Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shirdi - Ajanta - Ellora - Aurangabad Trip

First, let me apologize for the inordinate delay in writing this post. Went on a family trip in November 2011 to Shirdi and from there, made Aurangabad our base and covered places like Ajanta, Ellora, Grishneshwar, Daulatabad along with Panchakki and Bibi-ka-Maqbara (Mini Taj Mahal) in Aurangabad.

Shirdi:
Reached Shirdi by Ajanta Express from Hyderabad on 15th November 2011. Got down at Nagarsol and took an MSRTC bus to Shirdi. Booked room at the Sai Sansthan Choultry online and also booked for an Aarti. After Aarti Darshan, we did some brisk shopping and had lunch at one of the numerous Andhra hotels.

For people from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, going to Shirdi is like going to one of the cities in our own states. Most of the boards on the hotels are in Telugu despite Shirdi being deep inside Maharashtra and no where near the border.


It is same like people from Tamilnadu or Karnataka when they visit Tirupati. Majority of the visitors to Shirdi are from Andhra Pradesh. Shiv Sena and later Maharashtra Navnirman Sena blackened the boards in Telugu but later they are back - thanks to some back channel communication between the politicians. :)

Evening, we vacated the room and went to the Bus Station to catch a bus to Aurangabad. To our surprise, there were hardly any buses and lucky for us, Omer Travels bus from Shirdi to Hyderabad was going through Aurangabad and we grabbed seats on it. The route from Shirdi to Aurangabad is one of the most horrible roads that I ever traveled on. We reached Aurangabad at around 9PM and checked in one of the Hotels.

Aurangabad:
Aurangabad is one of the largest cities in the state of Maharashtra that has a 400 year old history. There is heck of information on this great city of Aurangabad on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurangabad,_Maharashtra

Ajanta:
Next day (16th November 2011), we booked an A/C cab for Rs.2000/- that took us to the famous Ajanta Caves. The road was excellent and picturesque




More details about Ajanta Caves here at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajanta_Caves
It was quite sunny and it is advisable you wear goggles and an cap. The distance from Aurangabad to Ajanta Caves was around 100 Kilometers and it took us 3 hours to reach that place.

So, if you are planning for a visit to Ajanta Caves, leave a whole day for it. Which is what we did. A mini bus would take you from the Highway to the Caves entrance at a nominal rate of Rs.20/- (I guess). There is no option but to walk the entire cave system. There are people with palanquins who take the older people in them. Since we didn't require it, didn't thought of enquiring about the price. Since we were traveling with my 4 year old kid (my second one came later) we had to take care of her health too as there is a lot of walking to do.


By the time we reached back to our hotel, it was late in the evening. Had dinner and kicked the bed.

Grishneshwar:
Grishneshwar is one of the 12 Jyothirlingams in India. It is around 30 Kilometers from Aurangabad. More information Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grishneshwar


Got up early and directly went to Grishneshwar. The original temple is pre-historic that was pulled down the Muslim invaders. Rani Ahilyabai Holkar restored it in the 18th Century.

Grishneshwar is right behind the Ellora cave system. From here, we went to the Ellora Caves.

Ellora Caves:
More information about Ellora caves here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellora_Caves
Ellora caves is a mixture of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. The most noted one is the Kailashnath Temple (Lord Shiva Temple) that had been sculpted top down of a mountain !! It's a marvel in itself.
There are Autos that ferry you across all the caves for Rs.250/- to Rs.400/- depending upon the season. No such luck at Ajanta Caves.





We completed Ellora Caves by 12PM and from here, left for Dautalabad Fort that is on the way to Aurangabad.

Daulatabad Fort:
This is a 12th Century fort that was built by the Yadava Dynasty rulers. More information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daulatabad,_Maharashtra

It's quite tough walking up the entire fort. There is a narrow passage way that is in complete darkness. Without a guide, it is very difficult to pass this phase of the fort. A guide would be sitting over there all through. Better you also take a good torch light. That would be of great help.













By the time we are back on the road, it was around 4PM and we started off for Aurangabad.

Panchakki:
Panchakki is a water mill that is attached to a Sufi Saint's Dargah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchakki This is built in the 17th Century by one of the officials of the Nizam of Hyderabad under whom this entire area comes.








Bibi Ka Maqbara (Mini Taj Mahal):
Bibi Ka Maqbara or Mini Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by the tyrant Aurangazeb in the memory of his wife. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibi_Ka_Maqbara

By the time we reached there, it was around 5PM. It's like poor man's Taj Mahal. It is almost half the size of the original Taj Mahal in Agra. But, as it is, it looked beautiful.






Since there was nothing left to visit, booked a bus ticket to Hyderabad by Omer Travels and cancelled our train ticket for the next day.

