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Old 5th January 2009, 20:18   #16
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Thank you all for appreciating my commentary.

"Looks like you were trigger happy shooting everything from dogs and cats" - True, I have around 3GB of photos from this trip to sort out.

Planning to complete the rest of the travelogue in the within the next couple of days"
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Old 5th January 2009, 23:57   #17
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Default Hubli > Badami

Day 4 – 30th Dec 08
Hubli > Badami

As per planned, we woke up late the next morning, had a hot shower, a leisurely breakfast, lazed around for a while, caught up on some news papers etc. This was not only to take a small break after three days of Xinging around, but also to prevent a sensory overload. Three days of great and some 'not so great' sights, sounds and smells need some time to sink in…

We started out from Hubli post lunch at around 1.30pm and as we had just around a 100kms to cover for the day, we expected a 2 hour drive and some sightseeing around Badami before calling it a day. Typically you can cover Badami, Pattadakal, Mahakoota & Aihole in a full day if you have your own conveyance and start your day by 7.30am.

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This RTC bus guy decided to play ‘chicken’, the road on both the sides was dug up for road repair [see next pic] and I had nowhere to go. I slowed down to a complete stop… he swerved around us with just a few feet to spare and just rumbled over the broken road…

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Should be enough for a year’s supply of pop-corn :-)

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Reached Badami by 4.00pm and found a smallish lodge called Laxmi Nivas, who quoted Rs.300 per night. Though it did look a little dingy from outside, it fulfilled our basic criteria – clean loo, a place to spread our sleeping bags and reasonable rates.

In places like Badami, Hampi and Chitradurga, it is preferable to hire a guide to take you around. They not only cover all the important places, narrating some interesting stories and anecdotes about the place, they also ensure that you cover everything in the best sequence. Guides are usually available onsite at each location, either try and hire the first one you see or if he is already booked, ask him to put you in touch with someone else.

We quickly freshened up and checked with the hotel guy about the nearest places to cover for the day, he recommended the ‘Bhootnath’ temple that is just about a kilometer away and the Banashankari temple which was around 5kms away.

We drove into the narrow lanes that lead up to the museum and temple area and entered the 'Bhootnath' complex...

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The ‘Bhootnath’ temple is an incredibly beautiful structure. None of the umpteen photos I took do full justice to this wonderful work of art. A green lake, an orange temple, with a rocky backdrop…

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Took this pic later in the evening when the sun had gone down.

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Trust Manirathnam to scout out the best locations for his movies… The wedding scene from the movie ‘Guru’ was shot at the Bhootnath temple. No wonder it looked familiar.

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Walked around the temples in the complex and checked out the few cave temples in the area…

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Some of the temples and caves have deities from the Hindu pantheon, some of them are dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. All of these structures are dated to between the 6th and 8th century AD, making them almost 1500 years old ?

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The striations in the rocks add to the beauty of the carvings…

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Did some impromptu rock climbing to try and reach the small shrines on top of the rock…

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The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) which looks after these temples has done a brilliant job of renovating and protecting these priceless monuments. They are trying to use the same type of rocks as were used originally and other materials like lime-mortar for the repair work. We found that wooden doors had been fitted to all the temples and they were locked. We asked one of the workers in the area to fetch the keys as we wanted to take a look inside.

The temples are quite simplistic from inside, with no elaborate carvings. They were locked up as they are being used to store some of the equipment used around the complex. Where the high-priests of the kings once conducted sacred rituals, Honda lawn-mowers now find a resting place…

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Another temple from the other side of the complex…

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One of the Badami caves, as seen from the Bhootnath temple complex. By the way, a couple of other scenes from the movie ‘Guru’ were shot at the caves, including the song ‘Ek lo Ek muft’…

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We had spent almost 3 hours around the temples, admiring the view. Walked back to the car, took one last pic and moved on…

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We proceeded towards the Banashankari temple next, the area around the temple is like a typical village fair. Architecturally I did not find anything remarkable about the temple, but it was well worth the visit to have a darshan of the Devi, walk around all the colorful shops and just spend some time window-shopping…

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Drove back into Badami, had a simple dinner at one of the hotels and wound up for the day. Oh yes, before that I did call up the guy who was supposed to guide us the next day and reconfirmed that he would meet us at the hotel at 7.00am sharp. (We were put in touch with him by another guide we bumped into at the Bhootnath temple.)

