Travel

Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami – Part 3

Day 4

The day started with breakfast at a new restaurant. Once we were filled up we we ready for the day.

It involved a long drive to reach Aihole. This road was good but still it was a 3 hours ride.

Aihole

For those historically inclined, Aihole was the erstwhile 1st capital of the Chalukya Dynasty. Today it is a small town in the state of Karnataka. We reached the group of temples and as usual we were approached by a guide. Looking at the ancient structures, we decided to hire him after deciding the rate. 

First he took us to the main temple of the complex whose outside walls were hugely eroded. Many of the sculptures are now almost gone due to the erosion. The major reason, other than being very old is that the temple is made out of sandstone, which is not a very stable stone especially over a considerable period of time.P_20200307_115416

The guide made us stand outside the temple as he gave a brief history of the town. As per one legend, after Lord Parshuram had had his revenge on the Kshatriyas for killing his father, he came down to the river Malaprabha and washed his blood-stained axe in its waters. This turned the river red. The washerwomen down the river saw this and screamed, “Ayyo, hole…” roughly translated as ‘Oh no, blood…” and that’s how the town got its name.

Aihole was also known as Aivalli, Ahivolal or Aryapura at various periods of its history. It has many ancient and medieval era Jain, Buddhist and Hindu monuments.

The guide further enlightened us that Aihole served as a college of architecture for various gifted artisans, who honed their skills here before branching out to other towns. You can say that Aihole is a cradle of Hindu temple architecture as more than 100 temples adorn the town.

Durga temple

Though it is called Durga temple, it is actually dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It owes its name to the ‘durg’ or fort which surrounded it alongwith other monuments. It dates back to the Chalukyan era.

Beautiful carvings in various stages of erosion adorn the outside walls of the temple. Other exquisite carvings are present on the pillars as well and three of them on three consecutive pillars grab your attention.

 

 The first one is a couple but if you look closely, the woman has the face of a donkey or horse. The guide told us it denotes that love is blind. P_20200307_114201

Next is another couple, this time normal, and appearing to be totally in love with each other.

The third one is a family, a couple with a kid and the three pillars taken together tell a story progressing from blind love, to real love to a happy, married life. We were impressed.P_20200307_114210

The Durga temple is said to have inspired our parliament building as the rough design draft is the same, though the parliament building is on a much grand scale.

It seems the temple was most likely painted in its heyday as the colour is still visible faintly, but only if you look closely. The guide told us that it is a plant based colour.

 

The entrance to the temple has 5 vertical panels flanking the doorway (you can zoom and observe), a serpent is the first, followed by vegetation or creepers, followed by a pillar, then carvings of people and finally, vegetation (more in design form) again.

 

There is an ancient well in the same premises though no longer in use.P_20200307_115154

Ladkhan temple

This is a very interesting monument as the structure is quite unlike any other temple. It is built with two sanctums and the structure reminds you of a wooden house. It contains a Shiva Linga and a Nandi and if my memory serves me right, it is the same temple where I saw the stone ladder. It also has the royal emblem of the Chalukyas carved on a pillar. It is named after a Muslim nobleman who had converted it into his residence.

P_20200307_115251

P_20200307_120401In addition to the above two temples, the complex also has few other temples, the names of which I have forgotten, but are of equal beauty. One temple has the idol of the Sun God. 

A small museum is also present on the premises. 

Pattadakal

After have a light lunch we reached Pattadakal town which is at a distance of@14 km. from Aihole.

Pattadakal is situated on the banks of the Malaprabha river. It is this town where the architectural prowess of the Chalukyas reached the zenith. Earlier it was called Pattada Kisuvolal which I am told, translates as ‘city of crown rubies’.

The main complex in Pattadakal is huge with manicured lawns. It consists of atleast 10 temples, one more grand than the other and all of them dedicated to Lord Shiva. These temples are a mix of Drawidian (south Indian) and Nagara (north Indian) styles of architecture. These were granted world heritage site status in 1987.

 

Though I am not very well versed with the two styles, I was told that there are 4 of each style and two are a combination of the two.

 

The temples in the complex are Kashivishwanatha temple, Galaganath temple, Sangameshwara temple, Mallikarjuna temple, Papanatha temple and the Virupaksha temple of which, the Virupaksha temple is the only living temple where daily worship still takes place.

 

All the temples are so grand and beautiful in their own way, no description would do justice. Let the photos talk.

 

P_20200307_133943Badami

Our next and final destination was Badami which is at a distance of 21 km. Here we visited the carved caves and did not visit any other tourist places. 

Badami, also called Vatapi, was the capital of the Chalukyas from the 6th century to the 8th century.

It’s a beautiful place with the caves carved into the sandstone rocks on one side with a peaceful pond, the Agatsya lake opposite, small temples and a masjid dotting the surrounding landscape.

 

The ASI has made good arrangements and first and foremost we had to buy tickets to visit the caves. 

Then we were given the most important instruction; don’t carry any handbag or carrybag to the caves as the monkeys are quite aggressive and there is every chance of the bag being snatched out of the hands. So we kept everything in the taxi and proceeded towards flight of stairs leading upto the caves.

Cave 1

The first cave temple is dedicated to the Nataraja.

 

Cave 2 & 3

Cave 2 & 3 are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the various avatars of Lord Vishnu, whose sculptures adorn the two caves.

 

All the three caves are connected by flight of stairs and so is the fourth cave, which is dedicated to Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. 

This time however a group of monkeys literally blocked our path. One of the tourists had carried his hand bag and now this was in one monkey’s hands. It was sitting there, carefully unzipping the bag, then reaching its hand inside, and sometimes its head, and taking out all the clothes, toothpaste, etc., observing them minutely and discarding the non-edible things. 

It was especially hilarious when he fetched an underwear from the depths of the bag, observing it by holding it with its hands raised, and then dumping it on the ground. All this while, the owner of the bag was looking embarrassed and almost pleading with the monkey to return the bag. 

And since there were few more monkeys sitting on the flight of stairs leading to the last cave, it was we who lost our nerve, and started on our way back to the taxi. But the monkeys were not done yet.

As soon as we approached the taxi, one monkey jumped on the windshield and refused to get down. We had no other option but to wait till it got bored and descended from the car.

