Trip to Guruvayur, Thrissur and Athirapilly Falls, Kerala

1) Guruvayur:

Time of visit: November 2011

Mode of travel: Car from Calicut (around 120 kms)

Places visited:

Visited the following temples:

Stay:

We stayed at Kanoos Residency, which is about 5 min from the main temple by walk . I think this has got to be one of the best hotels in Guruvayur at its price point.

Clear positives were:

  • Clean, large rooms and bathrooms
  • Helpful staff (reservation, reception, service etc)
Things that could have been better:
  • Food at their restaurant
  • Service at their restaurant
  • Rooms are not sound proof. Any conversations or movements in the corridor outside were audible
  • More amenities in the room would have been desirable (ex. electric kettle)

Food:

Found it difficult to get really good food, though there is no dearth of restaurants.

2) Thrissur:

Time of visit: November 2011

Mode of travel: Car

Places visited:

Visited the famous Vadakkumnathan Temple. It is a very beautiful, huge Shiva temple, located in the center of Thrissur. More details about the temple can be found at http://www.vadakkumnathantemple.com/


3) Athirapilly:

Time of visit: November 2011

Mode of travel: Car

Places visited:

Athirapilly Falls – Located about 60 kms from Thrissur, these falls are a sight to behold! No wonder, they are frequented by Indian movie makers. They are located in a forest area known for its bio-diversity. There were sign boards that said that a variety of species birds can be spotted in this area. The best time to visit these falls is during the monsoon (June to September), when the flow is at its peak.

A few things to note:

  • While driving towards the falls, there will be a checkpost like structure with signboards indicating a place to purchase the entry tickets to the falls. It is easy to miss this while driving. This place is I think about 0.5 km or so before the actual entry point to the falls. If you miss buying the tickets here, you will have to come back and get them. So keep a watch for the ticket counters to your left when you near the falls
  • The path from the entry point leads you to the top of the falls. There is a separate route (stone path) to the bottom of the falls and I would highly recommend this short trek as it gives you a nice view of the entire falls up close
  • While I visited Athirapilly only for a few hours and didn’t stay in any hotels here, there is a resort called Rainforest that is located bang opposite to the falls. My friends had recommended this place highly. The rooms here, though priced on the higher side, are supposed to offer a full view of the falls
  • There are a few other falls nearby that can also be visited – Charpa and Vazhachal, if I remember correctly.


Trip to Wayanad, Kerala

Time of visit: November 2011

Mode of travel: Car from Calicut (around 80 kms to our place of stay)

Places to see:

Please refer to http://www.wayanad.net/places.html , http://www.mustseeindia.com/Wayanad/attractions or similar web sites.

Would highly recommend the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary and the jeep ride there. We spotted quite a bit of wildlife, including deer and elephants.

Stay:

We stayed at Olives Homestay managed by Mr. Biju Thomas and his wife Raji. They played perfect hosts and left no stone unturned in making sure we had a wonderful experience.

The advantage of this homestay is that it is located very close to Kalpetta, which is one of the big towns in Wayanad and yet offers some good scenic views.

Biju was a perfect gentleman in his dealings. He was always reachable on his cell phone for any query we had.

Raji cooked some of the most delicious Kerala food items I have ever tasted in my life! She went around her work with a passion that is very rare to see. She even managed to schedule the food timings in such a way that she would cater to vegetarian guests first and then start with the non-veg guests. Living in this place was like living with one’s own family. Such was the hospitality!

We stayed in the Olives Suite, the upper most room with a private sit-out from where you can have a good view of the surrounding landscape. The room wasn’t a suite in the usual sense of the word, but was neat and clean with basic amenities.

Food:

We preferred to eat mostly in the homestay itself as Raji served us such delicious food. There are a few restaurants in Kalpetta and also in Sulthan Bathery, but I am confident they can’t hold a candle to Raji’s cooking.

Transport:

Biju had arranged his car for our trips. The driver he had given us, Mr. Subramaniam (Subretta), was one of the best I have ever come across. The roads in Wayanad were in a horrible state because of heavy rains, but Subretta drove so skilfully, managing to avoid most potholes and yet making sure we didn’t get delayed in reaching any place.

Trip to Yercaud

*** Giving details of a recent trip to Yercaud below; may prove useful for people planning a trip to the place ***

Went to Yercaud, a hill station near Salem in Tamil Nadu, India, a few weeks back.

HOW TO REACH?

Modes of transport I used: 
Chennai to Salem: Train
Salem to Yercaud: Bus
Yercaud to Salem: Cab
Salem to Chennai: Train

If you are traveling by train, you can get down at Salem Junction. You can get buses (route no. 12/13) and autos right outside the railway station that will take you to the new bus stand which is about 10-15 min away. You can get buses to Yercaud from the new bus stand. When I went, the Yercaud bus was the last one parked at the right hand side end of the new bus stand.

The bus trip should cost about Rs. 11 per person while cabs are available for Rs. 450 – 500 per one way trip.

The road trip from Salem to Yercaud trip usually takes about 35 – 45 min. You can see 20 hairpin bends on the way and the view is good from a few points.

ACCOMODATION:
Planned the trip very late and hence didn’t get accomodation in the places I would have wanted to try out. Stayed at Star Holiday Inc’s resort (http://www.starholidaysyercaud.com/). Got a simple big room in the name of a deluxe cottage.

Plusses:

  • Lower cost compared to the places I was originally trying to book
  • Vegetarian food was good and there was a decent variety to choose from. The kitchen however looked awful

Minuses:

  • No wardrobe in the room
  • No dustbins
  • Huge communication gap between front office and the other facilities staff. The only staff who were responsive were the ones at the reception and this resulted in huge time delays to get even simple things done
  • No power backup (There were 3 power cuts during the 2 days I stayed there)

Choose Sterling Resort if you are a sucker for views and want to have a great view everytime you look out of your room as it is located very near Lady’s seat (see “Places to see” below). Not sure about the other facilities at the resort though.

Heard from friends that GRT Nature Trails and Lake Forest are among the best places to stay in Yercaud

FOOD:
Heard that vegetarian food at Hotel Shevaroys is good. Good veg food may be a bit difficult to get. Most hotels offer good choice of non-veg items.

SIGHT SEEING:
In case you are not using your own means of transport, you can hire an auto or a cab. The hotel front desk should be able to help you here. Else, you can go to the lake and there will be a lot of local cab operators willing to take you for the sightseeing trip. The charges were about Rs. 350 for auto and about Rs. 400 for a cab when I went.

