Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dudhsagar waterfalls

26 January 2008

About Dudhsagar falls:
Dudhsagar is a waterfall in the Karnataka Goa border. It is on the train route connecting Londa in Karnataka to Vasco in Goa. It can be approached either from Kulem in Goa or from Castle Rock in Karnataka.

YHAI Bangalore had organized a trek to Dudhsagar water falls. The plan was to trek to the falls from Castle Rock railway station in Karnataka. I was thinking about this falls for a long time, so decided to join the trek.

Fourteen of us(Aravind, Chandru, Hemanth, Jawahar, Naman, Neetha, Padmaja, Pavan, Rajesh, Sanjay, Sanjitha, Srinivas, Swetha, Vani) started from Bangalore on Friday evening on a Tempo Traveler. It was a tiring journey, one reason was the long distance to Castle Rock from Bangalore and other was the incomplete stretch of Golden Quadrilateral from Chitradurga to Haveri. I could not get much sleep till we crossed Haveri sometime after midnight.

We were in Castle Rock railway station at 8 in the morning. It is a very small town and only residents of the town were the families of railway employees. When we reached the town, railway employees and students had just hoisted National flag on occasion of Republic day and were distributing sweets. Srinivas, from YHAI Sandur joined us here.

After having our breakfast, we started our trek at 9:30AM. We were bit unsure of the distance from Castle Rock to Dudhsagar falls. We asked different people in the station and the answer varied from 12 kms to 22 kms.

The Brazanga ghat track starts from Castle Rock. The distances were properly marked all along the route. The Castle Rock station was marked at 25/000. Within few minutes we were walking on the tracks surrounded by dense forests. It brought back my memories of similar trek done on the Sakleshpur ghat. But unlike Sakleshpur track we were not alone here. This is a busy route with many trains running and we could find trolley men all along the route. Also, the bridges and tunnels are not scary while there were lot of "killer" bridges in Sakleshpur track.

We found a nice little waterfall next to the track. That was after the second tunnel. Chennai Vasco train passed at that point.

After five km of walking (at 29/900) just before the fourth tunnel, we crossed into Goa.

In another 30 minutes, we reached Caranzol railway station (31/200). A goods train was waiting for signal at this station. The station master told that a train was expected shortly and we could take that train to Dudhsagar. When we said that we had come to walk along the track, he told us that we were crazy. But anyway, he was a nice gentleman and told us that we need to walk another 8 km for the falls.

We resumed our walking after resting for 30 minutes in the station. We had walked for couple of kms, Amaravathi express passed ahead of us. We could see the train passing through tunnels and bridges for a long distance.

It was 1:30 in the noon when we reached Dudhsagar railway station (marked at 38/000).
The falls was still one more km downwards. We crossed tunnel 11, which was the last tunnel before the falls. We could see Dudhsagar falls immediately after crossing the tunnel.

Dudhsagar falls is exactly at 39/000 marking, we had trekked for 14 kms from Castle Rock. The view of the falls came as a relief to us. The railway bridge passes through the middle of the falls. The amount of water was less but is expected at this time of the year. The falls had formed a small pool at the base which was an ideal place for swimming.

There was lot of people near the falls. We were the only ones who had taken the trouble of walking while others had either come on train or Jeep (available from Goa side). We could see lot of foreigners at the base of the falls below the railway bridge.

Few people in our group attempted climbing to the top of the falls. It was quite scary on the rocks and I did not even think of trying it.

We had our lunch at the falls and by 4:30PM started our return journey. This time we decided to board the train at Dudhsagar railway station. The Vasco Nizamuddin train arrived at 5:30PM. We boarded the train but without tickets!! Trains officially do not stop at Dudhsagar railway station and tickets are not issued there. The guard at the station had told us not to worry about the tickets. We faced some anxious moments when TC came to us but were relived when he ignored us!! The return journey to Castle Rock just took 30 minutes.

How to reach Castle Rock railway station:

Castle Rock is a difficult place to reach. From Bangalore, trains going to Vasco stops at Castle Rock railway station. There are no buses to Castle Rock. Buses stop at the Castle Rock deviation on NH 4A (Belgaum to Goa route) after the small town of Ramnagar. From here the railway station is 6 kms.

