Thursday, October 26, 2006


It again happened, again in India

This time we were planning to go to Bijapur. This was in August and around the same time, northern Karnataka, especially the Bijapur and Raichur districts were flooded because of heavy discharge of water from the Koyna Dam in Maharashtra. Concerned about the flood situation that we may have to tackle, I put a post in my company's bulletin board asking anybody from Bijapur to get back to me. A good samaritan - Ravi - not just got back to me and confirmed no flooding in the areas that we were planning to visit, but also gave me the contact details of his brother who is in Bijapur and offered to put us up at his house there! We politely declined the offer!

As we approached Bijapur, I gave a call to the Ravi's brother - Mallanna - and he offered to come to the bus stand to show us the way to a good hotel. Since it was already beyond 9pm, we declined the offer and asked him for the directions to a good hotel. Next day morning, Mallanna was at our hotel and insisted on taking us around Bijapur! As we were going around, we noticed he got repeated calls on his phone and it turns out that he had a relative in serious condition in the hospital, and hence lot of people who had come from outside Bijapur were staying at his house. Even in the midst of all this, Mallanna took time off to take us around Bijapur! We were struck by his helping nature!

I wonder how many of us would have gone this much out of our way to a bunch of unkwon brutes if we were in his position. Again, the only way I can be pay back Malla is by paying it forward.

Do what you can with what you have where you are.
- Theodore Roosevelt


Sonia gets back at George

This must rate as one of the most unkindest cut of all, since probably Indira Gandhi's emergency times. The witchhunt intended by the Congress Govt is very obvious in the George Fernandes case.

The article by Vishweshwara Bhat in the Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka on Oct 19 is very appropriate. Bhat wonders how a man who virtually has no personal wealth and doesnt even use a Rs.2 comb can be accused of taking a Rs.2 crore bribe. He exposes how the Congress Govt has systematically hatched the conspiracy to fix George Fernandes.

I'm not a big fan of George Fernandes' policies and his socialist tendencies. He can be held responsible for the flight of IBM from India, for all the misadventures of Morarji Deasi's Govt on the economic front, and more. However something that no one can accuse him of is corruption. Itz probably an indication of the times that a leader of integrity like him is today not needed by any body....deserted by his friends and hunted by his enemies.

Fie on you Congress for the witchhunt on a hero when he is susceptible. Fie on you Dr.Manmohan Singh for being a mute spectator while Madam runs amuck with her hate campaign.

Since we cannot know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything.
- Blaise Pascal


Why Muslims can't leave in harmony

Watch this interview of a Muslim "scholar" if you want to understand why Muslims cause trouble wherever they have to co-exist with people from other communities. Itz rascals like this who spread hatred among communities. With this attitude, can one have any hopes of Muslims living in harmony with other communities?

One may argue that not all Muslims would agree with the views of this person. But then, the fact is itz this group which is vocal The other group, if they exist, is silent. Now you know why there are no easy answers to Islamic terrorism.

The winds and waves are always on the side of ablest navigators.
- Edward Gibbon

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Mysore: Metropole v/s Lalit Mahal Palace

Had been to Mysore last weekend. This time got a chance to explore the two great dining places in Mysore, the Metropole and Lailt Mahal Palace.

Metropole is housed in a building that has a colonial aura and was used as a guest house during the British period. It is currently in lease to Royal Orchid group, who own the Tiger Trail chain of hotels. The entrance lobby has an awesome silver swing and silver couches. The wooden stairs look as stylish as you can expect from a colonial building. The restaurant has both open-air and enclosure options. We chose the open-air area that had a nicely curving tree to add to the attraction.

Food was great in Metropole. The drink options are pretty good, if not plenty. The yhad something called paratha pizza, which is paratha with cheese spread on it and some toppings, a la pizza! Interesting concept, and tasted good. There was a live concert when we went (not sure if they have it daily) and I appreciated that he was singing Hindi songs of Mukesh, Talat, Rafi among others. The food came to less than 300 bucks per head.

