Saturday, August 15, 2015

Monsoon trek to HGod Waterfalls

 During monsoon the rain drenched forests of the Western Ghats can give off an eerie glow allowing a rare glimpse into one of nature’s spectacular eccentricities. It was my heart’s desire to visit the Western Ghats during the monsoon, coupled with fog and mist, unspoiled greenery, numerous gushing waterfalls and plenty view points with relatively less crowd.  Lot of planning went into this trek we were looking forward for this monsoon trek since it was quite some time we had gone out during rains.
 On the morning of July 4th at around 7AM we left Honnavar in a hired tempo. It was drizzling and all through the route. Western Ghats were its best in this season, green everywhere you could see and filled with countless waterfalls and I would say this is the best time to explore waterfalls when everything around water is alive. We reached the village around 8.30 AM. My friend and our guide Mahabaal was there to welcome us, further he impressed us a lot with his courage, manner, navigation and arrangements.
 We followed him through narrow wooden bridge to a small house where his uncle living since 40 years. They prepared for us some delicious food; I just loved the food and Jack-fruit. After 1 hour break we started trekking with limited languages. By now it was again raining heavily. The dark storm clouds gathered above the craggy pinnacles in front of us as we readied ourselves to hike.

The initial trail was incredible through the green soaked sleepy hamlet. The road was highly scenic. Rain smell of eucalyptus was very pleasant though after a very tiring journey. It was nice to sight many orchids, fungi, lot of geckos, smaller streams, many wild flowers, insects and many more in those thick woods while walking. Green mountains, Areca nut plantations never ending small streams wild flowers were enough to make anybody a poet.

There was nothing but the sound of the flowing water and that of the waterfall at a distance was simply magical. Gushing milky waterfall on end was a pleasure to get drenched but the main difficulty was along with skies opening up mother earth also decided to sing and dance down the mountains in form of swollen streams making it really tough testing our strength to the maximum, but of course we did manage to cross most of the streams.
Thankfully there are no leaches here like in the Western Ghats. After crossing several streams we reached the base in around one and half hours. It was a nice to walk in the rain, and on slippery rocks with leech and passing through numerous streams and amazingly huge trees. We didn't know if it was the rain or the fall we got drenched in but we were so engrossed in its beauty nothing mattered except for nature's beauty.

 Deep inside the jungle a mixture of sweat and rain was tricking my face as I scrambled though a damp narrow cascade. We were just there and it was amazing to see the spectacular waterfalls, here water plunges in 8 stages and the fall is in its full glory during the monsoon. Standing bottom of the 5th stage on one side of the deep ravine looked into a waterfall filled with lush vegetation, wild flowers and the steep contours formed a dramatic foreground to the rising hills and clouds brewing behind me, every inch of the earth suffused in a generous green.
 Usually the upper section contains loose rocks and is not climbed while people are below. Failure to hear the warning, Inexperience with area I made a wrong attempt and witnessed a bad incidence. The rock had at least a 20 meter unobstructed fallen to one of my teammate back with minimum harm.
We had our pack lunch nearby stream and our afternoon hike through the small tribal hamlets had extended late into the evening, hindered with incomplete attempt to the hidden waterfalls.
We filled our heart's content monsoon trek was at its best. From the start to the end we were blown away by the beauty and serenity of the trial.  We stopped many times to remind ourselves how lucky we were and to revel in the natural beauty of our surrounds. What a wonderful trek. Mahabal was a wonderful guide so perceptive in how he cared for us throughout the journey. He was completely at home in this landscape and looked after us brilliantly.

