Dainty little village - VELAS


Here am I, back with my travelogue about my latest trip to VELAS… Though I had gone there to attend a workshop, I also managed to explore the place and nearby places.…  Am sure a lot of people reading this travelogue would not have heard about this place, nor did I before I got a mail… Didn’t get it??? Well, read ahead to know what am I talking about ;)

Few months back I had heard about an organization known as Sahayadri Mitra Mandal, whom I had approached for volunteering. Though that time they didn’t offer me a place, but on 22nd December 2011, I got a mail from them, informing me about a workshop they were organizing at Velas… The 2 day workshop was on Marine Turtle Conservation and was scheduled on 15th and 16th October 2011. I grabbed the opportunity immediately knowing that I would start working soon and won’t get a chance to attend such workshops often. I informed Atul and even he agreed to come with me. Ok, enough of flashback let me get back to the main topic – my trip and my travelogue.

To explore the nearby places, I and Atul decided to go to Velas a day early i.e. on 14th October 2011. We decided to take a bus from Panvel to Mandangadh not knowing how to go ahead to Velas. That’s the fun of traveling to new place J.

We left early morning for Panvel by 7.05 am train from Thane. It takes a little less than an hour to reach Panvel. From there we went to Panvel ST bus depot to take a bus to Mandangadh. We got an 8:30 am bus (` 120/- per person) to Dabhol which would go via Mandangadh. It takes about 4 hours to reach Mandangadh; we reached around 12:40 pm. After getting down we enquired about the buses to Velas, but none suited us as we would had to wait at the bus depot for another hour.

If anyone has a query regarding the bus timing and mode of transportation, they can contact me. 

After enquiring further we were told that Trax goes to Velas very often, so we opted for it. One should opt for trax only if he/she is ok with sharing the vehicle with around 12-15 people. Below is the diagram showing how to reach the place from where you can get a trax for transportation to Velas:

Trax normally charge around ` 40/- per person and takes about an hour to reach Velas. The roads are very bumpy but the beautiful surroundings make you forget the discomfort. The roads are covered by dense vegetation on both the sides slowly enfolding its arms to make a way for the serene ocean view. The view makes you fall in love with the place without actually entering the village of Velas. We reached Velas around 2:30 pm and we went to the house where we were to stay. We stayed at Omkar Upadhye’s which was basically a home-stay. Omkar’s house is just 2 minutes away from the bus stop next to Nana Phadnis statue. It’s the only bungalow in Velas, having dormitory which was offered to us where we shared the room with others attending the workshop. It also had separate rooms which are offered to family only.  The charges were ` 250/- per person excluding food. The food was arranged for us at a nearby home, so went for lunch and we rested for a while.

If anyone needs the contact number of Omkar or any other home-stay in the village, feel free to contact me. 

In the evening we decided to explore the village but unfortunately, it started raining. So we stayed back and had a nice informative chat with Omkar who would be our age. He told us about the crops that grow, how people spend their time, about their festivals and also about the monsoon. Let me share it with you; hope I can do the justice J

Let me start by saying that one should really venture the Konkan coast. I really wish to explore the konkan coast and that to by road.  The konkan coastline spreads along the Southwest side of our country solely in the state of Maharashtra. The coast is dotted with pristine, immaculate, sandy white beaches; most of them being virgin beaches are a heaven for travellers like me and probably you too. Some of the beaches are so secluded and breathtaking that one would never want to say goodbye.

Velas is one such place, which is unspoiled and undisturbed by tourists. It’s a tiny village, situated around 210 kms from Mumbai and 36kms from Mandangadh.  The beach is a tiny one stretching only 2 kms in length.  This quiet, virgin beach is abounding with white, grainy sands, dead corals lining its shore, marine turtles and plenty of crabs loitering around forming coconut tree formations. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, this is the place to be. Will come to that a little later. Let me start with the village first.   

Velas is a tiny village with a population of not more than 1000 people; around 200 families. The village is divided into different sections (Aali), where the houses are built on either side of the road/aali. Velas is the birth place of Nana Phadnis, one of the great prominent personalities in Maratha history. Due to the sea-shore Velas is an existing place and is situated near Bankot Bay. There is an old temple of Shri Bhairi- Rameshwar and in this temple all twelve months water is made available taking the benefit of favourable geographical conditions. The village also has a  Mahalakshmi temple just next to the bus stop. 

