Oct 27, 2018

What to see in Dharwad district?

Until 1997, Dharwad district was one of the largest districts of Karnataka. It was one of the prominent districts too. It was split into 3 parts forming two new districts - Gadag and Haveri.  Dharwad district consists of four talukas namely Hubli, Kalghatgi, Kundgol and Navalgund. The two prominent cities are Dharwad and Hubli; while the former was known for its educational institutions and latter was more of a trading and medical center. However, with only 22 kms between them, they are referred to as twin cities. In the recent past, the twin cities have grown rapidly, in way they have competed with each other and both have seen lot of changes.

Dharwad city is situated on the border line where Malnad meets Bayaluseeme i.e. hilly terrain of Western Ghats and the black-soil plains. Dharwad has an interesting history going back 900 years. Below are few pictures (caption in clockwise) and a list of places to see in Dharwad district.

Ficus Krishnae tree, Amargol Banashankari temple, Dharwad fort gateway, Ulavi Basaveshwara temple.

Someshwara temple, Basel Mission church, Sadan Kari, Tapovan

Siddarooda Matha, Unkal Chandramouleshwara temple, Kundagol Shambulingeshwara temple, Teachers Training College

Muruga Matha, Thakur pedha box, Amminabavi cave temple, Regional Science Center

  1. Babusingh Thakur Pedha shop - the iconic sweet maker of Dharwad established in the XIX Century. Happy events are marked with the presence of pedhas.
  2. Basel Mission Church - Probably the oldest church in Dharwad was established in 1836.
  3. Bendre Bhavan - A memorial to Jnanapith awardee Shri Dattatraya Ramachandra Bendre (Da Ra Bendre) one of the foremost poets of Karnataka and India. Bendre Bhavan is situated just across Sadankeri.
  4. Botanical Garden of Karnataka University is a home to rare plant species. One of the main attractions is Krishnae Ficus trees and pine cone trees. This is also home to variety of birds and insects.
  5. Collection of ancient sculptures at Police Headquarters campus, opposite residential school.
  6. Dattatreya Gudi - once upon a time, a temple on lake bank. Da Ra Bendre was a regular visitor to this temple.
  7. Dharwad Regional Science Center, KUD - a museum which makes learning enjoyable, wonderful place to spend quality time for children and grownups alike.
  8. Kargil Stupa - A memorial to Indian army soldiers from North Karnataka who were killed at Kargil. The memorial is located just across District Collector's office.
  9. Karnataka College Dharwad - this iconic red colored building was constructed during the pre-independence times, it was meant to house Indian Railways offices. The railway office was shifted to Hubli for better feasibility and the building was used as army barracks before converting it into a college.
  10. Karnataka University Dharwad - Established in 1950, KUD is the one of oldest universities of India. Within the campus are several interesting places; the Botanical Garden, History and Geology museums.
  11. Kelageri Kere - is the biggest lake of Dharwad with 100+ year history. Migratory water birds camp at Kelgeri lake between November and April. Early morning is the best time to see them feeding.
  12. Shirdi Sai Baba temple off Kelageri road. This is the biggest Sai temple in Dharwad city.
  13. Kittur Chennamma Park - named in memory of the warrior queen of Kittur who fought against the British army to retain freedom of her late husband's kingdom. Within the park is a memorial to John Thackeray the British collector who was slain by Chennamma during the rebellion at Kittur.
  14. Muruga Matta - a Lingayath monastery with a long history. The Matha supports school and college going boys from simple surrounding villages by providing them boarding & lodging within the monastery campus.
  15. Nuggi Keri - is situated in a valley on the city outskirts. On the lake bank is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The lake creates a relaxing atmosphere during sunset. However the place is bit crowded on Saturdays, the day of Hanuman.
  16. Prashantadhama ~ Durgadevi temple - a temple complex situated within the police headquarters campus right next to Sadankeri.
  17. Ramakrishna Ashram - the Dharwad chapter of Ramakrishna Mission is situated at Channabasaveshwara Nagar.
  18. Remains of Dharwad fort - a gateway with ancient wooden doors is what's remaining of the fort. 
  19. Sandan Keri - this little pond is known for its landscaped gardens, boating and musical fountain. The garden is open from dawn to 8 PM. Musical fountain show happens on Saturdays, Sundays and government holidays.
  20. Sanjeevini Park - is a hill garden created by Karnataka Forest Department about 8 kms on Dharwad-Hubli road.
  21. Someshawara Gudi - This XII century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva has a peaceful ambiance. The 2½' tall black stone sculpture of Basavanna (Nandi) is a beauty not to be missed.
  22. Shalmala Ugamasthala - A stone's throw from Someswara temple is the birth place of river Shalmala. The river flows through the jungles of western ghats and on its banks are historical places such as Shasralinga and Sonda fort near Sirsi.
  23. Tapovan - This is the ashram established by Shri. Kumaraswamiji- a yogi, a philosopher, a humanist, a writer and a social reformer. The ashram's gardens creates a peaceful ambiance.