Very important to note is that, there are literally no buses that ply between Aurangabad and Hyderabad except Omer Travels and this bus is Non-A/C.

Had a great memorable trip within a short span of 3 days !!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rameswaram - Dhanuskodi

Rameswaram is located near the Gulf of Mannar which separates Rameswaram Island with Mannar in Srilanka. Rameswaram island is in the shape of a Conch (Shanku) and is connected with Indian mainland via the Pamban Bridge.


According to the Hindu Puranas, upon the advice of Rishis (sages), Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana, installed and worshiped the Sivalinga here to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya (killing of a Brahmin).(Ravana, the son of Vishrava and the great grandson of Brahma). Rama fixed an auspicious time for the installation and sent Anjaneya to Mount Kailas to bring a lingam. As Anjaneya could not return in time, Sita herself made a linga of sand. When Anjaneya returned with a linga from Mount Kailas the rituals had been over. To comfort the disappointed Anjaneya, Rama had Anjaneya’s lingam (Visvalingam) also installed by the side of Ramalinga, and ordained that rituals be performed first to the Visvalingam.

More information on Rameswaram can be found on the Wikipedia Link.

How to get there:
Rameswaram is well connected through trains and buses all across Tamilnadu. Nearest Airport is at Madurai which is around 175KM from Rameswaram. We took the Rameswaram Express from Chennai that reached Rameswaram at around 4:45AM. Just across the Railway station is Hotel Vinayaga which is the only better Hotel in Rameswaram. It has a lift, A/C Rooms, Excellent Room Service and a Vegetarian Restaurant.

The only problem for South Indians is that Hotel Vinayaga doesnot offer South Indian food and we found out that majority of the people who come to Rameswaram are North Indians !! But, the quality of food is really good and we sticked to Biriyani and Pulav. The railway station is clearly visible from our Room. From the Railway station to Temple, the auto guy would take around Rs.40/-

The Ramanathar Temple:
The temple was developed by various kings starting from 12th Century onwards. Since there is no attack from Muslim Kings on Rameswaram, the Temple stands as it is. This temple is visited by both the Vaishnavites and Shivites. The temple comprises twenty two wells where the taste of the water of each well is different from the other. One has to take bathe in all these 22 wells.
Outside the temple, guys would approach you to help you take bath. They would charge Rs.100/- per person and they would bring along a bucket with which they would take the water out of each well and pour it on you. It is advisable for you to take dry clothing as entry for Darshan is restricted for people who are wet !!

There are separate changing rooms for Men and women inside the temple so that we can change the wet clothes. Our first day went off taking bath at all the 22 temple wells and then again another Darshan in the evening.

Dhanuskodi:
I can say that trip to Dhanuskodi from Rameswaram is one the most memorable ones in my entire life. There is an old railway station at Dhanuskodi that got washed off in the typhoon of 1964. Dhanuskodi is around 20KM from Rameswaram.
The guys at Hotel Vinayaga have booked a 4X4 Jeep to Dhanuskodi for us costing Rs.1100/- for the trip that would last for 3-4 hours. I got creeps when the guy started filling Diesel in a plastic can which he kept near my feet.

The guy explained that the diesel tank has a hole and this is his temporary setup.

Lucky to inform that nothing on-toward happened because of this "arrangement".
This is a single but well paved road that goes all the way till an Observation point near Dhanuskodi Railway station. We have to take a left turn onto the sandy backwaters of Bay of Bengal. We traveled around 10KM on this sandy (some places, watery) road till we reached Dhanuskodi beach.

We didn't see a single soul all through the route but we have seen some local fishermen walking through the backwaters. The tarred road which we took, half a kilometer on the left is the Bay of Bengal and half a kilometer on the right is the Indian Ocean. The one good thing here is that this entire half kilometer on either side is covered with trees.

The weather was very clear and there were no rains to ruin our day. I think this is the best season to visit Rameswaram. Rainy season is pretty far off. At the sametime, the weather is not as sticky and sultry as it is in Chennai. If you are visiting Rameswaram, plan in such a way that you are spending two days there covering Dhanuskodi too.

It is said that Lord Rama on his way to Srilanka asked the King of Ocean to help him and so, you can clearly see that there are hardly any waves on the Bay of Bengal and you would feel that you are watching a huge swimming pool which has no borders. It looked so beautiful. Whereas we can see 7ft - 10ft waves crashing on the beach during the day time. Imagine how it would be during the nights and on full moon nights.
From Dhanuskodi only Lord Rama had laid the Ram Setu - bridge connecting Dhanuskodi on the Indian side with Srilanka's Mannar Island.

