Why you must visit Pyramid Valley International, Bengaluru at least once. . . . 

Are you looking to achieve peace, explore spirituality, heal your body without medicines and much more ; then Pyramid Valley International in Bengaluru is a must visit place for you !

Disclaimer : This is not a sponsored post. I just want to help make people aware of the possibilities of meditation. 🙂

I usually like to get out of the city, go on a mini trip OR go on a shopping spree on my birthday. This year I craved to do something different, bring in my new year on a different note. And since we had to travel with a toddler, we had to think to of a kid friendly place.

Recently I have started to explore my spiritual side. So i thought- ‘what better way to start the year than by attaining some enlightenment ! 🙂 ’

We left home around 12:30 pm, a little later than we planned to.  .  Would advice you’ll to leave as early as possible if you wish to explore the place at a more relaxed pace.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and the sky looked lovely! There is just something about the Bengaluru skies, you can’t help but stop and admire it. Soon we were on the NICE Road heading towards Harohalli where the centre is located. The NICE road wasn’t as smooth as we remembered it, but it definitely beats getting stuck in traffic. Thanks to the warm climate Aadya soon dozed off and I could relax a bit.

We reached Kanakpura Taluka around 2pm , passing by the Art of Living entrance we carried on. Around 1km ahead we came across the MTR board on the right, taking the deviation we soon entered the restaurant. We were clueless as to where we would have our meal, but coming across MTR took care of this problem.

MTR is one of Bengaluru’s oldest and well known restaurants that serve authentic South Indian cuisine. The food here is rich in ghee and made using only high quality ingredients which melts in your mouth! You can rest assured that your children will love it too ! Feeling recharged we drove on.

Pyramid Valley International Centre

Getting off the highway, we entered the village area leading to Pyramid Valley. Driving on the narrow but concrete lanes we soon reached the place without any difficulties.

Founder Brahmarshi Patriji’s vision for the place was to create a common platform where masters of the world could unite.

This place is the nucleus of the activities of  The Pyramid Valley Spiritual Society[PVSS].This society has set up meditation centres all across India where one can go to learn and practice meditation.

Their objectives are to spread awareness about the power of meditation & vegetarianism.

[Pyramid Valley is spread over 28 acre campus with various facilities including conference halls, library, meditational pyramids, dining hall and cafeteria, residential cottages, rooms, and dormitories.

Meditation is taught free of cost to all visitors. Multi-day residential workshops on meditation and spiritual science are regularly conducted in this campus.  Hundreds of thousands of visitors benefit from this magnificent international center every year.

Since its inception in the Year 2003, over four million people have learnt meditation. Over 1,500 programs and workshops were conducted with participation of at least 100,000 spiritual seekers. As part of its “ Daily Annadana ” free meals programme, over two million free meals were served to-date. Source – pyramidvalley.org]

Entry to the centre is completely free. Parking is available in the facility itself. Picking up our free coupons from the reception we entered the centre.

The centre is beautifully designed, a visual delight ! Walking on the path covered with trees on both sides, we spotted the amphitheater & the Mahatma Gandhi statue to the left. There are clean restrooms located at numerous spots within the vicinity.

We then proceeded towards the ‘Maitreya Buddha’ – the first mega pyramid in the world built solely for the purpose of meditation. I had seen pictures of the pyramid online, but it looks grander in reality! It is a 160ft*160ft piece of architecture.

Did you know ? A Pyramid is built at an angle of 52 degrees, thus attracting cosmic energy within it. This is why meditating within this pyramid multiplies the effect of the meditation by 3 times!

Children below 6 years are not allowed within the pyramid as it is a ‘highly silent zone’. So one of us stayed back with the little one as the other went inside the pyramid. First time visitors are briefed regarding the importance of meditation.

Meditation

It was extremely insightful and inspiring to learn about meditation. We all know of meditation as a form of yoga; but it is a lot more than that.

Meditation is such a powerful act which, if done correctly and for the required duration, one starts getting blessed with small gifts bestowed by divinity.

Meditation is an act of connecting with our creator.

According to the briefing given, I learnt that we are made up of 7 layers, our physical body is just our 2nd layer. When we come to this earth we carry with us our previous sins known to us as ‘karma’

Meditation if done properly helps in [4 Reasons why. . .]:

  1. Cleansing us of our previous sins.
  2. Once we are emptied of the negativity, we are then filled with the light of the universe – thus becoming light bearers.
  3. It is believed that through meditation alone we can heal our bodies of  health issues. We can be free of medicines !
  4. Attaining peace, energy , a strong calm mind are just some of the benefits of meditation.

After the briefing we get to enter the meditation cell located at the centre of the pyramid. One can feel the strong energy in this place. The ‘king’s chamber’ is situated at the centre of the cell, at a distance of 1/3 the pyramid height. It is at this spot that maximum cosmic energy is focused.

Coincidently it was a full moon night that day. On such a day, the pyramid is kept open all night as people come to the centre to meditate all night. Full moon is a powerful occasion when the benefits of the meditation intensifies great.

After exiting the pyramid, in a relaxed state of mind we headed to the cafeteria for a tea break. The menu is limited but worth trying.

The centre has numerous grass lawns where one can enjoy strolling, let the children run around, have a picnic, or just daze away .

View from the cafeteria

Next we planned to visit the Sunset Point or the Tapastali where the Shiva statue is situated, but Aadya was exhausted and we had to give it a miss.

They even have accommodations available for people wanting to stay over. There are many other spots to check out in the Pyramid Valley such as Adi Shakti Dhyan Kshetram, Hilltop view points, Pagoda cottages & meditation lab.

One can truly leave the stressful life of the city behind here. Feel rejuvenated ! We then left the centre. With the sun setting, we headed back to the city with one very exhausted child ! 🙂

Meditation can be done by us at anytime and anyplace. It is free of cost and provides us with so many benefits ! Yet most of us don’t practice it as we lack basic knowledge about it. This is why I feel everyone must visit the Pyramid Valley at least once in their lifetime to be introduced to this phenomenal way of living.

Have you been to Pyramid Valley International ? Do share your experience with me ! Comment below !