I walked out to the balcony to make a quick call and saw this almost extinct mode of transport parked under the street lamps. A perfect 1 HP vehicle ;-)

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Set the alarm to 5.30am and quickly fell asleep to dream about the Bhootnath temple.
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Old 6th January 2009, 22:54   #18
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Default Badami > Shivayogi mandira > Mahakuta > Pattadakal > Aihole > Hospet

Day 5 – 31st December 08
Badami > Shivayogi mandira > Mahakuta > Pattadakal > Aihole > Hospet

We were ready for the day ahead by the time the guide arrived at the hotel at 7.00am. We discussed about our itinerary for the day and realized that we would be completing all the five destinations for the day by around 6.30pm (Badami, Shivayogi mandira, Mahakoota, Pattadakal and Aihole). Since the route to Hospet from Badami goes via Aihole (our last stop for the day) we decided to pack-up from Badami and just drive on to Hospet at the end of the day. Quickly packed everything into the car and started off with Day-5.

We had already completed Banashankari and Bhootnath temple complex the previous evening, decided to skip those and go directly to the Badami caves. What makes the caves quite amazing is that the entire cave including all the pillars, carvings, the ceiling, the flooring etc. are carved one single rock. There are no joints or connections anywhere. Apparently each cave took anywhere between 40 to 60 years to complete and several generations of craftsmen worked on each cave. And yes, the caves are dated back by around 1500 years!

Everything you see here is just one single rock…

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There are four caves in this complex, the 3rd one is the biggest and most artistic of the four where the craftsmanship had reached its peak. The fourth one is a smaller cave, which was the last one to be carved and unlike the other three which are meant to be Hindu shrines, the fourth one is from the period when the Chalukyas embraced Jainism.

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In all the caves only the first row has all the intricate carvings. The interiors of the cave are just plain and simple. Since the caves can get quite dark inside, the craftsmen just concentrated near the entrances where their work could be seen…

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As the craftsmen grew more confident, the sizes of the carvings and the intricacy of their work also increased…

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There is also a natural cave in the complex which was apparently the inspiration for the cave temples to be carved into the hill…

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The Guide did a decent job of explaining the significance of each of the statues…

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Monkeys! There are quite a few of them at the caves and they tend to snatch anything that catches their fancy, normally they attack people carrying eatables or women wearing flowers in their hair. The guide mentioned that people have lost their sunglasses, phones and cameras too…

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An interesting motif carved into the ceiling of the cave…

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Among all the opulent Gods and Godesses, you also come across one disconcerting figure; see the one on the left side of Shiva? That is a representation of a sage called ‘Bringhi’, who was the reason behind the Ardhanareeshwara avatar of Shiva. He angered Parvathi and was cursed to loose his flesh and blood and was reduced to just skin and bones. We found him depicted in a cave in Pattadakal also…

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Since completed the caves and headed out towards Shivayogi mandir. This is a center for religious teachings, they still have a training school that imparts knowledge of the Vedas and is a sort of training school for swamijis.

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It is a cool and serene place with the samadhis of the Swamijis who founded this institution…

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A door with depictions of the swamijis…

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Sanskrit classes were going on…

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They also have a ‘Goshala’ where old and abandoned cattle are cared for…

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Continued...
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Old 6th January 2009, 23:13   #19
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Default Day 5 continued...

This is also one of the few places in Karnataka where ‘Vibhuti’ is manufactured in exactly the same way as laid down in the scriptures. The raw material is cleaned, filtered and processed cow-dung, which is finally baked in kilns for around 24 hours to get Vibhuti. The villagers who work there took some time off to walk us through the place…

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We reached Mahakoota next. It is a small complex of temples, most of which seem to be ‘ive’ temples where poojas still happen. All the deities are different avatars of Shiva. It was a cool & shady place to relax for a while.

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Had a quick darshan at the main temple…

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Apparently if you whisper your wishes into Nandi’s right ear, they get conveyed to Shiva immediately :-) [Notice how all Nandis lean towards the right as if to hear better ?]