P_20200307_163259Since it was already 4.30 pm. by now, and we were tired and another 3 hours journey loomed ahead, we cancelled all other plans and proceeded towards Hospete to our resort.

Yatindra Tawde

Travel

Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami Part 2

Day 3

After an exhausting day in Hampi, we decided to take it easy the next day. This decided our destination for the day, which was Anegundi. Anegundi is nearby, @  20 km. from Hampi instead of another exhausting drive to Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, which involved lot of travel.

Instead of breakfast in the resort itself, we opted for a light one outside. So the driver took us to the same garden restaurant where we had lunch the previous day. While my wife had a simple sada dosa, I had Mysore masala dosa which was totally different from the one available in Mumbai and so mouth-watering.

Once the breakfast was done, we were on the way to Anegundi. We passed through the very common landscape of Hampi and it’s surroundings, the boulder strewn countryside with small, green fields sprinkled in between. These are the rice plantations interspersed with the banana ones.

 

For those who don’t know, Anegundi or Anegondi is the Kishkindha of Ramayana. Kishkindha was the capital of Vali, the Monkey King and his brother Sugreeva, who helped locate Maa Sita for Shri Ram.

 

We reached our first destination, the  Anjanadri hill. A small, whitewashed temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is perched on the summit. The Anjanadri hill is a hill of huge boulders piled on top of each other. The driver told us that there are more than 550 steps to the top which seemed to be a daunting task. But we decided to brave it and were on the way.

 

It’s a relief that most of the initial climb is under covers, as there is a roof constructed over the stairs. But once you have crossed 1/3rd of the way, you are climbing under the direct sunlight and the steps become steeper. It is not for those with bad knees. We were apprehensive on this point, but thankfully our knees held up.

 

As one climbs higher and higher, the view below gets more enchanting, a chequered vista of green and brown, green of the rice fields and brown of the boulders.

 

So we proceeded with regular halts to catch our breath. I noticed one thing. When there are many people doing the same thing; here, climbing and halting to catch their breath, an unknown bond is formed with the fellow climbers, smiles are exchanged, they tell each other, where they come from, their immediate travel plans, etc.

Just before the last few steps to the top, you have to bend more than half of your body height to pass underneath a huge boulder which almost bars you from proceeding further. It’s as if the penultimate bow before the Lord before you are welcomed into his presence.P_20200306_113744

We left our footwear with an aged person who seemed to be appointed for just that. Since the month of March is not in the usual tourist season, there was not much of a crowd. 

We were soon inside the Hanuman Mandir. We had darshan and sat inside, meditating before the Lord. It’s a small mandir and the space inside is enough for just a handful of devotees. 

After 15-20 minutes of silent contemplation, we emerged outside to have a look at the surrounding landscape. And were we zapped with the beauty of the fields below!

If that is not enough, tall coconut trees line the green fields and narrow canals and lazy roads meander through them.

 

After spending about an hour and a half on the top, we started our descent. During the descent, the topmost steps were comparatively difficult due to the step height. But once we reached the covered steps, the final descent was a breeze.

When we reached at the bottom, we were surprised to see a lady hawker of bananas talking to the monkeys who surrounded her. Though we didn’t understand the language, we were sure she was admonishing them for being boisterous and naughty.

Talking of being boisterous, we were certainly not, after the vigorous exercise of the last 3 hours. Our battery was down and our driver wanted us to climb another small hill to go to another temple. We declined politely, praying before the hill with folded hands.

Next, he took us to the Laxmi mandir located on the bank of Pampa Sarovar. Pampa Sarovar is a small lake which is considered to be one of the holy lakes in India. It attracts a large number of pilgrims as well as tourists throughout the year.

It finds a mention in the Ramayana too as Lord Ram and his brother, Laxmana had passed through during their quest for Sita. It is the same place where Shabari waited with the berries to meet Lord Ram. 

Though we didn’t witness it, Pampa Sarovar becomes very picturesque during the season of lotus bloom, with the whole lake being filled with lotus buds.

The priest of the Laxmi temple was a Maharashtrian from the holy place of Pandharpur and we were pleasantly surprised when he started talking to us in Marathi as soon as he saw us enter. I was surprised and asked him how he knew that we too were Maharashtrians. He just smiled mystically and proceeded with his prayers.

Once we left from there we were feeling hungry and tired. We had lunch at the garden restaurant and then decided to rest at the resort in the afternoon.

After the siesta, my wife was still feeling exhausted so I proceeded alone, this time to the Tungabhadra dam. 

The Karnataka Government has made excellent arrangements for the tourists. They arrange regular bus trips to the top of the hill, which flanks the dam and also to a beautiful garden.

Once I got off from the bus, the silvery rays of the setting Sun, reflecting from the dam waters welcomed me.

The panoramic view from above gives a bird’s eye view of the surrounding plains. One can see many water canals below, taking the water to far off places. After spending about 45 minutes on the hilltop, I made my way back. I skipped the garden as I was alone and then returned back to the resort.

 

Thus ended the day. The next day was another day of long car rides and walking.

Yatindra Tawde

 

Travel

A visit to Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami – Part 1

Day 1

Our trip started on a bad footing, with us almost missing our flight. In fact, we were welcomed with ‘Gate closed’ sign at the boarding gate however a few fervent requests got us through. Bless their soul, Indigo.

We reached Hubli airport on time after a tiring, hopping flight and got into the pre-booked taxi towards Hospete immediately. The road from Hubli to Hospete was under repairs and we took almost 3.5 hours to reach our resort. Why Hospete? Well it’s the nearest town to Hampi having good hotels.

The first part of our journey from Hubli to Hospete was quite a chore, what with the bad road, the burning Sun and the treeless scenery. However as you near Hospete the scenery changes dramatically and takes on green hues, thanks to excellent water management by means of a dam and water canals. With rice fields on both sides and quite a few coconut trees, the scenery freshens one up.

Finally we reached our destination, our resort for the next 4 days. It was a long journey which started when we left our house at 6.45 am. and reached the resort @12 hours later. It was an early shut-eye as next day was long.