Geologists say that there is a natural coral bridge that exists between Dhanuskodi and Mannar on which Lord Rama might have laid a bridge made up of stones. So, whatever is written in the Ramayana is proved by the satellite images that show natural coral bridge which has comparatively shallow waters, the route which Lord Rama might have exploited on his journey to Srilanka.
Tamilnadu state under an Atheist Government planned to develop a shipping route cutting across the Ram Setu that would help big ships to connect both sides of the state. Presently Ships have to travel down to Srilanka's Southern coast and again up to the Indian coast.

Forgetting about the historical importance, this would have been a disaster during a Tsunami which has proved during the Tsunami of 2004 that killed more than 2.5 lakhs throughout South East Asia, South Asia and as far as North Africa. South Tamilnadu was mostly saved due to the Ram Setu (also called as Adam's Bridge).

Under pressure from historians and religious heads and also the central Government, Tamilnadu Government had to back down and since been people have thrown out that Government. The starting of Ram Setu is clearly visible to the naked eye from the edge of Dhanuskodi. Lot of people take bath at the confluence of Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean here at Dhanuskodi.

Kothanda Ramar Temple:
We started back after spending an hour on the confluence of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. On the way back, the Jeep driver took us to Kothanda Ramar Temple where Lord Rama had proclaimed Vibheeshana (brother of the Demon King, Ravana who kidnapped
Lord Rama's wife, Sita).

This temple is located in-between the Backwaters of Bay of Bengal. There is a road leading to this temple which is surrounded by shallow waters. Vibheeshana was proclaimed as the King of Srilanka after he surrendered to Lord Rama. Despite people warning against aligning with an opponent, Lord Rama tells them that it is Human to help someone who surrenders.

We have observed the presence of Police who were checking every vehicle that is going on this road. I think the pressure on them eased after LTTE Chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed during the war with the Srilankan Army. They did a decent job by peeping into the Jeep and checking us out.

Abdul Kalam House:
After our lunch, we hired a Jatka (Horse drawn cart) and visited the house of India's former President, Mr.Abdul Kalam who was born and brought up in Rameswaram. Since it is not made a monument, his extended family is still living in that house and so, we were not allowed inside. Took some snaps from the outside and felt happy.

In the night, we took the train Cape Express to Kanya Kumari.

This is one of my most memorable journeys along with my journeys to Kedarnath - Badrinath in the Himalayas and the Thar Desert in Rajasthan State.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Srisailam (శ్రీశైలం)



DAY 1: Mallela Theertham:
This place is a 8KM diversion from the highway around 30 KM before Srisailam.
Took the 8KM muddy road and after that 350 steps down to the beautiful waterfalls.
The forest department objected to a metal road. So, had tough time on the muddy road.
It would be very difficult during rainy season.
So, the best season to visit this place is from October till January when there would be good amount of water.



Locals informed us that water falls would be throughout the year - but, we had serious doubts on it.

The waterfalls is in the midst of the thick jungle.
The sight of the water directly falling on a Shiva Lingam is mesmerizing.
Since we were not prepared to get wet, we just took some snaps at the water falls and took the torturous journey of 350 steps back to our car.

Srisailam:

We reached Srisailam at around 3PM, skipping our lunch, booked in a hotel (Ganga Sadan), went to the boating point.

We took a cable car down to the River Krishna and then did boating near the dam area. (Rs.60/- per person)
Came back up through the cable car and then we set out for Shikhara Darshanam.
People believe that if we can spot the golden "Kalash" on top of the Sanctum Santorum of the temple from the Shikharam, we would not have another "janma" (birth).
We would attain "Moksham" !!
Alas, with the thick growth of forest, it was impossible to spot it.
Shikharam is around 15KM from Srisailam, on the road towards Dornala and Mahanandi.
On our way back, we went to Phaala Dhaara Pancha Dhaara.
This is the place where the great saint, Adi Shankaracharya did penance and wrote two books, Soundarya Lahari and Shivananda Lahari.

Went to our Hotel, got freshen up and then went to the Lord Shiva Temple for Darshan.
Srisailam is one of the 12 Jyothirlingams in the country and is also called as Dakshin Kashi.
Had our dinner at AP Tourism Hotel and came back to our hotel for a good night sleep as we have planned for a very busy schedule the next day.

DAY 2: Akka Mahadevi Caves:

Got up early (8AM) and went again to the temple for Darshan of the Lord.
Heavy rush was there since it was a Sunday.