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There is a natural spring in the middle of the complex, normally the water is crystal clear as the pool gets replenished every day. There were some local boys playing around in the pool…

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One more amazing thing about the pool is that you can see bubbles of gas coming up from all over the bottom at regular intervals … this is probably natural carbon dioxide that is released from the limestone bed of the spring. See the bubbles in the pic below ?

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An interesting thing about this place is that there is a ‘hidden’ Shiva temple in this complex. There is just a small mantap on the top, near one of the corners of the pool, there is actually a small shrine under it which is totally underground. The only entrance to it is from underwater! Can you see the sign ‘Shankar ling’ painted in the corner and the arrow indicating downwards, you have to dive into the pool at this point and enter the temple from below. Since the water is just around 5 feet deep, it should be a quick dip for most... unless you are claustrophobic.

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Sit in the pool without splashing for a few minutes and you’ll find small fish (probably some variety of ‘Carp fish’) nibbling at your feet! They gentry scrape off and feed on the the dead skin from your feet. Nope, it doesn’t hurt…these fish don’t have teeth. You just feel a tickling sensation as if you are getting a extra gentle pedicure…

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Another fish pic…

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We spent some time around Mahakoota and stepped out. Notice the temple rath in the pic below? Normally rathas have wooden wheels, this one features stone wheels…

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We drove on to Pattadakal next. There are some three are four main temple complexes here. The name ‘Pattadakal’ is derived from the Kannada ‘Pattada-Kallu’ or Coronation rocks. Apparently Pattadakal was a place where coronation ceremonies took place, due to the belief that whoever was crowned here would have a long and successful reign.


The first temple we came across in Pattadakal…

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An ingenious stone ladder! The builders could have easily used a wooden structure, but they always built stuff that was guaranteed to last for thousands of years…

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Pattadakal was never overrun or pillaged by invaders like Hampi was, so most of the temples and idols are relatively undamaged. Whatever damage you see is attributable to weathering and vandalism by the people who were using these structures as shelter after the temples were abandoned…

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Took a few pics and moved on towards the main complex…

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The main temple complex of Pattadakal…

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Only one of the temples has regular poojas… walked around the place with the guide explaining about the depictions from the Ramayana, Mahabharata etc.

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Continued...
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Old 6th January 2009, 23:31   #20
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Pattadakal features temples of almost all the different styles of temple architecture found in India. If you are keen on such stuff, I would recommend a book called ‘Temple Architecture of India’ by Adam Hardy. Should be available in Gangarams or Crosswords. The book explains the concepts, history and development of Indian temple architecture.

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Sadly the temples are carved out of Sandstone, which flakes off and disintegrates over time. But ASI has been taking some preventive steps and also experimenting with resin coatings to seal or bond the rock surfaces.

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The black stone Nandi. All the centuries of poojas and people touching it has only given it a great shine!

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Except shrines with Siva lingas, none of the other temples seem to have any deities in place…

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We took quite a few pics around this place before heading out…

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We went to a cave temple next, though not as impressive as the Badami caves, it does have some really great sculptures.

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Remember the eerie looking Bringhi rishi I mentioned about in Badami? We saw him again in this cave temple…

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A close-up…

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There are some other temples around, which are somewhat off the beaten track… wherever we glanced at a gopuram, we headed towards it…

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ASI is slowly reclaiming and renovating many outlying temples, making them easily accessible to visitors…

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This is a close up of one of the rocks, you can see it disintegrating into sand…

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After having our fill of Pattadkal, we moved on to Aihole. This place used to be a center for training architects, sculptors and artists. Some of the students who trained here went on to build some of the greatest temples across India including the temples of Belur and Halebid.
Once the required training was completed, a group of students would be given either an empty piece of land to display their skills, a sort of ‘certification test’. While a batch of stone masons would lay the foundations, a different batch of sculptors would work on the carvings and so forth…

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With all the 1000s of craftsmen who must have been trained here, Aihole has around 145 temples! no two of which are similar. There are temples strewn all around the place. Apparently many other temples just disintegrated, got buried under or were dismantled by the villages who used the stones to build houses.

