India

Shanti Stupa In Leh

Finding peace at Shanti Stupa

We hiked to the Shanti Stupa, one of the iconic structures in Leh. Located at a height of almost 12000 ft – overlooking the city, it was commissioned in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist, Gyomyo Nakamura with the aim to promote world peace. The stupa is always surrounded by enthusiastic tourists and its next to impossible to take a photo without one.

Surrounded by lofty mountains the Shanti Stupa has a special place in the cultural history of Ladakh This white-domed Stupa on a hilltop in Leh district of Ladakh was conceived by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura as part of the Peace Pagoda mission Walk to Shanti Stupa We had spent the day first exploring Namgyal Tsemo Gompa and Leh Palace The wandering had left us a bit tired After a short afternoon nap at the Shaolin Guest House, we left for the peace pagoda We walked down Sankar road and then onto the Shanti Stupa Road The walk is not difficult but it is not recommended for tourists coming from the plains as they might experience breathlessness because of the high
Avani Betta

Hike to Avani Betta

The vivid blue skies of Bangalore pushed me out of the cozy sanctity of my home towards this little known hillock in Avani. Just about 80 km away from the bustling city of Bangalore this site finds its name in the legendary tale of Ramayana. Yes, this hill, hidden far away from away from the casual tourists is said to be the location of the ancient ashram of sage Valmiki, who sheltered Sita during her exile, where she gave birth to Luv & Kush.

This is a two-part series I started writing it as one story, because they are so intimately intertwined, but the article got so big that it made more sense to break it up into two parts for ease of reading Avani is a tiny hamlet in the Mulbagal Taluk (group of villages) of Kolar district, just 80 km away from Bangalore The first part of my journal describes the history of Avani and the reason behind the creation of the Ramalingeswara group of temples that lie at the base of Avani hill or Avani Betta as it is locally called After a thorough exploration of the 10th century Ramalingeswara temple,
Ramalingeshwara Temple complex

Exploring the Ramalingeswara Temple

Today we go to explore a Shiva temple raised to cleanse the sins of Rama and his brothers. The Avani village forms an intricate part of the story of Ramayana, as the birthplace of Luv & Kush. The shivalings at the Ramalingeshwara Temple here is said to be established by the Ayodhya princes themselves to absolve them of their sins of waging war against the twin adolescents.

The amazing thing about living in Bangalore is that any direction I choose, each road going out of the city leads us to some special location, all within a radius of 100 kilometers Today we drive to a remote village called Avani to explore a 10th century temple Avani is a small village in Karnataka in the Kolar district, situated at a distance of 80 km from Bangalore It was February and the skies appeared so blue and devoid of haze, it was just vanilla to the eyes So on an early Saturday morning, we jumped into our SUV and left towards Kolar Bangalore to Avani
Vitthala Temple in Hampi

Heritage walk to Vittala Temple

Today I go on a heritage walk to the majestic Vittala Temple, dedicated to Vitthala, the South India name of Vishnu. Built around the 15th Century CE, and expanded several times by succeeding kings of the Vijaynagar empire with the most extravagant architecture and exceptional craftsmanship, the temple is the main attraction of Hampi.

Today I went on a heritage walk to the majestic Vittala Temple Built around the 15th century CE, and expanded several times by succeeding kings of the Vijayanagar empire, it is the epicenter of Hampi’s attractions This time, I was in Hampi along with a trekking group from Bangalore It was another day of missed opportunities I was awake at 5 am, ready for new experiences in Hampi We were supposed to observe the sunrise from Anjaneya hill as per schedule but our trek leader himself got up at 6 am and by that time hiking up Anjaneya hill was a lost cause I wandered around the open spaces near our
Anegundi

The Monkey Kingdom of Kishkindha

Today I went to explore the quiet town of Anegundi. As per the legend of Ramayana, the city used to be known as Kishkindha where Bali and Sugreeva, the monkey kings used to rule. The monkeys though have been driven away by the growing number of foreign tourists and it is just the mystifying boulders that remain to tell us the story of what was once a strange but interesting kingdom.

