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India

Why Indian Train Rides Are More Than Just About The Commute

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Indians love it, so do foreigners. If there is one mode of transport in India which can claim to be almost as famous as the Taj Mahal, then it has to be the Indian Railways. Traveling on Indian trains can itself be a life changing experience, more so if you come from the western part of the world. But have we ever wondered why do so many travelers go ga-ga about Indian trains despite the crowds, unpunctual performance and shitty toilets(pun quite intended)?

If you haven’t wondered, I have. And I am going to try and answer the question.

Service to India and its citizens

Indian trains are a microcosm of the country itself, and there are not two ways about that. Everything about the Indian railways, from the loud and chaotic train stations, to the overbooked trains and the general compartment are experiences that you can term as quintessentially Indian.

But if you look closely towards this madness you may see more than what meets the eye. One early morning when I reached Lucknow railway station, I rubbed my eyes twice to be sure I wasn’t still asleep. There were hundreds of people sleeping at the railway station in well formed rows. Though people sleeping on railway station floors are a common sight in the country, the number of people at the station was five times more than anywhere else I had seen before.

After lounging around for a bit, this mass of people woke up in one ago and formed a queue. Imagine hundreds of people waking up and forming a queue in a couple of minutes. It was then that I realised that these were young men from far out places in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who had arrived to give a competitive examination. Their trains arrived the evening before, but since they probably had no money to spend on a hotel, all of them had parked themselves at the station. Good, bad, ugly – I will let you be the judge. But if the poverty of our country is without a parallel, then the role of the railways as a social organisation is also second to none.

You might find your life partner during an Indian train ride. No kidding!

So yes, if you are patient enough, beyond the chaotic welcome lie some experiences that would be hard to come by anywhere else in the world. Strangers freely sharing food, looking after one another and becoming friends are things that almost define an Indian train ride.

I have to make a small confession to make, my first real relationship was with a girl I met on a train from Bangalore to Mumbai. If that doesn’t sound interesting enough, one of my friends met his future wife on a train from Mumbai to Kerala. See in how many ways Indian railways contributes to your life?

Gives a real taste of India’s diversity

Well, we have all heard that India is a diverse country and that language & people change every 100kms. However, while hopping from one airport to another and in between our Uber and Ola rides, the magnitude of this diversity is lost upon us.

The Dibrugarh – Kanyakumari Vivek Express – it’s not a train, it’s a city on wheels

Indian trains are the best way to experience the diversity of India first hand. Sample this, Vivek Express is the longest train journey in India from the southern tip of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Dibrugarh in upper Assam. According to Drivespark, the train covers 4273kms through 7 states in India and takes 57 halts. That in itself means that you are bound to hear seven different languages on the train and if you include Hindi and English, that makes it nine. Having traveled on the train, I can also say that there are way more people who travel on the train from the North East who speak other languages like Garo, Khasi; etc.

The language signs on the railway stations change every few hours and so does the food. The Vivek Express is but one example. Even shorter routes sometimes have more diversity on display. I also happen to have traveled on the Trans-Siberian (the longest railway route until a few years ago), and that trip only underlined how vibrant and varied things are back home. Although I love Russia for many reasons, the diversity of its cuisine or people (or at least of the people you meet on the Trans-Siberian) isn’t on my list.

So want a crash course on India’s lingual, cultural and geographical diversity? Get on a long distance Indian train, will ya?

Acceptance is the key

Breathe, breathe – you will eventually be able to get in(Image source: Firstpost.com)

Yes it really is. Although it may not be best on its part, Indian railways does teach you to accept things that are beyond your control once you have taken a few rides. Late trains, lack of hygiene, loud co-passengers and if you are ever in the general compartment overnight, you will also have to accept lack of sleep.

While some of these are definite need for improvements, these experiences do teach you the virtue of taking things in your stride. Many backpackers from multiple countries feel the same way.