Day 2

Vitthal templeP_20200305_095958

After breakfast, we proceeded towards the first destination, The Vitthal temple in Hampi. When we reached there by taxi and got down, two persons selling various tourism booklets rushed towards us. Since the booklets were of good quality, I proceeded to buy one.P_20200305_094904

Another person approached us. This was the guide who was offering his services. After a bit of haggling, we finalized the deal and were on the way. Since the temple complex is quite far away from the car park, the ASI has kept a fleet of battery run vehicles. We paid for the tickets of the vehicle ride.

 

 

We were advised to buy tickets which would be accepted at other heritage places of Hampi, which we promptly did. The ticket for the heritage sites visit is quite economical for an Indian citizen.

We entered the temple complex which has the Vitthal temple, the stone chariot, the sabhamantapa, Rangamantapa with the world famous musical pillars, kalyanamantapa and utsavmantapa.

The complex is surrounded by high walls and has three towering gateways. The torrential rains of 2019 have had an unfortunate impact on the old structures. Most of the structures are now closed to the tourists and they are barred from entering the structures except one. I was so disappointed when I was told that I cannot tap on the musical pillars to hear the musical notes, which was one of my goals when the visit was decided. However the exquisite carvings all round, somewhat made up for that disappointment.

The incomparable stone chariot is a must-see in the complex and one cannot miss it as it is in the central section of the complex. It is one of the few remaining stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark, Orissa and in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. The guide enlightened us that a massive sculpture of Garuda was seated atop the chariot in the olden days, but now it is in ruin. He also told us that the stone wheels were rotating once upon a time but concerned about the wear and tear, the government cemented them to avoid further damage.

 

The guide explained that when the Great King, Shri Krishna Deva Raya was in Orissa on a War mission, he was fascinated by the Konark Sun temple chariot and decided to get it constructed in his dominion.P_20200305_094924_1

Amazingly it looks as if constructed from a single piece of stone, but is actually made up of slabs of granite and the linkages are smartly hidden from the lay observer. Though now closed to the public from entering inside, a stone ladder is observed between two stone elephants flanking it.

The Ranga Mantapa is another attraction and has the renowned musical pillars. As per the guide there were or are, 56 pillars and the notes emanating from them when tapped gently, vary in sound quality. He explained that the British rulers were wonderstruck and curious about the secret of the sound source and they proceeded to cut two of them to check whether anything existed inside the pillars. They found nothing but stone!

The Maha Mantapa is a structure of immense beauty and consists of four smaller halls. Even the ceiling is richly designed.

The sanctum sanctorum of the main temple is devoid of any idol. But even today, the observer can imagine the grandeur of the temple. There is an interesting story attached to the temple and there is a close connection to the Vitthal Mandir in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.

Finally we dragged our feet, reluctantly away from this grand temple, as we had to visit many more sites.

Queen’s bath

It’s a colossal bath and is believed to have been constructed by King Achyuta Raya for the women of the royal family. It was their private bathing chamber.

The exterior structure is simple, however it has an ornate interior and is built in Indo-Islamic architectural design. It is a rectangular building and consists of a big sunken bath located centrally. The sunken bath is surrounded by beautiful arched corridors and projecting balconies with windows. Though these arched bays are covered from above, the bath itself is open to the sky. An aqueduct or aqueducts brought fresh water to the bath.

Archeological museum

After a quick lunch in a good, economical garden restaurant, we were at the archeological museum of Hampi, preferring not to go out into the burning sun immediately after lunch.

The museum has a great collection of exhibits and some of the sculptures are huge. I loved the replica of the overall Hampi topography which is in the centre of the museum.

The Royal Enclosure

The unimpressive entrance to the enclosure doesn’t prepare you for the grandeur inside.

Immediately on entering the enclosure, a great vista opens up before you and it’s as if you have entered a time machine, which has taken you into the past, albeit a ruined one. It’s an open air museum and showcases the architectural excellence of that era.

Mahanavami Dibba

This is a huge 8 meter high platform and it stands a solitary witness to the grand era of centuries ago. It is three tiered and has a flight of steps leading to the top. Each tier has intricate sculptures which depict the everyday life in those days. We climbed the steps and reached the top where a panoramic 360 degree view of the surrounding area greeted us. This platform was used during the Navami celebrations and one can see the remains of pillar bases which indicate that a huge pavilion once stood in the centre.

Stepped tank

This tank is a marvel of ancient engineering and is one of the better preserved structures inside the Royal Enclosure. It is a 5 tiered tank and one can only admire those ancient builders.

Excellent water distribution by means of stone aqueducts is the hallmark of the ancient ruins and and a large section of the aqueducts is well restored. Some sections deliver water even today. One can see a stone aqueduct directed towards the stepped tank, though there is no water now in this particular aqueduct and the water inside the stepped tank is stagnant, residual rainwater.P_20200305_114225

King’s Audience Hall

This was said to be 100 pillared but only the base remains now. Remnants of a stone staircase suggest another storey above believed to be made of wood.

Underground chamberP_20200305_115946

Though we didn’t venture inside, it lies between the King’s Audience Hall and the stepped tank where the rulers are believed to have held important discussions with their inner circle of trusted aides.

Hazara Rama temple

A temple dedicated to Lord Rama, it is the only temple in the Royal Enclosure. Relics on the walls depict the Ramayana and are comparatively better preserved in the entire Royal Enclosure.

There were other structures nearby which now lie in ruins. One can see ruins of a Shiva temple with a damaged Nandi facing it.

Though the Royal Enclosure may seem an empty area at first glance, it does reveal interesting details upon closer examination. It is possible that wood was extensively used in the construction due to which it was easier to destroy by the enemies. Just outside the Royal Enclosure, the horse stables are located where there is a large stone trough for holding drinking water for the horses.P_20200305_120301

Kamal Mahal

This building is within the so-called Zenana enclosure, a segregated area believed to be used by the royal women of the ruling dynasty. It is called so, due to its lotus like structure. It seems to have survived the brutal assault on the city when the rulers were defeated by their enemies. It can only be admired from the outside now as the arched windows and balconies are vulnerable to further damage.

Elephant stablesP_20200305_124338_SRES

This impressive structure used to provide shelter to the royal elephants and is located near the Kamal Mahal.

Behind the elephant stables, two temples are located, in totally dilapidated condition.

