We visited Kemmangundi at a time that is probably the coldest part of the year. Kemmangundi is a hill station in Chickmagalur district. Since we had gone to Baba Budangiri on the same day we were quite exhausted by the time we reached kemmangundi and not really in a position to go to the sightseeing places nearby. These include Hebbe falls and Z point which apparently affords a very good view of the sunrise. However, for the time being we were content to enjoy the sunset as visible from the gardens surrounding the horticulture department guest house.
We retired early that day, for once being cut off from TV, internet and other things that keep us awake unnecessarily late into the night. Of course the intense cold and the spicy meal we had helped. On the next morning being very eager to catch the sunset, I woke up at an hour that people would consider absurdly early for a holiday. However, finding my parents and sister sound asleep, I quietly tiptoed out and walked up the same sunset hill and stood facing what I thought was east. I wanted to take a time lapse series of photos of the sunrise, notwithstanding the fact that my mobile camera was horribly unequipped for any such venture. However, this being the peak of DakshinayaNa (we had gone on Dec 23rd, Winter solstice is Dec 21st) sunrise didn’t take place from exactly east but a little south of east. I had not taken that into account but I was quickly readjusted and this discrepancy in my calculations was nothing compared to the other handicaps I had to deal with.
We started off towards Sirsi via Tharikere and Shimoga after a quick stopover at Kalhatti falls and later at the world famous Jog falls. Kalhatti falls was pretty from a distance but not enough to enthuse us to go to the waterfall itself. Jog falls was in a very pitiable condition with hardly any water flowing. It was some divine comedy playing out here as an allegory for current happenings, where Raja and Rani had no place in a democracy and their force stifled by the Linganmakki dam, Rocket was failing like ISRO’s GSLV which exploded halfway a few days later. Roarer had lost his voice and was a feeble trickle like the roaring beasts in our jungles whose numbers dwindle every day.
On the return journey, starting off from a village near Siddapura (where we stayed at a with relatives after having visited Bhuvanagiri devasthaana the previous evening). On the road to Soraba from Siddapura we had two places to visit in our itinerary. One was Chandragutti which had a temple and a trek route and the other was Gudavi pakshidhama. I insisted that we first visit Gudavi to be able to watch the birds early in the morning even if it retracing our route and coming back a few kilometers to visit Chandragutti. My parents, always accommodative of these small tantrums of mine, came round after initial whining. However when we got there we were all glad we were able to see so many birds and so many varieties of them too since we got there pretty early in the morning. We sorely felt the absence of a decent camera though we realized that the camera we have at home which would have been otherwise useful on this trip was not good for birdwatching purposes. However there is always the panoramic shot which can convey how plentiful the birds are at that spot.
But then sometimes a photo setting presents itself that is so beautiful that even a 1.3 megapixel camera on a mobile phone can deliver wonders.
Retracing our route for a short distance we came to Chandragutti which we proceeded to start climbing despite my mother protesting that we should probably enlist the help of some locals as we are bound to lose our way. However the route was visible throughout and it we didn’t get confused or lose our way at any point. Till the Renukamba temple there is a proper stairway. However this is a very short stretch and the said stairway has only 200 steps. The SthaLapuraaNa to this temple relates to a story about Parshurama who on the orders of his father Jamadagni came to behead his mother Renuka. She hid in cave here for a while attempting to escape the deadly axe (Parashu) of Parashurama. The entire trek is about 3.5 Kilometers and for a family group it should take around an hour and a half to two hours. There are several depressions in the rocks at the peak of the hill and are said to have been the impressions left by the foot of the Bheema as he carried his brothers and mother on his shoulders during the vanavasa. There are several pools at the top filled with water lilies and hyacinth and one slightly larger pool which has dirty green water. This supposedly is where Bheema vomited after having consumed something poisonous.
The view from top is splendid with green forests on three sides and paddy fields on one. Remnants of a fort (we later came to know it was built by someone called Marappa) can be seen both at the top and on the way.
