Fabrics and Sarees of India Part 2

In this part, we continue to check out more fabrics and sarees across India.

Karnataka

Ilkal Sarees: Known because it is produced in the town of Ilkal, an ancient weaving centre since the 8th century, the uniqueness of the Ilkal saree is in the joining of the body warp with the pallu warp with a series of loops locally called the tope teni technique. The border colour is very dominating and is usually red or maroon. The distinctive feature of the Ilkal saree is the use of a form of embroidery called Kasuti. The designs used in Kasuti reflect traditional patterns like palanquins, elephants, and lotuses which are embroidered onto the saree. The main body design is usually made up of squares and rectangles. The Ilkal saris are woven using cotton warp on the body and art silk warp for the border and pallu portion. In some cases instead of art silk, pure silk is also used. The Tope Teni seragu has been regarded as a state symbol and was greatly respected during festival occasions. The sarees that are made for bridal wear are made of a particular colour called Giri Kumukum which is associated with the sindoor worn by the wives of the priests in this region. The weaving of the Ilkal saree is a household enterprise involving the participation of female members. One Ilkal saree takes about seven days to weave and are produced on pit looms.

Mysore Silk: One of Karnataka’s most famous exports, the Mysore silk is synonymous with the city of Mysuru and the silk factory was founded in 1912 by Sri Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the Maharaja of Mysore. Initially, the silk fabrics were manufactured & supplied to meet the requirements of the royal family and ornamental fabrics to their armed forces. After Indian independence, the Mysore State Sericulture Dept took control of the silk weaving factory. The saree zari contains 65% pure silver and 0.65% of gold, which is also the most distinct feature of the saree, along with the use of genuine silk that gives it a natural sheen and rich texture. Karnataka produces almost 45% of the country’s mulberry silk. Mysore silk has also received geographical identification. Mysore Silks are also one of the most expensive silk sarees in India and this has led to the production of duplicate Mysore silk saree production and sales. To avoid these issues, KSIC has implemented a unique ID, hologram-based design, and unique identification barcodes woven on each saree produced.

Kerala

Kasavu Saree: Symbolic of Kerala’s tradition and culture, the traditional Kasavu saree was made by hand from cotton yarn with borders made of golden threads. Believed to have originated in the Buddhist era, the white and gold sarees are unique due to their natural hues, texture and gold border which adds to their elegance. No occasion in Kerala feels complete without the Kasavu saree. The term kasavu refers to the zari or gold thread used in the border of the saree and the name comes from a material used in the weaving and production of these sarees. The origin of the kasavu saree can be traced back to when women would wear a two-piece cloth called settu mundu, more popularly known as the mundum neriyathum. The mundum neriyathum rose in popularity during the Buddhist era, and its design has been inspired by the Greco-Roman attire, Palmyrene, a long piece of unstitched cloth with a coloured border.

The identity of the saree comes from the geographical cluster they are associated with. The Indian government has identified three clusters in Kerala – Balaramapuram, Chendamangalam and Kuthampully – that have been given a Geographical Indication or GI tag and all three clusters produce kasavu sarees. A plain saree with a simple border takes roughly around three to five days. Ones with motifs and heavier work take longer than that. The sarees are priced depending on the time taken on their production, along with the gold used in the zari or kasavu.

Madhya Pradesh

Chanderi: Emerging between the 2nd and 7th centuries, Chanderi sarees are produced from three types of fabrics – pure silk, cotton and silk cotton and are synonymous with the town of Chanderi which is on the boundary of Malwa and Bundelkhand. In the 11th century, the trade locations between Malwa, Medwa, central India and south Gujarat increased the region’s importance. Around 1350, Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to Chanderi and settled there and the textile business of Chanderi reached its peak during the Mughal period. Traditional coin, floral art, peacocks and modern geometric designs are woven into different Chanderi patterns. The saris are among the finest in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk, and opulent embroidery.

Maheshwari: Originating from the town of Maheshwar, the Maheshwari saree is made of silk and cotton in a variety of designs woven using brocade and zari. Dating to the 18th century, the sarees were initially made of pure silk, but over time, cotton also came to be used. An interesting story behind the origin of these sarees is that a famous queen had once ordered a large number of artisans and craftsmen from Surat and Malwa to design a unique saree of 9 yards, later termed the Maheshwari saree. These cloth pieces were used as special gifts for the royal guests of the palace. A unique feature of the Maheshwari saree is that each has a specific name of its own, which indicates its distinctness. The sarees may be plain at the centre and have neatly designed borders, or they may have different variations of stripes and checks. The sarees fall under 5 broad categories namely Chandratara, Chandrakala, Beli, Baingani Chandrakala and Parbi. The Baingani Chandrakala and Chandrakala are plain ones, while the Beli, Chandratara, and Parbi come with stripes or checks.

Maharashtra

Karvati: Hailing from the Vidarbha region, Karvati silks are made from Tussar with a grainy, textural feel. What is unique about the silk used in Karvati saris is that it is exclusive to this specific region that is rich in high-quality silk cocoons, straight from the wild. The tribes hailing from this area assume the responsibility of protecting the silk cocoons until they are ready to be harvested. The Tussar is unlike any other silk; it has a unique shade of deep yellow-brown.

The word karvat is a Marathi term that refers to a saw-tooth pattern. Karvati is the name lent to the style of the border rather than the fabric itself. What is different about the saree is the technique and the mixed usage of yarn. The border is woven out of mercerized cotton yarns with traditional temple motifs of various sizes, using an extra warp while the rest of the sari is woven using pure, hand-reeled Tussar silk which provides a texture that has irregular stubs all over. The saree is woven using a three-shuttle, tapestry style of weaving with a pit loom mounted with a wooden lattice dobby in the Nagpur style on the top of the loom. This means that it uses three different styles of weaving at the same time.

Paithani: Dating to the Satvahana Dynasty that ruled between the second century BC and the second century AD, Paithani sarees are fine silk handloom sarees get their name from the town in which they originated, Paithan in Aurangabad. Available in both six and nine yards, the most interesting part about the Paithani handloom is that both sides of the saree look the same, including the border and the pallu. This feature is the telltale sign of a handloom Paithani. As Paithani sarees are woven from naturally dyed threads, they can usually be found only in basic colours. Each saree usually has two dominating colours, one on the saree and the other on the border and pallu. The Paithani is characterised by borders of an oblique square design, and a pallu with a peacock design. Among other varieties, single-coloured and kaleidoscope-coloured designs are also popular. The kaleidoscopic effect is achieved by using one colour for weaving lengthwise and another for weaving width-wise.

The Paithani is a sari made of silk and zari with a plain weave, with weft figuring designs according to the principles of the tapestry. Traditionally, Paithanis had coloured, cotton muslin fields that often contained considerable supplementary zari patterning. However, in the 19th century, silk fields were also woven. Due to its proximity to the Ajanta caves, the influence of Buddhist paintings can be seen in the woven Paithani motifs. These sarees are made of silk in which there is no extra weft forming figures. Weaving could take between 18 and 24 months, depending upon the complexity of the design. In the days of Peshwas, the borders and the pallu were made of pure gold mixed with copper to give it strength spun into a fine wire called the zari. In recent times, zari is made of silver, coated with gold plating. In the border woven with a zari, ground-coloured silk patterns are added as supplementary weft inlay against the zari usually in the form of a flower or a creeping vine.

Odisha

Bomkai: Also known as the Sonepuri Saree, the Bomkai Saree is a handloom saree from the Bomkai village and has a GI tag. Usually made of cotton, these sarees are also made of silk for special occasions. During the time of Ramai Dev the then ruler of Patna, it was introduced in Sonepur. The borders and pallus are usually designed with fishes as it is believed to be a sign of success and affluence. The sari is normally dyed in red, black and white.

Khandua: A traditional bandha or ikat saree, Khandua is also known as Maniabandi or Kataki and is worn during weddings with a special type of fabric worn by Lord Jagannath which contain texts of the Geeta Govinda on them. The word Khandua in Odia translates to the cloth worn in the lower half of the body. Traditionally Kentuli Khandua is offered to Jagannath as lower cloth. The weaver communities of Maniabandha and Nuapatana of Cuttack traditionally wove this kind of fabric and during the rule of the Gajapatis, the sarees were made and transported to the Jagannath Temple. Nilakantha Deva, the King of Badakhemundi was offered khandua sari made of one piece of khandua silk called caukandika. Khandua is traditionally red or orange in colour with the red colour prepared naturally from the sal tree. The design motif has an auspicious elephant that represents Buddha surrounded by a trailing vine with peacocks in it, a large many-petaled flower, an animal  unique to Orissa known as Nabagunjara. The elephant in Khandua ikat from Nuapatana usually varies from elephant motives in ikat from the Sambalpuri saree as well as the ikat from other parts of Orissa. The Khandua has plain borders contrary to borders with motifs in the case of the other ikats from the state.