  24. Teachers Training Institute - constructed during the pre-independence times, the group of red buildings was meant to house Indian Railways offices. The main building's twin tower is an architectural beauty.
  25. Ulavi Basaveshwara Gudi - this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated on a hillock, is probably the highest point of Dharwad. The temple is small but has lot of open space and greenery around it.
  26. University of Agricultural Sciences - Established in 1986 USA, Dharwad is a major center for agricultural research & education.
  27. Cave temple of Amminabaavi - Amminabavi is a village off Dharwad-Saundatti road known for its large well and Jain Basti. On the village outskirts, over a wide mound is a graveyard within which is a man-made cave temple. The cave was hacked single handed by an ascetic living in the graveyard.
  28. Paarshvanaath Basti, Amminabhavi - This is one of the historic Jain Bastis in Dharwad district. The deity is ancient and there's a small collection of ancient stone sculptures.
  29. Neera Sagar - is the large man-made lake about 20 kms on Dharwad-Kalghatgi road. 
  30. Banashankari Devathana, Amargol - this XII century temple built during Kalyana Chalukyan rule is situated in the village of Amargol about 12 kms on Dharwad-Hubli road.
  31. Sri Chandramouleshwara Devasthana, Unkal - this XII century temple built during Chalukyan rule is situated in Unkal village, one of the villages merged into Hubli city. In this temple, one of the deities is Chaturmukha Linga, a rare form of Shivalinga.
  32. Mini Lalbagh - a public garden with a glass house similar to Bangalore's Lalbagh.
  33. Nrupatunga Betta - Hubli is one city which has a lake and a hillock. Like Unkal lake and village, Nrupatunga hill gradually merged into the fast growing Hubli city. The hillock is situated on north-west side of Hubli city. Its a popular place for morning walks.
  34. Shirdi Sai Baba temples - Hubli city has two temples dedicated to Shirdi Sai Baba. While one is opposite Idgah Maidan, the other temple is on the slopes of Nrupatunga Betta.
  35. Unkal Kere - As you approach Hubli from Dharwad side, you pass by Unkal lake. At the lake center is a statue of Lord Buddha and on its shore is a public garden. Boating is a popular form of entertainment here.
  36. Ulavi Channabasaveshwara temple - a temple dedicated to Shivasharana Channabasaveshwara, nephew of Jagadguru Basaveshwara. This ancient temple is situated on the Unkal lake shore, when the lake fills to its brim, the water level reaches the temple floor.
  37. Mooru Savira Mata - This is a Lingayath monastery said to be established in XII Century by Jagadguru Basaveshwara's nephew Channabasaveshwara. After escaping from Kalyana, a group of Shivasharanas led by Channabasaveshwara camped here, established this Matha and moved into the jungles of Ulavi.
  38. Siddharooda Mata - this Lingayath monastery was established by Shri Siddharudha Swami who lived between March 1836 and August 1929. His mortal remains are enshrined here. This is a popular religious place for people of North Karnataka.
  39. Trikuta temple near Siddharooda Mata in Old Hubli
  40. Navagraha Teertha, Varur - this is a Jain shrine dedicated to nine cosmic bodies. At this center is a 61' monolithic statue of Bhagavan Parshwanath and statues of eight other Tirthankaras.
  41. Adargunchi Doddappa and Budarsinghi Hanumappa temples - unique temples of villages of Adargunchi and Budarsinghi villages off Hubli-Bangalore national highway. The villages are about 10 kms from Hubli,
  42. Sri Shambulingesvara Devasthana, Kundgol - a Chalukyan temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  43. Sri Madiwaleshwara Matha - a Lingayath monastery established by Sri Madiwaleshwara a contemporary of Kittur Chennamma, Sishunala Sharief, Siddaroodaswami and Nagalingaswami of Navalgund. As an infant, he was found in a banana plantation near Kittur and adopted by Kittur Desai. On attaining teenage he leaves home and enters monkhood. He is said to have visited Nepal two times, lived at Nepal king's palace during his visits. Finally he establishes a monastery on a piece of land donated by Hangarki Desai near Garag village.
  44. Khadi Gramudyod Kendra, Garag - this is one of the two centers in India where fabric for the Indian national flag is officially produced. Garag is about 18 kms northwest of Dharwad.
  45. Jain Basadi, Garag - the Jain temple's history goes back several centuries, probably to Chalukyan times.
  46. Veerabhadreshwara Gudi, Tadakod - is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, probably built 600 years ago. Tadkod is a small village about 5 kms from Garag.
  47. Rangathaswami Gudi, Devarahubballi - an ancient shrine dedicated to Lord Rangantha. The idol, a beautiful stone sculpture seems 500 to 600 years old.
  48. Amruteshwara Devasthana, Annigeri - Amruteshwara temple was built in Xi Century CE by Kalyani Chalukyan rulers. The temple built of soapstone has 76 pillars and its walls are covered with sculptures of characters from Hindu legends. It is said that Amruteshwara temple was to be the prototype for Mahadeva temple of Itagi village in Koppal district.
  49. Ajata Nagalingaswami Matta, Navalgund - a Lingayath Matha popular for its mysterious book. A hole runs through the pages of the book, which is gradually closing year after year. The book is kept for public display once a month.
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Oct 20, 2018

