Thursday, 11 July 2013

Shravanabelagola, Belur, Halebid and Kemmangundi

                                    UNWTO


People pay a fortune to spot wildlife when they go on jungle safari. No one would expect to spot a cheetah when they go on a pilgrimage!

It took us two hours to get past the Friday traffic of Bangalore and reach Nelamangala 49 km from Whitefield. Interestingly it took us same two hours to reach Shravanabelagola 114 km from Nelamangala with a dinner stop en route. The temple committee offers accommodation (dbl, Rs.210, Tel: 08176 257258).We reached at 9pm with Aby and Simi in one vehicle and snoozed off. Next morning we were welcomed by the story of Cheetah crossing just before the temple premises spotted by the Pauls who came at 11.30 in the night. Cheetahs often come to this village to feast on dogs, we were told.

Climb the hill in the early morning before it gets sunny. The rocks will be hot and almost impossible to walk if it is in the afternoon, as one has to climb the steps barefoot. You can munch on the free breakfast at the matha, you can visit Basadi next to matha, which has mural painting depicting stories from Jain literature. Bandhara Basadi is on the adjacent plot, explains story of Bahubali in English on flex prints.

 Shravana/ Shramana means a Jain monk, bili kola means a pond as pure as milk – this is how Shravanabelagola got its name. A place where there is a pond as pure as milk and Jain monks live, many have meditated here and attained salvation. Shravanabelagola is famous for the monolith statue of Bahubali (Gomateshwara) which was carved in the 10th Century A.D funded by the king Chavundaraya. The statue which is 57 feet tall is on top of a hill – Vindhyagiri at 3,288 ft above MSL. Apart from the Bahubali statue there are several small basadi – jain temple on the hill. Vindhyagiri is also known as Doddabetta (dodda – big, betta – mountain).

Adinatha or Rishabanatha is the first of the Tirthankaras in Jainism. Bahubali is the son of Adinatha. Bahubali, in order to expand his kingdom will wage a war against his brother Bharatha. Instead of fighting a battle with soldiers and violence, the brothers fought in three different forms namely dristhi yuddha, jala yuddha and malla yuddha. Dristhi yuddha – is to stare at the other person’s eye without blinking as long as possible. Jala yuddha – standing inside the pond, they spray water at each other. Whoever will withstand without falling into water wins. Malla Yuddha – this is to test the muscle power, also known as Kushti-the traditional Indian wrestling. Bahubali wins in all the three, but soon realizes that everything is temporary and life itself is transitory. He then goes on meditating in the standing posture. The depth of his meditation is denoted by the anthills that are formed around him and the vines that have grown on him. It also implies his detachment from the world.

Once you reach the top of Doddabetta, just before entering the main area where you see the statue, there is a statue of old woman holding something in her hand. The board reads her name as Gulaganji Ajji. The story dates back to 10th century when the king Chavundaraya built the statue. When the statue was completed and King Chavundaraya was conducting the abhisheka ceremony for the statue. The king was very arrogant as he had built one of the best and biggest statues in the world. It is said that in spite of pouring liters of milk it was not reaching the bottom of the statue. An old woman comes with some milk inside Gulaganji – known as jequirity or rosary pea, and requests the king to permit her to pour the milk she was carrying inside the small seed. All the populace will laugh at her; however King will permit her to go ahead. It is said when she pours milk on the statue the milk flows down till the feet and the pride of the king comes down. The old woman in disguise is thought to be Kusmandini Devi.

There is a small hill a little away from Doddabetta, known as Chandragiri or Chikkabetta (chikka – small, betta – mountain). On this mountain there are several basadis. Doddabetta became popular after the Bahubali statue was craved, where as Chikkabetta was popular much before the Doddabetta. Chikkabetta was preferred by Jain monks to meditate in the caves on the hill top. Today there are caves with footprints of the monks, who meditated here and attained salvation. 

Belur and Halebidu:

Belur 82km from Shravanabelagola, was the capital of the Hoysala dynasty, situated on the banks of Yagachi river. It took almost a century to complete the work on this temple, started in 1116 dedicated to Lord Krishna. Excellent carving can be found – Hindu deities, battle scenes, celestial nymphs adorned with the wealth of detailed make up and jewelry. 16km from Belur, Halebidu the latter capital of Hoysala dynasty boast a star shaped temple standing on an elevated platform. Every inch of the walls is richly carved with stories from the epics. Both Belur and Halebidu are striking from far, get closer and let your eyes rove over to admire the details and craftsmanship.


