Friday, December 19, 2014

Panchapalli dam - A little know place near Bengaluru

25 October 2014

It is one of those Sundays where I had nothing to do. I remembered an article in a forum about a reservoir near Bengaluru.  I had forgotten the name as I had seen the article long back but it was not hard to find it out in net. My family was not too enthused with the name of the place as they never heard of it before. Any way, it was better to try out something than spending time in Bengaluru.

Backwater of Panchapalli dam
To reach Panchapalli dam, we first went to Hosur and had our lunch at Meenakshi Bhavan. I had been to that hotel before and found the place decent and cost efficient. My family also felt the same now. After lunch, we headed towards Denkanikottai. Crossing Hosur took a long time than I expected.

Road leading to the dam
I had been to Denkanikottai before. That was during my visit to Spider valley. But it was long back. 

At Denkanikottai, the Bettraya Swamy Temple looked great from outside. Since our destination was different we continued further. The narrow roads welcomed us after Denkanikottai. After about 10-15 km the landscape changed a bit as mountains started appearing. We were getting down a ghat section when the lake appeared!!

Denkanikottai Temple

Panchapalli dam waters seen from the road
The reservoir was not full but had decent amount of water. We parked at the entrance of the dam. There was no restriction and people were freely allowed to walk on the dam. As we walked on the dam, rain played hide and seek act.

The dam
Nested in between the mountains, Panchapalli dam is a nice place for a day visit. Navember-December is the best time as Tamilnadu gets rain during that period.

While going back we stopped at a Temple where statue of Policemen accompanied Gods!! I had seen this in many places in Tamilnadu but have no idea about the presence of cop’s statues!! Strange things!!

While returning back, we bypassed much of the Hosur town to reach Anekal directly. In that way we could also avoid a toll both on NH-7!!

Tanu posing for photograph

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Belum cave – A long natural cave

23 November 2014

During our return journey from Gandikota, we made a visit to this cave. It is about 60 km from Gandikota. From Bengaluru it is about 300 km via Ananthapur.

Entrance to the cave
Thanks to the publicity given by APTDC, the Belum cave is widely known among people. It is the second longest cave in India. (The longest one may be in Meghalaya)

A 'hole' in the cave!!
As we entered the Belum cave complex, it was hard to believe that such a long cave exists in that region. The entrance of the cave does not divulge its grandeur.  But once we get down, the cave just opens up to its fullest!!

The cave though well illuminated was not good enough for the camera to take good photos. Only then I remembered that I had forgotten to bring the tripod!! The photos had to be taken with great effort.

The initial part of the cave is very wide. It gets confusing with various pathways diverging from the main path. There are several air shafts in the cave but still in some places we ended up sweating profusely!!

There are several sections inside the cave like cats gate, Patalaganga, thousand hoods, meditation hall, Kotilinga, Banyan tree hall, musical chamber and Mandapam. It would require at least two hours to see all parts of the cave.

I must say that the cave is well maintained by APTDC. There are play area in the complex for kids to place. A Buddha statue is constructed in the complex. But the hotel maintained by APTDC is not so great. It is better to have food either at Tadipatri or Ananthapur.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bhaktapur – A cultural gem of Nepal

October 2014

Bhaktapur was the capital of Nepal during Malla kingdom. Today it is a small city in Kathmandu valley. But the place has retained its Palaces and Temple in old form thus getting the status of UNESCO world heritage site. A Four lane highway connects Kathmandu with Bhaktapur. The journey from Kathmandu would take an hour.

After our trek to Everest Base Camp, we had a day in Kathmandu which we decided to spend by visiting Bhaktapur. We had two options to reach Bhaktapur. Either we hire a taxi that costs about 2k-3k NPR or take a bus from Ratna park bus stand. The later would just cost 25 NPR one way. Obviously we went for Bus option!! We had to walk for 30 minutes from Thamel to reach the bus stand, not a difficult task considering we were in Nepal for trekking!!

A sculpture at Dattatraya square
The bus promptly dropped us in front of the Bhaktapur gate. The entry to historical place is restricted for tourists. We had to pay NPR 500 per person to enter while non SAARC nationals have to shell out more money. It is free for Nepalis!! We were given a map and a brochure that would help us to find out various places in the area.

Stone bell at Dattatraya square
Dattatraya square
We first visited the oldest part of the city, Dattatraya square. Two important buildings adorn this area. One is the Datttraya Temple.

The peacock window is very famous. It is hard to find it out as it lies in a narrow street away from the square. But ask any local, they will guide you!!

Durbar square
This is the main square of the city containing several historical monuments like National Art gallery, Palace of 55 windows, Golden gate and statue of the king. In the photo below you can see the Lion statues in front of Siddhi Lakshmi stone Temple.

The golden sprout near Durbar square.

Temples are plenty in this area.

Another Temple!!

A statue in front of the Golden gate.

By then we were hungry. The restaurants in the area were few and expensive. The food was also not so great. The ‘curd’ which is famous in Bhaktapur was good!!

Near Golden sprout

Pottery Square
After lunch we headed towards pottery square. For me it looked like the place was run mainly for tourists!!

Taumadhi square
Our final visit was to Taumadhi square famous for multi roofed Temples. We were not disappointed.

Photo taken from Taumadhi Temple. Look at the hills at the end!!

A sculpture in the Temple.

Elephant statue while climbing the Temple.

In general, Bhaktapur is a good place if you are looking at historical monuments. 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Biggest Banyan tree in the world – Thimmamma marimanu

22 November 2014

When we planned Gandikota trip, we were asked to visit Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple at Kadiri. The Temple turned out to be a religious one with little architectural value. Without wasting much time we came out of the Temple. But our search of places near Kadiri had nevertheless resulted in finding a beautiful place!!

