Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spellbinding nature, Dribbling rains: A glorious visit to Sigandhur Chowdeshwari Temple

25th October, 2014

Right Right, yelled the conductor; The gloomy malnad town turned further gloomy as the archaic Rajahamsa hitched, imbuing the atmosphere with dark reek of smudge, stenching the flavor of air, early morning. The morning in Sagar was gloomy, devoid of sunlight with soft drizzle sprinkling from the sky. I had to embrace an unusual weather in Sagar. The environment matched that of Monsoon season with thick clouds hovering around busy town. I had welcome call from mother saying it has been raining since morning in Udupi. Oh I see, the scene is created by low pressure in Arabian sea. Anyway, I had an umbrella as temporary shelter.

I have been longing to visit Goddess chowdeshwari of Sigandhur for quite few years. While we could not during our last visit to Jog Falls, this time I planned solo journey to the iconic temple. With my travel friends dispersing, I had no other option rather than opting for solo journey. Consequently, I decided to visit Sagar and from there plan accordingly. As a whole, no plan was executed except to visit temple somehow. The only plan was to book tickets to Sagar and from there spot a bus towards Sigandhur. The journey started at 10PM previous night and lasted till 6:30AM. The delay was due to long halt in Shivamogga bus stand. Anyway, I landed safely with unusual welcome drizzle. My first aim was to find a haven to refresh before resuming journey.

I enquired local on lodge facility but he conveyed shocking news that the most of the lodges would have been booked! This was mainly due to heavy influx of tourists to Sigandhur chowdeshwari temple. At first, I thought my plans were in disarray but still did not lose heart. As per his guidelines, I inquired in first hotel on availability of rooms. The lodge was closed and the caretaker was sleeping. I opened the lodge door and woke him up :). Fortunately, the room was available for refreshing :). Initially he bargained for Rs.300/- but I had counter bargain for my sojourn. Eventually we agreed on Rs.100/- and within an hour I was refreshed! I thanked him for the assistance with agreed upon money and left for breakfast. The hungry appetite was later filled with hefty breakfast comprising of idly, vada and dose. The final touch was as usual the tea which was required to keep me awake after the unfinished overnight slumber.

After brief wait for 15 mins, I boarded a government bus destined to Holebaagilu in private bus stop. In a moment, the bus was packed primarily with tourists. The bus leaves us at Holebaagilu and from there one has to bank upon the barge to cross the Sharavathi river backwaters. The distance from Sagar to Holebaagilu is 30kms and Rs.30/- fare. The road conditions are good with slight hiccups along few stretches. Overall it is wonderful journey with lush green paddy fields, intermittent water bodies, steady rain and not to miss the lovely canopy of western ghats. Watch out for adamant cattle :D especially buffaloes. They were desperately scratching against the stem of trees to get rid of irritation :). Some of them even do not move until vehicles near them. They were either acting as road dividers, barricades and even at some places, forest gates :). 45 mins later, we were in Holebaagilu and time to have boat ride B-). Even though I could not join parents this Deepavali, the spellbinding nature provided festive treat as I neared the banks of backwaters. Absolutely stunning nature with lovely backwaters filled with mangrove trees. I had to rush since a barge was in flight. It was raining too which cut down enthusiasm among the tourists. I did not grab any clips since it was raining (no risking this time). I whole heartedly enjoyed the serene environment with waving water. My umbrella was shared by 4 more people inside the barge and enjoyed friendly humorous chat. Oh yes, there are no roof since it creates a problem during gusty winds. This is generic purpose barge and transports everything including vehicles and cattle :).

There is painful story behind the sharavathi river backwater. This is not naturally formed backwater but rather by swallowing almost 1lakh acres of human habitat. The land was acquired to construct Linganamakki dam for power generation. Consequently, people lost their lands. The barge fee is nominal Rs.1/- per journey and make sure that you buy the ticket. The money, every year is distributed to the victims of project. The landscape, beauty of nature and joy is everything at the cost of painful story. My humble request to the readers to buy the ticket and help the affected.

After nearly 15mins of splendid journey in barge, we were at the other bank of backwater. I had a bad presumption that temple is situated right after crossing the backwater. Alas! one has to travel 6kms from here to reach the temple. Initially, I did not knew as how to reach but later realized the availability of tempo trax towards temple. It costs Rs.20/- head. Initially there was dearth of vehicles but later on, vehicles arrived in large numbers as sigh of relief. I boarded one of them and had chit-chat with co-passengers. Lot of humorous scenes erupted which kept us alive even in the dreadful journey. The roads were dilapidated and filled with slush. Few passengers were bargaining for Rs.10/- but please don't do it. It is unfortunate to see people squander money in cities on useless stuffs but can't spend a meagre amount. 15mins of journey on average surface, we are here at the temple and ready to seek her blessings. By the time, I reached temple, my shoes and pants were entirely painted with slush of red soil.

BEAUTIFUL HILLS WITH MANGROVES
ONE MORE CAPTURE!
SHARAVATHI RIVER BACKWATERS
The maintenance of temple is below average and there was high possibility of slippages. Fortunately, the presence of dedicated footwear and luggage stands, keep your belongings safe. It was 8:45AM when I reached the temple. There was sufficient crowd and I had to wait for nearly an hour for darshan. The deity was beautifully decorated with flowers, adorned with ornaments with idol glittering from the  lighted lamp and reflection from ornaments. The disciplined dispatching of pilgrims inside the temple was one more positive factor. The devotees are divided into batches and each batches have designated area to stay. Once each batches finish the darshan, subsequent batches were allowed. This prevented stampede and everyone had sufficient time for darshan. I had my share of pooja with chime. The temple has extra three of them, of which one I grabbed one to chime in. After final prayer and blessings, I left the temple premises to claim my luggage. There is nothing much nearby except for temple shop. The crowd had increased and the queue had quadrupled protruding towards the exit. I was fortunate to have early darshan. Later on, the luggage keeper informed me to avoid navaratri & deepavali days and even to some extent fridays & weekends. One more time, walk along the slushy path, lead me to trax stand. By this time, entire shoe was mud pasted and it was looking as if I had just come back from ploughing paddy field!