After darshan, had our lunch and directly went to the boating spot.
It was a 16Km journey upstream in the Krishna River.
Akkamahadevi was a saint from Karnataka State who did penance on Lord Shiva in the cave system nearby.
It was a small cave system but very narrow and with lots of bats inside which made it very scary as there were literally no lights.
Luckily the guide who came along with us, brought a Battery Light and I too carried a battery light along with me and this helped us a lot.
Our guide was a Muslim and he explained all the Hindu mythologies and the story around Akkamaha Devi with the same interest that a Hindu would explain.


Since time was there, we climbed that mountain and peeped into other cave systems nearby.

This trip costed Rs.150/- per each person and if we want tickets, we need to book them by 9AM and the boat starts at around 10.30AM.

Ishta Kameshwari Temple:

By the time we came back to our Hotel, it was around 3PM and we skipped lunch for the second day.
Then, we hired a local Mahindra Jeep (Rs. 1200/- for four of us) for this trip.
But, if the jeep is full (atleast 10 people), then the impact of the bumps would be minimal.

So, while coming back, we gave a ride to 4 people who were stuck up there.
Ishta Kameshwari Temple is around 25KM from Srisailam, on the road towards Dornala and Mahanandi.
This place is 10 KM from Shikharam and this 10 KM stretch is the most exciting part which forced us to hire a 4X4 Jeep instead of our car.

The Jeep was specifically marketed by Mahindra company targeting the rural segment.
Such was the state of Indian roads.
The temple is very small where we need to crawl into it and do puja ourselves and come out.
It was located in the middle of a dense forest and in a tribal village.
The forehead of the idol where traditional Hindu Bindi is kept is as soft as the forehead of an ordinary female.

By the time we reached back to Srisailam, it was around 7PM.
We took bath and went to the AP Tourism Hotel for dinner.

DAY 3: Bheemuni Kolanu:

If all the above places are kept at one side, Bheemuni Kolanu can be kept at the other side and it would be a perfect balance.
Bheemuni Kolanu is a place where during the Mahabharata period, the mighty warrior, Bheema when felt thirsty, created this pond (kolanu).
To reach this place, we have to take the road opposite to Phaala dhara pancha dhara.
Go in the muddy road for 5KM which is full of rocks.


Driving this road during rainy season would be next to impossible.
End of the road, we need to park our vehicle and climb down three hills and in the bottom of the third hill is Bheemuni Kolanu.
It took us one and hours for us to walk down the hills and another two hours to climb back.
When we took the road, there was no help for us. After driving for sometime, the road became almost unmotorable.

Then, we walked to a distance and decided to return back as there was dense foilage around the narrow road.
This area is famous for Tigers, Cheetah's and Bears.
Since we didnt want to take any risk further, we returned back.
Then we saw a guy walking towards us.
He gave us valuable information and told us that there is no risk during the day time.
By the time we came back to Srisailam, it was around 12.
We had our lunch and then set our to Hyderabad and reached Hyderabad at around 5PM.

Ultimately, this is what Srinivas says about our trip:

Four of us we were, started with mood upbeat
hogs we were not but adventure took the heat
the car was black but our smiles spelt white on close up teeth
the number plate was hanging loose
so with string we tied it up and said dance to the music and rock the winds
mallella theertham was our first halt, it aint niagara but it had its own magic
deep in the gorge the waterfalls spelt sprinkling music, the aura was majestic
351 steps we climbed down and 351 steps we climbed up with halt every 50 steps
farther up the srisailam dam stood tall and huge,
no gates were open no water plunged from heights
but the bridge across was not that far but it shaked to our steps and soft beats
we took the ropeway and travelled width and breadth on boat and river waters
akkamahadevi caves said bats,16miles you travelled across to visit
dont scare us with your candles and torch the heat
the road map to ishta kameshwari was rugged and splintered with rocks amid forest deep
mahindra jeep said we take pride in our journey proving our mettle in cross country wild
disco was never so sweet rocking to the nature we sat with tension, holding breath
we breathed a sigh when it was all over and said
what a ride to remember and thanked our driver with plenty of tip
but that was not all, when beemuni kolanu invited us to take a pitch
we climbed down a mile with steps on gorge, one, two, three mountains deep,
sticks guarding from bear and monkey and what other animals roamed wild and hills steep
while our guide was a wild hog, carrying 50kg grass on his back to sell for cows and sheep
what a journey said we, four of us were we
the car was black but our smiles spelt white on close up teeth
a spiritual adventure was never so sweet
so we thanked god and said we cherish your spirit and glad to worship.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Nagarjunasagar (నాగార్జునసాగర్)

Route to Nagarjuna Sagar from Hyderabad:

LakdiKaPul - Koti - Nalgonda "X" Roads (Take the flyover here) - Santosh Nagar (Take left from here) - Sagar Highway - Ibrahimpatnam - Wanaparthy - Takkallapally - Chintapally - Nagarjuna Sagar

The state highway is a good one with limited traffic.