Pasapali: Also known as the Saktapar, the Pasapali saree is a bandha or Ikat handloom sari woven mainly in the Bargarh district. The name Pasapali is derived from pasa or gambling games using a chess board and these sarees have intricate check patterns of contrasting colours resembling the chess boards which gives it its name.

Sambalpuri: A traditional handwoven ikat where the warp and the weft are tie-dyed before weaving, the Sambalpuri saree is known for its incorporation of traditional motifs, all of which have deep symbolism in red, black and white that represent Odia culture. The high point of these sarees is the traditional craftsmanship of the Bandhakala, or the tie-dye art reflected in their intricate weaves, also known as Sambalpuri Ikkat. In this technique, the threads are first tie-dyed and later woven into a fabric, with the entire process taking many weeks. These sarees also have a Geographical Indication or GI tag associated with them. Traditionally, craftsmen created the ikats with images of flora or fauna or with geometrical patterns, but recently the ikats depict portraits and landscapes are also being designed. The unique feature of this form of designing is that the designs are reflected almost identically on both sides of the fabric. Once the fabric is dyed it can never be bleached into another colour. It is believed that this art migrated to western Odisha along with the Bhulia community who fled north India in 1192 after the fall of the Chouhan empire at the hands of the Mughals.

Punjab

Phulkari: Punjab’s folk embroidery, Phulkari which means floral work also includes motifs and geometrical shapes. In Punjabi, Phul means flower and Akari means the shape and so Phulkari means the shape and the direction of flowers which symbolise life. The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread. The traditional varieties of Phulkaris are large items of cloth and include Chope, Tilpatr, Neelak and Bagh. Sometimes, the Bagh is given separate categorisation of its own as on other varieties of a Phulkari, parts of the cloth are visible, whereas, in a Bagh, the embroidery covers the entire garment so that the base cloth is not visible. Today, in contemporary designs, the simple and sparsely embroidered dupattas and shawls made for everyday use, are referred to as phulkari, while clothing items that cover the entire body, made for special and ceremonial occasions such as weddings are called baghs or large gardens. The Phulkari continues to be an integral part of Punjabi weddings to the present day.

In the past, as soon as a girl was born, mothers and grandmothers would start embroidering Baghs and Phulkaris, which were to be given away at the time of her marriage. Depending on the status of the family, the parents would give a dowry of 11 to 101 Baghs and Phulkaris which were also passed from one generation to the next as heirlooms. The hallmark of Phulkari is making innumerable patterns by using long and short darn stitches. There were no pattern books and embroidery was worked entirely from the reverse of the fabric and the designs were not traced. Techniques and patterns were not documented but transmitted from word of mouth and each regional group was identified with the style of embroidery or design. The most favoured colour was red and its shades. Animals and birds represented success, beauty, pride, and goodwill and different fruits symbolised wealth, prosperity, and fertility. Wheat and barley stalks with ears were also common motifs. Silk and mulmul or soft cotton muslin fabrics were used because of their purity and longevity and it was believed that the virtue and character of a woman gave shape to the Phulkari.

There are different theories about the origin of Phulkari. One such belief is that this embroidery was prevalent in different parts of the country as far back as the 7th century, but survived only in Punjab. Motifs similar to the ones found in Phulkari are also found in Kashida of Bihar and some of the embroideries of Rajasthan. Another thought is that this style of embroidery came from Iran where it was called Gulkari, also meaning floral work.

Rajasthan

Gota Patti: Gota patti or gota work is a type of Indian embroidery that originated in  Rajasthan. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. Gota embroidery is used extensively in South Asian weddings and formal clothes. Originally real gold and silver metals were used to embroider, but these were eventually replaced by copper coated with silver as it would become very expensive and today, even more, inexpensive options are available.

Kota Doriya: A handloom fabric, Kota Doriya is woven on a traditional pit loom in such a way that it produces square checks pattern on the fabric. The delicately wrought checks are locally known as khats. Onion juice and rice paste are smeared onto the yarn making it so strong that no additional finishing is needed. Kota Doriya sarees are made of pure cotton and silk and have square-like patterns known as khats on them. The chequered weave of a Kota sari is very popular with a very fine weave and weighs very little.

It is said that Jhala Zalim Singh of Kotah brought weavers from Mysore, in the mid-17th century, as they wove a characteristic small squared lightweight cotton fabric that looked like graph paper and was suitable for turbans. Since the weavers had come from Mysore, the fabric produced was called Kota Masuriya and was woven on narrow 8-inch looms to make the traditional paags or turbans and later on, broader looms were used for gossamer-light saris. Silk was added to the cotton in a 20:80 ratio approximately to give the sari strength. Nowadays hand woven silk Kota Doriya saris have also become popular. At first, the design known as a buti was small and regular but larger designs are now made according to fashion and taste. A very ornate saree can take one month to make and is an heirloom piece to be treasured. A genuine Kota Doriya sari will contain the GI mark woven in one corner indicating that it has been hand woven using real silver and gold thread.

Leheriya: Leheriya is a traditional style of tie and dye practised in Rajasthan which is bright in colour, with a distinctive pattern. The word Leheriya comes from the word leher, meaning wave and the tie-dye technique results in diagonal stripes, which look like waves on the fabric. To create diagonal stripes, the craftsmen use a special method of resist-dyeing, where the material, is rolled up diagonally length-wise and then tied tightly at intervals before the actual dyeing process begins. Delicate, light fabrics such as thin cotton voile, fine silk and chiffon are preferred, as they allow the colour to penetrate through the rolled cloth. The fabric is wrapped around a wooden pole, usually while it is still wet or in a semi-dry state. The thread that ties up the fabric acts as a resist, yielding a pattern of diagonal stripes after dyeing. The thickness of the thread and the distance between the ties may be varied to obtain stripes of different widths.

An astounding variety of Leheriya fabrics are produced using this simple process. A panchranga or five-colour design is the most auspicious since the number five is considered special in Hindu scriptures. Another beautiful pattern is the satranga, flaunting the seven colours of the rainbow.

Tamil Nadu

Kanjeevaram: A silk saree which is worn on special occasions, the Kanjeevaram or Kanchipuram is made in the Kanchipuram region. This saree has also been recognised and given the Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government. The sarees are distinguished by their wide contrast borders with temple borders, checks, stripes and floral patterns as traditional designs. The patterns and designs in the Kancheepuram sarees are inspired by the images and scriptures in South Indian temples or natural features like leaves, birds and animals and have rich woven pallus showing the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. As of 2008, an estimated 5,000 families were involved in sari production with 25 silk and cotton yarn industries and 60 dyeing units in the region.

The saris are woven from pure mulberry silk thread, which along with the zari or gold thread comes from South India. To weave a Kanjeevaram saree. three shuttles are used. While the weaver works on the right side, his aide works on the left side shuttle. The border colour and design are usually quite different from the body. If the pallu has to be woven in a different shade, it is first separately woven and then delicately joined to the saree and the part where the body meets the pallu is often denoted by a zigzag line. In a genuine Kajeevaram silk saree, the body and the border are woven separately and then interlocked together. The joint is woven so strongly that even if the saree tears, the border will not detach and this differentiates the Kanjeevaram silk saree from the others. The sarees vary widely in price depending on the intricacy of work, colours, patterns, craftsmanship and materials used.

Koorainaadu: A traditional handloom weaving centre, Koorainadu sarees are by their checks and stripes pattern for which plain looms are used. It is made with pure silk and fine-twisted mercerized cotton yarn, in both warp and weft, in the ratio of 2:1, giving every Koorainadu saree a silk look. A peculiar characteristic of this saree is the formation of cotton checks by the interlacing of warp and weft during weaving which can be woven only by an experienced weaver. The sarees are hence stiffer and easier to hold the pleats which make them easier to wear. Koorainadu sarees are mostly worn by the womenfolk of the Hindu community green and yellow colours are used to make it auspicious and so it is often worn by married women wishing for long-lasting wedlock. The nine-yard Koorainadu saris are made with cotton or cotton and silk, in checks or striped patterns with a contrasting border in yellow. Saris with wide borders are called temple saris because they are offered to the deities in the temple.