RoadTrip-Part 3 : Sringeri

Travel to the Temple Land of Sringeri in South India with us ! 🙂

Sringeri Peetham , pic credit – Sringeri.net

Day #4:

The distance from Chikmagalur to Sringeri is around 90kms by road which takes around 2hours to travel.

We took the Chikmagalur-Sringeri road which turned out to be a forest road. A well maintained road with a thick cover of trees on both sides.

The route was a continuously winding one , not meant for weak stomachs ! After stopping for a light snack at Hotel Advaith Lancer at Sringeri, we headed towards the temple.

Sringeri

Sringeri is home to a number of historic temples. Of these, Sri Sharadamba Temple and Sri Vidyashankara Temple are very prominent. Other historic temples nearby are Hornadu,Kollur .

Sringeri Matha Entrance

 Interesting Facts – [Sringeri Sharada Peetham is one of the four Advaita Vedanta monastery (matha) established by Adi Shankara around 800 AD in Sringeri (Karnataka), the others being Dwaraka (Gujarat), Govardhana (Odisha) and Jyotirmath (Uttarakhand).

The Sringeri Peetham has been a library and a source of historic Sanskrit manuscripts. Along with other Hindu monasteries , the contemporary Sringeri matha has been active in preserving the Vedas, sponsoring students and recitals, Sanskrit scholarship, and celebrating annual Adishankaracharya jayanti (gurupurnima).]

Most temples in South India have a magnificent tall tower at the entance. This one turned out to be a very colourful tower with intricate carvings. What an attractive sight! Ofcoz i couldn’t resist from taking a snap of it . 🙂

How beautiful is this !?

On entering the matha (temple complex) you encounter an open hall to the left and the two temples to the right. The temple which is closest to the entrance is the Shri Sharadamba Devi Temple, formed in 820 AD.

Sharadamba Temple

It is a temple dedicated to the Goddess of Knowledge & Wisdom – Saraswati Devi. You will witness many parents bringing their children here for the ‘Aksharbhyasa Ceremony’ .

pic credit – Sringeri.net

It is a Hindu tradition, which is observed in the season of Aksharabhyasa or Vidyarambham. In this ceremony, preschoolers are introduced to the alphabet and the world of learning. The ceremony is usually performed during 10th day of Navratri(Saraswati Puja). But it is not uncommon to see people performing the rutual on other days as well.

Aksharabhyasam , pic credit-poojalu.com

During the ritual, children sit on the lap of either of the parents and are made to write their first alphabet with their index finger on a plate of uncooked rice. The sign of the alphabet is also made on their tongue.

Interesting Facts – [The Sharadamba temple, has grown from a simple shrine dating to the time of Adi Shankaracharya. In the fourteenth century, Vidyaranya is said to have replaced the old sandalwood image with a stone and gold image. The temple structure itself continued to be made of wood till the early 20th century. After an unexpected fire that damaged the structure, the current structure was built in the traditional south indian style of temple structure. Fact Credit – Wikipedia]

The temple further away in the complex is the Vidyashankara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva (built during the Vijaynagara Empire era (1338 CE)).

Vidyashankara Temple

It is ancient looking, made completely of stone and reminds one of the bygone era. You can’t help but feel in awe of it.

Interesting Facts – [ The temple architecture is also an exhibition of the astronomical expertise of medieval south Indian temple builders. The main temple hall features 12 pillars designated for the 12 signs of the zodiac. Windows and doors along the temple walls are arranged such that equinoxes sunrise views reach the deity. The northern and southern gates enable the sunrise view from the hall during solstices. The Vidyashankara Temple was built in the year 1338 A.D. It is a unique monument built entirely of stone combining both Hoysala(Chalukya) and Dravidian architectural styles. Fact Credit – Wikipedia]

To the end of the complex is the river bed of Tunga River and a bridge to go across. Here on the temple side of the river you will see fishes as big as your arm fighting amongst themselves to be closest to the river bed! Trying to get first to the food that is being offered to them by the devotees. A major tourist attractions here, especially for the little children.

What a sight it is ! To watch hundreds of fishes at the river bank fighting over pieces of flattened rice being thrown out to them !

These fishes are considered Holy and are called ‘Devare Meenu’ in the local language which means ‘God’s Fishes’

Trying to get a picture of this scene was indeed a difficult feat to accomplish ! More & more devotees crowded up the spot as we made our way out of there.

Tunga River Bed

There are few other tourist attractions in Sringeri that one can visit, they are mentioned below :-

Sri Parshwanath Swamy Basadi

Sri Parshwanath Basadi (Digambar Jain Temple) is situated in the heart of Sringeri Town. The date of construction comes to about 1150 A.D. The main temple is 50 feet long and 30 feet wide. Completely built of stone.

Sirimane Falls

Sirimane Falls is located at a distance of 5 km from Kigga near Sringeri, a popular pilgrim center.

Kigga, a small village which houses the beautiful waterfalls. Kigga is about 16 km from Sringeri. Water from falls feeds coffee estates and paddy fields in the downstream. A moderate entry fee is collected to maintain the walkways and viewpoints.

 The money collected also supports a small hydraulic power plant which is built adjacent to falls which lights Kigga houses. The entire activity is controlled and maintained by local bodies.

Hanumanagundi Falls

Hanumanagundi falls also known as Soothanabbi falls is located on the way to Hornadu Via Kudremukh. Distance between Sringeri and the waterfalls is 36 km. Waterfalls lies inside Kudremukh National forest which is famous for Shola Forests. Gangamoola , the birthplace of Tunga, Bhadra and Netravati rivers also lies in this region.
Fact Credit – Wikipedia

Next Post Link given below. . . .

RoadTrip – Part 4 : Agumbe – Manipal

RoadTrip-Part 2 : Chikmagalur

Travel to the Hill Station of Chikmagalur in South India with us ! 🙂

Sunset point in Attigundi

Chikmagalur

Distance from Bengaluru to Chikmagalur is 243kms and takes around 5 hours to cover by road. Distance from Belur-Halebidu to Chikmagalur is 25kms and can be covered in an hour.

Interesting Facts :

[ Chikmagalur literally means The Land of the Younger Daughter. It is said to have been given as a dowry to the youngest daughter of Rukmangada, the legendary chief of Sakrepatna.

