After three weeks in beautiful Kerala, it was time to move on and go to another State. I would spend the last week in India travelling in Karnataka with two friends from Bangalore (its capital city). I discovered that there are many places to visit in Karnataka. It was intense, it was nice, it was interesting… here I present you five highlights of surprising Karnataka:
- Part 1:
- Beautiful Mysore
- Part 2:
- Nature and animals
- Origin of Kaveri river
- Tibetan settlement
When I arrived in Mysore, I had been travelling in India for three weeks (plus two weeks on my first trip). And it was the first time I thought ‘oh, this city is beautiful’. Not only it has a wonderful palace, the streets are wide, it has beautiful architecture and it is quite clean.
My friends told me it used to be better, ‘clean as an european city’, with much less traffic and more green areas (progress is not always good on cities…). Still, it felt different, and I liked it.
The main reason Mysore attracts visitors is for its palace, which has wonderful architecture, paintings and carving. We visited it during the day and came back in the evening to see the building full of lights, which is quite impressive (and free!).
Also in the evening we found an exhibition center (or something like that). It was a big area with shops, food, lights, families, amusements attractions and an exhibition about Karnataka. Yes, this is India as much as the temples.
Another day we went up to Chamundi Hill to see the Chamundeshwari temple, the Shiva temple and the big Nandi*. There were many people (Indians, not many foreigners), food and flowers vendors, a very nice atmosphere.
We came down the hill by walk… 1000 steps! During the descent, we crossed several people going up, and some of them were leaving a yellow and red mark with the finger on each step, to workship the way to the temple (I do not know if at the end they had more pain in the legs, on in the back! I really admire them).
In Karnataka I saw some of the most amazing Hindu temples in India: Somanathapura, Halebeedu and Belur.
In these temples it is worth to pay a guide (an official one) who will explain the history and the meaning of the carvings. Such a detailed work!
The exterior parts are full of carvings of deities, ramayana, dancers… and every single carving has a meaning or a story behind. For example, in Halebeedu, the lower carvings all around the temple represent elephants for the strength, lyons for the courage, flowers for the beauty and horses for the speed.
Another example: there was a small carving representing a bird drinking with a snake behind. It means ‘a bit of wine is good, like medicine, but a lot of it is poison’.
These temples are ancient. They were constructed several centuries back, and amazingly show images that are still valid today: hairstyles, clothes, shoes, balconies, emotions, someone drinking with a straw, another taking a dog for a walk… and the carvings are so detailed, they were great artists.
A lot of carvings are missing since they were broken during invasions or vandalism, and others were taken to some museums in London. Still, a lot remain and they are worth the visit.
Somanathapura is the smallest one, a temple for Vishnu* no longer in use. Halebeedu is the biggest one, it is a Shiva* temple that took 190 years to be constructed (and it is incomplete). Belur, a Vishnu* temple, is the only one which is still active. It took 103 years and three generations to the constructed.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Mysore Palace: Indians 40 rupees, foreigners 200 rupees
- Mysore museum (inside the Palace grounds, apparently a weapons museum, I did not enter): Indians 35 rupees, foreigners 280 rupees
- Mysore Palace lightning: free entry. Only Sundays and public holidays from 19:00 – 19:45.
- Somanathapura temple: Indians 5 rupees, foreigners 100 rupees
- Halebeedu temple: free entry. Official guide (optional) 300 rupees per group
- Belur temple: free entry. Official guide (optional) 300 rupees per group
* Chamundeshwari, also named Durga and Parvathi, is a goddess. Shiva is a god and husband of Parvathi. Nandi is a bull and is the transport means of Shiva. Vishnu is another of the important Hindu gods.
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