Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Almost there

All my efforts
Are almost there,
but not quite.

Not that anyone cares
But it gives me nightmares

My translations almost work
My breads almost hold their shape
I miss the dots when I write
I don't brown the top when I bake
Even vessels I wash
Are left with water spots

In everything I do,
I'm almost there,
but not quite.

Almost a writer,
Nearly a runner,
An almost translator,
A spotty dishwasher.

Almost there,
But not quite
Will be my epitaph.

Monday, December 30, 2019

QUIT 2019. Day 6

Started early morning from Bijapur. Today's plan was to visit Bidar fort and then proceed to Hyderabad.

You know you are properly into a road trip when you can't remember what day or date it is. For the first two days you are still connected to your real world. Then gradually the road starts taking over. Getting up, hitting the road, finding a place to sleep for the night - that's all there is to life. Kilometers of tarmac and open space. The main purpose of the road trip is to hit that zen state. Destinations matter to an extent, but the journey is the real reason.

As we hit the road, my mother called me and informed us that today is Solar Eclipse and not to travel or eat during the next three hours. Like a dutiful son I ignored my mother's advice and proceeded. Since we planned to reach Hyderabad by late afternoon, we didn't stop anywhere for breakfast. Kept munching biscuits through out the solar eclipse time.

Bidar was the last capital of Bahmani Sultanate. Bahmani Sultanate broke away from Delhi Sultanate of Muhammad bin Thuglaq and established a separate state in 14th century. They ruled for  about 200 years before being defeated and disintegrated by Vijayanagara Empire in 16th century. The sultanate broke into 5 - Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Bidar, Berar and Golconda (Hyderabad)- collectively called as Deccan Sultanates.

Bidar is 30 km from Hyderabad - Mumbai highway. It is a motorable road except for a few stretches. We reached the fort by 11.00 AM, with the Solar Eclipse at its peak. This helped us as the temperature was down a bit. There was no one around in the parking area. No guides were available.

The first look at the fort is impressive. The massive gates and ramparts and moats transported one back in time. There are three levels of fortification in the fort. The second entrance was massive. There were a few boys clicking selfies in ramparts.

Entrance to Bidar Fort

Spiked doors of the fort

We had read up on the fort and were looking forward to visiting the Rangeen Mahal, Tarkash Mahal and the labyrinths of Hazar Kothri. But every thing is under lock and key. ASI office here was not interested in giving us any information other than saying restoration work is going on. It didn't look like any work was going on though.

Hazar Kothri

Gagan Mahal (?)

So we walked inside the fort clicking pictures of whatever we could see. The Solah Kambh Mosque (16 pillored Mosque) looked amazing. Behind the fort is the ruins of Delhi Darwaza (Delhi Gate). We walked till there with no one in sight.
Solah Kambh Mosque

View of the fort 

As we came back, crowd was starting to trickle in. Bidar is a popular destination for one day trips from Hyderabad, 3 hours drive away. There weren't many people from Karnataka, though the fort is technically in Karnataka.

We wanted to have lunch at the Gurudwara Langar in Bidar. But I was wearing shorts and had to change to trousers to go to Gurudwara. So decided to check out other restaurants in Bidar. Nothing seemed to be open even by 12.30 PM. Finally found Punjabi Tadka restaurant. It was destined that we had to eat out of a Sardar's hand today :-)

Drive to Hyderabad was fairly smooth. The road from Bidar to Zaheerabad had some potholes in the Telengana State part of it, but once we hit the Highway it was pretty easy. After missing a turn in the Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad and taking a 8km detour, finally reached hotel by 4.30 PM.

Total distance traveled till date : 1590 km

Sunday, December 29, 2019

QUIT 3. Day 5

Today was a day of no travel. We stayed in Bijapur itself and visited Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rouza again. Original plan of this trip was to cover Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra, but the road to Ajanta is so bad that we had to drop that plan. That gave us some extra days to spend.

Our Hotel was just a km away from Gol Gumbaz. We reached Gol Gumbaz by 6.30 AM expecting to be the first people in. To our surprise there was a healthy number of people already there. Then we realized that most of them were locals who come there for their morning walk. It is an excellent place for morning walks with well maintained lawns and pathways. There were people sitting in the museum steps and doing Pranayama, Yoga and what not.

Gol Gumbaz at early morning

We entered Gol Gumbaz and found there were a few people already there by that time. All of them had come like us to hear the acoustic effects of Whispering Gallery. The noise level was beginning to rise when a guide came and convinced all of us to stand at one side. He went to the other side and did his bag of trick. Waving a handkerchief, snapping his fingers, crushing a plastic bottle, Whispering. Everything was amplified and heard by us on this side. Then he called out names of Gods - Shiva, Allah, Jesus to let us hear the echoes seven times. Secularism is well and alive at some places atleast.

