Category Archives: Travelogue

ON THE MOVE!!
Basic instinct of humans is to be always on the feet and keep moving from a place to other. A living being is usually prominent in a particular geography but humans are one of those species that are spread across the earth irrespective of the geographical conditions. And this instinct of mine helps me visit places & I log the experience here. Bon Voyage !!!

Rashtrapati Nilayam

A visit to Rashtrapati Nilayam

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President of India has two retreat locations in India, Rashtrapati Nilayam in Hyderabad (Southern India) & The Retreat Building in Shimla (Northern India).  The President stays at these two locations least once a year and can conduct official business.  Rashtrapati Nilayam is constructed in 1860 by Nizam Nazir-ud-Dowla which is panned across 90 acres of land and was taken over after the Independence of India.  It is usually an entry restricted area and is under military control.  Recently, The President of India, Shri. Pranab Mukherjee has stayed here and left.  It is seldom open for general public’s visit and I am lucky that I got a chance to visit it.

The entry was from Gate# 2 & and the exit from Gate# 1.  First thing that I liked is, there was no entry fee and cameras & mobile phones were allowed.  After a walk of almost a kilometer we get to see a white one storied building consisting of around 11 rooms.  Right in front of the building there is a beautiful landscaping and then at a certain distance there is a fountain.  Behind the building, there is a wash area and a place to dry clothes.  At a certain distance from the building, there is a Temple with a well in the front.  Also there are plantations of Custard Apple, Sapota etc.  It also has a Herbal Garden in 1.5 acre of land comprising of around 116 species which was inaugurated by The Former President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.  It was a memorable visit as we usually don’t get access to see such elite places too often.

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Basara

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We were actually planning for a two day trip to Khammam & Bhadrachalam but for some reasons had to cancel that.  Meanwhile, another group of friends were planning for Basara and I joined with them.   On 16Nov2013, Saturday we took KCG AK EXP train from Kacheguda at 7:30AM and reached Basara by 12:00PM.  From the railway station there are auto rickshaws available to the temple for 10Rs.  There are many private lodges available near the temple and we checked into one.  There are also lodges available from TTD for meager prices but expect the tidiness of the rooms to be mediocre too.  I think there is a Haritha Residency by AP Tourism which might be good too but we found that later.  Learned from reception that the temple closes at 2:00PM and thought to get a round of darshan and hurried to the temple after freshening up.  We were there by 1:00PM and found that temple closes at 1:00PM instead.  But the policemen there allowed us to get in and try to get the darshan.  We went in running and were lucky to get the darshan, there was no queue too and that helped.  The temple was closed immediately after.

Basara Railway Station

Basara Railway Station

Lunch time, from my earlier visits to Basara I was aware that finding good food is going to be difficult.  We enquired with the same policeman who allowed us enter the temple and he suggested three places… Gayathri Hotel (opposite to the temple entrance), a hotel towards your right in the temple, right after entering the premises (can’t remember the name) and Haritha Residency.  Went to Haritha but they were only serving curd rice & chapathi which did not excite us and went to Gayathri.  Had meals there, it was okay in taste but I think some soda was added to rice & it resulted in heavy & tight stomach.  We went back to our room & relaxed for a couple of hours.  In the evening, we reached Godavari river ghat at around 4:30PM.  There are auto rickshaws available for 5 or 10 Rs from the temple to Godavari ghat.  One can walk too; it is just about a kilometer.  This is my fourth visit to Basara but never seen Godavari with so much water, thanks to the abundant rain this season.  There are boats which take you on a 15 min ride for 20Rs.  We also visited Shivalayam on the ghat and returned to the Saraswathi temple at 6:00PM.  Went in for another darshan & stayed back for an hour inside the temple taking in the divinity of the place.  Be it the psychological beleif or really the divinity of the place, I always feel blessed and strenthened by the divine power on such visits to historical religious shrines.  Meanwhile, the evening Harathi of Gnana Sarwasthi started at 7:30PM.  All were assembeled in the Mandap and Harathi was performed along with the chants by five Pandits.  Once done, we bought prasadam & went back to room after dinner at the same Gayathri Hotel.  We fell asleep at 10:00PM with alarm set to 2:00AM.

