A weekend drive to Somnathpur

Photo of A weekend drive to Somnathpur 1/4 by Nikhitha Kishore
Photo of A weekend drive to Somnathpur 2/4 by Nikhitha Kishore
Photo of A weekend drive to Somnathpur 3/4 by Nikhitha Kishore
Photo of A weekend drive to Somnathpur 4/4 by Nikhitha Kishore

Everything was planned a week before, Arun and I were going to Somnathpur for the weekend. We both enjoy going for long rides on his bike. I took printouts of the Chenna Kesava temple in Somnathpur from my office to stick on my vision board. We both had agreed to keep a vision board in our room just to keep images of our long and short term goals as a reminder for us. I stick pictures of places where I wish to go on that board most of the time. And I had started to keep a checklist of the travel itinerary in my Google Keep notes. I enjoy doing these things and that adds to my passion for traveling.

On Friday night, we both went for a small shopping. I stuffed the shopping basket with some wipes, tissues, a sunscreen (that's for me), hand sanitizers, some snacks, and cookies. We had guessed it would be sunny based on our predictive learning from the past few days. In road trips, I normally carry a backpack bag and a sling bag. The sling bag is usually used to carry our maps, goggles, sanitizers and wipes since I have an easy access to it. All the food items, water bottles, and tissues are usually placed in the backpack bag.
Friday nights always seems to be full of possibilities to me. And when there is a bike trip awaiting in the weekend it is more than exciting. I added some data recharges to my phone connection though I was skeptical about whether the Tata Docomo connection was going to be contiguous throughout the trip. This is India and we can't expect  miracles in terms of internet connectivity and data speeds. We both had our mobile fully charged and decided to wake up at 4.45 AM the next day.

If it was another weekday and if the alarm starts to ring at morning four AM, I would simply have snoozed it and turn to the other side and pull the blanket over my head. But when a journey is in my head, even waking up in the morning seems to be so exciting. I took a quick bath, dressed up and had steamed bananas and a hot cup of tea that my mother-in-law made for me. I had been pretty confused since last week on what I should be wearing for the road trip and finally settled myself into a cream colored, round neck Benetton T-shirt with a pair of black denim trousers. On top of it I wore my brown leather jacket which we had purchased from Agra during our honeymoon and tied a scarf around my head. All set for the road trip, I waited for Arun to get ready and come downstairs to have his breakfast.
The route we chose was NICE road-NH209-SH33-SH79-Somnathpura. Obviously google maps provided us with that and I took a moment to thank technology. Though I am strongly against people glueing their eyes to the Internet round the clock, Google maps is an app that we all have to be thankful for, especially for a girl in a strange city in a strange time nothing can be more useful.
After Arun was done with his breakfast, I checked my notes to see whether we had not forgotten anything in the itinerary that we had prepared. I had the printout of my map in my sling bag just in case the data connection was going to fail us. My mother-in-law came down with us to the gate to bid us good-bye. She advised us to take care while driving and made a special eye contact with Arun while mentioning about driving. That was a clear note to him to not do any rash driving. She had already told me to take rests in between the ride so that we may not get exhausted by the time we reached Somnathpur. Finally, when Arun kick-started his Royal Enfield 350cc thunderbird, I could see a glimpse of worry in her eyes for us. She was a person who would never prefer a bike journey and any parent who knows Bangalore traffic can only think that way. But she as a sweet person never said a negative stuff against our passions.
As our house disappeared from our view I showed a thumbs-up to Arun to kick-start our journey. We are not new to road-trips, but each trip was always a new experience and that thrilled our very nerves. Arun rode past the HSR BDA complex road which looked rather quite when compared to the normal traffic we witness every day there. There was a thin fog covering the road and the weather report in my phone showed that there can be a small shower. Nothing in the world can alter the mental poise of a rider in a bike when they are set for their destination. The idea of a rain even excited me because I was craving to have a smell of the wet soil ever since last December. Being born and brought up in Kerala, I could never get out of that romantic feeling I have for the rains and the way the soil embraces the drops when they set their leave from the clouds. The chill in the air made me feel fresh and good and I spread out my hand to feel the wind rushing past us.
As we drove out of the Bangalore city the change in the terrains amazed me. We were not yet out of Bangalore but were just out of the city, still the landscape had changed a lot. From a view of buildings, we were now driving through the boulevards. The road spread out nice and long in front of us, with no signals, no sign boards, and no traffic. The homes beside the road seemed to wake up early which was a contrast to the apartments in Bangalore on a weekend. The shops were already open and women in simple dresses were purchasing and bargaining with the shopkeepers. We could see children playing in front of their houses rather than holding iPads and playing candy crush. These were the treasures of living outside the city. But I doubted whether the people living here also reflected my thoughts. Isn't it the trend of human minds to crave for what is not in the grip of our hands? 
When it was almost 8.45 am we were driving for almost two hours are so Arun decided to have a break and take some rest. We stopped beside a field where farming was in progress. The land spread out like an ocean of greens. There was a bridge ahead build over a river probably used for agriculture. We took off our goggles and bags and stood a while to relax. It is then that I realized that we had forgotten to take the water bottle with us which I had missed adding to the list. Anyway, we both were not feeling thirsty due to the cool weather and I opened my bag to get some snacks. We ate some cakes, chips, and cookies and stretched our muscles while the villagers who were riding bicycles or mopeds stared at us with curiosity. Bicycle was the main mode of traffic there and most of the riders sat with their wives behind them. The women looked simple, but they were dressed beautifully; most of them wore jasmine flowers in their braided hairs combed and oiled neatly. Most of the youngsters who drove trucks or vans had mobiles with them from which Hindi songs were playing. It was a beautiful morning and my spirits were high and I took some photographs from there.

