Sparrows in a box in a balcony

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

GM Palya near the old airport in Bangalore to Kadugodi in Whitefield is only 15 km tops by the longest route, yet it seems like eons away. The landscape is entirely different, with high rise towers scattered everywhere and considerable amounts of plantations tucked in.

As we were checking out the apartments, the first thing we got love locked onto was a quarrel of sparrows. Soon we found sunbirds and drongos, the cranes and many other unknown species. With the small pockets of lakes and streams still untouched and vast areas of undeveloped land as they are called, the birds are thriving, as of now.

After settling the household and the pots on the small balcony in May 2017, we put a bowl each for food and water to get acquainted with the birds. Many came and our mornings turned into a cacophony of bird calls, loud yet soothing.

One fine day the idea of turning a shoe box into a nest popped up and we set to work. First, we covered it with cellotape completely, more on top and bottom. Then cut a small door enough for a small bird to enter and exit. We also cut a couple of tiny windows for air and light. We then painted it with oil colours and let it dry for days.

Once ready we hung it up on our balcony grill and secured it as much as we could. Thence started a long wait. For weeks none would go in. They would dance and hop atop the box but that was all. Then some of the males ventured in but failed to elicit interest in any females. Months went by.

In November to our delight a pair started frequenting the box and one day as I looked inside, it was filled with cotton and twigs!

Yet time passed and the pair just kept coming and going. I and Rajib agreed that they had accepted the box as their farm house which they visited only for pleasure.

In Feb this year I saw the lady spending more time inside the box and suspected something. I ushered my hand in and yes! There were three eggs!

By the beginning of March the racket of hungry kids started rising and I found three fledglings! Now they are almost grown up and will probably fly off in a week or two. We have been instrumental in the addition of three more sparrows to the otherwise dwindling population, and hope to add more.

Over the next year the duo produced 4 more clutches. There after we were to shift home, so we took down their nest after the last of the fledglings flew away.

Karnataka Hoysala Temple Trail Day Trip

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Destination :  

Govindanahalli, Kikkeri & Hoshaholalu; Karnataka, India, Hoysala Temples.

Distance Travelled: A day round trip – 352km.

Time taken :  15hrs.

A quick shower & we hopped into our little WagonR around 6:20AM. Heading towards the Tumkur road (NH4) via Yeswanthpur we reached the end of the “under construction” toll bridge. 5 km ahead New Agarwal Bhavan is a decent joint for la nourriture. It was around 7:23AM & the parking was full already. The prices are competitive & the choices galore. On the way to Nelamangala crossing a little further down, a huge Anjaneya statue on the left is an eyecatcher. Hassan road NH48 is to the left of the crossing, while NH4 continues straight down to Tumkur. The Hassan main road was being broadened & with lots of heavy machinery at work & freshly tarred widespread roads laid; it felt good at the very onset.

We reached Hirisave at around 10:00Am, caught a glance of the distant Sravanabelegola as we rode a few km further to Channarayapatna, where we stopped for tea. Thereafter we abandoned Hassan road at the main town crossing to take SH7 towards Mysore.

The sites say 16, people said 10,12,14, so we kept a vigil from 10km onwards & enquired from a pedestrian at about 12km & just before a petrol bunk reached a signboard in kanada directed towards Govindanahalli on the right at around 15km from the Channarayapatna crossing.

Just before reaching Govindanahalli village through a winding lone road, we took a left to the Panchalingeshwar temple, the only Hoysala temple with panchakutas(5 pinnacles). It is a neat structure amidst lush green fields, attended to by a priest from the nearby village. Tourists are rare & mostly locals.

The temple is home to number of chameleons coloured very brightly in a red & yellow combo. The sky is so clear blue that the smog accustomed city eyes hurt but the heart sings. The temple has a rectangular mowed lawn around it & a high wired fencing with a gate to keep cows, buffaloes & goats away.

Just half a km behind it across a field is the Venugopal Temple, which is in utter ruins. Venugopalaswami as the temple deity is fondly called has to guard building material like rods, cement etc which is dumped inside the remaining single chamber of the temple & is being used in the house that is coming up very next to it.

kikkeri is 4km further down on the SH7 towards Mysore.

 A little enquiry led us through a village settlement till the banks of a big lake, beside which we located the “Brahmeshwara” temple. The gate was locked but there is a small walled courtyard around the ekkuta(1 pinnacle) temple & we managed to jump in.

The temple walls have a good collection of hoysala art, many small & big statues of entangled snakes are standing in a row in front of a well which has lots of fishes & a big Nandi is siting facing the temple door. Yet we couldn’t find what we had come looking for, outside, so Raji went looking for the priest & I stood waiting outside the gate shooting the surroundings. Buffalos & cycles were being bathed in the water-body. Children were happily playing in the water while women were going about the chores.

