Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Nano Story


It was winter in Bangalore, the IT Capital of India. Winter drawing to a close, admittedly, seeing that it was almost the mid of January, but the air was still cool and venturing out hadn't started to feel quite like a chore yet. Karnataka boasts of a rich cultural heritage, and I had always wanted to visit the likes of Hampi. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway. I breached the subject to Ela and, as expected, he was equally enthusiastic. He suggested taking his beloved car for the trip.

Ela had become the proud owner of a Tata Nano recently, and though we never ceased teasing him, he had travelled more than 10,000 kilometers in less than two months. Most of them during weekends on national highways, commuting from Bangalore to his hometown. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning, wondering if the Nano was capable of a trip covering almost 600 kilometers. However, he managed to convince me saying the Nano will only add to the thrill of the expedition.

The Tata Nano Story

Our itinerary included driving over to Shravanabelgola, night stop at Hassan and then next day to Halebidu and Belur before starting on our way back to Bangalore. We hadn't put much thought into the planning for the trip. The most we had done was arrange for printouts of the entire route traced on Google Maps.

Me being my usual lazy self, we started from Bangalore post a good lunch on Saturday. We hit a snag when we got caught in traffic on Bannerghatta Road. With a little bit of planning we could have avoided this stretch, but then that's being wise after the event. Once we hit the national highways, we made good progress.

The drive was a treat to the senses. The route passed through lush green forests, rural villages, lakes and paddy fields. Our chatter would have sounded like retro-holiday drivel. We were completely drowned in nature's beauty. John Schindler has said, "How easy and simple it is to live enjoyably when the simple, interminable blue of the sky, with its long wisps of white clouds, become a pleasant thing to behold, a thing of beauty that thrills you every time you care to look skyward."

Village in interior Karnataka, India

Making short stops for coffee, coconut water and clicking pictures, we reached our first destination, Shravanabelagola, around four in the evening. It has two adjacent hills - Vindhyagiri and Chadragiri. The statue of Lord Gommateswara Bahubali is on Vindyagiri. At 57 feet, it is the world's largest monolithic statue. To aid climbers, steps are cut directly into the stone face of the hill. Still, it's quite a steep climb. We were completely out of breath by the time we reached the summit and had to stop and take rest for a few mins. The view from the top was breathtaking. It reminded me of a few lines by the reclusive American mystic, Emily Dickinson.

Who has not found the heaven below
Will fail of it above.
God's residence is next to mine
His furniture is love.


View from Vindyagiri

We took scores of pictures of the Jain basadi as the sun gradually disappeared behind the horizon. By the time we reached the statue of Lord Bahubali, the gates were being closed for the night. Fortunately for us, the priest was a kindly soul. He allowed us inside and provided a quick guided tour of the place. He even let us take a few shots before escorting us out as the doors were padlocked. We spent some more time on the hillock taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful view as dusk gave in to the darkening sky.

The Gateways of the Tirthankaras

We had food at a roadside dhaba before checking into a hotel in Hassan. By morning nine, we were refreshed and ready to start on the onward journey. Driving through beautiful farmlands, suddenly a streak of purple caught our eyes. To our amazement, we saw some purple coloured flowers being cultivated in a big field. Having come upon an idyllic place, we found ourselves with a yearning to linger. Time stood still as beauty overwhelmed us. Another passing car stopped by, we exchanged greetings and then spent some silent moments clicking away trying to capture the moment.

Purple Flowers while driving through interior Karnataka, India

We reached Halebidu around ten in the morning. The temple here has two adjoining shrines adjacent to each other - Hoyasaleswara and Shantaleswara, both dedicated to Lord Shiva. These temples date back to the 11th century and have never been completed. The city was repeatedly attacked and ransacked by the muslim invader Malik Kafur, leaving it in ruins. Halebid means "City in ruins".