To be continued…..

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Maharashtra trip 8: Devgad, Shani Singnapur and Pandarapu

27 - 28th December 2007

After Ajanta and Aurangabad, we went to Devgad which was our halting point of the day. Not many people (including me) are aware of this small village. But it is a very calm place next to a river with a nice Dattatreya Temple complex.

Next day, we went to Shani Singnapur, a 45 minutes journey from Devgad. There is a Shani Temple here, which is quite famous. The buildings (including toilets) here do not have any doors or windows. Even then there is no robbery reported till date. It is the order of Shani not to have any doors and windows here. The temple itself is quite unique that there are no Priests to worship God. The stone which is worshipped as Shani does not even have roof. People who wish to perform pooja have to take bath and with just one orange panche (lungi) have to perform pooja. Others can only watch from a distance. Women are not allowed to perform Pooja. I just watched while few people in our group took bath and conducted pooja.

Our next destination was Pandarapur, which we reached by lunch time. First we visited a museum. It has many statues of Sadhus and Gods. The interesting point of this museum is the way they have utilized the space. We had a feeling of entering a “Chakravyuva”. The total area of the museum may be 10,000 sq ft but it took an hour to see it and we were just walking for the entire time. I lost count of number of times I climbed up and got down from the stairs.

After lunch, we went to the Vitthala Rukmini Temple. Pandarapur town is a big mess. I would that the entire town looks like a dust bin. One cannot even find a spot which is clean and people are least bothered. Entire town is covered with house flies. Again for the darshan, we had to wait in the queue for one hour. Even the place where we stand for the queue is not clean. Red mark of beetle nuts is everywhere. The priest at the Temple was a cunning guy. I was looking for a Hundi to offer some money and the priest snatched money from my hand.

That was the end of Maharastra part of the trip. We then moved to Bijapur for night stay. Next day, we saw Gol Gumbaz. On the way back to Hubli we visited Kudala Sangama and Banashankari.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Maharasthra trip 7: Ajanta

27 December 2007

The day started early again for us. We left Aurangabad at 5:30 in the morning towards Ajanta. The distance from Aurangabad to Ajanta is about 100 kms. We had breakfast on the way in a Dhaba. We were at Ajanta MTDC bus stop at 8:30AM and were the first ones to stand in the queue.

Vehicles are not allowed for the last 4 km of the Ajanta caves. People have to take MTDC buses to reach the entrance of the caves. This is to prevent pollution near the caves which affects the paintings.

Ajanta caves are the rock cut caves depicting paintings of Buddhist era. The caves are located in a horse shoe shaped ravine. The caves are 29 in number, divided as Virahas and Chaityas. The work in the caves started before Christ and continued till 5th century. After 5th Century, the Buddhist influence in India started waning and these caves were deserted. For the next 14 centuries these case were unknown to the people. A British who had come for hunting found these caves and then these caves were excavated.

While Ellora is the best case of rock cut architecture, Ajanta is for its paintings.

Most of the caves look similar. There is a Buddha statue or a Stupa at the centre with small rooms at the sides for the Buddhist monks and there are paintings on the walls and roof.

The painting of Padmapani in cave1. Usage of flash is banned inside the caves making it tough to take the snaps.
Entrance of a cave.
One of the paintings. Many of the paintings have gone bad. ASI is struggling hard to preserve them.
Another one.
Inside a cave.

While others took rest, I climbed up a nearby hill, where one can see the entire cave complex. I was surprised to find out that I was the only guy on the hill. Later couple of foreign tourists turned up. A few shots from that place.

A close up shot.

Another one.

The last one.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


12-13th January 2008

The first trek of YHAI Bangalore this year was to Vellarimala peak in Kerala. Fifteen of us (Akshata, Anoop, Aparna, Aravind, Chandru, Kantha, Kavya, Krishna, Kushal, Mokshi, Nikitha, Sakeeb, Shashikant, Shradha and Shruthi) started from Bangalore on Friday night. The group had an equal mix of students and working people.