The main occupation of the people of Velas is agriculture, and the main crops grown here are rice and of course AAMRAI (mango trees). The people working in farms get up around 5 am, finish their work by 3 pm or something and lazy out the rest of the day. The roads become empty by 5 pm in the evening. The electricity supply is not regular, so some of the people who have given their home for home-stays have to rely on generators. The monsoon here is quite heavy, raining continuously 7 days in a row, what the villagers call the ‘Satari’.  One of the important festivals celebrated in Velas is Golkulashtami. The celebration goes on for 5 days, where they arrange the dance competitions between different ‘Aali’, procession of the god (Rath-yatra), people from other village come to Velas for lunch/dinner and vice-versa. The festival sounded very tempting to attend. Hope a ever get a chance to be there for the festival.

As stated before, that if you are into wildlife conservation or an enthusiast, then Velas is the place where you would want to head. Velas is also one of the popular breeding sites of Olive Ridley, which is an endangered species of turtle. The hatchlings are heading towards the sea from the shore now-a-days. And we have at least 80% chances to see the emergence of these little new born turtles as I have a talk with organizers. Also the village is known for another kind of festival being celebrated here - The unique Marine Turtle Conservation Festival.  The festival is aimed at conservation of marine turtles, mainly Oliver Ridley Turtles.

After a brief chat with Omkar, we headed for dinner post which all 3 of us (Me, Atul and Omkar) went for a night walk. Omkar took us to a rocky shore near the road heading towards Bankot. Though it was only 9 pm, it was pitch dark and it was so quite that I could almost hear my own breathing. It was very soothing to hear the sound of waves.  We sat there for almost an hour soaking the serenity and calmness the place offered before we headed back.

The next morning, i.e. 15th October, we decided to explore Harihareshwar and Srivardhan. Though I had been to these places before, but it was fun trying to figure out how to reach these places, travelling by bus and most important I had a good company (Atul) who loves to venture placesJWe started early morning to catch 7 am bus (`14 /- per person) from Velas to Hanuman Tekdi. This is the place where you have to get down to catch a ferry to Bagmandala. Once you get down at Bagmandala, one can see steps on left side to get to the jetty. The steps slowly and beautifully passes through dense vegetation in an serpentine way. The surrounding is breathtaking. The ferries (` 10 /- per person)take about 5 – 10 minutes to reach Bagmandala and is available every 30 minutes. 

Bagmandala is a lovely small village 4 kilometers from Harihareshwar. We got into a shared auto (` 20 /- per seat) which takes approximately 20 minutes to reach Harihareshwar.  Harihareshwar is known for its tranquil and picturesque beach and is also famous for the temple of Harihareshwar. After getting down from the auto, we took a small kachha rasta on the left side of the road to go to Harihareshwar temple.

This 16th century temple is also known as ‘Dakshin Kashi’ has an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Temple complex has deities of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh along with the temples of Kalbhairav (lord of all manthrasastras) and Yogeshwari. It is said that the temple was constructed in Shivaji’s reign, but was reconstructed by 1st Bajirao Peshwa in 1723.

What I enjoyed about the temple is the cool breeze from the adjoining beach which makes the temple premises a nice place to relax. We then went on to the beach, which is just stone throw’s away distance from the temple. Though the beach is dangerously notorious as it lures the people into the water and most of the time kills them, still the gentle winds, soft sand and the inviting waters make the beach irresistible. I was really tempted to get in the waters but knowing how dangerous is can be I couldn’t go ahead. I just sat there enjoying the view of the Harihar hill enclosing the natural beauty in its full glow.

From Harihareshwar we started for Shriwardhan which is about 20 kms and takes approximately an hour to reach by shared auto (` 40 /- per seat). We got down at the ST bus depot to enquire about the buses to Mumbai.  Once that was taken care of we went on to the beach. It’s a commercialized yet secluded beach with sun kissed sand and abstract designs on the sand made by crabs. We strolled on the beach soaking in the beauty of the pristine starch of the beach and appreciating the creativity of the crabsJ. After spending some time on the beach, we walked through the rustic town to find a place for lunch. Hotel Prasad is a good place to have food. After lunch we went to Shivajinagar from where we got into an auto (` 40 /- per seat) to bagmandla to catch a jungle ferry. Jungle ferry (` 20 /- per seat) is the fastest way to reach the other side, taking just 5 – 7 min.

Once back in velas we rested for a while before joining Omkar to tell us more about the village.  On this day, to be precise at 9:00 pm we (Me, Atul and other members of Workshop) gathered in the Grampanchayat office to start out 1st day of the workshop. The workshop was organized by Bhau Katdare, the founder of SNM (Sahayadri Nisarg Mitra Mandal) and Kasav Mitra Mandal. 

SNM is the first organization to take an initiative towards the protection and conservation of Marine Turtles. In 2002, SNM started a conservation programme for marine turtles in Velas. In its first year, SNM undertook protection of nests in one village and successfully protected 50 nests. Within a short period, SNM has spread its protection activities to the entire coast of Maharashtra: about 720 km. In the last five years, SNM has protected 214 nests and released more than 9000 hatchlings.

