Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Varadahalli/Varadapura - Shree Shreedharashrama

We got an opportunity to visit Varadahalli (also kown as Varadapura) when we were returning from Sagar after attending a marriage. Varadahalli is a small village in Sagar Taluk (Shivamogga district) where Bhagawan Sadguru Shree Shreedhar Swamiji's Shrine is located. It is just six kilometers away from center of Sagar. In my place, Shreedhar Swamiji is worshipped by almost all Hindus and most of the homes have his photo in pooja rooms. But I never knew that there is an Ashram for Swamiji until I visited Varadahalli. It is said that Swamiji lived at Varadahalli and spent last few years of his life here preaching the religion.
Shree Shreedhara Swamiji (Img source: Google)
The Ashram is located atop a hill and surrounded by lush green rain forests and areca nut farms. To reach the Ashram one should climb nearly 300 steps that lead from base of the hill. While climbing the steps we can see a Dhyana Mandira on the right side. The Ashram structure is simple yet beautiful. Ashram premises is very silent offering visitors a sense of peace and tranquility. It is the perfect place for doing meditation and to awaken the soul.
Steps that lead to the Ashram

Dhyana Mandira
The Ashram premise consists of -
 ->Shreedhar Swamiji's Samadhi (Tomb) Mandir - It is a cave where swamiji had spent his last year in complete solitude.
->A Sanskrit Pathashala - where Vedas, Upanishads and Swamiji's preaches are taught.
->A Yagnashala - where homas are performed.
->The Gowshala - housing many cows ..we could not see the gowshala due to the shortage of time.
The Ashram
->Dharma Sthambha with the Dharma Dhwaja (flag) - located at the top of the hill - which is an inspiration to the Sanatan Vedic Hindu Dharma followers.
Dharma Sthambha

Base of the Ashram ie, near the entrance we can see Shreedhara Teertha and a pond.
->Shreedhara Teertha is a continous source of water and said to be formed by swamiji. It is said that this holy water has the power to cure skin diseases. We tasted the water and it was really sweet :) There is a pool to store this holy water. 
Shreedhara Teertha
->We can also find a small pond near Shreedhara Teertha where people can take bath.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

"Nalapaka" - Pamper your taste buds with Jowar Roti Meals

I am a foodie and would love to pamper my taste buds with different types of vegetarian foods, specially south Indian foods. South Bengaluru, where I live has many restaurants and hotels which serve authentic and delicious South Indian Food. Nalapaka - is one of the best hotels which serve traditional north Karnataka style Jowar Roti meals(ಜೋಳದ ರೊಟ್ಟಿ ಊಟ) and Davanagere Benne Dosa.
Nalapaka is located in Rajajinagar 2nd block near Navrang Theater Circle. When I came to Bengaluru for my further studies and job, I was staying in a PG near Navrang Theatre and Nalapaka was just a stone throw away from my PG. Me and couple of my PG mates used to go to Nalapaka whenever we get bored with our PG food. I had Jowar Roti meals for the first in my life at Nalapaka and totally fell in love with it. Though there are many other good hotels near Navrang circle, Nalapaka stands out from the group because of its mouth watering Jowar Roti meals. After I shifted from Rajajinagar, I am missing Nalapaka very badly.

Unlimited Jowar Roti meals will be served on plantain leaf. Rotis are fresh, hot,aromatic and super soft. Along with rotis there are three types of curries. Brinjal curry known as Badnekaayi Ennegayi, Matki sprouts (Moth beans) curry - both are awesome combination with rotis and one more vegetables curry. Dollop of butter adds more taste to rotis. Green chutney, vegetables salad, papad, long green mirch fried with special masala, thick curd, pickle... will decorate your meals. Masala butter milk to quench your thirst. Sweet kheer for sweet lovers. Yummy...heavenly!!! my mouth is watering :) If you go there on Monday you can taste Holige (obbattu) with Rotis.