Sungudi: Traditional cotton sarees from the Madurai area, Sungudi sarees are defined by the pattern of block prints and tie and dye designs. The origins of Sungudi can be traced back to the Sourashtrians who brought the art with them when they migrated to South India under the patronage of King Thirumalai Naicker in the 17th century. In Saurashtra, the word sungudi relates to the Sanskrit word sunnam meaning round, representing the circular dots that are printed on the fabric as a prominent and special motif.

The dots in the saris are said to be inspired by the cosmos which is why most Sungudi sarees remind one of a starry night. Tying the knots of the sari demands a great amount of precision from the craftsman. Ideally, a three-inch gap between the body and the zari border and also with the pallu lends a neat and symmetrical look to the crude dots. The designs are sometimes marked with a pencil on the fabric for ease in the process. The Sungudi art has seven basic designs that can be modified with different permutations and combinations to provide variety and highlight the creativity of the craftsman. The smaller the dot the better the expertise and this comes only with extensive practice and time. In the early days people used rudimentary methods like tying the knots with mustard or peppercorn seeds. Although this seems like a rural and unpolished method, its success lay in its simplicity. Authentic Sungudi is more than just tying knots. There is a lot of meticulousness that goes into producing a piece that looks effortless.  Once the knots are tied in the desired pattern, the sari is clamped which involves pleating, twisting, folding and wrapping it tightly before dyeing it for around two hours. Then the sari is subjected to two rounds of washing with cold water with an organic fixing agent followed by drying and ironing. The resultant fabric is a beautiful sheet like stars in the sky. In 2005 the art of Sungudi tie and dye got the GI recognition tag.

In the next part, the last one, we will do the last few states and also learn about some interesting saree drapes.

Recipes: Raw Mango Rice

A dish from the state of Karnataka made on special occasions, my mother has been asking me to make this ever since she tasted it in Bengaluru. My sister also makes a version of this rice and kept telling me to try it as it was very tasty. I finally caved in and made it a couple of weeks back when I found some nice raw unripe mangoes in the market. The rice was very tasty and reminded us of lemon rice which is prepared similarly.

Recipes: Raw Mango Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 raw mango, peeled and grated to get about ½ cup of grated mangoes
  • 1 cup basmati rice, soaked in water for about 30 minutes
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp broken urad dal
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 6-8 cashew nuts
  • 2 dried red chillies, broken
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut
  • Coriander leaves, finely chopped to garnish

Method:

  • Cook the rice and let it cool. When cool, gently fluff it with a spoon and spread it on a large plate. Keep aside
  • Heat the oil in a pan and when the oil warms up, add in the mustard seeds and let the seeds pop.
  • Next add the turmeric powder, and the urad dal and stir for a few seconds. After this add in the dried chillies, the peanuts and cashew nuts and stir until the cashew nuts start to become golden brown.
  • At this point, add in the grated mango and the salt and stir. Cook covered until the mangoes become tender and cooked.
  • When the mangoes are cooked, add in the rice and gently mix everything. You can check for seasoning at this point and add what is missing.
  • Add in the grated coconut and stir well.
  • Cook covered for a minute or two and serve hot garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves.

In My Hands Today…

Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives – Sudha Murty

Two decades ago, when Sudha Murty approached a group of devadasis for the first time, determined to make a difference to their lives, they threw a chappal at her.

Undeterred, she went back, telling herself she must talk to the devadasis about the dangers of AIDS. This time, they threw tomatoes.

But she refused to give up. The Infosys Foundation worked hard to make the devadasis self-reliant, to help educate their children, and to rid the label of the social stigma that had become attached to it.

Today, there are no temple prostitutes left in the state of Karnataka. This is the powerful, inspirational story of that change initiative that has transformed thousands of lives.

Travel Bucket List – India: Karnataka Part 6

In this last part about Karnataka, let’s turn inwards towards spirituality. Today we will have a look at some of the smaller towns which are well known for their temples and other spiritual locations.

Udipi
When we hear the name Udupi, the first thing that comes to mind is the string of restaurants all over India and the world that bear the name of this town. But this is also a temple town on the coast which has beautifully carved ancient temples, laidback beaches and unexplored forests. Surrounded by the Arabian Sea on one side and the Western ghats on the other, this pilgrim centre and holy town is also known as Lord Parashurama Kshetra and is famous for its Krishna Temple. Udupi is also known as Rajata Peetha and Shivalli locally.

Udupi has many interesting legends intertwined with its history. It is believed that Chandra, the moon god, received redemption for his sins from Lord Shiva after doing penance here, which led to the naming of the city as Udupi. Udu essentially means star, and pa means leader – hence referring to the god of the stars or God Chandra. There are also many lores surrounding the city’s most popular attraction, the Krishna Temple. According to the most famous legend, the great saint Sri Madhvacharya was meditating on the coast when he saw a ship about to capsize. He guided the ship to safety away from the waters, and in return, the grateful sailors offered him anything he wished from the ship as a gift. The sage asked for gopichandana, or clay, which unbeknownst to the sailors, covered a majestic statue of Lord Krishna that they had been transporting from Dwaraka, which is Lord Krishna’s birthplace. Sri Madhvacharya unearthed the statue and placed it in its current place of worship in the temple. Udupi is extremely famous for its religious architecture devoted to the Gods and saints of the Hindu religion. The Krishna temple includes, in addition to its majestic statue of Lord Krishna, beautiful chariot structures or rathas. All deities in the temple face the west, and a unique feature associated with them is that they are worshipped through windows. These windows are plated with silver and have nine holes – also known as Navagraha kindi. Next to the Krishna Temple lies the Udupi Anantheshwara temple, which is believed to be over 1000 years old. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The city also has the Tulu Ashta Mathas, which are Hindu monasteries set up by the saint Sri Madhvacharya. These group of 8 monasteries preach the Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy.

You should begin ideally with the Udupi Krishna Temple. Then, you can proceed to the famous Coin Museum, which houses an exquisite collection in the coins, from ancient to modern history. Don’t forget to visit the Shri Ananteshwar & Shri Kundeshwar Temples. Finally end your trip to Udipi with a visit to its many beaches, be it Malpe beache, Kodi beach or Kapu beach with a trip to St. Mary’s Island and it’s famous black rocks as a must see place when in Udipi.

Kollur
Kolluru or Kollur is a small temple-town near Udupi and is about 74 km north of Udipi at the foot of the Western Ghats on the banks of Souparnika river and is famous for the Mookambika temple. , a Hindu pilgrim center. Kollur also called Kolapura which is the name of a sage called Kola Maharshi . The goddess Durga is called Mookambika is said to have slain the demon Mookasura here. The goddess is described as in the form of a jyotirlinga incorporating both Shiva and Shakti. The panchaloha image of the goddess on Shri Chakra is stated to have been consecrated by Shri Adi Shankaracharya. The Divine Mother is said to be a manifestation of trigunas or triple forms such as Mahakali, Mahalakshmi & Mahasaraswati. The shikhara of the temple which is well gilded with gold is said to have been donated by Sankanna Savantha. Around the chief shrine of Mookambika, there are many other shrines. The idol of Chandramaulishvara is said to have been installed by Shri Adi Shankara and the temple has been renovated by Keladi rulers.

