Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coorgi Customs and Traditions

I have been regularly travelling length and breadth of coorg intensively during 1989 to 1991.  Of course it was on official mission, discharging my duties as sales executive, ensuring width and depth of distribution of biscuits among the retailers.  The landscape of coorg was dotted with coffee plantation, cardamon, aeracanut, pepper and many other natures offerings  I used to look forward for once in two months visit to this territory due to cool climate and their unique food offerings in the form of pork curry and puddings.  Sometimes we used to visit the buddhist camp in Bailkuppa where we used to thrive on momos and their noodles. Never i had an opportunity to witness a coorgi marriage, and when the opportunity presented itself on a golden platter through my ex colleague, i jumped into the fray and accepted his invite gleefully. 


Just imagine having a holiday in coorg and getting to attend a traditional coorgi wedding, nothing can get better than this.  I was hardly aware of the rich traditions of coorgis particularly their wedding.  My colleagues co-brothers marriage was fixed and he requested me to attend the wedding last May, and the weather turned from a summer to monsoon weather overnight.  It was as if the heavens too were in a mood to bless the newly married couple.

Generally the wedding is preceded by a common reception for the friends and relatives of the bridegroom and bride prior to the marriage ceremony.  It is generally a cocktail party with plenty of non vegetarian snacks and bites.  During this get together the menfolk and women dance in the traditional coorgi style, which is almost close to garba dance.  Children too join the fray and dance to beats played on sound system.  Some of the drunken members are controlled by the elders or friends so that they do not spoil the party for everyone.  I just happened to see an youngster going out of control and requested his friends to take him back to his residence so that he does not puke out.  

coorgi dress
The system of dowry is absent among coorgis, marriage expenses are equally shared between the boys and girls family.  Except that the girls family might deck their daughter with jewelleries according to their status.  Traditional attire is worn by men and women.  The men wear a black robe with a turban decked with a warrior type of sword or khukri.  The women wear traditional silk saree with plenty of jewellery.  

I landed just on the dot, at around 8.25pm,from Bangalore to Madikere, when some of the guests started their dinner, without drinks since they had to rush home.  I had to freshen up, took up a lodge right opp the wedding hall and had a good bath to refreshing weather, which started drizzling.  Next i straight away went and filled up glass with Blenders pride and went on to enjoy the cocktails with pork meat, chicken kabbabs and many other bites to savour.

sweet meats

                                                                         Most of the Coorgis are allowed to carry guns without license, the only district in India probably enjoys this privilege, outsiders beware.  Never get into trouble because you may never live to tell your side of the story. 

Once the engagement is fixed 
the girls family is free to call of the marriage if they have second thoughts, than they have to face the music of the community if they are not justified in their decision.

Most of the close relatives are dressed in tradition warrior suits, which consists of dagger.  The dagger comes in various shapes, khukri type, mostly chistled in silver.  The women folk dress in sari which is uniquely draped on them.  The youngsters fall at the feet of their elders seeking blessings galore.

Next day the ceremony begins with breakfast and than the cutting of banana plant trunk with a help of a sword.  Most of the male members participate along with women folk.  This ceremony is carried out by the elders, with no specialised priest called for the occasion.  Later during the marriage ceremony a bidding sort of arguement takes place which is fun to watch.  The marriage ceremony by itself is very simple and quick. 
During the reception a cake is cut and distributed among the relatives.  The reception is attended by select few who are close to the bride and grooms family.  The crowd is comparatively limited.
coorgi dress
                                                      Breakfast, is served with plenty of  sweat meats, lunch is served with plenty of non veg, a mix of mutton, chicken and pork along with fish kumra is served in buffet fashion.  Just imagine the lavish affair can cost as much as 3 lakhs for a wedding.  Further booze and hall etc would account for another lakh.  In all a decent coorgi marriage would mean a minimum expense of 4 lakhs, 2 lakhs each.
The estimation of number of guests may go haywire, coorgis invariably tend to order for more guest, in our case it was for 1800 but only 1300 turned up, due to inclement weather.


The best part of the traditional is revealed in the end with a custom of the bride carrying the ganga water towards the mantap, she is prevented by the boys family dancing in front.  So she has to take a slow and caliberated step making sure that she does not spill the water from the container.  It is a slow trudge towards the mantap, it can take from 3 hours to 10 hours depending on the boys family.  Here our bride had to endure the ceremony for 3 and half hour.  Later the ceremony ended with plenty of cocktails and dinner, along with cake cutting ceremony. I enjoyed my Bacardi with passion fruit cocktail. Long live coorgi tradition.  Do not miss a chance if you are invited for a coorgi wedding, even if you are a vegetarian, you won t be disappointed.  The custom and tradition is so unique that one is bound see time fly past and the ceremony is etched in our memory.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Navagraha Temples around Kumbakonam

According to hindu beliefs planets impact each and every individual right from the moment of one's birth unto his death. If one takes the re-birth theory into consideration, the previous birth also influences life on earth in the current birth. 

Location : How to cover Navagraha temples which is spread over distance of 200 kms in round trip. If one is travelling by train one has get down at Mylatdurai and cover the eastern portion of the trip including chidambaram and Velankani. Then move to Kumbakkonam and cover the rest of the Navagraha temples. Otherwise if one wants to cover only Navagraha temples it can be covered from the base of Kumbakkonam. It is best to hire a cab to quickly cover all the temples, otherwise one may require as many as 4 days by bus.

According to traditional belief, Saint Galava was a famous astrologer who derieved his knowledge after performing penance at the foothills of Vindyas. He found on examination of his own horoscope that the evil influence of planets was affecting his health. He decided to get rid of the Navagraha Dosa caused by the Planets. Thus he requested the royalty to commission construction of the Navagraha temples. Thus he and his descendents got rid of the evil influence of the planets.

While on journey we met a Rajasthani family who were advised by their guru to undertake 3 trips to get rid of the Guru dosha. The intricacy of the trip was divided between the sisters and brother. The belief was strong which would help the sisters marry and brother to get rid of his problem in his business.

SURYA TEMPLE : This temple is dedicated to the Sun (star) around which all other planets revolve. The influence of weaker Sun would lead to diseases such as Typhoid, Lack of strength in bones, Eye problem etc. The prescribed remedy according to the priests are in form of fasting on Sundays, donating a cow and worship of Surya.

This temple is located 12km away from the base town of Kumbakkonam and the nearest Railhead is Aduthurai.

This temple even though not very impressive in construction has all the nine Grahas surrounding the temple. All the navagrahas are small mantaps, which are miniature and built in a jagged manner. One circumabulation around these temples will help a devotee to mitigate his doshas.

This temple is built courtsey Chola King Koluthunga during the 12th century, which has been renovated many a times due to crumbling edifice.

This Shiva temple is dedicted to planet Venus. Planet Venus dosha leads to lack of harmony in married life, diseases arising out of cold etc. The remedy for warding the evil effects of Venus suggested is by wearing diamond jewellery and giving bengal grams, white dress and silver article as gift.

This temple is located 18 km away from Kumbakonam. After visiting this temple one can proceed to Suryan temple.

RAHU TEMPLE ( Thirunageshwar ) : This huge temple is built by Gandaraditya Chola son of Parnataka chola I. It is spread over 15 acres, towering Gopurams and several mantaps. There are as many 12 theertams in this place.

Rahu Kalam is generally an inauspicious time, wherein no constructive activity should begin or inaugrated. It is better to avoid the influences of the planetary dichotomy. Generally Rahu influences stock trading and speculative activity. Remedy for Rahu dosa is in the form of wearing gemstone which honey coloured hessonite. One can get rid of their evil effects by feeding the ants too.

The location of this temple is approximately 6 kms away from Kumbakkonam.

CHEVVAI or Vaidheeswaran Temple : This temple is associated with the zodiac planet of Mars. This planet influences Aries and Scorpian zodiac, which is normally for 7 years. The general troubles associated with this planet are rift with siblings, repayment of loans associated with house and land, rheumatism and arthritis, late marriage, healing of wounds, tumours, fractures etc. Gnerally the mitigation is ensured by praying to Lord Ganesh, wearing red dress and gemstone.

LOCATION : This temple is located approximately 13 km from Mylatdurai. The route is enroute to Chidambaram via Srikali. Chidambaram is 23 kms from this place.

This temple is quite huge with fortified walls. The temple is guarded by Bhairava on the East, Veerabhadra on west , Ganesh on the south and goddess kali on the North.

The principle diety is Lord Vaidyanathar. The temple is dedicated to Mars planet. Lord Shiva is worshipped only after midnight.

The temple is of ancient origin and it has been renovated from time to time by Vikrama Cholea, Vira Rajendra Pandya, Achyta Nayak and Maratha prince Thulaja. The temple stands right in the middle of the town, with a beatiful gopuram, and the rays of the sun falls on the linga on a particular day of the year for a few days. The sacred tree associated with this place is neem tree ( margosa ) which has special medicinal properties. The original shrine is located under the neem tree. It is believed by throwing jaggery chunk into the pond ensures immunity for all the maladies.

There is another temple at Sirukudi where the ruling diety is Mangalanayaki, which is known to cure disease, even the Muslims visit this temple.

 temple is another famous temple located approx 3 kms away from Vaidheeswaran temple. It is famous for the birth place of saint Thirugnana Sambhandar, first among Shiv Sama Acharyas.

Budhan Temple ( Mercury ) : 
This temple ( Tiruvenkadu ) was closed on account of death of a family member related to temple trust. We could not visit the temple which was closed for mourning. Mercury is considered lord of knowledge.

Budha dosha is generally for 17 years, and is the lord of Virgo. Generally mercury influences an individuals education stature. Fasting on Wednesday, giving gold as gift, chanting of Vishnu mantras, ensures placating the budha dosha.

The temple is located under a banyan tree. The mother is worshipped by childless couple for blessing them with an issue. Sukravara Amma is also worshipped in this temple.

Those wishing to be blessed with a child should take bath in all the three tanks for fulfillment of their longing. He who takes bath in the waters of all three tanks of Thiruvenkadu shall bear children and their wishes shall bear fruit.

Location : This temple is located 10 kms from Srikali temple and approximately 32 kms from Chidambaram. Better to visit Chidambaram and on return one can visit this temple since Chidambaram Nataraja temple closes at 12.

KETHU TEMPLE ( Keezhaperumpallam Temple ) : This temple can be covered depending on the timing if one is on the round trip after having lunch. One can visit Poompuhar museum and beach and spend their time accordingly. The Dansborg fort is located nearby too, which is known as Tarangalpadi, which too has a beautiful beach.

Kethu determines whether one will attain Moksha or not. Generally kethu affects one for 7 years. Kethu blesses one with wisdom, graces with good children, and bless one to live in a foreign country. Ketu cures leprosy, TB, skin disease and fever.

There are mythical tales of a snake whose life was not fully ebbed. Lord Shiva seemed to have sucked the poison from the snake. The snake begged for forgiveness to retrieve its venom.

SHANI TEMPLE ( Saturn ) : This temple is also known as Tirunellur temple. This temple is dedicated to SATURN. This planet influences one for 19 years. He is the lord of constellations of Capricon and Aquarius. It also determines the longevity of human being. Those who are perturbed should worship Lord Hanuman and Lord Vishnu to get rid of their fear. They should worship with Til oil, donate yel, wear blue stone ( amentyst for acquarians ) and a dark dress. Once they worship at Tirnallur most of their problems will diminish.

The temple is located in Kariakal, which is under the jurisdiction of Pondicherry. Booze is available in plenty which is sold cheap due to lower duties. It is around 8 km away from kariakal town. Now one can decide whether one would like to proceed towards Velankani or towards Rahu temple depending on the belief.

We were unable to cover GURU AND CHANDRAN during our visit maybe next trip we will be able to make up the rest of the Navagraha ciruit. We were able to cover thiruvavur and saraswathi temple enroute back to our base town at Mayilatdurai.

ACK : Map courtsey and ref ASI, Guidebook and Wiki

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yaganti, epic destination

History : From the Neolithic mankind the baton was handed over to the Nandas who ruled over this territory, and later the Mauryas took over the reign after defeating the Nandas. Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne in 323 B.C and spread his wings right upto Shravanbelagola. Later the Guptas and Satvahana dynasties ruled this region. South Indian dynasties of Pallavas and Cholas too reigned for some time, before Hoysalas and Vijaynagar kings took over. The contribution of Raja Raja Chola was limited to the main temple, one of the Gopuram was constructed by the Hoysala Kings, the credit to complete renovation of the temple should go to Bukkaraya in 1345 AD. The addition in the form of Pushkarni was installed by Krishnadevaraya around 1515 AD. After the fall of Vijaynagar empire, the Palegars took over the territory. Than the Bahmani Sultans took over and a Nawab was installed as the governor of the territory. Ultimately the territory passed on to the Nizams of Hyderabad under the British East India company.