This route is famous for local drink called "Kallu". Kallu is a liquid extracted from "Thaati Chettu" (Sugar Plan Tree). It is a good drink if consumed before sunrise.

Best time to visit:

* During rainfall, entire Hyderabad city would be here watching the lifting of gates of the Dam. So, don't go at this time as you would not find food and accommodation. You can try if it is just a one day tour.
* Best time is between August - January.
* You can book the AP Tourism Hotel at Nagarjuna Sagar or at Ethipothala. Ethipothala has just 10 rooms. So, book them atleast one month prior to your visit. Try to book at Ethipothala only as the location is too good.


You can book for the room from any of the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Offices in the country.

AP Tourism, Ethipothala: 08680-277361
AP Tourism, Punnami Hill Colony: 08680-276540
AP Tourism, Vijay Vihar: 08680-277363/277363


The image on the right gives you the details for how to book for accommodation at AP Tourism Hotels at Nagarjuna Sagar and Ethipothala.

About Acharya Nagarjuna:

Acharya (Monk) Nagarjuna was the person who started Mahayana Buddhism and he preached it through India wandering. The Buddhists built a Monastery at Nagarjuna Konda where Nagarjuna taught.

You can know more about here Acharya Nagarjuna.

About Nagarjunasagar:

Nagarjuna Sagar, an erstwhile prominent Buddhist center, is the most attractive tourist spot in Andhra Pradesh. Named after the Buddhist monk, Acharya Nagarjuna, it is today the major hydel power station in Andhra Pradesh.


It is the tallest masonry dam in the World, constructed on the river Krishna. Nagarjuna Sagar dam is located on the border of Guntur - Nalgonda districts. The dam was completed in 1966 and it is 124 meters high and 1 km long.It is built across the river Krishna and has one of the largest networks of canal systems irrigating over 2,000,000 acres of land in Guntur, Prakasam, Nalgonda and Krishna districts. 4 kms away from the dam, is the viewpoint, where a panoramic view of the amazing landscape, is simply a feast to the eyes. One can find the image of Nagarjuna, on a pylon not too far from the dam.

Places Around Nagarjuna Sagar:

There are many places of tourist interest near this place like Ethiopothala waterfalls, and the thick forest of the Srisailam Wildlife Reserve. This reserve is part of Project Tiger, and supports a variety of animals, birds and reptiles.

The dam is a spectacular sight and attracts a lot of tourists, during the floods in Krishna. Centuries ago, a city named Vijayapuri flourished in this area as a center of Buddhist studies. The city later served as the capital of the Ikshvaku kindom, and, today, the town bears the name Nagarjunasagar, in tribute to Acharya Nagarjuna, the founder of Mahayana Buddhism. In this beautiful township are found the sacred remains of one of the most ancient civilizations in the world.

The Nagarjunasagar Dam is a symbol of modern India's architectural and technological triumphs. The construction of the dam resulted in the formation of the world's largest man-made lake and a captivating vista of India's natural beauty.

Anupu:

Anupu is 8KM from AP Tourism Boating Station.


Anupu is the place where Acharya Nagarjuna preached Mahayana Buddhism. He is the founder of Mahayana branch of Buddhism. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) had re-constructed the entire area which consists of a University with class rooms, rooms for teachers, lecture hall and an amphi theater.

Reconstruction and Formation:

The reconstructed stupas have circular brick or rubble walls, which have cladding of limestone slabs or plaster. The Simha Vihara has two Chaitya halls, one encircling a Buddha image. The Chaitya Halls and monasteries had limestone column set in to brick or stonewalls. However only the lower portions including the pavement slabs and access steps survive.


Nagarjunakonda also has remains of some Hindu shrines. The island has an archaeological museum rich in sculptures mainly from the 3rd - 4th century AD and also a few pieces from much later periods. The reconstruction sites are at Anupu on the east bank of the river, which include a temple, monasteries and a Stadium. The monastery has also a refectory, a store and a bath. The stadium has tiered galleries providing around a rectangular court.

This is a very huge place and we were informed by the security guard there that the people living in Anupu village were re-located to enable the re-construction.


The Security Guard took us round the entire place giving us some insight about the place. Apart from a notice board that contains a very few lines about the place, Andhra Pradesh Tourism had not done anything that would lead to increase in visitors to the place.


In 2006, His Holiness, The Dalai Lama visited the place and planted a Bodhi Tree (Hindus from ages call this tree as Raavi Chettu or Peepal Tree). Almost every Hindu Temple would have this tree. Being a copycat religion, Buddhism had copied lot of things from Hinduism.