You can finish the sight seeing trip in about 2.5 to 3 hours. You can also undertake a road trip of about 35 kms around the loop (ring) road that takes you past many villages and coffee estates, especially if you have come in your own vehicle. This is not covered in the regular sight seeing trip.

PLACES TO SEE:

1) Yercaud Lake: You can go for boating. Charges were about Rs. 70 for a two-seater and Rs. 95 for a four-seater pedal boat for 30 min when I went (The same amount has to be paid as caution deposit). Timings were 9AM to 5:30 PM.

2) Servarayan Temple: The temple is located at the highest point in Yercaud inside a small, dark cave. You can get a good view of the hills around from this place. 

3) Raja Rajeshwari Amman Temple: Located on the way from the Lake to Servarayan Temple, this is a small temple that also has a beautiful small idol of Lord Shiva at the centre of a very small pool of water.

4) Botanical Garden (Orchidarium)

5) Rose Garden (part of a Horticulture farm that also houses the Children’s seat)

6) Lady’s Seat: Offers a very good view of the hills, the plains and the ghat roads. A telescope is mounted here that can help get a better view (The telescope house was closed when I went).

7) Gent’s seat: Located some distance from the Lady’s seat. Another view point

8 ) Children’s seat: According to the guy who escorted me for the sight seeing trip, the British have the Lady’s seat it’s name and the local administration later named two other view points as Gent’s seat and Children’s seat so that men and children don’t have a cause to complain ;-) (Entrance fee: Rs. 10 for adults, Rs. 10 for still camera)

9) Kiliyur Falls: A steep trek leads to the falls. This trek is not recommended by the local people and is not at all advisable if you have children and old people in your group.

10) Pagoda point: I didn’t visit this place. It is supposed to be another view point

11) Anna Park: A small park with nothing much to see. Some plants were available for sale (Entrance fee: Rs. 10 for adults and Rs. 10 for still camera)

Yercaud is also home to educational institutions like the Montfort School and Sacred Heart Convent, which according to my tour escort, are very famous.

SHOPPING:
Many perfumaries sell perfumes, natural oils and pain relieving balms

  

WEATHER:

Weather was good when I went. The days were bright and sunny while evenings were cool and pleasant.

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • A petrol pump is available near the lake
  • Yercaud is usually crowded on weekends and public holidays

 

FINAL WORD:

Good place to relax and stretch yourself. Nothing much by way of sight seeing.

A trip to Padmanabhapuram, Suchindram & Kanyakumari – Part 2

Part 1 of this post can be found here

 

SUCHINDRAM THANUMAYALAN TEMPLE

We caught a local bus back to Thakkalai from the bus stop just outside the Padmanabhapuram palace. The bus service was not that frequent. Autorickshaws were also available. We boarded a Kanyakumari bound bus from the Thakkalai bus stand. An alternate option is to board buses that go to Nagercoil (as they operate at much higher frequency), get down at Nagercoil, take any bus going towards Kanyakumari and get down at Suchindram which is on the way and about 20 minutes from Nagercoil. Take the road to the right of the main road (just opposite to the Suchindram bus stop), cross a row of shops and you should be able to catch the beautiful sight of the temple gopuram and the temple pond. 

It is said that Indra was cursed by sage Gautama and performed penance here to get relieved of the curse. Suchindram thus refers to the place where Indra was purified (Suchi means purified and Indram refers to Indra). 

The temple has a very tall door with intricate carvings done all over it. The deity is Thanumalayan in the form of a lingam and is the representation of the trinity of Hinduism – Shiva (Sthanu), Vishnu (Maal) and Brahma (Ayan).  The bottom of the linga represents Brahma, the middle – Vishnu and the top –  Shiva. The tall idol of Anjaneya (Hanuman) here made from a single rock is very famous and is supposed to possess great powers. The navagrahas are engraved on the ceiling near the entrance of the temple. The Alangara Mandapam is supposed to have musical pillars. 

Devotees/visitors are not allowed to carry anything inside except wallets. Belongings can be deposited just outside the main door of the temple for safekeeping. Men are not allowed to wear anything on the upper part of the body. 

The only bad experience we had at the temple was with the temple authorities trying to fleece people for anything and everything. They spoke Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu with ease and the only intention of doing that seemed to be to ask people to buy one thing or the other at almost every shrine. They went to the extent of blocking our way and demanding that we individually buy what was on offer before they would let us proceed.  This left a very bad taste.

 

 

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KANYAKUMARI

We walked back to the Suchindram bus stop and boarded one of the very frequent buses to Kanyakumari.  A short walk from the place where we got down took us to the tip of the Indian mainland. Boat rides were available from this place to the Vivekananda rock memorial and Tiruvalluvar statue till 4 PM. 

The main tourist attractions in Kanyakumari are:

1. The sunrise/sunset: A lot of people flock to the beach to view the sunrise/sunset. 

2. The confluence: The Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean are supposed to meet at this place, though no one seemed to know where exactly this place was demarcated. Almost every protrusion into the seas seemed to be the tip and the place where the seas mixed. 

3. Vivekananda Rock Memorial: Swami Vivekananda is supposed to have meditated here when he visited Kanyakumari. You have to take a boat to reach this place.

4. Tiruvalluvar Statue: The statue is very tall and impressive and is located off the mainland. You have to take a boat to reach the statue. 

5. Mahatma Gandhi memorial (constructed in memory of the Father of the Nation)

6. Kumari Amman Temple 

7. St. Xavier’s church 

Vivekananda rock memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue

Vivekananda rock memorial & Thiruvalluvar statue

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Vivekananda Rock Memorial

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St. Xavier’s Church

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Sunset

 

PLANNING THE TRIP

If you are planning to cover Padmanabhapuram Palace, Suchindram Temple and Kanyakumari in one day, the ideal time to start from Trivandrum’s Thampanur bus stand would be at or before 7.30AM. You will reach the palace by 9:30/10AM (the palace opens at 9AM) and will need an hour there at the minimum. The Suchindram temple I think closes at 12:30PM or 1PM and reopens at 4PM. You should leave the palace ideally by 11/11:30 AM. 

You must reach Kanyakumari before 4PM if you intend to visit the Vivekananda memorial and Tiruvalluvar statue as the boat rides to these tourist attractions stop at 4PM.  To catch a bus back to Trivandrum, you will have to either go to the main bus depot which is about 1.5-2 kms away from the beach or go to the nearby Police check post. Locals there will guide you. There was a superfast KSRTC bus back to Trivandrum at about 6:45 or 7PM when we went, which meant that we could see the sunset and be in time to catch the bus back. The best thing to do if you miss a direct bus to Trivandrum would be to catch one to Nagercoil and then catch any one of the buses to Trivandrum from there. 

