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Old 4th October 2009, 10:16   #1
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Default Safari 2.2: Mumbai(NH4)-Kabini JLR-Belur-Halebid-Cochin-Wayanad-Mumbai(NH17)


July '09:
Me: We need a break.
Wife: You think?? You bet we do.
Me: Goa?
Wife: Definitely...Uhmmm, but no. Dont want to just sit around, eat and drink this time. And I would like to meet my parents and relations. Its been a while.
July end:
Me: This is it. Its a long overdue road trip. We drive down to Mysore, visit Kabini JLR, then Shravanabelagola, Belur and Halebid. Then drive to Cochin. Rest. We get your folks to join us in Cochin. Spend Onam with them, check out Kalaripayattu, Kathakali etc. And begin a long leisurely trip back via the coast with several halts (NH17)
Wife: OK.

It didnt turn out smooth like that. Hectic was the word. But with some wisdom acquired for future trips may be.

First things, we got no camera. I have a 2.1 mp P&S. It doesnt do for me. Like in my first 2100 kms trip after taking delivery of my 2.2.

What to do? Actively browse the DSLR thread on TBHP, dpreview.com, dcresource.com. Decide to take the DSLR plunge. The 1000D is too plasticky and pisses me that for a higher price than abroad the kit len is non-IS. Like I really understood what that meant. Feeling indignant, I purchase the nikon d60 off ebay for 27K with the 18-55 VR kit lens. That too with 6 month interest free EMI offer. I get the piece and I like the way it feels in my hand. Attempt a few feeble shots and it slowly sinks in that I really have to invest time that I dont have in learning how to use it.

So my first disclaimer:
Please ignore the quality of the pics. I AM YET TO LEARN HOW TO USE THIS. This also accounts for very few shots while driving.

Second learning on the same note: Size may or may not matter. But on trips like this FOCAL LENGTH Does. We miss a lot of shots at Kabini for lack of zoom.

So with a long-winded background done, let me begin.
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Old 4th October 2009, 10:23   #2
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1: MUMBAI - MYSORE 22nd August '09.

My original plan was to drive down to Mysore largely via NH4 over two leisurely days. Rest well on the 2nd night and reach Kabini JLR fresh on Sunday 23rd August. Work changed my plans. Didnt get to leave on Friday. Didnt even get to sync my iPod coz my laptop conveniently crashed for the 1st time.

We leave on Saturday 22nd at 6.30 am. My booking is from 23rd. It is a pretty scenic drive all the way. We had done NH 4 from Bangalore to Mumbai in a single hectic day when we shifted to Mumbai in December '08. I didnt want to make this another hectic drive. But that was not to be.

We stop for a lazy breakfast after the toll booth on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Decent Kanda-Poha. We miss the Shiroli turnoff / junction at Kolhapur where we remembered this decent restaurant for lunch. So we continued on till we saw a rustic veggie only BPCL Ghar at Kittur or Kottur just before Dharwad. A decent one hour there. Stuffed ourselves with aloo-gobi, dal, roti and chaas. That was a mistake. It made us sleepy. So we stopped yet again for bad coffee and good tea around 4pm at the much bigger and better BPCL COCO Ghar at Ranibennur. We had actually made very good time, considering the leisurely driving and the long breaks.

Then things went wrong. The roads between Ranibennur-Chitradurga are the only sad part of the NH4 from Mumbai to Bangalore. Far worse in places and marginally better in others than it was in Dec '08. Got caught in a massive traffic jam at a signal before Chitradurga. We spent close to an hour there. I started getting anxious.

It was between 6-7 pm that I made the big mistake of asking the directions to Mysore to the toll booth attendant around Hiriyur. He suggested I get off the NH4 and take another route. A much shorter route. Said my plan of proceeding via Tumkur et al was a no-brainer. Too long. I bought it. And took a route in darkness and heavy rain that might have been good for a discover the hinterland amidst pouring rains and bad roads in the night kind of trip. Not for a reach Mysore soon and grab a good night's rest kind of trip.

The places I remembered passing in order were:
Later when I checked the route on Google, i couldnt even find the route that we took from Huliyar to Tiptur. We definitely didnt take the two SHs presented. With the rains, the roads were non-existent at several portions. Fortunately, we could find a lot of people making preparations for Ganesh Chathurthi the next day at village/town centres that we passed. People looked at us strangely but were very helpful. In hindsight, it would have been great if we could have captured the colourful preparations at these places at night. But at that time, this was the last thing in our minds. We finally managed to reach Mysore around 11-11.30 pm after an extremely stressful drive from Hiriyur. All in all 17-18 hours on road. Phew, dont want to repeat this ever again if given a choice.