Bhau was to show us a documentary on the conservation projects, but unfortunately due to power cut we couldn’t see it. But we had a general discussion about the initiatives of SNM in the conservation of Marine Turtles. Then we were introduced to the forest department personnels, members of grampanchayat and some of the key people were felicitated as well.  This was followed by the introduction of all the members of the workshop. I was really surprised to see so many people of different age groups, different fields and from different places gathered here in a small village because of one common interest – conservation of marine turtles. Introduction was followed by brief information about Oliver Ridley Turtle, how and why and when they come on the shore, factors affecting the decline in number and also how to conserve them. We were informed that we were to meet the next day at Velas beach at 7 am sharp and then the meeting was adjourned.

Again in the night, me and atul joined Omkar for a walk to the rocky shore near the road heading towards Bankot. 

On 16th October, early morning the workshop was to be held at Velas beach. It is one of the serene beaches I have visited. I would have loved to leave the hectic world behind to laze around on golden sands listening to the music of the waves. The beach is extremely remote and isolated from the village. To reach the beach, one has to take the only road from the village, walk till you reach bridge and take a small opening on the right at the end of the bridge. After getting down, jump over a wooden barricade on left and take a narrow footpath following a narrow stream on your right. You will come across one more barricade, jump over and walk till you see Ipomea forest. Walk through the forest to reach the shore. It takes about 20 – 30 min to reach the shore.  The view is breath-taking. It’s a virgin beach untouched by the flocks of people and ideal place for turtle nesting site.    

As per the schedule we reached the beach at 7:00 am. Our workshop started with information on how to spot the turtle nesting site, once spotted what is to be done, how to dig the site to collect eggs and transfer them to hatchery site. This was followed by demonstration of the same. Later the forest rangers and the people from grampanchayat addressed us regarding what they expect from us and also about schedule 1 (wildlife rule). After breakfast, we gathered at grampanchyat office to resume the session with views and ideas from the workshop members and how can we help the conservation of turtles. I was really very happy to learn that SNM is seeking volunteers to help in beach patrolling and monitoring of nesting sites in between Vasai and Dahanu. Immediately mumbaikars volunteered to help the cause.

All in all it was a good learning experience and learned a lot from the workshop. In the evening me and atul went back to beach for a walk.

Sad to think that we will have to return back to Mumbai L

Biking Trip to Mhad and Khopoli


Here I am one more time with travelogue of my one day biking trip to Mahad Ganpati (my choice) and Shri Chaitanya Gagangiri Maharaj Ashram (Atul’s choice) with Atul. 

Till the morning of our trip i.e. 15th September 2011, we weren’t sure as whether we would be travelling by car or on bike. But on contemplating a lot we decided to take a bike, the reason being the weather. The weather was really enjoyable and lovely. Although it was a tiring trip, all the pain was worth it.

We started off from Dombivali, took Manpada road to Kalyan Shilphata road. From there we headed towards Panvel via Kalyan Shilphata road and then Panvel Phata. From there we headed towards the Mumbai-Pune Express way. From there we took a slip road onto old Mumbai-Pune Express way towards khopoli, took Panvel Bypass road to join NH4. We took an exit on the right to Varad Vinayak Temple. It took us about 2 hours or so to reach the temple. 

The temple is situated in the Khalapur taluka of Raigadh district and enshrines ‘Varad Vinayak’ (the one who fulfills all the desires and grants all the wishes). Mahadcha Varadvinayak is considered to be one of the most revered places of worship and is one of the Ashtavinayak temples of Maharashtra. The temple looks like an ordinary house, so don’t get confused when you reach there and don’t see a authentic templeJ. All the corners of the temple have pairs of elephants and its sections covered in gold. The idol is a ‘Swayambhu’ and faces east with its trunk pointing left. The consorts Riddhi and Siddhi can be seen on either side of the idol. The most distinctive thing about the temple is a lamp that has been burning constantly since 1892 AD (so says the legend).  

The swayambhu idol was found in 1690 AD by Shri Dhondu Paudkar in a lake. The idol was kept in a nearby goddess temple for some time. In 1725 AD Varadvinayak temple was built by Peshwa Ramji Mahadev Biwalkar and he gifted the temple to the village. 