So you see, India train rides are in many ways filled with life lessons, and thinking of them only as transport is limiting their impact on your and the country’s life. Ask me, I took 25 trains in 25 days one time(really, I did). So if the learning experience of Indian trains is what you seek, follow us or better still send us a message. We may have something interesting in store for you.

Featured image: Business Insider

Teahouses of the Himalayas – 1

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Note: This trek was organized through Youth Hostels Association of India, but can easily be undertaken without additional help. Certain locations require a mandatory guide and permissions though, which will have to be arranged previously.

Day 1: Trek to Tumling

A good night’s sleep at Darjeeling the previous night had us all springy and upbeat as we set out in jeeps to a small settlement called Dhottre, where the trek trail begins. Dhottre is a quaint little town, with a couple of small shops to grab some snacks and tea and a nice strong Bamboo walking stick incase that’s your mojo. In Dhottre, we were introduced to our guides for the trek – two cherubic personalities Sang-ay and Subhash. As we would find out soon enough, the two had a rather twisted sense of humor which they would accompany with monkey-like grins. They would sneak off from the camp in the evening, and go for a walk to down a quarter or two. Their euphemism for this was that ‘they were going to Rimbik.’ Oh, look, I’m rambling now. Anyway, from Dhottre, we began the first leg of the trek to Tonglu, where we would be reaching in time to have lunch.
The path from Dhottre to Tonglu is extremely enjoyable, where you can breathe in hearty lungfuls of cool mountain air, and is one of the best paths on the trek, as it winds through a jungle and the col-our green screams at you in all shades around you. A friend of mine exclaimed that it reminded him of Rivendell from the LOTR books, while I maintained that it more resembled Ellesmera from the In-heritance series.

At Tonglu, we were met with a small teahouse, in the middle of nowhere. It housed a cheerful family, and a smashing lunch. We whipped out our lunchboxes and helped ourselves to hot Dal Rice, Rotis and Aloo Curry. Aloo would remain a sort of theme throughout the next few days, as it is grown and used extensively in isolated and mountainous areas. I’m hardly complaining; aloo is bloody yummy.

And as we stepped out to take a walk around as we waited for others to come around, we witnessed some stunning views from the hilltop. Clouds clung to the mountains around us and moved noncha-lantly like a slow river of smoke carefully navigating the skies. I was instantly reminded of the album cover of Pink Floyd’s latest album, The Endless River, and could almost picture myself in the same. Its beauty won me over. Tonglu is a medley of scenic delights. On one side, the majestic Kanchenjunga range gazes upon you. On the other, tiny hills seem to pop up from the sea of clouds, as if surfacing for breath. You can sit in Tonglu all day and not feel the slightest whiff of boredom.

And soon, we had to head to Tumling. The sun sets fairly quickly and it is advisable to reach shelter before sunset. Tumling is very close to Tonglu and you can get there in half an hour at a reasonable pace. It must be noted that all these trails are well defined and easy to follow. A general fitness is quite sufficient to cover all these distances comfortably. So, if you randomly decide to hike up the Himalayas, you can do so by all means, but some places require a mandatory guide, and that might be the only point of worry. We reached Tumling well in time for the sunset and spent a good half an hour watching the last rays bounce off the Kanchenjunga. Our stay at Tumling was delightful, thanks to the cheerful hospitality and delicious food of the teahouse. These teahouses are economical, and charge anywhere between 300-500 for a night, for a cozy bed and warm food. Although rooms are almost always available, it might be prudent to call up in advance and confirm.

Sunrises and sunsets acquire a prime sense of importance up in the Himalayas. A 5:30 alarm would ring through and we would wake up diligently, make our way to the local high-point and gasp and wow-wow at the ensuing sights. It seems funny in retrospect but you have to be there to see it, I suppose. The only exception was at our next stop, Kalipokhri, where sheer cold prevented us from moving an inch without our warm layers of blankets.