At around 11:15 am when we were at Kolhapur we had called and booked a room at Ginger Mysore. Thats where we put up for the 22nd. The place was colourful. Orange and Yellow were the dominant themes of the decor. A bit loud for our sensibilities at that time. But with clean rooms and clean toilets. However, with no real service at 1700 per day, cities like Mysore have more VFM options for quick stays like Dasaprakash.
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Old 4th October 2009, 10:45   #3
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2: JUNGLE LODGES RESORT - KABINI - 23rd-25th August '09.

Spent the morning with coffee and reading up the manual of the D60 to figure out the various damn buttons and functions.

We picked up a few sandwiches from the Coffee Day store inside Ginger Mysore and checked out around 10.30 am. The drive to Kabini was scenic. We had booked a tent-cottage reserved at Kabini JLR for 2 nights on a friend's recommendation although he insisted on the cottages just by the Kabini reservoir. He was on honey-moon and could splurge. Our deal worked out to Rs. 12,000/- for two days for two people. The tariff included 3 meals + 2 jungle safaris per day. Expensive per se. But definitely worth it considering the experience and what was on offer.

I realised that too few people from Mumbai know about the JLR network. Information on this resort can be found at
Jungle Lodges & Resorts Eco Holidays

Here's one of the first snaps we took en route to Kabini JLR.

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The place was beautiful. The cottage where we stayed. Tent Cottage no. 6. The best of the lot it turned out.

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Along with the other tent cottages.

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The view from our tent cottage. The building you see ahead is the recommended cottage by the reservoir.

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Our ride at the "parking lot"

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The Viceroy's building

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Inside the resort campus

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Pre-Safari(Jungle) briefing in progress

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Morning view by the reservoir

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Two female wild boars with their piglets (is that the word? I need zoom). A similar group of wild boars invaded the resort campus around our tent cottage on the 2nd night. We were scared but the resort people managed that bit.

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This shot is from a boat. These birds were as transfixed with the approach of the rains from the other side as we were.

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A 'Makna' elephant. A bull without tusks. Supposedly very dangerous. The guides refused to go any closer to the shore although we were in a boat.

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No we didnt see the tiger and even if we did, I am reasonably sure we would not have captured it on camera with my 'advanced photography skills'.

But we saw one of the most majestic animals. The Indian Gaur. Or the largest bovine animal in the world.
This is the wild species, Bos gaurus gaurus. Gaur - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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We did not have much luck in sighting many animals. One safari group reported seeing wild dogs attack and eat a spotted deer before even killing it. Another got chased by an elephant. We saw two sambar deer cross our path and disappear in to the thicket. A brief but majestic sight. We saw an eagle frantically hunting a giant malabar squirrel that went jumping for its life through the trees.

This was our first trip to a wildlife resort/nature park. And frankly we didnt know what to expect when we decided to come here. We were told summer is when you can see all the animals and huge herds of elephants by the reservoir. Summer here definitely...

The resort staff are extremely well trained, professional and courteous. The food was very good and not the generic 'continental', 'chinese' or 'punjabi' types made by people who have no idea what they should actually be. I enjoyed their deciding to provide us with much of their local cuisine instead. The tent cottages were clean and kept that way. I was
suspicious at first that the cottage did not have a fan. But it was freezing at night. The bar is extremely cheap. Yes. That surprised me. That too inside a resort like this.

And yeah, they have a very good massage centre run by the Kottakkal centre within the resort. I needed a quick fix after that tiring drive and went in for a full Abhyangam massage. Absolutely professional and well trained people. The rejuvenation after a synchronised hot oil massage by two people at the same time who know exactly what to do is something only to be experienced. Of course followed by a hot bath, cold beer, great food and sleep. Ahhh thats life for now.

Anyways, a last snap while leaving Kabini.

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Old 4th October 2009, 10:54   #4
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3: Kabini - Shravanabelagola - Hassan - 25th Aug '09.

We check out of Kabini around 1 pm. Its been great. Simply. But we need to visit in summer if you want to see animals. Or go when we did to enjoy the greenery, the forest, the resort etc.

