Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry

Temples of India provide great opportunities to fine tune our photography skills.

Seeing this week’s theme, I thought, let’s take it literally and dig deep in my archives for fitting images…

I am so glad to share the following images from three different states of South India, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra.

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Symmetry

Belur and Halebidu: Epics in Stone

Neither the temple tower is so huge and intimidating nor the temple complex. Did I waste my precious weekend, deciding to visit this rather small temple, some 4 hours drive from Bangalore?

That was my first impression, frankly.

As I got closer, I did come to know, it’s different, and it’s nothing like whatever I had seen before.

Belur-1Hardly you could find an inch of space without some kind of stone carving in the whole structure.

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Then slowly the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata unraveled in front of me.

The Chennakesava temple of Belur was was built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana in 12th Century AD. Belur was an early  capital of the Hoysala empire, which is now in the Hassan district of the South Indian state of Karnataka.

What really makes the Hoysala temples different from the other grand temples of south India is the intricate and detailed stone carved sculptures. For this, the grand sculptors of Hoysala temples used soapstone (chloritic schist). when quarried, soapstone is relatively soft and easy to carve and it becomes harder as time passes. Perfect to endure for hundreds of years and wave after wave of attacks from north Indian kingdoms.

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The story behind the name of the dynasty, the Hoysala, is portrayed  in a beautiful sculpture where the King faces an attacking lion alone and kills it.

Belur-1cI really didn’t have an idea, what to shoot and what to leave behind. As I kept on clicking and time passed, my friend reminded me that we have to reach Halebidu before it’s too late.Belur-5Belur-6Belur-7Belur-8Belur-9Belur-10

Half a day was too short to explore this incredible place. After “sort of covering” the temple we moved on.

How to reach Belur: There are frequent buses from Bangalore City bus stand (Majestic) to Hassan.

From Hassan, state transport buses ply frequently to Belur, Which is around 40 km away in Chickmagalur route.

The Chennakesava temple is just walkable from the bus stand.

Where to eat: Though it’s a small town, there are some decent restaurants in Belur where you get mostly vegetarian food.

Best time to Explore: The seasonal changes are not much felt in this part of the world, which makes Belur visit a comfortable one all year round.

Accommodation in Belur: There are some basic accomodation available in the Belur town itself. But, a google search listed Mayura hotel with some really nice reviews(I haven’t tried this place personally).

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It was already evening by the time we reached Halebidu and the first impression was, OMG we need days to explore this temple complex.

Even though we got a great introduction to the stunning Hoysala architecture in Belur, we weren’t really ready for the magic of the Hoysaleswara temple of Halebidu. The beauty and perfection of the intricately carved sculptures here is at a different level.

Halebidu-6Halebidu-5Halebidu-2Halebidu was once the capital of Hoysala empire and attacked many a times by the armies of Delhi Sultanate.

Because of these waves of attacks, even after 86 years of work, the temple could never get completed.

The signs of which is very evident in some of the sculptures and pillars here.

Halebidu-4Halebidu-3As it was getting dark, and we had to explore the Kedareshwara temple and the Jain Basadi nearby, we left the temple half-heartedly. Before leaving, I tried to capture a few more images and I was really lucky.

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Though relatively small in structure, the stone work at Kedareshwara temple is at the same level as the two temples we had already explored.

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For a change, there was one more structure A Jain Basadi with a different style of architecture.

These two temples are less known and not many people visit here though it’s directly behind the main temple complex, but really worth exploring.

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How to Reach: Halebidu can be reached from Belur(17 km) or directly from Hassan(33km)

Accomodation In Halebidu: Again, I don’t have any personal suggestions here but heard highly about KSTDC Mayura Shantala

Where to Eat: Halebidu doesn’t have many an options as far as eateries are concerned.

Foot Note: Even though you can explore these two amazing places as a day trip from Bangalore, that would be quite tiring. Hassan is quite a big town and has got many options for accommodation, so plan for at least two days and appreciate these epics carved out of stone.

Jog Falls: Feel a river coming down from heavens

Have you ever imagined, how it feels like, standing right under a river which is coming down from the heavens?

You could feel it, if you come down to Jog Falls, the second highest plunge waterfall in India.

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Our much awaited tour to Jog got a bumpy start as a train got derailed just in front of ours and we had to take a much longer detour.

It was a six hour overnight journey to Shimoga from Bangalore, which became a sixteen hour endeavor.

But it provided us with a great opportunity to see the beautiful country side.

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We reached Shimoga (which is the nearest rail head for those who visit Jog Falls) by 5 pm.

There we found the famous toy train, which used to take people pretty near to Jog Falls.

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To compensate for the lost day, we quickly moved to the Bhadra Dam site where a light drizzle and a refreshing breeze washed away all the tiredness.

Next day early morning we were off to Jog, through the lush green Malanadu or the Rain Country, and it really was a roller coaster ride through the winding roads.

Once we reached Jog falls, we were treated with the amazing view of the Sharavathi river valley.

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Enjoying the view of the valley and the falls from the edge of the falls we moved to the observation deck.

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The observation deck is the best place to get the complete picture of the water fall, where you could see all four different falls (Raja, Rani, Rocket and Roarer) forming the mighty Jog.

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From here we can go down to the river bed through bushes and steep steps cut in rocks( around 1400 in number).

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The view kept changing and the whole ambiance became so dramatic and refreshing with a drizzle created by the falls.

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And finally we had to turn off our cameras and just feel the ambiance. Looking up, I felt, streams were descending from clouds and meeting the river silently.

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No one felt like coming back from this extravagant show of nature, but with limited time we had to explore a few more places before catching our train back to Bangalore.

Other places of Interest nearby:

Ikkeri temple: The old temple of Ikkeri is a less known place and worth exploring.

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Sringeri: We managed to explore the Vidyashankara temple and the matha of Adi shankara. The stone carvings of the temple were mighty impressive and show cases the development of the craft some 700 years ago.

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Best time to visit: Jog changes from a mighty intimidating falls to a narrow stream from time to time.

During the peak monsoon months(July and August), people are not allowed to go down the steps to the river bed and

during  the summer months (January to May) Jog won’t impress you with a scaled down version 🙂

To me, the best time to visit Jog would be just after the monsoon(September and October).

Places to stay: Even though Sagara is the nearest town to Jog falls, more options for accommodation would be available in Shimoga.