Lakshmi Narasimha statueP_20200305_151938

As you approach the statue from the road and near it, the huge monolith dwarfs you. It is the largest monolithic statue in Hampi, carved from a single boulder of granite. This statue too was commissioned by Krishna Deva Raya and is dedicated to the Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Narasimha wears a beautiful headgear and sits in a cross-legged position. The seven hoods of Adishesha the divine serpent, serve as a canopy over the head of Narasimha. The large, protruding eyes impart a fearsome look.

Badavilinga TempleP_20200305_152143

Located near the Narasimha statue, is the Badavilinga Temple having the largest monolithic Shiva Linga in Hampi and is made of black stone. It has a height of 3 meters. Interestingly, the temple doesn’t have a roof and the sunlight enters through the open ceiling and floods the Linga with light. Of course, the rain water still surrounded the Linga and a water channel flows through the shrine, hence the Linga stands on a bed of water.

Sasivekalu Ganesha temple

It is a huge statue of Lord Ganesha carved out of a single block of rock. It is about 8 feet tall.

This Ganesha is seated and has a snake tied around its stomach. It is said that Lord Ganesha consumed a lot of food, due to which he felt his stomach would burst. So to prevent it from bursting, he tied a snake around his stomach.

Kadalekalu Ganesha temple

This Ganesha is one of the largest in entire Southern India. This is also monolithic and we were able to observe the statue from the rear side of the temple. Even the back of the statue is well carved. But the image imprinted on my memory, are the beautiful fingers which appear so delicate on the huge monolith.

Virupaksha TempleP_20200305_154107

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is the holiest and still attracts large number of worshippers. It is a huge complex with a tall tower, reminiscent of all major South Indian temples. It has a large courtyard and we saw an elephant inside, feeding on grass.

The ceiling of the main temple has many paintings of Dashavatar, scenes from Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

An ancient bazaar is in front of the temple and the ancient ruins are still visible.P_20200305_170617

It is advisable to take a guide at the temple, preferably inside. Then you will be taken to an underground temple, which is small yet impressive.

Another attraction is a dark area on the side, which has only a small window. We didn’t know why the guide is taking us there and followed him halfheartedly. But once inside he asked us to see a wall, opposite to the small window. A pinhole camera effect! We could clearly see the inverted image of the main gopuram on the opposite wall.

By the time we came out of the temple complex, it was almost 5.30 in the evening and we were totally tired. The hemkunta hill is situated nearby and one should not miss it, but our tiredness did not allow us to climb up the hill and we returned to the resort to plan our next day.

Yatindra Tawde

humour, Travel

The Recliner

Those who fly frequently will agree that the amount of space on offer is much less than in an ST Bus. That is, on most domestic flights.

Yes, the ST buses vibrate and they do travel on sturdy roads and they do make a lot of cacophony. But if you feel like stretching your legs, you can do so in the space available below the seat in front, if it is not occupied by assorted luggage of fellow travellers. And small mercies, the seats of a ST bus don’t recline.

Which is not the case in a domestic flight. Recently a video is doing the rounds of the social media in which a woman tries to recline her seat repeatedly while the man sitting behind her, bangs and pushes her seat as he doesn’t want to be inconvenienced. This video is from one of the western countries but a similar story repeats in our country skies too.

The usual story on a domestic flight goes something like this…

After what seems like an eternity of waiting in the departure area, finally the announcement everyone has been waiting for, is made. Unfortunately the departure gate has changed at the nth hour and everyone has to hurry across to the new one.

The flight duration itself is only 55 minutes but I have already spent more than 2 hours at the airport terminal. I am not even counting the 2 hours I spent in a taxi while reaching the airport.

A further few minutes are spent waiting in a queue to get the ticket scanned then I am on my way. As I reach the boarding bus, it gets full and speeds away. Fortunately another bus is just behind and I get onto it.

Like most other travellers, I don’t rush to the seats but stand near the bus door. As others have the same idea, soon the door gets blocked and someone from the airlines has to show the space available inside to the people who are already inside, by wild gesticulations of his hands and vocal cords. A few passengers (not me) finally get the message and reluctantly occupy the vacant seats thus allowing others to board the bus.

Some old ladies give me obnoxious looks, as if they have seen a particularly ugly specimen. Not to be outdone, I return an obnoxious look of my own. Then the airport tarmac darshan commences, with the bus meandering across the tarmac in search of the aircraft.

In a few minutes I am out on the Tarmac, as soon as the bus comes to a halt and the doors slide open. Happy to be the first in line, I rush with my laptop bag towards the front of the aircraft but the checker takes one look at my ticket and directs me towards the rear. Muttering expletives under my breath, I run across but find myself in yet another queue.

Finally I am inside but the stewardess ignores me but has a bright smile for the old gentleman following me and even wishes him! I glance at him over my shoulder; he seems extra jolly. I scowl at him and move on.

It takes an eternity to reach my row, mainly due to various passengers trying to fit their assorted luggage In the bins above.

As always my luck, or the lack of it, takes me to a middle seat. I think this is the worst seat to get via reservation, unless someone interesting occupies the neighbouring seats. However Murphy plays his part and I sit between two especially healthy specimen.

Due to the ample leg space, the person occupying the aisle seat has to get up and stand in the aisle while I try to find room for my laptop in the bin above. I push and shove the other luggage but can’t seem to fit my humble laptop bag there. Finally I dump it below the seat ahead and plonk myself in the middle seat. As I try to make myself comfortable, I find that there is no armrest for me as the two gentlemen own that space.

As I sit waiting for the aircraft to take off, the aircraft sits on the tarmac waiting for the green signal from the air traffic control. Finally it does…

The congested leg space is made more constricted by my neighbours but I decide to make myself comfortable by reclining my seat once the aircraft completes its ascent. Pressing the knob, I jerk back my seat.

“Bloody fool!”, I hear someone cursing from behind me. Ignore, man…ignore…and I pretend to sleep.

The curses go on for some more time and then fall silent. They always do. I slip into deep sleep.

Suddenly I feel huge pressure on my knees and wake up with a start. I find that the man in front of me has reclined his seat. A few expletives escape my mouth and spread themselves like mist in the air. But the totally shameless man in front of me is unaffected. He just covers his eyes and starts snoring…I let off steam for sometime and then I resign myself to my fate.

Friends! Isn’t this story quite familiar?