Posing in front of Gol Gumbaz. Notice morning walkers on the sides.

Our next stop was Ibrahim Rouza. Here we were the first ones and for a long time the only ones. As magnficient as Gol Gumbas is, I personally liked the Ibrahim Rouza better. There is something very peaceful about this place. As we entered I saw a person jogging in the lawns of the monument. So I too donned on my running shoes and went for a jog. Jogged a kilometer, just for history to record that I continued my half marathon training in Ibrahim Rouza :-)

Early morning Ibrahim Rouza

Photographer photographed

Tonight's dinner was at the restaurant Qaswa Hills in Pearl Hotel. It came highly recommended on the internet, so I was a bit skeptical. Surprisingly the food was real good. Paneer kebabs, Mutton Biryiani (half) and Egg Biriyani (half), followed by Chocolate Mastani and a Falooda. Quantities are humongous, we couldn't finish even the half portions of Biriyani. A good meal and a much needed rest day.

Good restaurant in Bijapur
Total distance traveled till date : 1150 km.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

QUIT 3. Day 4

Started early morning 6.30 AM to Pattadakal. Being winter, sun rises a little late. Otherwise would have left even early. All the ASI Monuments are open from 6.00 AM to 6.00 PM. So if one goes early, one can avoid the crowds that descend on the monuments in holiday season. Drive from Badami to Pattadakal takes about 25 minutes. The road is good to drive, with fields on both sides.

Early morning drive to Patadakkal

When you drive early morning, you see a procession of people going to the fields with a mug in their hands to do their morning ablutions. It was surprising to see this in Karnataka in 2019. This part of the country is not Open Defecation Free yet.

Pattadakal is dated to 7th Century CE, situated on the banks of Malaprabha River. It was the coronation town for Chalukya Kings. It is a complex of nine Shiva temples and a Jain temple. The Virupaksha temple is the only functioning temple there now. The various temples were built from 7th century onwards and are examples of North Indian style of architecture (Nagara) and South Indian style of architecture (Rekha-Nagara-Prasada) and South Indian style of architecture (Dravida Vimana). You can identify this by simply looking at the Gopuram. 

North Indian style architecture (Rekha-Nagara-Prasada)

South Indian style architecture - Dravida Vimana

We were the first to enter the complex that day. The first view was amazing. The silence, the early morning sun, absence of crowds all together transported one to 7th century itself. One half expected a King to come from one of the temples.

The temple complex at sun rise
We spent a lot of time clicking pictures of the temples and intricate carvings. Most of the carvings depicted scenes from Ramayana or Mahabharata, though the temples are all Shiva temples. A special mention should be made about the windows in temples, each of a different design. 

Amorous couple stone carving in Virupaksha temple
Shiva and Parvati (?) playing Dice

Intricately carved stone windows
Each stone window is of different design

After having our fill of the temples, we tried to go to the Malaprabha River. A few steps down and the stench hit us. Looks like the local populace is using the river banks for morning ablutions. We abandoned the idea and went back into the temple. By now it was 8.30 AM and the first of the school buses arrived. Apparently this is the season of educational tours for schools in Karnataka, so whichever historical site you go there would be a gaggle of shrieking school students.

Drove back to Badami, checked out of the hotel and started on the next stop of our journey. Bijapur / Vijayapura. From Chalukya Kingdom we were now proceeding to the Decann Sultanates. The Road to Bijapur was fairly good, till you enter Bijapur. The last stretch was really a stretch as road works were going on.

Bijapur was the capital of Adil Shahi dynasty which ruled Bijapur Sultanate for about 200 years. The sultans broke away from Bahmani Sultanate in 1489 and ruled till 1686. They were weakened by Shivaji's raids on their forts and establishment of Maratha Empire. They were finally conquered by Aurangazeb in 1686. 

In these 200 years they had built some amazing monuments in the city of Bijapur. Gol Gumbaz is the most popular of them all. It is the tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah, the seventh ruler of the dynasty. It is claimed to be the second largest tomb in the world, next only to St Peter's Basilica. Probably in the medieval times. It is an impressive structure. As you enter the complex the dome seems to be atop the square building. As you go nearer, you realise there are three structures and the Gol Gumbaz stands behind the two square  buildings. 

Gol Gumbaz viewed from front

Gol Gumbaz

Gol Gumbaz houses the tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah. It is a cavernous structure with a huge ceiling. The acoustics of the structure is amazing. There is a circular gallery on top which is called the whispering gallery. A whisper from one end of the gallery is heard very clearly in the other end.  Also any sound echoes 7 times at least. 

