. And this route has such villages by the dozen. Each one more charming and captivating than the other. If you are looking for a seriously offbeat motorcycling route, the Thamirabarani river delta highway has to one of the top choices, especially if you happen to go on a ride during the North East monsoon or right after it. From the Western Ghats to the Bay of Bengal or from Sivalaperi village to Agni Teertham beach, the Thamirabarani way of life is bound to bowl you over. I can’t stop raving about it. May be, because, I have Thamirabarani in my DNA too!

Colorful scenes at Tiruchendur Murugan Temple

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Tuticorin. The nearest large railway station would be Tirunelveli. The nearest large bus station would also be Tirunelveli.

The Tirunelveli to Tiruchendur route is the one that gives you the best view of the Thamirabarani delta. You can also find lush countryside view between Papanasam and Tirunelveli.

The rich paddyfields in the Thamarabharani delta of India's deep South

Where to stay:

If you prefer luxurious accommodation, try out the hotels in Tirunelveli.

If you prefer village stays, try out homestays or Airbnb in the Thamirabarani countryside.

If you prefer forest stays, try the forest accommodation inside Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve.

The holy beach at Tiruchendur, Tamil Nadu

Where to eat:

You will find traditional meals at many villages along the Thamirabarani river. My personal favorites are Hotel Ramanas at Ambasamudram and the traditional chukku kaapi near its waterfalls or at Papanasam. The villages along the Thamirabarani are also famous for nongu and padhani, the refreshing and very delicious fruit and drink.

If you wish to eat at nicer places, I would recommend the city of Tirunelveli. Hotel Nellai Saravana Bhavan, Janakiram, Ramprasad and Annapoorna are the top choices for delicious vegetarian food. Do not miss to taste the iconic dessert of Tirunelveli at Iruttu Kadai Halwa.

The main gopuram of Tiruchendur Murugan Temple

Places worth seeing close to the Thamarabharani river:

1) Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: Thamirabarani river and its tributaries flow through this pristine ecosystem

2) 7th century Nellaiappar Temple: A massive temple that is located by the banks of the Thamirabarani river

3) 1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple: A temple located right next to the Thamirabarani river only a few kilometers from its starting point

4) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the saaral season that is located on the banks of the Thamirabarani river

5) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination

6) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea-shore magic located very close to where the Tamirabarani river meets the sea

7) Manjolai: The hill station of South Tamil Nadu famous for its tea estates, panoramic vistas and rich wildlife

8) Agastiyar Falls: One of the many gorgeous waterfalls on this river

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Monday, January 18, 2021

Doddagaddavalli Lakshmi Devi Temple: One of the earliest known Hoysala Temples

A moment in time - Lakshmi Devi temple, Doddagaddavalli

This early 12th century soapstone temple happens to be one of the earliest known temples built in the Hoysala era. It is the only chatushkuta (four shrines) temple built by the Hoysala dynasty. It was the first grand temple dedicated to goddess Lakshmi in the South of India. There are many architectural aspects to it that are unique to this temple only and not found in any of the other Hoysala temples. I am talking about the architectural beauty called Lakshmi Devi temple that is located in the village of Doddagaddavalli.

Dancing Shiva on the ceiling of Lakshmi Devi temple, Doddagaddavalli

Located somewhere between Belur and Hassan, the Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddvalli is a rural holiday gem set amidst a sleepy village, coconut plantations and a lake. Many things about this temple are unique. It doesn’t have a jagati or raised platform that is common with other Hoysala temples. It has a combination of Kadamba and Dravidian shikharas. It has 4 shrines. And unlike the other Hoysala temples, it lacks ornate sculptures and intricate carvings. From a Hoysala perspective, it is a rather simple temple. May be, the architects started practicing their craft here.

Betala standing guard in front of Shanta rupa Kali, Doddagaddavalli

Unlike most of the Hoysala temples, which are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the one at Doddagaddavalli is dedicated to goddess Lakshmi Devi. Maha Lakshmi faces east and right opposite her is the shrine of Lord Shiva facing west. Goddess Kali is located facing South and Lord Vishnu is located right opposite her facing north.

As you enter the temple premises, you pass through a small hall with lathe turned pillars before you step into a courtyard with multiple shikharas showcasing Hoysala emblems. As you approach the door to this chatushkuta, you will see two large sculptures of females with intricate jewellery.