Malavelli was not far from the place where we stopped to take the rest. We saw a crossroad sign soon after we resumed driving. My data connection was not contiguous and it gave a little irritation to me. Quite often, we saw boards mentioning the distance to Mandya, Mysore, and Talakadu. The road to Malavelli was a bit dusty when compared to the one we had covered so far. Soon we saw the town and thought of stopping at some restaurant, but Arun was not convinced with any of the ones we saw. The road ahead was more terrible than we thought and the sun had started to appear from among the morning clouds and slowly the chill in the air withdrew. I guess I was not that much hungry by the time I reached the restaurant because we had eaten so much of dust on the way after crossing the Malavelli town. Road work was in progress and the red dry dust was filling the  atmosphere. Moreover, there was an array of lorries in front of us carrying huge loads of sugarcane that spread the dust again. Now this was a specialty that I observed after we passed the town of Malavelli, all the vehicles like trucks, bullock carts, and lorries carried a huge load of sugarcane. Lot of sugarcane fell on the road as vehicles moved, but none seemed to be concerned about it. People walked past the sugar canes quite carelessly. In Bangalore, we had to spend 20 INR for a glass of roadside sugarcane juice and here sugarcane fell off lorries and people hardly cared for it.

The restaurant that we had breakfast was hardly a fifteen-minute drive from Malavelli town. It was a small, decent hotel and I enquired the owner whether there was a toilet which I could use. He gave me a set of keys and send me to a shed with an old woman. The bathroom was alarmingly dirty, but once you are ready to go for road trips you should not expect hygienic bathrooms on the way unless you are driving through a city. After refreshing, we both ordered for breakfast; I ordered a plate of idli vada and Arun ordered some rice bath. As we waited for the breakfast we wiped our faces with the wipes that we had purchased. The white wipe immediately changed to some reddish-brown color, thanks to the road work on the way!!! I also washed my hands with the sanitizer and passed it to Arun.
The food was good and the plates in which it was served looked clean. Even though I would never say that the sambar was awesome, it tasted fine though the best part was vada. After the breakfast, I ordered tea and there it came almost in a glass as small as an ounce glass!! Whatever be the quantity I need tea to revive myself. The best energy drink that was ever invented is tea in my opinion and I cannot have a normal day without drinking tea at least three times.
Since my data connection did not work anymore Arun decided to confirm with the hotel owner whether we were on the right route to Somnathpur. That was a good decision because we had taken the wrong route. In fact we had to turn left at the Malavelli post office, instead we had come straight from there. That meant we did not have to drive past that dusty road to come here and it also meant that we were supposed to drive back to the Malavelli post office all the way through the same dusty red road. Thank god for the goggles and the scarf!!!
The sun was all yellow and shining and seemed to be in a good mood. Even though, that avoided the possibility of a rain that my google weather was reporting, certainly it was not exciting. The security and the hotel owner was very keen in giving us the correct routes and I wondered if anyone in Bangalore in their same position would have had the time and mind to help two strangers like that. The good thing was that we were not off the route for a long time, we were just delayed by 30 minutes which was okay.
The Malavelli post office was on our right and it was situated in the center of the Malavelli town. I was pretty much excited to see the BSNL office right beside the post office owing to the fact that my father and mother are BSNL and post office employees respectively. Some things, even though silly, brings a special happiness to us which may seem queer to others.
The town was much crowded and looked yellow with the sun at its zenith at that time. I wondered that if the climate was becoming hot in this range what would happen by the time it becomes afternoon. How could google give us a weather report of a possible rain with thunder when the sun was shining like that? When we were past the town I let out a sigh of relief. I hate crowded places and that is why I hate malls nowadays.
After the town, the road was a smooth place to drive. The greenery returned all of a sudden, there were farms and shrubs and woods as we drove towards our destination. We confirmed with one or two pedestrians about the route at intervals. As we were almost approaching Somanthpur, a lot of banyan trees started appearing on the sideways. The banyans were so old and gray that their hanging roots touched the ground and started rooting there. The air started turning cool and calm which I guess was due to the presence of those banyans.
A small township started gradually appearing and there was a sign board which gave the direction towards the Keshava temple, Somnathpur. More and more banyan trees became visible to us and when we reached the gate of the temple the air had turned quite cool and soothing. The weather was beautiful, the sun shone but less ferociously and we took the pass to park our bike. The entrance pass was 10 INR per adult and we did not have change with us. There was a tender coconut vendor sitting in front of the art emporium of the Somnathpur temple and we drank the tender coconut water and as expected the man gave us the change.
There were two old couples who arrived at the temple at the same time we entered. From the main gate to the temple gateway there was a beautiful lawn which was maintained properly.  The old couples had hired a guide with them who explained when and how the temple was build and why it was built etc to them. We had read the wiki yesterday regarding the temple and my data had started working again and so we decided not to have a guide. There was a huge banyan tree in front of the temple's main gateway which was carved in stone. We rested our bag there and tried to fold and place our jackets inside the bag.
We showed the pass to the security who stood in the gateway. The gateway was considerably big and the moment we entered, it was contrastingly cool inside. We were not able to believe that such stark contrast to the weather can occur in the same place. Maybe the stone did all the magic. There was a huge rectangular stone erected inside the gateway which was polished and had Kannada scribbled on it. According to the Internet, it had the details of the architects who had worked for the construction of the temple. I was just an amateur in reading Kannada being only two years in Bangalore and so I skipped the cumbersome task of reading it which seemed to be old Kannada. When I turned from the stone and looked ahead the sight of the magnificent Keshava temple held my breath for a second. It was a poem written on stone. The picture which I had clipped on my vision board was standing in all its grandeur in front of me. In my excitement, I held Arun who also seemed equally amazed. Is it possible for the architects of the modern technology to ever imagine constructing such a magnificent piece of art which required skill, patience, and dedication altogether?