One of the temples has four pillars clearly showing the stages of the work done by the architects… I put together all the four pillars in a sequence. You can see how the first one has the blank designs, the second one has the rough sculptures and the last one is the completed pillar…

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Even the ceilings have amazing scuptures…

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Some more intricate designs…

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This is the Durga temple at Aihole, the temple that is used to represent Aihole...

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It features some great statues and carvings…

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Continued...
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Old 6th January 2009, 23:46   #21
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Every window has a different pattern…

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You can see that the statues were not carved into the walls, but just placed in the receptacles. There is atleast one empty place where one of the best and undamaged statues was carried away by the British and is now displayed in a London museum…

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From the Durga temple complex, we moved on from temple to temple, covering almost 30 to 40 others. Some were exceptional, some just ok… the latter must have been built by the ‘just pass’ students ;-)

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One of the rare ones which still have the moola murthi (main idol) intact. Thanks to a belief that there would be a treasure of some sort buried under the main idol, local treasure hunters would often dig up the temple deities.

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Garuda, holding two sarpas (snakes)…

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Good lord! More temples???!!!

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We came across this site where the renovation work was going on. As mentioned earlier, missing or broken stone blocks were being replaced with similar stones, albeit without carvings.

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Instead of cement, traditional lime mortar was being used for the repairs… similar to the stuff that would have been used by the original builders.

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We watched a group of workers struggling hard to move just one single block of stone. It took them quite a while to get it in place. Watching this made us wonder about the amount of work that would have gone into building some of the bigger temples, with 1000s of much bigger stone blocks used…

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More temples…

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And some more…

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A walk through the village and a short climb lead us to some more interesting structures…

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You make out more temples scattered within the tenements…

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A double storied temple on top of a small hill…

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These kids live and hang out for most of the day around the temples, so they know every nook and cranny better than any guide ever can… they followed us up and were eager to show us some interesting sights, in exchange for 1 rupee each.

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A jain tirthankara…

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The level of detail the sculptors went into in some places is something that has to be seen to be believed.

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Continued...
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Old 7th January 2009, 00:24   #22
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Minute details were etched out in the stone pillars…

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The bunch of kids continued to tag along with us where ever we went in the village...

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Rather than give them money, Sangeetha decided to buy them some toffees from the village shop…

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Some of the structures are used for evening get-togethers by the villagers…

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Scrambling up onto a temple to take a look at how the roof was put together…

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Finally we decided to call it a day, took some more pics and started driving towards our next night halt destination; Hospet, which was around 120 – 130kms away…

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By the way, if you wind up a little early from Aihole, you can drive upto a place called Kudalasangama where the Krishna and Ghataprabha merge. The samadhi of Basavanna, a saint from Karnataka, is also located here. But we were warned about a big rush at that place that evening and we wanted to avoid the crowds, so skipped it and headed towards Hospet.

Stopped at a place called ‘Amingad’ to pick up some ‘Kardant’. A sweet made out of boiled jaggery, ghee and dry fruits.

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The road to Hospet is much better than the last time I had been there, around a year ago. We reached Hospet in just under 2 hours.

The first lodge we saw was a ‘Rayyan International’ a relatively newer place, who quoted Rs.600 per day. We drove a little further and found Krishna Tourist Home, which was recommended by someone… realized that Rayyan was much better!

Came back to Rayyan, checked in, had some dinner in a hotel nearby, watched telly for a while and called up our family and friends to wish them a Happy New Year!

We would be spending the first day of the new year among some of the most beautiful works of art in India.. at Hampi and we were looking forward to it.

Wished each other a great new year at 00.00am and retired for the day. Thus ended day 5.
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Old 7th January 2009, 13:37   #23
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Hotstuff indeed!!!
Very nice pics! Keep going...
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Old 7th January 2009, 14:17   #24
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Default Hospet > Hampi > Hospet

Day 6 - 1st Jan 2009
Hospet > Hampi > Hospet

Both of us been to Hampi on a couple of occasions earlier, so we did not need a guide to take us around. We just wanted to take our own time at each monument and explore around to our heart’s content.