You shouldn’t have a problem communicating to anybody right from Trivandrum till Kanyakumari if you can speak Tamil. Malayalam is also understood in many areas. Not many people seemed to understand/speak Hindi or English.

A trip to Padmanabhapuram, Suchindram & Kanyakumari – Part 1

 

PADMANABHAPURAM PALACE

Padmanabhapuram was once the capital of the princely state of Travancore, a state that later merged with Cochin and Malabar district to form the present state of Kerala. The Padmanabhapuram palace is a beautiful wooden palace located in this place, constructed by the rulers of Travancore around 1600 AD.

 

How to reach?

The palace is located very close to a place called Thuckalay (Thakkalai), about 60 kms from Trivandrum. I and a friend of mine traveled to the palace from Trivandrum. We boarded a KSRTC bus to Nagercoil at Thampanoor bus stand, very close to Trivandrum Central railway station. I think the bus traveled on NH 47 for most part of the journey. The prominent towns/villages on the way were Neyyatinkara, Parasala (Kerala till here), Kaliyakkavilai (Tamil Nadu starts from here) and Marthandam. We got down at Thuckalay bus stand and took another local bus from there to Padmanabhapuram. The people at the bus stand should be able to help you board the right bus to the palace (ex. route nos. 13D and 13F). The distance from the bus stand to the palace must have been at least 3 kms.

 

Entry tickets

Entry tickets were priced at Rs. 25 each for adults. Still cameras were allowed inside when we went and an additional Rs. 25 per camera was charged.  Video cameras were also allowed and the charge was considerably higher (I think Rs. 1500).

Footwear was to be left outside the palace (there was a separate room for that) and one could only go in barefoot. 

 

The Palace

The word palace usually brings to mind images of a structure like the Mysore Palace. You might be disappointed at first, if you have an image like that in your mind when you go to visit this palace. But it won’t be long before you get absorbed in the details and start feeling royalty in a different sense. For instance, the woodwork on the ceilings and walls is just fabulous! The palace comprises many structures and the prominent ones are described below. 

 

Entrance to the palace

Entrance to the palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poomukham

This is the portico. The king entertained special guests here. The entrance is shaped like a triangle. The ceiling is made of wood and has 90 flowers carved in it, each of them having a pattern different from the other. A brass lamp with a knight on horse-back hanging from the ceiling, a cot used by the king, a Chinese chair presented to the king by Chinese merchants and ‘onavillus’ (paintings in Kerala style presented to the king during the Onam festival by chiefs of different clans) can be found here.

 

Entrance - Poomukham

Entrance - Poomukham

 

Knight Rider Brass Lamp

Brass lamp with knight on horse back

 

 

 

 

Chinese chair and cot

Chinese chair and cot

 

 

Floral patterns on the cieling

Floral patterns on the ceiling

 

 

 

Manthrasala

This is the hall where the king held discussions with his ministers and took important decisions. It has 11 ‘kilivathil’s – tiny windows, the shutters of which are beautifully decorated with mirror work in different hues.

 

Manthrasala

Manthrasala

 

 

 

Oottupura (Dining Hall)

This is the grand dining hall with a seating capacity of about 2000. This is where people were served free meals every day. The structure is two-storeyed with each capable of accommodating 1000 people. On display in the hall on the ground floor are big Chinese jars that were used to store pickles.

 

 

Oottupura - Dining Hall

Oottupura - Dining Hall

 

 

Chinese pickle jars

Chinese pickle jars

 

 

Storage for water in the dining hall (or was it for rasam?)

Storage for water in the dining hall (or was it for rasam?)

 

 

 

 

Thai Kottaram (Darbhakkulagara Kottaram)

This is the oldest structure in the palace complex and was built during the reign of Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal (AD 1592 to 1610) in the traditional Nalukettu style.  After entry, we reach an open verandah called “Ekantamandapam” which contains the “Kannithoonu” – a one-piece, exquisitely carved pillar made with wood from jackfruit tree.

There is a tunnel that connects the Thaikottaram to another structure about a kilometer away and was used as an escape route in times of danger to the royal family.

 

 

Kannithoonu

Kannithoonu

 

 

Kannithoonu

Kannithoonu

 

 

 

 

Woodwork in the cieling

Woodwork in the cieling

 

 

Uppirikka Malika

This is the biggest building in the palace complex and is four storeyed. Its name literally means a multi-storeyed building. Built by King Marthandavarma in AD 1744, it was dedicated to Lord Sree Padmanabha. The ground floor houses the royal treasury and the first floor has the royal bedroom. The bedroom has a medicinal cot made from 67 (?) medicinal plants that is believed to have been given as a present to the king by the Dutch – East India Company. Entry to second and third floors was prohibited when I went. The second floor is supposed to have the king’s rest room and the third floor is supposed to house many mural paintings.

 

 

Medicinal Cot

Medicinal Cot

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Cot

Medicinal Cot

 

 

Armory and Watch Tower

The room used as armory has no windows or ventilation facilities and has two entrances. The northern end of the complex houses the watch tower from where any movement in the nearby surroundings can be detected.

 

 

Watch Tower

Watch Tower

 

 

 

Ambari Mukhappu

This is a balcony that was used by the kings to view chariot races during festivals and to hear people’s complaints on designated days. Ambari refers to the seat put on an elephant’s back and the building that houses this balcony has been constructed in the shape of an ambari.

 

 

Ambari Mukhapu

Ambari Mukhappu

 

 

Indra Vilasom

Foreign tourists and visiting dignitaries were given accommodation in this building whose structure shows the influence of foreign styles of architecture.

 

Navarathri  Mandapam

This was built in the year 1744 AD by King Marthandavarma and is 66ft X 27 ft. Cultural programs were conducted here during the navaratri festival. The dance floor here is known as ‘kannadithara’ or mirror floor as it has been polished to mirror like perfection. This is the building in the entire palace complex that has been made of stone.

Navarathri Mandapam - 1

Navarathri Mandapam - 2

Devi Temple

Navarathri Mandapam

Navarathri Mandapam

 

 

Archaeological Museum

The palace also houses an archaeological museum that has stone and bronze sculptures, paintings, coins, weapons and armory. 

