3 day motor cycle tour of Bisle Ghat near Subramanya, Belur, Halebidu and Shravanabelagola with Pavitra. Clocked 714 kms in my first generation 3 year old TVS Apache.
19 September 2009:
Started from Indiranagar at 5:30 in the morning. It was drizzling slightly. First day plan was to ride till the view point near Bisle village located in Sakleshpur taluk of Hassan district near Subramanya. On the way back, check out Manjarabad fort in Sakleshpur town and then camp at Hassan for the night. Sakleshpur town lies on NH48. The usual route from Bangalore to reach NH48 is through Nelamangala. My friend advised me not to take that route due to the road widening work going on. So we took a slightly longer, alternate route which goes through Magadi town and joins NH48 near Kunigal.
The work on NH48 is going on in patches. With a few minor hiccups here and there, the road is not that bad and once the road work completes I am sure this road is gonna kick ass, as parts of the road where the work is done is a treat to ride on. Just outside Kunigal town we stopped at a road side restaurant and had our morning tea and breakfast. My hands were sort of numb by the time we reached this place due to the constant drizzle that had accompanied us. I warmed my hand with the tea cups and the blood started to flow again. Once we started, the weather cheered up and we saw the first glimpse of sun amidst the clouds. It felt good as the sun rays kissed our skin. At around 10:45 we were in Sakleshpur where we refueled our motorcycle and had good buns in a local restaurant. If you have not had buns before give it a shot. It is yum.
On the outskirts of Sakleshpur town the road forks. One prong leads to Subramanya and the other to Mangalore. Bisle lies on the road to Subramanya. The sign board is crappy and we almost missed the turn. In many of the blogs we had read that the road leading to Bisle is extremely bad and desolate, save for a couple of vehicles here and there. But, we had a different experience. We kept meeting vehicles on the way and every now and then passed a small village. Also the road was pretty motor able and in a couple of places it was good. But mind you, we only went till the view point which lies a few minutes out of Bisle village. Have no clue as to how the road is after this. Also the direction boards are bad. So we kept asking people for directions.
A few kilometres outside Bisle village, forest department has constructed a view point from which you can catch a breath taking glimpse of Kumara Parvatha, Pushpagiri, Doddabetta, Sannabetta and the gushing Giri river at the base of these mountains. We were the only ones there. We sat there enchanted, taking in the surroundings until a group of morons came and started playing music in their cell phones and drinking beer. Once they left another family came and we soon left the place towards Hassan.
En route, some ten kilometres from Bisle village we stopped at a small green pond on the road side. Abutting the pond was a hill. The lure of the hill was too much for us to resist. So we started climbing it and once we reached the peak we got a 360 degree view of the surroundings which took our breath out. We just sat there doing nothing for sometime. Past few minutes clouds started moving in. The clouds moved in so fast that, the 360 degree view of few minutes back was reduced to a few meters. Now we were pretty much fucked as we did not have a clue as to which side we had to climb down to reach our motorcycle. We both debated on the path to take down and with our gut feeling directing us, somehow managed to reach the base. We thanked our stars as we reached our motorcycle but the scene of the clouds enveloping us on top of the hill is something that both of us will cherish throughout our lives.
Once we started back it started to drizzle and past a few minutes the drizzle became a heavy downpour which accompanied us throughout our way back to Hassan. We stopped just outside Sakleshpur town for tea and snacks. We were greeted by a dark Hassan. The main road of Hassan was covered with slush, the result of the heady downpour. We found the main road of Hassan (BM Road) more difficult to navigate than the Bisle ghat road. We were looking for a lodge, to camp for the night and Pavitra spotted a lodge called Kadamba. We went in and enquired the rates and found that it was pretty reasonable with 600 rupees for a night and 24 hours check out time, which suited us very well. Also it was apparent that the hotel had power back up because, when the whole city was engulfed in darkness the lodge shone bright with lights. The person in charge told us that hot water was available only in the morning. When we told him we need hot water for the night he cheerfully agreed to provide us with 2 buckets which was on our door in a jiffy. The room was decent, not spic and span clean but manageable. We were not hungry for the night as we had loaded ourselves on our way back. So we ordered soup and settled for the day.
20th September 2009:
Got up at 7:30, had breakfast in the hotel attached to the lodge and then set out towards Belur and Halebidu. The road was kick ass with a spattering of green fields, water bodies and mountains on the side. The cold wind was biting our skin while the early morning sun was casting his warm rays on his. With that atmosphere, a beautiful flawless road riding was a joy. The Metallica song “And the road becomes my bride” kept ringing in my head. Came to an intersection where a sign board asked us to deviate to the right for Halebidu and travel straight for Belur. We took the straight road and soon enough reached Belur. Cell phones are not allowed inside the temple premises. So, had to keep it at a shop and entered the Chennakeshava temple. Chenna means beautiful and Kesahva is Vishnu, the presiding deity of the temple.
The temple was built around 12th century AD and took 103 years to complete. Construction started during the reign of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana and completed during his grand son’s tenure. There is a huge pillar(dwaja stambha) in the front. The guide told us that the pillar signifies a functioning temple. Right in front of the pillar is an idol of Garuda, Vishnu’s vehicle.