The priest came & this time we entered decently through the gate after he unlocked it. He also opened the temple door, lit up the dark chamber & there they were “The Madanikas” or “The dancing girls”. Beautiful ladies, ornately decorated & perched on the pillars. The priest quickly did some puja, gave us prasad & let us take some snaps. He had a story for why the main deity was a Shiv linga when the temple is named Brahmeshwara, but that was so bizarre am sorry I forgot it instantly.

Back on the SH7 again, 15km down is Krishnaraj Pet. It was 2 ‘o’ clock & Jairam got a suitable joint for lunch, we had our aalu parathas that we had packed from home in the car itself. They were actually fresh & tasty so we have decided to carry them on all our future trips. At the junction we turned right & moved along SH85 for about 3.5km before taking another right into a narrow lane following a sign board on SH85, that says “Lashminarayan Temple, Hosahulalu” in kannada.

This temple structure is exactly at the middle of a semi urban settlement. It has a well kept lawn & a fence around it but is surrounded by houses all around which puts a photographer’s skills to test. The front portion of the single pinnacle temple seems to have collapsed & has been build up with bare stone blocks, in contrast the rear still boasts of intricate carvings.

A couple seemed to be discussing serious issues, little girls & boys were chirping around, two of them even took a liking in me so much so that I had to take their snaps & finally get inside the car to shake them off my back. It seemed more like a garden where locals could breathe a little open air.

None of the three temples have any entry or camera fees. Chapals if left outside would make the locals feel good.

It was just 3 in the evening so we decided to have an idea about Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary off Srirangapatana on the Mysore road. We spend a good 2 hrs there with birds & crocodiles & were back to Bangalore city limits by 8 ‘o’ clock.

Karnataka Hoysala Temple Trail Weekend Trip

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Destination : 

Arsikere, Belavadi, Halebiddu; Hoysala Temples, karnataka, India, .

Distance Travelled: 515 km. Weekend trip.

Jayram is always on time but we can never start before 6:25. This time we had a set of extra cloths in addition to the cameras & tripods & ofcourse loads of water & some aalu paraths.

We took the ring road to Tumkur from Old madras Road & reached New Agarwal Bhavan, the good food joint with washrooms, at around 7:20AM. We went straight down on NH4 till the by-pass road just before entering Tumkur city, a distance of 41km from the food joint. The by-pass road meets NH206 at the rightmost outskirts of the town, which runs through Gubbi(19km) to Tiptur(82km) & reaches Arsikere (107km).

The Ishvara temple(devasthana) at Arsikere is accessible through a number of streets on the right of NH206. The most convenient way we found is to get into the lane opposite to the town bus stand. The lane goes through a market area straight down to the temple. This hoysala temple is unique in terms of structural design & carvings. The walls are decorated with carvings from the base to the pinnacle but they are not intricate.

There are several rows of geometrical patterns & just a single row of neatly carved medium sized figurines of various deities. The temple has a single pinnacle(ekkuta), the extension(mandapa) in front of the main door is circular as opposed to being rectangular in most of the other hoysala temples. A hall with many pillars stands as an individual structure to the left of the main temple at about one hand distance from it.

ASI has been taking care of the temple for the past 20 years & the premise actually stands out as a breather in an otherwise densely populated not so hygienic locality. We spend about an hour, took some 100 snaps, got back on the main road, had coffee & checked out the washroom facility(quite okay) at the bus-stand, which was now to our right. Straight up the main road & into the lane on the right we went, just before NH206 tries to leave Arsikere.

In a short while, we arrived at a junction where a road went off towards Mysore & the other, SH102, towards Haranhalli 11km away. At Haranhalli we left SH102 & took another lane on the right namely SH74 & reached Javagallu 22km away enjoying the exuberating beauty of nature. windmills perched on distant hill tops & the valley glowing with colors of sunflower, mariegold & lush green crops.

We turned left to take SH58 leading to Halebiddu at the Javagallu junction. A number of state & private buses along with Sumos & autos were boarding & unboarding a lot of people. Jayram found a good mess for lunch & we had our aalu parathas. 5km down the road there is a diversion towards Belavadi, another 5kms & we reached Belavadi.

The Veernarayana Temple built around 1200CE is huge. It has three pinnacles(trikuta) housing the three deities “Veernarayana” at the center “Venugopal” on his right & “Yoginarasimha” on the left. The deities are an example of fine craftsmanship & are completely unscathed. The built-up area is probably the largest among all hoysala temples with the hall having 132 pillars. The pillars are very interesting, some of them have unfinished carvings, some bereft of any work & some have carvings which are completely out of place. The architectural grandeur is surrounded by a very poor local population but ASI is doing all it takes to preserve such an heritage.

5km back to the diversion & 6km more to Halebidu. It was around 4ish & had started raining when we reached the Hoyesaleshwara temple. Two years ago we had visited this temple & it was raining heavily, that was March.