Vellarimala is the highest hill range standing at a height of 2240mtrs above sea level in Calicut district. Approach to this peak is from a village at Chooramala in Wayanad. Chooramala is near Soochipara falls which is a famous tourist spot. Compared to Chembra peak in Wayanad, very few people trek to Vellarimala.
The trek:
We reached Kalpetta at 5 in the morning. Our DTPC approved guide Rafeeq arrived at six and we set out for Karapuzha lakeshore resort 20 kms from Kalpetta. After breakfast and packing our lunch, we traveled to the base point of the trek, a tribal village near Chooramala. The rule here is that people trekking to Vellarimala has to take a guide from these tribals. This may be to create some earnings for the tribal people. We were assigned two tribals to guide us to the peak.

There are many routes to climb the peak and the most interesting one is the trail along a stream and we took that route for the climb. It was about 11AM when we started the trek. Walking along the stream was fun as we had to jump and cross huge boulders. We had carried rope as precaution for climbing some of the rocks but did not use it during the trek. People who were proficient in trekking helped newbies to climb up some huge rocks.
There was not much water in the stream as villagers had used pipelines to fetch water from the base of the stream. We crossed a couple of dry waterfalls on the route.
After about two hours of trekking, we deviated from the stream to enter the forest. Elephant territory begins from here. Elephant dung was everywhere and what concerned us was that they were the fresh ones. Elephants are generally regarded as gentlemanly in their behavior but at the same time their actions cannot be predicted if we encounter them in surprise. Our tribal guide was very cautious and was always on lookout for any sounds in the forest.

We had our lunch break at 2PM near a stream. We had to hurry up as we had no plans to camp on the top and had to return back before getting dark. The next one hour of climb to the peak was continuously upwards. It was 3:30PM when we came out of forest cover to an open area and in another few minutes we were on top of Vellarimala.

I was a bit disappointed when I saw few peaks higher than the one that I was standing. I think that Vellarimala is not a single peak but range of hills. I asked the guide but he could not confirm anything. Later, from other sources, I found that the highest peak is called Vavul Mala (but I am not very sure)

From Vellarimala top, one can see the never ending range of Western Ghats. The other side of Vellarimala is very steep with more than 3000ft direct fall. Tippu drop would look diminutive in front of this.
We spent about thirty minutes taking photographs and started our journey back at 4:15PM. We moved down quite fast in order to avoid trekking in the night and that too in the Elephant zone. This time we took the forest route as negotiating the boulders in the stream would be tough while getting down. It did become dark but still managed to reach the village at 7:30PM. Another one hour on Tempo Traveler and we were back at resort.

The next day started with a visit to nearby lake during early (??) hours of the day. It was very misty and we could not see the lake in full. But the area around the resort and lake was a paradise for birds. I could recognize and photograph Scarlet Minivet, Common Kingfisher and red whiskered bulbul but there were plenty of other small birds. The zoom of my camera was insufficient to take bird photos and had to resort to cropping the images.
After breakfast, we set out for Meenmutty waterfalls, 20 kms from Meppadi. This was my second visit to this falls. We trekked for 4 kms with last one km being almost a vertical descent. I was surprised to see the falls in full even during this time. Few of us got down into the water.
We had lunch on our way back at Hotel Kalpaka at Sulthan Bathery, a decent vegetarian hotel. We then went to Bandipur for a Safari. But Bandipur was flooded with tourists and all safari slots of the day were already sold out. Disappointed, we then went to Gopala Swamy Betta, the highest hill in Bandipur range. This area is famous for elephant sighting. We were not disappointed. We could trace some elephants roaming on a nearby hill. Again, the zoom of the camera was not enough to get a decent snap of those jumbos.
After elephants, we switched our attention towards sunset. Sunset on the hills is always an amazing experience and Gopala Swamy Betta was no exception.

It was then an uneventful journey to Bangalore.