SIGANDHUR TEMPLE
THE PREMISE
On way back, traxes were in abundance & empty and yelling to grab passengers. Being alone, I caught up with a trax in flight and it departed early. 15 mins ON, I was on the banks of backwater with a barge waiting to fill up. It started to drizzle again after a period of break. Few minutes later, the barge was filled with few vehicles and it was time to depart to Holebaagilu. This time I covered camera with plastic cover and shot some videos. Umbrella added extra protection. I do have a rain coat but it requires little bit of preparation which I didn't do. It takes same time as forward journey and we reached the other side of bank where huge crowd was waiting for their turn to board. My initial plan was to catch hold of bus to Kollur from Sigandhur and later on travel to Udupi. However, I could not spot any bus and decided to board from Sagar. After exiting from barge, I was desperately hunting for bus towards Sagar to contend afternoon appetite. Fortunately, I caught hold of casual taxi towards Sagar. He was charging Rs.50/- but it was comfortable journey. On the way, we saw huge line of vehicles parked in Holebaagilu stretching over 2kms.

HYBRID PACKED
Taxi drive was smooth and at 12:30PM, I was back in Sagar. Due to Deepavali, majority of hotels were shut down while the operating hotels did not have meals :(. Finally, I had an average meal at Sagar KSRTC bus stand which is 500m away from private bus stand. The delay resulted in missing Mangalore bus scheduled at 1PM :(. The next bus would be at 2PM to Udupi. I held onto the bus comfortably and immediately fell asleep which lasted for an hour. The tiredness provided early sleep dose.

That is end of my short visit once again without any luxury. Candid travel is more than fun which gives immense opportunity to meet people of all sorts especially middle class people like me. I had chat with various people and had wonderful time with everyone. It teaches you some good aspects of life which I lack. One of my intention to travel on the similar lines is to learn from people and break shackles.

The bus towards Udupi was rolling along the hilly roads and breaking whenever required. The gorgeous stretch of malnad and coastal areas coupled with western ghats keeps you engaged in midst of bus journey. The stretch was covered with paddy fields, beautiful lakes, brimming rivulets and of-course the dense forests. The excitement was more when we reached Mastikatte where the river Varahi was ravishing to watch in middle of dense western ghats with clouds hugging the hills. I just wished if I had a private vehicle but was satisfied to view from eyes. After Mastikatte, it was none other than beautiful Baalebare ghat surrounded with dense rainforest with trees extending from 30-50mts. OMG! those were thick and high. Most of the stretch is concreted and in good shape. The only problem was, numerous hairpin bends along the ghat section. There is only a single water spot along highway. No stretch can match Shiraadi & Charmaadi ghat for presence of tons of water spots along the highway :). With Blueman's rainforest echoing in my ears, I enjoyed the ghat section to the fullest.

THE HORIZONTE - MAGNIFIQUE WESTERN GHATS
Barely 20mins of travel, we were Hosangadi which means end of ghat section. This was supported by gradual build up of sticky weather which is indication of approaching coastal stretch. The bus was meant to be "Non-Stop" service but it turned out to be "Non-Stop Stoppage" service. The frequency was significant past Siddapur :(. On the way, I observed the pinnacle welcoming the visitors to Kamalashile Temple which I wish to visit again. It started raining heavily after Shankaranarayana and later subsided. It was almost twilight as we reached barkur. 7:30PM, I was in Udupi and caught a bus to Kaup to reach my home. The arrival to home was welcomed by steady drizzle and teasers from father after seeing boot condition :). Next day, it was time to clean the filth from shoes and jeans.

Sigandhur has two routes. One via Holebaagilu (which I opted) and there is detour via Teerthahalli which I am not aware. The second route does not involve ride on barge (citation required). I strongly recommend the barge route because of spellbinding sharavati river backwater with mangrove trees. The other route involves more distance (almost double I heard). Signadhur is great place for a day. Even if you are an atheist, one can hangout in midst of beautiful nature and sharavati river backwaters.

Due to gloomy weather and steady rains, I could not snap much pictures. No panorama, no HDR, only a short video of boat ride and feeble snaps. Hope you enjoy. Timelapse was possible at many places but no time :). Especially, Mastikatte area provided perfect platform for beautiful timelapses with thick clouds, western ghats and varahi river. Nevertheless, I was contended with whatever I could achieve during this time.


PS: People lament when it rains during the excursion. Even I am no different since I cannot fiddle with lens ;). However, it is those droplets which transform the nature to plenitude of beauty. Sometimes it is best to enjoy with your eyesight more than mirroring the moments in camera and feel the serene nature. That's what I experienced even during barge ride. How beautiful was the onward journey without any gadgets while the return journey, I was only engaged in safeguarding the camera body to keep away from moisture rather than enjoying beauty of western ghats. Irony at the end is, rather than cherishing golden moments of nature captured by the eyesight, and storing in neural system, we brood over missed opportunities during the journey :)

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  2. Ferry ride from Holebaagilu is an awesome experience except for the crowd! I visited Singandhur 3 years ago.

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