This little town still attracts tourists in droves, and the fact that almost everything is in ruins doesn't seem to matter at all; it only adds to the charisma. This magnificent temple, built of soapstone, is one of the finest example of Hoyasala architecture. Ornate pillars, detailed miniature towers and intricate arrays of stone sculptures which includes elephants, lions, horses and episodes from the Indian mythological epics, Halebidu has everything. Perhaps no other Hoyasala temple is as sculpturally articulate as this is and these sculptures are second to none in all of India. The temple of Halebidu, has been described as an outstanding example of Hindu architecture and as the supreme climax of Indian architecture.

Halebidu

It was two in the afternoon before hunger pangs made us realize the time. We decided to have food in Belur and made the 16 kilometers drive in quick time. After a quick lunch in the Karnataka state run restaurant, we made our way to the Chennakesava temple in Belur. The beautiful Gopuram was the first to meet our sight. The temple in Belur is almost similar to the temple in Halebidu, even belonging to the same period. However, unlike Halebidu, here the shrine is dedicated to Lord Vishu. The architecture is equally impressive with beautiful stone sculptures all around the structure. There are 42 status of sensuous dancing maidens sculpted all around the temple. Walking through the ancient temples will send you through a time warp. Strewn across this land are civilization stunners, not just to be seen as postcards, but to be looked at as inheritances of the future generations given to us for safe keeping.

The Gopuram at Belur, Karnataka, India

After taking some sunset shots, we started on the journey back to Bangalore. But our adventure was not over yet. Passing through the dark forest, we suddenly caught sight of a bright glow. Slowing for a closer look, we were astounded to see fire engulfing the surrounding trees in the forest. We soon realized it was not a wild fire running havoc through the forest, but rather one that will burn itself out in sometime. But, this being our first forest fire, we were quite excited and couldn't help stopping to take a few shots. The sight was mesmerizing, watching the yellow red flames quickly lick through the dry underbrush.


Forest Fire

It was an incredible experience, travelling to such historic sites in a Nano. Many of my friends are still amazed how our little vehicle could make it through without breaking down. It was only possible due to our determination, carefree and sometimes reckless attitude, a strong zeal for adventure and quiet self-belief. The car lived up to more than our expectations and now I am a happy convert. The most important thing I realized from this trip is if you have a will, there is always a way!!

46 comments:

  1. Wow! That's amazing. Your description of events was as incredible as the pics. Just fantastic.

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    1. Thank you Flip for the kind words. It was a great trip.

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  2. beautiful pictures and well narrated interspersed with lovely quotes

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  3. I love the temples with the carvings :) Your pics are awesome as always with your great descriptions.

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    1. Good to know you liked them Alex. And thanks for the encouraging words. I took tons of pictures during this trip, especially of the beautiful sculptures. Hopefully, these will be finding their way into future posts.

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  4. wow! even i was bit skeptical about the usefulness of Nano :D. good to know that it actually is a handy vehicle!!

    lovely pictures again and some great information. where did u get so much information from?

    all the best for the contest. it is an awesome post!!

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    1. I have been travelling around in my friend's car for quite time now. Would say, it's quite a useful vehicle. In fact, if Tata had come up with a limited edition superior quality luxury version, and marketed it properly, it probably would have a different story in the country.

      The guides always have a story to spare, if they find a good audience. And I do read a lot on a wide variety of stuff.

      Thanks for stopping by and your good wishes!!

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  5. A great story, and well illustrated, as usual. Keep up the writing and photography!

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    1. Thank you so much. Your words are always encouraging. By the way, congratulations on the release of your first book!! Though, I haven't dropped in a mail yet, I will take you on the offer of a signed copy. I am not going to miss out on this :)

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  6. The places are really awesome, i had been there recently but sadly not in Monsoon. India truly deserves the credit of great cultural heritage. the forest fire snap is fabulous.

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    1. You can always plan another visit. Yes, we have it and we seem to be very proud of it. But only for namesake. Otherwise, we wouldn't be defacing each and every monument by splashing our names on them.