Day 2: Trek to Kalipokhri

The trek to Kalipokhri was slightly longer than the previous day. It was a rather dusty path and through a more barren landscape. Enroute, we stopped for lunch at a small shack called Habre’s Nest in a place called Kaiakata. This area is noted for the fact that it registers a high number of Red Panda sightings, which is reflected in the naming of Habre’s Nest, as Habre means Red Panda in the local language. In fact the Red Panda theme flooded the rooms of the hotel, with posters, pictures and books of the ‘firefox’. The highlight of this stop was the incredibly hilarious and sarcastic owner of the small hotel, who owned us as well with his witty and acerbic remarks. A sense of humor is resonant across all cultures, and seems to be one of very few things common to us all. I never really managed to get the name of this guy, who reminded me immensely of The Dude from The Big Lebowski, but if you do happen upon this place, linger on for a chat with him and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Refreshed, we set out on the last leg of trek, a two-hour hike on a fairly even road, and reached Kali-pokhri, slightly exhausted. Kalipokhri literally means ‘Black Water’ and is simply named after a lake that marks the entry to the village. We loafed around for a while before the slow, creeping hand of the cold pushed us indoors, where we settled in for tea and dinner. We had eagerly been waiting for nightfall, for we knew that the night sky would treat us to a brilliant display of the starry sky and the Milky Way. We weren’t disappointed. A magnificent Starry Night presented itself, taking our breath away and bringing upon a not-so-mild case of neck ache. Kalipokhri would turn out to be the best view point for stars, and even Sandakhpu, which is at a higher altitude than Kalipokhri, had fewer stars visible. Lin Yutang once wrote, “Very much contended am I to lie low, to cling to the soil, to be of kin to the sod. Sometimes when one is drunk with this Earth, his spirit seems so light that he is heaven. But he seldom rises six feet above the ground.” This wonderful line would keep leaping into my mind for several days to come.

To Be Continued…

Golden Temple Amritsar

Amritsar – Of Biscuits, Bhaang and Trips

By | Blog, Eccentric View, India, Most Popular | 5 Comments

It was already the end of a long and weary day when we reached Amritsar. We had little idea what the evening had in store for us. Thanks to some inspired googling, we were armed with the knowledge that a local version of marijuana, called Bhaang was an easily available commodity on the street. We were only familiar with one form of Bhaang – Bhaang Lassi, and therefore we started scouting for Lassi shops. A few futile attempts at a couple of such local shops had us a little less hopeful about acquiring the consignment. We had almost given up when we asked a local auto-wala if he knew any place that sold Bhaang. He sheepishly pointed to a local shop that sold general provisions, and told us we would get what we wanted there. Then, a little kid, no older than 6 years, sitting cross-legged in front of the shop pointed us to a Paan shop, with a definite grin on his face. And so, we proceeded to ask the paan-wala how much Bhaang would cost. He replied, ‘2 Rupees.’ I figured he had gotten confused that we were asking for Paan rather than Bhaang, and so I repeated our request. And to this, he said that he had Bhaang in the form of biscuits and each biscuit was just 2 Rupees. That did it. We bought biscuits for 30 bucks, and set off happily, smug about our successful score. We had no idea how many biscuits we needed to eat, or how high it would get us. We decided to be on the safer side, and the five of us popped two biscuits each. If insufficient, we would take one more later. Sound reasoning. In the spirit of praemonitus praemunitus, let me go ahead and tell you that the biscuits taste quite ghastly indeed.

The Trip

The biscuits would take at least an hour to kick in. Quite innocuously, we entered the premises of the Golden Temple, and sat down near the lake in the middle silently looking out at the magnificent temple in front of us; all the while waiting for the initial buzz. We must have sat there for around half an hour. It had already been 45 minutes since the biscuits had been ingested. And we got up and looked around us. Boom. What was it? It was nothing like anything. The transition had been so smooth that only the movement had made us aware of it. A regular marijuana user would have been staggered, let alone a first timer. Everything seemed different. A warm pulse of energy rang through our heads, as we set out on a walk around the temple. Heck, a walk is a mild word. It seemed more like an expedition.

