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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

A weekend at Sringeri

A ray of sunshine in the middle of a rainy day – that’s just what a short holiday in the middle of busy school days feels like, and that is just the treat we gave ourselves when we decided to pack our bags and spend the weekend at Sringeri, where my in-laws are now enjoying a well earned vacation. Two factors helped us out – the first being that Friday wasn’t a regular school day – it was open day, which, as Samhith says, means that it school for me and a holiday for him!!!! for a change, it is I who has to listen to all the complaints his teacher has – there usually aren’t much, but this time……well, let me keep that private for now…… anyway, the open day meant that we could leave for the Matsyagandha Express, the most convenient train for us, and here is where we were lucky again – we actually managed to get tickets in the 3AC coach at such short notice!!!!

Such a lot of good luck made me wonder if the whole trip would be as easy, or… would there be a catch somewhere????? And yes, my luck seemed to run out as I got delayed at the school, and left for the train with barely half an hour for the train to go….. On the whole, it doesn’t matter, since the station is about 5 minutes drive from my house, but here again, luck seemed to desert me, for not one auto agreed to come!!! It seemed that they were boycotting the station due to some disagreement with the authorities….. “Why me??? …and why now????” I cried as I argued with yet another auto driver….. It was already 1:40, and the train was due to leave at 2:05….. At last, someone seemed to have heard my prayers, since one elderly chap agreed to drop me, not at the station, but a little further away from the main entrance. By now, I was desperate to accept anything, and hopped on. He dropped us at the main road, informing me that he had brought me this far only because I was a woman travelling alone with a small kid…. “Where was my husband and why hadn’t he come with me?” he asked….. I didn’t think it prudent to mention that I wasn’t one of those independent women who like to manage by themselves….. After all, I was making the most of his chivalry….. And cribbed about my husband being too busy….. As indeed he was!!

Finally, we were at the station at 1:50, and were thankful to see that the station was practically empty – it would be easy to run to our coach! And here was another bit of luck – our coach was the first after the general ones….. so, there we were, safely ensconced in our seats 10 minutes before the train was due to leave, and no sign of Shankar anywhere…..there followed some frenzied phoning, which only resulted in the information that he was on his way, and in case he wasn’t able to make it, I was to go ahead!!!! Looking back I wonder if the time ran by faster since I was worried, or it actually slowed down as I counted every second, but before I knew it, it was 2:04, and as I was just giving up hope, Shankar showed up and got in just as the train began to move……so my run of luck seemed to have held after all!!!!

Samhith spent most of the journey standing by the door with his dad, appreciating the lush greenery of the Konkan coast that we passed by, wishing that the coach had open windows like the second class so that he could enjoy the view from the seat, not understanding why I couldn’t stand near the door too, and take photographs!!!!

The Konkan railway is susceptible to delays due to heavy rain, and this delay is incorporated into the schedule, which is a special one for the monsoon, but in spite of this, the train was delayed further, and we reached Udupi about an hour and a half later than expected. Unwilling to waste time searching for a good hotel, we settled for a quick breakfast at the small restaurant attached to the station – which meant we only managed to get dosas and upma, but anything goes for a hungry stomach – and we were ready to leave within 15 minutes!!!

Shankar had arranged for a vehicle – a Maruti van – which rattled over the potholed roads on our way towards Sringeri. We have made this trip a number of times before, and the sheer beauty of the landscape is nothing new to us, but even then, the magical effect of the monsoon came as a big surprise! The lush greenery with the mountains appearing and disappearing amidst the fog and the mist was a sight none of us shall ever forget. If only we hadn’t been in a hurry, I would have stopped often to take pictures, but at the moment, time was of essence, and I elected to let my eyes enjoy the beautiful spectacle for themselves alone!!!

Here are a few pics that I managed to take in spite of the car rattling along at a frenzied pace……..