Though some of the passengers are obnoxious, this spatial challenge inside an aircraft is mainly profit driven. Previously the space between two consecutive rows was 34-35 inches which has now been reduced to 30-31 inches and in some cases, to a flimsy 28 inches.

The recliner angle, which had been designed considering the previous distance between the rows, hasn’t changed after the distance was reduced.

The precise reason for the decreasing space inside a huge aircraft. The precise reason why you, me and them fight.

Yatindra Tawde

Travel

A trip to Adivare

It was supposed to be an extended family visit but due to various genuine reasons, the other family members couldn’t make it but we decided to proceed.We had booked by Tejas Express from Thane to Ratnagiri, which is an early morning train and due to my mistake, we reached Thane station still earlier. The train reaches Thane station at 6.25 am. but I had misread it as 5.25 am. and had to face angry, sleepy stares from my wife and daughter. But since there was no other option, we waited it out for the train to arrive. Thankfully the train was on time so the wait did not extend for long.Tejas Express is one of the best trains in india and we were impressed with the spacious and clean interiors as well as the catering service. I must mention the excellent masala tea which was served. Very invigorating indeed.We reached Ratnagiri station on time. I have seen Ratnagiri station so many times but it still fascinates me, the way it has been constructed, gouged out of a small mound and retains an old world charm.After having a simple but tasty veg lunch at my company guest house and after freshening ourselves up, we moved to Ratnagiri ST Bus stop where we spent an eternity awaiting our bus for Adivare, to arrive. Every bus which came into the bus stand seemed like ‘our bus’ only to disappoint us with the town nameplate displayed at the front. Finally ‘our bus’ did arrive after almost 1.5 hours (@40 km.) and we were on the way. The short journey of approximately 1 hour was spent in catching up on our sleep.Why Adivare? Someone might ask as it is not on every tourist’s tourism goal. Well it happens to be the town which hosts the Kuldevi of the Tawde family, Maha Kali. In fact, in addition to Maha Kali Devi, it also hosts Maha Saraswati Devi and Maha Laxmi Devi. In addition to this, the Tawde extended family (all Tawde’s located anywhere in the world, irrespective of their native villages) have contributed to build a very elegant and imposing Tawde Wada (Tawde Atithi Bhavan), which is located off the Ratnagiri-Adivare road at a distance of @2 km. from Adivare towards Ratnagiri. This Tawde Wada was supposed to be our abode for the next 2 days.Though we had seen photos of Tawde Wada many times before, nothing had prepared us for the imposing red structure which greeted us, as we entered through the gates. The huge swords and shield which adorn the imposing, front facade give a fort-like feel to the already formidable construction. The central portion is occupied by a huge hall which also serves as a temple for Shree Saptakoteshwar (a form of the Lord Shiva), the Kuldaivat of the Tawde family. As the small reception desk is also in this hall, you have to remove your footwear outside and enter.We were warmly welcomed by the ever smiling caretaker, Mr. Sawant who registered us and then guided us to our room. After freshening up and resting for a while, we were outside to admire and explore the exquisite building.The lawns in front are very well maintained and so is the driveway. Though a huge structure, there are only 8 rooms which flank the huge hall in the centre, four on the lower level and four on the top. The construction itself reminds you of Rajasthani havelis, though there are no intricate carvings or designs. The building itself is made using laterite stone. It is apparent that the focus of the Architect was to give an exclusive feeling to discerning connoisseurs rather than maximising profits, which would be the main aim of any ordinary hotel.The homely atmosphere is further strengthened by very down to earth staff who are helpful and ever smiling. We had sumptuous veg meals on both days which reminded us of homemade food.On the second day, we proceeded to the Maha Kali temple in Adivare by an autorickshaw in the morning. The peaceful surroundings and no crowd allowed us to proceed with our prayers at a gentle pace. The highlight of the temple is the brightly painted, intricate carvings on wooden ceiling of the temple.In the same complex there is a Shiva temple which is said to be very ancient. A huge anthill from the floor, right upto the ceiling, occupies one corner of this temple which is said to be the abode of a cobra. A sighting of this cobra is said to be very auspicious.There is also a Ram temple in this complex where we prayed for the wellbeing of all.From Adivare, we proceeded to another temple nearby, the Sri Dev Kanakaditya temple which is dedicated to the Sun God and located in Kasheli village. It is one of the few remaining Sun temples in India. The murti is tejasvi (lustrous) and the entire temple complex is recently renovated. Beautiful and highly polished wooden carvings and pillars grant this temple a serene atmosphere.The story associated with this temple is very intersting. It is said that the main murti has been brought here from Prabhaspatan in Gujarat and here is the story -Many centuries back, a businessman from Prabhaspatan was proceeding on some business trip by a ship and he was carrying with him a murti of Sun God on the ship which was handed over to him for safe keeping by a priest of the Sun temple in Prabhaspatan. Once the ship reached the sea near the Kasheli village, it refused to budge! It did not go further so he instructed the seaman to reverse it but to no avail. One night, the Sun God appeared in his dreams and instructed him to take him to the shore. Early next morning, the businessman proceeded to take the murti onto the shore and established the idol in a small cave. Once this was done, the businessman was able to proceed further on the trip on his ship.Now it was the turn of the Kanaka, an ardent devotee of the Sun God, and a resident of Kasheli, to get a dream. The Sun God appeared in her dream and told her about his arrival on the shore and asked her to search for the cave which she dutifully did, alongwith the other villagers. With great pomp and gaiety, Sri Dev Kanakaditya was brought to his current location in the village and installed. The temple is said to have been constructed by the Shilahaar dynasty and there is an ancient tamrapat (copper plate) in the temple which establishes the ancient origins.The rest of the trip was rest and relaxation and then we were on the way back to Mumbai.Yatindra Tawde

Travel

Konkan, the Jewel of India

Konkan… When you utter this word, it conjures up images of long stretches of clean and sandy beaches, huge varieties of fish and fish delicacies, small beautiful villages, quaint cottages, narrow winding roads lined with stretches of rice fields, simple yet clever people…et al.

Best way to go to the konkan from Mumbai is to go by the Mumbai Goa highway. Of course, Konkan can be reached by going by the Pune route too, those who like to drive on wide expanses of excellent motorable roads will prefer this route but those who prefer driving through scenic surroundings, will always prefer going by the narrower Mumbai Goa national Highway .

