Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gokarna, Karnataka

Gokarna, better known as 'Kashi' of the South, is a much revered place by the Hindus. Comprising the only 'Atmalinga' in the country, Gokarna is famous being one of the three holiest places (Tri-sthali) - the others being Varanasi and Rameshwaram. Gokarna is located in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, washed by the waters of Arabian Sea (in the west), surrounded by the holy rivers Gangavali (in the north), Aganashini (in the south), and Siddeswara (in the east). The word "Gokarna" literally means "cow's ear". There are different folklores and mythological legends associated with the existence of this town. 

Here the god is considered as the atma (soul) or prana (life) of Shiva himself. It is strongly believed that undaunted faith and sincere devotion to Lord Shiva at Gokarna liberates the devotee from the vicious circle of life and death. Mahabaleswar Temple is the major attraction, to visit which, people from far and near throng this place. The 4-day Mahashivratri festival is the extravaganza when the town is whole-heartedly festooned to mark the celebrations. Besides, there are other temples like Maha Ganapathi Temple, Uma Maheshwari Temple, Bhadrakali Temple, Varadaraj Temple, Tamra-Gauri Temple and Venkataramana Temple, which are revered by devotees with equal devotion.

Though celebrated as a pilgrimage, travel and tourism has improved in Gokarna more due to the presence of tranquil beaches nearby. The natural beauty and touch of serenity at this place, is such that people who visit this place, can never forget its charm throughout their lives. The word of mouth has worked the most to attract travelers to Gokarna. The golden beaches — Kudle Beach, OM Beach, Gokarna Beach, Half-moon Beach and Paradise Beach — adorning this place are just lovely and the word that describes them best is 'serene'. In 1676, a famous English traveler, Fryer, visited Gokarna and wrote, “This place is of such repute for its sanctity and meritoriousness that, for a pilgrimage hither, all sorts from the remotest parts of India come in shoals.” So, Gokarna is actually a place to experience.

Places to See:

Mahabalesvara Temple

With a simple architecture of boast of, this ancient temple is much sought-after by the natives and pilgrims in Gokarna. On entering, you can behold the grand gopuram and aesthetic halls and pillars. The sanctorum comprises the linga which appears twisted and pulled up; it is visible just three inches above the ground and stands in a hollow under a pani-vatta (frame) crafted of saligrama. The pilgrims come here to pay their homage, accompanied by chanting of mantras. The aarti here is witnessed by hordes of pilgrims. Mahabaleshwar Temple is just 1km away from the bus stand. 

Tamra Gauri Temple

Sited in the north of Mahabalesvara Temple, Tamra Gauri Temple is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati. The temple has an ornate entrance. Here the goddess is always decked up in beautifully pleated silk sari. According to the legend, the goddess got emerged from Brahma’s hand like a river-woman and alighted on Goshringa Hills. Then after years of meditation, she got married to Lord Shiva. Here, the two-armed idol of Gauri holds a balance, about which it is said that she is weighing the greatness of Gokarna against Varanasi.

Mahaganapati Temple

Mahaganapati Temple is another famous temple backed by various legends, in Gokarna. Located in the east of Mahabalesvara Temple, the temple is open from 6 am -1.30 pm and 4.30 pm - 8.15 pm. In the sanctum, the black stone idol stands about 1.3m in height. As per the legend, Lord Shiva was pleased with Ganesha's help and thus, blessed him with the honor of first worship. Thus, accordingly, pilgrims first come at this temple to pray to Lord Ganesha and then head towards Mahabalesvara. 


Kotitirtha is a sacred tank which is supposed to contain waters of ‘one crore (koti) sacred springs (tirtha)’. On the southern edge of the tank is the Vara­deshvara linga, which was installed by Sage Agasthya. People consider it auspicious to bathe in the tank and perform rituals for departed souls. This tank is open for 24 hours; it is located in the south-east of Mahabalesvara Temple.

Beautiful Beaches

Half-Moon Beach
Om Beach, Gokarna Beach, Paradise Beach, Kudle Beach, and Half-Moon Beach, are the five beaches which set the perfect atmosphere for a vacation. Obviously, you can't expect something hip-hop from these beaches as Gokarna is primarily a temple town............