Lalit Mahal Palace was again constructed during the British period, but being a palace, has all the colors you can expect from one. The view of the palace from outside - with itz classic white exterior - is majestic. The interiors are also quite awesome, if not mind-blowing. They may not be as rich as the palaces in Rajasthan, but they do give a very good ambience neverthless.

The sad part about Lalit Mahal Palace is that itz run by the Ashoka chain of hotels of ITDC. A great example of where the Govt should not be! The service is pathetic.....the waiters have an horrible, bureaucratic attitude that stinks. The toilets reminds you of Sulabh Shauchalayas and stink even more. It looks so out of place in the serene, subtly-lit surrounding with beautifully painted roofs, nice galleries and some exquisite craft pieces, including a beautiful elephant made of sandalwood. Add to this the live concert - we had sitar played.

The food was ok-ish at Lalit Mahal Palace. One of the starters we had was Pineaple & cheese stick, which was awesome. The Makhmali Kofta was pretty bad, but the Masala Bhutta and Aloo Dhum were good. We had Kasmiri Naan, which was just naan stuffued with some nuts and jelly fruits....not really authentic Kasmiri stuff, but tasted good neverthless. The Bisibelebath was great, and the Mysore Majjige was good as can be expected. With no alcoholic drinks, it came to about Rs.400 per person.

Overall Comparision:

Metropole: Good ambience, good food, quite easy on your pocket.
Lalit Mahal Palace: Fantastic ambience, food ok, pathetic service.


Both not to be missed! Lalit Mahal Palace has lunch buffet most of the times (the day we went it was not there). Go for that, and go to Metopole for a nice dining experience :)

If one does not learn to listen to the music of nature and appreciate her beauty, then that which impels man to seek love at its remotest antiquity.
-Swami Rama

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


My trip to North Karnataka

Places: Bijapur, Koodala Sangama, Banashankari, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole

Well, it was in August'05. I know it was long back, but the procrastinator that I am, never got to move my lazy bums and fingers to blog about this. Lemme start now!

Aug-15 being Independence Day, we got a 4-day weekend by taking Aug-13 off. Visiting northern parts of Karnataka was a long cherished idea for me. Itz difficult to materialize this trip, because here you got to be very concerned about when you are visiting. Summer months are a definite no-no! The temperature touches the mid-40s in celsius scale and the dry heat kills several each year. That effectively rules out one-thrid of the year! Also, these places are not considered "kool" enough for people to be dying to see them. But as I will try to convince you in this blog, itz definitely not to be missed.

Me, after some pushing, finally managed to convince Naveena, Dheeraj, Shashi and Kanta to make a trip to North Karnataka. The plan was to travel northen-most first, and then come down south, so that in case we do not have time to visit all places (as it turns out we did not have), we will skip those that are more to the south. So the first destination was Bijapur.

Day 1:

We started from Bangalore around 8am (thanks to the delays by Naveena) on Aug-12, stopped at a Reliance petrol bunk just after Dobbaspet for breakfast (itz not a great place, not much variety of food), and reached Hospet around 2:30pm. We had lunch at my mother's sister's place in Hospet. As were about to leave Hospet, boyz got this idea that they need to "see" some place that day, lest the whole day get dedicated to only travel. o we decided to visit the TungaBhadra Dam in Hospet. The water was in good flow that that time with 21 of the 33 crest gates open.

Around 4:30pm we started from Hospet and reached Bijapur by 9pm. On the way we stopped at the Alamatti Dam. The upstream of the dam is accessible and nice area to get into water.

The whole strech of road from Bangalore to Bijapur was in great condition. The Bangalore-Chitradurga stretch (approx 200 kms) is along NH-4 and the Chitradurga-Bijapur stretch (approx 340 kms) is part of NH-13 connecting Mangalore and Solapur.