This national highway is anything but a highway. There are no dividers between the two traffic directions, and test the skills of the most experienced drivers. Especially the night driving is a pain and calls for high levels of concentration and alertness. Of course, the authorities have now woken up to widen the roads and the road widening process is in full swing. The unfortunate result of the widening process is the cutting down of ancient trees lining the roads, but this is an inevitable sacrifice of progress and safety on the roads.

Another excellent means of reaching Konkan is by the various trains running on the Konkan Railways. Best time to travel is morning time. As soon as you cross Diva station, the fun starts as you see wide expanses of rice fields on both sides of the tracks. But don’t sit inside the compartment, especially of the air conditioned bogies…stand near the door to really enjoy the morning air and the scenic beauty which changes from green fields to winding rivers and rivulets…of course, stand well inside from the door, don’t do anything risky although I have seen many boys sitting at the door and staring into the horizon. For foodies, these trains are a blessing with good quality of assorted foods ranging from idlis, wadas, chicken lollipops, soups of all types, sheera, poha…you name it…they have it. I sense many mouths are watering by just reading this. And the stations which line this route are out of this world and have an old worldly charm about them…just see the Khed, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Sawantwadi and many other stations. After all seeing is believing.

But I will take you on Konkan Darshan through a road journey on the Mumbai Goa highway. Till you cross Panvel it’s the same old city. But once you cross the Panvel city you are on the highway and the fun starts. Within no time you are passing through the karnala bird sanctuary, and the first thing you notice are the monkeys sitting on both sides of the road, either waiting to be served by their car driving cousins or frolicking within themselves, the little ones clinging to their mothers tummies. This is the monkeys drive-in restaurant, where the cars bring the goodies. Recently the forest authorities have banned this due to accidental deaths of the monkeys, who sometimes come too near to the cars, the ban is not actually followed by the homo sapiens as well as simians.

Anyway, the Karnala bird sanctuary is the first attraction on this highway, with the eye-catching Karnala fort in the background, showing its thumbs up, to the people embarking on this highway. The road is lined with small and large eateries as well as a few resorts.

As you drive further, you will come across a few nurseries and one should visit these nurseries, if not to buy , then to just experience the assortment of trees, shrubs and showpiece flowering plants available.

As you then move ahead, you cross the creek and are on your way, tackling the traffic at Pen town, you reach the first landmark which is Wadkhal Naka. This can be your stopping point to freshen up and fill up at one of the eateries, gorging on Wada pav, misal pav and a steaming cup of tea. Here you are at a junction, with one road proceeding straight ahead to Alibag beach while the second on the left proceeding to Goa.

So all beach enthusiasts, will of course be very enticed to reach Alibag, the road to the playground of the Who’s Who of Mumbai, being lined with potholes of various sizes. Those who just want to enjoy the comforts , they are spoiled for choice with many small and five star hotels in the vicinity. But those who want to experience the village life, should branch off to Nagaon and stay with the local people.

To continue on the onward journey to Goa, you take a left turn from Wadkhal Naka. Then for a long stretch you have the railway line on one side and lush green fields on the other. In a few hours you reach the next landmark which is the village of Pali which is famous for the Ganpati temple. For this you have to take a detour to the left, and the Ganpati temple welcomes you with open arms. Once you have the blessings of the lord, no one can stop you and you continue on your onward journey to Goa.

As you proceed, you cross the first real ghat section, immediately after Pali and on the other side of the ghat you then travel through the towns of Roha, Indapur, Mangaon. After crossing Mangaon, on reaching another town, Goregaon, if you take right turn, you are on the way to the beach of Harihareshwar, a very idyllic beach.

This route will also take you to the Mahabaleshwar of Konkan, Dapoli. Near to Dapoli are the beaches of Murud, Anjarle , Burundi and Karde. Murud is having many stay options, Anjarle is famous for its Ganpati mandir on a cliff, Burundi is famous for its Brahmins whereas Karde beach is for those who love the water sports. It has a wide variety of water sports. If you reach here in the morning, you will only leave well past lunch time. And the way to Anjarle Ganpati mandir, known locally as “kadyavarcha Ganpati” is the most mesmerizing experience since you are driving on a cliff, with the wide expanse of the Arabian sea stretching to the horizon. The mandir itself is so silent and peaceful, you feel like not stepping out.

From Dapoli another road goes to a sea side town, Dabhol. Near Dabhol, there is a Mahalaxmi Devi Mandir, which is one of its kind, since it is underground. As you go down, first you cannot see anything, but as your eyes get used to the darkness, you really appreciate the Devi Murti. You will really feel blessed with this experience.

Now coming back to the Mumbai Goa highway…once you cross Goregaon and Veer, you near the town of Mahad, which has 2 main attractions…one is the Kolad river rafting which is nearby and another is the access to the Riagad fort , by means of a ropeway.

Raigad fort, the pride and capital of Hindavi Swaraj , established by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj…

As you drive further from Mahad, you reach Poladpur. If you take a left from Poladpur, you are on the way to the actual Mahabaleshwar…oh, what a road! So many turns on this Ambenali ghat section , such lush green scenery….its as if you are driving through the heavens.

Next major town on the highway is Khed but for reaching Khed you have to travel through the long and winding Kashedi ghat. 10-15 years back this ghat section was the most treacherous since it was narrower with steep cliffs on one side and took the lives of many travellers. But now it is much wider and can be crossed safely. But it remains awe inspiring due to its great height.

Once you reach Khed the next town on the route is Chiplun and there are many small and large industries on the way. If you love non-veg food, please stop in Chiplun and have your fill, there are some very good restaurants (though not of 5-star variety but very tasty food). Lest I forget, before entering Chiplun, you pass through the Parshuram ghat and the Parshuram mandir here is a must visit. Said to have been renovated by the Peshwas, the stone architecture is awesome. As you must be knowing, Parshuram is the great Brahmin who is said to have shot an arrow and reclaimed the land called konkan from the sea. Another attraction in Chiplun are the Chiplun backwaters. Yes! There are backwaters in Maharashtra too. You can do boating here through the crocodile infested waters…yes, crocodiles too…

The Chiplun to Ratnagiri stretch is very beautiful…nature at its best and the best time to travel is just after the rainy season. For a long stretch, a river meanders along the road side at a lower elevation and there is greenery everywhere. There are 2 hot water springs situated between Chiplun and Ratnagiri. The water is so hot, you can boil eggs and rice, just by lowering them in the water.