The gateway extended to both the sides which surrounded the temple with a shaded path of pillars. However, Arun decided that we would first go to the temple and later explore the sideway.
The distance between the gateway to the temple was minimal. The guide lead the old couple ahead us and started describing the sculptures that were carved on the walls of the temple. Some of the sculptures had been damaged, there were cuts across the stones, some figures missed their noses, while some others missed their hands and we heard the guide explaining that it was because of this damage that there was no pooja in the temple. The whole temple was built in the Hoysala architecture and it was constructed around 1260's. Isn't that amazing that a temple constructed around 1268 could still hold its splendor at 2015? How many of the buildings that we build now can sustain another five years without maintenance?! We took some photographs standing near the sculptures on the wall though we were more interested in beholding them. A newly married Kannada couple came near us and gave their phone to us to take a photograph of them. The blush on their face expressed their recent marriage. They seemed to indulge in  themselves rather than in the Hoysala architecture and it was pretty understandable to everyone who saw them.

The temple had three shrines and three of them were 16 pointed stellate in design. On each progression of the star was carved an elephant. I had read that even the towers of the shrines were of the stellar design.

We stopped by at each shrine and devoured the beauty of the Hoysala architecture and the skill with which each stone was carved out. On one wall, there was an array of stone elephants  which looked like a copy-paste of one another. There was literally no difference between each of them and to think that all these were done manually felt impossible. I touched the art pieces and felt a glorious period of art and architecture that had flourished in this great land. That was the most exhilarating experience I had ever since I saw the Konark sun temple. If Konark was the display of Kalinga architecture with the nude realities of human life, Hoysala was a powerful display of the epics that formed the foundation stones of our culture. Both were equally beautiful, but magnificently differing. The walls were filled with stories from Puranas, different forms of Lord Vishnu, lifestyle of the Hoysala royalty, the army, the kings, the queens and the laymen and their life which recreated a time that had slipped from the pages of our history books.

More tourists had arrived in the temple as we entered the temple. The stone floor was cool enough to comfort us. There was a hall in the center of the temple to which three vestibules connected the three shrines. The ceiling was held by huge lathe turned pillars. Multi-petaled lotuses were carved out of the ceiling which were encircled with the 'Ananta' knots. The intricate Ananta knots are a delight to the eyes of a traveler. The old couples were still inside the temple and the guide kept on chattering with them.
I entered a shrine that was to my left and which I guess must be the south shrine since the temple was facing the east. Lord Venugopala was the deity in the south shrine and I immediately recognized him because of the Venu (flute) in his hand. It was dark inside the shrine and I had to light the flashlight of my mobile to see the shrine properly though the deity was properly visible. Inside the shrine, I saw a mother and a son. They both stayed in the temple as long as we stayed and the way the son was capturing her picture and explaining things to her caught my attention. In fact, their image got incarcerated in my mind with the image of the ChennaKesava temple. They seemed so lonely in this world but seemed happy and content with each other.