We were spell bounded by the intricate carvings on the temple walls. The attention to the most minute of the details in the carvings is something that we had never seen before. The carvings depict the way of life during those times, the styles in vague, moral stories, mythological stories and also as to how proportionate a woman’s body should be for her to look hot. By the way, hire a guide. For 150 rupees he brings life to those carvings with his stories. Every paisa that you pay is worth it. We spent some 3 hours in the temple checking every nook and corner. There is a lodge right outside the temple but I have no idea how good it is. Also there is a restaurant and lots of shops selling cool drinks and other tourist paraphernalia surrounding the temple compound. The temple opens it’s doors at 7:30 in the morning and shuts down at 7:30 in the evening. After this, we headed towards Halebidu. The road to Halebidu is also pretty good although a bit narrow. We reached Halebidu in around 30 minutes.
In the olden days, Halebidu was called Dwarasamudra because of the huge lake at the town entrance. Dwara means door and samudra means sea. The temple is situated on the bank of this lake. The lake was overflowing with water and we were told that this is the maximum water the lake has seen in the last twelve years. Dwarasamudra served as the Hoysala capital during it’s hey days before Mallikafur, the Islamic general of the Delhi sultanate plundered the city and destroyed parts of the temple. During his invasion the artists working on the temple fled from there. So the temple is incomplete. Due to this pillage of the city, it is today called Halebidu derived from Halada(spoilt) beedu(town).
This is a Shiva temple and as per the norms with Shiva temples, there are Nandis outside the sanctum(garbhagudi).The temple has 2 sanctums and both these sanctums have a monolithic Nandi outside them. They are the 6th and 7nth largest Nandis of the country. This temple is divided into two parts to signify the jeevatma and paramatma.
The engravings on the temple walls and the temple construction is similar to Belur as both the temples are believed to be carved by the same sculptor Jakkanacharya. One main difference is, there are some erotic carvings here which are absent in Belur. The guide informed us that the stones used in the temple construction are clamped to each other, not glued. So the whole temple can be disassembled and reconstructed at another place. The same eye for detail that we saw in Belur can be seen here again but I guess the number of carvings are more in Halebidu when compared to Belur.
Both Belur and Halebidu temples are of the star shape. The guide informed us that all the temples built by Hoysalas are in the shape of a star. There is nice park outside the temple adjacent to the lake. We spent almost two hours in the temple studying the carvings and taking in the minute details. After this, we visited the ASI museum on the temple premises where there is a nice collection of the sculptures found in and around the temple and also from the other Hoysala temples in the surrounding areas. You have to pay a token fee of rupees two to enter the Museum. Seeing our interest, the guide informed us that we can collect a book on Halebidu from the ASI office, which we did. This book has some detailed history of Halebidu and the Hoysalas which I have not yet read in full but, plan to do.
Half a kilometre from the temple is a Basadi which has finely polished stone pillars which reflect your image as you walk past them. There is a huge monolithic statue of some Thirthankara inside the Basadi. Also some 100 meters from the Basadi is another temple which also exhibits some fine carvings. It was almost 5:30 by this time and the person in charge asked us to hurry up as it was time for him to leave.
We took the road next to the lake back to Hassan. There is a small bridge by the lake and we stood there for sometime taking in the view. The road back to Hassan was not as good as the one we had taken in the morning but was more picturesque. We reached Hassan in another one and half hours.
21 September 2009:
Got up at 8 in the morning. After having breakfast, checked out of the lodge and hit the road towards Shravanabelagola. To reach Shravanabelagola, we had to deviate from NH47 a few kilometers outside Chennarayapattana. The sign board asking us to take the deviation was pretty crappy and had it not been for Pavitra’s keen eye I would have missed the turn. The road to Shravanbelagola is world class and you pass through many villages on the way.
A few kilometres outside the town, we saw a temple on the hill and climbed it. Once we reached the premises, we came to know that it is a collection of Basadis and dates back to the 10th century. Also there is a proper path to this Basadi from the other side of the hill. There are lots of small Basadis and century old rock engravings inside the premises. From this hill, we got a very good view of the monolithic statue of Bahubali(Gomateshwara) located on the other hill and the steep climb one had to endure to reach the statue. After spending an hour exploring the basadis and the engravings, we got down and rode into the town.
After a long climb we reached the abode of Bahubali, the biggest monolithic sculpture in India, standing 18 meters tall. There is a collection of Jain Thirthankara statues in the premises and also a number of small sculptures scattered here and there. After taking in all this, we started our descent. Once we reached the base we had food in one of the Jain Bhojanalayas. The lunch consisting of roti, rice, two sabjis and one sambar costed us 40 rupees. It was pretty decent. After this we travelled back by the same road we had taken earlier to reach NH48 and then back to Bangalore through Magadi. Rode slowly taking in the views and was home by 7:30 in the evening.
The whole journey was a scenic treat with the colour green splashed all over, as this was the fag end of the monsoon season and the monsoon was really good at the end, this year. The temples at Belur and Halebidu are a class apart from anything that I have seen or heard before. My words will not do justice to this testimony of Indian art. You have to see it for yourself to experience it.