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Chikmagalur

It is believed that Baba Budan smuggled coffee seeds from Yemen and planted in Chikmagalur. Overlooking Baba Budangiri range, Chikmagalur district offers Western Ghats in microcosm -lofty peaks, trekking trails, captivating cascades, gushing streams, mighty rivers (Tunga and Bhadra originate here). Chikmagalur in Kannada means the youngest daughter’s town – refers to the youngest daughter of Rukmangada, the chief of Sakrepatna. Another part of the town is called Hiremagalur – elder daughter’s town. After Vijayanagara dynasty, Tippu Sultan enjoyed Chikmagalur as part of Mysore kingdom until British took over in 1799. The much awaited Chikmagalur railway line is nearing completion connecting to Kadur, the nearest railway station.

Many restaurants in Chikmagalur town offer gastronomical expeditions, Thyma for carnivores offering Arab Cuisine and Soundarya for herbivores, both on IG road. Hotel Rest Inn (dbl, Rs.500, Tel: 08262 234111, 236222) hidden in a cross road just opposite to Hotel Rajmahal offers parking facility, clean rooms and comfortable beds, though the Pauls continued their man-animal conflict with the cockroaches.

Kemmangundi 
50km from Chikmagalur at 4732ft above MSL, Kemmangundi is hidden inside Bhadra WLS. The Horticulture Dept. Guest House (Tel 08261-237126 to book between July 16- March 14), the best accommodation and restaurant in the middle of the forest are undergoing a complete makeover. You need to call at LalBagh, Bangalore (Tel: 080- 265719252657018126570824) to book your rooms between March 15-July 15. The old ratty buildings have been razed off to replace with wooden clad buildings with mod-cons, expect to pay Rs 1500 or more for a double room, to be inaugurated in Oct 2013. We were lucky to find two old rooms for six of us with 3 beds in each, though the rooms were not maintained well. The makeshift restaurant cooks up whatever is in the store.

updated on 03.03.2017
Price for double bedroom Rs.1680/-, these 
spacious rooms have power backup, Television. Another double bedroom for Rs.756/- doesn't have power backup or Television and is for a budget traveller. They have rooms to accommodate bigger groups. 


Trekking to Hebbe Falls was our main agenda but abandoned, thanks to a hefty Rs 200 per head fee introduced by Forest Dept. We headed to Kalhatti Waterfalls- just don’t bother to go here, almost nude men take dips in a filthy area. Touts may approach you offering a jeep ride Rs 2000 or above to take you to Hebbe Falls. Ride on your own risk- it is illegal to go through forest or private plantations.

updated on 03.03.2017
On the other hand you can contact the friendly jeep owner Mahesha (8105164354, 9482643180), who will take you to Mullayanagiri, through the Bhadra WLS and come back from Chikmagalur making a round trip. He will charge Rs.5000/- and can accommodate 8 persons. 

Z-Point: 45min walk from the Guest House; Z Point is a vantage point offering panoramic views and could be the single most reason to visit Kemmangundi. After crossing the leech infested forest, removing the leeches with lemon juice was not so easy and many bloodstreams formed. Enjoying the scraggly geometry of the mountains, we trudged along the narrow path on the ridge of the mountain.  We did not expect the winds can be so furious during monsoon. What started as a light drizzle developed to a heavy wind with spells of shower drenched all of us. Just surrendering to the magic of rains, we had the revelation about the vulnerable humans living in no harmony with the mighty nature. The thrill of almost-floating in air was serendipitous as we clung to each other to keep our feet in place.


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Kemmangundi-Mullayanagiri route:
Driving this route is not for the faint hearted but is a must for nature aficionados if you have own vehicle. First 15km is very bad until a check post. It is worth the effort, lush green forest and deep valleys amidst fog entice you on this scenic route. During monsoon, it is worse with poodles of water on the way. You will reach Chikmagalur-Lingadahalli road after Mullayanagiri. There are a few home stays in this route. The better route to Kemmangundi from Lingadahalli (20km) is widened and constructed with concrete. So if you love your vehicle more than nature, return the same way. There are a few new home stays at Lingadahalli, so in case you don’t get a booking at Horticulture Guest House, you can find accommodation here. By mass transport you can reach Lingadahalli, you need to hire a jeep to reach Kemmangundi.

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