As we paced on, the effects of the Bhaang grew more and more intense. The brain seemed ridiculously capable of processing and perceiving more information, and coming to some deeply intimate conclusions. I think the location plays a great role in ‘trips’ like this. The temple was a marvelous scene for introspection. My first thought was that somehow, a mini-utopia had sprung into existence. As my thoroughly stimulated self slowly walked on, I watched magnanimous and selfless Sevadars offering large cups of water to the thirsty devotees. It was so simple, and yet, so brilliant. I remembered Da Vinci once writing about water being the life force of all nature. How nice to be offered a drink of water, I thought, as I got myself another bowl. I started grinning and looked around. There were poor, homeless people sleeping near the temple walls. As one entered the Golden Temple, he/she had no place for any ego. The symbolic act of covering your head with a scarf or cloth meant that everyone was together, seeking solace in an unknown force; a force that had been channeled most creatively to create a paradise of sorts. Soothing music played in the background (Kirtan) provided an atmosphere that I can only describe, weirdly, to be a homogeneous blend of serenity and courageous exuberance. I was humbled beyond repair.

The Golden Temple, Amritsar

All this was within an hour and a half of our entry to the temple. We were nowhere near the peak of the high. The temple seemed to be divided into three tiers, each resonating with subtle and unique vibrations. The next part was, according to me, the most magical.  As we waited patiently in the line, to visit the inner chamber of the temple, a most delightful wave of calm crashed through my body. Evil, as an entity, had been negated. The very idea seemed stupid and laughable. If there existed anything called positive energy, this was it. In front of us, a couple of majestic looking devotees lifted up a majestic looking rope, and let people through, few at a time. I remember looking at them with awe, and a little fear, as well. As I looked around, I realized that I had been separated from my friends at some point. It didn’t matter. I was sure everyone was bound to be having a grand time on their own. And as my turn to enter the chamber came, I could barely conceal my excitement on what I was going to see. A Guru sat in the center of the scene, with a scroll in his hands. Or something like a scroll. I can hardly recall what he was doing because I was transfixed by his face. A breathtaking countenance of composure and a remarkable sense of purpose was what I managed to discern. There were other figures and activities going on in the inner chamber as well, but I was simply unable to peel my eyes away from what I had first glimpsed. As I walked out, the lingering image of the Guru in my mind told me that I had been absolutely blown away by what I had witnessed.

The rest of the trip pales in comparison, really. We had a delicious dinner at the famous Langar, where volunteers serve food throughout the day. This is carried out with a supreme attitude of service and compassion. It quite simply gives the Golden Temple its distinctive flavor, if you will. Everyone is welcome to partake of their heart’s content, but one is not allowed to leave with food on their plate. Of course, one can refuse and stop when being served. And as we walked out, with full stomachs and the warm satisfaction of having been treated to a phenomenal experience, it was difficult not to appreciate the marvel that is the Golden Temple and everything associated with it.

Tip:

If you do plan on going to Amritsar, it goes without saying that you must visit the Golden Temple. For the more intrepid and adventurous, I would definitely recommend you searching for some Bhaang beforehand. They are easily available in several shops, packaged as Ayurvedic medicine, in the form of Golis, for 3 rupees a pop. Two Golis make for a phenomenal trip. It is true that a normal trip to the Sri Harmandir Sahib would arguably turn out to be a most riveting experience by itself. But on a Bhaang high, it promises to leave you with a spiritual experience that will have you spellbound.

 

Note: Views expressed in the above story are of the writer. Eccentrips does not promote/encourage the use of Cannabis in anyway.

