Friday, November 30, 2007

Tirupati - Lord of Seven Hills

Abode of Lord Venkateswara

The temple of Lord Venkateswara, Lord of the Seven Hills, in Tirumala, commonly called Tirupati, is the richest and most revered temple in India.

It is located amidst picturesque surroundings - 860 metres above sea level on a hill named Venkatadri - the last of the seven hills - one has to cross to reach the temple from the small town of Tirupati.

Please remember that Tirupati is a small town from where the climb to the temple begins. The Tirupati temple is not in Tirupati, but in Tirumala.


The temple is believed to have existed from ancient times. There are references to it in the Rigveda.

According to Hindu mythology, after the great Deluge, Lord Vishnu, rescued the earth in the form of a White Boar, Sweta Varaha, and stayed back on the earth for some time to protect the good and destroy the evil. He stayed on the bank of the Varaha Tirutham at the northern portion of Pushkarini at Tirumala.

The Adj Varahaswami temple on the north western bank of the Pushkarini at Tirumala is believed to mark that place. This temple is older than the temple of Lord Venkateswara.
According to the Puranas, the seven hills of Tirumala represent the seven heads of the serpent Adisesha, on which Lord Vishnu rests.

Tirupati temple was patronised by successive kings - the Pallavas of Kancheepuram (9th century AD); the Cholas of Thanjavur (a century later); and the Pandyas of Madurai.
The Vijayanagar kings (14th - 15th century AD) were great devotees and patrons of Tirupati and made more contributions.

Krishnadevaraya had statues of himself and his wives installed inside the Tirupati temple. There is also a statue of Venkatapati Raya in the main temple. These canbe seen even today.

The Maratta general, Raghoji Bhonsle, visited the temple and set up a permanent endowment for the temple. He also presented valuable jewels to the temple, including the great emerald which is still preserved in a box named after him. The rulers of Mysore and Gadhwal also made donations.

After the end of the Hindu rule, the rulers of Karnataka; and after them, the Britishers continued the patronage. In 1843, administration of the temple passed to Sri Seva Dossji of the Hathiramji Mutt at Tirumala.

In 1933, the Government passed a special Act, handing over administration to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Committee. To-day, under another law, a Board of Trustees appointed by the Andhra Pradesh Government maintains the T.T. Devasthanams which include 12 temples and their sub-shrines. The TTD Board is a miniature government.

Places to see

Tirumala Temple
The main temple is huge. It practically constitutes a township.

On weekends and on auspicious days, the queues are very, very long. Yet, the visitors await their turn without a single word of complaint.

It is a temple difficult to describe in words. There is something in the ambience, or in the atmosphere, which inspires a feeling of devotion.

Padmavati Devi Temple

The large temple dedicated to Goddess Padmavati, the consort of Lord Venkateswara, also known as “Alamelumangapuram”, is in Tiruchanur, 5 kms. from Tirupati.It is believed that a visit to Tirumala is incomplete without a visit to the Padmavati Devi temple.

Govindarajaswami Temple

Govindarajaswami Temple is one of the most important temples in Tirupati.
It was consecrated by Saint Ramanujacharya in 1130 AD. It is located in Tirupati.

Kodandaramaswami Temple
This temple dedicated to Sita, Ram and Lakshman is also located in Tirupati.
The Chola kings built it during the 10th century AD.
It is believed that Sita, Ram and Lakshman visited Tirupati after returning from Sri Lanka.

Kapileswaraswami Temple
This is the only temple in Tirupati dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is about 3 kms. to the north of Tirupati.
The sacred waterfall called “Kapila Teertham” (also known as “Alwar Teertham”) is located here.

Kalyana Venkateswaraswami Temple
It is believed that Lord Venkateswara stayed here after his marriage with Padmavati Devi before proceeding to Tirumala. It is about 12 kms. to the west of Tirupati.

The Unique Geological Arch (Shilatoran)
1 km. above the temple is a unique geological formation. It is a delight for geologists and scientists.
It is a place which few tourists even know about.
It should not be missed.

Getting there

The nearest airport is in Tirupati.
There are direct flights to Tirupati from Hyderabad and Chennai.

The nearest railway station is Tirupati. But most trains take a diversion at Renigunta or Gudur.
You can get down at these stations and travel on by bus or taxi.

Tirupati to Chennai - 130 kms. Tirupati to Chittoor - 67 kms.


Tirumala is a beautiful place.
The Unique Geological Arch (Shilatoran) 1 km. above the temple is a unique geological formation. It is a delight for geologists and scientists.
Spend some time there. It is a beautiful place.
You will feel as if you are in the Grand Canyon itself.

It is really a surprise to see the huge numbers of pilgrims and other visitors.
There is hurry, no flurry. Everyone is calm and quiet.
The place is refreshingly neat and clean.
The lawns and gardens are very well maintained.
Lots of pilgrims come to offer their hair to the Lord.
Tonsure, as this is called, gives a lot of revenue to the temple because the hair is sold.
Even if you don’t believe in religion, this place should be visited.
There are plenty of places to stay in Tirumala.
Otherwise, you can stay at Tirupati where there are all kinds of hotels.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lonavala and Khandala

Lonavala and Khandala
The most popular week end get aways from Mumbai

Lonavala and Khandala are two twin hill stations in Maharashtra eight kilometres from each other. They are just over a hundred kilometres from Mumbai (Bombay). The National Highway No. 4 from Mumbai to Bangalore passes through these two hill stations offering travellers a most enjoyable two hour motoring from Mumbai.


Lonavala was discovered in 1811 by Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone, then Resident of Pune and later Governor of Bombay. Elphinstone virtually founded the state education system in India, that too, at a time when British opinion was against educating the “natives”. The Elphinstone College of Mumbai was named after him. He refused the high post of Governor-General of India twice, to finish his authoritative two-volume work History of India.

During that time, Lonavala was thickly forested, had a very small population and was known as “Lonali”. No authentic records are available which explain why the place was called Lonali. But Lonali of the past became the present day “Lonavala”.

During the 12th century, the Yadav Kings ruled Lonavala. Moghuls invaded the region and ruled for a long time. Later, Marathas, and after them, the Peshwas ruled the place. The Marathas and Peshwas built inaccessible, strategically located forts to protect their territory. The British started to rule this region from 1818.


The two hill stations are situated on the western slopes of the Sahyadri hills. Lonavala is located at an altitude of 625 metres and is also known as the “Jewel of the Sahyadris”. Khandala is located slightly lower.

Both hill stations are famous for their scenic beauty, green hills, deep valleys, several lakes, historic forts and ancient caves. During the rainy season, the entire area becomes lush green with myriads of glistening waterfalls. Clouds sweep down to kiss the dense mist which seems to envelop everything.

Lonavala and Khandala have a number of sanatoria and are famous health resorts.
Lonavala and Khandala are extremely popular week end getaways amongst Mumbaites particularly because of their nearness to Mumbai. Many wealthy Mumbaites own flats or bungalows there. Many others try to spend their week ends there.

Places to see

There are plenty of places to visit and explore.

Lonavala Lake
This is the most famous lake. Also called Bushi Lake, it is located about a kilometre from Lonavala.
This lake is owned by Central Railway and is on the way to INS Shivaji.
Constructed in 1876, it is a very beautiful picnic spot.
The Indryani River is supposed to originate from this lake. There is also a dam here. Unfortunately, the lake practically dries up in summer.

Ray Wood Park
The Ray Wood Park is located inside the town near the Lonavala market. This is a sprawling botanical garden which has now turned into a large picnic garden with large lawns, tall trees and cool shades.