Across the road is Hotel Mayura Velapuri KSTDC which can be either booked from Belur or Bangalore ( Corporation Circle) in person. Rajib wanted to take a chance & walked down to the office. Two double bedded rooms were available @ INR350/-. We grabbed the offer, canceled the booking at Hassan & stayed back. The room is big with a TV, dressing table, two chairs & a small wooden table. The floor is clean, sheets are not so inviting & the bathroom is big, old & messy. The garden is refreshing & the huge premise is shared by PWD guesthouses.

Amidst the drizzle, we ventured into the Jain Basadi about 200mts from the hotel & to the Kedareshwara temple another 200mts down. Either the vandals were too tired or didn’t have the heart to destroy such lovely creations of beauty for most of the sculptures are unharmed. The Jain basadi has wonderfully polished pillars & a 14ft tall Lord Parshwanatha Swamy.

Bellur is way too famous to be missed and can be visited easily on the way back to Bangalore.

If you are looking for a day trip… read here.

Chasing Temples in the Capital of Mallabhum (Bishnupur) – 4

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Morning temple target was accomplished with ease; we went to the farthest first in a rickshaw(the three-wheeled two-seater vehicle that the puller pedals) to save time.  

Set amidst the garden maintained by the Horticulture society which also houses many trees are the two ancient temples. The last one on the grounds lining the boundary is Kalachand temple. Some 20 people had gathered both men and women when we reached there and more were pouring in; not for worship but some meeting which involved distribution of money.   Adorning the entrance is the Radhamadhob temple. Its walls are sculpted with the story of Ramayana.  

Walking back towards the town within a 100 mts is the Radha Gobinda temple. Distinguished I would say for the little structure beside it which creates a magical frame for portraits.  

Further down is Nandalal temple and here is where we met a guard who has a rifle. He was there to protect the temples from vandals and petty gamblers.  

Right opposite to Nandalal temple is the Jor Mandir, which is a conglomeration of 3 temples neatly tucked in a compound and this too has an armed guard. This compound is hardly 300 mts from the famous Chinnamasta temple.    

We walked back to the tourist lodge, taking one last glance at the terracotta market, checked out, and drove off to Panchmura, this time in an Indica to my utter disappointment. The 22kms drive though is so delightful that I could make it in a tin van from our school days if required. The metalled road goes through a series of ‘Akashmoni’ plantation, commonly known as earleaf acacia, that is native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is used as fuel and for making furniture, paper and tools. It has medicinal uses too.  

The plantations were interrupted by fields and ponds and small tribal villages. A tourism savvy state could have turned this drive into a money churner. There are no restrooms or eateries on the way.  

A sudden congregation of people and cars almost midway in an otherwise deserted road elicited inquiry and revealed a curious info. It was an ashram, a little off the road, where people came from afar and near to find a cure for cancer. There was a basic eatery on the roadside and to our expectant glances driven by the stomach’s calls, our driver shook his head so fervently to convey a ‘no’ as if, even to look at the food would mean instant doom.      Panchmura is a usual village but for the housing of the unusual artists whose livelihood is to build these wonders with mud. Horse, elephant, bison, rhino, birds, masks, motifs on tiles, vase and so many small, medium, large and giant items. It is overwhelming.  

Here again our request for a stopover at a sweet shop was met with the same vehement shaking of head by our driver Malay. Yet having next to nothing for lunch was a small price to pay for the extraordinary experience that we bagged from the trip to Panchmura.

We reached the station well before time for the train. Bishnupur station is a neat affair; decorated with flowering plants and terracotta tiles, it has two platforms and a couple of tracks. The train got delayed and we got ample time to explore the small town beauty. It has 86 benches placed uniformly, first class and second class waiting rooms and retiring rooms too. The stalls were all closed.

The original plan was to drop in to a relatives place at Kharagpur, sort of midway, the station that boasts of the longest platform in Asia, and stay over for the night; instead we changed it to just paying them a visit and de-boarded at the station.

To secure a train back home we went to counter to enquire about the last passenger train to Howrah and to our utter dismay found that it was due in a couple of minutes.

We rushed back to the platform got a somewhat empty passenger train where we could stand with our luggage and I started watching the co-passengers with great interest. These were people we call the mass. These were people we hardly interact with, in lieu of being able to do almost everything online. These were people who make the backbone of our country and yet are the most ignored except for the few days before elections.

There were hawkers selling almost every item that a household might need and savouries of all tastes. It is like a mini super market on the move only a class apart. Is it not so intriguing, how we humans have divided and subdivided into classes and sub classes depending on practically virtual notions?

The train was to terminate at a stop before Howrah, our destination. The first thing I did as we got down was to use the public washroom. The train had a toilet but it was unusable – for us.

Shortly we got another train and reached Howrah. We were famished and food was our top priority. I called dad to pick us up from 26 kms afar and he did; a dad is someone you could always rely on. I Remember calling my parents from Gulbarga while on a college trip and man! They did go to get me.

My little son was already asleep as we stepped in home a little after 12. And that was how the beautiful 4 day Bishnupur trip came to an end.

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4