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Kadiri
I had always thought the Banyan tree in Calcutta botanical garden was the biggest one in the world. While looking for places near Kadiri I found out that my understanding was wrong. The largest tree was in fact near Kadiri!! That was something new stuff.

The banyan tree
The tree is called Thimmamma Marimanu and it is about 25 km from Kadiri. It is about 600 years old and occupies an area of 2.5 hectares. Entered in Guinness book of world record in 1989 by Regret Iyer (I had met him when he visited my native place couple of years ago. He is an amazing personality!!), it has about 1650 prop roots.

Way to Temple inside banyan tree

Why Thimmamma Marimanu?
Legend says that she stood in the ranks of Sathi Savithri and Sathi Anasuya with respect to her devotion to her husband. Apparently she died by sitting on the funeral pyre of her dead husband Balaveeraiah. The Banyan tree planted near the pyre grew into this gigantic size. A Temple is now constructed at the base of the tree and daily offerings are made. The tree henceforth has got her name.

Several roots

Today a Temple stands below the banyan tree. The rest of the tree is fenced and tourists are not allowed inside it. We had to remove our footwear and pay entrance fees to enter into the banyan tree. The ticketing person tried to pocket some money by not giving receipts for the amount paid. It is hard to argue in such situations if one does not know the local language. I just hurled invectives in Kannada at him for living a life by cheating people. He understood it and started defending his actions. Luckily he did not pick up the fight. Seems that he was embarrassed!!

Looks at support for the tree!!
The tree is big and it looks like the part of it is cut to make way for Temple. We can also see that the tree is growing each year!! One can also walk around the tree.

The tree is growing!!
There is a mini zoo that hosts some birds and a deer. A children play area is also constructed opposite to the tree.

Tanu in happy mood

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

An amazing place called Gandikota

22 November 2014

I had been hearing about this place for past couple of years. Seeing the photos, it was hard to believe that they were taken so near to Bengaluru!!  But our neighbor Andhra Pradesh was on constant boil for last two years due to the bifurcation issue, making the journey difficult. Gandikota being in Rayalaseema has a very long off season (Read Summer!!) providing tourists a small window of opportunity to visit the place.

With statehood issues resolved, Andha Pradesh was back to its peaceful state prompting me to hatch a trip to this place. My friend Anoop and his family also joined us.

Roads on the way

Our trip
We left the Bengaluru at about 6 AM. Our breakfast was at Kamat Upachaar at outskirts of Chikkaballapur. It was important to have a heavy breakfast here as we would not be finding decent eateries all along the route.

After Bagepalli, we cross over to Andhra Pradesh. Within few minutes, we had to say adieu to beautiful NH-7 and take deviation to Kadiri. At Gorantla we saw a beautiful stone Temple (Madhavaraya Temple) but did not stop. We had not planned for it and hence we could not take a decision whether to stop or not.

At Kadiri, we took couple of detours and proceeded further towards Jammalamadugu. One notable feature of the villages in this area is the statue of YSR. They are omnipresent and it looks like a rule to have his statues!! The landscape is beautiful as we cross couple of ghat sections.

Crossing ghat sections

We reach Pulivendula which looks like a town dropped from heaven. The shape of our country would have changed if all towns were of the same quality. A beautiful town with ring roads, double roads and pothole free roads.  I was stunned!!

Road before Gandikota
We were supposed to take deviation before Jammalamadugu. But google took us through a shortcut. That gave us some anxious moments when we had to go through narrow and mud roads. But we joined the main road without incidents!!

Just before Gandikota was APTDC hotel. My wife had called them on previous day and booked rooms. (Online booking is not available for this place). The place looks good with children play area and garden but lacks maintenance. The people who maintain this place will ensure that the stay is memorable for all wrong reasons!! But that would take a complete post. Let concentrate on good stuff.

After lunch we went to the village situated inside the fort. Rarely one gets a chance to drive inside a fort and Gandikota was one such exception!! The first place we saw was Charminar.

Near Charminar was the Jail. It is mostly filled with bats and inside of the jail smells a lot.

From jail we proceeded towards Madhavaraya Temple. It seems like villagers defecate in open which made this short walk really stressful. But Madhavaraya Temple was exceptionally good. Relatively well maintained compared to other monuments in Gandikota, this Temple resembles Vijayanagar architecture.

It was a pity that there were no guides to explain about the Temple. A sculpture of a dancer at the entrance wall of the Temple.

Look at the architecture of the main Temple.

On the sides are the pillars with great carvings.

A ruined Temple in the complex.

Immensely satisfied with Madhavaraya Temple, we proceeded towards Jama Masjid. It is another nice piece of architecture.

Next to Masjid is a granary followed by Ranganatha Swamy Temple. The Temple is smaller and is in ruins.

By then we had reached near the gorge which was the main center of attraction. We walked for some distance over rocks to reach the edge. What an amazing sight!!

The river Pennar flowed some 300 feet below in a gorge providing some stunning views.

In order to get the complete view of the Canyon, I climbed up the rocks to the highest point. This route is not suitable for families or children. That brought be to the place where I could get a panoramic view of the gorge.

I had to almost go to the edge of the rocks to get good views. It was worth the effort!! It also provided some nice views of the fort.

In the meantime, others were having fun time at the canyon. And we had long photo sessions!! What a great day we had!!

Gandikota is about 290 km from Bengaluru and would take about 5-6 hours of drive. Roads are mostly good. The route does not have decent restaurants other than Kamat at Chikkaballapur. Accommodation is only available at APTDC hotel in Gandikota. Expect a shabby service from hotel staff. Gandikota village is a dirty place. There are some good places to see on the way. More about it in the next post!!

Family snap!!