Quick Trip To Bangalore And Belur

With a multitude of relatives in Bangalore, I have been there many times over the years, but with so many families to visit, I had never really taken in the sights so to speak. In the past couple of years, business trips to Bangalore were always combined with short holidays in Mysore and Coorg.

On this trip with plenty of time to spare, I decided that I must now “see” Bangalore. Naturally that meant a leisurely morning walk in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens where I was thrilled to see the very rare Jade Vine [Strongylodon macrobotrys]. I had first seen it almost thirty years ago as a watercolour in my plant book and never imagined I would ever see it for real. Here they are, green-blue clusters of flowers in all their glory.

Jade Vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys

Jade Vine clusters – Strongylodon macrobotrys
Jade Vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys

I asked at their nursery if I could buy a plant and was horrified to learn that it would cost at least Rs 900 and that too just for a cutting with no guarantee that it would take! Thanks but no thanks.

Bangaloreans are really lucky to have such a beautiful park right in the heart of the city. And this is just one of so many gardens and parks, no wonder Bangalore is called the Garden City.

Colourful shrubs at entrance to Lalbagh. One of Bangalore’s four Kempegowda Towers can be seen on the Gneiss Rock in the background:

Lalbagh Botanic Gardens, Bangalore

Kigelia pinnata – African sausage tree – so called because of its sausage shaped fruits.
Kigelia pinnata, Bugle Rock Garden

Pretty Pink Milletia
Milletia ?

Flame Of The Forest – Butea monosperma
Flame of the forest (5)

Another enjoyable half day was spent at the Chickpet markets, a shopaholics delight. Chickpet around the Avenue Street is one of Bangalores oldest shopping areas, well known for its reasonably priced sarees, jewellery stores, traditional wares, lamps, books, textiles, bric a brac and just about anything. I remembered it from many years ago but was warned that it would be terribly crowded. Even the auto rickshaw dropped me off in a narrow lane a good 2km away, refusing to enter the area.

Though the streets were narrow and congested, it was relatively so clean. Compared to Bombay at any rate! No spittle on the road, no leaking sewage pipes, not much rubbish, I could not believe it. Even nicer was that the locals are so well behaved. No one pushed or nudged or did anything worse. Such a refreshing change to be able to walk in a crowded market street without having to be on guard all the time. Whoever I asked for directions or assistance was polite and helpful. No one tried to rip me off. The weather too, was lovely. Unfortunately I did not take my camera along so there are no accompanying photos. I would highly recommend a visit to Chickpet over a visit to any of Bangalores fancy malls. For those of us, especially ladies, who enjoy old style shopping that is!

I was curious about the new Butterfly Park at Bannerghatta NP. What a disappointment that turned out to be. Getting there took ages in the morning traffic jams on busy Bannerghatta Road. The butterfly enclosure though beautifully landscaped with adequate larval host and food plants, was singularly lacking in butterflies. There were more butterflies outside than within! We did not have time to do the safaris and headed back to the city. Fortunately the traffic had eased by then.

Bannerghatta Butterfly Park
Bannerghatta Butterfly Enclosure

One of very few butterflies in the Bannerghatta Butterfly Park
Bannerghatta Butterfly Park

The next day, we went to the Big Bull Temple at Basavangudi. This may be the only place where the Nandi Bull has his very own temple, instead of being out in the open facing Lord Siva. Photography is allowed here and visitors can circumambulate the very cute Nandi Bull.

Gopuram at Big Bull Temple, Basavangudi
Gopuram

Cute Nandi Bull
Nandi Bull - Basavangudi Bull Temple

The massive bull is carved out of a single boulder and surrounded by the Bugle Rock Gardens – a forest style park created around several natural boulders. With tall trees, lush undergrowth and small ponds, this little forest is home to pretty birds, bats and monkeys.

Bugle Rock Park at Big Bull Temple, Basavangudi
Bugle Rock Garden, Bull Temple

White cheeked Barbet at Bugle Rock Garden
White throated barbet at Bugle Rock Garden

A paved walkway leads to a watch tower. Another leads to a beautiful flower garden at the base.