More or less all the worship places have one or the other legend associated with it. This temple is not spared as well. As per the legend, a rishi by name Vachaknavi was visited by a ruler by name Rukmangada, and during the visit the rishipatni Mukundaa expressed her attraction to the king. The king turned her down leaving her seething in anger. In the meanwhile, Indra, the king of the Devas came down to the earth in the disguise of Rukmangada and accepted her romantic moves. An illegitimate son Grutshmadha was born out of their union. The son, learning of the story of his birth was grief stricken, and prayed to Ganesha in Bhadrakavana for purification of his soul of the sins of everyone concerned. His prayers were granted by Varadavinayak of Bhadrakavana (now Mahad).Hence the name Varadvinayak.

From Varad vinayak we went to visit Shri Chaitanya Gagangiri Maharaj Ashram, Khopoli. One has to head towards Khopoli highway and then on to NH4. You will come across Khopoli bus stand on you left, after going some distance take a left and you will see the Ashram on your right side. It took us about half an hour to an hour to reach there.

The Ashram is quite peaceful and is situated between the lush green mountains on all the sides. The environment is spectacular with Patalganga river leaping and frolicking by its side. The ashram halls are open so one can enjoy the openness of the ashram. In the main hall, Gagangiri baba seats on a flower bedecked swing with an imposing altar with sculptures of faunal life. 

Gagangiri Maharaj had severed his hands and legs when he undertook penance in water. Here his limbs were injured extensively due to attacks by fish; as a result he was unable to walk. He used to be carried on the shoulders of his disciples wherever he wished to go. His teachings are been followed not only by Indians, but also from people across the globe.
Though I am not a big fan of visiting ashrams, but what I liked about being there was that it offered me the quietness which mumbaikars require after being in a city which does not sleep. We spent some time here and then headed for lonavala for lunch 

As soon as we left from ashram, the weather became amazingly pleasant. Felt really good once we took Khandala Ghat road. After about 45 minutes we reached Kamat Hotel where we halted for lunch. While returning back we decided to go off the road and explore the interior roads to Mumbai. 

On our return journey, it started raining heavily… all the roads were covered with fog so we had to halt for sometime… The weather was really beautiful and enjoyable… We chose to go off-track discovering the rural beauty. We then were on the same road back towards Mahad. Without deviating towards Mahad, we continued towards Kalyan shill road. Approximately, after 7 km from Mahad junction is a right turn towards Matheran and Neral via Karjat. This road is unlike urban cemented roads. However, it connects you to the farms, mountain ranges, scenic silence and rural life. It is real beauty to see farm houses. Now this does not mean the “farm house” that we know. The farmer actually stays close to the farm and completes farming tasks. We crossed small villages / hubs like Dolavli, Kelavli, Palasdhari and then Karjat. Each station is separated by 5 – 7 km rural routes / roads.

The road then leads us to Karjat junction from where the Karjat station is at a distance of few yards. We continued going straight towards Neral and then badlapur and then ambernath and then to Kalyan Shilphata road, reaching dombivali wrecked ;)

We were extremely tried by the time we reached home but as I said earlier, it was all worth it. Would go on a long biking trip if given a choice……  

Karnataka - Architectural Wonders

My first ever trip alone!!!

Astounded??? Well, that's the common reaction of all the people I have come across in this trip. Was never so excited and nervous at the same time... Support from my family and my loved ones made this trip success.

This time I went to Karnataka. I don’t know if everyone would agree, but this state changes your entire perspective on the spiritual and architectural front. The state has it all, right from the city lights to wildlife to the hill-stations. The major aspect of the state for which Karnataka is famous for is its wildlife and architectural wonders.

I started my journey to Bengaluru on 21st May ’11. The Bengaluru airport is really far from the city. One has to take City Bus Shuttle to reach the city. I intended to keep the city as my base to roam to other places. I was put up at my sister’s place for next couple of days. The next day my sister and jiju took me to MTR for breakfast. It's a very interesting place for food if you wish to experience the authentic south Indian food.

MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room) restaurant, founded in 1924, is located on Lalbaug road. This is the place where the word authenticity is not written anywhere but can be experienced everywhere. If you don’t mind waiting in a queue, this is the place to be for south Indian food. Khara Bhaat (Upma) and Kesari Bhaat (Sheera) is delicious. The food here usually overflow with ghee, but the taste amuses you… Well must say, that you get more than what you have paid for.

After heavy breakfast, we went to Lalbaug Botanical Park which is just almost opposite to MTR. Never seen garden, so well maintained and so beautiful. The Park, commissioned in 1760, is a lush green paradise with an area of 240 acres in the heart of the city. The garden has over 1000 species of flora some of which are rare species brought from Persia, Afghan & France. Huge old trees
with their canopy of green foliage interspersed with flaming red flowers of gulmohar can be seen everywhere. The park is also home to various avian species like black kite, brahminy kite, kingfisher, herons, cormorant, etc. A binocular is must, if you are a bird watching enthusiast. The park truly is awesome where you can sit by the lakeside and reconnect with the nature.

