Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Ajanta Caves: Where rocks come to life

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Overview: One of the great architectural marvels of Indian history is the Ajanta caves. Located around 100kms from Aurangabad, these caves date back to the 2nd century BC. There are a total of 26 Buddhist caves carved out of a semi-circular rock hill. All the caves are located next to one another, with each cave depicting the ways of living a life, the Buddha's journey, a king's lifestyle and several other stories from ancient India. A few caves have wall and ceiling paintings on them which have survived several centuries of wear and tear. These paintings are made out of vegetable extracts, similar to the painitngs which can be seen at Hampi and Badami. A few caves are designed as a huge hall, with the interiors resembling some of the massive churches of the renaissance, but entirely carved out of stone.
Really remarkable work by the generation of people who commissioned these caves, which were built by ordinary tools and chisels (as believed).
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How to reach: Ajanta caves can be reached via road from Aurangabad which is 100kms away. The nearest railway station is Jalgaon which is around 60kms away. The nearest airport is at Aurangabad.
Accommodation: Comfortable options for stay can be availed at Aurangabad. A few luxury hotels are also available near Ajanta caves.
Map:

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Exploring Dutch countryside

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Overview: They say the best way to explore the Dutch countryside is by a bike (bicycle). We found out how true this is by going on a bicycle tour around Volendam. We went to a nearby fishing village at Edam and from there, visited the picturesque little town of Volendam. It is a nice traditional town, with more orthodox population, and beautiful market area by the harbour. The beauty of this place inspired great artists like Picasso and Renoir, who spent time here.
One unpredictable phenomenon here is the rainfall, which can happen at any given time without a warning. The Dutch countryside is also known for Tulips and windmills. We could not make it during the Tulip season, but we could spot a few traditional windmills.
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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Ancient temples of Chikkamagaluru District

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Overview: Chikkamagalur district, known for its pristine hills and roaring waterfalls, is home to several ancient temples, a few popular pilgrimage destinations, and the other few are unknown or in ruins.
Sringeri, Hariharapura, Kigga and Horanadu are quite well known and are visited by several pilgrims all the year round. More details on the temples are available in the following link:
http://www.thelightbaggage.com/2013/05/sringeri-around-karnatakas-open-secret.html
Yoga Narasimha temple, Baggavalli: Around 20kms from Tarikere is the 12th century Hoysala temple dedicated to Yoga Narasimha swamy. This temple is maintained by the ASI.
Kodandarama temple, Hiremagaluru: This temple is located in Chikkamagaluru's suburb Hiremagaluru. The temple dates back to the 14th century, and was developed by several kings of different eras. The inner structure is typical of the Hoysalas, while the idol highlights the Chalukyan craftwork.
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Marle Twin temples: Around 15 kms from Chikkamagaluru is the beautiful temple complex of Marle. The complex has the Keshava and Siddeshwara temples built by the Hoysalas. Both the temples are currently in ruins but the outer carvings are still intact. There is a huge stone tablet with inscriptions between both the temples.
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Lakshmikanthaswamy temple, Devanur: Hidden in Kadur taluk is the beautiful Lakshmikanthaswamy temple, also dating back to the Hoysalas built during the 14th century. The temple structure has been renovated and much of the ancient structure cannot be seen now.
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Veera Narayana temple, Belavadi: This beautiful trikuta temple dates back to the 12th century. Built by the Hoysalas under Veera Ballala-III, the temple resembles the more popular temple of Halebid, with carvings both interior and outer walls of the temples.
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Amrutheshwara temple, Amruthapura, Tarikere: One of the most beautiful temples I have visited, this live temple has not been damaged much over the centuries. This temple dates back to 1196 AD, and has carvings highlighting the stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata on the outer walls. The temple also has a tablet with inscriptions within the complex.
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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Driving along the Western coast of India from Karwar to Bhatkal

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Overview: I had always liked driving across coastal highways. This one was not exactly driving along the coast, but yes, it took me to some exciting places along India's west coast, particularly in North Canara region. Starting from Karwar, I covered several places all the way to Bhatkal. I have covered Karwar, Ankola and Aversa in one of my earlier posts.
According to legend, Ravana had won the Atmalinga from Lord Shiva after performing severe penance. On his way back to Lanka, while performing evening prayers, he requested a young Brahmin (Lord Ganesha in disguise) to hold the Atmalinga till he completes his prayers. But he was tricked and the Atmalinga was placed on the ground. Furious with this, Ravana tried to remove the Atmalinga from the found and threw it in all directions. It got established as 5 Atmalingas in this region- at Shejjeshwar, Dhareshwara, Gokarna, Gunavanteshwara and Murudeshwara.
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Along this route are few of the prettiest beaches like Gokarna beach, Om beach, Kudle beach and several others.
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Ramateertha: Around 3kms off the highway is a small pond where perennial water gushes out, called as Ramateertha. The water falls into a pond and can be reached via a series of steps.
Colonel Hill: A 30m tall column has been installed in the memory of Colonel Hill in 1845, who was the commander of Mysore Division of the East India Company.
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Apsarakonda: A small waterfall cascading from around 80 feet is a pleasant sight here, and behind the waterfalls, on climbing down a few steps takes one to the Apsarakonda beach, one of the most serene beaches on the Western coast.
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Bhatkal: Known as Bhattara Kallu in ancient times, Bhatkal has had a rich Jain heritage. Some of the ancient temples like Khetpaiya Narayana temple, Khetapayya Narayana, Joshi Shankarnarayana and  Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy are worth a visit.
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How to reach: All the places lie along the NH66. Driving along this road is a pleasure, but other options include buses and Konkan railway.
Food/Accommodation: Food and accomodation is not a problem in the whole district, with major towns like Karwar, Ankola, Gokarna, Honnavar, Murudeshwar and Bhatkal
Map: