TGIF Photo # 3 – Rameshwaram

Well its Friday and it time for TGIF Photo. Here’s a picture of Rameshwaram (or Rameswaram) Beach at sunrise. The place is located in Tamil Nadu and is only 40 km from Sri Lanka. We reached Rameshwaram at close to 3 am, checked in into a hotel and left for the beach at around 4:30 am. To our surprise, there were already quite some people there – taking holy dip. And as usual, there were cows and bulls roaming on the beach. Here’s the photo of sunrise:

tgif-rameshwaram1

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Christmas in Bangalore – St Patricks Church

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About – The church is second oldest in Bangalore (St. Mary’s being oldest). Originally built for Irish soldiers, the church is now frequented by numerous during weekends. It is located at the junction of Brigade road and Residency Road. Apart from the church, its premises has a shrine, plenty of open space – for parking and strolling.

Inside St. Patrick's

Inside St. Patrick's

Ambience – Inside the church, three columns of seats (5 in a row) were teeming with people. Most were dressed in their best. Men were in usual dark suits. Women were more colorful, wrapped in flamboyant saris, frocks, skirts (of all possible lengths) and salwar-kameez. Every seat had a booklet – of lyrics of Carol Service and Holy Mass. We arrived pretty early (10:15 pm) in the hope of getting a front seat only to find that numerous others thought on similar lines and arrived earlier . This meant only a few seats were left unoccupied. Unable to find a front seat, we settled at whatever was available.

On Left and Right sides of the church, live feeds of the sessions was screened. Seating arrangement was really good. In fact, those who were standing at the back, several church volunteers managed seats for them, especially women and children. Standing the back center position inside the church gave a majestic view of the proceedings. We left our much coveted seats and stood at the back.

Theme – ‘Persecution’ was an all pervasive theme at St. Patrick’s Church. Destruction due to Tsunami, WTC attack, Church attacks (at Orissa, Karnataka and elsewhere) and Mumbai attack was portrayed. It felt good that despite the threats, so many (Christians and non-Christians alike) gathered at midnight to celebrate festive spirit. But after more than two decades of terrorism in the country, this theme has become oh-so-cliched.

I leave you with some more Christmas pictures. Merry Christmas.

Christmas amidst Persecution

Christmas amidst Persecution

Waiting for Baby Jesus

Waiting for Baby Jesus

Baby Jesus Arrives

Baby Jesus Arrives

Announcing the arrival of Baby Jesus

Announcing the arrival of Baby Jesus

Further Reading

Murudeshwara: understated but exhilarating

Temple town by the Sylavan Beach

Temple town by the Sylvan Beach

About the place – Murudeshwara (also called Mrudeshwar, Murudeshwar, Mrudeshwara) has a religious significance, supposedly from Ramayana times (I have heard of a somewhat similar story about Deoghar – don’t know which version to trust). A sylvan beach by the temple, some beach-side eateries, beach activities (boat ride, snorkelling, banana ride, diving, eating fish fry etc – no bikini beach tan though), an island (Netrani) and some shopping (items made of local root) pretty much sums up the place. Ans yes, the name ‘RN Sheety’ reverberates everywhere you go in this town. A good weekend getaway from Bangalore during Oct-Feb.

How did I arrive here – I planned for a trip to Gokarna, but included Murudeshwara in the eleventh hour. So, there was no scope for making amendments to bus tickets. Thus, landed in Gokarna, took a bus to Kumta and then to Murudeshwara. A big gate welcomed me on my arrival to this temple-beach town. Hired an auto (in INR 25 for 3 km) and reached the places of interest – Murudeshwara temple, Shiva statue, Gopura, Beach, hotels, eateries and local market.

Shiva Statue

Shiva Statue

Where I stayed – at RNS Guest House. It has several sea facing rooms (probbaly 55). I was lucky in the sense that my room was at one corner of the building which gave me two balconies – with a breathtaking view of the sea lashing at the rocks on one side, meeting the horizon at another side and kissing the fishermen’s huts at the third.

What did I see – Temple, Gopuram and Beach

Murudeshwara Temple sits atop Kanduka Hill and surrounded by sea on three sides. Photography and/or Videography is not allowed inside the temple. The verandah/porch of the temple presents an exquisite view of the sea and a good opportunity to you to shoot. At the entrance to the temple lies the giant Raja Gopuram – a good 20 stories tall (249 ft) and guarded by life-size concrete elephant pairs on either side. This Gopuram, like its class elsewhere, is rectangular with ground level wooden doors – which is entrance

Gopuram and Lord Shiva

Gopuram and Lord Shiva

to a temple. This is the only gopuram which has a lift and devotees can go right to the top (however, the lift was closed when I went there). It was built under the guidance of Tamil sculptor S K Achar who built “Vivekanada Rock” in Kanyakumari along with his sons Dakshinamurthy and Swaminathan and a big team of 500 Tanjore-based sculptors.

Wikipedia page on Murudeshwara suggests that there is a fort behind the temple. However, none of the people I asked (and I asked plenty of them) knew anything about the fort.

The Beach has visibly two parts – one flanked by the tourists (not large in numbers though) and the other visited by only those who want some ‘private’ space. The beach presents the best example of how the RN Sheety brand has marketed itself in this once sleepy hamlet. The beach is flanked by RNS creations – the Gopura, the statue of Lord Shiva, RNS Hotels (guest house and residencies) and eateries. On the beach, a good 500m from the temple, you’re on your own except for a few children of the local fishermen. While on a  km walk on this stretch, I encountered a group of kids pushing a boat for a fisherman. Took a video and some shots of the boat, fisherman and the kids. Boat Ride is also available at the beach (INR 40 for a 20 min ride). The ride gives the view of the temple and the Shiva statue from the back. Watching the sun going down the horizon was resplendent.

Push Up

Push Up

What did I eat – Veg dinner and breakfast at Naveen Beach Restarant(excellent view of the beach while you eat), non veg lunch at Naveen Beach Resort (only place where you can ‘drink’) and ‘Bangda’ fish fry at a beach-side stall.

TravellersDiary recommends

Take an evening bus from Bangalore to reach Murudeshwara early next morning. RNS group has a good portfolio of hotels where you can stay – RNS Guest House (08385-268990, INR 650) , RNS Residency (268901-03, INR 1100 onwards)and Naveen Beach Resort(260415, INR 1700 onwards). Visit the Temple and the Gopuram at the entrance. Take a walk at the beach, and if you want some privacy, move ahead by half a km from the temple. The spot near the Shiva statue will give you a good sight of the town – with its beach, hills, palm/coconut trees, eateries, boats and hotels in a single charming frame. Go for boat ride. And if you are an adventure enthusiast and are not constrained by pocket, go to Netrani Island – for snorkelling, diving, banana ride. For next day. move on to Kumta (for some sandalwood crafts shopping) or to Gokarna (for beaches and an ancient temple).

More Resources

TravellersDiary Album, Wikipedia page, oktatabyebye page, Sanket’s page, Dancewithshadows page.

Mysore: Palatial Experience

About the place

Also called Mysuru, The City of Palaces is a 3.5 hrs journey by road (150 km) from Bangalore. The Wodeyar dynasty ruled Mysore for almost five and a half centuries. The city is very old and has a lot of structures that are huge and remind you of the days of Rajas. The Wodeyars were patrons of art and culture and evry must-see spot in the town will prove that – the 4 palaces, chamunda temple, art gallery, zoo, lakes, gardens etc. The place is also famous for Mysore Pak (a sweet) and Mysore silk-saree (a garment). Climate is cool (max 33 deg C in summers ie. Mar-Jun) throughout the year. Best time to visit is during the Dasara festival, usually in October.

What to see/do

Mysore Palace: Mysore Palace is one of the most visited monuments in India, even beating Taj Mahal [Source]. Also called Ambi Vilas, the Palace is the center of the city of Mysore. The royal family of Mysore formerly resided here and also presided over the ceremonial meetings. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the three storied Palace was constructed in Indo-Saracenic style at the cost of INR 4,200,000 at 1912. There is a large space (comprising a large garden, staff quarters, residential museum, several temples and a place where you can enjoy camel and elephant rides) that surrounds the Palace. The Palace has four gates on four sides. It is open to public from 10 am to 5 pm everyday.

The open spaces are open to photography. But you cannot go inside the Palace with a camera. The security is pretty tight, so don’t try sneaking your camera in any way. You’ll have to shell INR 15 for keeping your camera at a stall outside and INR 20 for Palace entry fee. Also, you’ll have to keep your shoes outside at another stall (INR 0.50 per pair). The decorations, designs and architectural patterns inside the palace will give you several ‘aha’ moments. The view outside from the Durbar will enable you view the palace sprawl. The palace also houses 12 temples built at different periods (oldest: 14th century, latest: 1953), with Someshwara Temple being most famous. You may also visit the armory of the royal family. Sunday evening (7pm to 8pm) the Palace is illuminated with 100,000 bulbs of 100W and looks regal. The entry into palace grounds is free, however you cannot enter inside the palace after 5pm. The view attracts thousands of visitors every Sunday evening.

Jaganmohan (Jayachamarajendra) Art Gallery: It was built by the royalty when their earlier palace was burnt down. It is a three storied palace with stained glass shutters. It was converted to an Art Gallery in 1915. The gallery houses several paintings of Raja Ravi Verma and portraits of the royal family, most of which are life-like. Some paintings depict sari-clad women in their full fledged shape and glow. The gallery also houses several furnitures, artifacts and musical instruments of the royal family. Besides the royal paintings, I liked “Glow of Hope” painting the most. The display arena of the painting is darkened, which heightens the nuances of the painting.

