Sunday, 16 July 2017

Tranquebar: Slice of Denmark in India

Overview: Walking along the King's street from the fort gate towards the Danish fort makes one feel traversing through one of the streets in Europe. The old Danish houses, Mühldorff’s House and Lutheran church and the new Jerusalem church have their own share of history in colonial India. The Zion church, commissioned in 1701, just close to the beach is the oldest protestant church in India.
The main attraction of the city, the fort Dansborg, was built in the mid 17th century, is one of the biggest Danish forts ever built. Right next to the fort is the Bungalow-on-the-beach, which is an old colonial Danish house, currently offers accommodation to the tourists.
Also lies on the beach is a very old temple of Lord Shiva, built during the Cholas in the pre-Danish era. The cool morning breeze along the sea and the rustic charm of the place was a pleasant experience. I would rank it one of the must visits if one is in Pondicherry.
How to reach: Tranquebar is around  120kms south of Pondicherry. The ECR highway is smooth but its a single road from Cuddalore and Tranquebar, so might get busy during day time. Public transport is available throughout the day.
Food/Accomodation: Though Tranquebar can be taken up as a day trip from Pondicherry, but staying here for a night can be an experience. There are a few luxury Danish villas like The bungalow on the beach and the Gate house. Food available in these villas is mostly European.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Pondicherry: A visit to French India


Overview: One of the few places where we see the glimpses of French influence in India is Pondicherry. However, it has an even ancient past, having Chola footprints. As we started from the southern part of the UT of Pondy, we visited the ancient living temples in Bahour and Villianur. The Mulanathar temple in Bahour is believed to be an ancient Vedic centre of learning and the 9th century inscriptions on the outer walls of the temple tells the story of the village.
Around 9kms north of Bahour is the Thirukameshwarar temple of Villianur, which again is a highlight of the Cholan architecture. The temple has typical of the South Indian architecture and has a beautiful pond within the premises.
Coming to the hub of the city, the city was in existence right from the 3rd century, and the city was earlier named as Vedapuri, after the Vedapureeshwarar temple in the heritage town. This temple was destroyed by invadors during the 16th-18th centuries. Another temple built by the Cholas in the 12th century is the Varadaraja Perumal temple, which housed the deity of Vedapureeshwarar temple when it was destroyed.
DSC_0594  DSC_0602 DSC_0612  DSC_0703
The Heritage town, in the French quarter houses several buildings with French architecture, and walking along the Promenede beach is a relaxing experience. The entire area is lined with restaurants and heritage villas offering cuisines from all around Europe. The middle of the French town also houses Aurobindo Ashram, where Sri Aurobindo spent most of his time, and also has his samadhi within the ashram. There are a few churches built during the French occupation like the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Conception Cathedral and Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges. The Manakula Vinayaka temple in White town is another popular attraction, which predates the French rule in Pondicherry.
Another interesting place in the Tamil quarter is the old heritage house of Ananda Ranga Pillai, who was closely associated with the French Governer Dupleix.
DSC_0654  DSC_0665  DSC_0671  DSC_0686  DSC_0698  DSC_0613  DSC_0708  DSC_0719
Though Pondicherry is not known for beaches, Paradise beach is not to be missed. White sand and blue waters welcome several tourists to this place, which can be reached via Chennambur boat house. Weekends can get too crowded, so visitors need to plan accordingly.
Moving towards the North of Pondicherry, is the township of Auroville, which was founded by 'the Mother' Mirra Alfassa. The main attraction here is the spherical dome shaped meditation place called 'Matrimandir'. When we vsited, the Matrimandir was closed for renovation, so we had to view this incredible place from a distance.
Close to Auroville is the temple of Irumbai Mahakaleshwar temple, also dating back to the 12th century.
DSC_0895  DSC_0913

How to reach: Pondicherry has a railway line which is connected to places in Tamil Nadu, and also has a train running from Mumbai via Bangalore. The city also has an airport, but not many flights serve from Pondicherry. The roads leading to Pondicherry are very well laid. However, from Bangalore, the best route to take is Krishnagiri-Vellore-Arcot-Tindivanam.
Food/Accommodation: Being a popular tourist destination, Pondicherry has several options for food and accommodation catering to all.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Exploring Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district-1

Overview: There are lot of places of historic, religious and natural importance around Mangalore and the district of Dakshina Kannada.
Vitla: The historic town of Vitla is known for the Panchalingeshwara temple, built by the Mayippady royal family of Kumble, in a typical Malabar architecture similar to the temple at Kavu. Legend has it that the temple diety was installed by the Pandavas.
IMG_6996 IMG_7010  IMG_6978
Polali: Located around 19kms from Mangalore is the temple town of Polali, known for the 8th century Rajarajeshwari temple on the banks of the river Phalguni. The temple is mentioned in several scriptures and inscriptions including Markandeya Purana and Ashokan edicts.
Puttur: Known for the medicinal herbs and plants grown in the region, Puttur also has the 11th century Mahalingeshwara temple, where the car festival is held annually. Around 15kms from Puttur is the hot springs of Bendru Teertha.
IMG_7025 IMG_7040 IMG_7049
Moodabidri: Moodabidri was one of the main learning centres of Jainism, and is known for 1000 pillar Basadi built by Devaraya Wodeyar in 1430.
IMG_20151002_174518991_HDR  IMG_6911IMG_6910
Dharmasthala: One of the most popular pilgrim places in Karnataka is the Manjunathaswamy temple at Dharmasthala. Built in the 16th century by the Heggade family. Around 10000 pilgrims visit the temple everyday and food is offered to all devotees.
Kukke Subrahmanya: At the foothills of Kumara Parvatha is the temple of Kukke Subrahmanya, which is another hugely popular pilgrimage site on the banks of Kumara Dhara, visited by several people across the country. The main temple deity is believed to rid people of Naga dosha. The temple is located in the thick forests of the Western Ghats, making it rich in flora and fauna.
This time we had a chance to visit only these places, and will surely come back to explore many more places in the district.
All the listed places are pretty close to the city of Mangalore. So one can set up the base in Mangalore and plan to visit these places. Being near to the coast, the weather is always humid. And also during monsoons the rains lash the region causing road blocks. The best time to visit is just after monsoons in September till March.
How to reach: KSRTC and other private buses ply to these places regularly from Mangalore. Also, the roads are well laid and its a nice drive to these places from other parts of the state as well.