 

 

Archaeology Museum
Archaeology Museum
Sample wood work

Sample wood work

 

 

 

Carvings done on a wooden beam

Carvings done on a wooden beam

 

 

 

Sample paintings

Sample paintings

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2 of this post can be found here

A Trip to Vadivudaiamman Temple, Tiruvotriyur

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, the great composer, had traveled to many temples and composed songs on the deities there. Vadivudaiamman Temple (also known as Sri Thyagaraja Swami Temple) in Tiruvotriyur, at the outskirts of Chennai, in one of them. Dikshitar composed the song “AdipurIshvaram sadA bhajEham” in the rAgam Arabhi at this temple. Needless to say, I was very thrilled when I got an opportunity to visit this temple today morning. The trip was made all the more special by the Veenavadini group (led by vainikAs Sri Jeyaraaj Krishnan and Smt. Jayasri Jeyaraaj) rendering select compositions of Dikshitar, including “AdipurIshvaram sadA bhajEham” in front of the sannadhi of AdipurIswarar. I must thank the vainika couple for their hospitality and for the great time we all had there. 

 

Details of the temple and directions are available here [link]

 

Lyrics of Dikshitar’s song in Arabhi are as follows:

AdipurIshvaram sadA bhajEham – Arabhi – Adi – muthusvAmi dIkSitar


pallavi

AdipurIshvaram sadA bhajEham tripura sundarI samEta vara guruguha janakam vandita muni samUham

caraNam

vidhi hari pUjita tyAga rAjAngam Aditya kOTi prakAsha lingam

nandi pUjita svayambU lingam nAgakavacadharasaikatalingam

 

The mUlavar is a svayambhu lingam (one of the forms of Lord Shiva in the temple). This lingam is covered by a “nAga kavacam” that is removed only during full moon day in the month of Karthigai. The kavacam covered svayambhu lingam is described in the caraNam of Dikshitar’s kriti

Trip to Tiruvannamalai

Went on a weekend trip to Tiruvannamalai which is located about 185 kms from Chennai. The route we took was Chennai – Tambaram – Melmaruvathur – Tindivanam – Senji (Gingee) – Tiruvannamalai.  While traveling on the highway from Chennai to Tindivanam, one has to take a right turn about 4 km before reaching Tindivanam and proceed towards Senji. There are a lot of sign boards and it is difficult to get lost if one is following them properly. We reached Tiruvannamalai in about 3.5 hours (including the time for breakfast). 

Places visited:

1. Arunachaleswarar Temple:

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Tiruvannamalai Temple (Photo courtesy http://tiruvannamalai.nic.in/)

 

 

It is considered to be one of the most important Shaivite shrines and is located in a huge campus with the Annamalai hill in the backdrop. The temple is beautifully constructed with 9 gopurams. There are 4 gopurams on the external walls, one in each direction. The main Rajagopuram faces the east.  

Many greats have worshipped in this temple. Sri Ramana Maharishi did penance in a cave in this temple that houses the pAtALa lingam. Manickavasagar and Arunagirinathar worshipped here. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar sang “aruNAcalanAtham” in sArangA on the Lord of this temple. rA refers to agni and there is a lot of usage of “rA” throughout this song as this kshetram is linked to agni, one of the five elements (The raga itself is sArangA which has rA in it)

2. Ramanashramam:

 

 

This is the ashram where Ramana Maharishi lived and is located a couple of kms to the south of the temple. The Maharishi left his home when he was 16 and had a unique experience then. The fear of death took over him and he started dramatizing what would happen if he died. Upon doing that he realized that he is actually the soul within the body and not the body itself. He left home, went to the Tiruvannamalai temple and started doing penance there. 

The ashram is a very calm place sought by people from around the world. I could spot many peacocks here which added to the place’s beauty. Free food is given everyday to people who visit the ashram. We stayed in the ashram’s guest house located across the road from the ashram. We were not charged for our stay and it was left to us to donate whatever we wanted to. The ashram has a library where one can read about Ramana Maharishi and his thoughts. 

3. Seshadri Swamigal Ashramam:

 

This is the ashram of another great ascetic – Sri Seshadri Swamigal. He was the one who identified Ramana Maharishi doing penance inside a cave in the Tiruvannamalai temple, brought him out and spoke about his greatness. This ashram is also a calm place very similar to Ramanashramam and is located near it (about 2 kms to the south of the Tiruvannamalai temple). One can book rooms and stay here. 

 

4. Girivalam:

 

 

 

Girivalam refers to circumambulation of the Annamalai hill. One is supposed to do this barefoot. People normally start doing this from the Rajagopuram of the Tiruvannamalai temple, travel clockwise around the hill and complete it by coming back to the Rajagopuram. However some locals opined that one can start from any place around the hill and should complete girivalam by coming back to the starting point. The total distance is about 14 km and is supposed to be covered barefoot. The roads were nice for most part of the trip, except for the portions within the city where there was a lot of traffic and had a lot of pebbles. We started at about 5.30 AM in the morning and covered this in about 3 hours. 

There is a huge crowd during pournami days and the roads will be full of people. Since we didn’t do girivalam on a pournami day, we found the roads a bit deserted and were advised not to begin it before 5AM in the morning.

Trip to Nallattoor (Nallattur)

I was looking at the list of Carnatic concerts in Chennai some days back, confused as to which ones to attend the coming Sunday. Just then my mom came and said, “Let me help you with your choice. You are not going to any concert but will be coming with us to Nallattoor Anjaneya Temple. It’s your uncle & aunt’s wedding anniversary. The entire family (comprising all the kith and kin in Chennai) is coming and you have no other choice“, demonstrating yet again her ability to simplify decision making by thinking ‘out of the box’ ;-)

Directions:

Nallattoor is located near Tiruttani, en-route to Tirupati. We started from Chennai late in the afternoon and came back before midnight the same day. It took us just a little over 2 hours to reach the place by car and just about the same time to come back.

When you travel further beyond Tiruvallur on the Chennai – Tiruvallur – Tiruttani route, there will be a point where the road forks into two. You have to take the branch that goes to the right and immediately take a right turn (yes, one more right turn) as soon as you enter it. There is a sign board here that says the temple is 12 kms away. The road from here was narrow (narrower than the stretch from Tiruvallur) and was not in a good shape when we went. It was however well punctuated with sign boards that will help one find his way to the temple easily.
What to see?

The place is famous for Lord Hanuman’s temple (Shri Veera Mangala Anjaneya Swami temple). And that’s about all you can find here. The temple is located on the banks of the Kushasthala river, which was dry when we went.

It was pitch dark outside and the fireflies (glow worms) that kept hovering presented a pretty sight.