On 23rd May ’11, I visited Shravanbelagoda, Belur and Halebid. I had booked a seat in the tour bus by KSTDC. It’s a one day tour costing Rs. 935/- wherein the bus picks you up at 6:30 am and drops you at around 10pm.

Our first stop was Shravanbelagoda, which is about 157 kms from Bengaluru. Shravanbelagoda is well-known for its religious and spiritual sanctity. It’s a Jain pilgrimage destination, wedged between two hills – Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri. Shravanbelagoda is famous for its colossal statue of Gommateshwara, also referred to as Lord Bahubali. The statue is located on Vindhyagiri and one has to climb bare-footed about 600 -700 steps to see the splendor of the statue up-close. The steps are steep at few places and it gets hard to climb. You forget how tired you are once you see the imposing 17 meter high statue, carved out of monolithic stone. The statue is beautifully carved with absolutely accurate body proportion. Eyes exude the serenity and calmness. His face shows calm expression with a little hint of smile. Just looking at the lord, takes you miles away from worries. There is an anthill in the background which signifies his incessant penance. From this anthill emerge creepers which twine artistically and beautifully around his legs and his arms. The Digambar (Nude) form of Bahubali represents the complete victory over the earthly desires and needs which distracts you from attaining the divinity. On the either side of the lord stand two majestic chauri bearers in the service of the lord. One of them is Yakshi and other is Yaksha. The bearers are richly ornamented which is absolute contrast to the nude form of Bahubali. Mahamasthakabhishek is performed once in every 12 years, and the next will be held in 2018…. I would want to be a part of it. So fingers crossed!!!!

Our next stop was at Belur. Belur is about an hour and an half drive from Shravanbelagoda. The temple was built in 1116 AD by Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the Cholas. The presiding deity of the Belur temple is Lord Channakeshava. The temple is architecturally rich with carvings of intricate design and decorations. Every inch of the temple is filled
seductively with the human figures, gods and demigods and animals. Each and every sculpture of the Madanika, carved skillfully and beautifully on the brackets of the columns, are unique creations. Their curvaceous body, their jewelry, their poses, each and every part of the sculpture including the eyelashes just takes your breath away. There is this Darpansundari, sculpture of a lady holding mirror and completing her shringar. The other figure that comes to my mind is that of a lady squeezing out
water from her hair after bath. Other being that of a lady being harassed by a mischievous monkey. Would love to tell you more about each and every sculpture, but cannot as the travelogue would be too big to read. The temple is star shaped with a pair of Hoysala symbols in the form of a man attacking a tiger. The elaborated arches on the entrances show a mythical creature known as Makara. This motif can be seen in all the temples belonging to Hoysala Dynasty. The makar a is a result of combination of attributes of seven animals (eyes – monkey, wide mouth – crocodile, tail – peacock, limbs – lion, trunk – elephant, ears – cow and body - pig). The temple is full of pillars and each pillar is unique. There is a pillar in the courtyard of the temple complex which stands without any support. One can even see the gap between the pillar and the platform on which it stands on one side. I was able to spend just an hour at this magnificent place which I felt absolutely inadequate. You require atleast a day to appreciate the splendor of these beautiful temple, which is the evidence of our rich heritage.

Later we headed for Halebid. It is situated about 17 kms from Belur. This magnificent piece of work is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is the largest of the Hoysala temples. The Construction of this temple started in 1121 and got completed by 1207. One visible hallmark of temples built during the Hoysala regime was their star shaped structure and also the dome less top. The temple is divided into two identical temples, one on the northern side is Shantaleshwara (after Shantala Devi, beloved wife of Vishnuvardhana) and the southern one is the Hoysaleshwara temple.
Thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Prahalad, etc adorn the walls. As one goes around the shrine, some of the finest sculptures can be seen – Krishna Leela, Battle between Arjun & Karna, Lord Shiva as Natraja, the Dashavtars, Ravana lifting Kailash Parvat, Abhimanyu chakravyuha, etc. The temples are preceded with a huge statue of Nandi adorned with beautiful ornaments. The interiors of the shrine are equally impressive with ornately carved pillars and exquisite bracket figures of madanikas. I was able to see the reflection of the artist’s mindset in the carvings and the whole experience of being in this temples and witnessing this rich heritage is so overwhelming.

My next destination was Hampi. I started for Hampi on 24th May ’11. Trains and buses are
both available but I preferred the overnight train. The train stops at Hospet from where you can either take a bus or auto (max 120 `) to reach Hampi. Hampi is around 14 kms from Hospet.

