Monday, August 9, 2010

Dud...Dud...Dud to Melkote


On Aug 7, my husband and I made our first bike trip for the year 2010 to Melkote.
Melkote, 137 km from Bangalore is a famous hill temple close to Mandya on Bangalore-Mysore highway (SH-17). Previously, weekend trips on our Royal Enfield Thunderbird bike to places around Bangalore was an integral part of routine. But this year, we had to wait until August to open the years’ travel account due to our new found passion for swimming. 
There are 1001 blogs on Melkote, yet, this trip being the first one for the year 2010, I too wanted to write a note on it. I will try giving a new layout to this travelogue entry.

About Melkote:

A sacred place for Iyengars, Melkote is a hill temple site in Mandya district in an area called Thirunarayanapuram. The hill is called Yadavagiri and overlooks the Cauvery valley. Melkote is a revered religious center for the Vaishnavites, it served as the abode, for over a decade, for the famous saint Shri Ramanujacharya. It is believed that the saint healed Hoysala king Bittideva’s daughter’s disease, an act for which he sought Bittideva’s conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism and acquisition of fertile land on banks of Cauvery for construction of Vaishnavite shrines. King Bittideva adopted Vaishnavism, became known as king Vishnuvaradana and Melkote flourished as an important religious centre since 12th century. 

The list of places to visit at Melkote looks like below –
1) Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple – this temple is at the foothills with the main sanctum dedicated to Lord Vishnu, there are shrines of Lakshmi, Hanuman and a statue of Shri Ramanujacharya. The pillared Ranga mantapa in this temple depicts fine craftsmanship.
2) Rayagopuram – Stepping out of Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple, taking the straight road and turning to the the right leads to the Rayagopuram, an incomplete structure with 4 pillars. As every blog mentions, this is the site where Aishwarya Rai dances for Barso Re song in the movie Guru. This is also the site where super star Rajinikanth shakes his leg for Rakkama song of Dalapathi fame.
Incomplete structures, in my opinion, have a strange element of beauty about them, like the kalyana mantapa in Lepakshi temple, Hindupur and the mausoleum of Adil Shah II – Barah Kamaan in Bijapur. One can climb to the top of Rayagopuram and catch a glimpse of Cauvery valley.
3) Akka-Thangi Kulam - Walking down the Rayagopuram leads us to the Sanskrit research academy, taking the road as it curves leads us to Akka-Thangi kulam, the sister ponds/tanks. These tanks lie in front of a Kulashekaralwar temple. 
4) Yoganarasimha temple - Now we head back to Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple, take the road away from it, a right turn as instructed by tourism dept. board to reach the steps leading to hill top – Yoganarasimha temple. The road is motorable up to the mobile phone towers and from this point; it is only a 5 minutes climb to the top.
The view of the Cauvery valley from this temple at a height of 1777 m above sea level is awesome. Take time to relax, take in the fresh air, soak up the beauty of the valley far below, now filled to heart’s content, take the same road down, turn to the right to stop by the temple tank – Kalyani with pillared mantapa around it and a flight of stairs leading to clear water meant for bathing/religious rituals etc

1) View of the Cauvery valley from atop Melkote hill/Yoganarasimha temple

2) View of temple tank/Kalyani from atop the hill

3) Akka-thangi kula (sister tanks/ponds)

4) The incomplete Rayagopuram that features in movies

5) Pillared ranga mantapa inside Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple

6) View of Melkote hill temple from a distance

Travel means loads of fun …
Bangalore-Mysore highway – State Highway 17 is a great road to travel on, a superb highway, full of life. The last time we traveled on this road was to Bandipur in the year 2008 and I must admit that there has been a whale of change on this road since then. The Mysore highway boasts of restaurants like Kadumane (before Wonder La, Bidadi), Kamat Lokaruchi (near Janapadha Loka), 4 Café Coffee day outlets between Ramanagara and Channapatna, 1 Barista and 1 McDonalds outlet, 2 Kamat Upachar hotels near Channapatna, 1 MTR outlet near Indradhanush Café coffee day, 1 Adigas restaurant after Maddur. That’s a long list and this apart the highway also has regular shops for tea break, dhabas etc. There is absolutely no worry of food/water and the highway is abuzz with activity.

Away from all this hustle on SH-17, to reach Melkote, one takes the right turn, immediately after leaving Mandya town. This winsome journey stretching for about 37 kms winds through sugarcane and paddy fields. The road is in very good condition and carries the sweet scent of jaggery all along. When traveling on this stretch of 37 kms, one easily realizes a drop of 1-2’C in temperature, thanks to the number of trees, fields and water bodies around.

A road trip with good food is like a boon and Melkote trip scores a neat 100. Outside, Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple, there are many stalls which sell the famous Iyengar Puliyogare. We found one such stall where a elderly couple offered us a big dhonai (Palm leaves cup) of hot Puliyogare and sweet pongal, each priced at Rs 15. Ambrosia (in my language – devaamrutham) I would call it, we dug into the contents and bought Puliyogare powder prepared by them to recreate the magic in our kitchen :)

More insight into our trip:
We left home at 6.30 am, stopped at Kadumane, Bidadi for breakfast and tea. We also stopped at Kamat Upachar, Channapatna to have a look at the wooden toys they had on display. We stopped for a tea break at a small village on the road leading from Mandya to Melkote. We reached Melkote at 10am, completed our darshan and lunch, left at 2.30 pm. There was no wait/queue in either temple but a brief, strong spell of rain restricted our movement for about half an hour.
Saturday, the 7th of Aug 2010 was well spent, a nice bike trip to an important religious and historical centre filled with many gud (pun intended – gud in Hindi means jaggery) memories.


Juhi said...

thanks for sharing...I esp like the info abt the eateries.....beautiful pictures.....will definitely go there sometime soon.....

Spardha said...

wow!!.. love the pics!.. thanks so much for the info! :)

Shanthi said...

A fantastic virtual tour of the place. Nice and informative.