Legend goes that a sage, Maharishi Kola was enchanted with nature’s beauty and decided to perform a penance on a rock near the Agnitheertha. Lord Shiva, delighted with Kola rishi, appeared before him and blessed him. The Maharishi wished for the welfare of mankind and nothing else. The Lord, happy with Kola, granted him his wish. He assured that a swayambhu or autogenetic Linga would appear for his daily worship. However, Kola wanted to worship Devi also. So, a swarna rekha or a gold line appeared on the Lingam, signifying Shakti. Thus, Shiva and Shakti are worshipped together in the Lingam. Besides this, a unique feature is that the other Gods and Goddess of the Hindu pantheon also believed to reside in aroopa (non-form) in the Linga. It is thus believed to be an abode of the entire celestial congregation. It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya had a vision of Sri Mookambika Devi and installed the deity here. The legend says that Adi Shankara meditated at Kodachadri hills and Devi incarnated before him asking for his wish. He revealed his wish to install the Devi idol in a place in Kerala to worship where he wanted. Devi agreed but put forward a challenge that she will follow Shankara and he should not look back till he reaches his destination. But to test Shankara, Devi deliberately stopped the voice of her anklets when they reached Kollur whereupon Shankara turned and looked back because of doubt. Devi then asked Shankara to install her vigraha, just as he sees her, at that very location in Kollur. The original temple where Shankara meditated and Devi appeared before him is at Kodachadri peak, which is at a distance of about 20 km from Kollur and also visible as a large mountain peak in front of the temple. There also a small temple dedicated to Mookambika near Kodachadri peak

Sringeri
Commonly known as Sri Kshetra Shringeri, Sringeri is a famed pilgrimage centre nestled in the Chikkamagaluru district, mainly known for the Sharada Peetham which was built by the great Adi Shankara in the 9th century. I have written extensively about Sringeri which is the seat of the spiritual guru we follow, so do read that post for more information about this spiritual seat.

According to experts, Adi Shankaracharya stayed here for 12 years and preached to his disciples. Packed with numerous temples and ancient relics, Sringeri is a hub for Vedic learning and it attracts students from different parts of India. With a historical significance dating back to the 8th century, Sringeri rests on the banks of River Tunga. The town comes alive during the Navaratri festival and it is sheer bliss to take part in the rituals in the holy presence of the Shankaracharya.

According to popular folk tales, Adi Shankaracharya is said to have selected Sringeri to settle and preach because when he was walking by the Tunga river, he saw a cobra with a raised hood, providing shelter from the hot sun to a frog about to spawn. Impressed with the place where natural enemies had gone beyond their instincts, he stayed here for twelve years.

The name ‘Sringeri’ is derived from the name ‘Rishyashringa griri’, a small hill nearby that is said to have contained the heritage of Rishyashringa and his father Rishi Vibhandaka. As per an episode in the Bala-Kanda Ramayana, Guru Vashishtha had narrated as to how Rishyashringa had brought rains to the drought-stricken kingdom of Romapada.

Adi Shankara had created four guardian temples on all four sides of the Sringeri village-
Kala Bhairava temple in the East- dedicated to Lord Kala Bhairava, a fiercer form of Lord Shiva- representing the march of time, Kere Anjaneya temple in the West-dedicated to Sri Anjaneya, carved on a rock inside a cave, Kalikamba temple in the North – dedicated to Devi Kalikamba, a beautiful form of the Goddess and Durgamba temple in the South- dedicated to Devi Durgamba, also known as ‘Vana (forest) Durga’, owing to its remote location in the woods.

Dharmasthala
Popularly known as the Land of Charity, Dharmasthala is a beautiful temple town with a blend of heritage, culture and religion. Situated on the banks of Nethravathi river in Karnataka, it’s popularly known as a pilgrim site for the Shaiva, Vaishnava and Jaina communities.

The Dharmasthala or Manhunatheshwara Temple is an 800-year-old major pilgrimage site which houses a Shiva Linga and hosts a ‘Lakshadeepa’ – a festival of lights that takes place around November/December. The temple is a beautiful example of religious tolerance and it is maintained by Jain people and the rituals being carried on by Hindu Priests.

Another prime attraction here is the Bahubali statue, carved out of a single stone and 39 ft high. Dharmasthala has natural beauty gifted by its location, and the same is ornamented by the abundant and widespread scents of culture and spirituality in its air. Ancient archaeological artifacts like manuscripts, are stored in Manjusha Museum and are visual treat.

800 years ago, Dharmasthala was known as Kudum which was a village in South Kanara at that time. Here a Jain Chieftain named Birmanna Pergade live with his wife Ammu Ballalthi in a house named Nelliadi Beedu who were known for their generosity and hospitality. The legend has it that the guardian angels of Dharma in came down to earth in human form in search of a place where Dharma is practised and can be propagated. Impressed by their warm welcome, they told Pergade about themselves and asked him to vacate the house. Pergade and his wife moved to another home and began worshipping the Daivas. After some time, Dharma Daivas again appeared before Pergade and asked him to build four shrines dedicated to the four Daivas – Kalarkai, Kalarahu, Kumaraswami and Kanyakumari. In return, he was promised an abundance of charity and family welfare. A Brahmin priest was invited to perform the rituals who requested Pergade to install a Shiva Linga, subsequently around which the Shree Manjunath Swami temple is built.

Horanadu
Known for the revered Annapoorneeshwari Temple, Horanadu is a holy town located in Malnad. Carpeted with green paddy fields and accompanied by a hilly backdrop, this region lies at an altitude of 2726 feet and is also famous for its extensive collection of dry fruits, cashew nuts and almonds along with tea, coffee and spice markets. According to legends, this temple was established in the 8th century by Maharishi Agasthya. Dedicated to Devi Durga, the nnine-day festival of Navratri is celebrated with fervour at the Annapoorna Temple. Also make sure you visit the Kaleseeshwara temple to payyour respects to another aspect of Lord Shiva.

Talakadu
Known as the Kashi of the South, Talakadu nestles on the banks of the River Kaveri and is a mystical place steeped with a rich past and cultural heritage. It is famous for the Vaidyanatheshwara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The place derives its name from two local chieftains Tala and Kada and so is called Talakadu. There are a number of temples that are buried under the sand and are excavated once in every 12 years for special worship called ‘Panchalinga Darshana’. The Panchalinga Darshana includes five major temples namely Vaidyeshwara temple, Arkeshwara temple, Vasukishwara or Pataleshwara temple Saikateshwara or Maraleshwara temple and Mallikarjuna temple. It is said that the Pataleshwara Shivalinga change colours according to the time of the day- red in the morning, black in the afternoon and white in the evening.

Talakadu was once renowned for its more than 30 beautiful temples which were buried under the sand in the 16th century. According to the text, the burial was caused by natural disaster during the rule of Wodeyars. However, according to local folklore and myths, the town was buried under sand owing to a curse given by the queen of the region, Alamelu who drowned herself along with her jewels when the king of Mysore attacked her for her jewels.

Another legend dictates that an ascetic by the name of Somadatta was killed by elephants as he was on his way to Siddharanya Kshetra Talakadu to worship Shiva. It is believed that his disciples reincarnated themselves as elephants and went on to worship Lord Shiva at a tree in Talakadu. Two hunters Tala and Kadass truck the holy tree only to find blood gushing out of its body. Upon the instructions of a heavenly voice, the two of them dressed the wounds of the tree after which the tree healed, and Tala and Kada were granted immortality. Since Shiva is believed to have cured himself through this incident, he is referred to as Vaidyeshwara. The Panchalingas here is all associated with this legend.

The town has been a witness to the rise and falls of several great kingdoms including Cholas, Pallavas, Gangas, Vijayanagar and Hoysalas. Talakadu finds its very first mention in relation to the Ganga line of kings. The city of Talakadu, once known to house five famous Shiva temples, was the seat of power of Gangas and the Cholas. The beginning of the 11th century saw the overthrowing of the Gangas by the Cholas after which Talakadu was renamed as Rajarajapura. It was later captured by King Vishnuvardhana who established Hoysala dominance over the land for quite a few centuries. Under the rule of Vishnuvardhana, the Talakadu comprised of seven towns and five mathas. The Hoysalas were in charge of the town until the 14th century after which the town changed many hands such as the king of Vijayanagara and Wodeyars of Mysore.

Belur
Nestled on the banks of River Yagachi in the Hassan district, the town of Belur along with its twin town of Halebid located 16 km away, houses exquisite temples reflecting the exemplary artistic taste and technique of builders of the yore. This small town was the capital of the mighty Hoysala empire and their engineering genius can still be witnessed in the structures that stand here today. Some of the important shrines that are housed here include Chennakesava Temple and Kappe Chennigaray, both of which are exemplary Dravidian pieces of architecture. Non-Hindus are allowed in the temples of Belur.