Tungarli Lake
This lake is at the north of the bus stand near Tungarli village. It supplies water to Lonavala. The hills offer beautiful views of Rajmachi, Lohagad, Visapur forts and Lonavala City.

Valvan Lake
This is very close to Lonavala. Here a Tata Company has constructed a beautiful dam. There is a well maintained garden and a centre for pisciculture.

Rajmachi Fort
This fort was used by the Maratha warrior Shivaji.
It is a place worth visiting but can be reached only on foot as it is surrounded by deep valleys on three sides and by a thick forest on the fourth side.

If you have time, you can visit a few other forts - the Manoranjan Fort, Shrivardhan Fort, Visapur Fort, Lohagad Fort and the Tunga Fort.

Rajmachi Point and Monkey Point
These are two other places worth visiting.

MTDC Holiday resort and Boating
There is a MTDC ( Maharashtra tourism development Corporation ) holiday resort at Karla spread over 30 acres of land. It is located on the Indravani river. Here you can hire paddle boats, motor boats and water scooters.

Ancient Caves

Far more interesting, much less known and rarely visited are the ancient and historical caves in the region.
Some of the oldest and most magnificent Buddhist caves in India lie scattered in this region.

Karla Caves

Malavali is on the main road about 8 km from Lonavala (towards Pune).
The Karla and Bhaja caves are both about 5 km from Malavali, but on opposite sides of the road.
Karla, 12 kms from Lonavala, has the largest chaitya griha (Buddhist chapel) in India. There are several viharas (monasteries or dwelling caves). These were built around 160 BC.

In terms of purity of design, the Karla caves represent the zenith of the Satwahan school of Hinayana style of temple architecture. They are the biggest and best preserved Buddhist cave temples in India.

The entrance to the chaitya griha is in the shape of a “Peepal” leaf. As one enters the magnificent hall, he is spell bound by the beauty of the stone pillars which are carved with life-like figures of elephants and human forms which represent different forms of Gautam Buddha.
The pillars are surprisingly smooth. The high majestic roof is semicircular.

There is adequate provision for storage of drinking water in the tanks around.
There is a small temple of Ekvira Devi at the entrance.

Bhaja Caves
Of the 18 caves in Bhaja, Cave No. 12, the finest of the cave complex, is an open chaitya constructed earlier than the Karla caves. This cave has sculptures of Surya and Indra with a Yaksha below Surya. The pillars here have centaurs.
Cave No. 1 is the dwelling house of the master architect.
Nine caves are viharas and the remaining 7 caves contain inscriptions about the donors.

The Bhaja caves are similar to the Karla Caves but on a much smaller scale. These caves are so constructed that the rays of the setting sun enter these caves.
On the southern side, there is a place where one can see carved figures of Gods and Goddesses.
Below the mountain is Mukkai, the site of the pre historic Mother Goddess. Even today, the villagers offer sacrifices once a year.
On one side of Bhaja is Lohagad Fort. On the other side, the Visapur Fort.

Bedsa Caves
16 kilometres south of Karla close to the Kamshet Railway Station is the village called Bedsa. A 3 kilometres walk up a stiff hill takes one to the Bedsa caves.
These caves have a huge chaitya, and numerous small resting chambers or cells for monks. The vihara has 9 cells and couple of side cells. In one of the larger cells is a non-Buddhist deity Yamai.
The caves have huge pillars, lions and human figures. The arched roof of the chaitya is supported by 2,000-year-old woodwork.
Under a tree in the village below is the Tandula stone of Bedsai. Every year, a palki (palanquin) is taken from this village to Yamai’s shrine and then to Vaghoba (deity of the pass) up the hill.

Getting there

Lonavala to Mumbai 108 Kms
Lonavala to Pune 66 Kms
Lonavala to Khandala 8 Kms

Nearest international airport Mumbai
Nearest domestic airport Pune

Both Lonavala and Khandala have railway stations and are well connected to Mumbai and Pune.

The National Highway No. 4 from Mumbai to Bangalore passes through the two
hill stations. All kinds of private and public transport are available.


There are a large number of hotels in Lonavala and Khandala -
from affordable budget class to the star luxury class hotels.
The MTDC holiday resort at Karla also offers very good accommodation
at reasonable rates.

Best Time to Visit

These hill stations can be visited throughout the year, but the best time to visit them is during the monsoons.
During the rainy season, the rain clouds hover around and the place gets covered in dense mist. You can see many waterfalls all around.
Try to avoid weekends and holiday season, unless you like crowds.

Hogenakkal Falls - the smoking rocks

Hogenakkal Falls

The Cauvery River may be the bone of contention between politicians, but oblivious to all these earthly squabbles, the river passes though some of the most picturesque regions in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in South India.

Hogenakkal Falls is one such place. It is the finest waterfall in Tamil Nadu and one of those places which should not be missed.

Hogenakkal Falls

The Kannada word Hogenakkal, which means ‘smoking rock’, describes the real ambience.
Here, the Cauvery river flows through a wooded valley, splitting and merging around rocks, and splitting again. The river passes little islands with tall trees, and traverses boulder-strewn out crops which are covered with water only during the monsoons when the river is in spate.
Here, the River enters the plains, hurtling down the rocks and boulders. The main attraction of the falls is the vertical drop of the river from a height of 20 metres with a roaring sound. And it appears that smoke is rising upwards from the river below. You can hear the thundering sound for miles around.

Coracle Ride

You will see people floating in the river in queer saucer shaped contraptions. These are coracles, the traditional boats, used by the locals for the past several centuries.The coracle is a saucer shaped boat made of bamboos and covered with buffalo hide. The modern coracles are made of steel frame work covered with synthetic material.
These boats look flimsy and give the impression that they would over turn at the slightest obstacle.
But inspite of their design which has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the use of some modern materials for construction, they are surprisingly sturdy.
I had visited Hogenakkal in 1993. My driver asked me not to go into the river. I asked him why?
He explained that once a number of crocodiles surrounded a coracle and demanded a human sacrifice. Only when the inmates threw a baby to them did the crocodiles go away.Sheer nonsense! The fact is there is not a single crocodile in the river. The fishermen regularly use nets for fishing.
Take a ride in the coracle. The owner will take you over the rapids and into the roaring falls. It’s a thrilling experience.
You will cross people catching fish in the river. You will also see the imps diving from the rocks into the river below.

Natural Spa

Hogenakkal is a natural riverside spa. The water contains dissolved salts. It is believed that bathing here can cure several diseases. Over the centuries, Hogenakkal has become a sacred bathing place, famous for its curative powers.

The Oil Massage

A causeway joins some of the islands. You will find the malishkarans, the indigenous masseurs, massaging their customers. They use herbal oils, some mysterious powder (whose formulation they will not reveal) and knowledge of the fourteen massage points in the human body. They seat their customers on slabs of rock and work rather too vigorously.
After the massage, the customers go to the bathing cubicles and stand under cascades of Cauvery water hurtling down.
The oil message followed by a real washing down is exhilerating.

The Crocodile Breeding Centre

There is a crocodile breeding farm in Hogenakkal.
Crocodiles are bred here so that they can be released in the wild. But the fact is that crocodiles breed much too fast. Finding a safe place to release them is a serious problem.

Weekly Fair

A large weekly fair is held in the nearby village of Pennagaram. You can see the local people, the local products and witness the local way of life.

Getting there

The nearest airport is Bangalore - 130 kms.

The nearest rail head is Bangalore

Hogenakkal is 133 km from Bangalore towards Salem (and 25 km from Dharmapuri).
Tourist taxis and buses regularly ply between Bangalore and Hogenakkal. It is a two and a half hour drive to the falls. The road is good.
The road route is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to the falls.