Philomena Church: Inspired by Cologne Cathedral in Germany, this half a century old church is built in Neo-Gothic style. The Maharajah of Mysore laid the foundation in 1933, but it took more than two decades to complete its construction (probably due to independence related turbulence in India). The Church is extremely large and exudes an old-world charm. Someone there told me the twin spires of the Church somewhat resembles Cologne Cathedral (Germany) and St. Patrick’s Church (New York). The main altar preserves the relic of Saint Philomena. There are several paintings on the stained glass windows inside the Church. Camera is not allowed inside, however, you may use the camera just outside the church building (and hence the adjoining picture).

Chamundi Hills: This 1000m high hill is around 10km from Mysore bus-stand (city center). The hill presents a panoramic view of the Mysore city. Atop the hill, is a bus stand and Chamundi Devi (also called Chamundeswari, Chamundeshwari) Temple nearby. There is another route to the Temple – climbing 1000 steps (I only saw the steps, don’t really know any other detail though; may be next time). The temple is very popular, with thousand of devotees thronging the place on weekends and holidays. There are three types of entry – free, INR 20 and INR 100. The temple houses diety of Goddess Mahisasurmardini (slayer of demon Mahisasur), or Durga. The deity is taken on an elephant during the famous Dasara festival. Other must-see stuff are the monolithic statues of Mahisasura and Nandi Bull and Godly Museum. Food (South Indian) is available at some local shops. En route to the Temple, you may see Lalitha Mahal (a palace), race course, Mysore Palace, Rajendra Vilas Palace (momentarily closed to the public due to renovation) and Karanji and Kukkarahalli Lakes.

Vrindavan (Brindavan) Gardens: Almost 15km from Mysore bus-stand, lies this attractive garden beside the KrishnaRajaSagar Dam (KRS Dam built on river Cauvery, or Kaveri). The garden was completed in 1932 and is visited by almost 2 million tourists per year. Entry fee is INR 20 per head, and another INR 50 if you want to take a camera along. The Garden has three terraces comprising fountains and several breeds of flowers (I could only identify two – Bougainvillea and Marigold) and trees. A lake (and a very massive one) divides the park into two. Boats ferry people from one side to another, there’s a bridge as well in case you want to walk. During the evening, there’s musical fountain from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. As the name says, the water is synchronized with the music. The show draws major crowds and traffic comes to a stand still when all the vehicles leave at the show’s end. There’s an adjoining 75 acres fruit orchard as well. Buses ply from Mysore at every 30 min from Mysore local Bus Stand.

Other attractions: Mysore has several other attractions like Karanaji Lake, Rail Museum (houses Maharani’s Saloon), Mysore Zoo (dates back to 1892), Folklore Museum (inside University of Mysore campus) and Oriental Research Institute. These places are recommended if you are on a 2-day tour to Mysore. For single day tourists, only the first five venues are advisable. Other nearby places are Srirangapatna, Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, Sivasamudra Falls, Talakad and Bylakuppe.

How to get there/local transport

From Bangalore: Regular buses (20 min) from Majestic; Fare is INR 80 on BMTC buses; takes around 3/3.5 hours. There are 9 trains between Bangalore and Mysore (Times from Bangalore – 0430, 0500, 0625, 0700, 0735, 1415, 1815, 2055, 2355 hrs and times from Mysore – 0400, 0710, 0805, 0930, 1005,1045, 1645, 2115, 2355 ). For bookings go here. You may also decide to ride on a bike or have a personal vehicle.

Local Transport: Mysore has two bus stands – city BS and main BS, both near the Mysore Palace. Buses ply from the city BS to every tourist spot – Chamunda Hills, Brindavan Gardens, Philomena’s Church etc. Enquiry office guys are really helpful. Autos are also available and charge reasonably. Alternately, you may rent a taxi for city tour.

Where to stay

If you are on a 1-day tour, no need to stay. If you have to stay, there are several hotels around the bus-stand area, take a call according to your budget.

TravellersDiary Recommendations

One-day trip: Leave Bangalore early morning (this avoids any delay due to traffic and also gives you ample time) and reach Mysore by 9 am. Visit the Chamunda hills first. Stop enroute (ask anyBus conductor for directions) to visit Lalitha Mahal. Then move towards the temple. Have breakfast and drive down to the city. Next, visit Philomena’s Church, Jaganmohan Art Gallery, Mysore Palace in sequence. Next, take a bus (or personal vehicle, but not auto) to Brindavan Gardens. Experience the beauty, boating and musical fountain there. Come back to Mysore city and then back to where you came from.

Two-Day Trip: Do the above and also visit five places mentioned in ‘other attractions’. Alternately, you may want to combine Srirangapatna-Mysore in two days. Leave Bangalore early to reach Srirangapatna at 9am. Follow TravellersDiary recommendations for Srirangapatna and then leave for Mysore. Visit the market (buy Mysore Pak, silk sarees etc) and stay in a hotel.And yes, do take a lot of photographs.

Further Readings

More TravellersDiary pics