Saturday, September 21, 2013

Nandi Hills & Lepakshi

     An urge to travel, connect with new people, learn and enhance my photography skills led me to an awesome group that organizes short photography tours in and around the city.

I barely knew anybody in the group except for exchanging pleasantries with a few of them at a recent photography exhibition in Bangalore. With a wee bit of apprehension and loads of excitement, I joined them on a day's trip to the Nandi Hills & Lepakshi and to my surprise it seemed like I have known all of them from time immemorial. That's the beauty of sharing a common interest/passion and the need to just let your hair down and have some fun.

Nandi Hills has always been one of the favorite weekend getaways for Bangaloreans; especially for the photographers - for being more than a perfect surreal nature's abode.
Early morning walk
How to get there:
Located within 70 kms from Bangalore, one can easily get there by bikes & cars exiting from the North of Bangalore. There are also public transport buses plying from Bangalore's central bus station - Kempegowda Bus station in the mornings & evenings for a charge of Rs. 50. Beware there are no buses back to Bangalore after 5PM.
Quick Info:
The gates of the Nandi Hills are open to public only between 6.00 PM to 6.00PM and they charge you Rs.10 as the entry ticket.
There is only one Hotel Mayura Pine Top Restaurant located at the top of the hill to eat and lodge (first come basis lodging with only three rooms). Of course, you can choose to get down the hill and find places to eat/stay away from the hills.

Crossing about 40 curves (some of them very steep) as we got to the top of the hills at around 6.30 am, we were amazed to be greeted by thick blanket of clouds veiling the hill and the fort. What followed were myriad of images captured by the enthusiastic group ranging from Landscapes to Macros, HDR's to Pano's, Portraits to Groupies, Flora & Fauna, Birds, Monkeys, Insects and virtually everything. Nandi Hills offers plenty of photographic opportunities I did not even imagine. At about 1400+ mtrs above sea level, strolling around the lush green hilly area, breathing the chill healthy air was such a welcome break from the madness of the city life.
Bamboo Homes
It is believed that the hills got its name because it's shape resembles a sleeping bull. There are other stories as well one of them being that the ruler Tippu Sultan built a fort around this hill and named it Nandi Durg. The Tippu's drop point on the hill offers an awe-inspiring view of the valley; so splendid that my camera could obviously do no justice to it. The upside-down bamboo houses with awesome photographic frames are a new addition enthralling the visitors.
The splendid view of the hill and the valley
After a quick breakfast at the Hotel Mayura Pine Top Restaurant located at the top (the only hotel atop the Hills to eat and lodge), we went on a short trek inside the Nellikai Basavanna Temple area before heading out to the Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple located in the vicinity of 20 kms from the hill. One of the intellect group member KR enlightened us on the history of the temple that dates back to the 9th Century when it was built, extended and preserved over a period of time by the Cholas, Gangas and the Hoysalas and was finally strengthened by the Vijayanagara rulers during the 13th Century. The temple pond surrounded by stone steps all around is another amazing view you should not miss. The exquisite ancient architecture makes it easily one of the lovely locations for pre-wedding photo shoots and portraiture. I got one of my portraits clicked too ;-)

How to get there: We started for Lepakshi at 12.30 pm IST from Nandi Hills to arrive at the destination in 90 minutes (70kms) driving past the Bangalore-Hyderabad NH7 highway.

Exhausted and hungry, we gorged on the yummy food two super cute girls D & P in the group had packed for all of us. The rotis, the variety of yummy sabzis and cool-drinks along with the cookies were so yum and much-needed, we cannot thank them both enough.

Lepakshi is a small village in the state of Andhra Pradesh dedicated to temples. The day was as hot as mercury and we had a tough time walking bare-foot inside the gigantic Veerabhadra Temple that dates back to the Vijayanagara empire in the 16th century in the history of South India.
The striking pillars
The striking features of this temple are the intricate pillars carved out of rocky stones bordering the temple from all the sides with perfect amount of light enough to make the pictures look stunning. The most interesting one is the 'Hanging Pillar' attached to the ceiling but not to the floor. Yes, a pillar in a suspended state. It is believed that the British were fascinated by the pillar and in an attempt to run some experiments to uncover the secret to this genius engineering that they caused the pillar and some of the other pillars to tilt in one direction of the other. I was so amazed at the sight of this pillar that I sat leaning against it for more than a few minutes marveling this genius and admiring the mural paintings on the ceilings.
The Hanging Pillar Photo Courtesy: Adit Lal 
The sculptures & paintings of deities, dancers, musicians, animals and stories from Mahabharat and Ramayan adorning this ancient temple is another interesting feature you will not miss. Unfortunately, photography is restricted inside the worship place that houses the deities including Veerabhadra, Shiva, Parvathi, and the goddess Kali with paintings of the Shiva-Parvathi kalyanam on the ceiling that are appearing to fade off.
Mural Paintings on the Ceiling
Sculpture of a deity
The open air kalyana mandapam is a beautiful hall surrounded by off-white pillars. We had a humorous modelling-cum photoshoot here that will add to some of the lovely memories of the trip.
Kalyana Mandapam
As we headed towards the outer enclosure, we came across a huge tree offering shelter from the scorching heat of the sun. Amazed at the central location of the tree, most of us climbed up to get a funny group picture. It seemed like as though the monkeys around the place were not enough that we had to climb up the tree too. Fun times.

The last and one of the main attractions was the multi-hooded Nagalinga standing tall with stories that the seven headed snake was carved out of a single piece of stone within moments even before the lunch was made ready that day.
The best time to visit Lepakshi is early morning when you can avoid the scorching sun. We bore the brunt of the sun but nothing can hold a candle to the fun, memories, bonding, captures and the learning we took back with us. And as an icing on the cake to this incredible journey, the gorgeous sky adorned by the multi-colored clouds smiled at us inviting us to freeze the moment.
The gorgeous Sky clicked with my mobile phone

For more photos from the trip - please visit my Flickr Photostream:
Nandi Hills

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