My suggestions

The surrounding mountains and the rugged scenery have made Hogenakkal Falls one of the most beautiful places in the state. It is a good Picnic spot. Because of its nearness to Bangalore, there are few places to stay.There is a guesthouse belonging to the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation.

Ooty - the Queen of Hill Stations

The Queen of Hill Stations

The Queen of Hill Stations in South India is Udhagamandalam or Ootacamund. I find both terms far too long and tongue twisting; and prefer the much shorter term Ooty. Ooty is certainly the most popular hill station in South India.
Ooty, located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240 metres, is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district where the Eastern and Western ghats meet.

Flora and Fauna

Ooty is full of coffee estates and tea plantations. The dense forests around are full of connifers, eucalyptus, pine and wattle; numerous animals and birds.
Surprisingly, probably due to its inaccessibility, Ooty was practically unknown to the Indians till the early 1800s when it was discovered by John Sullivan, the then British Collector of Coimbatore. The Britishers constructed the first railway line in the area and made Ooty the summer capital of Madras Presidency.
The earlier inhabitants of the land were the tribals called Todas who claim to have lived in the Nilgiris since time immemorial.

What to see

The centre of attraction, the artificial Ooty Lake, was constructed by John Sullivan in 1824. The Lake is surrounded by well maintained gardens.
You can do boating in the lake. You can also do fishing, but you have to obtain prior permission from the Assistant Director of Fisheries.
John Sullivan lies buried in the cemetery close to St. Stephens Church (built in 1829) on Club Road.

Botanical Garden
The beautiful Botanical Garden laid over 50 acres of land was established by the Marquis of Tweeddale in 1848. It is maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
It has a large collection of exotic and ornamental plants; a beautiful Italian floral garden; well maintained lawns and a 20 million year old fossilized tree trunk.

Government Museum
The Government Museum on Mysore Road, which was set up in 1989, has a good collection of tribal artefacts and arts and crafts of Tamil Nadu.

Doddabetta (10 Kms)
Doddabetta is the highest peak (2623 metres) in the Nilgiris. It lies at the junction of Western and Eastern Ghats and offers panoramic views of the Nilgiri Hills. There is a telescope house.

Kotagiri (29 Kms)
Kotagiri is a lovely hamlet (1982 metres feet above sea level). The climate here is very salubrious. The road to Kotagiri is flanked by tea gardens.

Rose Garden
It is located about 4 kms from Charring Cross. Spread over 10 acres of land, it has about 2000 variety of roses.

Art Gallery - Lalith Kala Academy (2 Kms)
Situated on the main Mysore road, it has a good collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures from all over India.

Mini Garden (1 Km)
The mini garden (Children's Lake Garden) is on the way to the Boat House. There is also a children’s amusement park here.

Deer Park (1 Km)
The Deer Park is a park worth visiting.


Mudumulai Wildlife Sanctury (64 kms)
Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary is the most important wild life reserve in the state and borders the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka and the Wyanad Sanctuary in Kerala.
The dense forests shelter a wide range of animals and birds.
The animals include tiger, leopard, elephants, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, Indian muntjac, wild boar, hyena, wild dog, jackal, langur, bonnet macaque, mouse deer and flying squirrel. The birds include Malabar trogan, Grey hornbill, crested hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, etc.The Ooty Mysore road actually passes through the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary.
Once we were passing through it in a bus. A musth male elephant was standing in the middle of the road. All traffic had stopped. Finally, after several hours, the elephant felt it was enough and decided to leave. Then only, the traffic resumed.

Coonoor (on the toy-train line - 28 kms from Mettupalayam )
Coonoor, located at an altitude of 1858 metres (6100 ft.) is on the way between Coimbatore and Udhagamandalam. It is a smaller, but equally enchanting, and far more quiet and picturesque hill station in the Nigiris.
The Sim’s Park in Coonoor, having a distinctive Japanese style, contains a large array of plants including the Rudrakhsa (holy beads) tree.

Dolphin's Nose (12 Kms from Coonoo)
This is a beautiful spot. You can also see the Catherine Falls from here.

Ketti Valley View Point
Located on the road to Coonoor, this spot is a cluster of small villages that extend to the plains of Coimbatore and Mysore plateau.

Kalhatty Water Falls (13 kms from Ooty)
Is located on the Kalhatty slopes on the Ooty - Mysore Kalhatty Ghat road. The height of the water falls is about 100 ft. Kalhatty - Masinagudi slope area is rich in wildlife and different types of birds.

Mukurthi Peak & Mukurthi National Park (40 kms from Ooty)
The Mukurthi National Park is located on the South Eastern corner of the Nilgiris.
The unique feature of this sanctuary is the similarity of its flora and fauna to those found in the Himalayas.
The area contains Nilgiri Tahr (Hamitragus hilocrius).
Silent valley is located on the western side of these ranges.

Pykara (21 kms from Ooty)
Pykara has well protected fenced Sholas; Toda settlements; virgin grassy meadows and also a large variety of wildlife.
The Pykara Dam, Pykara falls and the reservoir are good tourist spots.You can also do some boating here.

Avalanche (28 kms from Ooty)
This is a beautiful lake surrounded by thick shola trees where even sunlight cannot penetrate. This area is a Nature Lover's Paradise.

Heavy woollens in winter.
Cottons in summer.

Getting there

The nearest airport is Coimbatore - 100 Kms.Coimbatore has direct flights from Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore.

Ooty is connected to Mettpalayam by the Nilgiri Blue Mountain Railway - an age old narrow gauge railway.
The unforgettable train journey from Mettupalayam to Ooty passes through eleven stations and over nineteen small bridges.
The train passes throgh areca plantations, tea and coffee estates offering spectacular views of the misty Nilgiris.

Ooty is connected by good motorable road. It is 535 Kms from Chennai (Via Salem, Mettupalayam) and 89 Kms from Coimbatore.

Summer Festivals
Ooty has a number of summer festivals.
Flower and Fruit shows; Boat races; Boat pageantry; Dog shows; Cultural Programs; Fashion parades, etc.
These attract a lot of tourists.
Adventure sports like trekking also form part of the festival.


The main season is the summer.
But Ooty is more enchanting during the rainy season.

Goa - the land of the sun, sand and feni

The Old Portugese Settlement

Goa is a dream world of fun, frolic and leizure – rolling stretches of silver sands, wonderful golden beaches and waving palm trees.


According to Hindu mythology, the sage Parashuram (sixth of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) created Goa; and Goa became a popular retreat for the Gods in times of stress.

Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, visited Goa twice, after marital squabbles with his wife, Parvati. But on both occasions, Parvati followed him, made up and they returned back to the heavens!

During the 3rd century BC, Goa was part of the great Mauryan kingdom of Emperor Ashoka. After his death in 232 BC, the region came under the rule of various Hindu dynasties such as Satavahanas, Kshatrapas, Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.

The Kadambas, an indigenous dynasty, rose to power in the 10th century. They ruled for over three hundred years and using the natural harbours, they turned Goa into a thriving centre of maritime trade.

The 14th century was a turbulent period. Goa passed from the Yadavas of Devagiri to the Delhi Sultans (1356-1378), and finally to the Vijayanagar Empire who ruled it for almost a hundred years.

Towards the end of the 15th century, the Bahamani Sultans of Gulbarga and the Adil Shahis of Bijapur held sway.

In 1498, the Portuguese landed in Calicut, Kerala. They could not get a foothold there, so in 1510, they snatched Goa from the Adil Shahis. They established maritime supremecy in the Arabian Sea and controlled most of the prosperous trade routes.