Near Godavari Ghat

Near Godavari Ghat

Next day on 17thNov2013, Sunday, we got up at 2:00AM and reached temple and stood in the line by 3:00AM.  We were first in the queue for the Abhishekam tickets, the counter was opened at 4:00AM.  Once tickets were issued, we went in and sat in the first row to watch the Abhishekam.  I guess, it started at around 5:o0AM & was finished at 7:00AM.  It was Kartheeka Pournami that day and I found the alankarana of Godess to be different from the other day.  All of us were allowed in a line towards Garbagudi and were given Abhishekam turmeric & kumkum (saffron).  As it was Kartheeka Pournami, all the devotees were lighting ghee lamps around the temple decorating it.  There was a ceremony in the evening at 6:00PM near Godavari ghat on the occasion of Kartheeka Pournami but due to the fear of the crowd which can cause unavailability of enough buses/trains we had to unwillingly leave at 9:30AM.  When we reached the railway station, we got to know that the Devagiri Express which was scheduled to arrive at 10:30AM is delayed and will arrive at 4:00PM in the evening.  Then we took a bus to Nizambad and from Nizambad we took another bus to Hyderabad.  Reached home at 3:30PM and booked first show tickets for Ramleela.  Had lunch, watched movie and the weekend has come to an end.  It was a satisfying trip & a good movie.

Sunset at Godavari

Sunset at Godavari

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Sri Kalahasti-Kanipakam-Tirupati-Sripuram-Vellore Fort-Jalakandeswarar Temple-Arunachalam

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From quite a long time we wanted to visit Tirumala and Sri Kalahasti but we were unable to make it.  And all of a sudden on a Thursday we tried booking railway tatkal tickets & the tickets were confirmed for Friday night’s journey.  Now we have tickets but we neither have accommodation nor a plan but we had a luxury to spend four days if we wanted to.  After some pondering we shortlisted the places to visit.

Day 1 

Sri KalahasthiStarted at 8:05 PM on Friday from Kacheguda by Venkatadri Express and reached Tirupati at 8:30 AM.  Got accommodation near the railway station and freshened up.  As planned, took a bus to Sri Kalahasti after the breakfast and reached there by 12:00 PM.  This temple is 36 Km away from Tirupati and took an hour to reach.  Lord Shiva represents 5 basic elements of nature in Linga form and this temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams representing Vayu (Air).  There are legends of Bhaktha Markandeya, Bhaktha Kannappa etc here.  Once you get down of the bus and start walking towards the temple you will see many shops on both sides of the lane telling you that they are the Devasthanam’s cloak rooms and the electronic items, footwear and luggage can be left there as they are prohibited inside the temple.  But those are cloak room services from villagers.  You can trust & leave your belongings in their lockers or politely deny and walk ahead.  Once you reach near the temple gate, on the right side you can see the footwear stand of Devastham.  Once you leave your footwear and get into the temple you will see Devasthanam’s lockers on to your right that deposit luggage and electronic items.  Once done you are all set for the divine blessings of Lord Sri Kalahasteeswara.  Also many come here to perform Rahu Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja to get rid of any doshas they have.  There are three kinds of tickets to perform the puja – 300, 750 & 1500… all the puja materials are provided along with the ticket.  This puja is done on all days every one hour from 6 AM to 6 PM.  Also in the temple premises there is Sri Pathala Vinayaka temple (an underground temple of Lord Vinayaka).  It has a very narrow entry into the temple, one has to bend & kneel to get in.  After the Lord Sri Kalahasteeswara’s darshan we spent some time inside the temple wondering at the architecture and the stone sculptures.  Inside the temple there is a shop that sells Sri Kalahasti Dairy Products like Abhishekam Milk, Ice-cream, Badam Milk, Khoya (Mava) etc… prices are cheaper compared to the cities we live in and the taste is good too.  By the time we went to buy, Badam milk & all other flavours of ice cream were sold out.  So watch out the next time you go.  After having ice creams we started back to Tirupati.