The interesting part is that we saw the road leading towards the river banks. We took this road which is just 5 Feet Wide. The road was good to some extent and later it was a bit bumpy and it directly led us to the Krishna River banks. This was one part of the journey where we enjoyed the scenery. The road was quite narrow and thick foliage surrounded the road. There are lot of garden lizards at this place and I had to slow down the car to make sure Iam not killing them. One of them saved our lives as I stopped the car for it to cross and in the opposite side from a blind curve, a Tata Sumo was coming towards our direction with considerable amount of speed.


The guy saw our car in the last minute and he slowed down while I already started to move back using the reverse gear. We found out that there is a road that directly leads us to Macherla without driving through Nagarjuna Sagar. From Macherla, there is a direct road to Ethipothala, where we booked rooms.


This road is just 10 feet wide, near zero traffic and surrounded by hills and wide plains. Gave a real good thrill driving on this road. Must road to take-up if you are put up at Ethipothala Water falls.


Macharla Chenna Kesava Swamy Temple:

This temple was built in 1113AD as a Shaivite Temple. During the reign of Brahma Naidu, it was converted into a Vaishvanite Temple.


One of the main reasons why lot of Hindus converted into Buddhism is the animosity between the those worshiping Lord Vishnu and those worshiping Lord Shiva. People got fed up with this constant conflict between both the sects and converted.
Lucky for us, Adi Shankaracharya preached Advaitha Philosophy which says God is One and God is none but YOU. After his preachings, Hindus who converted into Buddhism returned to the fold and thus Buddhism vanished from India.

Ethipothala Water Falls:

Located 11 Kms. from the Nagarjunasagar is the picturesque Ethipothala waterfalls. The cascading waterfalls are formed by the water flowing down from Chandravanka Mountains from a height of about 70 feet and are a spectacle worth watching. They are a radiant sight of the power and beauty of nature. This is a famous picnic spot, set in a beautiful valley. Here the Chandravankas stream plunges into a lagoon. The rising place of the river Chandra Vanka is at Muthukuru, on the eastern part of the Nallamala hills. The river falls from a great height before it joins the Tumurukota reserve forest and this place called "Ethipothala water falls" finally joins the Krishna river.


The meaning of Ethipothala is - Ethi (we call then Yathulu in Telugu) means Rishis and Thapothala means Place of Penance - Where Rishis did penance.

By the time we reached Ethipothala Water Falls, it was around 5PM. We checked into our rooms and immediately set off to Dattatreya Swamy Temple which is located very near to the water falls.


Actually, rainy season starts in the month of June. But, the South Eastern Monsoon failed and there were no rails till now. So, hardly any water in the water falls. The route to this temple starts just beside the main gate to the water falls. We need to take couple of stairs down into the valley and then rough pathways.

We were on high alert as there is a crocodile breeding farm below the water falls. Also, we were expecting snakes on our way as it is completely covered with bushes. We went till the Temple. But there were too many monkeys making noise and we were least interested to bother them. We didn't had the Darshan of the Lord.


From there, we slowly went towards the waterfalls. Since there is hardly any water, it was quite easy for us to go till the waterfalls. But, the entire place is full of bushes and shrubs making our movement very slow and tension filled.

We were informed that there are crocodiles near the waterfalls. But, we found none of them. Maybe our luck or bad luck!!


We carefully started walking back to the stairs and we found ourselves surrounded by Monkeys. There are lots and lots of Monkeys here. Sometimes amusing but most of the times, they are aggressive. Except for this, the location is absolutely stunning (if water is there). If not, it is "okay". Lucky for us, they were not aggressive enough for us to panic and we safely reached our hotel rooms. Early in the morning, these Monkeys run on the tin roofed rooms waking you up early in the morning.

We played around in the garden for sometime and then went inside our rooms to freshen up. If we need dinner, we need to give the order by 7PM as the entire staff would not be present at that remote location. To give us company, only two security guards would be there for the entire night. Whatever happens, they have to take care. Since there were no rains, there is acute power shortage here and power would be given only for 6-7 hours per day. Power would be there during the nights and not guarantee during the day time.


Before planning to stay at AP Tourism Hotel at Ethipothala (Phone Number: 08680-277361) it is advisable to call the guys there and inquire about:
* Water levels in the waterfalls
* Power problems
* Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner timings.

While going there, better carry the following with you:
* Blankets
* Torch Light
* Mosquito Repellents
* Emergency Light - if possible
* Battery powered fan - if possible

There is no problem with food at this location nor problems with water and cool drinks. Since there is no Pub / Bar, it is better you buy all your Beers and hot drinks from Nagarjuna Sagar itself or from the city you are coming or from Macherla.