How to Reach Gokarna

Panaji Airport is the nearest airport from Gokarna, at a distance of 150 kms.

Gokarna Railway Station is the nearest railhead at distance of 8kms, on the Konkan Railway.

Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) also operates long-journey buses from different cities like Goa, Bangalore and Mangalore............

Coorg, Karnataka

Perhaps the best-known among Karnataka hill stations, Coorg enthralls tourists with its breathtaking locales. Miles of luxuriant coffee plantations, misty mountains and lush valleys make this scenic land a perfect getaway for nature lovers. Despite playing host to a number of powerful empires such as the Kadambas, Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, and Vijayanagara, the Kodagu region preserved its ethnic cultural heritage. 

Kodagu remained a part of the Hoysala Empire from the 11th to the 14th century A.D. Thereafter the Vijayanagara kings and the Chengalvas ruled this tiny kingdom. After the rule of the Wodeyars of Kodagu from the 17th to the 19th century, the British took possession of Kodagu in 1834 by usurping the rein of Chikkaveerarajendra Wodeyar. Upon the reorganization of states in 1956, Kodagu became a district of Karnataka State.

Kodavas, the main ethnic group of Coorg, are a fierce warrior race. Some of India's most valiant and decorated Army officers are Kodavas. The most famous son of Kodagu is Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, the first Commander-in-Chief (as a general) of the armed forces of free India. He was elevated to the honorary title of Field Marshal at the age of 83. In addition, General Kodendera. S. Thimmaiah, of the same clan as K.M. Cariappa, also became a commander in chief.

Places to See:

Abbey Falls

The magnificent Abbey falls present a breathtaking sight with waters gushing down into a rocky ravine. Tucked away between private coffee plantations, Abbey Falls offers a splendid backdrop for picnics. The ideal time to visit the Abbey falls is the monsoons, when the surrounding vegetation grows thick. 


Tour of Coorg won't be complete without a feel of the sprawling coffee plantations dot the landscape of this hill station. During the flowering season of March and April, the rich aroma of coffee wafts through the air of Coorg. Most of them are under multiple cropping of coffee, orange, black pepper, and cardamom at the bottom of the slopes. Plantations are beautifully maintained with modern irrigation and curing and processing facilities for the beans. 


Known for its quaint old world charm, the town of Madikeri is the district headquarters of Coorg. Situated at an elevation of 1525 m, the cluster of red-roofed dwellings provides a soothing contrast to the rolling hills around. The 19th century Madikeri Fort houses a number of monuments and shrines within its stone ramparts. Raja's seat perched atop a hill, is where the kings of yore spent many pleasant evenings watching the golden sunset. 


A trekker's paradise, the rolling hills of Coorg present innumerable trekking trails. During the peak trekking season from October to February, avid trekkers embark on the mountain trails dotted with little shrines - some beside waterfalls, and others on the banks of rivers. The Brahmagiri ranges of South Kodagu possess the most-frequented trekking trails, where a forest trail leads from Iruppu Falls to the Brahmagiri peak.


Coorg Excursions

Iruppu Falls (85km)

One of the most popular among Coorg excursions. Located beside the Nagarhole National Park, the Iruppu falls presents a majestic sight with water cascading down from a height of 170ft. Originating in the lofty Brahmagiri peaks, the falls become a part of the Lakshmana Teertha River in the plains. En route to the falls, the Rameshwara Temple attracts a large number of pilgrims during the festival of Shivaratri. 

Cauvery Nisargadhama (25km)

The picturesque island of Cauvery Nisargadhama is the biggest of a cluster of five islets created by the river Cauvery. Accessible from the mainland through a hanging bridge, the sylvan ambience of Nisargadhama provides for an idyllic getaway. This popular nature resort boasts of a deer park, orchidarium, and elephant rides amid bamboo groves as main attractions. 

Bylakuppe (40km)

The second largest Tibetan settlement outside Tibet, Bylakuppe came up as a sanctuary for Tibetan refugees during the 1960 Chinese aggression. Several monasteries dot the landscape of this settlement, prominent amongst these are the Great Gompa of Sera Je and Sera Mey. 