If you want to visit Ratnagiri, then you have to leave the highway at Hathkhamba and take a right turn and then drive for almost 4-5 kms.

The main attractions in and around Ratnagiri are many…Ratnagiri is famous as the birthplace of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the great freedom fighter and we can see his house here. Nearby, about 45-50 kms from Ratnagiri,is the wonderful beach of Ganpatipule with the Peshwa built temple of Lord Ganpati. Here again you should taste the locally made fish dishes…yummy. On another side of Ratnagiri are the Pawas mandir of the great saint, Swami Swaroopanand. Still further is the Mahalaxmi temple situated in Adiwre. Ratnagiri is also famous for the wooden palace of the Burmese king, who was incarcerated by the British in Ratnagiri. Another well known landmark is the Ratnagiri fort.

Coming back to the Mumbai Goa highway, the next towns after Ratnagiri, are Lanja and Rajapur. Rajapur is famous for Rajapurchi Ganga. This is a spring which waters in every 3 years. This area is at an elevation of 25 metres above the city level and the ponds are bone dry. But when the time arrives, suddenly water starts flowing and lasts for almost 3 months. This event is marked with a great festival to celebrate the occasion.

As you drive down further, for almost 1.5 hours, you reach the town of Kankavli. After crossing Kankavli, you have the option of going to Malvan and Sindhudurg, which are towns situated near to the sea. Sindhudurg town is famous for its Sindhudurg fort, built in the middle of the sea by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The main attraction in the fort is the sweet water well when the whole fort is surrounded by the salty sea. If you want to enjoy the village life while driving, leave the highway and drive along the inside roads which meander through the quiet villages , which have small cottages lining the road.

The next major and final town before entering Goa, is Sawantwadi. This town is very beautiful with a centrally located artificial lake and the Sawantwadi palace. Sawantwadi is famous for its wooden toys even today. Buy some as a keepsake.

Then you cross the final ghat section between Maharashtra and Goa and then…finally you have reached Goa.

Hope you all enjoyed the journey. Please do visit this jewel of a place since I have missed out on many other goodies like the Tarkarli beach and Amboli hill station and many more.

Yatindra Tawde

humour, Travel, Uncategorized

The ST Bus

If you are living in Maharashtra, you must surely have travelled by a ST bus. And if you have not, then you have missed an experience.

For the uninitiated, ST bus is the State Transport bus. It is the lifeline of Maharashtra, especially for the large population residing in villages. The people lovingly refer to it as ‘lal dabba’ which translates into English as the ‘Red Box’. It is so named because it is literally a travelling box on wheels.

Many of you will remember the tin boxes which you carried to school, especially in the primary division. It used to hold the books, pencils, rulers, tiffin boxes and many other things. And at the start and end of school timings and during the recesses, the boxes of all the students used to make a great racket.

When the ST bus travels, it too makes a similar racket. This racket is caused by the assortment of metal trunks and other luggage of the passengers and by the passengers themselves who want to make themselves heard over the great racket. Above all , all the nuts and bolts which hold up the bus, make a big noise since the buses vibrate while travelling.

It seems these buses are manufactured by an ancient bus manufacturer, who has been bypassed by all the advances made in the field of bus body assemblies. After all no other buses vibrate as much.

And these buses have their moods…

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They will be taking you to your destination, your are trying to grab a few winks in all the cacophony, when suddenly the bus coughs and splutters and with a few jerks, comes to a halt in the middle of the road. And no amount of cajoling by the bus driver and the conductor is enough to make it go again.

As the bored passengers get down from the bus to stretch their legs or to answer nature’s call, the bus driver goes below the bus, with assortment of tools, with the conductor at his constant beck and call. Finally the driver gives up and emerges from the bowels of the bus, quite dejectedly.

In the meanwhile some of the passengers have managed to get lifts from private vehicles and goods trucks while some have decided not to give up on the resting bus. This attitude of the passengers, is what the bus likes and its mood changes for the better.

As soon as the driver decides to give it a one final try, the bus starts after a few false starts. With a great victory cry from the remaining passengers of ‘har har mahadev’ and ‘Ganpati bappa Mourya’ as they board , the bus is motivated to take them to their destination.

Now you will appreciate that I was very surprised to read in the papers that the ST Mahahmandal have decided to provide free wi-fi in these very buses. And the following images flashed before my eyes…

People have lined up in the ST stand for boarding the bus along with their assorted luggage, awaiting the bus to come inside the stand. Like always, their luggage consists of metal trunks, some carry pickle jars very delicately, some are holding long bamboo brooms made in their village, some holding their infants who have the propensity to emit ear piercing cries, while some are students who are going back to their colleges in the city after completing their vacations in their villages.

But most of them have one thing in common, they are all carrying their precious smartphones. After all they are very eager to use the newly provided wi-fi inside the bus.

Finally the bus arrives, the passengers rush to their seats inside . As they settle down in their seats they await for the bus to start. But more than that they await the passwords for wi-fi usage.

Already some are fiddling with their phones , they can see the wi-fi available but wait for the password is killing. You will never see a more silent ST bus, since no one, no longer wants to make small talk with their neighbours neither do they want to shout out to their friends sitting a few seats away.

They are not interested looking out of the window, neither are they bent on grabbing a few winks.

Then the moment arrives, the conductor distributes the scratch cards having the passwords to all those who ask for it.

And that’s it!

Those who take the scratch cards, they stop living in the present. Someone starts communicating with his office on office mail, trying to do his pending work so that he is not overly burdened when he finally rejoins office. A boy in the corner seat is trying to download the latest songs on his smartphone whereas another one is watching his favourite movie. A girl on the first seat is engrossed in chatting with her friends on social media all the while ignoring her best friend sitting beside her in the bus.

While the wi-fi users are happy, it has certainly mellowed down the environment inside the ST bus, which has always been known for its boisterous passengers.

But are we being over optimistic here. Maybe the wi-fi will not work. After all, a few years back, there was great talk of CCTV cameras being installed in public spaces. Now we know that most of them are mere non-working dabbas.