Location : Yaganti can be reached through Gooty from Hyderabad towards Banagapalli. It can be approached through Kurnool also. The other route is via Srisailam, Mahanandi, Nandyal and Banagapalli. The third route from Bangalore is to travel via Anantpur, Tadpatri, Belum Caves, Banagapalli and Yaganti. The approach road is from Gooty to Yaganti. The approx distance from Bangalore is 270 kms and Hyderabad it is 340 Kms on NH 7. Yaganti is located exactly 17 kms from Banagapalli if one approaches from Ananthpur or Srisailam route.

Yaganti Kshetra falls under the jurisdiction of Kurnool district. Yagantiswamy is popular for its Shiva temple. A lingam adornes the main shrine. Some claim it was built according to the Vaishnav tradition. Umamaheswar, Parvathi and Nandi are the main deities in the temple. There is a pushkarni for devotees to take bath. It is better to avoid using soap while taking bath. The water is crystal clear and pure because of its flowing nature. Nobody is aware how the pond is blessed with plenty of water even during the summer. Generally the devotees have their bath before proceeding for dharshan.

Shivaratri is celeberated with grandeur and fervour. Devotees from all over AP visit the temple during Shivaratri festivity, which generally held in Feb or March every year. According to a myth sage agastya visited this kshetra and took bath and paid his respect to Lord Shiva. The Nandi seems to be growing in size every year by few mm. It is predicted when the Kaliyug ends Nandi will signify the end of evil domination in this world.

There are 3 cave temples across the spring located on the hillock. The Augustya Muni Cave is quite a steep 120 steps climb. One can find a Devi statue installed which is regularly worshipped. It is real adventure ascent on to the cave temple. The panaromic view of the entire Yaganti temple complex is stupendous from the vantage point on the cave. The steps are safe, one has to be little cautious during the rainy season. Aged people need support particularly when is nearing the peak. There is a resting point in the middle of the cave.

The second cave temple has a lingam and priest is busy helping the devotees with blessing and sermon if required. This cave temple is less steep than the first one. One has to be cautious with elders and children while reaching the top of the cave precincts.

Third cave is an ideal Neolithic mankind dwelling spot, it is accessible through a narrow modified door way. The cave is low level hardly 4 feet in height. It can be claustrophobic for some individuals, the ventilation is provided at the end of the cave. It is better to carry a torch or powerful light. There are lingam to be worshiped along with statue of Shiva.

A huge temple complex adjescent to the main temple complex is under renovation. This temple is quite huge and would be majestic to visit once the renovation is complete. A temple trust has 4 rooms for those who would like to experience Yaganti through the night. The next alternative for stay would be ideally at Kurnool. Gooty and Banagapalli has limited accommodation. Nandayal towards Prakasham district and Tadapatri are other alternative spots for stay.

Overall a visit to Yaganti is a refreshing religious and trekking experience, if one is adventurous one can visit the deserted Nawabs Palace enroute, Fort @ Banagapalli, Mosque within the complex and check out. If one needs further trekking check out the Gooty Fort and Kurnool Fort. Say Yes to Yaganti next time

Velankanni, Basilica of Mother Mary

Prologue : The seeds of Christainity was sown by the doubting Saint Thomas in India. Why was he known as doubting Thomas is an interesting incident. He refused to believe that Lord Jesus resurrected after crucification. Naturally he doubted the veracity of the believers, and later he touched the wounds of Jesus ( in his dreams I presume ) and got rid of his doubt on resurrection. After his faith was restored he became a missionary in spreading the gospel of the Lord. He traveled from Syria to West coast with the merchant vessels of the Roman traders. He landed at Muziris ( Cragnallore ) in 52 AD. He began his missionary work and converted lot of people into his faith, which angered the local priests. Than he moved towards Mylapore in 72 AD, where he started spreading the gospel of the Lord. He was followed by his persecutors from Kerala as he was kneeling and praying on St Thomas Mount. He was pierced with a lance and transfixed in 72 AD. His body was bought by his followers and buried in the residence where he stayed put. ( which is now known as the Santhome Church ) The life history of St Thomas has been ironical from doubts to belief and thereon lynched as martyr in quest of spreading Christianity just like Lord Jesus.

Historical Background :

Around the beginning of the 17th century, a Portuguese vessel Santa Maria set sail to Colombo from Macao. While it was sailing in the deep bay of Bengal it was caught in a cyclonic storm with waves rising above 5 feet and rocking the vessel. Portuguese sailors were staunch believers in Virgin Mary, they knelt and prayed for their mother Mary to rescue them from the violent nature’s fury. The sinking souls vowed to build a chapel in her honour if they were rescued from sinking. Thus the fury of nature abated and within 10 minutes the sea calmed with tranquility unknown hitherto. The battered vessel was veered towards the coast of Vellankani.