We first head for Mysore. We are starving again by the time we reach. We head for Dasaprakash as everybody seems to be recommending and have 'meals'. What do we do next? BTW vodafone didnt have network inside Kabini. So a few quick hellos, we are fine, kind of calls confirm a slight change of plans.

My wife's folks have decided they too want a long ride on the Safari. So they have already decided to reach Mysore on the 26th and to travel with us to Cochin. And one more thing, we need to take a detour via Ooty because there is an annual reunion of Veterinary doctors and my father-in-law would like to get dropped off there. This should definitely be fun me thinks. So we re-plan our agenda for the 25th and 26th.

After a quick chat with the tours operator at Dasaprakash decide to head for Hassan and hopefully check out Shravanabelagola today itself.

En route to Shravanabelagola.

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What happens en route is fun. One normal route from Mysore is via Channarayapatna. However we get mislead by an old sign at Kikkori and take a different route. This was a 1.5 lanes road (can you call it that?), good quality though, that led directly as a diagonal (if you look at google maps) from Kikkori to Shravanabelagola passing through a few villages along the way. A scenic route and definitely not SH7.

A view of Gomateeshwara along the way. From the rear. Did I mention I need focal length/zoom?

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Because of the time taken on this route we decide to give climbing up a miss. Actually I think we were tired and feeling lazy. We proceed to Hassan. The rains start along the way and believe me Hassan and the route to it looked green and lush and beautiful. Can you contrast this with the usual image of a hot dusty brown Hassan? This was to be the feeling all through the trip in the south because of the season in which we were travelling.

We stay at Hotel Southern Star in Hassan. Pricey but very good hotel with great service. The double room was Rs 3,000/- per night. They had an Assamese boy as the gate-keeper who was just too excited to converse with somebody in Hindi. He got somebody to give the Safari a thorough cleaning.

At Hotel Southern Star

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Old 4th October 2009, 12:28   #5
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Looks like you enjoyed your first jungle visit, look forward to the rest of it.
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Old 4th October 2009, 12:35   #6
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nice narrative!jungle lodges is a grt place!been der 2-3 times!
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Old 4th October 2009, 17:29   #7
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4: Belur - Chennakesava Temple - 26th Aug '09 - I

Belur was considered to be Dakshina Varanasi and is located on the banks of the river Yagachi.

The ASI plaque outside the temple.

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A lot of historical fact get intermingled with myth. Broadly, Bittiga was a Jain Hoysala King who adopted the name Vishnuvardhana upon conversion to Hinduism. His conversion was inspired by the Vaishnava sage Ramanuja. His wife queen Shantala remained a staunch Jaina and was also a noted dancer. Many Hoysala generals remained Jains.

This temple was built by Vishnuvardhana for a bit of all the reasons below:
- To mark his conversion to Hinduism,
- To commemorate his victory over the Cholas at Talakad, and,
- To mark his independence from the Western Chalukyas
In one of the first inscriptions engraved in this temple, Vishnuvardhana says that he has "built it from the wealth which he amassed from the sword".

The main gopuram at the entrance to the temple complex.

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The temple faces due east. The temple is smade of Chloritic Schist, a light greenish soapstone. I believe it is the same material used to make 'Kal-Chatti' in the south. This material is supposedly easy to work with chisel, and hardens with exposure.

A view of the temple upon entering the complex

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The design of the main temple is a 16 pointed interrupted star. Pics below to show the perfect alignment of the top part of the temple at its edges with the edges on the platform on which the temple has been constructed.

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The same snap as above. Too the experts, what is this red bubble that I am getting in the snap?

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Another perspective of the star shaped design

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The pillar facing the main temple was erected in the Vijayanagar period while the 2nd pillar in the pic below dates from the Hoysala period.
The second pillar (Note it was not erected due straight on purpose. I believe this was for some alignment with the sun's path/shadow):

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Our guide slipping my notes on the temple complex under the pillar to prove that it is tilted on purpose.

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A winged figure of Garuda, Lord Vishnu's carrier, stands at the entrance facing the temple with its palms touching in homage.

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The temple has three entrances and the doorways have decorated sculptures called dvarapalaka (doorkeepers) on either side. This is the east facing main entrance.

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The doorways also have miniature shines. Inside one of the shrines

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The top of each doorway shows an avatara of Vishnu in the centre of an arch of foliage (torana). The arches spring from the mouths of two water monsters (makaras). Again, on the east facing doorway (A close up atop the east entrance).

