Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Magic of Karnataka - Part 1

Somehow all trips that start with me not having a lot of expectations from them, end up being spectacular! The long weekend trip from Bangalore to Belur and Halebid last weekend was no exception. 

Despite the infamous Bangalore traffic holding us captive for about 2 hours, we managed to escape and were soon on the lovely Bangalore-Mangalore Highway. Giving us competition was a train passing by. After chasing it for a while, we decided to let it win. :D

The speed limit on Indian highways is usually 80 km/hr, but a lot of cars were understandably using the flying gear. Blame it on the excellent roads and the encouraging trees on either side of the highway giving an overdose of green signals!

(This one was taken after the lunch stop, but the highway is the same. :) )

In all this, we just didn't realise when we strayed off the National Highway and were swallowed by the State Highway. Which, of course, was a stroke of luck because of the beautiful glimpses into the local green veins of Karnataka. I simply love the trees here... laden with ancient wisdom, they seem to be at peace with themselves and bend over themselves to pass on the serenity to the passersby, at times literally welcoming one with open arms! :)

After straying off the path a bit (part of every great trip!) we finally found our way courtesy our GP-Esses! (They didn't behave well some times, so the frustration is coming out in terms of spell-oh-fun, though within the limits of decorum! ;) )

Our route was supposed to be a stop at Shravanabelogola (more about it later), but after a tempting thick dosa post the conventional lunch time we felt more inclined to continue our trip to rest our precious heads!

The sun was getting ready to throw its nightly temper tantrum and so we hurried to find the first decent hotel to escape its wrath... It's a tradition (of not booking a hotel in advance) that we followed from our path-breaking trip last year to the deep South and it has its own charm and anticipation. :D It also reminded me of the road trip through Iran (not Iraq! ;) ), when finding a place to stay for the night was the end-of-the-day ritual almost every second day. :) Anyway, before I go off track completely, let me drag myself back to the topic... yes, so we were looking for a decent place to stay and we found one, the very first one, where our mechanical companion also had a place to park its tashreef. :D Talk about luck. :) And then we had time to turn our attention to the streets of Hassan that gave no indication of its small town status...

The next morning was the beginning of our mouth-agape-with-wonder visits to Belur and Halebid, both of which are about 30 odd km away from Hassan, making it the perfect base to visit both. We chose Halebid to first astound us and were a bit sceptical about its charms at the modest entrance.

Just one temple? I thought as we went inside. Happy to be proven wrong later. :)

You have to take off your shoes at the entrance, which gives a good excuse for some accupressure for your soles. Thankfully the weather was perfect to walk around and instead of jumping from one foot to the other in scorching heat, we were able to concentrate on our guide's informative and at times humorous anecdotes and explanations. Let me try to recapture it a bit...

So, as per our guide (I'm sceptical of guides ever since I overheard one in Amer Fort in Jaipur saying that the cannon there could fire all the way till Pakistan!!! lol) Halebid (Halebidu / Halebeedu) means ruined city and was named thus after the destruction at the hands of the Delhi Sultanate. The original name of this erstwhile capital of the Hoysala dynasty in the 12th century (Alert: History overload!!!) was Dwarasamundra or the Gateway to the Sea.

Here's an example of the panels. There are several layers covering different walks of life: There's one devoted to the arts, one to the stories and events from the epics Ramayan and Mahabharat, one simply ornamental and one to erotica! Yes, ancient India was not as prudish as it is today and depicted the different facets of life in its sacred spaces. Talk about people limiting girls from wearing jeans in today's so-called modern days and I wonder where the shift from such acceptance to such narrow-mindedness took place.

Hmm, another topic is threatening to stall my line of thought. Getting back... :) Here's (2nd row from top) a scene from Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean by demons and Gods to bring up nectar) with the legendary mountain Mandara being used as the churning rod and Vasuki, the serpent of Lord Vishnu being used as the rope.

This one (2nd row from top) from the epic Mahabharat shows the Pandav Bheem (who was supposed to be as powerful as thousand elephants) during the war, killing elephants single handedly and depositing them in a heap behind him (on the left)

And did you notice that the mouse of the elephant God is unable to bear his weight and beneath its tiny claw the pedestal of the structure is starting to give in? :)

The ceilings have their own special panels depicting mythology and are an attraction in themselves!

 And here's the divine trinity: Left is Brahma (with a beard), the creator, in the middle the destroyer of evil, Shiva, with his trademark damru and on the right Vishnu, the preserver.

Like most temples of this age, this one is also on a raised star-shaped platform.

 And here's one from the epic Ramayana, where Ram is shooting Bali through 7 trees as he helps the Vanara (monkey) king in exile Sugreev defeat his mighty brother Bali. Why through 7 trees? One, because Bali was blessed with sucking half of the strength of any enemy, who confronted him face-to-face. And two, because as per the Shastras (ancient Hindu holy scriptures), an archer is not responsible for killing anyone, whom he shoots through at least 7 trees.

And a thousand other stories etched in stone that I can't possibly tell in one day. :) On our way out of the temple we were made an offer we couldn't refuse... mini metal statues (10 of them) for a paltry sum compared to the craftsmanship and time invested in creating them.

Off we went to explore the other temples a short distance away, where polished pillars showed an inverted reflection (No, this guy is not waving to the deity! He's simply checking out his reflection. :) ) and the architecture wowed again.

The serenity, of course, was unexpected. This temple, for example, seemed reserved for our visit, lucky us! :)

And our favourite glint of red could rest undisturbed beneath a huge benevolent green friend. What a lovely place to read or simply relax and think of nothing in particular. :)

More in second installment. Time to rest my fingers... :)


  1. are a wonderful word weaver...:)

    1. From one word weaver to another - Thank you! :))