Hampi was the 14th century magnificent capital of Vijayanagara Empire, one of the greatest empires of the world. It is protected by the Tungabhadra River on the north and by rocky granite ridges on the three sides. Covering an area of about 26 kms, the ruins are situated in the midst of a rugged landscape.

If you are energetic and have an entire day or two you can walk. Or you can hire an auto at Rs. 300 and take a 4-hour tour. I didn’t feel like taking an auto, instead I decided to walk and get the feel of the ruins. For this I had to hire a guide at Rs. 600 (fixed rate by the Hampi tourism). It’s safer to have a guide incase you travelling alone because the monuments are quite far from each other and you have to walk through jungle and huge boulders. More or less I visited all the places from the guide book, but mentioned below the monuments which appealed to me:

1. Vittala Temple
To reach here you have to follow the Tungabhadra River keeping it on your left side. It’s quite a walk, around 2-3 kms from the hampi market. The temple, built in 15th century, is the most extravagant architectural piece of Vijayanagar art. On entering you will see a Stone Chariot. Normally in Vishnu temples you will see garuda stamba, instead a stone chariot was built facing the temple’s sanctum. The chariot is carved with mythical battle scenes. Just behind the chariot is the Maha Mantapa, which stands
on an ornate platform carved with floral motifs and horses. The main highlight of this hall are the musical pillars which emits sounds of instruments. Though it’s not allowed to tap these pillars because of the unmindful curiosity of visitors. The inner sanctum, also known as Garbha-mandir, is devoid of idols. For the pradakshina, one had to access the unlit underground passage. Northeastern hall is known as Musician’s Hall and is carved with sculptures of musicians, drummers and dancers. The ceiling are beautifully carved with patterns of lotus like designs. The northwestern hall is the Lakshmi temple. Whereas the hall on the southwest is the Common Hall and on the southeast is the Kalyan Mantapa. This hall is beautiful with ornated platform in the middle and stories of dashavtar, ramayan, prahalad, etc adorns the pillars of the hall.

2. King’s Balance – A huge stone frame where kings weighed themselves with gems & diam
onds which were then distributed among poor.

3. Achyutraya Temple
Dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu, is off the track and hidden nature of the temple makes it less crowded. The open hall just ahead has some of the finest carved pillars in Hampi. Carvings on the pillars revels themes like Krishna leela. A beautiful yet modern temple as compared to the Vittala temple.

4. Hazara rama temple
15th century temple for the royals, is known for its sculpted friezes depicting Ramayana.

5. Pushkarani
The Pushkarni is a stepped tank in a symmetrical formation, with water being supplied from a stone aqueduct.

6. Ugranarasimha
22 feet huge statue with the serpent’s hood above it. Earlier known as Lakshmi Narasimha because of lakshmi sitting on his lap. But thanks to the invaders, lakshmi has been destroyed and hence came to be known as Ugranarasimha.

7. Badavi Lingam – Monolith linga is 12 feet tall.

8. Sasivekalu Ganesha – 4 armed ganesha is monolith idol which is 12 feet tall

9. Kadlekalu Ganesha – 18 feet tall monolithic idol

10. Virupaksha Temple
7th century temple is the principal temple and one of the oldest functioning temples in India. East facing Gopura leads you the first courtyard of the temple complex. The tower with a pair of cow horn like projections on top is the most prominent landmark in Hampi. The mural panel on the central portion of the main temple hall is one of the few remains of this form of Vijayanagara art. The inner sanctum contains the idol of lord Virupaksha in the form of a Linga. Personally I wasn’t really attracted to this t

Important thing to remember while travelling in Hampi: Carry sunglass , cap, sunscreen and lots and lots of water because the stones and rocks tend to absorb and radiate the sun’s heat.

Hampi has been the highlight of my trip and has left a deep and powerful impact on my mind. Its difficult to put it in words about how splendor is this work of human. You have to see it to believe it.

My next destination was Coorg, Madikeri to be precise. I stayed in Coorg from 30th May till 1st June '11. I had taken an overnight bus to Madikeri bus depot. You can make out that you have entered the district when you start seeing dainty bungalows peeking through the hillocks and plantations. The Coorgis have opened up their homes for the tourists where one can get the feel of the place. I stayed at Madikeri in a similar homestay on the top of a hillock. Mentioned below are the places I visited:

1. Talacauvery
Situated 4,500 fta bove sea level and situated 48 kms from Madikeri, it is from where Cauvery springs forth, only to disappear underground before surfacing again near Bhagamandala. Cloudy skies and mist welcomed me as I made to the temple. Next to the temple is the Brahamagiri hill which you can climb to view the panaromic view of the region. I couldn’t see a thing but a white blanket formed as a result of mist and clouds

2. Bhagamandala
Derives its importance from the temple near the Triveni Sangam of Cauvery, Kannani and Sujhoti, a mythical and mystical river. It is situated 40 kms from Madikeri.