Known as the ‘Jewels of the Indian Cultural Heritage’ Belur and Halebid are adorned with the legacy of rich past and culture. Belur is mainly known for its prime attraction, the Chennakesava Temple dedicated to Chennakesava or Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that it took 103 years to complete the construction of this magnificent edifice. Standing right next to it is another temple Kappe Chennigaraya, a temple built by the wife of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana, Shantaladevi. Apart from these, there are two other temples in the complex. Both temples exhibit the intricate detail work on the walls made up of light green soapstone. Visit this destination for a glorious look into the Hoysala engineering genius. The temple is open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm, but the inner sanctum of the main deity remains closed between 10 to 11 am, 1 to 3 pm and then again 5 to 5:30 pm. While entrance is free, government approved guides cost between INR 125 to INR 250.

Shravanbelagola
An important Jain pilgrimage centre, Shravanbelagola main attraction is the 57-m tall monolithic sculpture of Lord Gomateswara called the Bahubali statue. Located 144 km from Bengaluru in the Hassan district, this collection of Jain Temples in Shravanbelagola attracts a number of pilgrims every year. Wedged between Chandigiri and Vindyagiri hills on the side of the tank of town called ‘Belagola’. ‘Bela’ means white and ‘kola’ means the pond in Kannada. It takes a full day to visit all the monuments. For those who find it difficult to climb the hill, Dolis or Palanquin are available of INR 800 to and fro. Every 12 years, the Mahamasthabhisheka of Lord Bahubali is performed as a part of Jain culture and this a very auspicious event. The last festival happened in 2018 and it was 88th festival with the next festival scheduled to happen in 2030. The first Mahamasthabisheka was in 981 AD.

Two hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri are considered to be the places where Acharya Bhadrabahu, the spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya and Chandragupta, meditated. The Chandragupta Basadi, dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya, on the Chandragiri hills, was built by Ashoka, in the 3rd century BC. Chandragiri also houses many memorials of the Sravkas or monks who are said to have meditated since 5th century AD.

The 58-feet tall monolithic statue of Gomateshwara, the world’s largest monolithic statue, on the Vindhyagiri Hills, is a revered figure among the Jains. Gomateshwara, or Bhagwan Bahubali as the Jains refer it, was the first Tirthankara of Jainism. Legends say that he meditated motionless, for a year, in the standing posture and during this time, plans grew around his legs. After devoting one whole year to meditation, it is said that he attained omniscience. The statue was built by Chanvundaraya, a minister of the Ganga Dynasty in 981 AD. The Mahamastakabhisheka refers to the anointment of the Jain statues across the country and is carried out on a large scale in Shravanabelagola. Held once every 12 years, the Mahamastakabhisheka is a huge part of Jain culture and heritage. The event that takes place for weeks witnesses the veneration of the Siddha Bahubali; purified water and sandalwood paste are poured on the statue after which sanctified holy water is sprinkled on the participants by devotees who carry 1,008 specially prepared vessels or kalashas. The statue is then bathed in milk, sugarcane juice, saffron paste, and sprinkled with sandalwood, turmeric and vermilion. Offerings to the deity are made in gold, silver and other precious stones. The finale ceremony witnesses a huge shower of flowers from a helicopter.

There are numerous basadis in and around Sharavanabelagola, each dedicated to different Tirthankaras of the Jain culture. The Akkana Basadi built in the year 1181 AD, is dedicated to the 23rd Tirthankara, Parshwanath as the main deity. The Chandragupta Basadi, one of the smaller basadis, was established during the 9th century. While the middle chamber is dedicated to Parshwanath, the one to the right is dedicated to Padmavathi and the left one, to Kushmandini in the seated position. The Shanthinatha Basadi is dedicated to the 16th Tirthankara, Shantinatha, and was built by Ganga Raja, a commander during the Hoysala king, Vishnuvardhana in the year 1200 AD and is located in Jainanathapura, near Shravabelagola. The Suparshwanatha Basadi is dedicated to the 7th Thirtankar, Suparshwantha and a seven-headed snake is carved over his statue. The Chavundaraya Basadi is dedicated to Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara and dates back to 982. The Chandraprabha Basadi’s main deity is the 8th Tirthankara, Chandraprabha and it also depicts images of Shyama, Jwalamalini, the Yakshini of Chandraprabha, Yaksha and Yakshi who are Hindu and Jain mythical figures. Built in the 800 AD, it is constructed by the Ganga King, Shivamara II and is considered to be one of the oldest temples on the hill. The Kattale Basadi is the biggest of all the basadis on the hill and is located to the left of the Parshwanatha Basadi and is dedicated to the first Tirthankara, Rishabhanatha. Parshwanatha Basadi which was built by Puttaiya, a Jain merchant, between 1672 to 1704, depicts the tallest image of Parshwanatha, which is 18 feet in height. It is located on the Chandragiri Hill and has a manasthamba or pillar which is carved on all four sides with Padmavathi on the south, Yaksha on the east, Kushmandini on the north and a galloping horseman on the west.

Gokarna
With its pristine beaches and breathtaking landscapes, Gokarna is a coatal pilgrimage town on the coast of Karwar. Meaning cow’s ear in Sanskrit, Gokarna is said to be place where Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow. It is at the ear-shaped union of two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini. In the Shrimada Bhagavata Purana, Gokarna is mentioned as being the home of the brothers Gokarna and Dhundhakari. As per another legend, Ravana was given Atmalinga, a very powerful weapon by Lord Shiva and instructed him that it would stay permanently where it was placed first on land. While Ravana was performing a ritual, Lord Ganesha came disguised as a little boy and placed it in Gokarna. Ravana discovered that he had been deceived by the Gods to keep Ravana from getting a weapon as intense as the Atmalinga. Ravana tried to remove it, bringing about tossing the covers of the Linga to Surathkal, Dhareshwar, Gunavanteshwar, Murudeshwar and Shejjeshwar temples. Gokarna is known as one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centres.

Brimming with the rich history and culture Gokarna houses a number of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and its beaches like Kudle Beach, Half-moon Beach and Paradise beach are famous. While these beaches are famous amongst the tourists, the main Gokarna Beach is only preferred by the pilgrims. According to religious customs, pilgrims must take a dip in the waters of Gokarna Beach before entering the Mahabaleshwara Temple.

Murudeshwar
Murudeshwar is home to the second tallest statue of Lord Shiva in the world at 123 ft. Named after Lord Shiva, this town, with the shimmering Arabian Sea on three sides and the magnificent Western Ghats imposing their presence on this town. Murudeshwar temple and the fort are also the most visited spots, captivating one with their rustic charm and beauty. The Netrani Island nearby is a favourite spot for tourists as it offers excellent snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities. The Murudeshwar beach, however, has become a little overcrowded and dirty due to human intervention and could be avoided.

Dating back to Ramayana, Murudeshwara occupies a tremendous symbolic reference to the Hindu God, Lord Shiva and the ruler of Lanka, Ravana. Atma-Linga or the soul of Lord Shiva is believed to bless an individual with the power of invincibility and immortality. With the greedy idea of achieving the potential of invincibility and immortality, Ravana prayed fervently to Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva grants him the Atma-Linga with the condition that it shouldn’t touch the ground. Later, Lord Ganesha disguises himself as a brahmin to misguide Ravana in placing the Atma-Linga as the Gods believe that this could create chaos on Earth. Finally, Lord Ganesha succeeds in his act which kindles the temper of Ravana. In the process of uprooting, parts of the Atma-Linga lands to five different spots developing a chain of temples or Panch-kshetras devoted to Lord Shiva. The Aghora or Mridesha, the covering cloth of the Atma-Linga landed on the top of Kanduka hill. This led to naming the place as Mrideshwara, which is presently known as Murudeshwara.

Koodli
The Varanasi of South, Koodli, is amongst the holiest places of southern India and the site of the confluence of two holy rivers Tunga & Bhadra. Located at a distance of 16 km from Shimoga, Koodli has been an important place of worship, meditation and peace from ancient times. The small village is home to some really important and old temples whose origin goes back to the beginning of the last millennium. The place is known as the ‘Varanasi of South’ due to the presence of temples like Rameshvara, Narasimha, Brahmeshvara, and Rushyashrama. It is also home two great philosophical schools of Hindu philosophy in the form Shankaracharya Mutt and Koodli Arya Akshobhya Teertha Mutt. The best time to visit the village of Koodli is from October till May as the temperatures during the period hover around the pleasant range of 20 to 30 degree celsius.