They were received by the local fishermen community, who spotted the Catholic linage of the sailors and lead them to a thatched hut which was used as chapel in those days. The Portuguese sailors in gratitude renovated the thatched chapel with brick and mortar construction. The Chapel was 24 feet in length and 12 feet in breadth signifying the cross. They dedicated this church to the Blessed Virgin Mary to honour her miraculous power of healing and saviour from crisis.

If one breaks up the word Velankanni word in Tamil it means White Virgin or meaning Virgin Mother Mary.

LEGEND : Acknowledgement ( Courtsey : Velankannichurch org ) :


Sometime during the sixteenth century, Our Lady with her infant son appeared to a Hindu boy carrying milk to a customer’s home. While he rested under a Banyan tree near a tank (pond), Our Lady appeared to him and asked for milk for her Son and the boy gave her some. On reaching the customer’s home, the boy apologized for his lateness and the reduced amount of milk by relating the incident that occurred on his way. On inspection, the man found the milk pot to be full and realized that something miraculous had happened. That man, also a Hindu, wanting to see the place where the apparition occurred, accompanied the boy.
When they reached the tank, Our Lady appeared once again. On learning that it was Our Lady who appeared to the boy, the residents of the local Catholic community became ecstatic. The tank where the apparition took place is called "Matha Kulam" or Our Lady’s tank.


Some years later Our Lady appeared again. This time to a crippled boy who was selling buttermilk near a public square on the outskirts of the same village of Vailankanni. She asked him for buttermilk for her infant Son and the boy compiled. Our Lady asked the boy to inform a certain wealthy Catholic man in the nearby town of Nagapattinam of her appearance. Not realizing that his crippled leg was miraculously cured by Our Lady, the boy rose up and began his journey. The man also had a vision the previous night in which Our Lady asked him to build a chapel for her. Together, the man and the boy returned to the site of the miracle.
This time Our Lady appeared to both. The man erected a thatched chapel for Our Lady at the site of Her second appearance. This chapel became a holy place of veneration to Our Blesses mother and She was called henceforth, Mother of Good Health ("Arokia Matha").

Historical Data of Vailankanni Shrine 

1. The history of Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, dawned in the 16th century

2. In September 1771, Vailankanni which had been a substation of Nagapattinam Parish, was raised to the status of a Parish.

3. The majestic Shrine facing the East, was renovated twice in 1920 and 1933.

4. His Holiness Pope John the XXIII, raised the Shrine to the status of 'Basilica' on the 3rd November 1962. The apparitions of Our Lady, the Miraculous statue of Our Lady, the countless miracles, the magnificent architecture and beauty of the Shrine, were the motives for this Shrine to become a Basilica.

5. The storeyed extension Basilica was blessed and opened in 1975.

6. In 1985,the little Chapel at Our Lady's Tank, was built a new and blessed.


We began our journey with the cyclonic effect on the coast of Nagapattinam on the fourth of November 2009 from Myalathdurai to transcending the barriers of religion. The entire day trip was stormy akin to the weather faced by the Portuguese sailors in the 17th century. I was praying to the Virgin Mary silently that I should get to see the Basilica in all its splendour and without much rainfall. Behold it was around 5.30 pm when we reached and the murky light cleared along with the heavy downpour and we witnessed the grandeur of the Church, which had an aura of divinity. 

Just imagine getting drenched in the weather for the entire day whenever we stepped out of the car, it used to pour and we returned wet. In ordinary circumstances one would abort the trip and get back to the cosy atmosphere in hotel rooms. We refused to return and continued our journey to pray to the Virgin Mary, and she blessed us with health. We were fortunate that we did not fall sick due to constant wetting in the rain.

We lit up 3 candles in honour of the Virgin Mary and donated some currency into the box, and bought back Memorabilia in honour of DVD and book from the Church counter. We had a wonderful dinner at the church canteen too to relish our trip to the core. All the tiredness of the 13 hour trip vanished when we got up in the morning miraculously. Thanks to VIRGIN MARY.