Chikmagalur is a hill station in Karnataka, a state in southwest India. Chikmagalur is famous for its serene environment, lush green forests and tall mountains. Baba Budangiri, Mullayanagiri, Hebbe Falls, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and Kemmanagundi are among the must visit places while in Chikmagalur ]

DAY# 1 : Back to the trip ! We reached Chikmagalur late afternoon . After experiencing sunny weather throughout the journey , we were looking forward to enjoy the chilly hill station weather !

After resting for a while and spending sometime with our family in Chikmagalur city, we left to visit Rathnagiri Bore.

Sunset at Rathnagiri Bore

Fun Facts –

[ Rathnagiri Bore also called Mahatma Gandhi Park  in chikmagalur has turned as a star of attraction to the local people as well as tourists for evening outgoings and weekend holidays.

This nature park was previously an open mini-forest which was later converted to beautiful garden, designed with pavements and lawns with a site of iconic Mullayanagiri hillock in the backdrop. The park has a wide collection of colourful flowers and ornamental plants. Among other attractions of the park are the lotus pond, Nehru Rose Garden, green house, and a children-cross bridge. ]

        It has a kilometre long fun toy train ride for children as well as adults around the hill ! A must try for all , specially around sunset. It has the Darjeeling train ride feel to it .

After enjoying the sunset there we headed to the market to pick up spices and filter coffee powder and headed back home.

Rathnagiri Bore [pc – exploremytour]

TRAVEL TIP : Visit Rathnagiri Bore  atleast an hour before sunset to be able to enjoy the place properly. Also, when in Chikmagalur do pick up spices and coffee ! 🙂

DAY# 2 :

After enjoying the hearty breakfast of neer dosa, sheera, ghee roast eggs, mangalore buns & dahi poori so lovingly prepared by our aunt we left.

Next we were headed towards Nature Nirvana Homestay, Bynekhan Estate, Attigundi.
Having spent around 12,000/- for a 2 day stay @ Nature Nirvana (a bit on the expensive side for a homestay) we were looking forward to living in luxury.

TRAVEL TIP : You will get lots of budget homestays which are not situated in coffee estates.

On our way we passed Kaimara and headed towards Attigundi. Soon we were welcomed by coffee plantations on both sides.

Few kilometres ahead we could view the hilly ranges ahead. What a spectacular contrast it was ! The hilly range on the right were covered with plants & trees , while the hills on the left seemed naked , sparsely covered with shrubs.

Enroute Attigundi

Although we stopped several times to try to capture this beauty, the snaps were just no comparison to reality ! So after a few tries we finally gave up & proceeded.

Soon we reached the entrance to the coffee estate. The homestay was located around 7 kms inside the estate providing extreme seclusion.

Since Attigundi is at a high elevation I was a bit dejected as the 7km diversion from the main road was one of continuous decent. We took almost 30 minutes to cover the 7kms ! This road was meant for SUV’S & Jeeps ! Thankful that our Hyundai I20 has highground clearance we moved ahead.

Finally we reached the homestay ! We were welcomed by the site of 3 adorable little dogs running towards us, greeting us as if they have known us forever ! A sight etched into my mind for years to come.

Coffee Plant at the Estate

My first sighting of cherry red, ready to pluck coffee seeds got me super excited ! Simply a beautiful sight to see ! I plucked few of those gorgeous seeds & leaves to take back as souvenirs.

Nature Nirvana is at a distance of 34kms from Chikmagalur, but the drive took us 2 hours to reach ! The coffee estate is being run by the owners since 1970.  The accommodation was quite basic for the price we were charged which i was not happy about .

The estate has hills, lake & a small waterfall, something that is common amongst all coffee plantations. Enjoying the clean, fresh, pollution free air we set out to explore the estate.

Our guides were the 2 adorable super excited dogs who were enjoying showing us the way around , patiently waiting like bodyguards while we took in the view around us.

Being dog lovers we loved the attention we were being given by these cute little furry animals .

Exploring the Estate with Browny

After visiting the small lake in the estate we went on to look for the mini waterfall. The soothing sound of the water running down the stream all the way to the waterfall and beyond, can be heard all around the estate .

Stream at the Estate

Enjoying the view of the water gushing down the fall and after taking a few snaps we moved on to find the sunset point. Failing to find the sunset point and as the sun was setting already, finding the best spot we could we took in the moment.

At 5:50pm the sun started setting into the hills. Fascinated by the myriad of colours filling the sky . Within minutes the magnificent orange globe of light changed to red as it disappeared.

We then headed back to the homestay to enjoy coffee made from beans grown at the same estate with a plate of  bhajiyas, sat enjoying the chilly weather. Ah Bliss !!

As it grew dark we could get a clear sighting of the stars & the halfmoon. What a view ! My husband decided to try a shot at capturing this scene and set out with his Nikkon & Tripod . While I decided to enjoy the beautiful chilly weather with a walk accompanied by me new bestie Browny !! 🙂

DAY #3:

Woke up to the sound of gushing water and birds chirping . ! If only every morning was this chilly and the air this fresh !!

The view of the sun, light falling on the hill range makes the moment seem magical.

Coffee seeds air dried at the Estate

Dewy plants around us, the ground wet from the mist, even our car was covered with dew ! Such a refreshing site for a city dweller !

I couldn’t help but hope that my generations to come would get to enjoy nature like this!

Hope that our world will be preserved & protected for the future generations.  .

We left for Baba Budangiri. The harsh winter heat scorching our skin with all it’s glory.

Fun Facts –

[ 36 km from Chikmagalur, Baba Budangiri (also known as Dattagiri & Chandra Drona Parvatha) is a mountain in the Baba Budan range with 3 large caves said to be holy.. At an altitude of 1895 m, this is one of the top places for trekking in Karnataka .

Trails through forests and grasslands lead up to Mullayanagiri Peak.The best time to visit Baba Budhangiri is from September to Early March. Road access is also available till Budangiri peak.

Baba Budangiri is named after the Muslim saint, Baba Budan who used to reside here.

This place is also important for Hindus as Dattatreya Peetha. A cave here is believed to have been the residence of Sri Dattatreya Swamy. An annual Jatra or Urs, which is held for three days after the Holi Festival according to Hindu calendar, is attended by both Hindus and Muslims. 

