Ahobilam - 930km weekend trip worth every moment..
It all started as a simple idea of going out as a family. Back in May, we pushed an idea of Ahobilam as one of the spots. Coupled with other factors that Akshay's supposedly last visit before taking off to USA & my only schedule prior to hectic build-out plans, we finally took the plunge of getting all frogs on the same scale.
Trip had to face many tests... Petrol fares shot up.. but our cars were Diesel :) ... Bharat Bandh was observed on previous day & Karnataka Bandh was on the day which we chose to travel. But with our tanks full, we just headed off without a worry in mind. Frankly, i was more excited to test the performance of my new Nikon D5100 SLR camera.
Day started off on a sweet note. Ravi uncle & Suma aunty celebrated their 29th year anniversary. I felt as though it was season of anniversaries. Just 2 weeks back, my parents celebrated their 30th year & on 19th, i debuted with my first of many to come :) Sweets shared, pictures taken, we headed off towards Ahobilam.
Map mentioned 417km for a route taken over NH-7. Once we hit the highway past the International airport, its an absolute gem to ride on. No puddles, humps or pits to fall into. Just a smooth ride which makes you feel to drive with your eyes closed.
First stop at Penukonda, AP (148km from BLR) as the ladies were hungry. Rather an interesting choice to take a break & seriously surprising choice of hotel to have a breakfast. We were left out with no choice other than Mookambika Hotel, an Udupi franchise :) Given a choice, i know for sure that this won't feature in couple of our groups top eat-outs lists. but it certainly made me remember the good old times of eating anything & everything.
Penukonda is also famous for one more thing. It was fortress of King Krishnadevaraya, from Vijayanagar Dynasty. Wonderful statue at the entrance of the town depicts the grandeur of the province under his helm. Pretty good remains of the fortress walls too if some historian is interested.
Next stop was at Gooty (269km from BLR). Although, i had more than half a tank of gas by that point, we thought it was a better idea to fill her up as we weren't sure what we could expect after the deviation. Rest stop gave us a moment to enjoy with the family and also take some unusual but effective snaps, thanks to Akshi.
Deviation at 4km past Pyapili, AP & off we were into town roads. Roads are a little patchy but not bad. 50km later, we arrive at Banaganapalli. A town which lies in cross roads towards Koilakuntla & Nandyal. Both paths leads to Ahobilam but Nandyal route is much better even though it add almost 45km extra to your trip meter.
6 hrs and 45 min later we finally arrive at Ahobilam. Quiet little place, away from the city's blitz almost reminding you off the ages wherein we don's have much facilities to depend upon. But still the village in the southern part of Nallamalla Forest seemed a very good place to be for a peaceful outing.
Even in this small village, we couldn't find the hotel. That's when, we get first glimpse of our multilingual chotu guide, Subramani. Uninhibited attitude was striking as the kid just rode of his bicycle showing us the way. We had our reservations in Pavana Narasimha hotel, thanks to Ravi uncle's good contacts.
Hotel's lobby had a wonderful painted map & description about Ahobilam. Map clearly indicated the famous Lord Narasimha's 9 idols. Covering them in the next 2 days was really challenging considering that we had just driven 465km.
With a quick break of an hour, we started off towards the lower temples. Mr.Nayak, the owner of the hotel was at his best wrt hospitality. He quickly arranged for an guide & a priest who could explain us about the 2 idols which are at ground level.
9 Idols :-
Chakravaka :- Honestly, the best idol which i had seen till date with the simplicity but yet with such grandeur. Story goes that, an angel was reciting his songs. Narasimha was so happy that he started singing & enjoyed the pleasure of music. It is pretty distinctive to notice the absence of goddess Laxmi on the left lap. Priest mentioned that the Lakshmi was said to be residing in the right hand side of the chest of the lord.
Temple had one more curious factor involved. In the Gopuram, there is a tree leaf which grows out as though it is protecting the lord by its shade.
Yogananda :- Then we headed onto Yogananda Narasimha temple. quite a simple temple with no fancy stuff. Believed to be the spot wherein the lord came to penance as he had killed Hiranyakashabu, who was a Brahmin.
For the night, we were treated with spicy Andhra meals.. Bit of Pappu, saaru & that was the end of long day for us. We had a tight schedule the next day morning starting as early as 6 AM.
Jwala :- First up in the morning, we headed to trek towards Jwala. we had to climb up the mountain for about 3 km in our cars. Lucky us, we had planned to visit on the most auspicious day of the lot. A Saturday with Swathi Nakshatram. it was lucky for us that we got up as far as we did through the traffic. This was the last snap before the day long trek.