3. Abbi Falls
An exotic waterfall, about 8 kms from madikeri, is located amidst green and dense forest where it’s easy to lose the track of your time. The falls, cascading down from 70 feet height, is not impressive but the untamed surrounding is what makes the place desirable to visit.

4. Namdroling Monastery (Golden Temple)
Situated, about 35kms from Madikeri, in the Bylakuppe district,
the four monasteries are gorgeous, colorful and breath-taking. The most prominent and attractive of all is the Namdroling Monastery. There is a huge bell at the entrance. I was quite taken-back (in a good way) by the enormous nature of the idols. The immense size of the idols, the huge hall and beautiful paintings is absolutely overwhelming. I was in the awe when I saw the golden beauty of the three statues, with Mongolian eyes and long ears. I was lucky enough to hear the chants. The beautiful sound of the Tibetan trumpet, the cymbal and the gong, the chanting and the Tibetan monks with their quiet unassuming presence gave me a unique feeling of peace.

5. Nisargadham
Situated 32 kms from Madikeri is a 65 acres of bamboo jungle, with a picturesque hanging bridge, Deer park (small fenced area with chital and sambar). It’s a nice picnic spot for nature lovers who doesn't mind the eerie sounds of bamboos. It is a unique little place in the contentious waters of the river Cauvery.

I have tried to explain Coorg in words, but the fact is that no words can do justice to describe the essence of the place. As I had stated before you have to see it & experience it to believe it...

This brings me to the end of my travelogue…. I hope that I can write more travelogue about my future trips soon… Till then adios!!!!

Haji Malang - Malanggadh

Hello there!!!

Am back with my travelogue about trek to Haji Malang and to Malanggadh.

Me and my brothers (Sanket and Vijay) decided that we should explore places in and around Mumbai. We started with Haji Malang which was suggested by Vijay and after looking up about it on Google; we decided to go there on 30th January 2011.

We decided to start our climb as early as possible to avoid the heat (strongly advisably)… We boarded train for Kalyan at around 5:40 am from Vidyavihar. We reached Kalyan station around 6:30 am, had a cup of hot tea and caught a rickshaw to base village of Malanggadh. It’s a 13km (30 min) ride till the base. We were freezing ‘coz it was really cold in the morning and none of us had any warm clothing with us……

Around 7:15 or so we reached the base of the gadh, had breakfast and then started our hike to Haji Malang Dargah. The entire climb is lined with small shops and houses. There is a myriad of color on both the sides owning to the chaddars to be offered at Dargah. The steps at some places are old (dated back to the time of the fort) and some are new. Due to the steps, the climb to the top is exhausting and one requires frequent breaks. The only thing which might irritate are the beggars who keeps on pestering and its best to ignore them….. We did see monkeys also on our way and it was fun to take their snaps… Some of them were too cute with their babies hanging on their bellies…

After about an hour of climbing we reached the ‘Peheli Salami’ or the Dargah of Haji Bakhtar Baba. The view while climbing is spectacular. This leg of the climb is most exhausting and energy draining. We decided to have a tea and biscuits before starting off again. I was really surprised to see the idol of Ganesha on our way to Peheli Salami. I was equally surprised to see ‘Nav Durga Devi’ temple on our way to 2nd Dargah. Another 15 – 20 min of climbing, we reached ‘Doosri Salami’ or the 2nd Dargah of Haji Sultan Shah. At the summit is the main or Badi Dargah of Baba Haji Malang.

After having visited the dargahs we decided to venture ahead for a trek to Malangadh. To find the way to the Malanggadh, we had to retrace our steps a little back to a paanwala from where a small path leads to the fort. We made over way through rugged rocks, loose soil to reach the base of the fort from where the steps begin to take us to the main bastion of the fort. Before heading up there, we took a path to the right which leads to another durgah. Here we rested for a while and went back to the steps. The view was really spectacular. Vijay and I climbed the half way and Sanket went till the bastion. The steps were extremely steep and Sanket did find it difficult to climb down till the base of the fort.

I took us around 4 ½ hours with frequent breaks to reach the fort bastion. We climbed down to the base of the mountain in about 2 hours. We decided to take lunch at Kalyan Station before heading home…..

I must say that though the climb was tiring, it was good experience and I would suggest people who haven't been there yet to visit the place….

Here’s me signing off for now……..

Ratnagiri & Malvan

This was my first study tour Post College and job…. I was very excited when I came to know that the course which I am doing has study tours where we will get firsthand experience on things…. Our 3 day tour was in Ratnagiri and Malvan.I boarded a bus on 20th Dec ’10 for Ratnagiri…. Ratnagiri is a port city surrounded by Sahayadri Mountains in the east. The road trip was exciting, bus travelling on serpentine roads of the ghat… It was just beautiful….