We stayed at Hotel Madhuvan...pretty decent hotel, with room-rates a bit on the higher side for the kind of facilities it has.

Day 2:

Next day, we were greeted by Mallanna who thence became our guide! We first visited the Shiva statue - modelled around the one at Murdeshwara - built by a Kannada film producer Basantkumar Patil (probably a vehicle to park his black-money).

Our next destination was the famous Gol Gumbaz. This magnificent tomb was built by Mohammed Adil Shah of the Adil Shahi dynasty. This is the second largest free-standing dome in the world. However, the speciality of the dome is the acoustics inside it. At certain places along the periphery of the dome, even a whisper from a diagonally opposite side can be heard. The sound gets echoed almost with sterophonic effect! You will be simply awed by the acoustics. It should be experienced to be believed.

Our next destination was the Jumma Masjid - a mosque built by Ali Adil Shah. Itz an enormous structure spread across a vast area. The interiors are as serene as the surrounding areas of the mosque is filthy.

We next decided to visit Turve - a village about 10 kms from Bijapur town. It has a Lakshmi Narasimha temple. It is said that an underground tunnel connects the Gol Gumbaz to this temple, and Mohammed Adil Shah used to take the tunnel to visit the temple in secrecy. The idol inside the temple is placed right at the exit of this tunnel, hence you have to almost crawl to reach the sanctum sanctorum.

On our way back to the hotel, we visited a forted area that houses a huge canon and Barah Kaman (12 arches). After lunch at a local style khanavali, we did some shopping in the main market. Bijapur is famous for dry fruits, grapes, gulkand and of course various varieties chutney powders.

Around 3pm, we departed from Bijapur. Our next destination was Koodala Sangama. On way, we visited Yalagur. About 1.5 kms inside the NH, just before you cross Alamatti Dam, Yalagur has a Hanuman temple. Not a mind-blowing temple this one.

Around 5:30pm, we reached Koodala Sangama. The place where Basaveshwara lived and entered samadhi, Koodala Sangama is today a very well maintained, clean, serene piligrimage place. Close to the confluence of rivers Krishna and Malaprabha, a Shiva linga is situated. Earlier, the idol was inaccessible most times of the year because of high waters of Krishna. However, last decade a structure was built to house the idol and a bridge was constructed to reach it from the temple. Now, the linga can be viewed throughout the year.

Koodala Sangama has great infrastructure for tourists with good budget hotels and restaurants. We had snacks at the Kamath restaurant there. We could not get accomodation at Koodala Sangama because the Yatri Nivas hotel was all occupied. So we decided to go to Badami where we stayed ina a cheap hotel, but decent enough for us guyz to stay, right opposite to the bus-stand (I forgot the name of the hotel, but itz opposite the bus-stand, two hotels next to each other, one more stylish, and a bit more costlier).

Day 3:

Aug-14 early morning, we woke up from our slumber and were off to Banashankari. 5 kms from Badami, it has the famous Banashankari temple. The temple is an eye-sore from aesthetic point of view. It has been shodily reconstructed with granite and tiles that look totally out of place in what is otherwise a stone structure. It pained to see how the beauty of the temple of destroyed in the guise of renovation :-( The speciality of the Banashankari temple is that at a small price, you will be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and worship the God yourself! While I consider it a means of feeding to the ego of the people, it obviously is a hit among the people as could be seen from the number of people eager for the pooja.

After Banashakari temple, we visited the Badami cave temples. These are simply mind-blowing! The temples are built at four levels cutting through the sandstones. All were built in a top down approach. The 3rd temple especially is magnificent. You need to climb a stair to get a view of it, and at the first glance you will reminded of watching something in 70mm screen :)

Badami is a good example of how archealogical sites need to be maintained. ASI has taken great pains to ensure that the facilities provided for tourists do not become an eye-sore. All renovation work looks totally in sync with the surroundings, in contrast to what you see at the Banashankari temple.

