Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sivanasamudra, Talakadu, Somanthapura- a school trip

Ask any school student of our generation who studied in Government school where were they taken as part of one day trip, the answer would be Bluff, Talakadu and Somanathapura.A road trip to Mysore with my parents and sister – as the rains continued to flood North Karnataka. Though, we considered Hampi and other Northern part of Karnataka, we acquiesced on a two day road trip instead of taking a 14hr bus trip.
We did not want to take the usual Bangalore-Mysore route, instead chose to drive through Kanakapura. This route is well connected by ST buses to Kollegala and further to Coimbatore via Sathyamangalam. The first 25km or so might take one hour of driving and the traffic and roads are better beyond Kanakapura.

Close to 100km from Kanakapura, after driving through the villages of Mandya and crossing Malavalli, on NH 209, you will reach Belakavadi. The second hydroelectric power station in India, Shivanasamudra (sea of Siva) was established in 1902 across river Kaveri. Locally known as BLUFF this power plant has an interesting story. Dewan Seshadri Iyer constructed this dam to produce electricity for Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) where John Taylor Company was extracting gold for the British. But the Dewan was telling that electricity was meant for Mysore. The people did not believe this and called it a ‘bluff’, eventually electricity was supplied to KGF. Recently a 5MW Solar Power Plant is installed here. Two spectacular waterfalls – Gaganchukki and Bharachukki brought this place to tourism map. When we crossed the dam and solar power plant, we reached a parking lot near KSTDC Hotel. As we stepped down, we could see two separate waterfalls, assumed by many as Gaganchukki and Bharachukki at the same spot. Gaganchukki has two separate cascades at this location and Bharachukki is around 10km away inside an army cantonment driving past a temple and mosque. Be prepared to pay hefty parking fees and Grama Panchayat development fees en route. You will be flabbergasted at the volume of water and the width of the cascades at both these waterfalls.

During summer the quantity and force of water would be less and a few years ago, there was no security or a fence to stop you from going to bottom of the waterfalls. At Bharachukki, we have gone down to the bottom of waterfalls and played in the water, which no longer is possible. It was nice to hear the childhood stories from my father about how he had to carry my sister on his back uphill while returning.

Another 25km through T. Narsipura-Kollegal road takes you through the rural life of Karnataka. People literally sit on the road processing black lentil (whole Urad Dal) near the feilds. A long fly-over will bypass this small town in the future. T in T. Narsipura stands for Tirumakudalu - meaning the confluence of Kabini (Kapila), Kaveri and Spatika Sarovara – a mythical lake.

Talakadu: Ancient capital of Ganga dynasty and later captured by Cholas, Talakadu was important in Karnataka history. 28km from Sivanasamudra, Talakadu is part fiction and part facts. Talakadu had over 30 temples and this historically vibrant city got buried in sand, an ecological disaster linked to an inexplicable legend of ‘Curse of Talakad’. As the legends unfold, Raja Wodeyar of Mysore was ogling at a nose-jewel of Rani Rangamma of Vijayanagar family and proceeded against Talakadu. Rani Rangamma, throwing the jewel in to the Kaveri drowned herself uttering a three-fold curse. “Let Talakad become sand; let Malangi become a whirlpool; let the Mysore Rajas fail to beget heirs”. Another pious lady, Almelamma is also credited for this curse in some other legends.

We would slide down the sand and run up all the way to repeat the sliding on sand not bothering of scorching sun. The main temple complex cannot be visited now, as it is under renovation by ASI. Anyhow, around the temples there is nothing but sand. Fortunately, there is a shaded walkway around the temples in this desert like sand dune. Panchalinga Darshana occurs every 12years, next due in 2021. We spent our lunch time at the Kaveri riverside, which is a picnic spot.

Well maintained by ASI, Somanathapura is a fine example of Hoysala architecture, more quiet and peaceful than Belur and Halebid. Built using green schist, the Keshava temple has trikuta (triple shrine) with a vestibule connecting to the main rectangular mantapa, decorated with reliefs and friezes with pierced windows screens above them. All the three shrines are sixteen pointed stellate (star-shaped) in design and their towers follow the same pattern, which allow light from all directions to fall on this marvellous architecture.

Hop on and hop off KSRTC buses to visit these places in day and you can head to Bangalore or Mysore at the end of the day. You take a diversion from Bannur to either Mysore (25km) or Mandya (30km), if you are returning to Bangalore. If you are staying at Mysore, there are many new hotels on the K.R.S road if you don’t like to stay inside city. Inside the city, Hotel Dasprakash at Gandhi Square (Tel 0821-2442444, dbl Rs 780) is still better than the lot with ample car parking and a nice vegetarian restaurant. The Mysore Palace and Jayaramachandra Art Gallery is just 15min walk. Next morning after an obligatory visit to Brindavan Gardens and SriRangapatnam, we drove over thousands of speed breakers on Bangalore-Mysore state highway before reaching home.

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