I reached Ratnagiri on 21st Dec early morning (6:30 or so).
Our booking was done at Hotel Swaroop on the Bunder road. The Hotel is 10 min away from the bus stop and the hotel tariff is reasonably cheap (double occupancy – Rs 700/- per room per day).

Post breakfast we had to go to Mumbai University Sub centre with our Course Director Deepak Apte for his lecture there. After which we started for Undi Beach, to study rocky shore assessment and habitat profiling.

A rocky shore is the area where rocks predominate. This intertidal zone consists of rocky ledges with pools of salt water which are biologically rich. One can observe a wide range of species and biological processes. The habitat profiling is done by transect method. A particular area is divided into no of quadrants and then each quadrant is studies for the organisms present… then the extrapolation is done for the number of species on that entire shore front.

We observed a variety of species present in that area and also we got an amazing experience snorkeling in rock pools. All in all this session was truly learning experience for me.

The next day we started for Malvan via Ambolgadh. Ambolgadh plateau which is a study site is almost 2 hours from Ratnagiri. The Jaitapur nuclear p
ower plant project has been proposed which will affect the ecology in 100km area all across. This study site might also get disturbed so BNHS is proposing options that might reduce the thermal discharge and minimize the effects of it. We were explained in details about this project.

After this session we started for Malvan where we were to stay till 23rd. We had booked a homestay at Chivla beach. Post lunch we went on to the beach to study the species present in the area and the ecology of it.

On the last of our study tour we went to Sindhudurg fort. We went there again to study about the marine conservation projects and all. This was the last session of our study tour post which everyone departed for their respective places…

I stayed back for one more day to roam about a little. To start with let m
e first give you a little detail about the homestay, Chivla beach and the fort post which I will pen down about the other places I visited.

Homestay: The place where we stayed was Vasanti Bed & Breakfast which is on Chivla beach and near to Nath Pai Sevangan. The owner was Mr. Ra
mchandra Patil who is a retired air force veteran and his wife Vasanti Patil. The homestay is MTDC approved and the charges are Rs 500 - 550/- per room per day.

Chivla Beach: This beautiful arc shaped beach with clean sand and clear water offers total serenity and calmness. The best thing about this beach is that it’s not crowded and is ideal for homestay. Just loved the beach….

Sindhudurg Fort: It stands tall and impregnable on a rocky island barely a km from Malvan. The fort is approached by a boat through a navigable chann
el between 2 smaller islands of Dhontara and Padmagadh. Sindhudurg was built in 1664-67 AD by Shivaji Maharaj. The construction was done under the supervision of Hiroji Indulkar, an able architect. One of the best preserved forts of the Marathas, the 48 acre Sindhudurg fort has a four kms long zigzag line of 9 metres high and 3 metres wide rampart with 42 bastions. On the parapet, close to the entrance, beneath two small domes are the imprints of Shivaji’s palm and foot in dry lime. Also, in the fort there is the Shivaji temple 'Shri Shivarajeshwar temple’ the only one of its kind in the country where the image of Shivaji is without a beard.

The other places which I saw post our study tour was the Devbaug beach, Jai Ganesh Temple and rock garden.

Devbaug beach: A confluence of Karli river flowing into Arabian Sea can be observed from this beach. The beach is situated around 14 kms from Malvan. The beach offers an enchanting sight of hundreds of seagulls flying in a harmonized manner. The beach offers a picturesque view of the sunset. Because of its remote location, very few tourists venture here and as a result the beach is clean and the serene aspect of it has been maintained.

Jai Ganesh Mandir: The Ganesh idol is of pure gold. This main idol in the sanctum sanctorum is in the traditional pose with Riddhi- Siddhi (consorts of Lord) on both sides. The hall has eight idols of Ganesh carved in the ceiling. One gets a very comfortable feeling of Lord Ganesh looking generously from all the eight directions at his disciple. The interior of the temple is very rich and has used soothing colors.

On 24th Dec, I left from Malvan by bus and reached home on 25th around 5 am. I must say, that this trip I enjoyed thoroughly and I got to learn a lot from Mr. Apte. I would definitely love to go back to Malvan and experience the tranquility which the place offers again.

About this blog

Wilderness – it says it all.
For me it’s an escape from the materialistic world. Its an tranquil experience for me. Though I have not been to many wild expeditions but whatever places I have visited I have found tranquility and peace. I aim to share my experiences with those who love wilderness and in turn I get some information from them. I had also compiled information about the wildlife parks which I would like to share with all.

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