December is probably the best season to travel in India, the weather is lovely in most part of the country, holiday season is round the corner and a great way to wind up a gruelling year. Most travel portals/agencies come up with interesting travel package offers though the offers are not valid during the peak holiday season between 20th December and 1st January. One such travel portal gave us a 2 night accommodation in any of the places listed by them and the offer was not available during the peak season. We quickly scanned through the lists and since we could only afford a weekend and probably a Friday, we zeroed in on Mysore.
Hyderabad to Bangalore on NH7
Mysore? Over a weekend? Possible? Of course, yes. What do we have the NH7 for? Our journey began on a Friday afternoon from Hyderabad. The plan: Reach Anantapur by dinner time and stay overnight, head to Mysore early morning next day because there was only one person who could drive our Figo, we did not want to over strain.
We took the ORR from Hyderabad and before we could even blink, we were stopping at the Jadcherla toll plaza and shelling out Rs.48/- and before the next blink of the eye, we were at Kurnool, breaking for chai. It was only 5 PM and we had already travelled 200 kms in under 2 hours. Gooty whizzed past us and by 7 PM we were at Anantapur, too early for dinner and to stop there for the night because Bangalore was another 200 kms and only 2 hours away ! We had thought of staying in Anantapur because accommodation was cheaper, Bangalore would cost a bomb but we decided not to waste time and get as closer to Mysore as possible so we could enough time to pack in all the places we wanted to visit.
Dinner was at the AP Tourism Haritha hotel just before the AP-Karntaka border checkpost. Beyond Bagepalli toll plaza, you enter into Karnataka. Crossing Chikballapur, we reached Bangalore outskrits by 9 PM and our nightmarish affair with Bangalore traffic began, the Metro rail works had blocked the traffic for kilometers and it took us 1 1/2 hours to reach Hebbal. We could not even get off the road whenever we spotted a hotel to stay for the night. Finally, close to Hebbal, the traffic eased up a bit and we found Hotel Check Inn where we tucked in for the night. Check Inn is a small hotel with old fashioned but charming rooms. The average accommodation works out to Rs.1500 per night, it is a decent place for a stopover at Bangalore.
Bangalore to Mysore – Such a NICE road !
At 7 AM the next morning, we resumed our journey to Mysore. We passed by the Hebbal lake which looked serenely beautiful in the early morning fog. Being a weekend, there were several bikers riding on their Harley Davidsons and the like, probably all the way to Mysore. We took the NICE Road as we bypassed Bangalore city, the NICE Road has some breathtaking views as you drive at 140 kms/hr, worth every Rupee you pay towards toll !
Our friend who lives in Bangalore advised us on the route to take to Mysore and the places we could visit enroute. As per his advice, we were to drive to Mandya, take a deviation from there to Shivasamudra Falls, Talakkad, Somanathapura and finally reach Mysore from Srirangapatna. If we managed to visit all these places in one day, it would be quite a feat !
Weekend meant, the Bangalore-Mysore Highway had heavy traffic, our friend told us there was a speed limit of 80 kms on the highway. One need not worry about the speed limit because the traffic makes sure you can’t even cross 60 kms/hr !
Maddur Krishna Temple
After a Karnataka breakfast at Hotel Adigas, we were driving past Channapatna when we spotted an ancient temple beside the Highway. We had read about a Krishna Temple near Channapatna and wanted to make sure if that was it, we were spot on. The temple is called the Ambegalu Krishna Temple, Ambegalu Krishna means Crawling Krishna. The close to 1000 year old temple had a cute idol of Baby Krishna in a crawling pose with butter in his hands. Photography is prohibited inside the temple and we couldn’t get pictures of the temple. This temple is a must visit.
There was a board directing people to visit the 2000 year old Lord Narasimha Temple nearby and we decided to check it out. It is a deviation from the highway and one has to drive 2 kms on a small dirt track. The temple is actually a tiny shrine which has been completely renovated, quite a disappointment actually but the whole point of a road trip is to get a feel of the place and we got plenty of that as we drove through a tiny village bordered by Okhra (Lady’s finger) fields where farmers were reaping their harvest.
This pretty ancient temple tank was the icing on the cake.
From here we drove to Mandya where we took deviation towards our first destination, Shivasamudram Waterfalls. From Mandya, Shivasamudram Falls are 51 kms via Malavalli on the National Highway 209. The road is a double road and decent enough for a pleasant drive.
The Ranga Trilogy – Madhya Ranga
In addition to the waterfalls, Shivasamudram is also famous for the temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha known as Jaganmohana Ranganatha Swamy or the Madhya Ranga Temple, the temple is one of the 3 important temples of Vaishnavas dedicated to Lord Ranganatha along the course of the Kaveri River. The Adi Ranga Temple at Srirangapatna, the Madhya Ranga at Shivasamudram and the Antya Ranga at Srirangam in Tamil Nadu are the three temples. While the Srirangam temple is gigantic, the Madhya Ranga is a very small shrine.
The temple is on the way to the falls. Most devotees visit all the three temples in one day starting from Srirangapatna.
We reached Shivasamudram Falls by 10 AM. The River Kaveri flows down the hills to form the Barachukki and the Gaganachukki Waterfalls which together form the Shivasamudram Waterfalls. Both the Falls are located at a distance of 5 kms from each other. Our first stop was at the Barachukki Waterfalls.
The moment we stopped, we were taken aback to see the sheer force of the Kaveri. It takes a while for the whole scene to sink in because your mind is not prepared for such ferocious beauty !
One has to climb down 150 steep steps to reach the Falls. Once at the bottom, the Kaveri leaves you enthralled as she dances down the hills with a mighty roar and throwing up a mist.