Goa became the seat of the Portuguese Empire in India and the Far East. Its capital, Old Goa, became a centre of immense wealth and opulence, attracting hoardes of Portuguese immigrants. By the end of the 16th century, Old Goa had a population of around 300,000 - much larger than that of Lisbon, Paris or London!

During the early 18th century, the Marathas posed a threat, but the Portuguese not only managed to retain control, but enlarged their territory further east. Some movements for independence did begin in the late 19th century, but Goa remained under Portuguese rule till its merger with India in 1961.


Goa is actually a state with its own capital which creates some confusion.Goa state is geographically divided into North and South districts.

What to see

North Goa The capital of Goa is Panaji. It lies on the southern bank of the Mandovi River in North Goa. Here, you can purchase almost any thing you like. There are also some good hotels and restaurants.
The dominating structure of Panaji is the Church of Immaculate Conception (1541 AD). In medieval times, all Portugese sailors arriving in Goa came to this Church for thanks giving mass for their safe arrival. It is situated in the main market place.

9 km east along the river is Old Goa - the old centre of the rich and wealthy Portugese. Old Goa was practically abandoned after the river silted up and the new capital Panaji was set up in 1843. All that remains of this glorious city are half a dozen churches, cathedrals, a monastery and convent. You can still see the old style houses and streets.

The Se Cathedral of St. Catherine, is the largest church in Asia. It has 14 altars, an 80 metre long aisle and 5 bells including the Golden Bell - one of the finest in the world.

The 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus with its richly gilded altars is famous for believers and non believers alike. Since 1553, the beautiful Church contains the embalmed mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier in a silver casket.

Beaches in North Goa

Miramar Beach is closest to the capital Panaji (3 km), and therefore far more crowded and dirty. But from here, you can watch spectacular sunsets as the sun sets at the confluence of the River Mandovi and the Arabian Sea.

Dona Paula, 9 km south west of Panaji, is a small, idyllic beach.The Palm-fringed Sinquerim beach is at the foot of Fort Aguada.Nearby is Candolim beach. Further north are Calangute, Baga and Anjuna beaches.
The Baga Beach is popular for various water sports - parasailing, jet skiing, body boarding and surfing. During the seasons, you can go out into the sea to watch the dolphins. Calangute and Baga both have flea markets where you can purchase all kinds of handicrafts.

There are a number of other beaches further north. They are more secretive and more secluded. If you want peace and quiet - head North.

South Goa

South Goa is quieter than North Goa.

The main cities of South Goa are Margao and Vasco da Gama.
Some of the popular beaches are Majorda, Colva and Varca.

If you have time, you could drive down south of Goa and visit the picturesque beaches of Karnataka.

What to do

You can take a cruise on one of the many vessels there. On the vessel, you can watch the local dance and music and taste the local liquor feni.

You can go to the casino on the floating vessel Santa Monica and try your luck.

Try to visit a Spice Garden. You will see different kinds of spices. The entry fee includes a good local meal and a traditional dance.

The night life of Goa is legendary. There are plenty of discoes, pubs and bars.

Other Places to see

There are a number of other places to see around Goa. Old Forts. Water Falls. Wild Life sanctuaries.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit is between late October and early April.

Goa is all play and no work during the Christmas week. The entire place is teeming with tourists.

If you plan to visit Goa during Christmas, make all your reservations well in advance.
A second season is during the rains. The tariffs are very low. And the entire place becomes a fairy land.


There are numerous places of all kinds from the 5 star to the budget type available.

And if you like sea food, Goa is the place to visit.


You need only cottons throughout the year.
But bring beach wear, caps, sunglasses, sunscreen creams and suntan lotions.
Don’t worry, you can purchase all these items in Goa at reasonable rates.

Reaching there

Goa has an international airport at Dabolim - 30 km from Panaji.
Goa is well connected with Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Chennai and other major cities of India.
A number of overseas travel organizations organize cheap charter flights to Goa.

There are two main railway stations - Margao (Madgaon) and Vasco da Gama. The train journey from Mumbai and Mangalore on the Konkan Railway is picturesque and delightful.

You can even travel from Mumbai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Pune by car.
The road is good.

Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal - cradle of Chalukyan Architecture

Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal
The Chalukyan Temple Architecture

WHO designed the first Hindu temples? Who constructed them? Where were they built? What were they made of? Why did successive rulers make them more and more magnificent? These are some interesting questions relating to temple architectural history.

Indo-Aryan Nagara style of architecture
One comes across three principal types of temple architecture that were prevalent in different parts of India around the same period. Between A.D. 320 and A.D. 650, the Gupta Kings started building temples in North and Central India in what is known as the Indo-Aryan Nagara style of architecture.

The Dravidian style of architecture
In the south, kings built temples in the Dravidian style. One finds the earliest surviving Dravidian temples near Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram, 60 km south of Chennai). These were built around A.D. 500. This style flourished for centuries and reached its zenith when the massive structures in Madurai and Rameswaram were built, around A.D. 1600.

The Chalukyan style of architecture
The Chalukyan style originated in Aihole around A.D. 450 and was perfected in the neighbouring villages of Badami and Pattadakal (all in Bagalkot district of Karnataka). Chalukyan artists experimented with different styles, blended the Indo-Aryan Nagara and Dravidian styles, and evolved their own distinctive style. One can see magnificent examples of their earliest works in Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal. These certainly are not the earliest temples. Temples were constructed centuries before the 4th and 5th century A.D., but with wood and bricks and have not survived.
The massive temples in South India today give the impression that there were no large temples in North and Central India. There were, in fact, big temples in North and Central India, too. But repeated invasions, pilferage and destruction over the years devastated most of them. Thus, we do not find in North and Central India the equals of the grand temples of South India which was comparatively free of frequent foreign invasions and enabled successive rulers to add to the work of their predecessors.

Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal
THE Chalukya rulers of Vatapi (as Badami was then known) ruled the central Deccan from A.D. 540 to A.D. 757. They were great patrons of art and architecture. They have left behind a wealth of temple architecture in Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal. Since these areas do not lie on the major tourist routes and are not well-connected with the major cities, they have not received the prominence they deserve.
The architectural style that developed in this part is known as the Chalukyan style (to distinguish it from the Dravidian style, more common to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and so on). Why did South Indian rulers build temples of such magnitude and why did their successors make continuous additions to the work? Certainly not solely because of their faith in religion.
Perhaps they wanted to overawe their enemies and subjects with an enormous show of wealth and power, represented by these temples. Or perhaps they wanted to impress their subjects with a show of love for the religion. Or perhaps they wanted to atone for the sins they had committed by killing innumerable innocent people in the bloody wars they fought. The temples were built by teams of architects, artists, sculptors and masons, who remain anonymous.

Aihole, a small village on the banks of the Malaprabha river, was the cradle of ancient Hindu temple architecture. There are over 70 temple structures scattered around the village. These structures clearly show the experimentation with different styles undertaken by the artisans. It was here that the artisans worked on the rocks to create the earliest rock-cut shrines based on Buddhist monuments.
It was here they experimented with different styles, abandoning some and adopting others. From the earliest rock-cut shrines, the artisans graduated to the full-fledged Chalukyan style of architecture.
Ravana Phadi is one of the oldest rock-cut temples in Aihole. There is a Sivalinga in the inner room (cella or sanctum sanctorum, where the idol of the deity is kept). The walls and sides of the temple are covered with large figures. The sculptures are superb - especially that of dancing Siva.
The Huchchimalligudi temple is one of the earliest in Aihole. A significant feature of it is the addition of a room to the old temple structure, which had only an inner room and a hall. The room was added between the sanctum sanctorum and the hall.
One of the most impressive temples here is the Durga temple, which dates back to the 7th century A.D. This is actually a Hindu adaptation of the Buddhist Chaitya Hall with a rounded end. The temple has perforated windows and a statue of Mahishasuravardhini – Goddess Durga destroying the demon Mahishasura. This was constructed in a new style, but subsequently abandoned.
The Lad Khan temple was also built around the 7th century A.D. It is a unique temple, with a surprising resemblance to the Parliament House. It is believed that this structure was not meant to be a temple but a meeting place.