Guide is a must at Vellarimala. One has to take a DTPC approved guide and a local guide. There is a camping spot just before the Vellarimala top where water is also available. The tribal guides would also be able to take to the highest hill if interested.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Maharashtra trip 6: Devagiri fort

26 December 2007
Devagiri (new name is Daulatabad) fort is 16 kms from Aurangabad and 11 kms from Ellora. It was already 4:30 in the evening when we reached Devagiri. I had seen many forts earlier. The feeling was that Devagiri is just one more of them. Well, I had to change my opinion shortly.

The guide describing the fort was very powerful in his explanations. Within minutes, I was extremely interested in the fort. This was no ordinary fort; the techniques used in the fort were extraordinary.

This fort was built by Yadava rulers who were kings of Deccan during 10th century.

The fort was built on a conical hill. The wall was solid and could not be broken by any weapons at that time.

There are nearly 53 doors to the fort, out of these only 7 actually led to the top. The rest are all “pseudo doors” meant to confuse the enemy. For an outsider, these “pseudo doors” look like the main ones. Upon breaking the door, one would just see a wall behind it, thus totally demoralizing the enemy.

The doors were built of strong wood. In those days, elephants were used to break the doors of the fort. But to break the door, elephants need momentum and need to run for at least 600ft. But the doors and path leading to the door are designed in such a way that it is not possible to gain momentum for the animal.

The doors also had pointed iron rods smeared with poison, so that the people or the animal pushing the doors would die.

If the enemy is able to overcome all these defense lines, he would have to face the next level of defense line. A huge trench separates the fort from outer boundaries. This 70+ feet moat was filled with water with crocodiles in those days. There is a new bridge now, but in those days, there was a narrow leather bridge where the attacker would be at the mercy of the soldiers guarding the fort.

After the moat is the great “bhul bhullaiya” (Maze) and is a dark corridor that leads to the higher levels of the fort. There are man traps here where the enemy would directly slip into the trench. There were gratings at the exit where hot oil used to be poured on the enemy exiting out of the tunnel. Now, there are steps to climb bypassing tunnel. But with the help of the guides, we went through the tunnel. It was amazing to walk in the tunnel.

For the invaders who would have been tired after traveling for 1100kms from Delhi for months, it would be a daunting task to break the fort. It would be impossible to win the fort. Historians agree that it was the most impregnable fort in the World during its time.

But history has proved otherwise. It is shameful that the Yadavas did not even give a decent fight to the invading armies. The so called great rulers of India fell down like a pack of cards. Some of the reasons were:

  • Personal ego. Each ruler thought he was a great guy and there was no unity among them to face the invaders. Most of the time it is seen that native rulers supporting the invaders to attack the other king.

  • The rulers did not have any strategy to face the invaders. The rules of the war were different. They could never adapt to the new situation.

  • Most important, it was very easy to bribe the top officials of the Indian rulers, often revealing the secrets to the enemy.

The last ruler of Yadavas, Haripala Deva was defeated by Sultan of Delhi, Malik Kafur in 1312, thus opening the gate of the South India for invaders. Haripala Deva was treated according to the traditions of the Sultans. He was flayed alive at the gate of the city.

The only kingdom in India that stood against these invaders was Vijayanagar Empire, according to Robert Swell, a great Historian, in his book “A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar”.

After the defeat of Yadavas, the fort was taken by Tughluq. History remembers him as one of the most hopeless King. He unsuccessfully moved the capital of India from Delhi to Devagiri along with its population. He renamed Devagiri to Daulatabad. After him, the fort was taken by Bahamani kindom. Ala-ud-din Bahamani built 210ft Chand Minar, in 1445.

After the fall of Bahamani kingdom, the fort was ruled by Mughals, Marathas and Hyderabad Nizams. Aurangazeb was specifically intersted in this fort and had kept lot of prisoners including Sambaji, son of Shivaji here. The fort lost its importance after Mughals.