The temple has idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Ganesha and the navagrahas apart from the centuries old idol of Veera Mangala Anjaneya.

We heard there are other temples in a nearby place called Nemili but didn’t visit the same as it was already getting late for the return trip to Chennai. Tiruttani and Tiruvallur are some other places one can cover if the trip is planned well.

Temple History:

The temple is said to have been first built by Vyasaraya in the 15th century. The present structure was built by M. Chakravarti, Executive Director of Amaravathi Group of Hotels, in the late 90s (if I remember correctly).

The history of the temple, as told to us by the temple priest, is as follows. The details on the temple website however are slightly different from his account. Needless to say, I have no idea what actually happened.

Vyasaraya lived in the 15th century in the Vijayanagara empire and was respected as a guru by the kings of the empire. It seems he was afflicted by some strange disease. He prayed to Lord Hanuman and said he will build as many temples of Hanuman as possible throughout his life if he gets cured. He became healthy immediately and went on to build 754 temples till he lived. The Nallattoor temple is considered the most important one.

Vyasaraya’s men were on their way to Tirupati to build a temple and install the idol there when they had to stop at Nallattoor on their way, to take rest. They kept the idol down but couldn’t lift it when they wanted to proceed to Tirupati. Lord Hanuman is then said to have appeared in Vyasaraya’s dreams and expressed his willingness to have the idol installed there after which a temple was built at that very place in Nallattoor.

Over the years, the temple went to ruins and the idol itself got buried underneath sand and dust. It seems even the locals, over several generations, forgot the existence of the temple there. Suddenly one day Lord Hanuman is said to have appeared in the dreams of both Chakravarti (who was an atheist till that point in time and was in Delhi on a business trip) and his wife ( who was in Chennai then) asking them to renovate the temple. It was then that the idol was taken out and the present form of the temple was built.

Observations:

There is no road divider for most part of the route. It is advisable to plan the trip so that it is completed during the day time, especially if traveling by bikes. It might also be advisable to carry lots of drinking water along. We didn’t see any petrol pumps, at least on the 12 km stretch off the main road to Nallattoor. The last one I remember seeing on the way to Nallattoor was in Tiruvallur (I could have missed many).

Trip to Elagiri (Yelagiri)

*** Giving details of a recent trip to (Y)Elagiri below …. might prove useful for people planning a trip to the place in the future ***

Elagiri is a hill station located in Tamil Nadu and is a nice weekend getaway, especially for the Chennai junta.

Characteristics:

  • Weather is supposed to be good throughout the year
  • Almost no place for “site-seeing” as such (you can just relax and enjoy the stay, away from the busy city life)
  • Cell phone services (including Airtel) are not available in most areas. However there are STD/ISD shops from where you can make phone calls if you wish (you can disturb others if you want but no one can disturb you on your phone)
  • Very very helpful locals; but you will find them helpful only if you know Tamil. Most of them can’t speak English, though boys in one of the villages did understand English as they study it at school. Wait ….. did I hear someone say Hindi? Hindi in such a place down South? Forget it. The people at the resorts can speak English.
  • The best part is the drive from Chennai. The roads are simply amazing !!!!! You will just fall in love with them. They are as smooth as silk.

Route from Chennai:

Chennai - Poonamallee – Sriperumbudur - Walajapet – Melvisharam – Vellore - Pallikonda – Ambur - Vaniyambadi - Chinnaveppambattu – Mandalavadi – Elagiri

Take NH4 from Chennai. You will have to shift to NH46 some distance after Walajapet. For all practical purposes, it’s just one straight road. The route is punctuated with sign boards in English and it’s tough to go off-course. Cross Vaniyambadi and take the road to the left just before the start of the first elevated stretch on the post-Vaniyambadi NH46. This is where the party kind of ends and the roads start appearing more Indian, though they are still pretty good. You have to travel quite some distance on this road and take a left turn just before Ponneri. There is a HP gas station to the right of the road just before this turn. There are enough sign boards just at this turn welcoming you to Elagiri with Hotel Hills dominating most of them. The left turn leads you to the last stretch of the plains after which you start climbing up the hills on the Ghat road. This road has 14 hairpin bends named after different Tamil personalities (Paavendar, Bharathiyaar, Tiruvalluvar, Ilango, Kambar, Kapilar, Auvaiyaar, Paari, Kaari, Ori, Aay, Adhiyamaan, Nalli & Pagan?). The Ghat road with all these bends paints a great picture when viewed from the plains below. The line of hotels starts a short distance from the last bend.

The Ghat road isn’t all that wide. You can comfortably stop to enjoy the view and/or to take snaps if you are on a bike. It is difficult to stop without obstructing the traffic if you are in a car, though there are some spots where the road widens a bit allowing you to do so.

To give you an indication of the distance, the top of the hill where the line of hotels starts is about 220 kms from Kathipara in Chennai. It took us 4 hours (early morning start) to reach the place despite stopping on the way for food and for taking snaps.

There were three toll booths on the way. The first one was somewhere near Sriperumbudur, the second one was in Chennasamudram (just before Walajapet) and the third one was in Pallikonda (some distance from Vellore).

The road was a beauty. The weather was lovely. A.R. Rahman’s tracks were playing non-stop, totally immersing us in the music. We couldn’t have probably asked for a better road trip !!!!!

Where to stay?

There is no dearth of hotels but we zeroed in on two (from feedback found on the net) – Le Auroville and Taj Gardens. Taj Gardens is located immediately after the last hairpin bend to the right of the road. We however decided to give Le Auroville a try and had to drive quite a bit into the wilderness before we landed up there. For some strange reason, these hotels are called resorts ;-) To reach this resort, you have to take the first left turn after Taj Gardens and keep following the sign boards. You will spot the resort just when you think you have reached the end of the world. The roads leading to the resort were not in a good shape when we visited.

About the resort itself. The room allotted to us was just about manageable. The food we were served was very good. It was cooked in the resort itself and I especially liked the parathas. We were received with warmth and the hospitality provided to us was very good for most part of the day we stayed there. However typical problems began to surface as more customers started coming in the evening. Our dinner that was supposed arrive before 8PM actually came at about 10.30PM, that too after repeated reminders to most of the staff. The reason quoted was some internal mis-communication. Despite this, I would still recommend this place as most of the staff were very friendly and helpful and because I have read/heard much worser experiences about other places. For reservations, please contact Joan at 09486246616.

Places to see:

We just did two things in the name of site-seeing: Trekked up Swami malai and went to the Punganur Lake boating complex.