Timings to enter are 8 AM – 5 PM .
The main peaks in this range are the Mullyanagiri  and Baba Budangiri. Collectively, these peaks are known as Chandra Drona Mountain Range as they naturally form the shape of a crescent moon. Mullayanagiri (20 km from Chikmagalur, on the way to Baba Budangiri) is the highest peak in Baba Budangiri Range with an altitude of 1950 meters (the tallest peak in Karnataka). ]

          The ascent was narrow with hairpin bends but it was the scenery that took our breath away ! Watching the hilly range covered mostly with grass & shrubs we proceeded. The folds created in these hills over the years give these hills an awe inspiring beauty !

Baba Budangiri [pc – Flickr]

On our way we saw a small lake amidst the many hills on top, very unlike what i was imaging Baba Budangiri to be. There was a huge cellphone tower on one of the hills but absolutely no network on our phones ! Staying there our biggest problem was no network coverage.

It was December end when we visited Chikmagalur, coincidently we were there during the 3 days the annual Jatra takes place. Due to the security and the crowd we decided to not visit the holy caves.

We then headed towards the Manikya Dhara Falls.

Fun Facts –

Manikya Dhara Falls

[ At a distance of 7 km from Baba Budangiri Dattatreya Peetha, 36 km from Kemmangundi & 29 km from Chikmagalur, Manikya Dhara Falls is situated in the dense forest of Baba Budangiri hills in Western Ghats of India. It is another popular attraction not to miss in a Chikmagalur

With a height of about 30 feet, the waterfall is situated midst dense Forest offering great views of Baba Budangiri Hills. Locally known as Nellikayi Theertha, this waterfall is considered as a holy site by Hindus as well as Muslims. Manikya Dhara, which literally means a string of pearls, is the ideal site for people looking for a peaceful and scenic atmosphere. According to the legend, saint Baba Budan along with his 4 disciples came to the site in search of water. After their prayers, they were blessed with water flowing from the mountains in the form of this waterfall.

People believe that bathing in this fall can cure various ailments. It is one of the main attractions of Baba Budangiri Hill. There are several shops around the fall that sell herbal medicines. The specialty of the fall is that it does not get drained during the summer ]

         The topography here was very different from that of Baba Budangiri. There were flat farmlands and some hills at a distant. The waterfall actually looked like a string of pearls with the sunrays falling on it. There were numerous people standing below it, enjoying getting drenched.

Before leaving we caught a glimpse of a temple at the tip of  a hill at some distance , since we were short on time we did not get to explore it.

View from the Falls, Sighting of the Temple located on the pointed hill.

Heading down we spotted a connecting hill which seemed isolated & decided to do a mini trek of our own. Managing to get some lovely pics we headed towards Mullyanagiri.

Mullyanagiri is at a distance of 20 kms from Baba Budangiri. It is the highest peak in this range with an altitude of 1950 meters.

Fun Facts –

[ Regarded as the highest peak between Himalayas and Nilgiris, Mullayanagiri is one of the best treks in Karnataka and among the top trekking places to visit in Chikmagalur. It is also one of the top attractions you must include in Chikmagalur.

The peak gets its name from a small temple at the summit, which is dedicated to a Tapasvi Mullappa swamy, who is believed to have meditated at the cave near the summit. For adventure enthusiasts, the location offers an opportunity to engage in activities like mountain biking, trekking and road biking. Being the highest peak in Karnataka, it offers some very interesting trails. The trek route to the peak begins from Sarpadaari, which is connected with Chikmagalur by road. This is 3 km long moderate level trek which is fairly steep and takes about 1.5 hrs to reach the peak. Direct road access is also available closer to the peak which needs less than 1 km trek and take about 20-30 mins.

The valley views from the top of Mullyanagiri are breathtaking. The landmarks on the trek path are a small stream, a Nandi statue and a cave with a small water source inside. The Sunset presents a spectacular view from the peak. ]

Mullayanagiri

        The steep narrow road upwards is in a bad state, filled with huge potholes and is definitely not safe for cars with low ground clearance and less horsepower! The higher you go the more scarier the route gets due to the steep slope and bad road conditions.

And the fact that there are no railings along the sides makes it really dangerous. At one point I even thought we were gonna fall of the cliff !! Once you ascend, due to the narrow slope it is not possible to turn back halfway so Beware !

TRAVEL TIP : Do not attempt going to Mullyanagiri without an SUV ! Also you need to have real good driving skills for the ascend here !

      Struggling to get to the top after ending up burning the car tyres at the dangerous curves, hoping the risks were worth the view, we finally breathed a sigh of relief !

The view from the top was more impressive than the one from Baba Budangiri. To reach the top of Mullyanagiri one has to climb alooot of steps.

Mullayanagiri

As we had done enough trekking for the day we decided against it. The view from where we were standing was spectacular enough. So we found a nice isolated cliff to go sit & enjoy the view from.

The glorious view of sunrays falling on the hills & the valley below was a one of a kind experience ! 

The decent down . .

Taking in this beautiful moment we sat longer, unwilling to leave. The need to navigate the risky descend before sunset , made us get back in the car. Soon we had put the nerve wrecking descent behind us. It was time for sunset already ! Finding a good spot by the road we stopped to enjoy the sunset . Happy with all we had achieved to do in the day, we went to sleep listening to crickets chirping and water rushing down the stream.

TRAVEL TIP : If staying in Chikmagalur make sure to stay in homestays which are not situated deep in coffee estates if you do not want to have to spend 20-30 mins just getting outside & inside the estate. Something which we found to be extremely inconvenient especially without an SUV.

DAY #4 :

Leaving the estate early next morning we were able to reach Chikmagalur city by 8am as the way back from Attigundi to the city was literally traffic free! After refuelling we headed towards Sringeri . And thats a story for the next post !

Link RoadTrip Part 3 – Sringeri . .

RoadTrip-Part 1 : Belur – Halebidu

This is a 20 days road trip from Bengaluru and back covering lots of places. To give a detailed depiction of the places covered, it is divided into parts. . . Stay tuned for the next excerpt coming soon !

Both my husband & I crazily decided to go on a long roadtrip, something unlike anything we’ve done before . . . and crazy awesome it turned out to be ! We went from Bengaluru – Halebeedu – Belur – Chikamagalur – Sringeri – Gokarna – Badami – South Goa – North Goa – Bengaluru in a span of 20 days !