Badami is now a small town located at the mouth of a ravine between two steep hills. It was the original capital of the Chalukya empire founded by Pulakesin I in the 6th century A.D. Here are four beautiful rock-cut temples carved out of sandstone hills. Each has a square sanctum, a hall with pillars, and a pillared verandah. The halls have exquisite carvings and sculptures.
Of the four temples, the fourth is actually a Jain temple. It has a statue of Mahavira.

Among the masterpieces in these rock-cut temples is the famous 18-armed statue of Nataraja (Siva in the dancing pose). If one observes it closely, one will see Nataraja in 81 different dancing poses.

Pattadakal is another small village on the banks of the Malaprabha. This place was considered to be very auspicious and holy. The Chalukya kings were crowned here.
During the middle of the 7th century, temple building activity shifted from Badami to Pattadakal. There are 10 temples here, four in the northern or Indo-Aryan Nagara style and six in the Chalukyan style. Here one finds an intermingling of the two styles. A look at the Pampanath temple shows its disproportionate dimensions. The height is much too low. This style, too, was abandoned.

The Mallikarjuna, and the larger Virupaksha, temples were built around A.D. 740, by Trailokyamahadevi and Lokamahadevi, the two queens of Vikramaditya II, to commemorate their husband's victory over Nandivarman, the Pallava king of Kancheepuram. Vikramaditya II brought artisans from Kancheepuram. The Virupaksha temple clearly shows the influence of the Kancheepuram style.

Levels of Architecture
Guides will tell tourists that if Aihole is considered a school of architecture, Badami was a degree college, and Pattadakal, a university of architecture.

World Heritage Site
In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) included Pattadakal in its list of World Heritage sites.

Sunderban - Journey to nowhere

Land of the Royal Bengal Tiger

Largest Delta in the World

The two great rivers, Ganges 2,510 km. (1,560 miles) and Brahmaputra 2,900 km. (1,800 miles), are born in the snowy peaks of the Himalayas. On the last lap of their long journey, just before they enter the Bay of Bengal and merge with the oceans, they meander through the plains of Bangladesh and West Bengal (India) creating the largest delta in the world.

The Ganges-Brahmaputra delta covers an area of 80,000 sq. km. (30,800 sq. miles) and comprises of 54 inhabited and 48 uninhabited islands, mangrove forests, swamps and mud flats. The delta is approximately 350 km. (220 miles) wide at the Bay of Bengal.

Mangrove forests of India and Bangladesh in Sunderban Region

The Sunderban region encompasses 10,262 sq. km. (3,950 sq. miles) of reserved mangrove forests. 4,262 sq. km. (1640 sq. miles) of the mangrove forests are in India (West Bengal). The remaining 6000 sq. km. (2310 sq. miles) are in Bangladesh.
Sunderban is the only mangrove forest in the world which is home of the tiger.

Indian Sunderban - 9,692 sq. km.

Another 5,430 sq. km. (2,090 sq. miles) of non-forest, inhabited region in India, to the north and north-west of the mangrove forests, is also known as the Sunderban. The combined forest and non-forest area in India totalling 9,692 sq. km. (3,730 sq. miles) is known as the Indian Sunderban region.
This region is criss-crossed by an intricate maze of rivers, tributaries, streams, channels, estuaries and creeks. Life is extremely difficult in this region because 70% of the area is covered by saline brackish water. The environment is made more hostile by the diurnal rise and fall of water caused by the tidal waves.

Sunderban region has about sixty per cent of the total mangrove forests of India.

Sunderban Tiger Reserve

In 1973, the Government of India notified 2585 sq. km. (995 sq. miles) of the area as the Sunderban Tiger Reserve under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and brought it under its Project Tiger Scheme. In 1977, the Reserve was elevated to the status of Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Project Tiger has brought in much needed funds and support from the Government of India and the State Government. But the Sunderban needs still more funding.
The Sunderban Tiger Reserve has more tigers than any other Tiger Reserve in the world. The following are the figures of tigers in the Sunderban:
1972 1979 1984 1989 1993 1995 1997 2001-02* 2004
60 205 264 269 251 242 263 245 274

The majority of the four million people who live in the Sunderban area are poor and live below the poverty line. They lack access to proper roads and health care facilities.

Therefore, in spite of the presence of the tigers, many of whom are man eaters and sometimes kill animals and humans, the local villagers venture into the forests to collect honey or to cut wood.

The local villagers worship Bonbibi (the local forest deity) and Dakshin Ray (a demon who is believed to assume the shape of a tiger) to protect them from the tigers. Tigers generally attack from the rear. For this reason, while moving inside the forests, the villagers wear bright coloured face masks behind their heads in the hope that the tiger will be fooled by this trick. In spite of this, sometimes they are attacked by tigers.

Sunderbans National Park

On May 4, 1984, Government of India elevated a core area of 1,330.10 sq. km. (510 sq. miles) to the status of National Park. In 1987, UNESCO recognised the Sunderbans National Park as a World Heritage Site. No commercial activity is permitted in the core area. Visitors are not allowed inside the core area. This is to ensure complete privacy to the tigers.

Some facts about the Sunderban Tigers

· The tiger is the top predator of both aquatic and terrestrial eco-systems in the Sunderban.
· A tiger requires 7.5 kilograms of meat every day.
· About 17.5% of food for the tiger comes from aquatic sources.
· They drink saline water, perhaps the only example of this kind in the world.
· A wild tiger requires 10 sq. km. of area to roam around.
· The female takes care of her cubs for as long as 18 months. The males are usually tolerant of their own cubs. But may kill the offspring of other males.
· During the two peak tidal periods of February and May, territorial markings by tigers in Sundarban get obliterated by the daily tides. During that time, tigers are often found swimming across rivers and creeks, crossing up to 8 km. wide rivers.
· During the paddy ripening time, tigers enter several kms. inside the paddy fields and prey on the cattle there.
· The easiest quarries of man-eating tigers/victims are wood cutters, fishermen and honey collectors.
· Fishermen are the worst sufferers.
· But only 5% of the tigers are man eaters.

Tiger attacks

There is not a single instance of a tiger attacking a human being (even if it has strayed out of the forest) unless it is cornered by people. Normally, it kills cattle as its prey.
All cases of tiger killing humans occur only when a man enters the forest. If we look from the tiger’s point of view, a man inside his forest is simply another legitimate prey, which is easily available and easier to hunt than deer or wild boar.

The Mangrove Biosphere

In order to coordinate and integrate conservation, research and training activities in the Sunderban region, on March 29, 1989, the Government of India notified the entire 9,630 sq. km. region as the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve. More than four million people live within the Biosphere Reserve.

In November 2001, UNESCO accorded recognition to the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve area under its Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme.

Unique Habitat
The water in the numerous rivers, creeks and canals rises and falls in tune with the tides. Salt water from the sea rushes in and out - twice every day - making the region one of the most difficult terrains to live in. Most of the creatures here - both animals and plants - land and aquatic - have developed unique adaptations to survive in this peculiar environment.