Today I went to explore the quiet town of Anegundi I was here with a trekking group from Bangalore As per the mythological tale of Ramayana, the city used to be known as Kishkindha in ancient times when Vali and Sugreeva, the monkey kings used to rule these lands The monkeys though have been driven away by the growing number of tourists and it is just the mystifying boulders that remain to tell us the story of what was once a strange but interesting kingdom It was 10 am by the time we rode into the ancient city of Anegundi The all night drive from Bangalore had been a quiet one The only excitement was provided by the stunning sunrise
Mahabalipuram Lighthouse

Mahabalipuram Lighthouse

Before we head back to Bangalore, we decided to stop at the Mahabalipuram’s old lighthouse. India’s oldest lighthouse, built around 640 AD by Pallava king Mahendra Pallava stands next to the newer and modern lighthouse. The credit for this visual treat goes to the department of lighthouses and light ships which felicitated the re-opening of the lighthouse for the public, ending a decade-long ban over fears of terrorist threats.

Before we head back to Bangalore, we decided to stop at Mahabalipuram’s old lighthouse Also known as Olakkanesvara Temple, it is India’s oldest lighthouse, built around 640 CE during the reign of Pallava king Rajasimha This lighthouse/temple is categorised as one of the “Group of Monuments” at Mahabalipuram that were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 Currently, the Pallava era lighthouse is a protected monument, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India Olakkanesvara Temple The blue gated entrance to the lighthouse is situated a few meters away from the main Mahabalipuram hillock entrance However one can also visit the lighthouse from the hillock through connected internal paths Just outside the entrance one can find a huge wall relief almost similar
Tiger Cave

Tiger Cave

The Tiger Cave is not really a cave and tigers do not live here either. It is a rock-cut Hindu temple complex with carvings of tiger heads around the structure, located in the hamlet of Saluvankuppam near Mahabalipuram. These rock-cut structures with tiger-head like shapes are believed to have been constructed in 7th century by Pallavas.

Well, let me begin by clearing the air first that the Tiger Cave is not really a cave and tigers do not live here either It is a rock-cut Hindu temple complex with carvings of tiger heads around the structure, located near the coastal village of Saluvankuppam near Mahabalipuram These rock-cut structures with tiger-head like shapes are believed to have been constructed in 7th century during the Pallava reign Among the many sculpted wonders of Mahabalipuram, Tiger cave is one of the lesser visited monuments Located at about 5 km drive from the Shore Temple also makes it somewhat inaccessible I guess auto rides should be available to this place but I had my car around so that was a
Panch Rathas

The monolithic Pancha Rathas

One of the most crowded places in Mahabalipuram, the Five Rathas or Panch Rathas are five monolithic temple structures built by the Pallavas in early 7th century AD. The buildings displaying exquisite carvings are named individually after Draupadi and the five Pandava brothers.

The Pancha Rathas complex is arguably the most crowded place in Mahabalipuram The Five Chariots or Panch Rathas are five monolithic temple structures were built by the Pallavas in early 7th century AD These structures are a part of the Monuments of Mahabalipuram which I have covered in a separate article The buildings displaying exquisite carvings have been named individually after Draupadi and the five Pandava brothers though there is no historical basis for it whatsoever What is even more strange that the Ganesh Ratha found on the Mahabalipuram hill was earlier known as the Arjuna Ratha and the one now called with that name used to be Nakula Ratha
Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple

The Kovils of Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple

I have an affection for stones. Crazy as it might sound, while in Kanchipuram, I dropped by at the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple at the break of dawn. to walk among the oldest mad-made art in the temple city. Located in one of the busiest cities of Tamil Nadu, the temple was commissioned in the 8th century by Rajasimha, the greatest of the kings of the Pallava Dynasty.

Kovil is the Tamil term for a distinct style of Hindu temple with Dravidian architecture Today I explore an 8th century sandstone temple, hidden away in a corner of the temple city of Kanchipuram, that has seen so much history and still stands today to tell us, heritage hunters, stories that have weathered away in the winds of time Bangalore to Kanchipuram Towards the fag-end of 2017, we were on our way towards Mahabalipuram to spend a few days of leisure on the peaceful beaches along the east coast Along the way in Kanchipuram, we had planned a detour for a couple of days to explore the city that is said

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