LOC Peer Baba

Pilgrimage at LOC: A privilege and a paradox

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Chicken, rice and the traditional saag were packed in our picnic baskets. It was a day long trip – food wouldn’t be available on the way. We left our guesthouse in Reshwari and walked to the assembly point, 10 minutes away. Ours was the last pick-up.

We had registered for this trip the previous day by submitting our identity cards and photographs. A tourism officer and his wife were also visiting Reshwari. They had asked us if we would be interested in visiting the shrine of Peer Baba. We had just returned from the Amarnath yatra and weren’t really kicked about another religious trip so soon.

However, this was a day long trip. And saying no to a chance of visiting a place we’d never heard of is sacrilege. We agreed to join them on this “outing” to Peer Baba.

A “convoy” to visit Peer Baba’s shrine

Soon, a fleet of seven Tata Sumos arrived. Each jeep had a list of passengers put up on the front. We were supposed to sit in the jeep assigned to us. We were impressed with the management of the tour company in this small village of Reshwari in northern Kashmir.

LOC Peer Baba

Sheshnag Camp.
Picture Credits: sandeepachetan.com

The assembly point turned out to be gates of the Indian Army post. We were greeted by an officer, dressed impeccably in his Indian Army uniform. It was our first time shaking hands with an officer on duty. He asked us all to be seated in the jeeps. “Trucks aate hi honge”, (Trucks will be here soon), he said.

We assumed the trucks would be carrying supplies for the villages near the Peer Baba shrine. Since it was such a remote place access to basic necessities would be tough, we figured.

Instead, what arrived were two trucks of the Indian Army. The seven jeeps now also started moving ahead, led and trailed by these trucks! This wasn’t  a group tour – this was a convoy!

Slowly, the reality of it all started becoming clear. This “trip” was actually a Sadbhavana yatra conducted by the Indian army for the locals of villages in and around Reshwari. They conduct this for fifteen days every year. Otherwise, this shrine is off limits for the civilians.

Talk of being at the right place at the right time!

LOC Peer Baba

Reshwari.
Picture Credits: sandeepachetan.com

Travelling beyond civilian limits

Ten minutes into the drive, we reached the end of Reshwari – and civilisation. We were now in the restricted zone. Only the army staff was allowed beyond this point. Once in awhile, a cow or sheep belonging to the Gujjars (a nomadic tribe in Kashmir) would stray off into the mountains here. All these Gujjars were given identity cards – and their animals wore a registration mark. If someone without these was found in the mountains – well, it was stuff that made it to the national news.

“Look to your left”, said the local manager who was also in our jeep. We were looking at the Tej post of the Indian Army. And on its grounds was the Bofors gun. We had still not warmed up to the reality of our situation. Naively (read stupidly!), we asked if it was “kept there for display”. “No, it’s kept ready for action”, was the answer we got!

The landscape around was one of the best we had seen in over a month in Kashmir. Mountain slopes filled with big yellow flowers – the kinds that only nature can manicure. The winding road was lined with deodars, apple or apricot trees and some medicinal plants.

We were now gaining height or in mountain talk – climbing up a pass. Twisted, winding and narrow – it was correctly called the “Jalebi moad”.

LOC Peer Baba

Our convoy at 'Jalebi Mod'.
Picture Credits: sandeepachetan.com

The guy now pointed to a tall thin papyrus trees on the mountain slope. Midway through the mountain side, however, was abruptly barren. We remarked that it looked like the trees in between had caught some infection. Again, we were completely wrong. It was true that the trees there had burnt out. Not by a disease, though. It was by the shelling that happens frequently from the top of the mountains on both the sides!

On a stretch funnily called TMG – Tutmari gali, it felt our jeeps were moving ahead with a lot of resistance. Sure enough, the roads here had some magnets put under them. This restricted the speed of any vehicle – yours or the enemy’s.

Here, the army served us a lavish breakfast spread – bhajias, wadas, sandwiches, tea, coffee et al.