When we entered the tomb it was a shrieking mad house. At 4.00 PM the crowd was at its peak and every one was clapping and shrieking to hear the echo. It was hard to hear even the person next to you. We asked the guard why can't people be silent. He said "When I tell them to keep quiet, they say 'we have purchased ticket for 25 Rs. So it is our right to shout'. What can I say Sir". Fair enough.

We climbed 7 storeys up to the whispering gallery, through the circular steps in the minarets. It is a steep climb, leaves one huffing and puffing. Our Guide tried to show us the acoustic effects, but it was impossible in the noise. We told him we will come tomorrow early morning and try again. 

After clicking a few photos, our guide asked us if we were planning to go to the other monuments in the city. He convinced us the other three can be seen in 2 hours and took us in a Tonga (horse cart) ride. Initally we were self conscious riding through the city in a Tonga, where cars and two wheelers were buzzing about. Then it became fun. 

Tonga Ride through the city of Vijayapura

Our next stop was Bara Kaman. It is an unfinished monument, housing the tombs of Ali Adil Shah II and his family. It was supposed to be 12 interconnected arches vertically and horizontally but only the first level of arches were built. At its completion, its shadow was supposed to fall on Gol Gumbaz, his father's tomb. As the guide said, each son wants to outdo his father. There was hardly any crowd here. 
Posing in Bara Kaman

We made a short stop next to see Malik e Maidan (general of the battlefield), the largest cast bronze canon in the world. It is one of the largest medieval guns and weighs 55 tons. Take all these claims with a pinch of salt as the guides are known to exaggerate. It is a massive piece of armament.

Malik-i- Maidan, Bronze cannon

Next we went to Ibrahim Rouza, the tomb and mosque complex of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. It is one of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen. This is supposed to have inspired Shah Jahan to build Taj Mahal. On left side is the mausoleum consisting of the tombs and on the right is the mosque. You can spend hours looking at the intricate carvings and etchings. In the setting sun, it looked magical. 

Ibrahim Rouza
Total Distance traveled till date : 1130 Km

Friday, December 27, 2019

QUIT 3 - Day 3. Part 2.

Our initial plan was to see Aihole and Pattadakal today. Walking around Aihole itself drained us completely. Added to it was the ever increasing crowds in the monuments. So decided to visit Pattadakal early tomorrow morning.

December is the peak season in Badami. Badami is a small town and there are only a handful of hotels. All hotels were full till the New Year. We had to book in two different hotels to stay two days. So after visiting Aihole, we came back to the second hotel and checked in, getting some much needed rest.

We decided to visit the Northern Fort and Upper Shivalaya atop the hill in the afternoon. Started at 4.00 PM and went to the Museum. The steps to the hill are to the side of the museum. A word about access to the museum. It is highly advisable not to take your car through the narrow lanes leading to the museum. Taking an Auto Rickshaw is a better decision.  There are just too many pigs roaming around the small lanes. Possibly due to the open drainage system in the town.

The climb up the hill is slightly hard. Took us about 30 minutes. There are stone steps that lead you up. On both sides the boulders present arresting views. There are two Shiva temples at the hills, the lower Shivalaya and the upper Shivalaya. The upper temple is thought to be from 5th century CE, overlooking the town of Badami. These are not active temples now.

Imposing boulders along the path

Great place for photo shoot

Lower Shivalaya

As you go up, the views keep getting better and better. There are three granaries that are latter day additions when the hill was used as a fort. Ruins of fortifications can be found just below the Upper Shivalaya temple. There is a circular bastion which we could not enter as it was guarded by an aggressive monkey. Yes, there are many monkeys in the hill and you have to be extremely careful carrying water bottle or food stuff.


Circular bastion, just below the Upper Shivalaya

View of the Badami Hills and Agasthya Lake from the top

Atop the hill there was a lonely guard sitting near the temple. Next to him was a watering hole in the rocks where monkeys were frolicking around. They seem to ignore the guard and he was ignoring them too. Must be a lonely vigil at the top, but with a great view.

Monkeys at the watering hole, A lonely guard with his back to them

Old Temple, New Goddess

On the way down I decided to go to the two watch towers in the hills. For this one has to climb up a narrow cleft in the rocks, situated just below the lower Shivalaya. There are steps, but one has to contort a little bit to get through it. She wasn't interested, so I went alone. The view of the lake and the town from this vantage point was marvelous. As I was about to go into the watch tower, I heard her shriek down below followed by a noisy thud.

Two watch towers midway

Fearing that she fell down the steps, I rushed back. She was standing there shaken. Her water bottle was lying down a few steps below. An aggressive monkey had charged at her water bottle, taking her by surprise. She had thrown away the bottle in fear. As we were looking, the monkey came back, took the water bottle, pierced it with its teeth, drank the water, threw the bottle back and walked away nonchalantly.

Total distance traveled till date : 950 km