I would like to thank the each team member for making expedition successful with such wonderful trekking experiences. That love for walking on country is very infectious. I really hope to come on more treks with this team in the near future. My feet are already itching for the next adventure! The experience was very important to me, something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Someshvara Temple, Haralhalli

The temple is situated on the bank of river Tungabhadera facing east dedicated to Shiva assignable to 12th century of Kalyana Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI, built of schist stone. Inspiration kept in the temple, refers that Joyedevaras constructed the temple and granted lands for the maintenance of this temple at Vikramapura. The name of the village is now called Haralahalli. The earliest inscription found here refers to the rule of the Guttas of Guttal. Their ruler Vikramaditya II was ruling under the patronage of the Western Chalukyas. The Guttas were ruling from Guttavolal (modern Guttal) which is not very far from this village. In comparison to Guttal, Haralhalli seems to have more antiquities.
There are three temples in the village, that of Someshvara, Kaleshvara and Udchamma. Someshvara temple is standing in its full glory, except little damage to its main shikhara. Udchamma temple is a live temple of not much antiquity. Kaleshvara temple might be another triple-celled structure standing north of Someshvara temple. This is referred as Chikkeshvara temple in inscriptions. Inscriptions mention two more temples, that of Daseshvara and Tulvaleshvara, however these are not traceable now.
Someshvara temple is Ttrikuta temple having three towers intact. The main shrine is on west, the subordinate shrines are on south and north. Originally it was a single cell shrine dedicated to swambhu (self-originated) God Someshvara. During the rule of the Gutta king Joma II, in twelfth century CE, this single celled structure was converted into a triple-celled shrine on order of the then Kalamukha priest of the temple, Kalyanashakti. Joma II added two more shrines, one on north and one on south and dedicated those to Vikrameshvara and Gutteshvara. Both of these were dedicated to his predecessors, Vikramaditya and Gutta.
Though it is not specified whether northern shrine is for Vikrameshvara or the southern however it is not that hard to identify. Vasundhara Filliozat tells that Vikrameshvara is name of Vishnu and in accordance with the Kalamukha concept it should be enshrined in the northern cell. In this manner, the southern cell should be enshrining Gutteshvara.
 The temple consists of three Gabhagrihas with three Antaralas on west,north an south, a common Sabhamandapa and a Mukhamandapa with flight of steps. The main western Garbhagriha facing east is square and enshrined Shiva Linga on a square Pitha. The Garbhagriha Dwara has Panha Sakhas decorated with lozenges, creeper scrolls, etc. The door Jambs depicted wth saiva Dvarapalas and the Lalataba depicted with Gajaakshmi. Above the Garbhagriha has a Sikhara o Dravida style with Stupi and Kalasa. The outer walls of the Garbhagriha have Pancha Ratna on plain decorated with pilasters and Devakostaka in the middle of the Ratna.

The Antarala is square an its Dwara has Sakhas decorated with creeper scrolls. The door Jambs depicted with Saiva Davrapalas. The Lalatamba depicted with Gajalakshmi and above the pediment depicted with Brahma, Vishnu and Mahashvera in front of the Antarala is beautiful Chandrashala above the Antarala has Sukhanasi.
The northern and southern Garbhagrihas are similar to that of main western Garbhagriha and enshrines Shiava linga on square pitha and in front of the Garbhagriha doors, depicted with Chandrasala. The Antarala are similar to that of western Antarala and connected to Sabhamandapa above the Antarala have Sukhanasi.
 The Sabhamandapa is square and stands on four central pillars set on an elevated floor in the centre and corresponding pillars set against the walls. The Sabhamandapa has eight niches, two each on the west, north, south and east walls, contains some of the sculptures. The central ceiling is decoratdwith lotus flower in the centre. A couchant Nandhi is kept in the Sabhamandap.
The Mukhamandapa is square and stands on two pillars at the front, set on the Kakshasana. The Mukhamandapa has flight of steps flanked by balustrades. The outer walls of the Gabhagriha have sapta ratna on plan with offset and recessed and the central Bhadra in the centre on each sides of the Ratna. The walls are decorated with pillars and pilasters topped with Dravida and Nagara Sikhara turrets.
There are many icons on the exterior walls of the temple, located above the architrave and on the floors of tower. These icons are the work of more than one artist. The name of few sculptors is engraved on the socle of the sculpture. We find names like Nemoja, Baicoja among the sculptors here. Important icons found here include, Mahishasura-mardini, Adi-Varaha, Shiva as Natesha, Shiva as Somanatha, Ganesha, Ugra-Narasimha, Yoga-Narasimha and Surya.
It appears that the temple is dedicated to dance and music as Shiva as Natesha is present on the sukanasi stele of the northern and southern shrine. Also are seen various dancers and musicians installed all around the temple, on vimana walls and on parapet walls of the porch. The temple was associated to the Kalamukha sect of Shaivism, but was it really dedicated to the dance and music aspect of Shiva and that sect
Kaleshvara or Chikkeshvara Temple – Originally it would have been a triple-celled structure however at present only two shrines have survived. From the ruins it is clear that there was an additional shrine attached to the common mandapa shared by these two shrines. As per inscriptions, it could be Chikkeshvara temple which was built during the reign of the Yadava king Singana in thirteenth century CE.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bankapur Fort and Peacock Sanctuary