Having watched loads of Hollywood movies where friends went on road trips – neverending roads and sceneries to treasure, I have always had it on my Bucket List and finally I was going on one !!

We planned out the duration and booked most places in advance as the trip started in December End and we didn’t not want to risk not having a place for the night .

Day 1 – Starting Point : Bengaluru

Distance from Bengaluru to Belur – Halebidu is 220km by road and takes around 4-5 hours to cover.

Leaving at 7:30 from home we managed to exit the city in an hour thankfully ! The route till Kunnigal was filled with acres & acres of farmland intervalled by small settlements and tiny water bodies. Swathi Delicacy in Kunnigal has been our all time preferred stopover. Clean washrooms, delicious food & excellent service unfortunately meant cramped parking lot. Being wedding season, people were on their way to their native places. Having our teas we got back on the road.

Off we went listening to my list of Bollywood songs, Mumbai girl that I am 🙂 Although i have lived in Bengaluru for a while i still am a Mumbaikar at heart. Being a Bangalorean himself my hubby does not care for desi music but he had no choice . . hahaha

So enjoying the never-ending stretches of plantations and hilly areas on both sides we headed towards Belur. The greenery a soothing balm to our city weary eyes. . .

 Listening to my husband disrupting the flow of music to educate me with the history of the places we were passing by, we carried on. My husband is a history buff with a vast knowledge of Karnataka’s history. Even though I’ve always found textbook history boring, it’s endearing to watch him talk so passionately about the state he has lived in for most of his life, so i don’t disturb him 🙂 .

Paying toll after toll after toll we proceeded on the extremely well maintained roads. Zigzagging across the road, overtaking the numerous vehicles we went on, looking forward to the adventures awaiting us.

Windmills in the distance. . .

In the distance I spot windmills on the hills, signalling the start of Hassan. Crossing Hassan we head towards Belur, now listening to Grunge music(sigh ! ) thanks to my husband. Wind energy & solar power trying to be utilized as much as possible in many places like Chitradurga in Karnataka and hence the windmills.

Yawning my way though some more grunge music we headed on. . .

Halebeedu

Halebidu

As Halebidu (also known as Halebeedu) comes first enroute we headed there. Had heard alot about the beautiful temple carvings from my husband and was curious to see it.

On entering the gates my first impression was that it looks just like any other ancient temple you get to see at Hampi. Being a stone temple it tends to look dull and dark from a distance.

Unfortunately for us it seemed to be a ‘Trip to Belur-Halebidu’ Day for many of the nearby schools. The place was cramped to the limit which made us want to turn tail and run ! But since we were already there we decided to give it a shot. We were surprised to find out that the temple was active!  An active Shiva Temple. And boy were we happy that we had entered the temple! The carvings on the wall were unlike anything I’ve seen before!

Such exquisite detailed carvings on the walls, just blows your mind away. Levels and levels of carvings running continuously from one wall to the other all around the temple!

A broken piece of the carvings

Each layer told a story, stories of Ramayana, stories of Gods & Goddesses, stories of wars. Each figure carved on the walls with a lot of effort, skill and patience. Every piece as beautiful or more than the previous one. So fascinating are the carvings that you could spend all day staring at them.

Exquisite craftmanship

2 giant Nandi Statues were placed in a covered area with similar carvings. There is also an Archaeological Museum in the vicinity which is closed on Fridays, unfortunately for us, the day we went there.

Nandi Statue

In front of the museum stood a tall statue of Mahavir in all its glory against a green backdrop. Finally we left from there wishing we could have stayed longer, but as were on a tight schedule that day we headed for Belur.

Statue of Mahavir in Halebidu

Belur

We reached Belur in an hour. Belur is a larger temple complex. The temple is called Channakeshwara Temple.

Belur entrance

The entrance to this temple reminded me of the entrance to the Virupaksha Temple of Hampi.

Carvings of Belur
Krishna’s Footprint

Like Halebidu, Belur is also an active temple. An active Krishna temple.

Belur & Halebeedu temples do have a few similarities but mostly they are quite different visually. The carving techniques used for both are not the same. Belur even has ancient Kannada scriptures written on some walls.

Personally i feel the carvings at the Halebeedu Temple were more stunning as compared to Belur Temple, so if you are short of time and can visit only one of them then you know which one to visit 🙂

We then reached Chikmagalur by 4 pm . . To read about Chikmagalur please check the link – RoadTrip-Part 2 : Chikmagalur

Mangalore, the gateway to Karnataka

The city of Mangalore gets it’s name from the 9th century Mangaladevi Temple located 3kms southwest of the city centre. Mangalore now officially called Mangaluru is the chief port city of the Indian state of Karnataka. It is situated at a distance of 350 kms (7-8 hours by road) from Bengaluru. It is one of the fastest developing cities in India. It is a mix of the old and the new, of tradition and modernism.

Puttur, Mangalore

The people of Mangalore are very friendly and are always ready to give a helping hand making this one of the safest cities to travel to. Solo/Women travellers must consider this as an option while choosing destination. It is located close to other tourist attractions like Murudeshwar , Mysore and Coorg .

Being a coastal region summers get really hot and humid , monsoon season brings in heavy showers which lasts for hours and at times more than a day without much respite. So the best time to visit this green city is from the month of October to February when you get to enjoy a lovely chilly weather.

There is no shortage of budget , mid range or luxury hotels in Mangaluru. Lots of service apartments have also sprung up all over the city to cater to the evergrowing demand.

While in Mangalore one must try the local delicacies specially the seafood variety, but rest assured vegetarians wont be disappointed either !  Snacks like the Mangalore bhajji, Mangalore buns , variety of dosas,vadas & idlis and many other local dishes can be found at the numerous udupi style restaurants available all over the city. Nendran banana bhajjis at Woodlands Hotel has always been my all time favourite ! Neer Dosa , Patrode , Kori-roti, ghee roast dishes, bangude gassi , chicken sukka ….oh the list goes on and on ! And if that isn’t enough I still have to mention the Konkani community specialities like bibbe-upkari, val val , kadgi chako etc, or the delicacies cooked by the Mangalorean Catholics like pork bafat, sanna dukra maas, sorpotel etc…A real foodie haven it is ! The munchies like banana chips, chaklis, coconut macaroons, ghee cakes, plum cakes are a must try as well. Those looking to be adventurous must try Khali(toddy), a country liquor prepared from coconut flower sap .

