Thursday, 31 May 2012

An Evening in Lalbagh, Bengaluru

We were on the way to home after a tiresome day we spent in a mall. Suddenly my hubby stopped the car near Lalbagh Westgate, looked at me and smiled. I understood his intention and in next few minutes we were inside Lalbagh :) A few hours were left to dusk.Lalbagh - One of the main tourist attractions in Bengaluru is a famous botanical garden. Lalbagh has largest collection of Flora - Trees more than 100 years of old, a big Natural lake, an attractive Bonsai Garden, Aquarium, Glass House, Fountains, Kempegowda Tower etc covering an area of 240 acres. Lalbagh holds two flower shows in a year on Independence day and on Republic day. Lakhs of people visit during flower show. I will write about this flower show in my next post. Wikipedia says Lalbagh was originally commissioned by Hyder Ali the ruler of Mysore and later finished by his son Tippu Sultan in 1760.
Partial view of Glass house which holds flower show twice in a year
You call Lalbagh as Joggers Park, Lovers Spot, Birders Paradise, Picnic spot...everything holds true for this beautiful park. It wears a fresh look everyday. Though it was not my first visit to Lalbagh, everything appeared new to me.

Kempegowda Tower : We decided to spend some time near Kempegowda Tower which was built by Kemplegowda, founder of Bengaluru. This tower is on a huge rock which is on top of the hillock. It looks like a small temple. Bengaluru has four Kempegowda towers. This is one of them.
Kempegowda tower
Bonsai Garden : Then we decided to visit Bonsai Garden. Bonsai plants always attract me. These plants certainly have an oomph factor.  I always wanted to have a bonsai plant in my house and wanted to learn the art of bonsai. But considering my busy life as I cant maintain them and cant give sufficient time to take care of them, postponig the idea of having Bonsai plants at my home.
Entrance gate to the Bonsai garden is also very attractive. This 40 foot high gate is built in Chinese and Malaysian  Pagoda style. This gate really stands out in this huge garden.  Lalbagh Bonsai Garden is very beautiful. There are many bonsai plants which are more than 40 years old. Bonsai Garden has more than 1500 plants of different species. I was enthralled by seeing so many varieties of Bonsai plants at on place. This bonsai garden is recently opened and it certaily gave a royal touch to Lalbagh. Lalbagh also has many plants and trees which are native to different countries.
Pagoda style entrance gate to the Bonsai Garden

Lake : We moved towards lake. This is a natural lake with clean water and surrounding greenery reflecting into it. There is a neatly maintained path along the lake for morning walkers. This lake also has a small island in the middle. This lake is the source of water to those plants and trees in Lalbagh. You can also see birds like ducks, swans, geese, pelican etc in the lake.
A goose in the lake

Rose Garden : Sun was preparing to say bye to us. After spending some time near the lake we visited Rose Garden which is one of the attractions of Lalbagh. Rose Garden has an intoxicating beauty with colorful roses. This is neatly maintained. I felt like running towards those beautiful roses, touch and kiss them.  But entry into Rose garden is prohibited.

Lalbagh has many other attractions apart from these. 

Visiting Time : Lalbagh is open all days from 6 AM to 7 PM. Entry is free from 6AM to 7AM. 
There are direction boards everywhere for the benefit of  visitors. It is clean and neatly maintained. Dont through garbage and plastics anywhere and spoil the environment. There are dustbins everywhere, please use them. 
You can see lovers in every corner of Lalbagh who are busy in romance. They will be in their own world making visitors to feel somewhat uncomfortable. Whatever ... Shhhhhh..........dont disturb them :)

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lepakshi - A Lost Wonder : A treasure House of Rich Fine Arts and Sculpture