Hampi was once the focal point of one of the most powerful Hindu empires India has ever seen. Vijayanagar (City of victory) was developed over a period of over 200 years till it was ravaged after the defeat at the battle of Talikota. The combined armies of Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Berar systematically looted and destroyed the city over a period of 6 months.

It is also claimed that Kiskintha, the monkey kingdom from the Ramayana was located around the hills of Hampi, Hanuman was born here and this is where Vali & Sugreeva lived.

A story / legend I once heard from somone…
“When Harihara & Bukka (founders of the Vijayanagara empire) wanted a place for establishing their capital, they sought advice from their Guru Vidyaranya. He asked the brothers to just go for a hunt and the place would manifest itself.

The two brothers took their horses, hunting dogs and proceeded on the hunt. They spied a wild hare and let loose their dogs… and followed on their horses. Initially the dogs chased the hare which was running for dear life… then they reached a hill where the hare suddenly stopped, turned around and started chasing the dogs which were now running scared!.

The brothers found it quite amazing and related the incident to Vidyaranya on their return. The Guru then explained this was the sign he had expected and that the place where the hare turned around should be the seat of the new empire…”

We started the day early and we were out by 8.00am. Ok, found this bike along the way… these days the ‘King’ travels around on a Fiero :-)

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For those who wish to explore Hampi at their own pace, there are some excellent guide books available, we used an Eicher-Goodearth publication called ‘Hampi Travel Guide’.

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There are also maps sold by vendors near every major monument, costing around Rs.15. Hampi has around 80+ known and significant monuments spread across 26sq Kms.

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First stop at the Anantasayana temple, with its huge dome-gopuram…

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Next stop at the Pattabhirama temple…

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Though many temples appear as flat, single stories stuctures, some of them had beautiful superstructures or 'gopuras' when they were originally built. But since the superstructures were often built using bricks and mortar, many of them do not survive today. Even the ones that have survived need extensive renovation.

The reason why they used brick and mortar instead of stone is that they did not have lifting equipment to move the huge stone blocks to the top. If you have been to the Brihadeshwara temple in Tanjore, the huge stone gopuram which is entirely made of stone was built by using a earth-work ramp that was 1 kilometer long. The top-most blocks were dragged using elephants and moved into place. The ramp was thereafter broken up.

Since building the ramp itself would be a huge exercise and it would also require wide-open spaces around the temples, the architects in Hampi used stone only upto heights where wooden block-tackle and gaint tripod like apparatus made with whole tree trunks could be used.

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We next drove towards the ‘Bhima’s gate’ one of the entrances into the fortified city…

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On the way to the Vitthala temple area…

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The ‘King’s balance’, where the king was weighed against gold which would then be distributed among the poor and the needy…

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One of those ‘I wish Xing was a 4x4’ moments :-)

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Parked next to the Vittala temple and headed inside. This was once the most beautiful monument in all of Hampi and the quality of the stone work done here was unparalleled. You have to see it yourself to believe it! This temple also houses another icon of Hampi, the stone chariot…

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When the invaders ransacked this temple, they found that every pillar, ever stone was carved so beautifully that they had a tough time destroying ebverything, so they brought down the main structures. This was not destruction in a fit of anger, but a systematic attempt to wipe out all traces of the empire.

Right in the middle of the temple, there was apparently a structure that was far more beautiful and elaborate then everything else around, the invaders stuffed the structure with wood and set fire to it so that the stones would heat up and then poured water on them so that they would crack and the structure collapsed. You can still see remains of the blackened ceilings and the cracked pillars…

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This place is also famous for the rock-cut musical pillars…

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Continued...
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Old 7th January 2009, 14:31   #25
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Default Thanks!

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Originally Posted by ramki067 View Post
Hotstuff indeed!!!
Very nice pics! Keep going...
Thanks ramki!. I was starting to get the feeling that nobody is reading my travelogue anymore

I understand that this travelogue is quite loooonnnnggg, maybe a little too extensive. Just wanted to write down whatever I remember so that anyone following this route can check out all these places, as it is not every other day that we travel across to such places.

Day 5 is done.. only Day 6 - Chitradurga left to write about.
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Old 7th January 2009, 15:04   #26
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Default Day 6 - Hampi, continued...