      Thanks for appreciating the pictures.

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  7. lovely photography.... my favs are the night shot, the forest fire and the of course the purple flowers....
    Great information shared as well...

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  8. First the title Nano Story made me think that you are going to write something of the project. But you wrote something else which is more pleasant than what I had assumed. Second the visual treat that you have given is superb. Third the beautiful lines 'Who has not found the heaven below, Will fail of it above.'

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    1. I can only write about my own experiences Hariharan ji. It wouldn't be prudent for me to comment on the Nano project, given the meagre information I have about it.

      I love taking pictures and this blog is primarily a photo blog though I usually include the story behind the pictures. Those lines are beautiful, and so true.

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  9. wow...neat write-up and photos. I wanted to know what purple flowers are those? Love them--have a feel of the lavender without being one. And great shot of the temple halibedu. Seems to have the same geometrical perfection that other temples like konark does. Except I had not heard of this. And I loved the last photo.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Bhavana. I am not sure of the name of those flowers, always been weak in taxonomy :) Actually, I felt, they may have been some cultivable plants, planted for oil or something.

      Though Hampi is the famous for its ruins, Halebidu and Belur temples are also quite popular among tourists. The architecture is excellent. Konark is another masterpiece though the sculptures and architecture of the temple is quite different from these.

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  10. amazing images...i love such off the beaten track places....away from the 'tourists'...

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. Actually, Halebidu and Belur are quite popular among tourists here though they may not be on the tourist map at a national level where Hampi clearly wins hands down.

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  11. Wow - that trip sounds amazing! It looks like you selected some prime locations to stop. AND TO CATCH A FOREST FIRE IN ACTION!? Oh man...That is just cool

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    1. Thank you Geojour for stopping by. It was indeed an amazing trip. I just wish I could have spent some more time and enjoyed the beauty. The forest fire was just amazing. First such experience in my life :)

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  12. Simply beautifully captured shots... lovely place!

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  13. the top view and the night shots looks so beautiful :)

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  14. It turned out to be a grand photo-journey on a nano-sized car. Loved the 'streak of purple' and the night shots. And the nano was wonderfully captured by that lake.

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    1. That seems very apt...grand photo-journey on a nano-sized car...I enjoyed the trip a lot. Thanks for stopping by.

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  15. Amazing photographs and interesting narrative.

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  16. Beautiful shots and a lovely narration. On a lighter note, I argue with anyone who says winter in Bangalore. Bangalore has only one weather and that is pleasant...:)

    All the best :)

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    1. I belonged to the same club 3-4 years back. Unfortunately, it's not the same city of yesteryears. With the uncharacteristically rising mercury in Summer, the more pleasant weather in November/December can be termed as winter :)

      Thank you for the wishes!!

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  17. Good one…
    hyderabadonnet.com

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  18. Awesome picture!!!!

    chennaiflowerplaza.com

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  19. Nano is quite capable car.. I had the chance of touring whole south India in it...

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    1. I agree. After this trip my views were changed about the Nano. It's certainly a very useful car and more folks should consider it as an option. Would help ease the traffic situation as well as being more environment friendly.

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  20. Great snaps and wonderful narrative!

    The idea of Nano was conceived by Ratan Tata when he saw a family of four traveling on a two-wheeler, the man driving, the lady and the elder child sitting on the pillion and the younger child sitting astride in front. He thought of producing an affordable car in which such a family could travel.

    By the way, you seem to be visiting Bangalore often. Photos in almost all your posts are taken in Bangalore.

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    1. Thank you for appreciating the pictures and narration in the post. It was a great trip which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nano seems a decent car with a fantastic outer design. To improve the fuel economy, the tires have been narrowed down which somewhat reduces the aesthetic appeal. I felt its marketing was not handled in a proper way and hence its not a car of first choice for many.

      I have been based out of Bangalore for over a year now. So lot of pictures from around here crops up in posts :)

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