Srirangapatna
Srirangapatna is a small island town in the Cauvery river and located 18 kms from Mysore. The town is an architectural masterpiece of the Hoysala and Vijayanagar styles as is evident in its monuments. One of the most important Vaishnavite centres of pilgrimage, the Ranganathaswamy temple, is the major attraction of the town which draws thousands of tourists every year. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the largest of its kind. It is one of the five important pilgrimage sites of Sri Vaishnavism along the river Kaveri for devotees of Ranganatha. These five sacred sites are together known as Pancharanga Kshetrams in southern India and since Srirangapatna is the first temple starting from upstream, the deity is known as Adi Ranga or “the first Ranga”.

The temple is one of considerable antiquity. An inscription at the temple reveals it was first consecrated in 984 A.D. by a local chief called Tirumalaiah, a vassal of the Western Ganga dynasty. In the early 12th century, Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana granted the village of Srirangapatna to the Vaishnava saint Ramanujacharya as an agraharam or a place of learning. The temple is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as a monument of national importance.

Once the capital of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Srirangapatna is home to multiple sites of historical relevance. The monuments on the island town have been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site. This town is also notorious for being the site of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, which consolidated the British Empire in India and is home to the Ranaganthittu Bird Sanctuary, which houses some of the exquisite bird species.

Srirangapatna was founded in the 9th century by the Ganga dynasty, but became famous during the Vijaynagar Empire when the rulers used it as a seat to oversee the neighbouring kingdoms. Later, when the Wodeyar kings rose to power, it became the capital of Mysore state from 1610. When Hyder Ali defeated the Wodeyar kings and claimed the throne, it continued to remain the capital under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. In the Battle of Srirangapatna in 1799, Tipu Sultan was killed inside the fort and that place is marked as a memorial.

Pattadakal
A treasure trove of Hindu and Jain temples, Pattadakal is part of the Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal complex that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the best representation of Chalukyan Architecture. Resting on the banks of River Malaprabha, it boasts of a rich legacy that dates back to the 4th century. Excavations have revealed that the region was originally called Raktapura and was under the control of the Badami Chalukyas.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Hindu temples at Pattadakal are an effortless blend of North and South Indian architecture. Built-in the 9th century by the Rashtrakuta Dynasty, the Jain Temple is the newest addition of this region. Built by Queen Lokamahadevi, wife of Vikramaditya II, Virupaksha Temple is one of the finest examples of South Indian architecture. The various temples that one must visit are Jain temple, Papanatha temple, Galaganath temple, and Sangameshwara temple. The classical dance festival held in January sheds light into the authentic culture and traditions of Pattadakal.

Art historians hold this site in importance because it depicts Hindu and Jain social, political, and religious practices in 8th century Deccan India. The name Pattadakal means place of coronation and this place was used by the Chalukya kings for the very same purpose. It was considered particularly sacred because this is where river Malprabha turned North towards the Kailasha mountain in the Himalayas. This ancient site has been witness to rule and regimen of various kings and dynasties, including the Sangama dynasty and the Mughal empire. All ten temples carry with them, unique stories of their own.

The Virupaksha temple is the grandest and most sophisticated. Built in the year 745 by Queen Lokamahadevi to immortalize her husband’s victory over the Southern Kings, it even served as the inspiration behind Kailasha temple at Ellora Caves. The Mallikarjuna temple commemorates the victory of Chalukya kings over the Pallavas. The Galaganatha temple depicts an eight-handed Lord Shiva, killing the demon Andhaka and wearing a Yajnopavita made entirely of skulls. The Jambulingeshwara, Chandrashekhara, Kadasiddheshwara, and Kashi Vishwanatha temples are small structures, all dedicated to different forms of Lord Shiva and his family. The Papanatha temple lies half a kilometre away from the cluster of other eight Hindu temples. It’s the only structure with an amalgamation of both Dravidian and Nagara styles of construction. The Sangameshwara temple is the oldest temple here but remains incomplete despite being built in several phases. The Jain Narayana temple is almost similar in structure to the nine Hindu temples. The only difference is that instead of carvings and idols of Hindu deities, it houses an idol of a Jina who is a soul who conquers all passions and overcomes all imperfections.

Aihole
Home to over 125 beautiful Chalukyan temples and monuments, Aihole is a historical site which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is surrounded by marvellous sandstone hills and villages on the banks of the Malaprabha River. It was formerly the capital of the Chalukya Dynasty with over 100 Hindu and Jain temples dating back to around 6th to 12th century. Today, Aihole is a prominent centre for temple architecture and intricate stonework.

Aihole, known initially as Ayyavole or Aryapura, played a significant role in Hindu mythology. Besides Hindu and Jain Temples, Aihole boasts of a rock-cut Buddhist monument and a monastery dedicated to Lord Buddha. The towns of Pattadakkal and Badami are located nearby and together, they form a vast circuit to experience the marvel and grandeur of Chalukyan architecture. A few important monuments in Aihole include the Durga Temple, Lad Khan Temple, Ravanaphadi Cave Temples, Huchimalli Temple, Meganagudi group, Gowda Temple and the Huchappayyagudi Temple amongst numerous others.

There’s an interesting story about how the town got the name. Legend has it that Lord Parashurama, after avenging the death of his father, Sage Jamadagni came to the river Malaprabha to wash his battle axe and bloodstained hands. While doing so, the blood turned the colour of the river water to red. Seeing this horrifying sight, a woman screamed ‘Ayyo Hole!’ in Kannada, which translates to ‘Oh no! Blood!’. Thus, this town got the name Aihole. However, this place is also called ‘Ayyavole’ and ‘Aryapura’. Aihole has great significance to the Ramayana in the Rishi Gautama and the Ahilya part in the epic. In the town, there exists an axe-shaped rock with a foot imprint on it. These prints are said to have belonged to Parashurama.

Aihole is considered as ‘The cradle of Hindu rock architecture’ as legend has it that more than 125 temples were built during Badami Chalukyas rule, between the 5th and 8th centuries. These temples represent different architectural styles like that of Dravidian, Phamsana, Gajaprastha and Nagara. The exquisite sculpture from this period has a classical quality. Richly carved ceilings, intricate rock-cut pillars, isolated figures and flat roofs, are some of the standard features of the temples. The grandeur of the Chalukyan architecture is beyond excellence.

The Chalukya Utsava is a 3-day festival held in early February every year. In addition to cultural activities, this festival also houses several competitions and adventure activities. One of the main attractions of this grand event is the helicopter ride, priced at INR 1,000 per person and hot air balloon ride at INR 2,000 per person, for an aerial view of the ancient city.

During the Pattadakal Dance Festival which takes place on 01 January each year, the
temple car or chariot is pulled from the temple gate to another sculpture called Padhkatte. Devotees from various places come to be a part of this event which is marked by religious as well as cultural celebrations, including prayers, dance and songs.

Kalasa
Kalasa in Kudremukh is a temple town home to Sri Kalaseshwara Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and lies on the banks of the Bhadra river. Kalasa is also renowned for a shrine of Goddess Bhagavathi and a Varaha within a cave.

The locals state the reason behind the origin of Kalasa to be a part of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s marriage. During their wedding, there was a shift in the rotation of the earth. To maintain the balance, Lord Shiva asked Sage Agasthya to travel to the Southern part. He wasn’t willing as he wanted to attend the marriage. As a solution, Lord Shiva promised him the view of his marriage simultaneously with his stay at Kalasa. He granted an Arcadian vision to the sage which made him possible to witness the holy ritual. Sage Agasthya then travelled towards the South and dwelled in Kalasa from where he watched the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Local legends state that a pilgrimage to Kalasa brings great religious merit or punya. Kalasa in Sanskrit means Kalsha, or a pot holding water. According to Hindu temple architecture, every temple should have a round pinnacle placed at the top. This round pinnacle is known as Kalsha. Also, geographically Kalasa is surrounded by River Bhadra from 3 sides and the Duggappana Katte hill at the South. When viewed from above it resembles the pot full of water giving it the name Kalasa.

The Kalaseshwara Temple is situated on a hillock near the Bhadra River built in the Hoysala sculpture style. The temple dome resembles a pot or utensil when viewed from a distance. The Girijamba Temple is dedicated to Girija and the main festival celebrated at this temple two days after Diwali is in honour of the marriage between Lord Shiva and Goddess Girija. The Venkataramana Temple was established in the 15th century and is dedicated to Sri Venkataramana.

So with this we come to the end of a lovely semi series visiting Karnataka. I hope you enjoyed reading about everything this state has as much I as enjoyed researching and writing it. This state has a special place in my life and I have always thought of Bangalore as my second home.

