Thursday, 25 November 2010

Destination Halebid

Blast from past!
What a road trip!! No, I am not saying this out of excitement but out of frustration. Unfortunately Karnataka has the worst possible roads. The drive rattles and tattles you out of your bones. You will need a holiday to recover from a holiday!

This trip was supposed to be for a social event outside Bangalore. I was a little hesitant about making this trip till my family threw in the bait of visiting this place as a part of this trip.

The place that I got tempted with is Halebid and Belur. For the uninitiated, Halebid and Belur is home to finest architectural examples from the Hoysala period. The temples will turn 900 years old in another 11 years!! Can you imagine that!

Google gives all the information about this place but a fact that I was new to is that Hoysalas were Jains before Ramanuja converted them into Srivaishanavism. There is a Jain temple of 23rd Thirthankara Parshwanath Swami in Halebid. One can see the basic form of Hoysala architecture at this Jain temple before it evolved into what can been seen at the main temples of Halebid and Belur.

Dwarapal- The door keeper
 As you enter Halebid complex, you realize something is incomplete. Halebid houses two garbha grihas (sanctum sanctorum) but the shikaras/ gopurams are missing. It is missing as it had to be brought down because of its fragility. The residing deities at this temple are Shantaleshwara Linga( Shiva) and Vishnuvardhan Hoysaleshwara Linga(Shiva).

Trimurthy- Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

 Unlike the popular misconception, the Hoysala temples with their typical star shaped form are in the Vesara (Deccan) style and not in Dravidian style of architecture. All this talk is so boring right?  Imagine studying all this for five years!!. That is right! I am an architect! I have no clue how I survived the five years.

 Before wearying you anymore, I will let the photos speak for themselves! Hopefully it will make you appreciate this place and tempt you to visit the place sometime.

Scene from daily life

Scene from Ramayan

Frieze :Level 4: Creepers Level 5: scene from epic Level 6: Makara
 Mythological animal Makara- Representative of the qualities of Hoysala soldier- Handsome like the peacock tail, sharp hearing as cow's ears, strong digestive system as a pig, sharp eyesight as a monkey,strong legs of lion,tough mouth of crocodile and trunk of elephant

Scene from Mahabharat

God and Goddesses

Location: Halebid, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010

Destination Sringeri

Blast from past!

After a delayed start from Horanadu due to reasons beyond our control, we stopped over at Kaleshewara (Shiva) temple at Kalasa We had plans to stop at some place on road for breakfast but that was a bad decision. I would totally advise against doing that as we had to survive on banana chips and other snacks for breakfast. BTW, we were on the way to Sringeri by the Tunga Bhadra river

                                                          Temple complex at Kalasa
Once again the most scenic routes but the worst of roads! But due to good weather we made good ground in short time!

Sringeri is home to the Matha (monastery) founded by Adi Shankaracharya. There are two prominent temples in and around the Matha complex. One is the relatively new Sharadam temple, dedicated to the Goddess of learning and wisdom built after the original wood structured temple was destroyed in fire during the early 20th century. The other more interesting one is the Vidyashakara temple which is about 600-700 years old. The architecture of this temple is an exhibition of the astronomical expertise of medieval south Indian temple builders. Even though I did not witness it, windows and doors along the temple walls are arranged such that equinoxes sunrise views reach the deity. The northern and southern gates enable the sunrise view from the hall during solstices.Extraordinary right?

Shardamba Temple
Vidya Shankara Temple

One of my must do things in a temple town is to get the blessings from the temple elephant. I don’t think PETA or CUPA will approve of this but I give a good tip and hope that the elephant gets some of the benefit from it. I can’t describe the feeling but I become a kid when the elephant takes the offering by its trunk from my hand and then taps on my head. Love it!!

Sringeri has twice as large dining hall than Horanadu. After another amazing prasadam, we set off on the last leg of journey to Bhadravathi. As the social event kept us occupied for the rest of the trip, we did not do much at Bhadravathi. This was one of the more bone tiring trips I have undertaken in recent times but I am not complaining!!..Well not much!!

Location: Sringeri, Karnataka
Date of travel: November 2010

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Destination Horanadu

Blast from past!
How can a trip with family not include visit to temple. So after Belur and Halebid, we embarked on the great rumbling and tumbling road trip across the western ghat. If it wasn't for the wonderful scenery , I would not recommend the journey to anyone. The torrential rains along with the pathetic roads took us to Horanadu in chikmagalur district.

Interestingly I always thought coffee plantations covered majority of chikmagalur. But we came across some stretches of tea plantations. We also came across many school kids happily  walking back home, sometimes two-three of them sharing one umbrella without raincoats, least bothered about the cats and dogs showering on them. We under the cozy protection of the car had mixed feeling seeing the kids this way. Hats or should I say umbrella off to them!!!

For some reason most Hindu temples are located in the most scenic locations high up on mountains and hills. Horanadu is no different. We checked into Durgamba lodge which was typical of lodging at temple towns except that it was bearable as it was relatively new. But the view from the room was out of the world. If it was a resort, we would have certainly paid lot more than Rs 500/- a night.

Horanadu is home to Goddess Annaporneshwari . Literally translated it means fulfiller of rice. There is a legend here that anyone who has the prasad here will never go hungry!! The temple is in typical style of the temples in the western ghats with its Mangalore roof.

As the temples serves all the three meals in a day as prasad, there are very few basic options for restaurants in this area. The best choice is to have the prasad at the temple's immaculately clean dining hall. The temple serves the most amazing tasteful prasad of steaming hot rice, sambar, rasam,buttermilk and a sweet payasam irrespective of caste creed gender or financial status of the person. It was a humbling experience for me as I was part of something like this for the first time.

Location: Horanadu, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010

Tip: Always carry rain protection while traveling in the western ghats even if it is post monsoons
Must do:  Experience  Maha Mangalarthi  and offer rice at the temple.
First: Be part of community dining experience at the temple.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Destination Belur

Blast from past!
Belur is 16 kms away from Halebid. As you approach the location, you can see an entrance gopuram painted yellow standing tall. This tower is relatively new and was built by the Vijaynagar kings and is in Dravidian style. The tower is like an anticlimax for what is awaiting you inside. 

Here is an interesting fact I learnt on this trip. If the Dhwaja stambha (flag post) is not in front of heritage temple , it is considered a monument. Otherwise it is an operational temple. Practically the stambha was used to hoist flags. Spiritually it is supposed to be the connector between God and humans. Scientifically rationalized, Stambha generally being the highest point inside the temple complex and made of metal or stone covered with metal,  acted as lighting arrestor and hence connected the energy of heaven with earth. If only we could rationalize all our Hindu customs and rituals this way, many more would embrace it. Let me know if you are aware of any such rational explanations to other customs and traditions!

The temple at Belur houses Chennakesava ( handsome Vishnu) and is dedicated to Queen Shantala who was a danseuse. Sculptures of sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas) are the prominent feature in this temple. The most unique feature of the sculptures here is its 3 dimensionality. This feature has to be seen and experienced in person rather than through text. Here is another titbit. The soapstone used for these temple was transported all the way from Tumkur.

This was my third trip to Belur and Halebid. And every time I have learnt or experienced something new. They are both "not to miss" places.

Location: Belur, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010

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