Feb 29, 2012

Siddanakolla ~ Siddhankal

November 6, 2011

Driving from Kelur. On the road connecting Kelur and Aihole, we saw a small hand painted board to the left pointing the direction to Sri Kshetra Siddeshwara Kolla. We took the narrow road winding through the hilly terrain initially and then leveled out as we reached the plateau. Suddenly the road tar-road gave way to dirt road. We kept on driving... folks loading farm produce into a mini truck, agricultural plots here and there ...basically the place had a peaceful ambiance. After a 5 minute drive, the dirt road ended and we were driving on a flag-stone road. This road went down-hill, just like a ghat section road with couple of hairpin turns. Soon we were in a village, folks busy with their monsoon harvest. We asked a passerby for Siddanakolla. This is it. I asked for the temple. He told me to go back the way we came and look out on the left side on the dirt road. Aagh!

Back we go, up the ghat section and soon we found the place. Like I felt earlier, its absolutely peaceful here. I should come back sometime and spend a night to gaze at the dark sky twinkling with stars. It's a long time since I saw the real night sky.

Siddanakolla is a religious place with historic and prehistoric importance. It has references in a World Heritage Series booklet on Pattadakal published by Archeological Survey of India. Quoting the line from the booklet- in Siddanakolla and Aihole are the Upper Palaeolithic and Megalithic cave paintings and other cultural relics (circa 15000 to 300 BCE).

Siddanakolla is a group of ancient temples built at the starting point of a valley in a rock hill. The other Kollas I've visited are Varavi Siddeshwara Kolla near Munvalli, Shabari Kolla near Sureban, Huligyemmana Kolla near Pattadkal.

Namah Shivaya.

Siddeshwara Gudi, main temple here. This is the first west facing Shiva temple I'm seeing.

Basavanna in a mantapa. The man here is one of the two care-takers I met.

Collection of ancient sculptures next to the temple.

Place for pilgrims to relax. There's a small room like enclosure in the rocks. I guess we were the only four people here at the moment.

To the left is a rock formation from which fresh water flows out. During rainy season, streams flowing down would create a waterfall.

A Shivalinga to the left. Two rectangular pockets have been hewn out for water to collect. The water is clear and cool. Poojaris and Pilgrims take bath here and perform Shiva-pooja.

The ways of nature is amazing. See how Mother Earth stores water deep inside and lets out little by little.

A cave temple entrance.

Inside of the temple, a Shivalinga and holy relic depicting a pair of feet.

I cannot recall the name of this temple. It's an ancient Chalikyan style temple.

Hope I'm not wrong by calling these dwarapalas. Probably this is the first time I'm seeing goats depicted in temple.

Temple dedicated to Devi.

Deviye Namaha.

Tomb of the ascetic who attained Samadhi here.

The care-takers invited me into the kitchen to show Swamiji's photo. I'me not sure which of these two holy men was the Ajja who lived here.

The care-takers just before I left Siddanakolla.

It was around 5-15PM when we left for Aihole. Back home I realized I completely forgot about another fort less then a kilometer to south from Siddanakolla. I had found it in Wikimapia, it was referred to as 'fort near Mangalagud'. If I had visited it, it would have been the sixth fort of the day :(

Siddanakolla Coordinates: 15°58'46"N 75°52'31"E


Feb 25, 2012

Kelur Fort ~ ಕೆಲೂರ್ ಕೋಟೆ

Kelur fort is the fifth hill fort of the day. The ones visited earlier are- Belur, Wakandurga, Chikanal and Gudur -in this order. In all five cases villages are the bases of the hills.

We drove off Gudur-Aihole road towards Kelur village. We got directions to reach the hill. Motorable road ended near the government school. We parked and I started looking out for a guide. I finally managed to get few reluctant kids to agree. Just outside the village, we walked across a almost dry stream. Five minute walk we reached a pond right next to the hill and very close to the pond is a group of four ancient temples.

Google Map image of the fort and pond. Kelur village is north-east of the fort.

A - Lake
B - Temples
C - Bastion
D - Hollow Bastion
E - Temple

That's Kelur fort

and the temples surrounded by tall trees. Village folk use this pond to wash clothes, bathe themselves and their cattle. Opposite the temples is a small open field, a hang out for village boys. A game of cricket was in progress.