Scary looking nude Betalas stand guard in front of Kali shrine at Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli

As soon as you enter the ranga mantapa, you will notice the shrine of Mahakali shrine to your left. As your eyes adjust to the dimly lit interiors, you will notice the two life size nude betalas standing guard in front of the Maha Kali shrine. While these betalas look scary, the statue of Maha Kali looks just the opposite and is very peace inspiring. She has been showcased in her Shanta Swaroop. If you look up at the ceiling right next to the Maha Kali shrine, you will notice a dancing Shiva and also Lord Shiva playing his Rudra Veena.

Early 12 th century Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli, Karnataka

If you continue to look up flashing a torchlight at the ceiling, you will see the different Vaastu devatas at different directions that they are lord of. You will see Kubera and Rambha on a horse in the north direction, Agni riding on a one horned ram and holding his weapon Shakti in the south-east direction, Yama riding his buffalo and holding his danda in the South, Goddess Niruti in her human form in the south-west, and Varuna riding a crocodile in the West. In the center of the hall, you will also notice Lord Indra with his consort Indrani on his Airavat elephant.

Kubera and Rambha in the north direction on the ceiling of Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli

In the main shrine, goddess Lakshmi, facing East, holds a conch in her upper right hand, a chakra in her upper left hand, a rosary in her lower right and a mace in her lower left hand. There are female attendants on both her sides. And right opposite her shrine is the shrine of Lord Shiva as Bhootanatha with his sons Karthik (Subramanya) and Ganesh on his either side. This shrine to Lord Shiva also makes it a rare Hoysala temple that has shrines to both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and their respective consorts.

Stone carving remnants of Lakshmi Devi temple shrines

Overall, the Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli is an architectural gem from the Hoysala era and is a must visit on your Hoysala temple trail. Its offbeat nature, beautiful rustic setting and unique design elements make it a top destination on the Hoysala temple trail. I absolutely love this temple and would recommend it within a heartbeat. Do remember to carry a good flashlight with you to appreciate the carvings on the ceiling.

The entrance view of Lakshmi Devi temple, Doddagaddavalli

Guide services for the temple:

If you wish to know the rich history of the Lakshmi devi temple at Doddagaddavalli, it is best to hire a government guide from Belur or Halebid and bring him over here. If you are staying at Hoysala village resort, you can also hire their in-house travel guide.

In case you don’t have access to any guide, it is best to read up a bit on the internet about this temple and ask the ASI caretaker at the temple campus to show you around and share his knowledge with you. You might want to tip the caretaker for his services.

A Hoysala era specialty - Doddagaddavalli temple

How to reach there:

There are 2 different routes by road to approach the temple:

1) Tiptur – Shimoga route: Bangalore –> Kunigal –> Yediyur –> Turuvekere –> Tiptur –> Arsikere –> Banavara –> Belur –> Doddagaddavalli

2) Hassan route: Bangalore –> Kunigal –> Channarayapatna –> Hassan –> Doddagaddavalli

The nearest railway station would be Hassan.

The nearest airport would be Mangalore airport, but the one with the best connectivity would be Bangalore international airport.

Large sculpture at the entrance to the ranga mantapa at Lakshmi Devi temple, Doddagaddavalli

Temple timings:

The Lakshmi devi temple at Doddagaddavalli opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. The ASI caretaker / security guard / farmer stays close by. Do give a look around and shout out if you find the premises locked. This ASI caretaker will also double up as your guide in case you do not have one or you wish to know more about this beautiful temple.

The priest visits the temple in the early hours of the morning to perform the daily puja. Do get his number in advance in case you wish to offer archana or wish to watch the daily puja.

Shiva Parvati on Nandi - on the ceiling of Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli

Where to stay:

If you wish for close proximity and something cheap, there are a lot of budget hotels in and around Belur and Halebid.

If you want something luxurious, look up the Hoysala village resort between Belur and Hassan.

If you wish to stay amidst coffee estates and pristine nature, look up the homestays, hotels and resorts located in Chickamagaluru. Some of these would be farm stays or plantation stays.

Gargoyle at Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Karnataka

Where to eat:

You can hardly find anything to eat at Doddagaddavalli. If you seek a decent hotel or a restaurant, head to Belur or Halebid

If you want high quality dining with good washrooms and ample parking space, I would recommend that you visit Hoysala village resort that is located between Belur and Hassan.

If you wish to dine amidst nature, look up the restaurants in and around Chickmagalur.

