May 2007: A weekend drive from Bangalore to Terahalli (near Kolar) to Kaivara (near Chintamani) to Lepakshi (Andhra Pradesh) and back.
This was an interesting Sunday weekend drive as we covered quite a bit of ground (over 300 kms) on the same day. We decided to keep an open plan and set off towards Kolar. We had breakfast at Kamats near Hoskote. Just before we reached Kolar, a lady informed us of a jathre (village festival) taking place in the village of Terahalli.
A quick decision was made by the other two occupants of the car (Venky and Deepsan) while I was still half asleep, and we drove up the hill towards the village. The hill was reminiscent of Hampi, with huge rocks dotting the landscape and once we climbed upwards, we could see the plains of Kolar spread out in front of us.
The village itself was just waking up to activity. We meandered towards the temple area where people were putting up streamers in preparation for the festival to take place later in the day. A temple with a few complexes inside beckoned us and we walked in. There, one of the priests befriended us and gave us a mini darshan of the temple’s premises.
Outside, people were setting up shop for the day and spreading out their wares. Colourful bangles, big coconuts, knick knacks – there seemed to be something for everybody!
Since the festival was only in the evening, we decided to move on to the next place : a somewhat big cave called Kaivara at Chintamani, a little distance away from Kolar. Cut out from a rock face on a mountainside, the cave is huge and quite dark inside.
At the entrance, visitors throng the 2-3 small shrines. I am not sure about the religious significance of this whole place, but in India it doesn’t take much to give things a religious twist. Inside the huge hall area, it’s almost totally dark, with light streaming in from the doorway and a few other windows cut out of the rock. Kids play around and parents are busy offering prayers. We wander around for a while, it’s a nice respite from the strong afternoon sun. We find a shaded place outside and eat our packed lunch, trying to keep away a few curious monkeys.
We’re back on the road again. The countryside is truly beautiful in this season. Though there’s no rain and it’s quite dry, the red gulmohars are in full bloom, resplendent like new brides, giving the whole landscape a bright and colourful aura.
We decide to cross the border and drive up towards Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh and in less than an hour (when I catch another quick snooze in the back of the car!), we’re already there. The sun is really strong now and we spend some time on the grassy lawn outside the temple, relaxing in the shade of the trees. The watchman wants some money and we slip him a tenner and stretch out.
Lepakhi is well known for its ceiling paintings. It’s built during the Vijayanagar empire and style (similar to the Vitthala temple in Hampi) and there are beautiful sculptures on the temple pillars and walls.
We walk around the long corridors and then venture out onto the hot burning stones of the centre courtyard. Despite the heat, there are quite a few visitors, including a big group with a guide. We do a round of the temple and then peek into the inner sanctum where prayers are going on.
There is a monolithic Nagalinga : supposedly the largest of its kind in India – in the interior court of the temple. A short distance away is a magnificent granite bull and it’s supposedly the largest sculpted Nandi bull in south India and we make a quick halt there also.
The maintenance unfortunately leaves much to be desired and I do hope the concerned authorities wake up to the wealth of the temple and take some positive steps to restore the structure, the paintings and the frescos. It’s a rather beautiful place and it will be sad to see it go to the ruins.