For instance, the tiger has become a strong swimmer. It has learnt to catch fish. It even drinks saline water.

Throughout the mangrove forests, at the water’s edge, you will find the unique mud skipper, a fish that walks on land and even climbs trees. Its fins have evolved into two small arm-like flippers which permit it to move about on land. There are numerous blood-red fiddler crabs and other crustaceans.
The mangrove trees have developed strange aerial roots and unique propagation mechanism.
Sunderban has 84 species of mangrove and mangrove-related plants.

Animal Life

According to Hunter’s Account of Sundarban written in 1878, there were numerous tigers, leopards, rhinoceros, wild buffaloes, wild hogs, wild cats, bara-singha, spotted deer, hog deer, barking deer and monkeys in the Sundarban.

Over the last 130 years, leopards, rhinoceros, wild buffaloes and bara-singha have vanished. The animal life has been reduced to the tiger, deer, wild boar, monkeys, jungle cats and fishing cats.

Aquatic Life

There are a number of aquatic mammals - the Ganges dolphin, Indo-pacific hump-backed dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphin and the Finless porpoise.

There are several species of reptiles - Olive Ridley turtle, the river terrapin, estuarine crocodile (the largest crocodile in the world), monitor lizard, water monitor, chameleons; and a varied assortment of snakes - King cobra, common cobra, Banded krait, Russell’s Viper, Python, Chequered Keelback, Dhaman, Green Whip Snake, Indian python and a number of water snakes. There are skipping frogs, common toads and tree fogs.

The numerous species of fishes include the Saw fish, Butter fish, Electric Rays, Silver Carp, Star Fish, Common Carp, several species of sharks, prawns and shrimps.

Bird Life

The area is rich in bird life. There are over 200 species of birdsincluding plenty of water birds - Asian open bill stork, black-necked stork, greater adjutant stork, egrets, herons, swamp francolin, white ibis, white-collared kingfisher, black-capped kingfisher, brown-winged kingfisher, spotted billed pelican, etc.

A number of migratory birds come from far off places. You can see the Asian dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus), a rare migrant bird, during the winter months.

There are also a number of birds of prey - white-bellied sea-eagle, grey-headed fishing eagle, brahmini kite, herring gull, osprey, Pallas’s fish eagle, peregrine falcon, Oriental hobby, northern eagle owl and brown fish owl.

Plant Life

The most important trees are the mangrove trees. The name Sunderban meaning Sundari forest comes from two words Sundari (a species of mangrove tree - Heritiera fomes - one of the larger mangrove trees here) and Ban (forest).

There are several other species of trees. Genwa which has flaming red leaves in April and May. The Kankara with its crab like red flowers. Khalsi with its dazzling display of yellow blooms.

Stay - Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge

The only place to stay inside the forest area is the Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge (also known as Sunder Chital Tourist Lodge) in Sajnekhali maintained by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. It is rustic and simple. There is no electricity. A generator gives just enough power to run the fans and lights during the late evening and night.
There is a watch tower here, a crocodile pond and a turtle pond. There is also an artificial hatchery for hatching eggs of Olive Ridley turtles. Turtle eggs are collected from the wild and hatched under human supervision.
There is a Mangrove Interpretation Centre here where you can see films on wild life and get you doubts cleared.

If you want luxury, you can stay at Sunderban Tiger Camp just across the river - opposite Sajnekhali.
The Sunderban Tiger Camp has four A/c double bed and three Non-A/c double bed Cottages; 4 bed huts and 4 bed Swiss tents. All the rooms are simple but spacious with 24 hours electricity and running water and good service.

A third place to stay is the Sunderban Jungle Camp at Bali Island also opposite Sajnekhali. There are also a few private hotels and resorts in Pakhiralay area.

You can also stay on board the launch which has cabins, toilets, running water and arrangement for meals. In fact, the Government of West Bengal and the West Bengal Tourist Development Corporation Ltd. both organize excursions into the Sunderban where you spend the nights on board the launch. You can even hire a private launch and plan your individual itinerary.

Places to see

Piyali, situated 72 km from Kolkata, is a gateway to the Sunderban. It is a beautiful resting place. Here the small river Piyali mingles with Matla river.

Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary
The Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary situated on the confluence of Matla and Gumdi rivers is a part of the Sunderbans National Park. You can see a variety of birds. This is a bird watcher’s paradise.

Has a man made Mangrove Park and a watch tower. The Sunderban forests have about 84 species of plants. You can see most of them here. From the watch tower, you can also see deer, water monitors, etc.

On the way to Sundarbans, you can visit Kaikhali Island. This is an ideal picnic spot.

Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project
The Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project is a hatchery and rearing centre of the world’s largest estuarine crocodiles. You can reach this place through Namkhana.

You can see the the ruins of a 400 year old temple at Netidhopani and listen to ancient legends from the locals. There is a watch towers here.
Halliday Island & Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuaries
These two sanctuaries lie to the south of the Sunderban and are not part of the Tiger Reserve.
Halliday Island is considered the last retreat of the shy barking deer.

This is the nesting place of Olive Ridley turtles who spend most of their lives in the far away seas and oceans. These turtles travel long distances to shallow coastal waters to breed - often travelling up to 100 km from the sea into the rivers.

How to reach Sunderban

The islands Goasaba, Sandeshkali and Basanti form the northern boundary of the Sundarban. On the south is the sea. To the west are the Matla and Bidya Rivers and to the east is the international boundary with Bangladesh.

For visiting Sunderban, the starting point is Kolkata (Calcutta). From Kolkata, there are two routes. One goes south towards the South West; the other goes south towards the South East. Either way, you have to drive about 100 km. The road is very good.

The South West route takes you to Namkhana (105 km - via Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip). If you like a longer river journey, you can take a boat from any of these places or from Gangadharpur and visit Sagar Island, Lothian Island and surrounding areas.

The South East route is more popular. You drive through 100 kms of picturesque wetlands, agricultural fields, fish hatcheries and rural Bengal to reach Sonakhali. From here, you can take a 3 hour launch ride to Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge.

If you are more adventurous, you can travel on to Basanti by road (which is just across the river from Sonakhali) and drive on to Gadkhali (11kms). At Gadkhali, take the ferry and cross the Bidya river to Gosaba. A cycle rickshaw will take you to Pakhiralaya in about half hour. Sajnekhali is just across the river from Pakhiralaya.
During the launch ride, you will pass a number of villages of West Bengal. Most of the village people are engaged in some sort of fishing. You will see ladies and children dragging fishing nets to catch tiger prawn fry from which they earn about Rs. 50 per day. But this damages the eco system very badly.

Fact File

The nearest airport is Kolkatta - 112 kms.Railway Station
The nearest station is Canning - 48 kms. from Kolkatta
Road transportation is available from
Kolkatta to Namkhana - 105 kms.
Sonakhali - 100 kms.
Raidighi - 76 kms.
Canning - 64 kms. and
Najat - 92 kms.

Best time to visit
September to April.

Foreigners need special permits

Foreigners need special permit to enter the Sunderban.
Permit to visit Sunderban Tiger Projects is issued by Field Director, Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, PO Canning, District 24 Parganas, West Bengal.
Permit to visit other areas of the Sundarbans is issued by the Jt. Secretary, West Bengal Forest Department, Writer’s Building, Kolkatta – 700001.
In order to save time, foreigners should request their travel agent to obtain the permit before hand.


A Sunderban trip is a unique and exciting experience. A journey to no where. Far away from civilization in the mysterious land of the mighty tiger.
Chances of sighting a tiger are rare. But the area has a mysterious, indescriptible charm. You will thoroughly enjoy a few days stay here. It is totally different.