Closer look at the temples. The one farthest seems to be the oldest.

From here we trekked uphill through a dusty cattle trod path embedded with mud-coated slippery rocks. It was still hot. We paused for a quick rest. I wondered how this place would be after a good rainy season ...place would be alive with streams flowing down the slopes into the pond below. Perhaps a waterfall here and there. Back to reality, this region barely received rainfall this season.

One of the four bastions. This is similar to the one at Belur fort. From the architecture this seems to be built during Chatrapathi Shivaji's time. Two of my four guides take a break from the Sun. The boys are standing in a space barely 5 feet wide. One wrong step ...it would be a 30 feet fall.

The other side of the bastion and a rampart wall going up the slope. The bastion is hollow just like the one at Belur fort.

A narrow entry-exit point at the top. Through the opening a horizontal beam can be seen.

The space enclosed with the walls of the fort. Let me introduce my guides; Shivaraj is the one in red and the kid in yellow is Yellappa. Having worked at construction sites in Poona, Shivaraj considers himself street-smart and leader of sorts. Yellappa is his side-kick.

Condition of this bastion is not as good as the earlier one. Some how the boys seem to be impatient to move on.

This is supposed to be a temple of some sort. One of them mentioned that a tunnel from inside connects to the village below.

The boys were eager to take me to the plateau above to show a cleft... Phadi nod-barri. Half a kilometer walk from the fort we ran into shepherds With a good rainy season, a stream would be cascading down this rocky valley.

My other two guides- the one in red-white shirt is Suresh aka Surya and to his left is Basavraj aka Basu in navy blue shorts. These two were the friendly ones. Just below the rock Surya and Basu are standing on is a water-hole in the rocks, a source of drinking water in this rocky hill. Shepherd's use this water all the time. Water is available even in summer.

The shepherds. The man to the left is Shekappa Gadgyappa Chaluri. The goat is drinking water from the steel box.

We take a different path back to the fort. On the way I could see agricultural plots.

Kelur fort ruins. The fort gives a good view of the surrounding hills. No doubt a strategic point for a fort.

I zoomed into the bastion trying to get a look inside the bastion. Its a multipurpose structure; store-house for food grains & weapons, a watch tower, shelter for sentries...

We walk down the slope back towards the pond.

A cactus commonly seen in these hills.

Surya badly wanted me to take his picture with this bunch of flowers. I asked him if it was for a girl-friend. He said he wanted to keep it at home but the boys did nto believe him. They teased him some girl's name. Shivaraj suggested he should be giving either roses or marigold. Marigold!?

One last looks at the fort.

Back at the village, I noted an address to post their pictures which I did.

Back home, one afternoon I got a call from Chikanal postman to confirm the shepherd's identity. Also he was skeptical about the content of the envelope addressed to the one of the boys ...he said its unusual for minors to be receiving letters. When I told the envelopes contained pictures taken during my visit, he was OK.

Next destination for the day was Siddhankolla known as Sidhankal in archaeological circles. Siddanakolla is about 10km from Kelur.

Kelur Fort co-ordinates: 15°58'30"N 75°54'23"E


Feb 18, 2012

Giant Eshwara statue, Shiv Giri, Bijapur

January 2011

Bijapur, the city of fort, palaces, mosques and tombs has other attractions too. Among the ancient temples are Narasimha temple and Siddarameshwara temple. A recent addition to the city's attractions is the giant Shiva idol just outside the city, off Bijapur-Shindgi road, about two kilometers from Gol Gumbaz.

This idol was created in less than a year by four young artists from Shimoga- Prashant, Acharya, Rajshekar and Raju.

Small details are taken care of nicely; third-eye, Rudrakshimala, snake, Moon, Trishul & Damaruga... except one thing, Ganga is missing.

I went around the statue clockwise while most of the visitors went anti-clockwise. I guess many people saw the place as another tourist spot rather than a temple.

A bus load of school kids on a trip were running around noisily. A smaller group of little ones from a local nursery were sitting in a circle picnicking in the lawn close by.

There are other attractions for kids like slides, merry-go-round, etc. The place also has shops selling pooja items, snack, soft-drinks and souvenirs.