Swami malai is the name of the highest peak in the hills. To reach here, you have to continue on the road that leads you to the top of the hill till you reach a village called Mangalam. There is a spot in the village where you can park your vehicle. The locals will point this spot to you if you ask them directions for Swami malai. After we parked our vehicle, we spotted a local who was willing to take us to the top. The route to the top is quite easy to make out, but it may be better to take a someone along who can reassure you every time that the summit is quite near, encourage you not to give up and provide you the assurance that you are on the right path. You have to navigate through a few rows of houses from the place where you park your vehicle before the actual trek begins.

The trek wasn’t arduous but it did expose the kind of stamina we city dwellers had. The trek uphill took about an hour including some time for brief stops inbetween for taking snaps. The route mostly comprised steps cut out from rocks. There was also a small stretch without any steps.

Once you reach the top, there is a place which offers excellent view of the hills and the plains all around. There is also a small temple. There was some festival being celebrated in the temple the day we had gone and we saw some locals carrying utensils of all shapes and sizes trek past us to the top. Once we reached the top, we were amazed to see a few kids standing at the edge of a rock launch Diwali rockets by hand. The elders were busy cooking some food right near the temple.

The trek downhill took us about 30-45 minutes with some time again being spent for taking snaps.

If you are carrying backpacks, be sure to make them as light weight as possible. Don’t forget to take water along.

Punganur Lake is an artificial lake located quite close to the Le Auroville resort. The good part about this lake is that the water is quite clear, doesn’t smell bad and there is no garbage strewn around. The lake has a boating complex and one can hire paddle/rowing boats. A Murugan temple is supposed to be there near the boat complex but we couldn’t spot it.

The other places which can be visited are Jalagamparai waterfalls, a solar observatory, government fruit/herbal farms and a telescope house (on the Ghat road). We wanted to initially trek to the waterfalls but dropped the plan as we didn’t want to crowd up our day there with too many things and also because quite a few locals were skeptical about water being available there.

Things to buy:

The only two things that seemed to be famous and available in copious amounts were jackfruit and honey.
Things to note:

  • There are no gas stations on the hills. The last one is a HP station just before you take a left turn for Elagiri before Ponneri. Fill your tank at least here if you are in a vehicle.
  • No public transport is available. It’s better to make one’s own arrangement for commuting, especially if one is hell bent on visiting all the places that qualify for site-seeing as these places are all spread out over the hills and are quite far from each other.
  • I couldn’t find any medicine shops. So it’s better to take from home whatever medicines you might need.
  • Carry enough cash. Plastic doesn’t work.
  • It would be advisable to stop for food any place before Ambur. Vellore would probably be ideal. We couldn’t find decent places to dine after Ambur.

Snaps (Courtesy Sriram):

 

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Trip to Tirupati/Kalahasti

Went on a 2 day trip to Kalahasti, Tirupati & Tiruchanur with all the kith and kin that could make it. We started from Chennai at about 11 AM in the morning on Sunday and took the Chennai – Poonamallee – Tiruvallur – Tiruttani – Puttur – Renigunta route. From Renigunta, the road to the right leads to Kalahasti while the road to the left leads to Tirupati, Tirumala, Tiruchanur etc.

We first went to Kalahasti and reached there at about 3PM. The festival to mark Shiva Ratri was in full swing and there was a sizeable crowd inside the temple. We had a good darshan. Details on the temple, the legends and other things that you might want to know are available here and here.

From Kalahasti, we headed straight for Tirumala (details of temples/places to visit available here ). From Tirupati, which is located at the foot of the hills, you can either walk all the way up to the temple complex at Tirumala or go by road. I had walked all the way up to the top the last time I had come to Tirumala which was just before I joined ISB. Though my uncle and I were planning to do the same this time also, some confusion regarding the booking of our accomodation at Tirumala ensured that we hit the road and scurried to the top to sort out things. The weather at Tirupati was an extremely pleasant one but it started raining cats and dogs just when we started driving uphill. The guy who drove the cab in which I was sitting was this F1 fan who somehow couldn’t stand the sight of any vehicle in front of him. Believe me, this guy would give your favorite F1 driver a run for his money any day. There were so many instances where I felt I was just seconds away from becoming one with God. There were so many sharp turns where our guy, despite the pouring rain and poor visibility, chose to overtake vehicles much larger than his own. I have never before met a guy with so much guts as to try overtaking buses and trucks right at hairpin bends. All this only reinforced my belief that there is so much of talent in the country lying wasted.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you when I say that I, along with 4 others in my cab, managed to reach the top much ahead of the others in the entourage. We had the Rs. 200 Archana Anantara Darshan (AAD) tickets and we were supposed to assemble at this place called Vaikuntam Queue Complex at 3.30AM … yes you read that correctly …. 3.30 AM in the morning. I do not know why my relatives have complete faith in me while giving me the responsibility to wake them up …. and so while they hit the beds and slept soundly for the few hours that remained between then and darshan time, I was kept fully awake with snores of different pitches and amplitudes coming from all directions. Well … I managed to wake them all up at 2AM and instead of singing praises of how I managed to complete such an arduous task, they sang praises of how they managed to wake up despite having slept for just those few hours. At times, I feel there is no difference between one’s boss at work and one’s kin. If you are thinking why one needs an hour and a half to get ready and assemble at a place that is a stone’s throw away, let me remind you that we had ladies in our group too.

We finally managed to locate the end of what seemed to be a never ending line outside the Queue Complex and assembled there. There are two species of people you almost always seem to find everywhere – parking ticket-waalas and chai-waalas. While a representative of the former kind was probably busy in an adjacent parking lot, there was a chaiwaala right next to the place where we had assembled to give us the much needed eye opener caffeine shot. The serpentine queue started moving at about 3.50 PM and it took a while before we actually entered the queue complex itself. Once we entered the temple compound, we just seemed to be slowly walking again and again in concentric circles that led to the sanctum.

There were multiple queues separated by barricades. The gentlemen in the group were busy planning the rest of the day and the trip back. The kids in the group were jumping up and down and running around in whatever little space they could find between people. The ladies were busy checking the denominations of tickets that people in the adjacent queues had bought. If one of the adjacent queues moved faster, there would be loud gasps and arguments as to which ticket was the best one to be bought and what a terrible mistake the gentlemen in the group had committed. A lot of people were singing bhajans and we pitched in whenever we could hear a familiar song/tune. The kids were very enthusiastic even at this time of the day and they too sang their hearts out. The youngest of my cousins, in her enthusiasm, even sang “Hallelujah, Hallelujah” when the rest of us sang “Govinda, Govinda”. Must have been the effect of the “Christmas Tree” that she saw just outside the queue complex or the realization that God is one.