We reached Sringeri just in time for the puja that my in-laws had arranged…….and the three of us rushed to the bathroom to wash and change into more traditional gear… sorry, no photographs of us in nine yards and Veshti (no one to take pics…..), but here is one of Samhith….

The puja was over in time for lunch, and then, after a short rest, we went back to the mutt to explore, carrying my camera with me…….. Let me take you through the Sringeri Shankara Mutt…..

The Sharadambal temple...… A form of the goddess of learning, Saraswati, Sharadambal is the main deity revered by the gurus of Sringeri…. This is a comparatively recently-built temple, the original one being first a simple shrine with the deity and later enlarged by successive gurus. The present temple is a beautiful one, with the idol being even more beautiful….. On Fridays, she is decorated as Saraswati with the Veena in her hand, and it is a sight to behold!

The Vidya Shankara temple – this is the temple which is most often seen in photos of Sringeri. Built in 1338 AD, this temple built of stone is just too beautiful for words…. The sculptures and architecture of the temple have been much written about. Here are a few pics f the sculptures on the outer walls – the inner portion of the temple is even more beautiful, but I did not take pics inside…. Maybe another time…. After I take permission…

The river Tunga, along which the mutt is built ….

Incidentally, here is the story of Sringeri – according to the legend, Sri Adi Shankara was walking along these hills, looking for a place to build his mutt – he wanted a special place, one that would have something spiritual attached to it. Suddenly, it began raining as he walked along the river, and as he looked for shelter, he saw a cobra with its hood raised, remaining motionless in the pouring rain. Curious, he went nearer, only to notice that the cobra had raised its hood to protect a young frog, using it as an umbrella! Neither did the cobra try to eat the frog, nor did the frog show any signs of being afraid of the snake – its natural enemy. This fascinated the wise sage, for he realized that this was the place he was looking for, a place so holy that even enemies would help each other, and proceeded to build the mutt here.

The Vidya Shankara temple and the other temples are on one side of the river, while the Guru Nivas – the residence of the gurus – is on the other side, accessible by a bridge…… in the early days, (when my parents and in-laws were young), there was no bridge, and instead, they had to cross the river by boat! Oh for the good old days of yore!!!!!

We met the temple elephants on the bridge, much to Samhith’s delight, who insisted on us finding coins to give them so that they could bless him by putting their trunk on his head…

The other side of the bridge is in total contrast to the city-side. Here, the area has been allowed to grow wild in a controlled manner, and normally, one finds peacocks and deer in plenty. Now, though they have been moved to a safer area for the monsoon, it is here that one can see nature at its best – this place is called ‘Narasimha Vanam’.

Walking through the trees, we spotted a number of birds, the only one we recognized being the racket tailed Drongo. It was too fast for my camera, and I had to settle for pictures of the trees and the path instead.

The Guru Nivas…… it is here that the Acharya gives darshan every morning and evening, and it is here that her himself performs the puja every night. This puja begins at 8:30 PM and lasts till 10:30PM, but it well worth the effort of staying awake late…… Photos are not allowed inside, so we shall move on to other places…..

Further along the road that leads to the Guru Nivas, this is a temple to Vyasa, the foremost among all the gurus…. This temple is visible from the other side of the river too, and makes a pretty picture amidst the green-velvet-covered hills….

The Vyasa temple from the other side of the river….

A closer view once we reached the temple.

The Vidya Shankara temple as seen from the Vyasa temple

The river Tunga…..

A meditation hut……

More views from the temple....

By the time we had our fill of the beautiful Narasimha Vanam, it was getting dark, and it was time to get back to the room. We had to change back into our traditional clothes to go and have darshan of the Acharya. Accordingly, we set off once more, this time taking the car to the back entrance of Narasimha Vanam, which has a motorable road.

We returned back at 11:00PM, and headed straight to the only eatery open at this late hour, which was packed with other devotees (undoubtedly a smart chap, the manager!). Filling our roaring stomachs with curd rice, we headed back to the room and dropped off the minute our heads touched the pillows….