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Supposedly a screen of King Vishnuvardhana, his wife Shantala, and courtiers / ministers.

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It seems Hoy Sala meaning "strike Sala!", were the words spoken to Sala by a meditating muni (sage) to kill an attacking tiger and who in turn blessed Sala by giving him the power to rule. Since Sala tackled the tiger single-handed and killed him, this deed took the form of the dynasty's name. Though Sala is popularly known to be the founder of the Hoysala empire, there is no support for this theory from scholars. Historians speculate that the legend may have gained importance after the victory of King Vishnuvardhana over the Cholas at Talakad, the tiger being the royal emblem of the Cholas. The Sala symbol was Vishnuvardhana's creation and became the Hoysala symbol or crest, from his time.
(Above culled from various sources)

Two variants of the Hoysala logo on either side of the East entrance.

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Another entrance in to the temple

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A few more of the main temple and temple complex

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Finally one with me posing in the distant background

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Old 4th October 2009, 19:41   #8
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4: Belur - Chennakesava Temple - 26th Aug '09 - II

On the outer wall of the temple, we see 38 bracketed figures of voluptuous celestial nymphs called variously as Madanikas,
Shilabhalikas or Shilabhanjikas. These are ultimate sculptural beauties in filigreed splendour. They are depicted in various forms bearing artistic skills such as, dancers, musicians and drummers. Wile there may be nudes here and there, they are rarely erotic in nature. Some of them are supposedly inspired by Queen Shantala herself. In addition to these 38, there are an
additional 4 inside the temple, of which two are supposedly Queen Shantala herself.

Darpana Sundari - Lady admiring herself in the mirror. See the attendant on the right admiring her mistress. Note the intricate stonework.

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Lady with a parrot

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Lady trying to hit a monkey with a stick. If you can make it out in my pic, note the monkey laughing in jest.

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Lady drummer. The beauty in this one is the level of detail on the drum too. You can make out the stone strands around the drum. Also the two sides of the drum where you beat are concave.

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This we were told captures a difficult dance step. Supposedly a drop of water left on her right fingers would drop on to her nose, then to her left nipple and then to her big toe in the left foot.

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A Veshakanya or Poison Lady. Women who are raised on a diet of milk mixed with scorpion's poison. The dosage is gradually increased till they reach 16. By this time their own immunity is built up but they prove fatal for one who sleeps with them. One criteria to become a Veshakanya is some planetary alignment at birth. It seems these women formed secretive groups for hire.
Too much what? Does anybody have any anecdote or information on the veracity of this? Seriously... Our guide was upset when I dared sound disbelieveing about this. Sculptures of VeshaKanya I later learnt are common in several places in the south. They are identified by the mark of the scorpion in the sculpture. I also read somewhere there was a rival serpent group too.

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The temple is stylistically divided in to two parts. The outer walls of the first half contain general sculptures while latter half contain sculptures based on stores from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. These are the right and left sides respectively in the below pic.

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From Wikipedia,
At the base of the outer walls are friezes of charging elephants (650 of them) which symbolise stability and strength, above which are lions which symbolise courage, and further up are horses which symbolise speed. Above the horses are panels with floral designs signifying beauty above which are sculptures depicting the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This style of articulation is called horizontal treatment with friezes.

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Vishnu slaying king Hiranayakashipu (Narasimha avatara). This seems to be a common theme at both Belur and Halebid. Any comment why? Note the intestines being pulled out of Hiranayakashipu, Narasimha's eyes popping out with the violent emotions of the moment, Garuda (Or is it Prahlad?) at Hiranayakashipu's feet begging Narasimha for restraint and to stop.

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Ravana lifting Mount Kailash with his eyes popping out with the strain of the effort.

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Arjuna shooting the revolving golden fish based on its reflection in a bowl of water below. It seems these used to be an actual bow with string that was defaced at a much later date.

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Old 4th October 2009, 20:03   #9
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Great narration and nice pictures, the photos don't seem like they are shot by a novice. Looks like you had a good trip in all.
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Old 5th October 2009, 07:14   #10
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Originally Posted by dadu View Post
Looks like you enjoyed your first jungle visit, look forward to the rest of it.
Yes, I regret that we never managed to do anything along these lines during the 3 years that we were in Bangalore.

Originally Posted by sidgo7 View Post
nice narrative!jungle lodges is a grt place!been der 2-3 times!
I believe that; we met quite a few people at JLR who go to Kabini and to their other resorts that many times in a single year.