Balligavi and TaLgunda
Balligavi and TaLgunda had been the highlight of the trip and all other things were included in our too see list only because they would be on the way to Balligavi. We were quite famished after Chandragutti and after lunch at Soraba we reached Balligaavi. Balligavi is a small village today but was an important center of trade and learning around one thousand years ago. The first temple we went to over there was the DakshiNa Kedareshwara temple and the accompanying temples. The Chalukyas started building this temple but hoysaLas completed it. We spent a lot of time here learning about several sculptures on the inside and outside walls of the temple and their significance. A few interesting observations- This temple has all three gods i.e. Bramha Vishnu and Maheshwara. Shiva as usual is depicted by a Linga (When the lights are turned off, the entire place becomes very dark. But the Shivalinga somehow reflects light from outside and a faint glow is seen). Now the surprising thing is, even Bramha is depicted by a Linga. The difference being that the Bramha linga has the water spout to its right (i.e. the devotee’s left) and the Shivalinga has its water spout to its left (the devotee’s right).
We were told that Balligavi was a big city with thousands of people and contained several temples and Mutts which were centers of education. The Archaeology department has maintained several stone inscriptions around the temple and a lot of these are hero stones (Veeragallu). They depict the heroic deaths of persons of that era which include people who die for their country, people who die fighting dangerous beasts, women who commit sati etc.
We then went to the Hanuman temple just down the road. It is a mud hut but the Hanuman idol inside is 9 feet tall and is supposedly very old.
Right behind it is the Tripuranthakeshwara bunch of temples. Vishnuvardhana’s queen (Pattada raaNi, he may have had others) was from here. Legend has it that Natyarani Shantaladevi used to dance in the rangamantapa of this temple and Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana who came to Balligavi was impressed and desired to take her to Dwarasamudra (Halebid). However the Balligavi elders said that it would be improper to take her just like that and he can take her only if he marries her. Vishnuvardhana converted from Jainism to Vaishnavism so as to marry her (Though other legends mention that he converted to Vaishnavism after being influenced by Ramanujacharya). Sculptors from Balligavi are also credited as having contributed to the works at Belur and I remember that one of the statues in Belur has “Balligavi Dasoja” written at its base. The statues in the temples in Balligavi match their counterparts in Belur and HaLebid in intricacy, and also subscribe to a common aesthetic. The general theme seems to be slightly different with the star shape that is the hallmark of HoysaLa architecture not being so evident. This is possibly a result of the foundations being laid by the Chalukyas.
The thing with a lot of temples from this period is that they weren’t built exclusively for religious purposes. They were meant to serve as town halls or community centers also. We must remember that at the time we are talking about, at other places on the Indian subcontinent there existed fierce rivalries between Shaivites and Vaishnavites. Notwithstanding this these temples feature gods of both sects. The tripuranthakeshwara temple also contains statues of Mahavira (Gomateshwara). In that sense these be called multi denominational shrines or even secular in the Indian sense of the term.
Yet another temple at Balligavi is the Veerabhadreshwara temple where the main deity is Veerabhadra. Outside the Garbhagudi there are idols of Ganesha, Shiva-Parvati in one idol, Shanmukha, Nandi and a Linga in pacchekallu which is green in color.
The Pranaveshwara temple at TaLgunda is not much by way of size and does not have any intricate statues. However it is important for being the place of Mayuravarma (at least the Rajkumar fans should appreciate this) the king of the Kadambas who later ruled from Banavasi. It has an inscription from that time and there is also a pillar which records the construction of a large tank in the region.
After this we went to Shimoga and rested.
At a short distance from Tharikere is the Amrutheshwara temple in Amruthapura where we may see Shiva and Sharadambe. The Sharadambe was installed in the Amrutheshwara temple after the Archaeological Survey of India recognized this as a protected monument and the sharadambe idol was found in a nearby temple which was in a dilapidated condition. This temple was built by a general of Veera Ballala II in the 12th Century.
Our next stop, also our last stop on the way home was the Shivalaya Temple near Arasikere. Originally known as the Chandramouleeshwara temple, the guide over there claimed that it was also designed by the same Jakanachari who sculpted Belur and HaLebeedu. The most interesting aspect of this temple is that there is no opening at the front of the temple.
Speaking generally about all the HoysaLa temples it was really interesting to see the mindboggling diversity in the scenes from life in those times as depicted on the walls. As every guide readily pointed out, a lot of the hair styles prevalent today existed in those times also. Indeed a lot of the ornaments and accessories used by the people then would have been too ostentatious by today’s standards.
We also covered Thyavarekoppa Huli mattu Simha Dhaama. I will write about that in a different post as this one has gone on too long.