Views from our room……


The next morning, there wasn’t much we could do before it was time to leave, except catch some delicious breakfast at Maruthi Tiffin centre – this guy makes only pooris, bondas and idlis – 3 times a day – and has a long line of people waiting for the items at any given time….. Sated, we headed back in the car towards Udupi and home……

Here are some glimpses of our return journey……

The Tunga River again… over a different bridge…

The greenery all over the place was just too fascinating…. I must make the trip again with an easel, a piece of canvas, and paints….. But before that, I must learn to paint!!!!

We made a short halt at Agumbe – purely a result of my curiosity, since I had been reading so much about it……. The sunset point was full of the weekend tourists, even though it was the middle of the afternoon…… I was put off by the crowd, and my camera wasn’t good enough to capture the beautiful way the hills kept appearing and disappearing through the clouds, but for whatever it is worth, here are a few pics…..

A small waterfall……..

……..And an insect which landed on our car tyre while we halted….

A monkey which entered our car when Samhith left the door open – Shankar promptly got out from the other side, and thankfully, the monkey soon followed…..

We halted for lunch at Manipal – and Samhith shouted “Mamma, look there are cormorants!” I turned around, ready to inform him that there were no cormorants around, but on a tree right opposite us, there were so many of them! Not just cormorants, but egrets and herons too….. Of course, I pulled out my camera, but could manage just a few pics………

We reached Udupi station well in advance to make up for the delay at Bombay, and found we had more than an hour to while away….. What else could I do but take photographs? Here they are……

Finally, thank God, the train was on time, and we headed back home……

Hold on, the story doesn’t end here…… run of luck seemed to have come to an end with my trip, for both Samhith and I were sick when we returned……he missed three days of school, and I lost a whole week, recuperating from the flu…….. So now you know why this post has been so delayed…..anyway, the silver lining is that we are both better now and it doesn’t look like we have the swine flu….. Thank the lord for small mercies…………..


  1. Is that a toy train in the pictures at Udupi?

  2. Hi

    There is an award for you in my blog. Please collect it.

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  3. usual..very beautifully written with awsome info...n yes...with very poetic expressions!!

  4. you have taken me to me it is the most peaceful place around..

  5. As usual, excellent description of the trip and in one instant I was transported from my office desk to the picturesque locales of Sringeri. Awesome job. Keep up the good work.

  6. @Mridula - no, thats not a toy train.... though even i thought so.... it seems its just an extra engine... maybe theres a narrow gauge somewhere around..... no one at the station was interested enough to answer my questions.

    @ Sindhu - thanks so much!!

    @ Meera - asha, thanks a lot....

    @Lakshmi - thanks a lot..... as a matter of fact, thought of you guys there... and wished i could join you on your trip...

    @ sangeetha - thanks manni.... glad you liked it....tell athai we thought of her.... of course, we didnt pass chickmanglur this time, but every time i go there, i think of her....

  7. Hey Anu

    I took a trip to Sringeri thanks to u.. love going there, so peaceful and calm!!

    lovely pics!! :D

  8. the architecture of the temple is amazing...


    Karnataka indeed rocks....

  9. Hi :)
    I am studying in manipal and i was thinking of going to shringeri...after reading the post...i guess its going to happen soon :) Very well written...valuable info....
    Visit my blog sometime... :)

  10. Wonderful shots of the sculpted temples. They leave me mesmerized thinking of the colossal effort that must have gone in to making them.
    Great read!

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Lovely post. I was wondering how to reach Sringeri from Mangalore. The temples of Karnataka have always left me wide-eyed. Seeing the grandeur of the temples, I was curious to know how they must have been built in terms of the effort put in. Wonderful photographs of the temples. As for the last picture about the train, it seems more like a rail bus. I think a trip to Sringeri would be a well-earned vacation cum sadhana trip :)


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