Faced with an unusually busy summer and the vacations fast coming to a close, we desperately looked for quick holiday options before we got back to the grind. Driving down 330 plus kilometres from Bengaluru, our first stop was Kuppali, which is the hometown of poet Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa.
‘Kavimane’ is the ancestral three-storeyed home of Kuvempu, which is now a museum. It is well-maintained and provides great insight into the ‘Thotti mane’ style of architecture that was popular in those days. The antique pieces of furniture, vintage storage boxes, wooden cradles, utensils and kitchen aids like ‘kadigolu’ (used for preparing buttermilk) are nothing short of fascinating. The first floor has his personal belongings as well as his awards, degrees and citations. The second floor has a collection of all the books written by him. The house is open for visit on all days. A short distance from there is the ‘Kavishale’, a serene and open area with rocks.
Kuvempu’s memorial lies in the centre of this site. Our next stop was Chibbalegudde, which is a quaint town on the banks of the river Tunga; it is known for the Sri Siddi Vinayaka Temple. Just behind the temple flows the river. Bheemanakatte is yet another beautiful place to stop by. Located at a short driving distance of about 20 minutes from Thirthahalli, towards Agumbe Road, this town is also located on the banks of Tunga. Legend has it that the Pandavas lived here during their exile and Bheema constructed a bathing platform using rocks for Draupadi.
After this, we went to the beautiful hillock of Kundadri, located 20 km from Thirthahalli. The hill is named after a Jain monk Kundakundacharya who is said to have performed severe penance here. It is a holy place for Jains and houses a magnificent temple on the summit. The backwaters of the Varahi dam add to this picturesque setting.
Next on the agenda were the temples of Ikkeri and Keladi. We first visited the famous Rameshwara Temple in Keladi, which is one of the finest examples of the Nayaka-style of architecture. Built by Chowdappa Nayaka, the temple complex encloses the shrines of Parvati, Rameshwara and Veerabhadra. The ceiling and pillars of the Parvati Temple are made of carved wood and the pattern on the ceiling is exquisite, no two of which are the same.
The Veerabhadra Temple has the beautiful Vijayanagar-style pillars with carvings of horses and lions. The roof has sculptures including that of the ‘Navagrahas’ (nine planets), ‘Nagthamandala’ (serpent motif) and the ‘Gandaberunda’, which is the mythical two-headed bird of Karnataka. The statue of the Daksha Prajapati with his goat-head and the carving of the ‘Vastu Purush’ or the God of Structures are some of the rare sights that can be seen here. Close to the temple is the Keladi Museum and Historical Research Bureau, which houses some rare artifacts and a collection of palm-leaf manuscripts dating back to the Keladi Nayaka reign.
Ikkeri, located at a distance of six km from Sagar, is home to the magnificent Aghoreshvara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. This again is built in an architectural style that is a blend of the Dravida, Kadamba, Hoysala and Vijayanagara style. The first thing that strikes you as you enter is the resplendent Nandi statue in front of the temple with its impeccable finish. The temple inside has a number of giant pillars with intricate carvings. A large Shiva ‘linga’ is the main idol of worship. Apart from the main temple, there is also a shrine dedicated to Akilandeshwari.
Located in close proximity to the temple is ‘Varadamoola’, which has a temple dedicated to Goddess Varadamba. This place is the origin of river Varada, which flows through Banavasi before joining Tungabhadra River. Our next stop was Honnemaradu, a marvel situated on the backwaters of the Sharavati river. Tucked away in the interiors, this group of small islands is a haven for adventurists. With greenery and hills at the periphery, it is a great place to unwind. If visiting for the first time, you can also make a trip to Jog Falls, Agumbe and Kaveladurga Fort, and while in Shivamogga you can visit the Shivappa Nayaka Palace and Sakrebailu Elephant Camp. If you are a food lover, the region is a great place to pick up some local specialties like honey, ‘Halsinakai Happala’ (jackfruit papad) and ‘Appi Midi’ (tender mango pickle).
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