Ancient stone carvings at Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli

Other offbeat Hoysala temples nearby:

1) Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi

2) Chenna Keshava temple at Javagal

3) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

4) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli

5) Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri

6) Panchalingeshwara temple at Govindanahalli

7) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Hosaholalu

Lord Shiva playing his Rudra veena carved on the ceiling of Doddagaddavalli Lakshmi Devi temple

8) Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpur

9) Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe

10) Chenna Keshava temple at Turuvekere

11) Ishvara temple at Arsikere

12) Chenna Keshava temple at Anekere

13) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu

14) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli

The oldest Hoysala era temple

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shettihalli rosary church ruins in the Hemavati reservoir

2) The hill station and coffee estates of Chickamagaluru

3) The wide Hemagiri falls on the Hemavati reservoir

4) The temple town of Melukote famous for its Iyengars and delicious puliyogare

5) The Jain pilgrimage site of Shravanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue

6) The hill station of Kemmangundi

7) The beautiful Hebbe falls surrounded by coffee estates

8) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace

9) The butterfly forest of India called Bisle Ghat

10) The world famous Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

11) The world famous Chenna Keshava temple at Belur

12) Bhadra tiger reserve that is known for its river terns, tigers and leopards

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Monday, January 11, 2021

The Wild Riches of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve: A Wildlife Photo Story

A healthy male spotted leopard has just spotted its prey at Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

It is one of those national parks in India where you can see the tiger, leopard, black panther, wild dog (dhole), sloth bear and gaur in addition to other species of wild animals. It is a wildlife destination that has shown a healthy increase in tiger and leopard population in the last few years. As I see it, the wild denizens seem to thrive here. I am talking about Maharashtra’s Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, one of my favorite wildlife holiday destinations in India.

Located in the heart of Central India and not too far away from Nagpur, Tadoba Andhari Tiger reserve is a beautiful mix of water bodies, rivers, tropical dry deciduous forests, dense woodlands and a diverse variety of grasses including bamboo thickets. Even though it looks quiet from the outside, it is a thriving ecosystem of wild nature.

This article aims to show you the wild riches of this national park through photos of its wildlife. Hope it tempts you to plan a wildlife holiday here!

Above photo: An adult male leopard is tracking its prey with rapt attention

Alpha male and female wild dogs from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra, India

Above photo: An alpha wild dog couple are seen tracking the smell of their prey on the forest floor. They are one of the most efficient hunters of Tadoba

The arrogant and mean stride of a big male tiger from Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

Above photo: This big male has just spent time cooling himself at a water body. Now, he is ready to head back into the dense thicket for some hunting

A Tadoba Tiger Reserve Wildlife Jeep Safari Experience

Above photo: Most predators seem to enjoy the soft mud of the jeep tracks. These wild dogs (dhole) are no different. They are busy scouring for their next prey

A Tadoba wildlife jeep safari leopard road crossing experience

Above photo: An adult leopard proudly crosses the road inside the forest while the forest jeeps make a beeline to catch one glimpse of this majestic creature

Gaur mother and calf grazing at Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

Above photo: The bodybuilders of Tadoba, this is a female gaur and her calf. The male gaur are known to weight anywhere between 1.5 to 2 tons

Indian Pitta - Front from Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

Above photo: One of the most vibrant and colourful birds of TATR, this is the Indian Pitta that loves the forest floor and dense bamboo thickets

Sloth bear roams the jungles of Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

Above photo: A sloth bear crosses a jeep track inside the Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve. A not so common sighting

Female Sambar Deer at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve

Above photo: A female sambar deer was busy foraging on the forest floor when she senses something wrong. Watch the upright tail and cocked ears

Big Healthy Matkasur Male Tiger of Tadoba

Above photo: Looks like he has just returned from a fight. A tiger catches his breath and recovers under the shade of a bamboo thicket

Brown Fish Owl at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve

Above photo: A brown fish owl, one of the larger species of owl in India

A Tadoba spotted leopard crossing a jeep track

Above photo: A leopard keeps cutting the jeep track in search of its prey and we happily oblige and follow him

Yellow footed green pigeon - the state bird of Maharashtra - seen at Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

Above photo: The pretty looking yellow footed green pigeon is the state bird of Maharashtra

Barking Deer from Tadoba Tiger Reserve, India

Above photo: The rare sighting of a barking deer, one of the smaller species of deer in Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve


Above photo: An adult make tiger makes its way into the deep woodland after a much needed soak in a water hole

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Thursday, January 07, 2021

Kibber: The Village of the Snow Leopard

Kibber - the highest polling station in India

It is one of the highest villages in the world. It was once the highest polling station in India, before losing the numero uno position to Tashigang. It is one of the highest motorable villages in the world. Spiti valley’s Kibber holds many such accolades, but the one that makes it really special is the fact that it home to the endangered snow leopard.