Post breakfast, we started descending the mountain. On this side, they called it the “101 moad”, for the 101 apparent turns in the mountain. The road here was pretty much a gravel path. Our jeeps rattled side to side, depending on the turn we had to negotiate. It was a roller coaster ride, to say the least. The army officer’s wife busied herself with prayers. Chants of “Bismillah” and “khuda” filled the jeep. We wanted to count and verify the name 101, but after 20 we were too dizzy to count straight.

Up-close-personal view of LOC

“Look here, that’s the Indian picket”, the manager in front would point to one mountain top. “Right now that belongs to Pakistan”, he would inform a few turns later. At one point we spotted the characteristic shiny tinned roofs houses in the villages of Kashmir have. We were surprised since civilians weren’t supposed to live here. When we spoke our surprise out loud, we were told that those were indeed houses. Just that – these villages were the ones beyond the LOC.

The descent took over an hour. We were now at the bottom of the valley. Soon, all our jeeps had to be parked. We now had to trek through a forest to reach a place called the Kaiyan bowl. The name indicated the physical appearance of the place – the mountains surrounding us were like the sides of a bowl, and we were now at its base.

We were listening to all these tales of war while walking through a dense forest. After around 15 minutes, the forest cleared. There was now a lake in front of us. The same army officer who was telling us stories of war now started telling us stories of Peer Baba. Peer Baba had apparently thrown a stone here and a lake had sprung up. All our fellow passengers had already queued up outside a room. In the room was the shrine of Peer Baba.

LOC Peer Baba

'Peer Baba' Shrine at LoC.
Picture Credits: sandeepachetan.com

Inside, everyone stood around the shrine offering their prayers. Some chanting, others just sitting quietly. When it was time, they all stood in the prescribed direction and did their namaz in the presence of Peer Baba’s shrine. Everyone was in high spirits – delighted that they had finally had this rare darshan.

Even the army jawans held the Peer Baba in high regard. Irrespective of where they came from, what beliefs they adhered to back home – this was where they fought life and death on a daily basis. The peace, the exuberance, the happiness that we saw at Peer Baba’s shrine defied the fact that the LOC was only 25 meters away. It was where nothing – least of all life – could be taken for granted.

Peer Baba’s shrine then became their tranquil oasis – a place to put their head down to, to draw strength, to celebrate – or mourn.

It was late evening by the time we got back to Reshwari. It hadn’t been one of those days you calmly reminisce about at the end of the day. Going so close to the LOC itself was stuff wild dreams are made of. In a region filled with so much uncertainty, to experience the common bond of heartfelt devotion – it was a paradox we had the privilege to witness.

PS: We do not have many images from this journey because when the Indian Army says “Photography not permitted”, you don’t try to trick them.

The Keerthinarayana Swamy Temple, Talakad

Talakad, A Mystery in Sand

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As one travels to Talakad from Mysore, which is a very quaint city by itself, the rural countryside opens up and a delightful hour long drive ensues, ripe with green scenery and riparian sights. You cross a bridge across the river Kaveri, with the Madhav Mantri dam on the left, and you know you are in Talakad.

It is almost a town like any other, at first glance. Sights of bullock carts and dhoti clad villagers sitting at the foot of banyan trees doing nothing, present themselves. It is when you pass this idle setting and move towards the banks of the river that you notice it. Sand. In an area of a few square miles around the river, sand dunes abound. There are few scientific clarifications for this anomaly. The only explanation is a story going back to the history of the Mysore Wodeyars, a mysterious woman by the name of Alamelamma, and a legendary curse.