KanipakamFrom Tirupati’s APSRTC bus station we took another bus to Kanipakam at platform# 41 and it was 7:00 PM by the time we reached.  It is around 80 Km from Tirupati.  The temple closes at 9:30 PM but the last bus to return to Tirupati was at 8:30 PM.  So we effectively had 90 min for darshan.  There is an entry from Kanipakam bus station towards the temple.  We have to deposit the luggage, footwear and electronic items in three different counters and make an entry.  There is a sheegra darshan ticket available but we took dharma darshan entry as we asked around and got to know that there isn’t any queue inside.  We got darshan in 15 min and spent some time inside relaxing.  Once you come out of the exit there is a gundam (pond) and to the other side of the gundam you will see a temple of Lord Venkateshwara.  Also there is Ardhagiri Anjaneya Swamy temple at around 15 Km distance from Kanipakam.  Looks like there are buses available from Kanipakam in the morning but autos are available throughout the day.  It is believed that one who drinks water from Sanjeevaraya Pushkarini (lake) here gets rid of all diseases.  We did not have enough time to visit this place and headed back to Tirupati at 7:45 PM.  We reached Tirupati at 9:30 PM, had dinner and retired for the day.

Day2 

Srivari MettuThe next day we planned to wake up at 3:00 AM in the morning and climb up the seven hills.  Generally most of the devotees walk from Alipiri which takes around 4 hours to reach Tirumala.  Due to the previous day’s streesfull journey,we couldn’t wake up on time and we reached bus station by 6:00 AM.  While waiting for the bus, we got to know that there is another walk way from Srinivasa Mangapuram called Srivari Mettu to reach Tirumala.  This is the path taken by Lord Venkateshwara and Sri Padmavathi Devi to reach Triumala after their wedding.  It has around 2500 steps and takes about 1 hr 30 min to reach Tirumala.  We were excited to take this new route as we haven’t seen it earlier and it takes less time.  We hired an auto and reached Srivari Mettu.

So we started climbing up the steps at aroud 6:30 AM.  Note that foot wear is not allowed on walkways.  Unlike Alipiri, this route is a continuous array of steps without even a yard of plain.  Initially we were full of energy and we climbed around 1200 steps rapidly.  We then started feeling pain in the legs, feet, thighs and a steep rise in pulse.  We had to take breaks for every 50 to 70 steps.  Finally, we reached the hill top by 8:15 AM and it is a very exhaustive exercise.  We were issued Divya Darshanam (exclusive tickets for people taking walk way) tickets while climbing up the stairs.  Usually there are 3 to 4 varities of Darshanam tickets – Sarva Darshanam or Free Darshanam (takes the longest time of all), Special Darshanam for people who buy Rs. 50 ticket (takes moderate amount of time),  Seeghra Darshanam for people who buy Rs. 300 ticket or who book Sudarshan tokens online and Divya Darshanam for pedestrians  walking up to the hill top, be it from Alipiri or Srivari Mettu (takes approximately the same time as Seeghra Darshanam).

Uyyala SevaViews from hill top are scenic.  We spent some time admiring the nature and capturing it in camera.  We joined Divya Darshanam queue at Vaikuntam Queue Complex# 1 at around 8:30 AM and sat in a waiting hall for around 5 hours.  Then the gates were opened and people plunged out of the hall.  We walked through different corridors, barricades and walk ways before reaching the temple main gate.  First gate is silver plated and the second is gold plated.  Tirumala is one of the richest temples in the world.  After Darshanam we visited temples of Vakuala mata, Vinayaka, Varaha Swamy etc located in the same premises.  Free lunch and dinner will be served at Tarigonda Vengamamba Anna Prasada complex.  We had dinner and it was tasty.  After coming out we watched Uyyala Seva of Lord Venkateshwara.  Also there is a Kala Vedika where the cultural programmes are performed.  It starts at 6:00 PM in the evening & continues for an hour.  That day there was a Kathak dance performace by Kankana Bhattacharya from Kolkata.  We watched both events and took a bus back to Tirupati.  It was 9:00 PM and we were off to bed after dinner.