Chaukandi - Dargah of Hadrat Khalimullahullah

September 3, 2018
We started our day with a short visit to Narasimha Jhira, Pushpa was ready to wade through water in the tunnel but the temple was crowded, at least 30 people in the queue. We took pictures and made a short video from the outside and left. We drove on Bidar city ring-road and turned right towards Ashtoor village. A kilometer before Bahamani tombs of Ashtur, on the left hand side is Dargah of Hadrat Khalimullahullah commonly known as Chaukandi which means four storeys. Chaukandi is a octagonal shaped white colored structure, its design is truly unique. Its a protected monument.

Situated away from settlement this place is peaceful. In fact local people come here to spend time peacefully. Neem and Tamarind trees add to the ambiance.

This white colored building is a screen to the main structure. Its a belief that beautiful structures should have a screen to protect it from evil eyes ~ ketta drishti. Bijapur's Gol Gumbaz also has a screen like this locally known as Naqquar Khana. The brown colored two-storey building is a mosque. Besides this is another mosque inside.

There's Chaukandi as seen through the inner arch of the screen. Its a magnificent structure with a classy color scheme. Originally it was white octagonal structure, the brown colored structure with dome was added later. As we entered the inner portion, a saw a man.. I felt it was the same man I'd met in Jan-2011.. Kalil Shah Bahamani who claimed to be a descendant of Bahamani dynasty. He offers to show us around.

The white exterior is the outer wall, approximately 10' thick, it encloses another octagonal structure which in turn houses the tomb. On the exterior its designed to look like a two-storey building but in real its a four-storey building.

Looking back towards the gateway we just passed through. On either sides of the passage are raised platforms, large enough to accommodate 60 to 70 people.

This is another mosque, simple elegant structure.

The side view of Chaukandi. The octagon will fit into a circle 88' diameter. Its opposite parallel sides are 80' apart and its height is approximately is 80'. This is said to be built during the first half of XV century CE.

As I was photographing the structure, Pushpa spotted a couple of owls in a niche high above the ground. That was a wonderful catch. Grey feathered owls sitting cozily up there, possibly baby owls inside. She remarked they look like us two :)

Our guide pointed out to Arabic / Persian texts above door frames, he said they were of great importance. There are many such slabs both outside and inside walls here. Beautiful sculptures they are. Notice the floral on the lower portion. The three lotus' design is similar to the ones found in Hindu temples, like the ones seen at Chalukyan temples.