The Story

In the year 1610, the Mysore Wodeyars weren’t yet the powerful dynasty that they were to become; they were a vassal to the Vijayanagar Empire. The Wodeyars wished to break away and form their own kingdom, and an opportunity soon presented itself. Thirumalaraja, the viceroy of Vijayanagar at Srirangapatna (15 kms from Mysore) fell sick with a tumour on his back. With an ever worsening condition, Thirumalaraja went to Talakad with his first wife, to pray. His second wife, Alamelamma, stayed back at Srirangapatna, heading the administration. Inevitably, Thirumalaraja lay lying on his deathbed, and Alamelamma, hearing of this, rushed to Talakad to see her dying husband. King Wodeyar seized the moment, took control of Srirangapatna and declared himself king. Stranded in the town of Malangi, very close to Talakad, Alamelamma was unable to return.

Alamelamma was an ardent devotee of the goddess of the temple at Srirangapatna. She used to lend her jewels for use in the temple. King Wodeyar now wished to procure these jewels from Alamelamma, and sent his soldiers to Malangi to do the same. Alamelamma was very protective about her jewellery and adamantly sent the soldiers back, refusing to give them up. The king sent the soldiers back again, this time with much stricter orders. The soldiers, fearful of the king’s wrath, began to force Alamelamma. She grabbed her box of jewels and escaped from the back door, having been left with no other choice.

Alamelamma ran for all she was worth, with the soldiers close on her heels. She had reached a cliff overlooking the river Kaveri when she realised that there was no outrunning her pursuers. And now, legend has it, that Alamelamma uttered a curse, and jumped into the river, committing suicide. The curse is said to have been this: Let Talakad become a desert, let Malangi become a whirlpool and let the kings of Mysore forever remain childless.

Talakad

The Keerthinarayana Swamy Temple, Talakad

Explanations

And since then, legend has it that Talakad became covered with sand, and quite astonishingly, the two other parts of the curse remain true to this day. Malangi is indeed a whirlpool today and avoided by the locals. It might seem a little specious, but the Wodeyars too have remained childless every alternate generation since then. They have been adopting heirs for 400 years, and all of this seems to hinge on Alamelamma’s curse.

Of course, there are some theories that aim at explaining this. My grandfather, a retired geologist, has lived in Talakad for more than 50 years. He says that there is a simple scientific explanation. Covered by the river Kaveri on three sides, Talakad is basically a peninsula. It is almost in the form of a U-turn, called a meander. The Madhav Mantri Dam, the first boulder dam in India, was built in the 15th century by the Vijayanagar kings. This slowed the river’s waters down. And so, near the river’s meander, the sand from the river slowly deposited on the banks.  As for the Wodeyars, it might be possible that they had a practise of marrying amongst close relatives which might have led to this. Again, these are all only conjectures, and we can’t be really sure about anything.

Talakad

The Madhav Mantri Dam, Talakad

However it can be, the town of Talakad is a wonderful getaway from the hubbub of urban life. It is a perfect excuse for a lazy holiday. I remember my own childhood visits to Talakad, which comprised of long dips in the river and endless running up and down on the sand dunes. If you do plan a trip to Talakad, you would want to keep at least half a day aside to enjoy yourself.

How to get there

  • Talakad is easily accessible by road, from either Bangalore or Mysore.
  • You can get a taxi at reasonable prices, or simply hop on a bus that goes either directly to Talakad or T.Narsipura.
  • Talakad is a 15 min bus ride from T.Narsipura and you can get a bus every 5 minutes from there.

What to do there

Head directly to the river banks, where you can also grab a quick lunch at the small restaurants there. And then you can set about exploring the dunes and temples around the area. Five famous Shiva Temples, called The Panchalingas are what the town is chiefly famous for. Every 12 years, the Panchalinga Darshana, a holy festival, is held on the banks of the river in Talakad. A Vishnu temple, the Keerthinarayanaswamy Temple, has been recently renovated after it had collapsed a few years back.

Today, illegal sand mining has drastically reduced the sand in the town, and impetuous tourists have littered the banks of the river, which makes for a doleful sight. One can only hope that this is eventually curbed, and Talakad returns to the enchanting state that it once used to be in.

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