Do visit Shivagiri if you are Bijapur. It's worth the time.

Mahashivaratri will be observed coming Monday. I often hear people refer to this festival as Shivaratri. The fact is Shivaratri occurs every month and the one occurring during this time of the year (usually February) is Mahashivaratri. Shivabhaktas fast and pray through the day and stay awake all night. I remember hearing that Shiva stays awake through out the year and sleeps one night, that's Mahashivaratri. So while Shiva sleeps men stay awake :)

You might want to read- ಶಿವನಿಗೆ ಬಿಲ್ವ ಏಕೆ ಮತ್ತು ಹೇಗೆ ಅರ್ಪಿಸಬೇಕು?

Shivgiri Coordinates: 16°49'3"N 75°45'25"E

Namah Shivaya

Feb 14, 2012

Gudur Fort

Gudur hill as seen from Chikanal Fort.

Google Map image of Gudur town, hill and fort.

A - Nilogal-Gudur road
B - Stairway to Fort
C - Fort main gateway
D - Fort rear gateway
E - Watch tower

Hill & fort as seen from Nilogal-Gudur road. This would be the fourth climb of the day. I ask Shivu the cab driver to find a good Khanawali while waiting.

Gudur town is nestled in a valley with the fort-hill is to its south. The stairway to the fort starts at the base of the hill. Mini buses/rickshaws block the path and its filthy with pigs lying around in garbage dumped around. I've learned to ignore and find a way through such stretches. The stairway itself is in a bad shape. Anyway, something is better than nothing ...the climb up was not so bad because of trees providing patches of shade. Now I'm almost at the top and steps end here. I'll have to take a rocky path rest of the way.

Part of Gudur town. Some where beyond the hill in the background is my next destination- Kelur Fort.

I could not make out the entrance, climbed a wall and walked on it. Stones forming these walls are not held by any binding material. It was scary to walk here. I would step gently and made sure nothing shifted under my foot drastically. The fort has a elevated circular platform close to the north-western corner.

Eastern wall as seen from north-eastern bastion. The bastion at the other end of this wall has collapsed.

Now I'm outside the fort. Behind me is a vast flat rock bed with patches of soil covered by bushy fauna.

In the background is Chikanal hill. I was at Chikanal fort about an hour before I shot this picture.

The south-western bastion sits on a edge.

I re-enter the fort through this gateway.

Looking back at the bastion, that's the south-west corner.

The fort lacks any kind of living quarters or shelters. The only structure within the fort is this bastion like structure which could be a watch tower. Similar but much smaller structure was seen at Wakandurga fort.

Looking along the northern wall.

Closer look at the elevated platform. Wonder what that square pole is for.

I happen to find another gateway here, however as a result of collapsed walls the path is strewn with rocks and it barely looks like a gateway.

I climb down few rocks trying to get a front view of the fort wall. I feel this fort was more of a show piece to create an illusion of s strong fort. Of course the location is strategic, the fort gives a commanding view of the valley below. The valley could be important since it serves as a way across these hills.

Decided it was time I left. On the slopes, trees are scattered here & there adding some life the hill.

About three-fourth way downhill, I met these kids. They were busy frying chilly-bajjis in a toy bowl hardly 4" diameter :)

I was all smiles at their quick-fix stove of 3 stones, fuel was jaali-twigs. Oil, Flour, salt, chillies and water, in paper or plastic bags. The boy and his sister, the girl wearing glasses were the cooks. The bowl was good for two bajjis per round. They would take turns turning the chilly around. Two bajjis were ready which were offered to me. I did not want to intrude on their little outing, I declined.

Unable to curb my curiosity I asked why they came here to make bajji and not at home. Answer was they are here for a picnic. Sweet little kids. Bid them bye and called Shivu.

Shivu had located a Khanawali, it was a small place named Basavesvara Khanavali. I relished every bit of the meal. During the meal the owner told us that during a plague epidemic village folk had migrated to the fort. He could be referring to the epidemic during British rule. I asked when & who built the fort. No information. We got directions for Kelur. As we drove away from Gudur, I asked Shivu to drive slow ...not a good idea to be shaking too much after a meal.

Few videos of Gudur fort.

Gudur Fort Co-ordinates: 15°56'14"N 75°55'0"E