Karnataka


When deciding on where to go, its always such a temptation for a culture-vulture to land up at places with much to see – temples, forts, ruins, palaces, all of which India has so much of. To top that, if you live in a state like Karnataka, which really has more than its fair share of history – Hampi, Badami, Aihole, Pattadakkal, Mangalore, Udupi, Dharmasthala, Moodbidri, Mysore, Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola, Bidri, Somnath – well, its sometimes difficult to just say no to pottering around, and instead choose a completely chilled out holiday that involves nothing more than lazing around, reading a book and maybe on occasional walk to digest all the food eaten.

After some trips had gone by in a haze of walking, seeing and absorbing much history, we finally decided that we needed one weekend where we traveled to do nothing. Ofcourse, we could have done this at home, but if you can do nothing in so much more peaceful and green surroundings, which one would you choose? Call it coincidence, but a friend mentioned this place called Horsley Hills, close to her native place, Madanapally. Now all us snooty city-dwellers had made much fun of Madanapally as a one-lane sort of town, but it has two distinctions – it boasts an old sanatorium from British times, and it is the birthplace of philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthi.

Horsley Hills is about a 45 minutes drive from Madanapally, the nearest town, and about 3-4 hours away from Bangalore, although the drive on terrible pot-holed roads makes it seem longer. It’s interesting to note, that the stretch of road in Karnataka is terrible, while it improves immediately on reaching the Andhra Pradesh border, where Madanapally is located. Doesn’t say much for the Karnataka government, does it!

The road from Madanapally to Horsley Hills can loosely be called a hilly stretch, though in no way does it approach the steep hair pin bends of Tirupati for example. We reached there by afternoon, and settled in at the government owned cottages, which are pretty much the only accommodation you will find here. The cottages look picturesque from the outside, with their sloping red roofs, though the inside can only be described as adequate. For our purposes though (doing nothing, remember), they were good enough. If you need more luxury, the old governer’s bungalow has been converted into traveller’s accomodation, and for around Rs 1500-2000 a day, this is much more swanky, with refurbished tiles and decorated as well as larger rooms.

The property is situated on a gentle slope, with much greenery around, and the high altitude gives provides it with lovely cool weather. It is impossible to resist pulling the chairs outside, and settling down to a game of cards, and some food accompanying. Coming to food, the resort has an attached restaurent where fairly decent food is available, with the breakfast being particularly good. We however arranged for one of the shacks on the perimeter of the resort to cook and send in food, since the non-vegetarians in the group were not too keen on the restaurant’s food. Everything in Horsley Hills ofcourse moves slowly, including the arrival of your food. Calm is the dominant theme, for humans and animals alike!

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Good walking routes are available, around the property – this is not however a trekker’s paradise. The entire place is so small that it can be covered in a ten minutes walk, so gentle ambling around and enjoying the cool mountain air, is about the most strenuous exercise possible. We discovered some beautiful nooks though, overlooking the valley, and these are cosy places for enjoying a peaceful moment. Early morning in Horsley Hills is a beautiful time in particular.

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For those inclined to do something more, the resort does offer a swimming pool. Large spaces have also been left unbuilt, and these offer enough space to set up a game of cricket, football or just play frisbee. While Horsley hills is a sort of idyllic meadow in the daytime, night offers a totally different face. With very little artificial lighting around, in the glow of a few halogen lamps, the place looks like a recreation of the Blair Witch Project. Add to this rumours of a tiger from the surrounding forests on the prowl, and we were understandably a little nervous.

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Nothing much happened ofcourse, and after two days of pleasant indulgence, we drove back to Bangalore intact. On the way back is a small village Angallu, which specializes in pottery, with pieces sold on the roadside at extremely reasonable prices.

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Faint twinges of guilt nudged us, at the thought of the calories that had been piled on during the weekend of nothing. We assured ourselves that it was a well deserved reward for weeks of over work, and groaned at the thought of getting back into yet another work-week !

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Welcome to Art’s first guest post here.

Somnath, I thought it was in Gujarat and was surprised to find another place by almost the same name in Karnataka. We were on our way to Georgia Sunshine village when we requested our driver to take us to any place of interest en route.

Usually, I would have read up/ watched a travel story on the destinations. It kills the romance and surprise of discovering something altogether new. Though one could argue that the thrill of seeing it in person still remains.

After the mandatory detour to fuel our stomachs at Mylari in Mysore, we reached Somanthpur (about 40 kms away). It was around 10 in the morning. We had no expectations what so ever as we headed for the Keshava Temple in this little hamlet.

A nominal entry fee ( Rs 10 if I recollect) and then a large lawn, well manicured and punctuated with huge trees greeted us. There were some lovely birds which are predominantly white while just one among them was black ( like a “drishti pottu”)* ?

Commissioned by and named after an officer of the Hoysala empire, the Keshava Temple is enclosed in a courtyard. It dates back to the 13th century and yet wears a well preserved look. It stands elevated on a platform /pedestal.

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At the main entry there is a large stone wall which has the names of the workmen who were part of this project. They made sure that they leave more than a mark! Mallithamma was the foremost among them with his name inscribed on various pillars as well.

The temple has three sanctums and the deities housed include Venugopal, Keshava and Janardhana. The ceilings are lavishly embellished with patterns of flowers like the lotus and snakes intertwined. The outer walls reminded me of Belur- Halebid with elephants and peacocks and a myriad other animals and of course deities and their attendants. The number three continues to dominate in terms of the number of shikaras that the temple has.

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As we were leaving, an intrepid foreign contingent came with a French interpreter who waxed eloquent for pretty long about the site. I missed having an English/ Hindi speaking guide to tell me more about this enchanting piece of art.

* Nazar ka tika; Mark to ward off the evil eye