Talacauvery (44km)

Located in the foothills of the mighty Brahmagiri hills, Talacauvery is known as the place where river Cauvery originates. On the day of Tulasankramana, devotees stream into this pilgrimage to witness the miraculous spectacle of Teertodbhava, when water gushes up from a tiny pond known as Brahmakundike............

How to Reach Coorg

The closest air link from Coorg is provided by Mangalore airport, which is situated at a distance of around 135 km.

Coorg is not connected by train services directly, as it does not have a railway station is its own. The nearest rail link from the place is provided by Mysore, 146 km away.

Regular buses as well taxis ply between Coorg and Mysore (120 km), Mangalore (135 km), Bangalore (260 km), and Hassan (115 km)............

Bijapur, Karnataka

The plethora of ancient mosques, mausoleums, palaces, fortifications that dot the landscape of Bijapur stands as mute witness of the grandeur of this one-time capital of the Adil Shahi kings (1489-1686). One of the largest districts in Karnataka, Bijapur rose to prominence during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukyas who held sway between the tenth and Eleventh centuries. They christened the city Vijayapure, meaning "the City of Victory", from which the present name Bijapur has been derived. 

Allauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, annexed Bijapur towards the end of the 13th century. The baton passed to the Bahmani Kings of Bidar in 1347 and as the Bahmani power faded into the sunset, the Adil Shahi dynasty took possession of Bijapur. The Adil Shahi throne was eventually usurped by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1686.

During its halcyon days under the Adil Shahi dynasty, Bijapur witnessed the construction of architectural monuments galore. The Adil Shahis patronized the building of mosques, tombs and a number of palaces. Among them, the "Gol Gumbaz" is an architectural wonder, attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. Travel to Bijapur to experience its rich heritage.

Places to See:

Gol Gumbaz

The piece-de-resistance among Bijapur attractions, this magnificent architecture is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah (1627 -56), the seventh ruler of the Adil Shahi dynasty. An epitome of architectural wizardry, the central dome of the tomb, second in size only to the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, stands unsupported by any pillars. The whispering gallery is another astonishing facet, which distinctly echoes the faintest whisper eleven times. 

Ibrahim Roza

The handiwork of expert Iranian artisans, this square enclosure consists the tombs of Ibrahim Adil Shah II and his family. This monument, which is believed to have inspired the creation of the Taj Mahal at Agra, is noted for its striking symmetry of proportion, exquisite minarets cupolas, parapets and cornices. This whole structure lies above a basement which houses secret passages (used to store munitions and food) and also holds living quarters for the cavalry, with stables opposite. 


This mammoth cannon, fourteen feet long and weighing about 55 tons, is an awe-inspiring sight. Built by the Adil Shahis, the muzzle of the cannon is shaped like the head of a lion crushing an elephant to death with its huge jaws. A unique feature of this legendary gun is that it is always cool to touch even under the blazing sun. 

Jumma Masjid

During your tour of Bijapur, do not miss this magnificent mosque. The Jumma Masjid spreading over an area of 116300 square feet is regarded as one of the finest mosques in India. An epitome of Adil Shahi architecture, this grand mosque is a visual delight with its graceful arches, aisles, halls, intricate designs, and large crowning onion dome. The masjid carefully preserves a Quran with verses inscribed in letters of gold.


Bijapur Excursions

Visit Aihole for a glimpse of the Hindu temple architecture. Aihole was the first capital of the Chalukyan Empire and hundreds of temples dot the scenic landscape of this village. The prominent temple groups are the Kontigudi group and the Galaganatha group. 

The picturesque town of Badami is renowned for its cave temples. Scooped out of a red sandstone rock on the cliff of a hill, the four cave temples of Badami are must-haves on the itinerary of tourists. Out of the four temples, three are Brahmanical temples (Two dedicated to Vishnu and one to Shiva) and one is a Jain cave temple of the 7th century............

How to Reach Bijapur

The nearest airport is Belgaum (205 km), which is well connected to Mumbai and Bangalore.

Bijapur is well connected to Bangalore, Mumbai (via Solapur), Hyderabad (via Solapur), Hospet (via Gadag), Vasco da Gama (via Hubli and Londa).