Gadbad @ Ideals Ice Cream Parlour !

Leaving Mangalore without trying the mouthwatering famous sundaes at Ideals Ice cream parlour would be a crime ! If you visit one of the popular branches you will find a huge line of people waiting patiently for their turn to have a taste of the popular sundaes like ‘Gadbad’(a must have!), ‘Chocolate Dad’, ‘Tiramisu’ & ‘Parfait’ to say the least. The good news is that the line comes to an end before you know it and you will not regret the wait . It has even earned a place in Wikipedia as the biggest ice cream manufacturer in Mangalore with a market share of 80% !

Apart from the mouthwatering food, Mangaluru is also known for its holy temples & pristine beaches. . . . . Some of the must visit places in Mangaluru are :-

Kateel Shri Durgaparameshwari Temple – Kateel is considered to be one of the holiest temple towns in India and is located 26kms away from Mangalore. The temple is situated on an islet in the middle of the sacred river Nandini. Thousands of devotees visit the temple daily to seek the goddesses blessings . . .

[pic credit – kateeldevi.in]

Kadri Manjunath Temple – This temple is located in Kadri,Mangalore itself. It is a historic temple said to be built in the 10th or 11th century. The bronze idol of Lokeshwar about 5 feet high is said to be the oldest of the South Indian Temples. Annual Jathra Mahotsava – a 9 day festival is held here during the month of January.

Kadri Temple [pic credit – mangala travels]

Mangaladevi Temple – It is situated at Bolara in Mangalore. It is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Shakti in the form of Mangaladevi. It was built in the 9th century. People looking to find a good lifepartner often visit the temple to give offerings and receive the goddesses blessings.

Mangaladevi Temple [pic credit – mangaluruonline.in]

 Pilikula Nisargdhama – it is a multi-purpose tourist attraction located in Vamanjoor, Mangalore. It has a huge lake where boating is carried out. There is also a zoo, Manasa water park, botanical garden, 3d planetarium and  golf course situated there.

Boating @ Pilikula Nisargadhama [pic credit – hello travels]

Mantra Surf Club – India’s first surf club is located at Mulki just 24kms away from Mangalore. People looking to learn surfing can do so right here in India!

Mangalore has many clean and beautiful beaches, to name a few :-

Panambur Beach – It is the most popular of all beaches thus making it the most crowded as well. It is one of the safest and best maintained beaches in India. Horse rides, buggy rides, water sports such as jet skiing, parasailing, surfing, boating can be enjoyed here. This beach is known for its stunning sunsets. Every year in January the International Kite Flying Festival takes place here.

Kite Festival @ Panambur Beach [pic credit- around mangalore]

Tannirbhavi Beach – It is less crowded than Panambur beach. The long sandy coast with calm waters makes for a very soothing, peaceful scenery. There are food stalls available here. Water sports facilities such as boating , jet skiing and surfing are also available. There is no public transport available to this beach. One should take their own vehicles or a ferry from Sultan Battery. Do stay back to enjoy the mesmerizing sunset.

Sunset @ Tannirbhavi Beach

Someshwara Beach – Located in Ullal, it is famous for its picturesque sunsets and its rocks called ‘Rudra Shilas’. There is an old Someshwara Temple at the end of the beach which is visited by many devotees and tourists.

Someshwara Beach [pic credit – trip advisor]

Kapu Beach – This beach is situated about 45kms to the north. There is a lighthouse situated on this beach which adds an old time charm to the place. The lighthouse is open to visitors. One can even try their hand at scuba diving at this beach is what i’ve heard !

Kapu Beach

There are so many more temples , churches and beaches to visit in Mangalore, so yes one must definitely think of Mangaluru while choosing a destination to explore ! 🙂

Day Trip to Hogenakkal

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A year back we decided to visit the Hogenakkal Falls as it is one of the many tourist attractions near Bangalore. . Also called as the ‘Niagara Falls of India’ by many it is located at a distance of 180 km from Bangalore making it a perfect one day getaway. It is located in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. This place is famous for its medicinal baths and coracle boat rides . Carbonatite rocks in this site are considered to be the oldest of its kind in South Asia and one of the oldest in the world.

JpegAs the monsoon had just gotten over at this point we were hoping to get a good show at the falls. . After an early breakfast we left from our place and within 3-4 hours after following the Google Maps we had reach the falls. . Can’t imagine going on a road trip without using Google Maps anymore. . Gone are the days where one reached the destination by using the scarcely placed signboards or  asking people by the road who, are as clueless as you for directions. . The most funny thing about asking people for directions as i remember is that even though they are not aware of the way they still want to help you and you end up having to reroute ahead after getting contrasting directions from the next direction giver, hoping against hope that this time its the right direction ! 😀

Of coz not like Google Map makes your life any easier, sometimes it takes you on a route not meant to be taken on 4wheelers or a route which is not exactly the shortest or the most convenient route . . We have ended up cursing Google Map the  innumerable times we have had to reroute or ended up on a longer than needed route recommended by it. But yes in the end we always end up using Google Maps again anyway ! 🙂

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On entering the Gates to the fall all we could see was water everywhere. . Letting on a sigh of relief to know that we would be able to see the falls in all its glory we proceeded ahead .

Crossing the small bridge where the water was overflowing  causing our shoes and pants to get wet  we walked on. . soon we could see many people getting  ‘Tel Malish’( which i call desi style spa 😛 ), sitting in rows enjoying the pampering session which I was finding a bit humorous.

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Tel Malish happening in the background

You will see lots of local masseuse waiting to get clients. Place was crowded with people getting head massage, body massage. Sitting with eyes closed listening to the sounds made by the gushing waterfall, getting a massage must make it a very energizing experience! probably why you will see many people going for it. After getting a massage people would go bathe at the falls within an enclosure meant for this purpose.

