Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Highest point in the Nilgiris

Early in the morning, after a heavy breakfast, experiencing the morning coolness and admiring the beautiful surroundings of Fern Hill, we set off for Dodabetta Peak. The Dodabetta lookout located on this peak, is the highest point (2633 metres) of the Nilgiris, and offers beautiful views across the surrounding peaks and plains. Located about 10 kilometres from the town, our bus had to navigate steep, serpentine and winding roads to reach this place.

As we walked towards the lookout point, it was like a fairytale land, the mist surrounded by dense vegetation around and the serene valleys below. It is indeed a wonderful experience, soaking in the entire landscape of green valleys below, from this point.

The name Doddabetta is derived from two Kannada words; ‘Dodda’ and ‘Betta’, which means ‘Big Mountain’.
A telescope house has been installed on this peak in the year 1983, with two telescopes to enable tourists to get a bird’s eye view of the whole district.

We did not want to leave this beautiful, scenic place, but then had to proceed to our next destination, Sim’s Park.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Queen of Hill Stations

Yes, that’s Ooty ! We visited this serene hillstation in the last week of September and the climate was very pleasant, though it was chilly at night. I had been to this place, fourteen years back, during my college trip, reminding me of those carefree days and evoking nostalgic memories. We proceeded to this place from Mysore and it took us around 5 hours, as our bus stopped for half an hour, as the local deities were taken in a procession along the way. We were informed it takes much less time to reach Ooty. Anyway upon navigating along the serpentine narrow roads and experiencing the wonderful sights of the beautiful tea gardens, we reached Hotel Mayur Sudarshan, located at Fern Hill, our abode for the night ,which seemed like a fairytale castle.
Earlier this hill station had a more complicated name, Udhagamandalam, and the Toda name for this place in the Nilgiri mountains was Othakal-mund or ‘house in the mountains’, which was later given a lucid name ’Ooty’ which could be easily pronounced.

After a quick tasty lunch at the restaurant, located in the hotel, we proceeded towards the serene Ooty lake.
This lake was artificially created in 1824, by by John Sullivan, Collector of Coimbatore, and is 2.5 kilometre long. We took a boatride across the lake and enjoyed the beautiful sights.
From here we went to visit the famous Botanical gardens of Ooty.
Spread over 65 acres, it is a delight to explore these gardens which were laid out in 1847, the main attraction being the fossilised tree trunk which is 20 million years old.
We did some shopping outside these gardens and bought some tasty homemade chocolates of various shapes and sizes for which Ooty is famous for. The streets outside these gardens had many shops selling woolen garments and soft toys at very economical prices.
At the end of the day all of us were weary and we returned to our cosy rooms at the hotel, after a speedy, warm delicious dinner.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mysore Zoo

Established under the royal patronage of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1892, it is one of the oldest zoos in the world ! This zoo is located at a distance of around three kilometres from the city bus stand and two kilometers from the Mysore Palace.

The official name for the zoo is Shri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens.
The Zoological Garden was carved out of a portion of the Summer Palace also known as the Pleasure Palace, which was in the eastern part of the city.

Spread over an area of 250 acres, it houses around 1500 animals including giraffes, gorilla, lion, elephants and vast variety of birds which include parakeets, peacocks, storks, in spacious enclosures. A well equipped veterinary hospital is also present in the premises.
This zoo was also the first in the country to obtain gorilla and penguin’s.
Karanji Lake is a part of this zoo, which attracts about 45 varieties of birds some of which migrate here from far away places.

Note: The Mysore zoo is open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm on all days except Tuesdays.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shakti Sthala – Chamundeshwari temple

The Chamundi temple atop the serene Chamundi hills is the most famous temple in Mysore. Legend says that the demon Mahishasura, was killed by the Goddess Chamundeswari (also Chamundi) after a fierce battle. The hills thus got their name and a temple of the goddess was built on top of the hill which is located at a height of 3000 feet, three kilometres away from Mysore city. The goddess is also known as ‘MahishasuraMardini’ which means ‘She who slew Mahishasura’ . The Mysore city owes its name to this goddess who vanquished the legendery demon, Mahishasura.

The temple is a quadrangular structure of Dravidian style with a splendid 40 meter high, seven storied, gopura decorated with intricate carvings at the entrance. The silver plated doorway has images of the Goddess in different forms. In the sanctum sanctorum is the solid gold idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari.
There is a huge granite Nandi on the 800th step, on the hill, in front of a small Shiva temple. This Nandi (the bull which Lord Shiva rides and the gate keeper of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati in Hindu mythology) is over 15 feet high and is 24 feet long.
We visited this temple, early in the morning, and had to wait in the queue for quite some time to take the holy darshan of the Goddess alongwith other fervent devotees. Later we proceeded towards Ooty.

Tallest cathedral in India

St. Philomena's church, built in the honour of St. Philomena was constructed in 1936 using a Neo Gothic style and its architecture was inspired by the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. It is the tallest cathedral in India and is located about three kilometers from Mysore city.

A small church at the same location was built in 1843 by Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar which was later rebuilt on a larger scale.
It is also one of the oldest churches in India and is over 200 years old. The twin spires of this structure, soar upto 150 feet into the sky. The interior of this church looks immaculate due to its snowy white walls.
This church was designed by a Frenchman named Daly. The floor plan of the cathedral is in the form of a cross.

We were indeed awestruck by this imposing structure !

After spending some time admiring this beautiful church we proceeded towards Chamundeshwari temple.

Fairyland – Brindavan gardens

Located around 19 kilometres from the heart of Mysore, spread over an area of 150 acres, these beautiful gardens are laid out below the Krishnaraja Sagar dam built across the river Cauvery.
The Krishnaraja Sagar Dam (KRS) is an example of excellent engineering and was built by Sir M. Vishveswariah, one of India's finest engineers, in 1924.
He used 'surkhi' a mixture of limestone and brick powder instead of cement. The dam was amongst the first in the world to have automatic sluice gates. The 3 kilometer long dam is located at the confluence of the rivers - Cauvery, Hemavati and Lakshmanathritha.The lake that is formed by the dam is one of the largest in India !The dam is a multipurpose project conceived by Sir M. Vishveswariah for supplying water to the agricultural lands of Mandya and Mysore districts and for ensuring power supply to the Shivanasamudra project.

The work on laying out these gardens was started in the year 1927 and completed in 1932.

The Brindavan Gardens, are rated as one of the most beautifully laid out terrace gardens in the world !
These gardens are enriched with a number of terraces, innumerable fountains in different shapes and sizes, decorated with coloured lighting, running and cascading waterchannels, water chutes, lush green lawns, flower beds, shrubs and trees and are famous for the illuminated dancing musical fountains that come to life after sunset.
All fountains run due to the water pressure from the dam.

The best time to visit the gardens is in the evening, after sunset, when all the bright colourful fountains come alive and the entire garden is transformed into a fairyland !

The whole environ seems ethereal and enchanting and is a sight to behold !

From this enchanting place we proceeded back to the hotel, looking forward for the next day’s trip to Chamundeshwari temple and St. Philomenas Church.

Note: The Brindavan gardens remain illuminated from 7.00 pm to 7.55 pm from Monday to Wednesday and from 7.00 pm to 8.55pm on Saturdays and Sundays. During Dusshera Festival, the garden is illuminated every day.