Hmmm...we were preparing for weekend one day trip recently. As usual, trouble started while deciding the place. This time I had my sister and brothers to join our trip.  They started suggesting places which failed to capture my attention. Finally my husband left the decision of selecting the place on me. I was waiting for this opportunity. "Lepakshi" was the next word I uttered and everybody agreed. Preparation started to visit Lepakshi next day, Sunday. I got up early, preapred delicious palav and masala curd, packed it. Around 9 AM we left from the house.
Lepakshi is situated in Ananthpura district of Andhra Pradesh. It is 120 Kms north of Bengaluru and 15 Kms from Hindupur.
Our route : NH 7:  Bengaluru ->Yalahanka ->Devanahalli->Chikkaballapur->Bagepalli (last town of Karnataka)->AP Border toll booth @ Kodikonda -> Left turn to Lepakshi (16 kms)
Road is excellent till left turn to Lepakshi. Driving was really a heaven :) with scenic beauty on both sides of the road. We reached Lepakshi at 11.20 AM.. in just 2 hours with 100 KM speed :)
We were welcomed by a huge Nandi bull made out of a single granite stone. This Nandi is one of the attractions of Lepakshi. Surroundings of this Nandi Sculpture is green with a pond full of lotus flowers, a stone carvings with the word "Lepakshi" on it and many decorative plants.

Nandi Sculpture

After spending some time near Nandi we headed towards temple which is just 5 mins away. After seeing the temple from outside my husband was furious and started shouting at me for selecting this place. But I was confident that this temple offers lot more than I expected.
We entered the temple and wow.. it was entirely a different world of stone sculptures. We were speechless. The main temple is dedicated to Lord Veerabhadra, Shiva, Vishnu and Goddess Papanasheshwari (Durga). We offered pooja and later came out to see temple complex.
Main Temple Area
We were mesmerised by the sculptures in the temple complex. Entire temple is built up in stone. These stone sculptures were created by artisans of Vijayanagara empire. So it has similaries to the sculptures of Hampi. Hats off to those artisans and their creativity. I really doubt modern day sculptors can create this magic. Wikipedia says Vishwakarma Amarashilpi Jakanachari took part in the planning the architecture of this temple.

Sculptures on the pillars

Pillars and walls of the temple are sculpted with stories of Mahabharatha, Ramayana, animals like elephants, flowers and chain like designs. Roof  has so many beautiful paitings done by natural colour mixtures.
Temple complex offers architectural wonders. There is a big Nagalinga which was carved out of a single stone by sculptors. And also a huge statue of  Lord Ganesha captures the attention of everyone. To the north-west side of the temple you can see a large unfinished Kalyana Mantapa (Wedding Hall) with many pillars.
Unfinished Kalyana Mantapa (Wedding Hall)
Nagalinga - Carved out of a single stone

I had completely lost in the world of sculptors and was busy in taking photos. Though it was Sunday tourists were less. One good thing is we are free to take photos anywhere here. It was 2 PM and my stomach started givin warnigs that it is hungry. We had to start our return journey though nobody had interset to come out of the temple. On the way of our return journey we stopped nearby a dry grassland and settled down under a big tree and had palav prepared by me. We reached Bengaluru around 5 PM. I am still in the hangover of those sculptures.

I have listed some of the main attractions of Lepakshi Temple :
1. Nandi
2. Main shrine of Lord Veerabhadra
3. Pillars of the temple and hanging pillar
4. A huge statue of Nagalinga
5. Statue of Lord Ganesha
6. Unfinished Kalyana Mantapa
7. Roof murals and many more sculptures
Paintings on the roof
History of Lepakshi :
It is said that Lord Rama found the mythical bird Jatayu lying wounded here, its wings were cut off by Ravana when he abducted Sita. According to locals, after Ravana had cut the wing of the bird, Lord Rama said "le pakshi"(rise bird) and the bird rose. Hence, this sacred place was named as Lepakshi (Source : Internet)
During the month of February a 10 day long celebration including the car festival is conducted in the temple. During the festival Lepakshi is packed with pilgrims from all over the country.