Located in the high Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 14, 200 feet, Kibber is primarily an agrarian village. The famous Ki monastery of Spiti valley is located just a few kilometers away and the high altitude villages of Tashigang, Langza, Komic and Hikkim are located close by. Kaza, the main city in the region is located about 20 kms away.

To a first timer, Kibber is special for its Tibetan style stone and brick houses, its high altitude landscapes, its pretty little meadows that come to life during the summer months and the star studded night sky.  But, if you look closer, you will see the wild riches of Kibber. Surrounding the village is the Kibber wildlife sanctuary that is home to high altitude animals such as the Ibex, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Wolf, Tibetan Wild Ass and the elusive snow leopard. Kibber wildlife sanctuary is one of India’s few wildlife sanctuaries that is located in a cold desert. This terrain is not only amicable to wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, but also to trekkers and mountaineers.

If you like remote high altitude villages with pure air, simple homestays, simple food and are into star-gazing, wildlife sighting and trekking, then Kibber village is for you. Like Langza, Kibber is also home to many marine fossils. Overall, Kibber offers a solid package to its visitors. I cannot stop raving enough about its beauty.

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Langza: The Himalayan village that is known for fossils of marine animals

2) Dhankar: Prettiest village of Spiti

3) Komic: One of the world’s highest villages with road connectivity

4) Pin valley national park: Heaven for trekkers and nature lovers

5) Chandra Taal Lake: A magical family camping destination in the Himalayas

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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Best Entertainment Apps to Take Traveling

Best entertainment apps to use during your travels

Smartphones have changed many things about the way we travel. We no longer have to wait for camera film to be developed or plug our digital camera into a computer when we get home to see our holiday snaps. Instead, we can share them instantly with friends, loved ones, and complete strangers through apps like Facebook and Instagram.

We no longer need to use fiddly maps to find our way around, we can just open up Google Maps or another navigation apps and see the best route to take.

We also don’t need to clutter our bags with tickets, boarding passes, and booking reservations. Instead, we can use digital versions stored on our phones and breeze through airport security.

Even staying entertained while we travel is now also much easier thanks to smartphones.

With all of this in mind, here are some of the best apps you can take with you on your next journey.


Playing a game while travelling used to mean something like “I Spy”, taking a “travel” version of a game like Scrabble, or keeping a pack of cards in your bag. If you’re on a plane, I Spy doesn’t last very long and travel Scrabble can be quite fiddly.

Smartphones offer you an almost infinite library of games to play, from simple puzzle games like 1010! to battle royale games like Fortnite. It’s even possible to play retro console games like Mario Kart and Grand Theft Auto right from your mobile device.

Playing card games in your hotel or on a train is a great way to have fun with your travel partners, but if you’re travelling light or don’t want to have to tidy up, then mobile poker apps could be your answer. These apps also allow solo travelers to enjoy the travel tradition of playing cards, take part in tournaments, and try out different strategies by playing with others online.


Another great travel tradition that millions of people enjoy each year is reading. No matter whether it’s getting lost in a great novel, flicking through a magazine, learning a new skill, or reading biographies of interesting people.

Books are great because they work anywhere, don’t need to be charged, and are often much more rugged than a smartphone. But for all their perks, they can really bulk out of your luggage if you’re carrying more than just a couple.

Thankfully, there are plenty of smartphone apps you can use to carry hundreds of books without being weighed down. Both Apple and Android devices come with the default Apple Books and Google Play Books, but there are plenty of third party options too. Amazon’s Kindle app gives you access to its extensive library, while others like Aldiko, Nook and AlReader offer more flexibility and unique features.

If you’d prefer to listen to books as you stare out of a train window or relax on the beach, then Amazon’s Audible is a great option. Alternatively, Blinkist is a service that condenses the main points of non-fiction books into short 10-20 minute books and audiobooks so you can cram in a whole book into a short journey.

Movies and TV

Entertainment while traveling

Airlines don’t always offer great in-flight entertainment, and if you’re flying with a low-cost airline, you won’t get any. Thankfully, your smartphone can carry all the movies and TV shows you could possibly want to watch.

While it used to be quite awkward to watch content on the go, streaming services have made it a piece of cake in recent years. If you want to watch offline, just select a few movies or shows to download and then open them up when you’re ready to watch.

You can even use a VPN while you’re connected to WiFi to get access to the content that’s available in your home country, so you don’t need to miss out on your favourite shows while you’re on the go.

Some of the best streaming services available to travellers are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+. Services like Eros Now and Hotstar also offer a great selection of regional content, including in Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, and Bengali.

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