One will also come across lots of snack stalls selling fried fish and other delicacies caught fresh downstream. Freshly caught fish are sold by the gorge and also various vendors selling water and snacks go up and down the gorge rowing their coracles. The fish caught include katla, robu, kendai, keluthi, valai, mirgal, aranjan and jilaby. .

Passing the path leading to the main falls watching the water rushing by , we soon reached the bridge from where one can view the falls.You will see lots of monkeys near the falls as well. The water looked muddy due to the recent showers.

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Misty formation at the falls

Hogenakkal Falls is a series of narrow falls along a long line of rock formations with a drop of around 20 meters. Watching the milky white water pouring continuously down with a thundering noise is an amazing experience. Hogenakkal means ‘smoking rock’ in Kannada – the force with which the water gushes down hitting the rocky structure on the other side creates a smoky, foggy effect giving it it’s name.

The water after falling down the falls gushes through a narrow route passing through rock formations on both sides. The river carries sediment which makes the downriver land fertile due to which it gets it’s unclear muddy look. Soon after the falls the river takes a southerly course and enters the Mettur Stanley Reservoir.

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Bath Enclosure

Unfortunately for us coracle rides were not allowed this day due to heavy water flow. Boating in Hogenakkal is allowed during the dry-season as the water falls are not strong enough to disrupt the passage of the boats. One can even swim downstream in off season.

From the bridge across the main Falls one can even view the bath enclosure.People wearing basic essentials hung on to the cage rods enjoying their baths, seeming very much like monkeys caged in a zoo ironically. The entry to the other side of the bridge was closed as well and soon we left the place happy to have witnessed the mesmerizing falls. While researching we had come across a crocodile sanctuary online and as we had time to kill before leaving back for Bangalore we decided to visit it.

Coracle Ride Area - wm.jpg

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The croc sanctuary turned out to be a small sanctuary with a very small entry price. Here old as well as injured crocs were taken care of. We even saw lots of cute baby crocs here. . A nice place to spend around an hour before we left back for Bangalore.

Other places one can visit in Hogenakkal are –

  • Krishnagiri , a fav picnic spot ,one can even trek to Yelagiri Hills.
  • Melagiri Hills , for trekking.
  • Theerthamalai , Subramanya Siva &  Parameswari Temples.

B R Hills ! A Slice of Heaven . . .

w1 - evening jeep ride into forest 4.jpgB R Hills also known as BiligiriRanga Hills is one of the few places i have visited which seems truly magical . . . The expression ‘Heaven on Earth’ is truly meant for places like this . . .

We went to B R Hills last November to celebrate a special occasion – my husband’s bday ! We booked a 1N/2D stay at K Gudi Wilderness Camp by JLR situated inside the tiger reserve itself currently! So Exciting !

We left around 7:00am from our place. Thankfully there wasn’t too much traffic and we were outside the city within an hour. B R Hills is located at a distance of 170 Kms from Bangalore. The quickest route being Bangalore – Kanakpura – Malavalli – Yellandur – B R Hills.

w1 - fields enroute.jpg          So passing the scenic farmlands interspersed with coconut trees we drove on towards B R T wildlife sanctuary. We finally reached the forest check post. Once you pass the check post the contrasting change in scenery is so dramatic! We passed settlements of the Solage tribe surrounded by lush green vegetation and big trees. Hearing the birds chirping all around as if welcoming us to the forest we drove ahead only to be stopped by curious monkeys in the middle of the road.w1 - greeted by curious monkeys.jpg They watched us as if deciding if we were worthy of being allowed to go ahead into the sanctuary, after a few moments of intense silence they moved to the side giving us permission to drive on. The drive through the forest was a treat to the senses, smelling the fresh clean air, viewing the beauty of all things natural, hearing different species of birds singing through the trees, feeling one with nature we moved at a slow speed taking it all in just enjoying the drive, feeling at bliss !The feeling so profound that one cannot explain, only experience to believe !

We finally reached JLR property and after checking in were shown to our log hut by one of the friendly staff. The log hut we were lead to was located at the corner of the resort much to our delight. We were told that our cabin was situated in the leopard/tiger crossing terrain ! Our excitement knew no bound when we were told this , deciding then and there to stay up late that night hoping to be lucky enough to witness a leopard or tiger crossing !

The log huts as compared to the tented cottage accommodation were built at a height with a balcony overlooking the downward sloping lush green forest ahead. Cane chairs were provided in the balcony so one could enjoy the bounty of nature ,the animals passing by grazing on the vegetation around the property grounds. One could sit outside the cabin on the balcony at night and try to spot wild animals without the risk of being attacked.

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[About  Jungle Lodges & Resort Properties:

This is the third JLR property we have visited and have not been disappointed so far. JLR is a Govt. Of Karnataka run chain of resorts usually located in areas rich with wildlife or places of historical importance to promote tourism. The staff is always welcoming and friendly, food nutritious and healthy & the rooms very well maintained. Fixed itenary exists at each JLR location to make sure the guests get to make the most of their trip.]

The drive from Bangalore had taken us 4-5 hours and after resting for a while we went to have lunch at the GolGhar – the JLR dining area where meals were served buffet style. After enjoying the home cooked food we went on to explore the property grounds. w1-jlr property.jpgThe resort is designed such that it gels in with the surrounding forest area. Staying within the tiger reserve was a unique feeling. Its as close to nature as one can get . The main reception Area of the K Gudi Camp was once the hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore.

Right opposite the JLR camp is the Forest Dept. Rest House. It was interesting to see a number of spotted deers and boars grazing calmly all around the property. Shy creatures although they are they had no hesitation about being in the vicinity of humans, they seemed to be quite at home here.

We sat for a while on our balcony taking in the beautiful view and the sounds of nature feeling at peace within, watching deers and boars grazing around, and different species of birds flying around singing their own tunes.

I sat there till the hammocks beneath our log hut beckoned me . . . there were hammocks and rubber tyre swings hanging from trees all around the properties, so there i was lying on a hammock with the sun shining on my face reading a book, feeling very relaxed till it was time for the Safari !

We were served tea, coffee and snacks in the Maharaja’s Hunting Lodge where they had a large wooden table with a seating capacity of 25-30 people. They even had a mini library there which contained books on BR Hills and wildlife which people could read up on.