Given the fact that Granite is one of the hardest and toughest materials to work with, the level of detail achieved by the artisans here is simply mind-boggling. In comparision, the structures at Badami, Aihole, Belur, Halebid etc. were carved out of much softer materials like sandstone, Chloritic Schist etc.

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The Octagonal water pavilion, though it is commonly considered as a 'bath' the purpose of this stucture is apparently not so clear to the experts…

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The Queen’s bath…

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Some temples close to the ‘Zenana area’…

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Excavations are still underway in many places are more and more structures are being dug up by the ASI. You can make out in the next pic that some of the structures are buried under 5 to 6 feet of mud and rubble. Monuments that were originally built lower that the ground level around would have completely disappeared from sight…

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The Elephant stables…

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The Lotus Mahal…

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The stepped water tank in the palace area…

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The Mahanavami platform that was used by the king for major ceremonies…

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Another temple where the pillars in the sabha mantapa are carved out of black stone which is not available locally and was brought in from elsewhere…

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Some pics from the Hazara Rama temple…

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Take a look at the corners of the roof. They put effort into carving out details even at places that are normally not so visible…

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The outer wall of the temple…

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Another famous icon of Hampi, the colossal Lakshmi Narasimha statue…

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The ‘Badavalinga’ , a 12 feet high Shivaling near the Lakshmi Narasimha statue, the base of the Shivaling is always submerged in around 3 feet of water…

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After covering several other monuments, we went over to the Virupaksha temple area. This temple is in regular use and can be quite crowded at times…

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A collage of some of the menu boards from the small restaurants on the road in front of the Virupaksha temple. Next time around I will try the ‘Om rice’ and the ‘Veg Thuf’ :-) Quite an international spread of cuisines is served here, see the Indian, Chinese, Italian and Isareali references in the last board ?

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Continued...
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Old 7th January 2009, 15:32   #27
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Default Day 6 - Hampi, continued...

The Tungabhadra river on the banks of which Hampi was built. You can go for a coracle (Teppa in local lingo) boat ride if you are interested…

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We went to the Kishkintha area next, there is a cave marked as ‘Sugreeva guhe' which is apparently the cave where Sugreeva hid Sita’s jewels for safekeeping. The jewels that she threw down to mark a trail, when being kidnapped by Ravana. There is also a long white band on the boulder here, which is explained as the place where Sita’s saree edge was dragged along the ground. [You can make it out in front of Sugreeva’s cave in the pic below]

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When Rama and Sita stopped at Kishkintha on their way back from Lanka, the place where they stood was marked and foot-prints were carved in the rock for worship…

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Another temple in this area…

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So many more things to see, so little time…

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The bazaar area in front of the Virupaksha temple…

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The Hampi police station, with a board in front that says ‘Beware of crocodiles’ . What do they imply ??? ;-)

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Many of the structures, mantapas in this area have been converted into residences and shops by the locals…

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Our last stops were at the Kadlekalu and Sasuvekalu ganeshas, before heading back to the lodge…

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Sasuvekalu Ganesha...

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We considered going to towards the Tungabhadra dam site, but since it was already quite dark and as there was no water being released from the crest gates, we decided to drop it and head back to get some well deserved rest after a great day.

The pic below is of the TB dam from a trip sometime in 07, when all the crest gates were opened after the rains…

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Hospet to Chitradurga is around a 2.5 hour drive, we decided to stay back for a second night in Hospet and proceed towards Chitradurga early next morning. A quick dinner and we logged off for the day.
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Old 7th January 2009, 21:40   #28
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Default Day 7 – 2nd January 09

Day 7 – 2nd January 09
Hospet > Chitradurga > Bangalore

Ok, this is the last installment of my travelogue.

We started early from Hospet and hit the road by around 6.00 am. From Hospet it is NH13 all the way to Chitradurga.

Though I was warned to expect long lines of ore carrying trucks, we hardly encountered any on the road. We did see a lot of them parked by the road sides though. Perhaps the early start helped avoid the traffic. Reached Chitradurga by around 9.00 am, had a quick breakfast and headed towards the fort.

I have been to Chitradurga 4 or 5 times during my school and college days, but this would be Sangeetha’s first visit. Hired a guide at the fort to ensure that we covered everything as it has been almost 15 years since I last visited C-Durga.