Cell Phone Coverage:

Till date, Government owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) coverage is very good at Nagarjuna Sagar and Ethipothala. Very limited or negligible coverage of private operators like Airtel, Tata Idea or Vodafone. Airtel's nearest tower is located at Macherla. So, very limited connectivity.While there are lot of Telephone coin boxes at Nagarjuna Sagar, the same is not present at Ethipothala.

Power went off at around 9PM and the guys at AP Tourism have switched on the generators. They switched it off at around 5AM and power came back at 9AM. We had our breakfast (only Poori is available) there and vacated the room at 10AM.

Nagarjuna Konda:

Remnants of a rich bygone era, unearthed from the excavations carried out by archaeologists at Nagarjunasagar, have been preserved in a museum on a beautiful island hill called Nagarjuna Konda.


Situated in the middle of the man-made Nagarjunasagar Lake, Nagarjunakonda is a unique island museum. Constructed in the shape of a vihara, or a monastery, the museum houses an impressive collection of Buddhist relics. The main stupa of Nagarjunakonda is purported to contain the sacred relics of Buddha himself.

By the time we reached Nagarjuna Sagar from Ethipothala (15 KM of winding roads), it was around 11AM. We directly went to the Launch Station to alight the Launch (big boat) which takes us to Nagarjuna Konda where ancient Buddhist relics were found and a 40 year old Museum is located. We were informed that AP Tourism would run the launch only if there are a minimum of 50 people available.


Launch would be available 3-4 times in a day during weekends. On weekdays, it would be maximum twice. It is advisable to immediately go to the launch station once you reach Nagarjuna Sagar and find out the timings of the launch to Nagarjuna Konda.

These boats can carry from 150 - 300 people. Nagarjuna Konda is around 20KM upstream Krishna River and the journey takes an hour. One hour on the Nagarjuna Konda and one hour return journey. There is a cafetaria on the island and you can get eatables there - just in case you forgot to take any with you.


Once we are on the island, we were told to come back to the boat within one hour after going through the museum and the excavated sites. I felt one hour is a too less time. The museum has an awesome collection of Buddhist artifacts and the lineage of the Kings who ruled Nagarjuna Sagar and also a beautiful chart depicting how Telugu language changed according to ages.

Lot of research has been done and the entire research was presented in this museum. This would be a very interesting museum for young researchers.

There is a beautiful Saibaba Temple at Chintapalli. This is a MUST visit.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ganagapur Temple (గాణగాపూర్ / गाणगापूर)

Lord Dattatreya is an embodiment of all the energies of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva - the Hindu Holy Trinity. Lord Dattatreya is born to Sage Atri and his wife, Anasuya Devi. He is known as the Gurudeva Datta - The Guru of All Gurus.

Ganagapur - A Brief History:

Shreekshetra Ganagapur, One of the most famous Dattatreya Peethas, is associated with Shri Narasimha Saraswati Swami, an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. It stands on the bank of the river Bhima in Afzalpur taluka in Gulbarga district of Karnataka. This Nirguna Math is adorned with the Nirguna Padukas. The water of the rivers Bhima and Amaraja, especially at the spot of their confluence, are considered extremely holy.


You got to read Ganagapur as గాణగాపూర్ in Telugu and as गाणगापूर in Hindi.

The first incarnation of Lord Dattatreya in Kaliyug is Shripad Shri Vallabha (1320 AD - 1350 AD) who is born at Pithapuram in the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh State. You can get more information of Shripad Shri Vallabha here. Shri Vallabha spent most of his life time at a place called Kuravpur in Mehaboob Nagar District of Andhra Pradesh (on the border with Karnataka State).

Swamy Narasimha Saraswati (1378 AD−1458 AD) is considered as the second incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. He lived at Karanjapur which is modern Lad-Karanja in Maharashtra. His surname is Kale. He was born in Deshastha Brahmin family.

Ganagapur Temple has the sacred "Padukas" (foot-ware) of Sri Narasimha Saraswati. You can get more information here on Sri Narasimha Saraswati.

Reach Ganagapur:

We started off at Hyderabad and took to Mumbai National Highway (NH9)which is exceptionally good despite the fact that it is just a two lane road. Four laning of the road is under process and I think it would take hell of time to finish it. We briefly stopped at AP Tourism Haritha Restaurant which is quite decent.


We reached Humnabad in Karnataka State after passing through Zaheerabad in Andhra Pradesh State. You need to stick to the Mumbai Highway By-Pass and within two kilometers, you would see another National Highway (NH 218)taking a left towards Gulbarga (the name has been changed to Kalburgi). The Highway from Hyderabad to Humnabad is pretty good and the Highway from Humnabad to Gulbarga is too good with excellent scenery. If you are planning, try to take this route during the daytime. Sadly, both ways, we took this route during the nights.