Bijapur is connected by road to most places in south and west India. These are: Aihole (110 km), Badami (138 km), Pattadakal (148 km), Hampi (220 km), Belgaum (205 km), Bangalore (550 km), Bombay (486 km)............

Bidar, Karnataka

The city of Bidar rose to prominence when it became the Bahmani capital during the reign of Ahmad Shah Bahman (1423-1436 A.D) in 1429. Ahmed Shah was awestruck by the scenic beauty and climate of the place and he decided to build a new city near its ancient fortress and called it Ahmadabad-Bidar. Ahmad Shah also laid the foundations of the Bidar fort. 

When the Bahmani dynasty eventually collapsed in 1538, the sultanate broke up into five independent sultanates, known as the Deccan sultanates. Bidar became a part of the Barid Shahi dynasty. In 1543 Ali Barid assumed royal appellation of Shah. The Bidar Sultanate was absorbed by the Bijapur Sultanate to the west in 1619, which was in turn conquered by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1686. 

From 1724 to 1948, Bidar remained a territory of the Nizam of Hyderabad's dominions. It became a part of the erstwhile Hyderabad state, when it was annexed to India. In 1956, Hyderabad was partitioned along linguistic lines and Bidar district became part of Mysore state, later renamed Karnataka. Travel to Bidar and soak in the history of this ancient capital. Over the years Bidar tourism has increased by leaps and bounds.

Places to See:

Bidar Fort

The Bidar Fort, built in 1428 by Ahmed Shah Bahmani, stands proudly epitomizing the grandeur of the Bahmani dynasty. Five darwazas (gates) with imposing bastions lead into a little town nestling within the ramparts. The Rangin Mahal, the royal residence, was built by Ali Barid (1542-1580) and features exquisite wood carvings and fascinating glazed tile mosaics. 

Tombs of Bahmani Rulers

The tombs of Bahmani rulers in Ashtur, Bidar were erected from 1436 to 1535. The two most impressive are those of the ninth and tenth Bahmani rulers, Ahmad Shah I and Allauddin Shah II. The tomb of Ahmad Shah I has a dome rising over 30m high. The interior of these square tombs have beautifully colored and gilded paintings on the ceilings. 

Tombs of the Barid Shahis

The Mausolea of the Barid Shahi rulers lack the grandeur of the Bahmani tombs. Ali Barid's tomb has a 25m high dome. The Tomb of Ali Shah Barid, the largest of the lot, with a domed chamber, stands in the middle of a symmetrical four square garden. Blank panels above the arches once contained tile mosaic, examples of which are preserved inside. 

Madrassa of Mahmud Gawan

Madrassa of Mahmud Gawan is an Islamic seminary built in 1472 by Khwaja Mohammad Gawan, the Prime Minister during the reign of Bahamani ruler Muhammad-III. This university was once a renowned centre of learning in the Muslim world for the scholars of Persian, Arabic, philosophy, theology and mathematics. The massive three-storey building housed a mosque, a laboratory, lecture halls, quarters for the teaching faculty and a students' hostel.


The Chaubara is a mighty 71-feet-tall tower located at the heart of the town. Built to function as an observation post, this cylindrical structure gives a commanding view of the entire city from the top.


Bidar Excursions


Basavakalyan was the majestic capital of the Kalyani Chalukyas from 1050 to 1195. Basavakalyan is also well-known for being the birthplace of 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara who worked for upliftment of the Poor. 


Humnabad is a renowned pilgrimage for the Hindus. During the annual seven-day Veerabhadreshwara Jatra and cart pulling Mohotsav held in January-February, the ancient temple of Lord Veerabhadreshwara in Humnabad attracts lakhs of tourists............

How to Reach Bidar

The nearest airport is Hyderabad (136 km).

Bidar is connected by rail with Bangalore, Bombay and Hyderabad. From Gulbarga you can get fast-trains to Mumbai and Bangalore.

Bidar is connected by road to most places in south India. Some of these are: Gulbarga (112km), Hyderabad (136 km), Bangalore (669 km), Bijapur (280 km) and Basavakalyan (73 km)............

How to Reach Belur

The nearest airports are Bangalore (222 km) and Mangalore (194 km).