Travel Bucket List – India: Karnataka Part 5

As I mentioned in the previous part, today we are going to explore the highs and lows of Karnataka. This means we will see some of the hill stations and beaches in the state. Let’s go…

Coorg
Officially known as Kodagu, Coorg is well known for its breathtakingly exotic scenery and lush greenery. Forest covered hills, spice and coffee plantations add to the landscape. Called India’s Scotland by the British when they reached this place in the 19th century, Coorg is surrounded by the Western Ghats which are covered by mists of clouds and extremely good weather. Before 1956, it was an administratively separate Coorg State, at which point it was merged into an enlarged Mysore State.

The Kodavas were the earliest inhabitants and agriculturists in Kodagu, having lived there for centuries. Being a warrior community, they carried arms during times of war and had their own chieftains. The Haleri dynasty, an offshoot of the Keladi Nayakas, ruled Kodagu between 1600 and 1834. Later the British ruled Kodagu from 1834, after the Coorg War, where they annexed Kodagu, after deposing Chikka Virarajendra of the Kodagu kingdom, as Coorg until India’s independence in 1947.

Madikeri is the region’s centre point with all transportation for getting around starting from here. Make sure you cover beautiful towns like Virajpet, Kushalnagar, Gonikoppal, Pollibetta, and Somwarpet to get the best experience in this region. Don’t miss the Raja’s Seat – a small garden adorned with the flowers to get the best views of the majestic hills of the Western Ghats. Another excellent viewpoint is the Mandalpatti which offers breathtaking views. Other places not to be missed here include Abbey Falls, where water cascades down from a height of 70 feet and the rugged terrain of the boulders of the waterfall is juxtaposed by the neighbouring coffee and spice plantations. Talakaveri which is the origin of the Cauvery river from the Brahmagiri Hills is very sacred and attracts many tourists and devotees. The Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary is also a must visit as is the Namdroling Monastery or the Golden Temple, which is situated just 6 Kms from the town of Kushalnagar and 35 Kms from the Madikeri and belongs to the Sangha community. The temple is termed “golden” because of the golden work done on every painting and is a typical Tibetan monastery. The Nagarhole National Park and of course the highest peak in Coorg, Tadiandamol Peak at an elevation of 1748m is not to be missed. The biggest lake in Coorg, one that has spiritual as well as historical significance is the Honnamana Kere Lake which is named after Goddess Honnamana and the temple is adjacent to the lake. Located in the centre of the Madikeri town, the majestic The Madikeri Fort is a popular attraction and offers tourists with insights on the history of Coorg and all that the town witnessed. The elevated structures of the fort also provide panoramic views of the town, which is undoubtedly breathtaking and beautiful.

If there is one thing that defines Coorg the best, then it has to be the infinite regal fields of coffee plantations. Coorg is one of the highest producers of coffee in India. You must visit the Tata plantation trails of coffee in Coorg and enjoy the freshly brewed coffee made from the fresh cocoa beans. To gain the best experience you can also choose to stay at one of the resorts located right in the centre of coffee fields. The coffee grown in Coorg is apparently the best mild coffee in the world, as it is grown in the shade. Coorg is popular for the plantation of ‘Arabica’, which requires an altitude of 3,300 feet to 4,900 feet above the sea level, and ‘Robusta’ requiring an altitude of 1,600 feet to around 3,300 feet above the sea level.

The best time to visit Coorg is from the months of September to June as the weather is pleasant with no rain and it is not too hot either. However, if you want to go trekking, October to March is the best time to visit Coorg as this is the perfect weather if you wish to spend more time outdoors. During the monsoon months of late July and August, it is best to avoid visiting due to heavy rainfall and landslides.

Chikmagalur
Popularly known as the ‘Coffee Land of India’, Chikmagalur is situated in the foothills of the Mullayangiri Range and is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Karnataka. There is a perpetual fragrance of coffee lingering in the air in this town because of the many coffee plantations that dot the hills as Chikmagalur was the first town to be planted with the coffee beans in India during the British rule. Famous for its tall mountains, lush green forests and tranquil environment, Chikmagalur is a popular tourist destination and a quick weekend retreat.

Chikmagalur takes its name from the Kannada Chikkamagaḷauru that translates to “younger daughter’s town”. It is said to have been given as a dowry to the youngest daughter of Rukmangada, the legendary chief of Sakharayapattana.

Being the largest producer of coffee in the country, Chikmagalur is mainly all about its coffee. So if you’re a coffee enthusiast as well as a nature lover, taking a walk through one, or many the numerous coffee plantations in the city is a must-do activity. Many of these coffee estates not only allow visitors to take guided tours through the plantations, but they also provide home-stays right within the estates, so you can literally wake up to and end your day with the smell of coffee in the air.

Chikmagalur is a very popular trekking spot and boasts of many incredible trekking trails, such as the Mullayangiri trek, the Kemmanagundi trek, and the Baba Budangiri trek. Mullayangiri is the highest peak in all of Karnataka and is the best place to get a perfect view of the sun rising from behind the mountains.

Chikmagalur is also famous for its lakes, and Ayyanakere Lake and Hirekolale Lake are two of the most popular lakes that tourists flock to. A visit to the Kalhatti falls, which are located a few kilometres away from the main town of Chikmagalur, is a must-see addition to your trip checklist, as this waterfall finds a place in many mythological legends, and the water flowing here is said to have healing powers. The waterfall has the Veerbhadra Temple located right next to it, and apart from the religious significance, this place offers a great view of the valley and its surrounding hills.

Sakleshpur
Sakleshpur is a popular yet offbeat hill station flanked by the Western Ghats. There is something for everyone here, from the dense rainforest, hiking trails, historical temples and an old fort, mountain peaks and waterfalls. Whether its the significant agricultural products or the discovery of a jyotirlinga by the Hoysalas, the quaint town of Sakleshpur earned its name rightly as it is no less verdant than Ooty. It is also sometimes called the poor man’s Ooty! The story behind the name of this hill station is very intriguing. Between the 10th and the 14th century, this region was ruled by the Hoysalas. During their reign a broken Shivalingam was found and it was named Sakleshwara. After this incident the neighboring villages started calling this place Sakleshpur and the name stuck.

For history buffs and architecture enthusiasts, Sakleshpur has the celebrated Manjarabad Fort which tells the tale of Tipu Sultan and the Bettada Bhairaveshwara Prasanna Temple along with Pandavar Gudda which has the significance of the Pandavas staying here during exile. The mountains also provide an excellent opportunity for moderately easy treks that take a few hours to reach the summits like the Agni Gudda, Jenukal Gudda, Ombattu Gudda and Pandavar Gudda.

Boasting of rich biodiversity, Sakleshpur is home to many plants and animals including some of the endemic and endangered species. This place is one of the 18 most diverse spots in the world when it comes to flora and fauna. Elephants, deers, king cobras, tigers, Kadave are some of the animals that can be stopped easily. The reddish-orange pagoda flower which is locally called Ratha Pushpa is a beautiful flower that can be seen hanging from the trees in bunches.

Kudremukh
Popular and named after a mountainside that resembles a horse’s face, Kudremukh is famous for its biodiversity and scenic beauty. A popular hill-station, Kudremukh is actually a hill range and the name comes from its highest peak which rises to a heightof 1,894 meters and is the second highest peakin Karnataka in the Chikmagalur district and a paradise for trekkers and naturists alike, with its mountainous paths and floral and faunal diversity. With its rolling meadows, grasslands and dense forests, this place is a biodiversity hotspot. Kudremukh is an enchanting place to visit, still retaining much of its natural beauty despite persistent threats from various sources to its ecology. Varaha Parvatha, another mountain range nearby at a height of 1458m above sea level is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Primarily developed as an important iron-ore mining town, conservationists successfully campaigned against the adverse mining effects on the environment.

Located amidst mountains, Kudremukh National Park is popular for its scenic beauty. Designated the status of a national park in the year 1987, the 600-kilometre square area is one of the most well preserved national parks in the state. Jewelled with natural beauty, high rising peaks studded with a plethora of flora and fauna as well as picturesque trekking routes overseeing verdant grasslands, there is much to experience here. The wildlife protected area is the second-largest belonging to a tropical wet evergreen forest in the zone of the Western Ghats. The National Park is open from 10 am to 5 pm and trekking hours are between 6 am to 5 pm. Indians pay INR 200 to enter while foreigners pay INR 1000.