Once you reach Gulbarga, take a right turn once you cross a huge tower and that road goes to Afzalpur. You need to ask for Afzalpur Road, just in case you miss out anywhere. It is a by-pass and you don't need to go into Gulbarga Town at all. From Gulbarga, Ganagapur is 35 Kilometers away. It is State Highway 22.


People from Karnataka, Iam sorry to say this but you guys need to really concentrate on Infrastructure. The 35 Kilometer drive from Gulbarga to Ganagapur took us an hour !! The road is so horrible, you have potholes every few meters. Out of 35 KM, only 5 KM has got no potholes, rest is hopeless. The Government seems to just ignore development!! If Government needs to sit up and take note of the fact that Shiridi Sai Baba devotees flock to Lord Dattatreya Temples and you got Millions of Baba devotees in Andhra Pradesh. If you plan to attract these people and improve the areas in your state, you need to first concentrate on infrastructure !! If not, since people have no confidence on the rulers but on God would still go - Only in Hundreds. You improve infrastructure, you can see lakhs visiting those places.

By the time we reached Ganagapur on this horrendous road, it ate away our crucial time as it was already dark and driving in dark on such a road is suicidal !! But, do we have another option ??

Important Note: If you are not so religious,DONOT visit Ganagapur on Full Moon (Pournima) Days. One guy there told us that you will see people only on Pournima days and rest of the days, they would be chasing flies and dogs.

We didn't know about this and we reached there bang on on Rakhi Pournima !! The village is dusty and the visibility in this dust is very low as there are hundreds of cars and buses creating a huge traffic chaos. There is NO presence of Police here.


Generally, you can get accommodation at any of the Pujaris house. If you are planning to visit on a Pournima day, make sure you book everything well before. One Pujari there helped us with Puja the next day. His name is Shri Dinanath Pujari and you can reach him at 09741427093 and 09448902717. There are lots of Mutt's which can provide you basic accommodation. DONOT expect A/C and Western toilet accommodation in Ganagapur.

We were unable to find any place to stay and we had to to make the trip back to Gulbarga at 10PM !! Lucky for us, I took a printout of hotel numbers in Gulbarga which is fourth largest city in Karnataka state. Gulbarga forms the Kannada speaking areas of the erstwhile Nizam State. This entire district is backward. There is lot of Marathi influence in these areas as you can see more number of Marathis than Kannadigas in Ganagapur. Visitors wise, people from Telangana are in majority and in no time, this place would become another Shiridi where Telugus outnumber Marathi visitors. Mark my words, in another 10 years, you would be seeing Telugu sign boards there in Ganagapur as you see lot of Telugu sign boards in Shiridi!!

I booked at Hotel Heritage Inn which is near City Market, SV Temple Road, Gulbarga. Their Phone Number is 08472-224093/94. Decent Hotel with A/C rooms costing Rs.950/- and non-A/C costing around Rs.600/-. They have a Restaurant too and food is quite good. We booked this unknown Hotel at 11PM and we were lucky that we didn't had any bad surprises waiting. We had a really good sleep rest of the night.

Next day, we reached Ganagapur by 11AM and a huge swarm of people were waiting for us in the Temple and at one point of time, we thought of giving up the Darshan too. Such was the rush. We got Mr.Dinanath Pujari and he asked us to come back after 2PM when he can help us for a Puja costing around Rs.2500/-

We left for a visit to Audambar (Fig / Kalpavriksha) Tree on the banks of River Bhima. This place is around 5KM from the main temple. It is said that Narasimha Saraswati's presence is felt at this place in Nirguna Rupa and so, many people sit there and read the Guru Charitra which was written by Shri Saraswati Gangadhar during the 15-16 centuries. The book has mainly the life story of Shri Narasimha Saraswati , his philosophy and some related stories.


We spent sometime there and went back for Darshan. We could able to conduct the Puja successfully after pushing and heckling through people. My experience of visiting Tirumala more than 40 times while doing MBA there in Tirupati helped me in "People Management" !!

We started off from Gulbarga at 6:45PM and reached Home at 11PM after a very tiring but a sacred journey.

My Travelogues

Iam an ardent traveler and I visit lot of places in the year either with family or friends.

I started this blog mainly to let others know of my experiences visiting these places and make sure my comments would be helpful to them in their travel plans.

Most of my concentration would be on my experiences than the history of the places.

Thanks to my colleague Indrani who suggested this apt name to my blog and to Shipra who suggested me the beautiful layout. My other colleagues, Divya and Sunanda who themselves are travel freaks have pledged their help to make this blog useful for others.

Luv,
Madhav