Best Time to visit Lepakshi : Temple is open on all days. If you are planning to visit Lepakshi in summer then better to carry an umbrella while exploring the temple complex. Sun and hot stones make impossible to stand and walk.
Hotels and food : It is hard to find good hotels in Lepakshi. Either carry home prepared food or settle down with small roadside shops which sell eatables.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A wonderful Safari @ Bannerghatta National Park, Bengaluru

Bannerghatta National park visit was totally unplanned. It was our wedding anniversary day last year. We wanted to make it a memorable day as it was Sunday. We planned to visit nearby place in Bengaluru and after googling we decided to visit Muthyala Maduvu, also called "Pearl Valley" which is 40 KMs from Bengaluru. We started from home at 10 AM with family members.  To reach Pearl valley we have to head out on Bannerghatta road and continue beyond Bannerghatta National park
It was a cloudy day and as soon as we stepped out from home it started drizzling. Rain continued to play hide and seek. We were about to cross Bannerghatta National park and it started raining heavily. It was impossible to explore Muthyala Maduvu in the rain. We stopped the car and thought of returning back to home and celebrate the wedding anniversary by having hot tea and bajji in cool breeze. Suddenly my sister in law suggested to visit Bannerghatta National Park as her little daughter would also enjoy the animals. But I was not at all interested to visit the park and zoo as we had recently visited Mysore Zoo, one of the biggest zoo in Asia. Our car turned towards National Park.
After paying entrance fees and taking tickets we entered the Zoo. As it was Sunday the zoo was crowded. Drizzling also  made my mood off. This is 25000 acres zoological park and one of the major tourist attractions of Bengaluru. Zoo has many animals, birds, reptiles etc. Though it is small when compared to Mysore zoo but well maintained. My niece seemed to be enjoying these animals and birds. My mood was still off.

Close up shot of a Cheeta

After having lunch we headed towards Safari. Safari vehicle was ready to leave and few seats were left. This is an enclosed vehicle and not an open jeep. As soon as we entered the safari vehicle it left for Grand safari. Safari experience was so thrilling. We can enjoy Lion safari, Tiger Safari etc. Watching animals in their natural habitat was so thrilling and my eyes were searching for more animals and birds. But I really dont like watching animals and birds in cage and it is very painful.

Safari vehicle entered bears area and wow many bears were lying here and there. As soon as we entered their area many bears stopped our vehicle and attacked the vehicle. I cant forget that scene in my lifetime. Tourists started throwing eatables at them. Bears came near windows of vehicle and asking for more food from tourists. My niece was cheering and shouting. After 10 mins bears gave way to go further and our vehicle moved towards white tiger Safari. 
Bear attacking our safari vehicle

As soon as we entered white lions area we spotted two white tigers. Hmmm what a beauty and majesty! White tigers are more beautiful than brown tigers and watching them in their natural habitat is a feast to eyes. They were wandering freely ignoring our presence.
A white tiger

We also spotted herd of deer, wild buffaloes, Lions,elephants etc. We also enjoyed lush green forest, hills, small water streams. Safari was of one hour and we returned to zoo area. Safari is open from 10 AM to 4.30 PM. I enjoyed every single minute of safari and was so refreshed. I felt I would have missed a wonderful safari experience if we had visited Muthyala Maduvu or returned back to home. Thanks a ton to my sister in law who suggested a right place at right time. Visit this park once with your children. The best option for you and for your children to get refreshed from your routine work and boredom. 

There is also a big lake in the national park where we can enjoy the boat ride.
Boat Riding in the lake
How to reach Bannerghatta National park :
If you are going by bus then there are many volvo buses which ply frequently from Majestic bus stop Bengaluru.
There is a sophisticated bus stop in Bannerghatta.
Food : There are many small and big hotels outside the park area. And also there are many small shops which sell cold drinks, tender coconuts, toys and other eatables. You can also carry home made food with you and you can have it inside the zoo. We enjoyed the delicious palav which was prepared by my sister in law. 
Caution : Please avoid shouting, making noise, littering and throwing food to animals in zoo area.