After what seemed like ages, we finally managed to get a good darshan and come out of the temple complex in one-piece. A tougher, yet to be accomplished task, was getting the famous Tirupati laddus. Believe me or see it for yourself when you go there next – the joy in the faces of people who manage to get the laddus completely overshadows the joy you see in their faces after they manage to get the darshan. After getting the laddus, we visited the Sri Varahaswamy temple nearby and returned back to our rooms after a quick breakfast.

I have been harboring this wish of hearing Smt. M.S. Subhalakshmi’s rendition of Sri Venkatesha Suprabhatam at the Tirumala temple itself. Though I couldn’t get this wish of mine satisfied, I managed to hear her “Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam” in the temple complex and it was a great experience for me.

We started the return journey at about 10.30 AM in the morning with our cab driver still in peak form on the way down. In what seemed like a passage strewn with some of the sharpest hairpin bends, he almost managed to send 4 buses, a ‘tempo’ and countless number of cars tumbling down the hill. His victims would have accumulated a lot of sins on account of the pleasantries they mouthed.

On the way back, we first went to Sri Padmavati Ammavari Temple in Tiruchanur located quite close to Tirupati. We then retraced our way back and went for the first time to a place called Srinivasamangapuram. There is a lovely temple of Sri Kalyana Venkatesa Perumal here. The crowd here is much lesser than that at Tirupati, or at Tiruchanur for that matter, but this is certainly one temple that you must include in your itenerary if you are planning a trip to Tirupati. The beauty of the lord of this temple, as manifested in the idol there, is something that is very difficult to put in words. I also managed to get one of the best “sakkarai pongals” I have had in the recent past, as prasadam here.

We had initially planned a visit to Sri Govindarajaswami Temple in Tirupati and a few other temples like the ones in Tiruttani and Tiruvallur but couldn’t make it to these places as it was getting late. If you plan well, you can see all these temples in two days. A good order that you could follow is the following: Kalahasti -> Tiruchanur -> Srinivasamangapuram temple -> Tirumala and Sri Govindarahaswami and the other temples on the way back.

Here are a few snaps shot from my cell phone camera (please click on the thumbnails to view the larger versions):

Kalahasti

Gopuram over the main gate (located some distance away from the main temple)

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Temple chariot:

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The river Swarnamukhi … actually not sure if this is the river as it is in a very bad state. Going by the fact that the temple is supposed to be located close to the river and that this was the only (prominent) water body around, I guessed this must be the river.

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Tirumala/Tirupati

View of the city from the hills (taken while on the way down):

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Statue of Smt. M.S. Subhalakshmi at a place near the entrance to Tirupati:

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The Kalyana Venkatesa Perumal Temple (Srinivasamangapuram):

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A trip to Gingee (Senji) Fort

While on our way to attend a friend’s marriage in Villupuram, Tamilnadu, four of us (the youths in the group ;-) ) decided to visit the historic Gingee (Senji) fort which gets its name from the place where it is located viz., Gingee (Senji). It is located about 160 kms away from Chennai and was apparently once termed by the Maratha ruler Shivaji as the “most impregnable fortress in India”.

To reach the fort from Chennai, one has to take National Highway no. 45 (NH45) and proceed till Tindivanam from where there is a road going towards the right which connects to NH66. The road till Tindivanam is awesome and it is just the opposite after Tindivanam. The Gingee fort is located about 25kms from Tindivanam, on either side of this road that leads to Tiruvannamalai.

The fort is supposed to remain open from 8AM to 5PM. One is not allowed to climb up the hills to reach the top in case one comes after 4PM. It is preferable to avoid the climb if it rains as the rocks and the steps can get pretty slippery.

Here are some snaps from the trip (please click on the thumbnails to get the enlarged view):

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There was not much sign of human life at the entrance to the fort. Just when we parked our vehicle, the parking ticket guy emerged out of nowhere. These parking-walas are just present everywhere:

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Information about the fort:

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Snaps from the fort:

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Kamalakanni Amman Temple, located en-route to the top:

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Hanuman ji on a rock:

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View from above:

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Thats Raam (not me, the other Raam in our group, whom we call Honda) on the roof of one of the buildings at the top of the fort:

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Sri Ranganatha Temple (there is no idol inside) at the top of the fort:

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This I think is the watch tower at the top:

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The snap below shows an adjacent hill that houses one more part of the fort. When seen carefully, one can observe a wall running from the portion of the fort from which this snap has been taken to the other portion on top of the hill in the centre of the snap and then to one of the hills on the right side:

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View from the top of the fort of the monuments housed in and around the fort:

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… and now the team of youths that scaled the peaks, despite discouragement, lack of enthusiasm and non-participation from the lazy oldies in the group ;-) , to reach the top of the fort:

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(L to R:) Raam (not me), Ram (thats me), KR and Suresh

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(Top to bottom:) KR, Ram (thats me) and Suresh

… and to sum it all up, the topmost point in the snap below is where we reached:

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More information on the fort can be found in the links below:

1) Wikipedia

2) Villupuram district tourist places

A trip to Srirangapatnam/Mysore – Part 3

Click Part 1 and Part 2 to access the earlier posts on this topic.

The last place in our itenarary was Mysore. We first visited the Mysore Palace. Its construction culminated in 1912 at a cost of Rs. 41.5 lakhs then. There were apparently three palaces at the same site earlier, each of them having been destroyed either through demolition or by fire. You would have to set aside about an hour if you want to see the palace fully. You can see artifacts and paintings belonging to the Wodeyar dynasty in the museum. There are also some beautiful paintings by Ravi Verma. Though cameras are not allowed inside the palace, you can get some internal pictures from the counter for Rs. 4/snap.

We then visited Brindavan gardens. We reached there at about 7PM, went up to see the dam over river Cauvery and then came back to see the garden and the fountains. The musical fountain is one thing that you should not miss here. The show they have put up is really nice.

Here are some snaps (the ones taken in Brindavan Gardens are not very clear as my camera battery had almost drained out and the night mode shots didn’t come out well):

1) Mysore Palace:



2) Brindavan Gardens:


A trip to Srirangapatnam/Mysore – Part 2

Part 1 of this post can be accessed here.