Later we trekked up a small hill with a fort at the top. I was told this is place where shooting for Mani Ratnam's movie Guru - *ing Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai - was done.

After Badami, we visited Mahakoota, an old Shiva Temple. It has a huge pond, and there is also a Shiva linga immersed inside the water in that pond. Around 6pm, we reached Pattadakal.

Pattadakal is considered the school of Chalukyan architecture. There are nine temples, all built in varying styles. These temple complex was the laboratory for experimentation used by the architects before the grand finale - Badami.

Since it was getting dark, we quickly wrapped up Pattadakal - after some time, a lot of the sculptings start looking alike, unless you have a great taste for architecture ;-) We went to Aihole, but unfortunately for us, except for the KSTDC Mayura lodge, there are no lodges at Aihole. Also, no good food place either there. So we decided to go all the way to Koodala Sangama and this time, we did get accomodation at the YatriNivas there. It is a true value for money place - cheap, neat with good food available inhouse.

Day 4:

Aug-15: Independence Day! In front of the Yatri Nivas, an NGO that was organizing a seminar on the rights of Devadasis was celebrating the day by hoisting the tricolor. Me and Naveena took part in the program, took some photos of it and were duly requested by the organizers to share the photos with them :) After collecting our share of chocolates ;-), we had a sumptous breakfast at Yatri Nivas and started to our last main destination of the travel - Aihole.

Aihole was the capital of the Chalukyas - before they moved to Badami. The town is said to have nearly 100 temples built during that time! As I said, after some point, all temples start looking alike! So for us, the main attraction of Aihole were the cave temples atop a small hillock, and the gang of nearly 20-30 kids who accompanied us to the top! The kids were having a holiday - for singing Jana Gana Mana, as they said - and were hoping that we would pay them if they accompany us. These kids are so used to seeing there parents work as guides, they start acting like one - with half-knowledge and less-than-half language skills :) They were finally disappointed that we did not pay them a penny ;-)

Around noon, we started on our way back towards Hospet. On the way, about 30 kms from Hospet, we stopped at a dhaba for lunch. Each year on Aug 15, all the crest gates of TB Dam will be open, and itz a special occassion enough for people from all surrounding towns and villages to flock there for a 1-day picic! As we approached Hospet, we stopped at the Dam, admired the beauty of water flowing in full flow through the 33 gates, took some photos, and went to my chikkamma's house at Hospet. After a small pit-stop there, it was the journey back to Bangalore, where we finally arrived around mid-night.

Overall verdict on places

Alamatti Dam: Worth a stop-over, if there is water
Bijapur: Gol Gumbaz: Not to be missed, Jumma masjid: Ok, Turve: Good, interesting, Barah Kaman and the fort with the canon: Can be skipped
Yalagur: Skip it
Koodala Sangama: For me, the discovery of the trip. beautiful, do spend an evening here.
Banashankari: Skippable, unless you are religious.
Badami: Not to be missed! All of it!
Pattadakal: Ok...finish it fast ;-)
Aihole: Good place to have a small trek!
Mahakoota: Miss-able

Tips for tourists

  1. Do make sure you travel during the right weather condition. Summers are scorching in this part of the world. The best time to travel is from July till Jan, but then do take into account the probable problems caused by rains too, esp during Jul-Sep.
  2. If you have your own vehicle, make Koodala Sangama as the base camp for your trip. It has good, cheap hotels and a beautiful ambience thatz not to be missed.
  3. Other places with good staying options are Bijapur and Badami. However, they are a wee bit expensive.
  4. Do take a guide when you go to Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole....lest you miss out on some ineteresting tidbits.
  5. Do get adventurous and try out the local food, esp at Bijapur. Go to a local khanavali.
  6. If you intend to buy some of the autehtic north Karnataka food stuff, go to the Umdi Bhavan shop at the city market in Bijapur.....Grapes, gulkand, chutney powder, etc.

All actions are judged by the motives prompting them.
- Prophet Muhammad

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