Menu is not over. After Rotis white rice will be served with tasty rasam and delicious sambar. All you need to do is have rotis burp!!! make some space in the stomach. Have some more..burp!!! have some more.. burp!!! till you are satisfied :) Does heavy meals complete without paan? comes delicious sweet paan in a bowl...All these for Rs 130/- Definitely not heavy on your pocket. So pay the bill..leave to home with full stomach and full heart and I bet you, you will come back again :)
I have to mention about their service. Servers are very quick in serving. They all have khaki uniform with Northt Karnataka style white hat on the head giving the surroundings a North Karnataka vibe. If you say 'No' to any item they are not going to leave. Wearing a smile, with polite note they say "Have it Sir, it is hot and you wont get this taste anywhere" :)
The ambience of Nalapaka is not star rated. It is like a medium size restaurant, neat and clean. Portraits which depict village life of North Karnataka have been displayed on the walls. These are eye catchy. Photos of some Swamijis and their sayings  also have displayed on the wall. One saying I always read is "ರಾಗಿ ತಿಂದವನು ನಿರೋಗಿಯಾಗುವನು, ಜೋಳ ತಿಂದವನು ತೋಳದನ್ತಾಗುವನು, ಅಕ್ಕಿ ತಿಂದವನು ಹಕ್ಕಿಯಂತಾಗಿ ವೈದ್ಯರಿಗೆ ಇಕ್ಕುವನು " meaning - "One who eats Ragi (Millet) is free from diseases, one who eats jowar will have strength like wolf, one who eats rice will be light like bird and visits doctors frequently" :)  First floor of Nalapaka has self service system. Nalapaka also sells Rotis, obbattu, North Karnataka style chutney powders, pickles and laddoos. Only one downside of Nalapaka is its waiting period. It is crowded during weekends and waiting period may exceed 30 minutes. On week days you have to wait for 10-15 minutes. If you are after taste then some compromise should be necessary :)
Recently on my birthday when my hubby asked me what gift I want, without second thought I told him to take me to Nalapaka :) I had jowar roti meals at Nalapaka after five years. Nothing has changed over these years. Same taste, same service and same waiting period :)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Unchalli Falls - Wild and Beautiful

Waterfalls are the natural wonders on the earth. They emphasize the beauty of the nature. Some water falls are tall, some are small. Some are plain, uninterrupted and some have beautiful cascades. Some are narrow and some are broad. Some falls have breathtaking views and some form beautiful landscapes. Every waterfall is unique and beautiful in its own way.
I always enjoy and admire beauty of waterfalls. But walking kilometers into the thick forest to see the waterfall is tiring and painful for me. I am scared of insects, wild animals, leech, reptiles etc. I would love to go if falls is reachable by vehicle or  just by walking a short distance. Unchalli falls is one of those where we can reach easily.
Uttara Kannada district is also known as district of water falls. It has numerous big and small waterfalls. Unchalli falls is in Siddapura taluk and it is also near to Sirsi. We visited the falls this year in the month of January when we were at our native. This time my father in law joined us as he was scared we might do some crazy things near the falls :) As he had already seen the falls, he advised us to carry enough water, food etc. Unchalli falls is located in the outskirts of village Unchalli and there are no shops nearby. Just 40 minutes drive from our home took us to village Unchalli. Here forest department collects small fees to see the falls.
We parked the vehicle and from here we have to walk almost 1.5 kms on the rough mud road. As we started walking, the roaring sound of falls can be heard. While walking you can see the amazing views of nature.
Road which leads to Unchalli Falls
Our destination arrived!!! A beautiful falls sandwiched between lush green western ghats. It falls from a great height making a stunning sight. My innocent son asked me "Amma why milk is flowing down?" :) River Aghanashini forms this falls. There are couple of view points at different levels with lower one being more closer to the falls. While we went to the lower view point, my father in law was happy doing baby sitting for my son. Falls plunges over black rocks pooling into deep waters. We are lucky to see the spectacular rainbow in its mist. If you are adventure and trekking lover you can reach the end of the falls. But it could be risky and dangerous as no one will be available if something happens. 
School children from Raichur had come to see the falls as part of their educational tour. They were shouting, cheering and running all over the place. Waterfalls are not new to us. But for people of Raichur forest, falls, greenery etc are definitely a scene of wonder :) My father in law warned teachers about students safety. 

Unchalli falls is one of the best falls I have seen. It is less crowded and silent because there is no public transport to the falls and lack of awareness about the falls. But there is no proper maintenance near the site. We cant see a single warning board though the place is very dangerous. During heavy rainy season falls will be covered with dense fog hence we cant see it. Rainy season is the season of blood sucking leeches too which are plenty in this area. There is a very small shop near the parking place which sells tea, coffee and some biscuits. This shop is also closed during rainy season. 

One more interesting fact about the falls - It is also known as Lushington falls, named after J.D.Lushington who was a DC in the British Government and discovered this falls. But localites are not at all aware of this name :)

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Art Of Living International Center - Relax, Refresh and Rejuvenate