Some related web sites:
1. Map of the region is available at: 2.Map of the Sunderban region is available at: 3. Web site of the West Bengal Government: 4. Web site of the Sunderban Tiger Camp: 5. Web site of the Sunderban Jungle Camp: 6. Addresses of offices of Govt. of India & W.B. Tourism Development Corp. Ltd., in Kolkata:

(2576 words) Binoy Gupta

Mumbai - the Financial Capital of India

Where everything is in a hurry

Delhi is the political capital, but Mumbai (Bombay)
is the undisputed financial capital of India.
It also has Bollywood, India’s counterpart of Hollywood,
the world of Hindi films and glamour.
It has the largest port in India.

Mumbai is also the head quarters of all major banks, financial institutions and industrialists.
The Mumbai Stock Exchange is one of the leading stock exchanges in the world.


Mumbai originally consisted of seven islands - Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman’s Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion.
These islands formed part of the kingdom of Ashoka, the famous Emperor of India.
Over the years, these islands have been joined together by a series of reclamations.

Bombay Stock Exchange

The Bombay Stock Exchange was established in 1875 as “The Native Share and Stockbrokers Association”.
In the early days, business was conducted under the shade of a banyan tree in front of the Town Hall in the Horniman Circle Park.
Today, the fully computerized Bombay Stock Exchange is located in the 28 storey Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers built on the land which was acquired in 1928.

The places worth visiting are:

The Marine Drive, or Queen’s Necklace - a beautiful, brilliantly lit, curving road on the sea face. It was built on land reclaimed from Back Bay along the Arabian Sea. A lot of Indian movies are shot here.
On one end of Marine Drive is the Chowpatty Beach which overlooks a calm and quiet bay. The area turns into a fun fair at night with vendors, pony rides, fortune tellers, performing monkeys, and families out for a stroll. You can also do some water sports here.
On the far end of Marine Drive is Nariman Point, the hub of commercial activities and the most expensive location in India.

The Flora Fountain at Hutatma Chowk, built in 1869, is the old centre of commercial activities. You can buy some good second hand books from the book sellers here.

The stately Rajabai Clock Tower on the ornamented building of the Mumbai University is visible from afar.

The University is one of the finest educational institutions in the world.
The imposing High Court building next to the University, built in the Neo-Gothic style, is an architectural delight.

The Gothic Victoria Terminus (now renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), the main railway terminus of the Central Railway, will transform you back into the British Era.

Crawford Market, or what remains of it today, where you could once buy fruits, vegetables, meat, grocery and pets of all kinds.

The Prince of Wales Museum with its huge white dome, inspired by the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur, houses an impressive collection of artefacts from Elephanta Island, Jogeshwari Caves, terracotta figures from the Indus Valley, ivory carvings, statues and a large collection of paintings and miniatures.

The National Gallery of Modern Art where you can see the works of Indian masters as well as modern Indian art.

The Nehru Planetarium where you can explore the mysteries of the cosmos and outer space.

The Gateway of India built in 1911, to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India, in the 16th century architectural style of Gujarat. From here, you can take a ferry to visit the Elephanta Caves.
Temples, Mosques and churches

Mumbai is a truly cosmopolitan city. You can visit the extremely popular Haji Ali mosque; the highly revered Mahalakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) Temple; the Sidhi Vinayak Temple; the Parsi Tower of Silence and the several Zoroastrian Fire Temples; the Mount St Mary’s Church, Aloysius Church, Mahim Church and St Thomas’ Cathedral churches, and many more places of worship.

Elephanta Island

Once upon a time Elephanta Island - an hour’s journey by boat from Mumbai - was the capital of a powerful coastal kingdom.
When the Portuguese captured the island, they named it Elephanta after a monolith elephant they found on the island. The monolith has been removed and can now be seen in the Bombay Museum.

The Portuguese used the island for military exercises. In the process, they damaged and destroyed many sculptures there.
You can travel to the island by ferry. On the island are beautiful ancient caves carved out of solid basalt rock during the 3rd or 5th centuries.


Mumbai is an expensive city. Hotels are expensive. Ascertain the tariff before hand and make advance reservations especially if you are coming during the peak periods of October to December.
Best time to visit

The summers are hot.
The rainy season - July to September can really be dripping with rain.
The months of October to March are reasonably good.
There are plenty to places around Mumbai where you could spend a few days.
So keep a few days to spare.

My views

I live in Mumbai. It is a very crowded and congested city.
What is really surprising about the city is that every one and every thing
seems to be in a hurry.
It is said Mumbai is a city which never sleeps.
And Mumbai has its moods - which change like human moods change.

Dandeli - An idyllic forest destination in India


a little known unique destination in South India

Dandeli is a little known, rustic hamlet, near the borders of Maharashtra and Goa in North Karnataka in South India.

Dandeli is the gate way into the dense virgin forests and is a wonderful get away place within motorable distance from Hubli, Dharwad, Belgaum, Goa, Bangalore and Mumbai.

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary

Bordering the hamlet is the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary sprawling over 834.16 sq. kms. of dense forests and harbouring a large number of animals and numerous species of birds and reptiles.

Animals in the Sanctuary

The most impressive animal in the Sanctuary is the Gaur or Indian Bison Bos gaurus gaurus. It is the largest and most powerful wild bovine - even larger than the Asiatic Water Buffalo.
Bisons are beautiful, majestic creatures. The males have a well developed muscular body, with a distinctive dorsal ridge and a large dewlap, giving it a very powerful appearance. The males are short and stocky, but sturdy. Female bisons are substantially smaller, and their dorsal ridge and dewlaps less developed. Though the females are only slightly shorter, they are much lighter.
On an average, the males are more than 2.5 metres long, stand about 2 metres at the shoulder, and weigh between 1000 - 1500 kg. The females are about 20 cm. less in height and weigh between 700 - 1000 kg.
Both male and female bisons have beautiful, near-perfect, well rounded horns. The bottoms of their legs are white giving the impression that the animals are wearing socks.

Earlier, there were plenty of bisons in the Sanctuary. They moved about in large herds. The Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary was known as the ‘Bison Sanctuary’. But now their numbers have dwindled. The bisons have become wary of humans and can be seen only in small groups.

Amongst the other animals are elephants, tigers, black panthers, wild pigs, sloth bears, wild dogs, jackal, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, common langur, bonnet macaque, slender loris, Malabar giant squirrels, giant flying squirrels, civets, porcupines, pangolin, mongoose and several species of snakes, including the graceful green vine snake and the dreaded King Cobra.

Jungle Safari

The jungle safari will take you deep inside the forests in jeeps which would be open or covered depending upon the weather. However, animal sighting in the wild depends on luck. You could see a number of different animals in a single day, or none for days.

During and immediately after the rains, the undergrowth becomes dense and animal sighting extremely difficult. A tiger, panther or some other animal could be lurking just a few feet away, but the thick growth and the animal’s camouflage could make it practically invisible.

The best time for animal sighting is dawn. Though, you could see some animals at dusk too. A night safari is interesting. It is surprising how your guide will shine his torch on the animals and suddenly you see pairs of eyes glowing like small lamps.

Birds and Reptiles

There are over 200 species of birds in the Sanctuary. Dandeli is a bird watcher’s paradise. You will hear the vibrant horn like call of the Hornbills; see flashes of dazzling colour as kingfishers dive into the water; observe darters and egrets dart into the water and come out with a wriggling fish in its beak and watch the herons standing still near the banks for their unfortunate prey. You will also see serpent eagles, falcons, magpie robins, bulbuls, orioles, woodpeckers, weaver birds and many more birds.