Sky view from the gap between inner and outer structures. Each of these arches are 30' high.

On the floor level. This is the front side of the building, on the left side is the main entrance and on the right side is the main door to the tomb. The tombs seen here are of Hadrat Khalimullahullah's family members.

This is the tomb of Hadrat Khalimullahullah. This is a shrine for local people who believe in powers of this Dargah. Visitors offer oil and agarbathi. A single oil lamp burns throughout the day. Smoke rising up from the lit up agarbathi. Visitors are patted with a bunch of peacock feathers, kind of blessings. The doors seen here are also ancient, they have the brass knobs which seems original.

We go back outside and around the building. A close look at the black granite outlines. At the base of this sculpted black column is a brown niche which was originally filled up. Vandals have pried out the filling.

Spirals rising up above.. like coil springs.

This is the rear face. Notice the spiral along the arch outline. Truly a result of superb designing, planning and execution.
This is the western face. Besides the arches and geometric designs this face has floral designs as well. Notice the mural at the arch crest.

Opposite the western face is this small structure, not sure if its incomplete or as designed. The arches are quite low, about 3' high. Two arches are open while the rest were closed with mesh screen. Inside there are several tombs. Though small, its has very detailed artwork.

A closer look at the art. Amazing isn't it.

The Chaukandi has its own well too. The open well has a flight of steps descending into it. Such wells are commonly found at temples and known as Kalyani. This raises a question mark if a Hindu shrine exists close by or if it existed once.

Chaukandi as seen from the open-well. The place has a great ambiance, you can sit here for hours, enjoy the silence and fresh air.

About 200 meters from Chaukandi is another open-well named as Pari Bowli meaning Faiies' Well. You normally see circular or square shaped shafts but Pari Bowli is octagonal. The water is fresh, can be consumed as is.. of course its upto one's confidence. I had a mouthful :)
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Oct 13, 2018

Pari Bowli - Fairies Well, Ashtoor, Bidar

As I was scanning the area around Bahamani tombs of Ashtoor, I happened to discover a spot marked as "Pari Bowli" which was recognizable as a water-body. It was situated west of Dargah of Hadrat Khalimullahullah commonly called as Chaukandi. I was curious about the spot but there wasn't any description of the place. I added to the list of places to see during our trip.

September 3, 2018
We started our tour of Bidar early morning. Originally our plan was to see the fort and then other monuments. However a security guard's rude behavior made me change the itinerary. So went to Narasimha Jhira first. The place had changed so much in 8 years, too much concrete. I showed Pushpa the cave entrance, she took pictures and shot a video clip. Then we headed towards Ashtoor and first stopped at Chaukandi. We spent about 45 minutes at the white octagonal structure with Kalil Shah who claims to be a descendant of Bahamani dynasty. From Chaukandi, Pari Bowli is about a kilometer, we could've walked but decided to take the car for a tiny off-road drive.

So that's the well local people lovingly call Pari Bowli. On the top-right corner of this picture is a glimpse of Chaukandi. The common thing between these two is their octagonal shape.

That's Chaukandi, as seen from the mound next to Pari Bowli.

The well reminded me of Taj Bowli at Bijapur which is much larger. Water looks clean, its green because of its depth. Whoever made this well also made a room on its eastern side.


The room can be accessed from a narrow passage on the side, along the well's perimeter. A shrub grown out from the wall is home to a group of weaver birds, about a dozen nests here. Pushpa and Kalil stand in the shelter.

Two partially done nests. The owner sits watchfully on its nest. I watched it for a minute or two to take pictures then left it alone to carry on  with its work. 

This is the shelter's ceiling, stones are arranged to form a star. The circular stone is the center pin - which is the key to the arrangement. I don't quite remember seeing another star like this anywhere else.

The serene spot. We sat under the Neem tree and had breakfast- biscuits and water. Kalil had filled a bottle from this well, water was as clear as filtered water, it took a mouthful, it was mildly sweet. Kalil said that locals believe this water has medicinal properties, people with health issued consume it or bathe with this water. Coming to its name, its a belief that fairies live in these waters and they come out only during nights.

Isn't it amazing that Nature provides us everything we need, ready to consume. We humans instead of enjoying life in a simple way, complicate everything, creating trouble for fellow creatures. Anyway, lets enjoy the peaceful ambiance for now.

