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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kabini

13th-15th August 2009

I was at Kabini last month for an outbound learning program organized by our Company. The stay was at Orange County resorts on the backwaters of Kabini reservoir.

Kabini River (or Kapila) originates in Kerala, enters into Karnataka at Nagarahole National park and finally joins River Kaveri at T Narasipur. A dam was built across the river near HD Kote for irrigational purpose in 1974. This act resulted in submerging huge tracts of forests in Nagarahole. Incidentally Nagarahole was declared as a National forest in the same year!! About half of the reservoir is inside the forest while the other half is surrounded by civilization.


The reservoir also brought a change in the life of wild animals in a different way. During the months of summer, when most of the water sources go dry, animals throng to the backwaters of Kabini, the only place left with water and greenery. The southern part of Nagarahole then forms the largest congregation of Asiatic wild elephants in the world. It is not uncommon to find some 200-250 elephants in that area during that time!! This show of pachyderms lasts during the summer months of March to May. With the advent of monsoons the animals would have a large area to graze and then they spread out.

The resort that we stayed was luxurious as promised. The cottages were spread out and each room had either a Jacuzzi or private pool. Needless to say, we were pampered!! Being next to the backwaters adds to the beauty of the place.


On the first day, few of us set out for wildlife safari. The jungle lies on the opposite shore of backwaters, and we were taken by a boat to the other end where an open top Jeep was waiting for us. During boat ride, we saw fishermen catching a big fish.


I must tell a crazy thing that happened. At the entrance of the National park, I was told that I need to pay extra money as I carried an SLR camera. That was in addition to camera fees. I had heard of extra charges for video camera and also for foreigners (which I feel is ridiculous) but this was new to me. The explanation given was even crazier. Since I had an SLR camera, I may take professional pictures and make money out of it!! And the forest department wants to have a share of it!! I was aghast on hearing this explanation. When will our Government guys improve?? They were worried about the money I make from pictures and I was equally struggling to get some decent pictures!!!!


Let us now come back to Safari. We saw lot of spotted deer and few wild boars. Kabini has a great variety of birds which often gets unnoticed in Safari as most people focus on carnivores.


A Brahminy kite.


A surprise shot of spot billed duck.

The highlight of the safari was an Elephant family. I was happy to see a tusker in the group. We spent nearly 20 minutes in watching those giant creatures.


I am still waiting for the sight of a tiger in wild.

Resorts:
For people wanting to visit Kabini, stay options are limited. The cheapest option is to stay in forest guest house at Sunkadakatte but I doubt whether it will be given to non Government people. Mysore is a nearby town but then forest department does not conduct the safari on its own. So, the option boils down to few resorts.

Orange County is the most expensive option and likely the most luxurious one. It is definitely out of reach for middle class people unless sponsored by corporate. The service is top class and the ambience is great. The cottages look traditional from outside but completely modern from inside!! In spite of paying so much, you need to shell out extra for wildlife/boat safari, Elephant ride etc. Since they have limited slots for Jungle safari, one has to book in advance.



The other resort that I visited was Kabini River lodge. It was 4 years ago. People have an impression that Jungle lodge is expensive. But the fact is that it is the cheapest of all the resorts in Kabini!! The resort has been rated as one of the top five Jungle resorts in the world. Unless you have visited Orange county kind of resorts, you will find the jungle lodge as luxurious!! It has no Jacuzzi or swimming pools, but it is oriented towards wild. Wildlife Safari, boat ride, coracle and Elephant safari are all included in the price. They have very close links with forest department and hence there is no chance of missing a safari. The best thing is that one happens to meet a lot of wildlife enthusiasts and the discussion with them is always interesting!!

There are few other resorts like Cicada, bison and Riverwoods.

More photos can be seen here.

Final words:
To see wildlife, visit Kabini during summer months.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Varahanatha Kalhalli

9th August 2009

I had heard about an 18 feet Varaha idol at Kalhalli near KR Pet. Since I could not get any details about the directions, I decided dropped it from my plan of Hoysala Temple visit.

It was at Hosaholalu where a very elderly person provided me some directions to reach the Temple. Though he mentioned the distance as just 6-7km, the directions seemed to be very confusing for me. But he convinced me that all along the way people would guide me in finding the route.


I looked at my wife for her approval. It was already 1PM, time for lunch. Her main grouse while traveling is that I make her starve!! While I do not care much about the food during travel, she needs constant supply of them!!!! After giving an estimate that it would take about an hour to see the Temple and back, she gave me the go ahead signal. So we proceeded towards Kalhalli.

What I found later was that the distance was completely inaccurate. The route to the Temple was through several villages. Every km I had to ask a person for direction and each time I found entering a smaller road!! The road was sometimes very good (thanks to Pradhana Manthri Gram Sadak Yojna) but suddenly deteriorates to a muddy track.

We had traveled for nearly an hour but still no signs of Kalhalli. My wife reminded me that I continued my tradition of keeping others hungry during the trip!! Having gone so far I was in mood to return back.


Suddenly, we could see a huge water body. Well, we had reached the back waters of KRS dam!! The country side was hilly and provided some good scenes.


Finally, after about 75 minutes of travel from Hosaholalu, we reached Kalhalli. The road directly led to the Temple. There is nothing near the Temple. The Temple itself marks the end of the road.