Art Of Living International Center (AOL), Bengaluru - founded by Shri Shri Ravishankar Guruji is known for courses and sessions on Satsanga, meditations spirituality and Yoga, Ayurveda treatments etc. It is situated on Kanakapura Main Road. We have bought a new house on Kanakapura main Road. Art Of Living Campus can be reached by 15-20 minutes drive from our house. Neither me nor my husband are much into spirituality and meditations. We have never seen or heard Satsang sessions conducted by Shri Guruji. But we wanted to see the Art Of Living Campus/Ashram. Last Sunday around 5 PM in the evening we reached the AOL campus.
Campus has a big parking place. A fee of Rs 20/- is collected towards parking. Parking place is surrounded by many mango trees giving a green look to the place.
From the entrance gate a path (a concrete road) leads to the "Vishalakshi Mantap" which is the focal point of AOL Ashram. On both sides of this path we can see many attractions. As we moved further on this path we saw a big "Reception " building, and "Vishala Canteen" which serves fast foods, chats, fresh fruit juices, fruit salads and more.All over the campus we can see many information boards on various programs of the Ashram and information centers to answer all your queries.
The Path which leads to Vishalakshi Mantap and information boards
Amphitheater :
We further walked down on the path to see the beautiful and big amphitheater. This amphitheater is lotus shaped, fully covered with green lawns and has seating capacity for more than twenty thousand people. In  the middle it has a stage made out of marble, beautiful pond and attractive fountains. On the border of amphitheater there are many mantap like structures adding more beauty to the amphitheater. Vishalakshi Mantap in the background makes it an enchanting site. This is the good venue for Ashram's Satsang and other cultural events. My son, Siddhant was very happy seeing this and started running all over the amphitheater. Enjoying with him we spent some time here.
View Of Amphitheater

As we moved further we saw some shops that sell Ayurveda products, arts n handicrafts, paintings, organic food items etc. One can also see Annapoorna Dining hall, Ashram Clinic, Krishna Kutir - Ayurvedic Panchakarma Center, Naadi Pariksha Centre,Goshala, the Divine shop which sells Ashram Publications, Bhajan CDs, Guruji's talks in Audio and Video Formats. AOL campus also has educational institutions like  Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth (VVMVP), Samskruta Paathashala, Shri Shri Ayurveda College and Shri Shri College for Media and Journalism. 
Vishalakshi Mantap :
The main attraction of the AOL campus is Vishalakshi Mantap, named after Guruji's mother Vishalakshi. This is a very big lotus shaped building and beautifully crafted architectural marvel. Lotus petals like structure add sheer beauty to the building. I was mesmerized after entering this building. Inside the Mantap one feels like all positive and spiritual energies come together. This wonderful edifice has an entirely white marble floor and pink colored lotus designs all over the roof. Mantap has elegant decoration and beautiful chandeliers. In the center of the mantap there is a big stage where a photo of Shri Guruji has been kept. A big photo of Guruji's mother Vishalakshi is also kept inside the mantap.

Inside view of Vishalakshi Mantap

Photo Of Guruji's mother Vishalakshi
We can also go to the other floors of Mantap and enjoy the beauty of craftsmanship. Inside 
the Mantap it was very peaceful and calm. Pillows, mats etc were kept inside the mantap for those who meditate and do yogasanas. Few people were meditating, few were relaxing,few were reading and few were sleeping. During Satsang this mantap will be crowded.

We went to the upper balcony of the Vishalakshi Mantap. This is an open air auditorium and the highest point in the Ashram. From here we can enjoy breathtaking view of the Ashram campus and surrounding areas. A glass dome tops this building with a magnificent Kalash. One will really fall in love with Vishalakshi Mantap.
View from the balcony
Vishalakshi Mantap - Illuminated With Light
Beautiful Statues:
Inside the Ashram there are many attractive and eye catching statues. These statues add beauty to the surrounding environment.
 >> Statue of Nandi at the entrance of the Vishalakshi Mantap overlooking the Guruji's photo
>> Two beautiful swan statues infront of Vishalakshi Mantap
>> Statue which resembles a dragon
>> Statue of meditating Buddha sitting on the lotus petals

As a visitor, I liked the AOL Center for following reasons -
>> Campus is clean and green. Greenery is well maintained everywhere and we can see all kinds of trees like Mango, Jackfruit, Coconut, Guava etc. Campus is filled with herbs, shrubs, lawns and flowering plants. 
>>Except parking fees we need not have to pay any other fees (like camera fees, entry fees etc..)to see the campus. 
>> No security checks anywhere and no irritating whistles of security guards.
>> We can click photos anywhere and can roam around the campus freely.
>> Campus is peaceful and one can meditate peacefully leaving all his/her tensions behind.
>> Children can happily play in the ground.
>> All the big and small buildings in the campus have lotus petals like structures giving an unique look to the campus. 
>> Urgent and important necessities like laundry, travel desk, an emergency clinic etc are running efficiently inside the campus. 
>> In the evening when entire campus is illuminated with colorful lights, campus looks like heaven and it takes you to the different world. 
People say AOL courses and sessions are costly but we have not enquired about those. AOL conducts free Ayurveda camps, health checkups, naadi pariksha (pulse testing) etc all over Karnataka and other places. Shri Shri Ravishankar Guruji has received many national and international awards and honors for his social work through Art Of Living.  
AOL is the must see tourist place in Bangalore and the perfect place for Relaxing, Refreshing and Rejuvenating.