The sanctuary is covered with deciduous and semi-evergreen forests.

It is famous for its high quality Teak (Tectona grandis), Silver Oaks (Grevillea robusta), Eucalyptus, Acacia and Bambusa.

The area is also rich in bamboos; and herbs and climbers - many of which have medicinal value.
Coracle ride

The Kali River at the edge of the hamlet winds its way through the forests.

Your visit to Dandeli would be incomplete without a coracle ride in the river. The original coracle is an indigenous, saucer-shaped boat made of bamboos and covered with thick buffalo hide. It looks flimsy, but is surprisingly sturdy and flows along with the current.

Modern versions of the coracle do not use buffalo hide, but synthetic material. The latest coracles (which look so unnatural) are made of iron and wood.

As your coracle passes the many islands in the river, you will see numerous birds.

If the weather is sunny, you will see crocodiles lazing on the banks because crocodiles love sun bathing. Don’t be afraid of the crocodiles. They are harmless. Actually, they are far more afraid of us! At the slightest sound, they slither away into the depths of the river.
You will find people washing clothes, bathing, or swimming nearby. They will tell you that there never has been a single attack by a crocodile so far. This is a wonderful example of man and animal living together in complete harmony.

White Water Rafting

Dandeli is one of the two places in India where you can do white water rafting. The other place is Rishikesh in North India.

White water rafting season starts after the monsoons and lasts from November to June. You will be taken several miles up the river in a jeep and asked to get into an inflatable boat. You will be given some introductory lessons. After that the fun begins. Your boat will go hurtling down the river, tumbling and jostling over the numerous rocks and rapids.
Depending upon the duration, at the end of the rafting, you will either be picked up by a jeep or walk back to your camp.

Places to see

The Karnataka Forest Department runs the Kulgi Nature Education Camp, spread over 10 acres of forest land near Kulgi village in Dandeli.
Here, you can rent well furnished tents and dormitories at nominal rates.
There is also a herbarium, well stocked library, video film screening arrangements, etc.
The staff here will make arrangements for jungle safaris, coracle ride, etc. for the tourists.

Sykes Point (21 km from Dandeli)

Sykes Point is one of the most beautiful spots in Karnataka. From here, you get a panoramic view of Kali River flowing through the valleys deep below. You will see miles and miles of lush green forests all around. During the rainy and winter seasons, you will see fluffy clouds sweeping down from the skies to the valleys below.

Nagajhari Point (14 km from Dandeli)

This is another ideal location for observing the hills, valleys, dense forests and the running streams.

Kavala Caves (25 km from Dandeli)

These ancient limestone caves bear signs of human habitation during prehistoric times.
You have to walk down a thousand steps to reach the entrance. There is a gigantic naturally formed Shiva Linga inside. You have to crawl into the caves to see it. Colonies of bats roost inside the caves.
The caves remain largely unexplored. You can explore the caves, but don’t go alone. Hire some one who knows about the caves.

Syntheri Rock (32 km from Dandeli)

The Syntheri Rock is a beautiful 300-metre monolithic granite rock formation located deep inside the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. The Kaneri River flows at the bottom.
Thousands of pigeons nest in the innumerable nooks and crannies of the rock. You can also see large hives of rock bees literally clinging to the rocks.
You can bathe in the river below.

Bats of Barapede Caves

Barapede Caves are located north of Dandeli between Krishnapur and Talewadi. Here you can see the highly endangered Wroughton’s free tailed bats (Otomops wroughtoni). Barapede Caves are the only roosting site of these bats in the world.
Krishnapur caves are one of the three places in the country where the little known Theobalds tomb bat Taphozous theobaldi are found.
The rare Megaderma spasma bats are found in the Talevadi caves.

Siddhi Tribals

On your way to Dandeli, you could meet odd looking tribals - black skinned with curly hair. They look like negroes.
They are the Siddhi tribals, whose ancestors were brought by the Portuguese from Africa as slaves over four centuries ago. You can visit their settlements and study their simple life style.

Industries and Manganese Mines

There were two wood based industries in Dandeli. The Indian Plywood Company Ltd. which closed down long ago and the West Coast Paper Mills Ltd. which is now largely dependent on imported wood.
There is manganese in the earth below the forests. There were several open quarry manganese mines inside the forest area. These were damaging the entire environment. The pollution had driven away all living creatures and killed all vegetation. Fortunately, all the mines have been closed down.
You can see the remains of the old mines. Vegetation has started reclaiming the abandoned mines. Birds, insects and other living creatures are returning to the area. The place is a living laboratory and vividly shows how much damage man can do; and given sufficient time, how nature has the tenacity and versatility to rebound back.

The endangered Kali River

As many as six dams have been constructed on the 184 kms. long Kali River for hydroelectric power stations, submerging most of the river course and huge areas of the surrounding forests. Four of these are at Supa, Bomman-ahalli, Kodsalli and Kadra. The other two are on its tributaries at Upper Kaneri and Tatihalla.
The Murdeshwar Power Corporation Limited (MPCL) is doggedly trying to construct the seventh dam. The Central Government has time and again refused the requisite permission. If the project is approved, and the dam ultimately built, the only remaining free-flowing stretch of the Kali River upstream of Dandeli would be destroyed. And white water rafting would have to be abandoned.


You can spend a few days simply idling, resting and recouping. If you are fond of nature and adventure, you can explore the hills and valleys, forest and rivers. Dandeli is an animal and bird watchers paradise. You can enjoy natural jakuzzi in the gurgling waters of the Kali River. You can do boating in the unique coracle. You can take your first lessons in white water rafting and kayaking. You can learn rock climbing and grappelling. You can do a little bit of cave exploration and a lot more.

Fact file


Dandeli is well connected to Bangalore, Belgaum, Dharwad/Hubli, Goa, Karwar & Mumbai by good roads and all kinds of public transport.

You can get down at Dharwad/Hubli and take a taxi/bus to Dandeli.

Distances from Dandeli:

Bangalore - 480 kms.
Belgaum - 95 kms.
Dharwad - 57 kms.
Goa - 145 kms. &
Hubli - 72 kms.

Railway stations
The nearest railway stations are:
Belgaum - 95 kms.
Dharwad - 57 kms.
Hubli - 75 kms. &
Londa - 35 kms.

The nearest airports are:
Belgaum - 95 kms.
Goa - 145 kms. &
Hubli - 75 kms.
Air Deccan has daily flights from Mumbai and Bangalore to Belgaum, Goa and Hubli. Kingfisher Airlines has daily flights from Mumbai and Bangalore to Goa and Hubli.
There are several flights by other airlines to Bangalore and Goa.

Where to stay
1. Kali Wilderness Camp, owned by Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd (a Government of Karnataka undertaking): Ph: 080-5597021/24/25.
2. Bison River Resort, owned by Indian Adventures Wildlife Resorts of Bombay: Ph: 022-26433622 or 26408742.
3. Hornbill River Resort. Ambeli, Ganeshgudi - 581 365, Karnataka Ph: 094481 36539.

All the three offer daily packages, for about Rs 1,000 - 2,000 per person, per day. This includes meals, jeep ride into the forest, a coracle ride and sightseeing,
You will have to pay extra for boating, canoeing and white-water rafting (rafting is suspended during the monsoons).

Best time to visit

You can visit Dandeli any time of the year. During and immediately after the monsoons, you may see less animals and miss white-water rafting, but the forest becomes a mass of luxuriant vibrant green and you can feel freshness all around.

The place acquires a unique fairy tale ambience.

Binoy Gupta