The Chitradurga fort is a hill fort built and developed between the 14th and the 17th centuries. Originally built by the Nayakas, it was later conquered and further developed by Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan.

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The fort is known for its 7 rounds of fortifications (only 5 survive today), it is also a mystery lover’s paradise. It is riddled with caves, tunnels and secret passages etc. The most famous king from here was ‘Madakari Nayaka’…

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There are around 25 important things to see in and around the fort as per the ASI board. But hire a good local guide who can explain the nuances of all the seemingly simple structures!

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A unique thing about the design of this fort is that none of the entrances in the first 4 rounds of the fort have a straight approach, they are always hidden behind a fold of the fort wall. The idea behind this design was to prevent enemies from using battering rams or elephants to break down the fort doors, by not allowing any ‘run-up' space before the doors.

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See how the doorway is hidden behind the fort wall?

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A small shrine near the entrance, dedicated to the animals that served the king. (Elephants, Horses, Cattle etc.)

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When the fort finally fell to the enemy armies, it was only due to the treachery of a few insiders, who let the enemy soldiers into the fort through some of the 30 odd secret entrances into the fort.

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The rocks of the Chitradurga hill have some unique shapes, leading to the name ‘Chitra-kallu’ (picturesque rocks), which became Chitradurga when a fort was built on the hill.

See this rock resembles a kneeling elephant ?

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Find the rock in this pic that looks like a frog waiting to jump over the dried up tree?

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This rock face from near Chandravalli resembles an Eagle…

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An arch near a temple that was used for the ritual swing for the temple deities.

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The ‘Okali Honda’ which was used during the Holi festival, perhaps for dunking people into colored water :-)

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The Hidimbeshwara temple…

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In some places you can still see mud-brick walls and remnants of plastering that is a few hundred years old.

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The Obavvana Kindi, a secret entrance through which enemy soldiers entered the fort during a siege. Obavva, the wife of a soldier posted as a guard in this area, noticed the enemies trying to slip in and stood next to the entrance with a wooden pestle (onake) and killed around 35 soldiers by hitting them on the head as they crawled through, till she was stabbed from behind by a soldier who had slipped in earlier…

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Hmmm… I gotta lose some weight!

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The fort wall snakes around all over the hills with bastions at regular intervals…

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There are some fresh water springs and a couple of rain-fed pools, tanks and small lakes inside the fort. This one is called ‘Tanneer Doni’, where Obavva would fetch water from every day…

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The best time to visit the fort is just after the rains or in early winter. Summers can be quite tiresome as you will have to walk around in the hot sun and the rocks get quite hot too…

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The ASI has recently woken up to the potential of this fort and renovation work has been taken up…

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Continued...
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Old 7th January 2009, 22:45   #29
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Default Day 7 – 2nd January 09: Hospet > Chitradurga > Bangalore. Continued...

The fort provides a good place for a day long hike, just visit all the places inside and then just keep walking up to the next highest point you see. Just when you think you have arrived at the peak, you’ll find that a nearby bastion or rocky outcrop is actually higher and so on till you reach the topmost point!

I remember doing this in my college days, we climbed all the way to the highest point in the fort, a place where there is a small shrine built around a small water spring. Quite amazing to see water trickling out from a crack in the rock all the way at the highest point of the hill…

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Other parts of the fort are a little overgrown with bushes…

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The ancient granaries, built with mud and brick to maintain a cool and steady temperature, keeping the produce stored inside usable for longer periods…

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The site of the royal palace, you can still see the walls and foundations of the once opulent buildings…

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The tall grass is being burnt off and the bushes trimmed in various places to prevent bears from seeking refuge in the fort. There is also a project going on to fence off the entire fort area to prevent grazing of cattle and sheep inside the fort area.

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As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of tunnels and secret passages in this fort. Most of which have been covered up or have collapsed over the centuries, but there are a few that are still walkable for quite a distance, with the right kind of equipment. But there is always a danger of further collapse, suffocation, snakes, scorpions etc.

