If I had to list 5 things I absolutely love, one of them would be travel. I consider myself blessed to have lived in various states in India, with the opportunity for extensive travel. I love learning the local language, mingling with the people and getting around on foot, because that’s when we see the best parts. These days our travel has been curtailed a little because of my son’s schedule, but we do manage to get away on short trips and day trips. We still have a lot of local attractions to catch up with and that’s such a good feeling. There are plenty of places that are ideal as weekend getaways and day trips.
One of the things I love about the condo we live in is our residents club that organizes an annual picnic every year. We leave very early in the morning and return late at night with a solid plan to cover a decent number of places en route to our destination. As we discussed possibilities for this year, naturally the conversation turned into a nostalgia trip as we reminisced about previous “picnics”
I fondly remember one such trip to Talakadu. The place is rich in history and replete with local legends. We booked a luxury bus as over 40 people were going. We also wisely decided to have our food catered and packed as we were not sure about what we might get on the way, or whether it would be healthy. So we carried breakfast, lunch, snacks and juices for 50. We rather wisely instructed everyone to carry their own water.
On a Sunday morning, we set off bright and early at 5.45 am. Our destination was Talakadu, and we made our itinerary thus, to see some places en route:
- Sandwiches on the bus
- Dodda Mallur Navaneetha Krishna Temple – the deity is a crawling baby Krishna and the temple is just beautiful. Here’s a virtual tour of the temple
- Chennakesava temple at Somanathapura
- Trekking through the sands of time around Talakadu’s temples.
- Return home by 10.30 – 11.00 pm
The mood was pretty much up, up and away as our bus took off from our gate.
About half an hour later, we decided to have the sandwiches as breakfast was only after our first stop. Once done with the snack, we got the music on loud and amid much laughter, singing and dancing, enjoyed the journey to the Krishna temple.
By this time, it was close to 9.30 am and our tummies began to growl. We left the temple and looked for a place to stop and have breakfast. We luckily found a farm, and the owner was very welcoming. So we stopped the bus and got busy with the mats for everyone to sit on. One group served while the elderly and children ate. Oh it was such fun – and the food was fantastic. Look at us!
Happily, we set off again towards Somanathapura to see the 13th century Chennakesava temple which is protected under The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
Somanathapura is a small village on the banks of the river Cauvery and about 130 kilometers from Bangalore. It is best known for the Chennakesava Temple built around 1268 AD, and an outstanding example of Hoysala architecture. Other examples are the magnificent Belur and Halebid temples.
The temple stands on a raised platform and represents a “Universe”. The wall sculptures are gorgeous with scenes on the walls depicting Gods, Goddesses, animals, and scenes from the epics – Mahabharata, Ramayana, Dashavatara – and other mythological tales. The sculptures are made of soapstone. They are carved on panels and then fitted together – rather like lego. The outer walls have star shaped folds on which the carved soapstone plaques are placed. Inside the temple, there are three shrines for Kesava, Janardhana and Venugopala. The Kesava idol is missing today.
We did a quick tour around the outside of the temple. I was quite shocked to see that there isn’t a single idol that hasn’t been damaged. They have been systematically destroyed or defaced by Muhammad Tughlaq’s army. There is no worship at this temple as Hindus do not worship a broken idol. Still, this 13th century Keshava Temple in Somnathapura is breathtaking and perhaps the best-preserved most complete monument of Hoysala architecture.
Here’s my namesake – the Goddess Saraswati.
Sigh. Even four hours here seemed like too little time. Once again, our stomachs signaled that it was time to leave and we headed for Talakadu. The amount of sand in the place literally freaked me out. It was hard to walk there – scorching heat and sand and we couldn’t wait to get under the shade to tuck into lunch by the banks of the River Cauvery. After lunch we strolled to the bank of the river where there was mass bathing – and these. They are called Parisals and are lovely to ride in.
We decided to brave one of them, which took seven of us – three adults and four kids. Of course we were soaked by the time we were done – and also managed to dry off by the time we got back to our lunch spot.
Look at the sand in this place!
Talakadu’s history dates back to the 3rd century. It was a beautifully vibrant city on the banks of the river Cauvery and part of the Ganga Empire. The Cholas first ruled here, followed by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara Kingdom. There are many legends associated with the place. One of them is how the place got its name.
An ascetic, Somadatta regularly worshiped at the Shiva temple here. One day, en route to the temple, his disciples and he were attacked and killed by wild elephants. They were then reborn as elephants and continued to worship Shiva who had the form of a tree in the forest. This tree was chopped down by two hunters named Tala and Kadu and they were shocked to see blood! They heard a divine voice, instructing them to heal the wound using the tree’s leaves and fruits. They did as they were told and since the tree was really self-healing Shiva, he is called “Vaidyanatheshwara” here aka God of the doctors. The Vaidynatheshwara temple was later built here with the town being named Talakadu after the hunters.
What is the story behind the sand at Talakadu?
This is the story of the curse of Talakadu. During the Vijayanagara period, circa 1610, Srirangapatnam, near Talakadu was ruled by Srirangayya on behalf of the Vjayanagara King. The deity at Srirangapatnam is Sri Ranganatha. The king’s wife, Alamelamma, a devotee of Sri Ranganayaki, the consort of Sri Ranganatha sent her jewels to the temple to adorn the deity once a year.
One day, her husband who was sick, left her in charge of the throne and went to worship Shiva at the Vaidyanatha temple in Talakadu. When the Raja Wodeyar of Mysore, the neighboring city heard this, he sneakily decided to capture Srirangapatnam. Queen Alamelamma, in the meantime, who was worried about her husband, packed her jewels and headed to Talakadu to check on him, who, unfortunately died. The Mysore Raja, with Srirangapatna captured, now also coveted the jewels and went after the queen.
Alamelamma, cornered, was furious and jumped right into the river Cauvery with her jewels and as she drowned, cursed, saying, “Let Talakadu become a desert. Let Malangi become a whirlpool. Henceforth, the Mysore Rajas will beget no heirs”.
And from that moment, the fertile Talakadu became a sand-filled desert. The River Cauvery mysteriously developed a whirlpool in that spot. To this day, the Mysore Rajas have no heirs, though many adoptions are on record.
There are about 30 temples believed buried in the sand at Talakadu and efforts are on to unearth them. Of the 30, five Shiva temples hve been restored. The most prominent is the beautiful Vaidyanatheswara temple built by the Cholas.
From there, we managed to visit one more, trekking across the sand – the Sri Maraleshwara Temple.
The others too far off and I really didn’t have the stamina to go see them, although many of our group did set off.
Once they returned, we enjoyed a cup of tea at one of the local tea shops before heading back home. It is a nicely developed and busy little town- quaint. Why, there is a Kotak Mahindra Bank branch there! Talk about Kona Kona Kotak!
The return journey was rather quiet – with everyone exhausted and happy. We reached home at 11 pm.
It was a wonderful and memorable trip.