1. Garden of Jordan
2. Museum
3. Arokia Tank
4. Retreat Centre
5. Various Accomodation
6. Tsunami Memorial
7. Home for the aged
8. Health Centre
9. Shopping Centres
10. Other Churches

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kuda Caves & Murud Zanjira travelouge

For whom the bells toll, Time Marches On………….so goes the Lyrics of  Metallica.  Well when  working in high pressure organization which is filled with activity taking a break almost is a luxury, taken at a risk of displeasing one’s own boss.  I did manage to club the Diwali holidays, to move away from Mumbai, and thus escaping the sounds of deafening crackers being exploded in the apartments. 

We decided to drive early morning to Alibaug via the Panvel, and take a detour to NH17 Mumbai-Goa route.  Enroute through a winding route one reaches Karnala bird sanctuary, where there is a refreshment stop over.   If one reaches early enough one can spend an hour exploring the thickly forested terrain and hillock to spot some birds such as vulture, koel, robin, kingfisher, Owl etc can be spotted.  .  As one treks for one hour, through the karnala bird sanctuary  which is home to monkey, hares, mongoose, monitor lizard etc….Further ahead there is a ruined fort of  Karnala, as one reaches the peak one can have a glimpse of  Matheran and a blurred view of  Bhimashankar from a distance. These spots are trekkers delight since the peak is the shape of Thumbs up sign.  If one has the right equipment  and expertise, one can scale the peak, it is not for novice climbers like us.  This thumbs up formation is supposed to be a volcanic plug measuring 1538 feet height from the Hillock.

From Karnala we moved via Pen towards Alibaug, and reached the destination around lunch time, we took up an accommodation on the promenade facing the sea.  We filled our belly with nice konkan fish curry preparation along with fried Bombil.   After that we checked out the beach front which was filled with high tide water.  One should be aware of the high tide and low tide cycle inorder to cross over to Kulaba Fort.  The blackish soil gives a different tinge than the normal beach sand.  The Sunset profile on the beach front can be scenic landscape for photo buffs. 

The famous ornithologist Salim Ali did his bird watching in the locales of  Konkan coast, Alibaug serves as a weekend getaway for many a corporate executives from Mumbai. 

One can take a ride on the horse drawn carriages towards the Fort, by walk it might take around 20 minutes brisk walk.  The horse carriages wait for 30 minutes for tourist to take a detour. There are two temples Jai Bhavani, which is the family goddess of  Shivaji Maharaj and Hanuman temple.  There are two cannons installed by the British after the fall of the Marathas, which is manufactured at Yorkshire, home town of  Geoff Boycott.  One has to quickly finish their tour return before the high tide sets in other wise one has to wait for the second low tide cycle to return.   One can approach the hillock by muddy road too, after paying a toll fee.

Beaches Galore :  One gets to witness plenty of beaches along the coastline, Akshi, Nagaon, Kihim, Versoli beach are some of the popular ones.  One can explore the twin forts of Khanderi and Undheri from Nagaon beach.  One has to hire a boat and cross over, and one of the forts has a military check post where one can be frisked and questioned for ascertaining the genuine ids to avoid illegal activities.

Enroute to Rewas danda which is jetty for transporting cargo, one can come across Kanakeswara temple which can be reached vide 750 steps, which calls for top physical fitness.  Kanakeswar forest is attached to the temple where panthers are supposed to be scott free along with snakes.  One needs to venture into the terrain in a group for personal safety.
caves near Murud zanjira
caves near Murud zanjira
The next day we took a blinder of  a decision to cover Murud Zanjira and Harehareswar temple.  We traveled through Rewas Danda jetty and reached a junction with Banyan tree adding to the enigma.  We just enquired the route to Murud Zanjira and were guided rightly so.  Enroute traveling through the hillock we came across a barricaded enclosure which had an ASI symbol of protected monument.  It aroused some curiousity in us, so we moved the car on a muddy terrain away from the main road into the hillock.  We did for safety reason so that nobody can tamper with the car.  We parked the car at a vantage point and broke into the fenced boundary.  We found a neatly laid stairway towards a hillock.  We did not know what to expect, it was an impulsive decision.  As we moved on we enjoyed the scenic beauty of nature and reached the peak  to find a stunning series of caves of Buddhist origin. Alas we did not have any knowledge of its history, but the errie silence was adding to the suspense.  We quickly covered the main caves 6 in nos out of the 34 caves. We took some pictures for posterity.  We returned back to safety of our car and proceeded towards Murud Zanjira.