Butterfly Garden at Bull Temple

This is a true butterfly garden with hundreds of gorgeous creatures flitting in and out of the many species of flowers. It was such a delightful vista that we spent an hour admiring the many winged beauties. The person in charge of Bannerghatta could learn a lot from this humble little garden.

Butterfly Garden at Bull Temple

Butterfly Garden at Bull Temple

In 2002 we had seen the Belur temple and I was keen to see it again. As we had a day to spare, we set off on a day trip. Even with an early morning start to avoid traffic, it took a good 4 hours to reach Belur. The roads are good but with two lane work in progress in several sections of the highway, it is just not possible to maintain a steady speed. Once the work is complete it should be a smooth ride all the way.

Belur – Velapuri of the Hoysala kingdom is known for its Chennakesava Temple built around 1100 AD.

Fine filigree stone carving and a star plinth are characteristic of Hoysala architecture. Every available surface both within and outside the temple are covered in carvings, friezes and sculptures. The Darpana Sundari – Lady With The Mirror is one of the better known pieces.

Here are some pictures:
Chennakesava temple at Belur
Chennakesava temple at Belur

Carved inside roof. I took this quickly while the dark interior was momentarily lit up. Unfortunately no tripod so the picture is not sharp.
Carved roof - Interior of Chennakesava temple - Belur

Some of many carved pillars inside the temple
Carved Pillars inside Chennakesava temple - Belur

Star shaped outer walls
Star shaped temple - Chennakesava - Belur

Detail on lower outer walls
Carvings on outer wall - Chennakesava temple - Belur

Intertwined Elephants
Elephant pattern on outer wall - Chennakesava temple at Belur

Pilgrims circumambulating the temple – 108 times, possibly for wish fulfilment [Mannat] purposesunlikely to be for their morning walk ha ha!
Circumambulating the Chennakesava temple - Belur

Carved Wall Panel – One of many
Chennakesava temple - Belur

Chennakesava temple - Belur
Filigree carving - Chennakesava temple at Belur

It is such a pity that none of our monuments are properly looked after. Look at these toilet bowls and sanitaryware recklessly stored amidst priceless sculptures in the corridor!

Toilet bowls and wash basins strewn amidst priceless sculptures in the circumambulatory corridor - Chennakesava temple - Belur

KSTDC offers a one day tour from Bangalore offering an hour each at Shravanabelagola, Halebid and Belur. I wonder how much they get to see. It may be excellent value and at the end of it one can boast of having seen all three places, but certainly an hour is not enough even for one temple. We took over three hours feasting our eyes on the intricate sculptures just at Belur. The Devi temple was closed otherwise it would have taken at least another hour. As Chikmagalur was a mere 20 km away, we proceeded there next. To our utter disappointment there was nothing there. Chikmagalur is just another small town. All the coffee estates , plantations and mountains are at least another 30 to 50km further away! We bought our quota of pure Arabica coffee but did not have time for anything else as we had to return to Bangalore.

The journey back was awful. We reached the outskirts in just over three hours only to get stuck in the roadworks at Yeshwanthpur for more than an hour. I do not recommend doing Belur as a day trip. It is really tiring. Somnathpura which is a scaled down version of Belur but with as many splendid sculptures, is so much closer to both Bangalore and Mysore. Much less crowded too …….

In comparison, given a choice between the big temples of Tamil Nadu’s Cauvery Delta and the Hoysala temples of Karnataka, I would return again several times to the former.

Bangalore is also Church Street, Brigade Road, Indiranagar, Koramangala, Malleswaram … ….. all with excellent restaurants, cafes and pubs. UB City with its podium level restaurants is like being somewhere abroad. But the essence of Bangalore remains the humble darshinis and small places serving mouth watering local tiffin and consistently good coffee.

Till the next trip.

21 Comments

  • Sahil says:

    Hi Gita ,

    I have been to Bangalore many times and Lalbagh is my all time favourite. I also like Malleswaram a lot as it has many good hotels and malls. I have also been to Shravanbelagola once.