Originally Posted by Lukeskywalker View Post
Great narration and nice pictures, the photos don't seem like they are shot by a novice. Looks like you had a good trip in all.
Thank You Lukeskywalker, we definitely had a great trip. However, the story and the pictures are nowhere near done. I am still to reach the halfway point.
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Old 5th October 2009, 08:48   #11
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4: Belur - Chennakesava Temple - 26th Aug '09 - III

The temple is a ekakuta vimana design (single shrine) of 10.5 m by 10.5 m size. The presiding deity is Chennakeshava and was originally called 'Vijaya Narayana' here. The life size image stands six feet tall and was installed in the sanctum of the main temple in 1117 A.D. Each hand of the image holds an attribute; the discus (chakra), the mace (gadha), the lotus-flower (padma) and the conch (Shanka), in clockwise direction. The entrance to the shrine is flanked by life size sculptures of door guardians, Jay and Vijay I think. Please confirm?
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The images used when the lord is taken out in a chariot
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A large vestibule connects the shrine to the mandapa (hall) which is one of the main attractions of the temple. There are about 48 pillars of various sizes, shapes and designs , bearing testimony to remarkable artistry. Inside, even in the darkness, you can see the shining pillars, each unique in its own splendour.
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While all the 48 pillars and the many ceilings are well decorated, the finish of the four central pillars and the ceiling they support. The four central pillars are the most heavy ones. They support a domed ceiling that is supposedly one of the most elaborately decorated ceilings in all India.
The ceiling
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Ceiling in close up
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The space between the pillars was used for dance performances. The four madanikas atop the four central pillars in the mantapa.
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Another two of these pillars require special attention. The first is the hand chiselled Narasimha pillar in the Navaranga, unique in its filigreed splendour. It is said to have revolved on its ball bearings once. A small space has been left on it to be sculpted by anyone who has the talent. It remains untouched.
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Narasimha Pillar in close up. Note the exquisite stonework:
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The other pillar requiring special mention has one of the most remarkable of the sthamba-buttalikas (pillar-images), the Mohini Pillar. This has been carved with great care and proportion. This one has been made by some Chola artisan and has influences of Chalukyan styles. There is a marked difference between the Hoysala sculptures and this by way of far less ornamentation. Moreover her expression and anatomy are more close to the Chola styles.
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Note the proportions and the contours of the image.
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Note the sacred thread and the proportions of the hip.
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Note that the second toe on the right leg is longer than the big toe, conveying that the woman is a strong and dominant according to traditional wisdom.
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Note the shape of the eye-brows giving the impression of a proud woman who is conscious of her beauty
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Finally, moi with our guide Mr. Satyanarayan. He is a qualified and retired epigraphist (in old Kannada script). Initially, my wife and me were sceptical of the knowledge of the guides. We had come with ample research already conducted over the Net. However, Mr. Satyanarayan proved invaluable and gave life to along with anecdotes to every item of interest we had already identified. He of course got more involved when he noticed our interest too. My sincerest recommendation, snap him up immediately in case you happen to visit Belur. My sincerest regrets for the poor American tourists who gave him a particularly rude brushoff with a seen there & done that attitude when Mr. Satyanarayan approached them when we were leaving.
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There were few options for restaurants and hotels in Belur. We had a simple quick lunch at some place (I dont remember the name) and then proceeded to Halebid. En route to Halebid
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DaiusPitar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th October 2009, 12:22   #12
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Nice travlelogue,splendid narration , exceptional photos especially that of the sculputres of Belur and Halebid. I had been to the place aroudn 12 years back, it looks like it is standing in time. Looking forward to more posts on this thread, continue doing the good work
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Old 6th October 2009, 13:14   #13
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Excellent Photographs and wonderful shot by shot narration. The photographs of the architecture both inside and outside are taken wonderfully trying to capture the minutest details. This is lot of work and need patience. Many thanks to you.

I had visited Belur-Halebeedu about 3 years back and brings back all those wonderful memories. Wish to visit this place again some time next year. Keep posting your experiences and sharing those wonderful photos.

I am glued to this thread.
Indian Ranger is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 6th October 2009, 13:33   #14
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Wonderful travelogue with exception photos and explanations!

Good show, DaiusPitar!
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Old 6th October 2009, 14:20   #15
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Very good Travelogue. Waiting for the remaining part
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