It is a small Temple, but the statue of Varaha is huge. The fact that the Temple is next to the back waters of KRS dam provide some pleasant feeling. It would have been a nice spot to have lunch had we brought some packed food.



The priest at the Temple told that the Temple was constructed during the times of Sage Agasthya. But more likely it was built during Hoysala times. There is a shashana in front of the Temple which might reveal some details regarding that.

Since our destination was Bengaluru, the priest suggested me to take an alternate route which would directly lead to Pandavapura. Here again, there was no direct route and had to rely on the villagers for direction. The road was hopeless for most of the journey. At one place, when asked for directions, a villager asked whether I could drop him to the next village!! Normally I don’t entertain such requests, especially when I am with my family. But this guy looked innocent and he was accompanied with this wife. So, I asked them to jump in.


The couple was talkative people and in the short span of 15 minutes, we got lot of information about their family!! The only word we spoke was “houda” and “hoon” and they seem to be encouraged by this response!!

The couple got down at Bookana kere, a big village. From then it was a direct road to Chinakurali, a small town on Mysore-Chennaraya Patna highway.

Finally, we had lunch at 4PM!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu

9th August 2009


This is one Hoysala Temple near KR Pet that is known to many people. Hosaholalu is just 2 km from KR Pet town.


This Temple was built during the period of the Hoysala ruler Vira Someshwara in 1250 AD. Being a trikuta Temple, it has three shrines but only one tower. Like many other Hoysala Temples, this is also built on a platform and closely resembles the style of Halebid Temple.



The front part was constructed later which has given an ugly feel to the Temple. It looks like an attachment to the original Temple.


Inspite of being surrounded by houses, this Temple is nicely maintained. But I could not find any guides to explain me in detail about the Temple. Few locals were not fully knowledgeable about the Temple while the priest was indifferent towards the visitors. Being an active Temple (Poojas are performed) also attracts number of people from nearby towns and villages.

Sri Panchalingeshwara Temple, Govindanahalli

9th August 2009

Govindanahalli is a small village about 5 km from Kikkeri. Strangely, the priest at Brahmeshwara Temple in Kikkeri was not aware of Govindanahalli. A person who was in the Temple overheard my conversation with the priest and provided me the directions to Govindanahalli.

As we approached Panchalingeshwara Temple at Govindanahalli, an air of freshness swept across. The Temple was situated amidst the fields and was visible from a far distance. It was nice to see the Temple neatly maintained Temple with lawns surrounding it.


The Temple was quite huge with five Sanctums in the same Temple. Each has Shiva lingas which are named as Ishanyeshwara, Tatpurusheshwara, Aghoreshwara, Vamadeveshwara and Sadyojateshwara. A statue of Nandi is present in front of these sanctums. While Aghoreshwara and Vamadeveshwara have Nandi statues outside the Temple, others are inside the Temple.

The Temple has a long corridor, but lack of light inside the Temple made the task of taking picture difficult.


We found that sculptures were missing in some places of the Temple. One possible explanation is that they were stolen.

These empty areas formed favorite place for my daughter to pose for the camera!!



A local at the Temple could not provide much information about the Temple. The “Shashana” (writing) inside a Temple might provide some details. But decoding the old script was not a task for a novice like me. One of the sculptures had a name “Ruvari Mallitamma” scripted on it. He must be the one who built the Temple.


A nice piece of art from Hoysalas!!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sri Brahmeshwara Swamy Temple, Kikkeri

9th August 2009

When people are asked about the list of Hoysala Temples, majority of them would remember only Belur and Helebid. A few might mention about couple of other Temples. But there are more than 100 Temples which were built during Hoysala regime. While many of these lesser known Temples are already under ruins, some of them have been restored by ASI and other organization.



A few Temples near KR Pet held my attention. One such Temple I visited with my family was Brahmeshwara Temple at Kikkeri.

Kikkeri is a small town about 15 km from Chennaraya Patna on Mysore-Chennaraya Patna highway. Asked a few locals and got the direction to the Temple. We passed through some narrow lanes to reach a big lake. The Temple is next to the lake. We found that the Temple was locked. Few people near the Temple guided me to the house of the priest whose house was a furlong away. I went to the house to find that the person had gone out. The woman in the house gave me the mobile number of the priest. The priest was on line and he arrived at the Temple few minutes later.

This Temple was built during 12th century by local chieftain Chennamma Nayaki. She wanted to build a Temple for Lord Brahma but was advised against by scholars. The reason was that Brahma was not worshipped anywhere. She had a dream where Lord Ishwara asked her to construct a Temple for him. Hence the name of the Temple was “Brahmeshwara”.


Apparently the Temple was not fully completed. The priest showed me several places where the sculptures and carvings were half completed. The reason was not known. A possibility can be some local disturbance during that time or an enemy attack.

One of the highlight of the Temple is the shilabalikas. There are several of them in the Temple.

Few of the snake idols are kept along a line near the Temple.


Though the Temple has some nice piece of art, I must say that it is very much neglected. The compound wall is being shared by few houses and the wall has fallen in few places.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Kanva dam

19th July 2009


Kanva reservoir is a small dam built across the river Kanva. This is a nice place to spend evenings for the family.


The dam is 8 km from Bengaluru-Mysore highway. Between Ramnagar and Chennapatna is a village Kengal (just before the Railway flyover). A deviation here would lead to the dam.


More photos of the dam can be seen here.