There are coracles that take you right under the waterfalls for Rs.50 per person, we got on to one of them for a ride in the river. We got very, very close to the foot of the Falls but did not go through them to protect our camera !
The coracle ride is a must do at the Falls, going that close to a waterfall is a superb experience.
We had to wade through almost waist deep, rock strewn gushing river to reach this part of the waterfall, it was scary and very adventurous.
The view makes you wonder if this is what makes heaven ! The Kaveri flows all over the place here, one can feel the pride of the untamed river.
It was past noon when we reluctantly decided to head back and remembered that we had to climb back the 150 steps, the afternoon heat and the sultriness ensured that the climb was difficult.
By the time we reached up to the parking area, we were dehydrated. The tender coconut seller made a fortune as we gulped down the tender coconut water by litres, the perfect remedy for dehydration !
We then drove to Gaganachukki Waterfalls. These falls are not as big as the Barachukki Falls but are higher. Climbing all the way to the falls is impossible, there is a small, risky pathway upto half the distance. Unlike its roaring cousin, the Gaganachukki Falls cascade down gracefully.
The Shivasamudram Hydroelectric Power project, one of India’s oldest Hydro power projects is located close by.
From nature, we turned our attention towards History. It was past lunch time and in our enthusiasm, we decided to skip lunch. Talakad, was next on our list. NH209 takes you to Talakad, 30 kms from Shivasamudram Falls, enroute, we found this ancient bridge across a stream of the Kaveri, running parallel to the modern Highway.
Mysteries in sand – Talakkad
Talakad is a very interesting place. The history of Talakadu goes back by atleast 1000 years. Until 400 years ago, the city of Talakad, situated on the banks of the Kaveri was a very prosperous city. In the early 1600s A.D, as the legend goes, when the Mysore Wodeyar kings defeated the kings of Srirangapatana and tried to take the queen’s jewels forcefully, she cursed the Talakad area to be filled with sand, that the Mysore kings would never have heirs and drowned herself in the river. Her curse seems to have come true because to this date, most Mysore kings have not had natural heirs and adopt sons of relatives to continue their legacy !
As for Talakad, the entire area was covered under massive sand dunes for centuries until the ASI excavated them in the 1980s. Since then, a group of temples were excavated here, the main among them being the 5 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temples seem to belong to the Hoyasala and Vijayanagar kingdoms. The biggest temple is the Vaidyanatheshwara Temple.
One can imagine the size of the sand dunes, if a temple as big as this was to be completely buried ! The other temples can only be reached by a 2 km walk on the sand.
Walking in the sand is very tiring and we visited only the Pathaleshwara Temple, which has walls built around it to prevent the sand from covering it again. We gave the other 3 temples a miss. Together, these 5 temples Pancha Pathi. Once in 12 years, there is a festival called the “Pancha Linga Darshana of Talakadu”, where people visit all the 5 Siva temples here.
We walked down a big dune to reach the Keerthi Narayana Temple, which lies in ruins below the slope of the dune.
Legends and myths apart, the reason behind this phenomenon is unclear. It is surprising because, until you reach Talakad, the entire region is abundant with green fields and water. The Talakad area alone is a dry sand covered area. Geologists consider this an ecological disaster. Talakad remains one the those mysteries that are yet to be unraveled. Exacavations are still on Talakad.
Somathanapura – Belur-Halebid’s lesser known cousin
A regular viewer of South Indian films will be familiar with this temple since it has been a popular location for film songs. Some ridiculous songs have been picturised against the backdrop of this architectural gem !
The Somanathapura temple is very similar to the temples at Belur and Halebid, the Hoyasala kings had a signature architectural style and this temple stays true to that style. The temple is dedicated to Lord Chennakesava, with two other shrines for Lord Janardhana and Lord Venugopala.
Of all the temples in India, the temples built by the Hoyasalas have the best sculpture, the sculpture is unbelievable!
The entire temple is filled with sculpture and every single figure has amazing clarity and perfection.
It makes you wonder if it is really the handiwork of humans !
The Ranga Trilogy – Adi Ranga, Srirangapatna
Evening was setting in as we headed towards the last place on our list for the day, Srirangapatna. Srirangapatna, on the banks of the Kaveri, is both a religious centre and place of historical importance.
We had a quick darshan of the presiding Deity and visited another ancient Lord Narasimha temple adjacent to the Adi Ranga temple. We reached the temple just in time for the Maha Naivedyam and were served two fistfuls of the tastiest curd rice ever ! That was the only solid food we had since breakfast that morning. It was sheer luck that we reached there in time for the prasadam and were in fact asked to stay back by the fellow devotees, some Divine intervention there?
Here lies Tipu Sultan
Taking a small tea break near the temple, we drove around Srirangapatna which was also the capital of Tipu Sultan during the late 1700s. Tipu Sultans palaces lies in ruins very close to the temple. The battle between Tipu Sultan’s and the British armies was fought here and there is a memorial built in the place where Tipu Sultan’s body was found after he was killed in the battle.
Tipu’s Summer Palace is also close by and the other famous temple is the Nimishamba temple. We couldn’t visit both these places because it was already dark and we were too tired.
Winding up the long day of exciting travel experiences, we drove Mysore, just 19 kms from Srirangapatna. It was 7.30 PM by the time we checked into our Hotel President, walking distance from the Mysore Palace. After freshening up, we visited the Dussera exhibition grounds, where people of Mysore seemed to hang out.
Dinner at the exhibition eateries consisted of Chibbulu Idly (Idly steam-cooked in a leaf basket), Puliyogere and Ragi Dosa. We were so full, we could hardly walk back to our hotel room. The heavy dinner also made sure that we dozed off right away. We had so much travel to look forward to the next day.