After seeing Sangam and boating in a coracle there, we went to Ranganathittu which is a bird sanctuary spread over many islets on the river Cauvery. Located about 3 kms from Srirangapatnam, it is considered to be a paradise for bird watchers and a beautiful, calm and quiet place to spend time well for those uninitiated in ornithology like me. We again went boating here. The short boating trip of 15-20 min took us around a couple of the small islets and we got a chance to watch some species of birds (including crows .. yes, crows are there everywhere) and other animals (read alligators) too. There is also a longer boating trip for about an hour that takes you to other places along the river and you might be able to spot other kinds of birds, if you are lucky.

Here are a few snaps from Ranganathittu:

Thats Sriram … ready to take off
(L to R) Kaustubh & Murali

If you joom .. sorry zoom this (I think I have been watching a lot of Captain Vijaykanth movies), you will see an alligator with its mouth open. This is all we could capture since it was very far from us
Some of the birds we saw

Aieeeen …. magarmach aka alligator

One of the rarest species of birds … the great CROW !!!

Click here to access Part 3

A trip to Srirangapatnam/Mysore – Part 1

Six of us went on a one day trip to Srirangapatnam and Mysore on Saturday. Though there is a package tour offered by KSTDC, we rented a qualis for the trip as the cost per head wasn’t coming out to be much different from the KSTDC package and because it gave us more convenience to visit the places we wanted. We started from Bangalore at about 7:30AM and reached back at midnight.

Srirangapatnam is an island surrounded by two tributaries of the river Cauvery and is about 125 kms from Bangalore by road. It was the capital of Mysore when Tipu Sultan ruled it for 17 years from 1782 to 1799. We visited:
1) the spot where Tipu was found dead after being killed in war during the siege of Srirangapatnam
2) Tipu Sultan’s Lal Mahal palace, not much of which is left to see. It is believed to have been destroyed in a fire
3) Ranganathaswami temple, which has the deity – Sri Ranganathar (Vishnu) in a sleeping posture
4) Dariya Daulat Bagh (garden) and Tipu’s summer palace
5) Sangam, where the two tributaries of the river Cauvery join and proceed ahead

You can also see the Jumma Masjid on the way to the Dariya Daulat Bagh and Gumbuz, the place where Tipu lies buried along with his parents on the way to Sangam from Tipu’s summer palace. We could also see whatever little is left of the fort that once surrounded Srirangapatnam.

Here are some pics taken in Srirangapatnam:

1) Lal Mahal (Tipu’s palace):

This is all that is left of the palace now

2) Sri Ranganathaswami Temple:

Kaustubh & Ramki

3) Jumma Masjid

4) Dariya Daulat Bagh & Summer PalaceBagh; the summer palace is the one seen at the rear end

Bagh’s entrance

Trees in the baghRamki … whats he up to?
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5) Sangam (confluence)

The two shivlings at the confluence – the small one at the bottom-right corner and the larger one in the centre of the pic
Boating … you can start from the ghat, go around the shivling and come back for Rs. 20/person
The larger shivling – up close

You can visit this link to know more about Tipu Sultan. The link also has a picture gallery worth watching. It contains snaps of portraits and belongings of Tipu Sultan that you would see in the museum inside Tipu’s summer palace. The site also describes, along with photographs, what all you can see in Srirangapatnam.
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More snaps and details of the rest of the trip in part 2 and part 3.

A trip to Nagarjunasagar

A group of us planned all of a sudden during the party day before yesterday to go to Nagarjunasagar and hit the road yesterday morning. Nagarjunasagar is the world’s largest masonry dam and is located about 150 kms away from Hyderabad. The dam was inaugurated on 10th Dec 1955 by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and construction was completed in 1966.

We left ISB at about 9:15AM (had planned to start by 7AM earlier …. blame it on the party) on 3 bikes and a Tata Indica and reached Nagarjunasagar at about 1:15PM. It should usually take about 3 hrs to travel to Nagarjunasagar but we got delayed thanks to a rally or something that was happening near one of the villages en-route. Driving a bike to the place might be a good idea if the weather is pleasant but it might prove to be a bit difficult if the weather is too hot. Luckily for us, though the weather was bright and sunny, it wasn’t as hot as usual and the people who rode the bikes enjoyed the experience.

When we reached the last stretch that would lead to the dam (the last stretch essentially being a road that curves around the lake formed by the dam) we were told that cars would have to take a separate route to the place but bikes would be allowed to proceed ahead.

The road from where this snap has been taken is the one used by bikes. The road that you can see curving below this one is the one that is used by cars.

View from the road used by cars and heavy vehicles

When we reached the dam, we traveled over it using bikes and had a very good view of the dam and its surroundings. Its really amazing to imagine how they would have built it back then. Cars are a strict no-no here. People who have come with cars can take auto-rickshaws that will take them over the dam and bring them back. There are also boat rides to the Nagarjunakonda museum that is located on an island nearby and the last trip to the museum is at about 1:30PM. We decided to skip the trip and instead spend more time at the Ettipotala falls (thats how it was spelt at the entrance to the falls).

A distant view of the dam and the reservoir

After seeing the dam, we had lunch at a restaurant called Samagamam in a place called Vijay Vihar nearby. The food was South Indian and it tasted good. The side dishes were manageable.


We then left for the Ettipotala falls which are located about 15 kms from the dam. There is one single road that leads to the falls but you have to be very careful not to miss a small board that indicates that you have to take a left turn to the falls from the main road. Here is a snap of the board and you can see for yourself that it is kind of difficult to see it (and of course read the stuff that is written, in case you don’t know Telugu) unless you know about it and are on the lookout for it.

The Ettipotala falls are formed from the rain waters of the Nallamalai hills. More details on the same below:

You can do two things here. To have a good view of the falls, you can buy tickets (Rs. 15 per head for adults and Rs 10 per head for children) and have a good look from top and/or you can proceed downstream and take a bath. We decided to take a dip first and spent about 2 hours lazing around in the stream that emerges from the falls. Though the water isn’t very deep, the rocky bed is very slippery due to a thick layer of algae that has formed over the years. The water, due to its flow, also tries to pull you downstream but there are rocks to hold on to. Here are a few snaps:

L to R: Rajani, Raam (not me, the other one … note the extra ‘a’ in the name), Rishi, Ram (thats me) and Mani. Murali and Karthik, who are the other members of the gang are missing from this pic.

Karthik a.k.a KR a.k.a KaRa

Chandravanka and Suryavanka that constitute the Ettipotala falls

The falls

View from the spot downstream where we took a dip

There is a light show that happens when it gets dark in which you can see the falls lighted with different colors. We decided not to stay for the show and started our return journey at about 5:45PM. We reached ISB at 9:45PM. Here are some more snaps:

The falls

A group of folk dancers performing near the falls