On the left is a platform where one can stand and draw water from the well. This spot is slightly higher than Chaukandi, I'm guessing that water was supplied from this well. It seems like a pipeline existed, probably still there buried in the ground.

Water as seen from the drawing platform, this platform is exactly above the open hall seen earlier. I'm guessing this well to be 60 feet deep. We can see one level submerged here, probably there's another level below.

A bare Jaali Mara trunk. Wondering what caused the tree to get that curvy form.

It was happy to have seen this well. Had I come here by dawn, I might have seen few peacocks. In fact we saw one at Chaukandi, a young male. Also, Pushpa spotted a pair of owls resting in a niche high up in the wall. They seems like husband-wife.

From here we drove down to Ashtoor to the beautiful see Bahamani tombs.
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Oct 6, 2018

Bili Gudda, Savandurga

Savandurga is a sprawling rock formation. This was one of the important forts during Kempegowda's time and also Tipi's time. The fort walls cover a vast area. Savandurga fort can be divided into three parts- Karigudda, Biligudda and Basavana Durga. Biligudda translated to white-hill, this is more or less a bare rock with some vegetation at the top and eastern face. The summit of Biligudda is the highest point of Savandurga. Karigudda means black-hill, this hill is rocky but covered with vegetation excepting its bare summit. Basava durga is a collection of plateau and slopes. This hill is frequently visited by elephants.

That's Gulveer with Biligudda in the background. This picture was taken some time 1995 from Basava Mantapa on Karigudda summit. I think it was our second visit.

Of my 20+ visits to Savandurga I've climbed Biligudda just 2 times but failed to reach the summit both times. The following pictures must have been shot sometime 2003. We were six of us; I; two cousins- Rohin, Basu; two friends- Kiran and his friend Sujoy; and a dog from Savandurga village. These pictures are scanned copies of printed photos shot with a Yashica using Konica films.

This is the gateway to Biligudda fort.

The trial is more or less under cover of trees. This is one of the few open spots. We had carried a machete in case we had to clear thorny plants in our way.

  Part of the fort wall on the slope.

This few yards of rock is quite steep and slippery. We sat and slid on our butts. That's Basu in the foreground.
Karigudda's comes into view as the path passes through the valley. The speck on the summit is Basava Mantapa, also called Nandi Mantapa.

A sheer rock face to our left, we are still ascending.

This part of the path passes through gaps between rocks.

This stretch is through boulders, trees, roots and branches. Rain water has washed of dirt between rock leaving them loose. We had to watch every step.

Passage through a natural tunnel in rocks. We had to cross a 12 feet long, 10 feet deep ditch, the bridge was a half-foot wide log. The only support we had was a rock face which was not really close. One fall could leave few broken bones.

Basu and Rohin wait on the other side of the passage.

Another view of Biligudda.

A natural rock-shelter. Our four-legged friend always stayed with us. I'm wondering how it crossed the log bridge, looks like none of noticed it.

We reached a plateau, the top of the sheer rock face we passed by earlier. A grand view of Biligudda, Basava Mantapa is seen clearly now. We did not see anyone up there.

It was quite windy, had to be careful not to lose balance. Smart thing do is sit or lie down as our friend did.

 Basu is fighting wind :)

A huge pit. Probably a natural one with some modifications by human hands.  Kiran is actually squatting on a narrow stretch. Barely two feet behind him is a 60 feet drop. He's brave to sit there with wind blowing like crazy.

The pit collects rainwater which remains fresh for months.

We spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out a way forward. We had one option but it was too steep and we weren't carrying any ropes. We decided not to risk safety. We rested a while before beginning our return journey. Basu amused himself by flying a plastic bag kite with a thread.

We took the same path down. A grassy stretch, even the ground was covered with grass, very slippery and blind to ditches. One of my steps landed into a ditch toppling me.

At the end end of the grassy stretch is this slope. This few yards of rock is quite steep and slippery. Basu dancing out of joy, he really enjoyed this trek. So did the others. That's the magic of Savandurga.

A word of caution- its good to climb this hill in a large group, with at least one person familiar with the trail. Large groups have a tendency to get noisy, do not disturb the peaceful ambiance. Most importantly climb during daylight and descend while its still bright.
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