Kuda caves and beach
Kuda caves and beach
After a lot of painstaking search like a history professor on the internet I atlast could spot the historical significance of the cave.  The link is furnished below for those who are interested in it s heritage.  The cave is known as KUDA caves.  Location :  Kuda caves is located approx 28 kms before Murud Zanjira or can be covered on the return to Mumbai.

We moved around 25 kms from Kuda caves and found there was Dam on one side, which seemed quite huge, the paucity of the time we avoided going towards the Dam, instead we stopped on a hillock from where we could see the beautiful fort of Murud Zanjira, on the hillock it seemed to have ruined walls of a Fort and we found an ancient kings palace which was barricaded from prying visitors. We took some photographs of some stray horses grazing and the ruined fort and than we quickly droved towards Murud Zanjira.

Siddi palace
Siddi palace

Outlook Clue :

This great weekend travellers guide published by Outlook gave us some insight into the history of the out of bounds Nawabs palace.  The Siddis ruled this terrain guarding their fortress and palace fiercely.  They claim descent originally from Abyssinia in Africa.  The Ahmedganj Palace belongs to the Siddhi Nawab, which is spread over 45 acres of Land, which contains moque and buried remains of two past rulers.

The Palace is now under the Nawabs descendent and it is closely guarded for the fear of miscreants ransacking the premise in search of the fabled treasures.  Folklore popular among the people claim that untold wealth lies buried like the pharaohs tomb in Egypt.  The inscriptions on the tomb point to prevalent,  Mori an ancient language spoken and lost to posterity.  Nevertheless one will be lucky to study the rich heritage of the Nawab of Siddhis, if one obtains the permission.

Murud zanjira
Murud zanjira

This impregnable fort is also known as AJINKYA, the Fort has survived the constant attacks from Marthas, Moghuls, Dutch, Portuguese and the British.  The word Jazeera means in Arabic an isle.  The Siddis acted as feudatories of Vijayanagar,  Marathas, Moghuls and Bahamani Sultans.  The fort can be safely assumed to have been built during the Vijaynagar Empire by the local Koli fishermen community.  Later the Fort seemed to have been usurped by Habashi soldiers who acted as merchant vessel dockers at the Fort.  They intoxicated the local fishermen and captured the Fort and subsequently the Siddhis took over the Fort.  From thereon they fiercely guarded the Fort against all invaders.  In 1676 Shivaji unsuccessfully tried to capture Zanjira, later he built forts surrounding Murud  such as Vijaydurg, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Padamdurg, Kasa Fort, etc.  The Siddhis signed a treaty with the British to safeguard their interest against the Portuguese.

Murud Zanjira
Murud Zanjira
If one wants to reach the fort, one has to set sail in a catamaran across the sea, which is guided by wind sail.  It is a beautiful experience to set sail in an ancient contraption which moves in sync with the velocity of the wind.  Many a bollywood rustic movies seem to have been shot on this locale.

Inside the fort, there is a huge tank to collect fresh water from the rainfall, a ruined palace and watch posts located across the fort.  Cannons were originally deployed and now we can get only glimpse of the past with 2 cannons in place.  It is quite hot and humid during most part of the year, better to carry plenty of drinking water, salt and sugar candies along with umbrella.  It is fabled that Charles Shobraj, serial killer was imprisoned inside the Fort for a short duration, away from the prying media.

The fort raises nearly 90 feet above sea with a deep foundation of 20 feet.  Some claim it was built in honour of  Siddi Johar to protect his guru.  It took 22 long years to construct the massive fort spread across 22 acres.  The fort seemed to have contained a granary to store supplies during the rainy season.  Till 4 decades a school was functioning with 550 families stationed inside the Fort.  The queen Zubeida used to grace the palace and bathe nearby the pond along with her consorts.  Slowly after independence the entire fort was vacated to retain it as a national monument.  Now it is firmly under the safe hands of the ASI as protected monument.

ACK : ASI, Outlook, Wiki, Research post

Friday, April 1, 2011

Madaksira Fort, for bravehearts

Just imagine being an amateur trekker risking one’s life that too on a diwali day ( 17/10/09 ) to ascend the impregnable Madaksira fort. Last time around we wanted to trek this fort but could not in lieu of not finding a proper place to park our car safely. Moreover we were in a hurry to reach Pavgada Fort, which was our destination for stay. This time around it was only determination and guidance of 15 year old Hemanth who accompanied us as a guide. We took the unconventional escape route from the fort to ascend which is shorter. Who knew this path would be filled with thorny bushes, unsteady steps and literally a rock face with 60 degree inclination to ascend. 
It is recommended to ascend this fort through the regular enterance which is quite well laid staircase, and for others who are adventurous and 100% fit choose this unconventional ascent.