And the ST buses will continue to carry their boisterous denizens to their destinations across the state.

Yatindra Tawde

humour, Travel, Uncategorized

Happy hours on Mars

My happiness knows no bounds. A few weeks back I had announced about my ticket to Mars. What? Don’t tell me, you don’t know!

After all, that news broke the internet. You can read about it all, here…A Ticket to Mars

But coming back to the reason for my happiness. As I opened the morning newspaper today, on one of the inside pages, was a news which should ideally have been printed on the cover page. Yes, it really deserved that honour.

One of the leading Beer brands has announced that it is planning to be the first to introduce Beer on Mars. It would certainly make me feel at home.

As you know barley is a key ingredient in the manufacture of beer. So, the next mission to the International Space Station would carry this valuable load of barley seeds to the station, which is being thoughtfully rocketed to the space station by this leading brand. How indebted we astronauts are! After all, nothing beats beer in making us feel at home, in the weightless conditions of deep space.

These barley seeds will then stay in space for a period of one month. Experiments will be conducted to study the effects of the microgravity environment on the seeds. The results of this experiments will be analysed back in Earth and the first steps would have been taken to make Space, a happy place.

And Mars will have the first pioneering potbellied astronauts with a Lager in hand.

Hic!!

Yatindra Tawde

Travel, Uncategorized

Keralaaa…God’s Own

 

Guys…it is not always that such days come into our life, which makes us say, WOW! I had such a day during my visit to God’s Own Country, Kerala.

I had gone to Kerala during the Diwali vacations with family in 2014…first stop Trivandrum…and as you might know, the city of Trivandrum is famous for the Shree Padmanabha Swamy temple…a very beautiful and majestic temple dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. And it goes without saying that we had to visit the temple . So we started for the temple from the hotel in an auto. After crossing many lanes and bylanes we reached the temple at @4.30 pm. Actually the auto dropped us at some distance away from the temple since autos or other vehicles are not allowed near the temple.
There is a huge archway through which you enter and as you near the temple you see the water tank near it. Water tanks near the temple are a hallmark of all small and big temples in Kerala. This water tank was very well maintained, with ducks swimming in it.

Anyway there were many other devotees like us who had come to take Darshan. My wife, myself and our daughter were proceeding towards the temple, like you approach any other temple in amchi Mumbai, when suddenly we heard shouts of “MUNDU…MUNDU…”and a portly old gentleman in the typical dhoti worn by the denizens of Kerala came running towards us gesticulating wildly. A whole lot of syllables, mono syllables , syntax and maybe syntax errors shot off from his mouth, which I was not in a position to understand. Then he pointed towards his own lower garment, which was a dhoti, and pointed towards a shop on the road side. Finally through all these gestures I was able to make out that I too had to wear a dhoti, also known as a Mundu before entering the divine temple. And my wife and daughter too, had to wear the Mundum Neriyathum which are a combination of the lower and upper garments, unique to Kerala.

As we approached the shop we saw a crowd of people who were there to get these garments. The shop was selling these and the first thought that came to mind is, what to do with them after the visit is over. Anyways I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and stood in line. Finally on reaching the counter I disbursed the payment and now became the proud owner of a Mundu.

Now the next question presented itself, which was, where do I change into it, and that too, modestly. While women had the option to wear the garments over their own clothes, the same option was not available to the men. I saw some men entering the same shop from a side door and I too joined the crowd. Since I have never worn this particular garment before, I was in a fix on how to go about it. So I started observing a few other men who were at it in all earnestness. Observing them I could make out there were many like me who were doing it the first time. Seeing them, I had a go at it. The first time I tried to wrap it around myself, as I passed the end from one hand to the other, it came off from the other side. I tried out a lot of permutations and combinations but without any luck. Then one gentleman pointed out that I cannot continue wearing my jeans below the mundu. That presented another challenge…now not only I had to wear the mundu properly, but also remove the jeans and ensure that the mundu did not come off while walking or something. I also had to ensure that it is not worn so tight, that I will be able to walk in only baby steps…too many challenges, to go in the presence of the Almighty.
Finally I applied my jugaadu dimaag…first I tied one end of the mundu to a clutch of mundu cloth securely (mundu is a long piece of cream coloured cloth)…after checking the security of this arrangement by pulling on it, I removed my jeans gently…so far so good…once the mundu was secure on my waist, I then proceeded to wrap the remaining cloth round and round around my body…and finally the the end of the mundu cloth was tied again to the first knot…I WAS READY TO FACE THE LORD…triumphantly I came out of the shop to see my wife and daughter bursting into uncontrollable giggles…But I was walking like a Kerala king going to meet the Lord…when suddenly the same portly gentleman again came running towards me shouting “SHIRT…SHIRT…” . I realized that all other men in the vicinity were shirtless.. And this was expected of me too. Gingerly I removed my shirt too and handed it over to the same shop for which I was given a token coin…the same system which is used in Malls everywhere…
Finally the three of us proceeded to meet the divine Lord himself…a thought struck me that you are going to the Lord ‘s abode leaving behind all your material belongings …you go there as a new person…

Once inside, it was a totally different atmosphere due to the unique aartis in Malayali language accompanied by an assortment of drums and trumpets. As we waited in a line to go into the presence of the Lord, I took a look at the temple architecture which was very beautiful. One thing I noticed, is the extensive use of wood in Kerala temples, which one does not get to see in Maharashtra. Another feature which I noticed, was the wide walking area surrounding the main temple area. I thought it must be for the people to do the Parikrama. I was partly right and partly wrong. But first things first.

To the sound of cymbals and drums, the gate to the Lord’s abode was opened. As the people started going inside to get a darshan of the Lord, the decibel level went up behind us. Once we had taken the darshan, we were ushered out to witness a grand spectacle before us!! On the wide walking path, going around the perimeter of the temple, an elephant, heavily bedecked with beautiful golden ornaments was walking across, with some pujaris sitting on a howdah, placed on the elephants back with many other people following the elephant, some of them walking briskly and some, almost running. We too joined the crowd for a couple of rounds, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and very happy to be part of this unique experience.

Then we sat inside a cool part of the temple, meditating before the great Lord, thanking him for this opportunity of a lifetime. This was certainly a great day in our lives, that it will always be remembered as a gift from the Almighty.

Yatindra Tawde