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Old 11th September 2013, 11:08   #31
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Badami and Vijaynagar

I rushed through Maharashtra. Nasik and Murud were the only stops. Murud is an ordinary coastal town. The Murud - Janjira fort though is an architectural marvel. Built on an island in middle of the Arabian Sea, it spans 22 acres. So strong and intelligent is the construction that it was never conquered. Shivaji and Shambhaji gloriously failed in their attempts to conquer this small fort off the coast of their mighty empire. The fort still houses the 22 ton Kalakbaangdi Cannon. The 3rd biggest cannon of India had a range of 12 km.

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The small town of Badami in Karnataka was my next stop. For the first time language was a problem. My Tom Tom navigator mislead me again. Asking for directions only brought confused looks. By evening I finally figured out new communication method. Mention only destination, concentrate only on odd English words and hand gestures. Late evening I reached Badami.

Next morning I headed to the famous caves. Mrs Farookhi, a cheerful lady with a history major took me through the caves. Importantly, she spoke good hindi. Badami was capital of the first Chalukya Dynasty from 6th to 8th century AC. The king saw Ajanta and Ellora Caves during one of his conquests and fell in love with them. He tried to replicate them in his capital. Four in all, the sandstone cave temples took seven years each to construct. Although dedicated to different Gods, many motifs carved in were similar. The artists loved the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and repeated their stories in these carvings liberally. After enjoying the first cave, rest of the experience was lot like the new Rohit Shetty film.

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The Patadakal temples built a little later were more interesting. Another king on his travel saw the Aryan temples of the north and was intrigued by the difference in the Aryan and Dravidian Temples. In one complex he commissioned both the temples to be built to signify the unity in his empire - insisted the guide. The complex has seven temples, four Aryan structures, one Dravidian structure, and two mixed structures. The main temple is a mix of the two styles. It is a grand and beautiful Shiva temple. Oddly it had carvings depicting the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Although very beautiful, perhaps these were the initial signs of the Indo-Aryan Civilization getting a bit stale in its imagination.

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Next was a short trip to Hampi or as Krishna Deva Raya had named it - Vijaynagar. The spread of the ruins is the first thing one would notice. The empire thrived from 13th to 16th century. It was one of the richest and most powerful kingdoms in the world at that time. The city was made of granite.
The main temple is the Vitthala Temple, dedicated to lord Vishnu. It has a beautiful dance floor where it is said that different granite pillars made sound of different musical instruments. The tiny village has so many structures of the past that even a week would do little justice to it. I spent three hours walking through the royal complex, main market, and three out of the infinite temples, just enough to get a mild visual of that time. The next morning I carried on with my journey. Such is this country, too many things and too little time.

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I love history and as I left Vijaynagar the next day, a curious thought stayed with me. In the period before Mughal Empire dominated India i.e. late 13th to early 16th century, India had various kingdoms, all had great capitals. 5 were considered the grandest; Delhi in north, Vijaynagar in south, Gaur in east, Ahmedabad in west, and Mandu in centre. Three of these were destroyed; Delhi and Ahmedabad survived and have retained their importance even today. Delhi has a few monuments to remember the era by, too few to know or feel it. Ahmedabad has lesser still. Most Amdavaadis today don’t even know of its glorious past. It is strange but the destruction of the other three great cities actually saved its history.

The past couple of weeks have been interesting. Too many dynasties and royal complexes though. So I decided to head for Om Beach, Gokarna. The beach is quiet, clean and empty. Plan a two day getaway if you are close by. The rhythmic waves, a calm breeze and some lovely fried fish are the only things that will await you here.

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Old 11th September 2013, 11:18   #32
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Coorg

Gokarna was just the break I needed. A day on the pristine beach and I was as relaxed as I have been in a while. The next two days more than made up for it.

I lost my ATM card. I had forgotten the PIN to other card I carried. And I had little cash on me. In my hour of need, I turned to my parents. They sorted everything as they always do. I was to get to Udupi the next day, to withdraw cash on presentation of merely a photo identification. My parents are savvy as they get. People keep asking me, How I manage to travel alone? I don’t!

Evening halt was at Maravanthe, quite an exotic little village. NH 17 runs right through it, on one side of the highway you see the roaring Arabian Sea the other side the lazy Sowparnika River. After clicking pictures of the inviting sea, I got on with my weekly chores in hope of putting the rough day behind me. It had been a sunny day, so I decided to give the car a thorough wash. After a good scrubbing I left the car mats out to dry. By evening it started to rain. It rained all night. The fan tried its bit but come the morning I was left with wet mats.


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Next day, for the first time, I encountered heavy rain on this trip. The Udupi – Manglore - Madikeri road was also quite poor. In Udupi I got fined for wrong parking. The only bright spot was I got the cash. Half way through thoughts of skipping Coorg entered my mind but I drudged on. The last 20 km to Madikeri things got a lot better. It stopped raining for starters. Once at Madikeri, I decided to go in search for a plantation stay. After being priced out at a few resorts I was guided to a Ginger Estate Home Stay. Mr. Ramu, the owner, even came to pick me up in his M&M 540, 1996 model. He gave a broad smile when he saw the Thar.