Once I almost tripped inside the throny bush pathway shaking me up for the first time. Next time around my wife was complaining of chest pain and she aborted the climb, I am happy she did it on the hindsight with her leather slipper it would have been impossible except with bare foot, which was not worth attempting, she went back to the base of the hillock. I decided we should go further up since we had hired a guide in Hemanth. Enroute I had to take 8 breaks to catch up with the steep ascent, and clicked some lovely photographs of the landscape and surroundings. At midpoint there was a steep rock face without support, my guide lent me a hand to ascend. But it would have been fatal if had transferred my full weight on his I would have dragged him down too. However I managed to tilt my weight on to the rock, in spite of it I had a dodge and landed with a slushy grass with water seepage from the Fort pond on top. We ascended further towards the top. At one place there was nothing to grip it was 12 feet high rock face with 60 degree incline with nothing to grip on the rock face. After studying and deeply analyzing the situation, I decided to risk my life for sake of surmounting the obstacle. This phase is only for professional climbers or to ascend with aids such as rope or railing or even a walking stick firmly held by someone from top. Maybe even a strong camera tripod would have been sufficient, but alas I had only umbrella with me. I just managed to cling on to the wild plants growing on the sides of the rock surface, there was only two gripping branches, and finally my guide lent me a helping hand from the top. This was absolute stunner for a 49 year obese personality.

Enroute I was fascinated by a manly face jutting out of the fort. The contours of the rockcut nose, mouth, teeth and forehead is amazing resemblance may be to a Roman warrior. I clicked snaps from all angle and used my resting time usefully. I gulped some butter milk which was laced with sufficient salt. The weather was becoming extremely hot, that too during winter time. I checked the time was 1 pm in the noon and my stomach was almost drained with energy. The only consolation since I consumed butter milk with salt, it helped to avoid muscle sprain which could have been fatal on such an ascent. But I decided never to descend by this pathway, which would have virtually impossible at the 60 degree inclination point with my rebok shoes, which had limited grip. We decided to travel through the main pathway which is neatly maintained with steps, but circuitous.

At the mid point of the fort, there is the Kings durbar hall, a devi temple and small pond wherein our guide dipped himself to cool his body. The water was greenish indicating unsafe for us. So I avoided taking bath, instead I was clicking away snaps to glory, with the landscape revealing the enterance to the fort and newly built Sai baba temple. I was surprised to find a lone foreigner lady from Finland who accompanied a batch of students from the orphanage at Mankapalli. All of them looked famished since they had ascended through the circuitous path. Even though I was shaken I was not stirred.

Location : Madakasira fort is located approximately 160 kms from Blore, one has to travel on NH7 the Hyderabad highway.  There are two good places for breakfast, one is Brindavan, in chickballapur another Kamat restaurant at HP petrol bunk after chickballapur town. One has to take a deviation towards left just immediately after the Kondapalli Andhra check post and reach leepakshi and have a dharsan from Lord Veerabhadra to ascend Madaksira fort, which may have saved the day for me on hindsight. Madakasira fort is 45kms away from Leepakshi after Hindupur, where one can have a good lunch in two of the hotels, one his Paaya and other one is Parijata.  If one wants to extend their journey than one can visit Pavgada fort further up on this road.  Madakasira is AP and Pavgada is Karnataka.


cannons ready to fire

About Me

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Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Basically i am down to earth, take friendship to its logical end. It is my endeavour to create a wealth of co-operative ventures. Basically being a marketing man i have the acumen to spot winners. I am privileged to travel the length and breadth of the country, courtsey my father, who was with Indianoil, my employers such as Nutrine, Kurl-on, Hindustan Pencils, Prestige, Crystal, Bell Ceramics, Pentel, Sezal, Commander. Currently i am involved in Tourism, Booking Air Tickets, Agent for Jungle Lodges and Resorts Limited and Taj Group of Hotels and a numerous hotels across India. Depending on the needs of a traveller i would recommend the destination and accommodation best suited to their budget. Humour takes me on. Let us have a win win situation for all. I love travelling for sake of adventure, photography and discovering the heritage. Life is a journey and let us enjoy our drive. Come share your travel experience on indiabackpacker.