Bankapur fort as once a strong fortress with a large and deep ditch but either allowed to go to decay or demolished on several sides. The granite ramparts and gateways on one side were in good order; the rest was out of repair. One of the fort walls runs across the back of the Nagareshwar temple and is built on it.
Bankapur is a small town in Haveri district. The earliest known reference of Bankapur is found in a Kolhapur Jain manuscript, dated 898 CE, where it is mentioned that the great city of Bankapur was named after the Chellaketan chief Bankeyaras who was a feudatory of Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha-I.
Bankapur peacock sanctuary situated in Bankapur village of Shiggon taluk, is just 2.5 km from the NH-4, 22 km from Haveri town towards Hubli. This sanctuary is situated on 139 acres of land which has the remains of the historic Bankapura Fort
The peacock sanctuary in Bankapura is the only second sanctuary in the country that is exclusively engaged in the conservation and breeding of peacocks. Understanding the great presence of peacocks in the region, the Government of India declared Bankapura as a peacock sanctuary on June 9, 2006. Any visitor to this sanctuary will not return without seeing a flock of peacock, our national bird, happily dancing in the sprawling sanctuary, without a care in the world.

The high mound and deep trenches of the land have provided a perfect home for these birds. According to a rough estimate, there are more than 1,000 peacocks and peahen in the sanctuary. Also, minimal human intervention has helped in the breeding of these birds. They walk royally on the four km mound and also perch on green trees.
Bankapura Peacock Sanctuary is covered with Acacia, Neem and Ficus plants. Crops such as maize, Jowar and Horse gram are grown here. Many species of medicinal plants are found here. Known for having huge numbers of peacock and additionally birds like Woodpecker, babbler, extraordinary horned owl, jaybird, green-buzzing insect eater, robin and nightjar are seen here.
The officials of the Department of Veterinary Sciences have shown great interest in the conservation of these birds, making it easy for the Forest Department to carry on with their job. According to experts, Bankapur is considered to be a safe haven for pea fowls because of its topography.
The sanctuary is located on the cattle breeding farm which was set up in 1919 after the First World War. The farm is located in 90 acres out of the total 139 acres of the sanctuary.
There are a number of other birds like wood pecker, great-horned owl, babbler, magpie, robin, green bee-eater, nightjar, spotted maina, paradise flycatcher, Indian robin, spotted dove, parakeets, kingfisher, grey hornbill, blue tailed bee eater, blacked winged kite, tailor bird etc.  The fort also houses an animal farm for breeding cattle and rabbits.
A cluster of magnificent black-faced languor’s (monkeys) was seated on a path going to a large mud-rock mound that must have constituted a part of the fort wall in ancient times. Quite separated from them was another languor chewing meditatively on a cud. A little later, it was witched by my side in a few large steps with very impressive speed. It seemed to be six feet tall and gave me a feeling that he could easily have been a proud member of any army. The languors were everywhere and we must thank the forest department for not officially making it a languor sanctuary.