Two houses in the middle of 22 acres of coffee plantations. Ramu lives in heaven; his own home: a cozy cottage on top of a hill overlooking all his lands. The only other guests at the time were 3 bikers from Bangalore. The rooms were comfortable, the views magical. Ramu’s wife, a very sweet lady, offered some fresh coffee. The crisp taste of that first sip is still fresh in my mind. The best coffee I have had. The two days in Coorg were blisful. During the day I did go to some must-see points. The evenings were dedicated purely to strolling around the green plantations and sipping hot coffees. Ramu’s plantations are a photographer’s delight. The man himself is quite delightful. He spoke English which made our conversations a lot easier. He insisted the coffee plantations were getting too expensive to maintain, and then laughed about it. He was sticking with the coffee for now. He checked the Thar out quite a bit. He was curious about the modifications done on it by Mahindra. He seemed to want to try them on his Jeep. Then gave up on the idea with a smile “A lot of boys here try and change their Jeeps and end up ruining them”, he said. Though curious, he was quite satisfied with his car and his life

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From here, I push to Kerela: Gods own country.
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Old 12th September 2013, 06:28   #33
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Vyom, I don't have words to express. As a fellow BHPian said, it's a dream for so many of us to travel around the Indian sub-continent. Am not sure If I can ever make it happen, but can definitely feel India through your travelogue. . Awesome clicks and narration. Keep it coming.
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Old 16th September 2013, 17:57   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vyom View Post
Sure thing, though i will be back only in december. will get in touch with u then.




Soon actually. 15th to 22nd of september. will be taking the coastal route up. Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-tanjore/madurai-pondi-mahabalipuram-chennai. Any place on the way which i should include and any place i can skip?
The places you have referred here are all not to be skipped especially Madurai an ancient city which exists from the time of recorded history i.e more than 2200 years old.Sorry I would not be in Chennai in the dates you have mentioned and I really miss meeting you.May be we can catch up later.

Regards,

pksnathan
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Old 21st September 2013, 18:19   #35
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Post from the past

The Forgotten Fort

After conquering Egypt and Persia, Alexander the Great sitting on a rock, wept. He wept for there were no more worlds to conquer. The mighty Macedonian then set his eyes upon India. With a great army he reached Indus. Here he was met by a much smaller king prepared to defend his lands against the emperor of the world. He won the battle but such was the strength and skill shown by this frontier king’s army that Europeans lost their desire for conquests.

The Indian king was Porus. Kangra today is a small town near Dharamshala. For about 2000 years it used to be the capital of Katoch Dynasty, the rulers of Northern Punjab and the Himalayas. Porus was one of the first known kings from Katoch Dynasty. After the Greek power subsided Katochs won their lands back. The story repeated itself whenever a great power attacked or rose within India.

After Alexander came Ashoka, Rajas of Kanauj, Mohmud of Gazni, Mohammad Gori, Mughals, and Goorkhahs. The Katochs stood strong and fought them every time. Sometimes they won, a lot of times they lost. When their conquerors eventually weakened, they always won their lands back. Warriors in true sense, they survived by the only way they knew; by their sword. Kangra was their capital. A massive fort was their stronghold. The dynasty finds mention even in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They are said to have fought Lord Rama and the Pandavas. Their heirs survive till this day and so does the great fort.

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When I went to Kangra Fort, I knew none of this. Kangra wasn’t even a planned stop. A day at Mcloedgunj proved to be a day too much. Home of the Dalai Lama felt like Goa on hills. I was left with two spare days and I stumbled upon this gem.

Kangra Fort stands tall on top of a mountain. A deep valley surrounds it with rivers flowing on both sides. The Mughals attacked this fort 52 times and failed, until Jahangir finally conquered it. This is a fort built for battle. There are two high walls around the main complex. The entry itself is an upward zig-zag climb hence any invading army is at a severe disadvantage. Passage between the two walls is long and narrow. No more than two horses can climb abreast. The entire fort is build like a pyramid. The occupants always at a vantage point. Arrows, boulders and boiling oil could be showered on the invaders at will. Royal complex used to be on level 7. As one walks through the fort it becomes very clear why Kangra was considered impregnable.

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A story goes that when Mohmud of Gazni plundered Kangra, there was so much wealth that he didn’t have enough camels to carry it all back with him. The great Mahavira is said to have visited this fort once. Today this fort that ruled the mountains for over 2000 years lies in ruins, forgotten by the world. There wasn’t even a guide to take me through this beautiful fort. I roamed around the fort with headphones around my head searching for numbered points.

The view from the top was quite breathtaking. All around are tall and green Himalayas, down below is a confluence of the Banganga and the Majhi. It is little surprise that so many battles were fought to rule this fort.

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That evening I went to Masroor Temples. The 8th century monolith temples were built by one of the Katoch kings. A narrow road through the beautiful and lush mountains led me to them. During the entire drive I saw no other vehicle. I crossed various tiny villages on way; none had more than 40 homes. I reached the temples eventually and was the only visitor there. The temples were heavily damaged, mostly by the weather. Some beautiful carvings still remained, but more than the carvings it was the location that gave me a high. There were three old temple structures on one side and the beautiful Himalayas on the other. I never wanted to leave.

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Some destinations impress visitors with their history and structures while some enchant them with great natural beauty. Kangra has both, strangely though, no visitors.

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Old 13th October 2013, 23:14   #36
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A Great read !! Very well documented travelogue, will be waiting to read on !
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Old 16th October 2013, 22:49   #37
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Boy, I do envy you like anything . I am mesmerized by the amazing pics and the wonderful narration !! Keep 'em coming, rating a well deserved 5 stars.
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Old 17th October 2013, 15:23   #38
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Vyom, amazing travelogue. I guess living what is a dream for most of TBHPian's.
One suggestion: Please add the route taken for the locations, this will be extremely helpful for other members in their planning.
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Old 18th October 2013, 08:54   #39
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Awesome Vyom, you are living the dream of most of the traveloholics out there and sure an envy of all. Can you share your route plan so that in case you are on our city or town we can catch up.
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Old 28th October 2013, 17:18   #40
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Post deleted by the Team-BHP Support : Please do NOT post messages that add little or no informational value to the thread. We need your co-operation to maintain the quality of this forum.

Please read our rules before proceeding any further. We request you to post ONLY when you have something substantial to add to a discussion.

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