Day 3

The following day we checked out and went to railway station.  We bought a ticket from Tirupati to Katpadi station.  Sheshadri Express arrived at 6:00 AM to Tirupati and reached Katpadi in 1 hour 30 min.  From Katpadi we hired an auto to Sripuram and it was a 20 min journey.  We could have also taken a bus from Tirupati to Vellore which is around 120 Km and will take two and a half to three hours.  And from Vellore we can hire an auto or take another bus to Sripuram.  Secured our luggage, electornic items and foot wear in the counters available at temple.  Similar to other temples, it has free and special darshan modes.  As it was early in the morning, temple was not crowded and we joined free darshan queue.  We sat in a waiting hall for about 20 min.

SripuramThe temple is built in 100 acres of land and depicts the contemporary style.  You will find a well oragnised and maintained gardens, lights and fountains around the place.  In the center of the garden, a pond is built and filled with water from sacred rivers in the country.  Lakshmi Devi temple is built in the center of this pond.  The temple doors, pillars, roof, gopuram is all gold plated and well crafted.  On the whole, it is a very good treat for eyes.  The place looks even more spectacular in the evenings with the gardens and fountains illuminated with decorative lights and the temple illuminated with large chandeliers.  To reach temple from the waiting hall, devotees should walk through the long corridors and they are built in such a way that devotees will get a full view of the beautiful place before reaching the temple.  After Lakshmi Devi darshan, we collected our luggage and headed to Vellore old bus station.

JalakandeswararIt was 11:00 AM by the time we reached Vellore bus station.  We went to Vellore Fort located right opposite the bus station and Jalakandeswarar Temple inside the fort.  Main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva & it has finely crafted huge gopurams.  One thing we noticed different in the temple is they decorated a cow and worshipped it as Gomatha.  People were allowed to feed Gomatha with green grass.  It is believed that all the 30 million Hindu deities reside in Gomatha and Goseva (serving cows) will nullify the person’s sins and gets good fortune.  We then visited a Naga devatha temple located inside the fort and reached Vellore old bus station.

TiruvannamalaiWe took a bus at 1:00 PM to Tiruvannamalai also known as Arunachalam.  This temple is located around 82 Km from Vellore and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva represents 5 basic elements of nature in Lingam form and this temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams representing Agni (Fire).  We reached Tiruvannamalai bus station and from there we have to walk for around 15 min or can hire an auto to the temple.  We reached temple by 3:00 PM and deposited our luggage in lockers.  The first impression you get is the humongous size of gopuram, this is considered to be the second tallest gopuram in South India and is 217 feet tall.  I have visited temples earlier but never seen such a gopuram.  It looks reaching the sky and as we get closer you will notice the sculptures on the gopuram, every possible inch has been sculpted.  There are 4 such gopurams on four directions and the entrance is from the east gopuram called Raja Gopuram.  The other three are called Thirumanjana gopuram, Ammaniammal gopuram, Pei gopuram.  After the security check you are allowed to roam inside the temple.  The first temple you see is of Lord Bala Subramanya and a thousand pillared Mandapam.  I guess the distance between outer East & West or North & South gopurams is close to a kilometer.  Inside the outer compound wall there is another compound wall having 3 smaller sized gopurams except West.  In the center we have the temple of Lord Arunachaleshwara.  The temple is a scenic beauty with the back drop of Annamalai hills behind the west gopuram and in the evening with the sun setting it was a feast to watch.  You will be stunned, I bet.  After the darshan we were heading back to the Raja gopuram and a train of thoughts were running in my head like I wanted to spend the night inside watching the awe-inspiring temple.  We picked our luggage and headed back to Vellore at 5:30 PM.  On the way back booked online bus tickets for Hyderabad from Vellore.  Reached Vellore New bus station, had dinner & boarded the bus.

 That is it –the three day pilgrimage ends there.

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Nandi hills Lepakshi and Kadiri

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It was an impromptu trip…  All of a sudden our roomies decided for an outing & this happened.  Follow the link below for the travelogue…

http://www.creativewebsources.com/trips-and-tours/nandi-hills-lepakshi-kadiri-narasimha-swami-temple-thimmamma-marri-manu-yogi-vemana.html

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