Kemmanagundi, Hebbe Falls, Belur-Halebidu

Waking up to the sound of monkeys jumping around on the rooftop, is not something I am used to on Monday mornings. But then, I was not in my rat-hole in the city, but in the VIP guest house at Kemmanagundi, a hill station near Chikamagalur. The VIP treatment was not by virtue of our importance, but because it was the only accommodation available when the four of us reached there the evening before. Fortunately this was a reasonably maintained cottage in an otherwise dirty and ill-managed place.

Without wasting much time, we started off our trek to Hebbe falls. It is a two staged waterfall about 11 kilometers from Kemmanagundi. The road to the falls is in pretty bad shape, motor-able only by four wheel drive jeeps. The route pass through some awesome locales with lush green meadows and hillocks all around. Though there are few shortcuts, the longer jeep route is worth taking for the scenic beauty. There are a few coffee estates on the way, with mulberry trees planted all along the border. How many Mondays do you get to walk amidst coffee and cardamom plants, eating mulberry fruits? There were plenty of leeches on the way, especially as we approached the waterfalls. Fortunately they seemed to be a confused lot, taking all the time in the world to figure out where to bite, giving us enough time to pluck them off the feet.

Hebbe falls looked majestic this time of the year, as it cascades down from 150 meters. There are a few rocks in the middle of the stream where you can sit, stare at the waterfall face to face, and get drenched in the shower of water droplets. The rocks were really slippery, but we managed to reach the rocks and enjoyed the real beauty of the falls. The walk towards the waterfall is mostly downhill and easy, but we took a jeep on our way back to save time. We had arranged for some food at the house of one of the coffee estate workers, where we had some tasty 'chitranna'. Chitranna means 'colored rice', and he had cooked it with home grown tomatoes and turmeric, making it all the more tasty after a long walk.

On our way back to Bangalore, we visited Belur and Halebidu, the temple towns of the Hoysala Dynasty, constructed in 1100 AD. Raised on platforms and made of soapstone, the temple walls are full of beautiful carvings. Each temple complex has multiple pavilions, each fitted with lathe turned and polished pillars and sculptures depicting puranic or durbar scenes. There are also carvings of popular figures like Buddha, Tirthankara, travelers from China and the west. There are also scenes from the Kamasutra, adorning the outer walls of the Halebidu temple, just that some 'concerned' people have destroyed most of the erotic figures.

Both the temples took more than 100 years to complete and seeing the extensive craft work involved, you will have no problems believing this. The Hoysaleswara temple at Halebidu is famed for its large Nandi bull carved from soapstone. The Chennakeshava Temple at Belur was constructed by king Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the chola viceroy of Talkad in 1117 AD. The outer walls of the Belur temple has got 42 exquisitely carved sculptures of beautiful women, called 'Madanikas'. These finely proportioned and highly expressive figures of Darpanasundari, Sukhbhashini, the huntress etc. are examples of the superior craftsmanship. We were wondering why there is so much of nudity expressed around a temple. Human body was considered beautiful in those days and adorning the place of worship with scenes of beauty was probably never an issue. We started to fret about this only when we were 'educated' by modern religions and social structure of the shamefulness of showing off our body. Looks like the Hoysala kingdom was a prosperous one in every sense, as any community will invest heavily - time and money - on art and architecture only when the basic needs of people are already taken care of.

A couple of hours is too less a time to spend at historic places like these, if you really want to appreciate the beauty and effort that has gone into the making of such exquisite structures. The only striking thought was the sad state of affairs of the many gods and goddesses out there. Some of the big idols in the temple are partially destroyed and a lot of them are on the verge of breaking down.
Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind

Applicable to the Gods too ...?

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