Kemmanagundi
A hill-station of widespread views and scents of beautiful gardens, Kemmanagundi or KR hills, is home the tallest peak of Karnataka, Mullayanagiri. These hills offer a perfect summer retreat for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. The area also has trekking, nature walks and picnics. The Royal Horticulture Society of Karnataka is located here and has some of the most beautiful gardens. The Rock garden, Z point, Hebbe falls, Kalahasti falls, Bababudan hill town and the Shiva temple are a few must-see attraction here.

Kemmanagudi means red soil for which the region is popularly known for. It was a summer retreat of the Mysore King Krishnaraj Wodeyar IV who donated his resort to the government of Karnataka after being awestruck and mesmerised by the beauty of the surroundings. This place has a lot to offer right from the beautiful waterfalls to nature treks. The weather is lovely throughout the year, and you can visit it all year round.

Kotagiri
Snuggled in the Nilgiris, Kotagiri is a gorgeous hill station and one of the oldest hill stations in the Nilgiris, resting at an altitude of 5882 feet. Once serving as a site for coffee plantation, today the town is a tea plantation covering 30,000 acres. Steeped in vast expanses of greenery and rolling hills, Kotagiri offers plenty of trekking and hiking opportunities for adventure lovers.

Home to the famed Kota tribe, Kotagiri is commonly known as the ‘mountains of the Kotas’. It is packed with European style houses and has a history dating back to the British rule in India. The 8 kilometres long trek to the Catherine Falls is one of the many highlights of this hill station. With a jagged terrain backed by a peaceful setting, this region is also ideal for rock climbing. Kotagiri is wild and pristine and there is no better way to experience the destination without staying in a homestay.

Masinagudi
A quaint hill station near Mysuru known for its wildlife, Masinagudi is a haven for animal and bird lovers and is considered a perfect jungle getaway. It is located at just a 1-hour drive from Ooty and is filled with breathtaking views and sceneries. The Mudumalai National Park is the highlight here and is popular amongst visitors. Apart from Mudumalai, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve is also a popular hotspot here. One can engage in wildlife spotting, fishing, go on many exciting safaris by hiring private jeeps, sit by the stunning Moyar River or even go boating there, the possibilities here are endless. Don’t forget to visit the Theppakadu Elephant Camp for an unforgettable experience amongst elephants as you go right into their abodes.

Devarayanadurga
Devarayanadurga or DD Hills which translates to “the fort of God” is a tranquil hill station located near Tumkur and fairly close to Bengaluru that it is a perfect weekend getaway for locals from the capital. Situated at an elevation of 4000 ft, Devarayanadurga is perfect to live among the lush green trees and explore the hilly terrain. This place is replete with not only picturesque beauty but also has a rich historical, cultural and religious significance. There are a number of beautifully crafted temples which will provide you with inner peace and leave you awestruck.

From the hills, let’s now move down to the coast and explore some interesting beaches and coastal towns in the state.

Karwar
A port city with scenic beaches surrounded by casuarinas trees along the Arabian sea coastline, Karwar is also called The Queen of Konkan Coast. It is both a natural harbour as well as a town with a history that goes back to the 15th century. A multicultural destination with Konkani, Kannada and Marathi speaking communities, Karwar is also famous for the historic monuments and is a photographer’s paradise owing to the brilliant architecture of monuments and scenic landscapes that are in this region. With Snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing, Karwar is an ideal place for adventure tourists as well.

Karwar is located on the banks of the river Kali and has an intense history in regards to the various kings and their rules and hence the diverse culture, though it is mainly dominated by that of south India. The name ‘Karwar’ has been acquired from a neighbouring village named ‘Kadwad’. Karwar is known for its natural biodiversity which is again owing to its unique location. Don’t miss the mighty Sivaganga Falls and the Warship Museum. Take a beautiful moonlight stroll at the Ravindranath Tagore Beach. You can also take a ferry to the Devbagh Beach which is situated about three kilometers in the Arabian Sea as well as the Sadashivgad Hill Fort and the Durga Temple, situated on an almost two hundred feet high hillock and the Kali Bridge. Make time to take in the sunset at Oyster Rock for which you need to take a ferry.

Devbagh
Pristine blue water, a picture perfect backdrop of beautiful mountains and lush green belt of casuarinas trees blend together perfectly to give you Devbagh. It is an amazing exotic island lying along the coastline of Arabian sea about 2 kms from the southern part of Goa and a ferry ride from Karwar. With splendid weather throughout the year, the beach town is famous for the fresh seafood, water sports and sunsets. The town of Devbagh is also known for the rich cultural heritage. Beautiful places like Sada Shivgad fort, depict the history of the rulers and the intricacies of architecture prevalent during the gone eras. Elegant and exquisite temple complex like the Shajjeswar temple and Narasimha Temple stand tall to gracefully depict the stories, of a bygone era.

Kumta
The beautiful town of Kumta offers tantalizing beaches with black rocks, old temples and sprawling greenery. With amazing weather throughout the year, the town is adorned with beaches like Baada beach, Kumta beach, Om beach, Kudle beach and Dhareshwar Beach as well as ancient temples like the Mahabaleshwar temple and Shree Mahaganpati temple. The Yana caves are a popular attraction too. Rock climbing and other adventure activities like trekking there is another favourite for visitors to the town.

Netrani Island, Murudeshwar
Also known as the ‘Pigeon Island’or Netragudo, Netrani Island is located 10 nautical miles off the coast of Murudeshwar which takes about 90 minutes by ferry. When viewed from above, the island looks to be heart-shaped and is counted as one of the best sites for scuba diving. Known for its overwhelming experience of underwater world, visitors will get a chance to come face to face with diverse variety of fish life common to Arabian Sea as well as other varieties such as Napolean Wrasse, Cobia, Stonefish, Black Tip Sharks, Great Barracuda, Turtles and Stingrays etc. With a soothing effect over your nerves, this place under water is perfect for diving suitable for certified divers of all experience levels. The best time to visit Netrani Island is during the months of December and January.

Maravanthe
A beautiful beach town with white sand spread miles and miles along the coast, Maravanthe is a getaway which can be best described as nature’s basket full of mesmerizing picturesque views. The sunset here tints everything shades of sepia just like out of a painter’s canvas. Studded with several places of the excursion, the town is adorned with a stark backdrop of Kodachadri Hills, while the Arabian Sea bounds it from one side and Sauparnika River on the other side. With pleasant weather especially during winters, you can visit the beach here, go snorkelling or scuba diving or even go on a trek at Kodachadri Hills! It is also a nature’s paradise with temples, beaches and beautiful landscapes. Don’t forget to take blessings at the Anegudde Vinayaka Temple and then unwind at Maravanthe Beach and Kodi Beach. View the spellbinding sunset from Ottinere before you go backto your hectic lifestyle.

St. Mary’s Island, Udipi
The land where Vasco De Gama set his first foot in India, the land whose geological importance is immense and whose beauty is spectacular, St. Mary’s Island is a quaint island just off the coast of Udupi. The island is full of white sand beaches, rock monoliths and great wildlife and is located just 4 miles off the coast of Udipi in the Arabian Sea. St. Mary’s Island is a group of four individual islands namely Coconut Island, North Island, South Island and Daryabahadurgarh Island and is a geological treasure hosting some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Daryabahadurgarh Fort, Vadabhandeshwara Temple and Malpe Beach are major tourist attractions in and around the area.
One can find a shoreline made up full of crystalline rocks which were created at the time Madagascar Island got separated from India. Make sure you are there when the sun sets as you stand on the crystalline rocks.

Make sure you carry lots of sunscreen, hats and drinking water as there are no provisions for such amenities on the island. Wear shoes you are comfortable getting rid of as the only way to the island is through the ferry and the approach towards the last few yards may involve wading. Carry food and drinks with you as there are no shops in the island with the exception of a lone shack selling water, juice and some snacks, which may be more expensive than on the mainland.

The best time to visit St. Mary’s Island is from October to January. The 30-minute ferry to St. Mary’s Island runs from Malpe in Udipi from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and is closed during the monsoon months of June to September. The entry fee to the island is INR 250 and you will need to pay INR 200 for a camera while a ferry ticket will set you back between INR 250-300.

Next part is all about spirituality and the little temple towns in the state.