At 4:30 pm before dusk fell we were taken on a jeep ride into the forest. There were a couple of routes into the forest & different jeep riders took different routes after keeping a gap of couple minutes between each jeep ride. This was done to minimize the noise made by the jeeps which scares away the animals.

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We spent almost 2 hours in the forest trying to track down a tiger or leopard . We spotted lots of animals like spotted deers,barking deers, owls, bald headed eagle,giant squirrels, etc.  but unfortunately we didn’t get to see the ones we were most eager to spot. Our jeep rider tried really hard to track down a tiger or a leopard but it wasn’t meant to be.

w1 - evening jeep ride into forest 3.jpgBut even then the ride into the jungle was really worth it ! We even got to witness the sunset at the top of a hill with the vast ravine before us. We even came across few people from the Solage tribe. It was dark before we made it back to the camp and climate had become quite pleasant by then. We were served some more tea, coffee and snacks & got to watch a documentary on B R Hills.

w - campfireBy dinnertime it was extremely chilly and a bit foggy. A perfect ambience for the campfire we had on our schedule. Enjoying a hot bowl of soup sitting by the campfire, watching other guests covered in jackets, mufflers and shawls trying to cope with the cold climate. We then headed to the GolGhar for dinner. After a hearty meal we headed toward our log hut following the lantern lit route along the resort, listening to the crickets chirping all around us. Enjoying the cold climate we settled on the cane chairs in the balcony with blankets covering us.

The electricity made available through Generator is turned off by 10pm daily at the resort as it is located within the tiger reserve to facilitate animal crossing in the vicinity. Once the lights were turned off we waited with bated breath to spot a tiger or leopard. Sitting in the dark with torches and snacks we waited for some sign.

After a while when we almost gave up hope . . . . we heard it ! The rustling of dry leaves on the ground, movement among the shrubs near our log hut. . . and then the animal stilled. For a minute we froze! We knew for certain that it was a big animal moving somewhere nearby. . . As excited as we were to spot a leopard or tiger we were even a bit terrified of being attacked. Although the log hut was at a decent height , we weren’t aware of how high these wildcats could jump.

So we rushed towards our room door and stood there wondering what to do next . Should we shine the torch at the animal so we could spot it in the darkness thus making it aware of our presence or just run into the room to be safe. After all the waiting for this moment we were not ready to just run into the safety of our room . So there we were standing quietly , feeling the seconds pass by , hearing for the movement which seemed very slow and not very often.

After waiting for 5 more minutes feeling really highstrung we built up some courage and shined the torch in the direction of the movement to spot the mysterious animal. Feeling frustrated and amused at the same time we spotted . . .   a deer! ! ! Finding the situation exasperating we decided to give it one more shot. After waiting for awhile when we didn’t hear anymore movement we decided to call it a night . . .

The next day we were woken at 6:00am with bed tea and biscuits. It was Safari Time again !  On inquiring we were told by the wildlife specialist at the property that the wild animals preferred warmer climate and so migrated downhill where there were more watering holes and warm weather which made spotting elephants, tigers and leopards more challenging in this weather. . . and voila ! the mystery was solved !

w1 - jeep ride at dawn 1.jpgThe jeep ride at dawn was a refreshing feeling ! Watching the freshly dewed plants, the lush radiant greenery and a light fog misting up the place we headed out. The route chosen this morning was not the same as the evening before.w1 - jeep ride at dawn7.jpg We headed outside the JLR Camp, passing the Forest Dept. Rest House and towards the grasslands. Where the evening before we had ridden into the forest, the view before us this morning was that of grasslands interspersed by sparse thin short trees & small hills. w1 - jeep ride at dawn 3.jpgHere one could see the Indian Gaur (the largest species of wild cattle) in all its glory! For a moment i felt i was in the savannah grasslands!

jeep ride at dawn - sleeepy !
Safari Time !

 

 

Although we were feeling really sleepy before the ride, we were wide awake now taking in the mesmerizing scenes of the hills before us. These jeep rides are one of the most memorable moments in our journeys till date.

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After having breakfast back at the camp, we settled on our balconies for one last time to enjoy the view. We heard the sounds of birds we had never heard before and saw numerous species of birds flying by and of coz watched the spotted deers and boars grazing around the property.

Feeling in awe, weary to leave & already planning to return soon we left K Gudi Wilderness Camp . . .w - jlr property1.jpg

Not done with B R Hills yet we thoroughly enjoyed the forest route on our way back out at a slow pace taking in as much as we could before reaching the forest checkpost .

Its strange how in a forest you have sounds of nature all around you but it helps you find inner peace whereas being in a city just raises your stress levels , thus making it even more important to preserves these small slices of heaven !It makes us realize how out of touch with nature we are and how rare it is to have such experiences in cities, yes we still do have forests and sanctuaries and reserves today. . but what of tomorrow ? will the coming generations be so blessed ? at the rate trees are cut down and the air & water bodies polluted just thinking about the future sends shivers down my spine. . . .

Some more info about B R Hills :

B R Hills gets its name from the temple Biligiriranga Swamy Temple situated at the edge of a bare cliff overlooking the northern parts of the sanctuary. The rock cliff looks almost white giving the hill its name Biligiri (‘white hill’ in Kannada) .The Ranganatha deity (another name for Lord Vishnu) at this temple is possibly the only standing form of Lord Ranganatha.

Situated at an altitude of 1800 to 6000 ft, the sanctuary benefits from pleasant climate all year round. BR Hills links the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats facilitating the movement of wild animals between them. This sanctuary serves as a bridge for the entire Deccan Plateau thereby making it unique & a place of great significance.

The wide range of climatic conditions teemed with the altitude variations has made the vegetation, the flora on these hills quite unique as well. The hills are a mix of all major forest vegetation types – scrubs, deciduous, riparian, evergreen, shoals & grasslands. B R Hills is also home to the Solage tribe. It is elephant, gaur, tiger & leopard terrain.  The forest is also home to around 250 species of birds!

The sanctuary is a protected reserve under Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The site was declared a ‘Tiger Reserve’ in Jan 2011.

Summer at B R Hills is a stark contrast to the lush green monsoon season. The forest shows a different facet in each season and attracts different types of animals and birds, tempting one to explore this place in every season.Hope thats enough description of this stunning place to start with !      (Info credit – Wikipedia)