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Inside one of the Siva temples, there is a secret passage that opens up from the wall behind the idol. Apparently this tunnel once connected to the palace area and leads all the way to Chandravalli area, a kilometer or so behind the fort. People used to be allowed to crawl into this tunnel till a few years ago. It is not a man-made tunnel, but a series of natural caves that have been worked upon.

Some 15 years ago I had gone there with a couple of friends and we carried powerful torches just to explore the tunnels and walked a good couple of hundred feet into this tunnel before we ran into a fork where the tunnel branched out into two and in one the ceiling had collapsed and the other one was too tight a squeeze for comfort. Saner thoughts prevailed than to carry on and we turned back after spending some time inside, I remember it was damp, dark, smelly and spooky!

I remembered the place and asked the pujari about it. See the small door near the floor? That was the entrance to the passage. He mentioned that the tunnels were probably sealed up just after a few feet inside during the temple renovation a few years ago. Some ASI people had made an attempt to explore the caves, but gave up due to the difficulties involved.

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More granaries near the palace area…

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Some points along the fort walls which overlook the plains below offer a scenic view of the surroundings…

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In the absence of power tools and explosives, our ancients used an ingenious technique to split rocks. They would chisel out a series of holes along the line where they wanted to split the stones, stuff dry wooden pegs tightly into the holes and finally pour water on the wood. When wood absorbs water, it expands and the pressure generated is enough to split the rock. You will find similar indentations in the rocks at many places where rocks were quarried, including around Hampi. [This technique has not been experimentally proven and is being questioned by some experts, while some others are researching into the exact type of wood used etc.]

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The ‘Hawa mandap’ used by the royals…

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The place is a popular picnic spot for school kids from in and around the district…

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A view from the top of some other structures in the fort…

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Continued...
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Old 7th January 2009, 23:09   #30
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Default Day 7 – 2nd January 09: Hospet > Chitradurga > Bangalore. Continued...

A small shrine, with a Nandi statue…

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A view of Chitradurga city from top of the fort…

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A view of the fort…

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The ‘Bandi khana’ where prisoners were sometimes tortured…

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One of the few remaining cannons in the fort. Once upon a time there were cannons on every bastion of the fort, but over the centuries most have them have been broken up and carted away by locals, to be sold for scrap…

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The markings on the cannon indicate that it was made in France in 1799, probably brought in after Hyder Ali captured the fort...

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We next went to the Chandravalli caves area, a few kilometers from the fort, actually situated in the area adjacent to the hill. One of the caves has some Shivalings that were installed by the Pandavas who once roamed around in this area during their vanavas…

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The main Chandravalli caves were once used by a saint as his residence and also by a king who used this as a sort of ‘safe house’. The place is a combination of natural caves, masonry work and some tunneling. It is pitch dark inside and turns out to be a small maze of interconnected passages and caves…

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It is a unique experience exploring the caves with a couple of candles and a torch...

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You can get hurt if you are not careful as some of the passages have abrupt drops and really low ceilings.

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Oops, this is a dead-end…

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Light at the end of the tunnel atlast!

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Walk around the area and you will see more caves, passages etc. waiting to be explored!

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A natural cave rock formation, that is supposed to resemble a Shivaling and a cobra over it…

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Our last stop in Chitradurga was at the Murugarajendra math. Which is just next to the NH4, outside Chitradurga, towards the Davanagere side. The math once existed inside the fort and was moved outside to this area a few decades ago. Its is a good & calm place for a walk and winding down. There is also a small collection of artifacts inside, including a gigantic lock and key, the lock is atleast 2.5 feet in diameter and the massive keys are almost 2 feet long. Must have been used to lock-up the fort doors. No photography allowed inside, so no pics :-(

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They have a few deer and a couple of ‘Emu’ birds in some enclosures. The birds are almost 5 ft tall!

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We spent some time at the math and started our journey back to Bangalore at around 6.30 pm. Stopped at the Kamath Upachar after Tumkur for dinner and it was around 10.30 pm when we parked the Xing back where we had started a week ago.

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Take aways from the trip included a superb experience, 3 GB of photos, a variety of sights, sounds and smells from around Karnataka… and also a few nasties like a bad cold, some sun-burn from all the walking around in the sun.

That ends this travelogue.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Where to next ???
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