It takes some 3-4 hours to see the fort and is a “must to see” for any person interested in history. The fort represents the golden age of India, gone long ago.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Maharashtra trip 5: Ellora

26 December 2007

It was 12 in the noon when we reached Ellora. We first went to Grishneshwar, one of the twelve Jyothirlinga. We had to stand in the slow moving queue for more than an hour. Here, the devotees have the opportunity to touch the linga. Some people pretend to be hysteric upon touching the linga and it becomes a Herculean task for the Poojaris to move them further. The Temple style is similar to Trimbakeshwar.

We had lunch at some Andhra style hotel who served third class food. We did not have much option in that place and devoured whatever we could.

After lunch, we went to the famous Ellora caves. It is the best case study of the Indian rock cut architecture. There are 34 caves carved out of the hills. The caves are comprised of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves and were built between 5th and 10th century. There are 12 are Buddhist caves (1-12), 17 Hindu caves (13-29) and 5 Jain caves (30-34).
The most important of all the caves is the cave no 16, also called as Kailasanatha Temple just opposite to parking area. There cannot be any other rock cut architecture that can better this one. Its sheer size is enough to convince that it is the best. Entire Temple complex is carved out of a single rock from the hill. This one was built from top and not from the bottom or front. Huge quantities of rock (2,00,000 tonnes) was removed to shape the Temple and it took nearly 150 years to complete this Temple. The Temple is modeled on the Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakkal.
I was extremely busy in taking the pictures of the Temple and listening to the narrations of the guide. Taking pictures was tricky because of the shades. Some extremely religious people in our group were disappointed by the fact that there was no pooja happening at the Temple and refused to appreciate the carvings of the Temple. ಏನ್ರಿ ಇದೆ ಇಲ್ಲಿ? (what is here?) was their attitude.

The stone carved pillar of the Temple.
The elephant that is carved out of rock, damaged due to time. Many of the structures are destroyed by the invaders.
Bridge connecting Nandi Mandap to the porch of the temple.
The corridor of the Temple.
Narration of Ramayana on the rock.
While other went for shopping after seeing the Temple, I climbed the rock to take the pictures of the Temple from the top and also visit couple of other caves.
Ellora caves are the must see for every Indian. One feeds proud about our great culture that flourished thousand years ago.

Nashik – Ellora: 180kms

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Maharashtra trip 4: Nashik

25 - 26 December 2007

It was about 4:30PM when we left Shirdi. Nashik was our next destination and also the halting point of the day. The journey from Shirdi to Nashik took two hours.

Nashik is a major industrial town of Maharashtra today, but historically it was prominent from the times of Ramayana. It was here at Panchavati that Lord Rama spent the final days of Vanavasa. The word “Nashik” is derived from the legend of Lakshmana cutting the nose (nasika) of Shoorpanaka who tried to seduce Rama. Nashik is one of the four cities in India where Kumba Mela is held once in twelve years.

We first went to Panchavati area of Nashik. It is here at Triveni sangama the three rivers Godavari, Aruna and Varuna join together.

Since this was the karma bhoomi of Rama, the place is full of Temples. The narrow lanes and rustic buildings give a feeling that we are moving back in time. The important temples here are Kapaleshwar Mandir, Gore Ram Mandir and Kale Ram Mandir. Our guide was very enthusiastic and made us to shout “Jai Sri Ram“ whenever we enter the Temple.

The name Panchavati was due to the presence of five banyan trees. These trees are marked even today. There is a cave nearby called Sita Guha where Rama, Sita and Lakshmana prayed to Lord Shiva.

Next day we were ready by 5AM and set towards Trimbakeshwar, one of the 12 jyothirlinga of Shiva. It is 30 kms from Nashik.

At 5:45AM, we were standing in queue of the Temple. It took us an hour to have the darshan. There were not many devotees at that time, but the indifferent attitude of the administration causes the unnecessary delay.

The Temple is of 400 years old. Backdrop of the temple is Brahmagiri hill, the origin of Godavari River.

We came back to Nashik and went to Muktidam. It is a comparatively new Temple. The replicas of 12 jyothirlinga’s are here. The 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita are wriiten on the walls of the Temple. I could not read it as it was written in Marathi.

After breakfast, we started towards Ellora.

Shirdi – Nashik: 85kms

Nashik – Trimbakeshwar: 30kms