I then went to the other shrines; I knew one deity was Lord Janardhana and the other Lord Kesava though I couldn't recognize who was who. I guessed Lord Kesava must be the one facing the east since the name was ChennaKesava temple. Well, that is illogical but anyways I guessed it that way. We both took some photos of the deities and then sat near one of the pillars. Arun had an idea to take a photo of us together and we asked that son who I mentioned before to take one for us. He was very polite and agreed. So now, that picture will go to my travel album.
After spending some time in the temple, we came out and took some more photographs. After that, we went to the entrance porch and took a walk on the wall that was built around the temple. Each wall was comprised of a number of rooms which had a small rectangular stone slab adhered to the floor. Also, each wall was adorned with pillars on both the sides and when looked from one end it looked like an array of pillars standing in an assembly. I went into one room and sat on one slab and took a photo. Since the temple was strictly Vaishnava there was no sculpture of Lord Shiva though we did see a sculpture of Lord Ganesha near the entrance porch.

Before returning we took one last look at the temple, bid adieu and came out of the gateway and sat on one of the cement benches constructed near the garden lawn in the temple premises. The newly married couple for whom we had taken photographs for sat on one of the opposite benches and was eating something. That gave us the idea to eat some snacks and I opened my bag. While we both were eating some Lays and cake, a group of young boys and girls entered the temple with their enthusiastic voices cutting through the solemn ambiance of the temple. Probably they were college students on an excursion or so. They were so engaged in taking photos and selfies that they seemed to treat the temple as a photo studio to take theirs portfolios. That was not annoying; I would have done the same if I was in college too.
We bought some picture postcards of the temple and also a small elephant keychain from the vendors sitting outside the temple. We wore our jackets and goggles again and left Somnathpur carrying the reminiscences of a rich period of culture in our hearts. The Hoysala kingdom stayed alive in these temples and the art that they created. It was a beautiful way to leave behind their footprints.
We went to Shivanasamudra on our return. There were two missions: one, to have lunch, and the other was to see the Gaganachuki and Barachuki falls.  Both of us were hungry by the time we reached Shivanasamudra. The sun was in its most splendid mood and we felt like baked in an oven. We had drunk two glasses of sugarcane juice near the Malavelli town. As we approached the falls we saw two more bike riders going to Shivanasamudra.
We had our lunch at the Mayura restaurant in Shivanasamudra. The roasted chicken didn't taste much good and so we didn't eat it full. However, Shivanasamudra did not have a single drop of water since it was not the season. Arun and I had seen the falls before though not together. So we relaxed for some time there, took ample rest, had mango bars and decided to head for Talakaddu which was famous for the curse story of the Mysore royalty.
The road was awesome to our delight and the sun started to hide behind the clouds. The wind carried a bit of moisture and it soothed ours muscles. The weather and road were at its best and we didn't feel much disappointed when we understood that we will have to skip the plan to go to Talakkadu due to the time constraint. The Google weather report was true because when it was four in the evening a light shower had started. But it made the whole ride more thrilling. The drenched leaves, the wet soil, the gray sky, and the chill breeze made our road trip wonderful. A road devoid of traffic is more than a boon to the eyes of a Bangalorean. The weather added beauty to it.
We had Maddur vada from Maddur Tiffanys which was famous in Maddur, en route. I drank two glasses of coffee from there to fresh up. When we resumed our journey the rain had started to pour in full strength. We stopped for a shade at an emporium due to the heavy rain at Channapatanam which was a place famous for toys in Karnataka. Even the rain could not kill our spirits. We both had an awesome day and we were devouring it.
We had to stop in two more places before we reached Bangalore due to the rain. Both of us were completely drenched in rain and when we reached Bangalore the horrible traffic was waiting for us. That was the real hell. The one thing I will remember about our return journey is a bus which drove along with us from Channapatnam. The bus had no seat, no glasses, nothing and was just a skeleton. I had called it the zombie bus. It was with us until Kengeri satellite town. Later on, it disappeared.
It was almost 8pm when we stopped at the Adyar Anand Bhavan at the BTM Layout for our dinner. By that time, both of us were completely drenched with the water that the buses and other vehicles splashed on us because of the rain. Our muscles were aching too much and we really craved for some rest. To sit in the traffic, to watch the long queue of vehicles itself is exhausting.
We reached home at 9.30 pm. It was an eventful day, a journey we were going to carry in our memories. That is what each road trip is about. It is not going to be easy, sometimes you feel excited, sometimes you feel exhausted, sometimes you feel exhilarated, but each moment is an experience and a memory. That is all what life is.., a road trip....