    Thanks for refreshing all the memories. Let me not forget that your post has beautiful pictures.

    Sahil

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Gita,

    Very well written post . I wish Picture could be bigger in size.

    I use to visit Bangalore almost 3-4 times a year for my official work but never visited Bangalore thoroughly , except Lalbagh.

    http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/08/04/a-day-in-lalbagh-botanical-garden-bangalore/

  • Gita AM says:

    I posted a reply to your Mahesh but it says that my comment is awaiting moderation!

  • Nandan says:

    @ Gita – Yeah , that got flagged as a Spam because of multiple links. They were approved and are now showing fine.

  • astroaditya says:

    Great Post and beautiful pictures….

  • venkatt says:

    I visited Lalbagh, Iskcon temple and other attractions in Bangalore city in Jan 2008. Really the locals are privileged to have such islands of peace amidst the crowded city. Gita, your photos brought back those memories to me. Thanks. I have heard of Chickpet, but did not have time during my last visit. Sounds like an attractive budget shopping area.

    • Gita AM says:

      Thanks Venkatt.

      I caught a glimpse the towering Gopurams of the ISKCON temple from afar while going through Yeshwanthpur, it must surely be worth a visit. Chickpet is wonderful for reasonable priced shopping but I doubt if most men would enjoy such a place !

  • Roopesh says:

    Great post about Bangalore. Many times we look out for attractions far and wide but forget about gems within our city. I found one such with Aga Khan Palace in Pune. Will write a post about it some time.
    In Chikmaglur did you visit the CCD? You rightly said that plantations and hills are further. Did you notice Yagachi dam on the route to Chikmaglur?

    • Gita AM says:

      Thanks Roopesh. Yes, there are many places in Mumbai which I have simply not bothered to go to, which are hot spots for visitors! Ive seen the Aga Khan Palace in Pune though. Lovely building but was not well maintained at that time, 2001 I think.

      What is CCD? Cafe Coffee Day? Im not really a fan of Coffee Days, Baristas and their ilk. Much prefer my own preparation if I say so myself, in our family we are very particular about our coffee thats why I was pleased to get pure Arabica ground to my specs in Chikmagalur. Some of the small darshinis in BLR serve pretty good coffee.

      I noticed a beautiful aquamarine lake between Belur and Chikmagalur, presumably that is the Yagachi dam? There is a so so picture of it in my Flickr set. Actually, Ive been to Chikmagalur about 30 years ago to a small place called Aldur where my aunt was based at that time. Long time ago.

  • Patrick says:

    Lovely photographs. That first photo of the Jade vine is so captivating and sharp. I would have thought 900 bucks was worth it – however it probably only comes up in the cooler climes of bangalore. Lovely post.

    • Gita AM says:

      Thank you Patrick.

      Ive never paid more than Rs 100 for a plant, that too for something rare which I cannot propagate myself. Usually I do my own cuttings and layers. So in that sense Rs 900 was a bit of a shock, that too for an un rooted cutting! Though as you observe and considering that its probably the only jade vine specimen in India, perhaps 900 would not have been too much for a well established plant.

      I was happy enough to have seen it for real.

  • Nandan says:

    Been to Blr many times but it was always airport-office-work-hotel-eatout-office-work-eatout-airport. I guess your post has given a BIG thumbs-up to Blr’ites.

    I have read about Lalbagh at least 3-4 times at Ghumakkar so when I get to go next, at least I would want to visit that.

    • Gita AM says:

      This was my second visit to Lalbagh. My previous was in the month of May a couple of years ago, when so many more trees were in bloom. Now in March all the famous Bangalore tabebuias and jacarandas ought to start flowering, it should be quite a sight.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi Gita,

    Those flower photos are awesome.

    Can you please share your camera model and specs.

    Also, tips about shooting those amazing photos – especially the Jade Vine and the flitting butterflies.

    Great writeup too.

    Nirdesh

  • Gita says:

    Thanks Nirdesh.

    My camera was just an ordinary Point & Shoot! I dont remember which one it was for these pics, probably my old Kodak Z981.

    What tips? I just pointed and shot !!!

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