Hassan is the nearest railhead. Hassan is connected to other major junctions such as Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore.

One can reach Belur from district headquarters Hassan, located 40 km away. Buses ply in regular intervals from Bangalore and Mysore to Hassan............

Belgaum, Karnataka

Throughout its long and chequered history, Belgaum has been the epicenter of many a kingdoms and dynasties. Originally known as Venugrama meaning Bamboo Village, Belgaum played host to Chalukyan, Ratta, Vijayanagara, Bahmani and Maratha empires. In 1686, Belgaum was annexed to the Mughal Empire when Aurangzeb overthrew the Adil Shahi rulers of Bijapur. Later on Hyder Ali of Mysore ruled Belgaum for a brief period, but it was eventually taken over by the Peshwa with British assistance.

Belgaum occupies the pride of place in the Indian Freedom Movement to throw out the British yoke. The brave lady warrior Rani Chennamma of Kittur (1778-1829) along with Sangolli Rayanna and Babasaheb was the torchbearer of this resistance movement. Belgaum was also chosen as the venue of the 39th session of Indian National Congress in December 1924 under the presidency of Mahatma Gandhi.

Due to its strategic location, the Belgaum city was a major hub for infantry troops under the British. Even today, the bustling Cantonment, built by the British with its bungalows and barracks, boasts of an overwhelming military presence. Belgaon is also known for the Airmen Training School, an Indian Air Force training centre located at Sambra and the Commando School and School of Jungle Warfare of the Indian Army. Belgaum is also an important tourism centre.

Places to See:

Belgaum Fort

Located in the heart of the city, the Belgaum Fort towers over the Belgaum landscape with its elliptical layout. One of the oldest forts of Karnataka, the Belgaum Fort is unique for a myriad of religious shrines within its ramparts. At the entrance, two shrines devoted to Ganapathi and Durga exist in harmony with the two ancient mosques, the Safa Masjid and the Jamia Masjid.

Kamal Basti

Located inside the Belgaum Fort are two Jain bastis built in the Late Chalukyan style. Of these, the more famous is the Kamal basti, built in 1204. The Kamal Basti has a huge protruding lotus (Kamala) in its ceiling and houses the idol of the twenty-second Jain Teerthankara Neminatha.

St. Mary's Church

A tour of Belgaum should feature the city's majestic churches. The St. Mary's church in Belgaum boasts of an awe-inspiring architecture. Built in 1869, the gothic stone structure of the church features imposing stained glass windows. Biblical drawings adorn the walls of the church. Other prominent churches are: St. Xavier's church, St. Anthony's church, the Cathedral of Our Lady and Methodist church.


Belgaum Excursions

Gokak Falls

In the Gokak falls, the Ghataprabha River creates a grand spectacle by cascading down from a height of 170 feet. Remnants of ancient monuments from the Chalukya era can be seen on either banks of the rocky gorge. 

Yellamma Temple

Yellamma temple located in Saundatti is the shrine of Renuka, the wife of sage Jamadagni. The Yellamma Devi fair, held on many occasions between October and February, is a major tourist attraction. 


Kittur is famous for being the birthplace of Rani Chennamma who fought against the colonial rule of the British in 1824. The Bassava temple here contains inscriptions on stone, belonging to the 12th century. 

Vajrapoha Falls

Nestled amidst the green canopy of Western Ghats, the breathtaking Vajrapoha falls is created by the River Mahadayi tumbling down from a height of 60 meters into a rocky ravine............

How to Reach Belgaum

Belgaum has a functional airport. Flight services can also be availed at Bangalore which is 504 Km and Mangalore is 438 Km.

Reaching Belgaum by rail should not be much of a problem. Belgaum is connected by rail to Bangalore (via Londa), Mumbai (via Miraj), and Vasco da Gama. Trains take only 15½ hrs to Mumbai, going via Pune (10 ½ hrs), and 13 hrs to Bangalore.

Belgaum is connected by road to most places in south and west India. For the budget traveler, there are buses plying to places all over the state. Belgaum is connected by road to Bangalore (502 Km), Saundatti (70 Km), Halshi (36 Km), Panji-Goa (150 Km) and Gokak (60 Km)............
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