Its almost a 3 km hike up to the top. We go through rocks,steps, steep climbs, bridges, dried up water paths. generally, we heard that there are hardly any people out there. but being an auspicious day, we had more than 30,000 people climbing up the mountain. At the top end of it, its a very narrow passage to the idol. on the way, we do get a pass to reach the top of the mountain, called Ugra-Stambham. locals warned us not to venture that steep climb as 3 people had lost their lives last week. Ravi uncle caught a nice spot to rest himself as the steep hill was too much to bear on his knees. He had recently got some treatment on his knees.
You can also see a small puddle of water which is almost red in colour. of course, now its polluted with human intervention & lack of maintenance. But it believed to be the spot wherein the lord washed off his hands after the killing of the demon.
Malola :- Comedown the mountain, we head to Malola temple. We thought Jwala trek was the tough part of the hike, we were in for a surprise. Abhi,Suma Aunty chose to stay back with uncle. They headed down the mountain to Varaha Temple along with uncle.
It was my family along with Tripti & Akshay to make the trip with help of our guide Ravi. When we reached the temple, we were out of drinking water. more than the sight of the temple, we were more pleased to see the drinking water channel. Idol was very cute indicating the fact that the lord was being pampered by Lakshmi.
Varaha :- Downhill of the mountain, we hit the Varaha temple. The idol is an indication of one of the Lord Narayan's avatars. He has taken a shape of Boar to carry earth on nose. nice to see priest denying us the permission to take a snap.
Ahobilam :- Right at the bottom of the mountain, almost nearing the end of trek, i was more surprised to see my parents & my wife still up & feeling chirpy. we successfully made it to the bottom. Treated to a wonderful lunch at a Brahmin's mess. after that, we all entered the temple to see the idol which indicates that lord came to penance in a cave. That's exactly what it means. " Lord in a cave". no pictures again.
End of long day's trip. every one was so tired that we just trekked down the hill towards the car & straight back to our rooms. Ravi uncle had already made the plans for visiting another idol in the late evening, but using the Commander jeep.
Bhargava :- This was a ride to remember. None of our fancy cars could suffice this ride. the age old monsters who do not have permits to ride on tarmac, prefer to run on muddy bumps. God save the people who do this on a daily basis. but if you need to see all 9 idols, then you need to opt for the jeeps for couple of the trips. Abhi wasnt feeling well, so Tripti too dropped off.
Anu & Akshay were the first to jump in the jeep. I walked off slowly along with the older contingent. 3km covered with zig-zag muddy roads, bumps, humps as high as 3ft later we finally reached Bhargava temple. Story goes that Parashurama requested to see the death of the demon. Hence the Narasimha re-enacted the scenario. Only place wherein you would see Hiranyakashabu's head towards the right hand side.
By the time, we came back, there was no power in the hotel. Pitch dark environment with a full moon to give us company outside. so everyone decided to enjoy the peaceful nature outside the hotel. an hour later, we had the power back on.
After dinner, it was time to play some cards. Not to keen, but the energy levels of rest of the group forced us to play the Rummy. 2 hrs later, i felt it was better idea if i had just dozed off. I hardly played any games as the none of the sequences came right. numerous drops later, we ended up handing the bounty to Akshay. Pretty lucky chap to win the last hand with 6 jokers :)
Pavana:- 5:30 AM in the morning, program was fixed but Jeep never came by. Me & mum went by the market area to catch the driver assigned. None showed up. several calls later, at 7:30 AM new guy came by with a far better jeep compared to yesterday.
18km of jungle roads. Literally no supplies, no sign of any human beings. It was a wise decision by us to drop off plans on the previous evening. we would have been in serious trouble if the vehicle had broken down in middle of the jungle. The road was horrific. Lucky that my parents didn't get a backache after that ride.
But when you reach the temple, you almost tend to forget absolutely everything. its peaceful, uninhabited area deep in middle of forest. Surrounded by hills, it almost can be passed out as a valley. the idol is also pretty beautiful considering that its the calmest form among the 9 of them.
On the way back, we spotted 2 big Deers & a Fox. no ways that i would have opened my new camera in that dusty terrain. by 8:45 we were back to the hotel. Vaidya family had just checked out of the rooms & left towards Karanji. We spent around 30 min to vacate the rooms & then headed out to Karanji.
Karanji :- last of the 9 idols, not too far up on the hills. well maintained roads, in fact on the way to Jwala. but the rush on Saturday didn't allow us to stop by. On Sunday, there was hardly anyone around. The story goes that Lord Hanuman wanted to see the god in his full power. Lord gave the darshan in the Narasimha avatar & conveyed the message that all avatars were taken by him to commemorate a particular work. Hence the idol has a bow & other weapons indicating the multiple avatars of Narayan. you can also see the Hanuman statue outside the main temple.
All tasks completed, we headed back to Bangalore. The path was pre-defined as Nayak had provided us a much shorter path to trace back. I had exchanged the same with Abhi who was driving the other car. So now, it was just a matter of driving another 400km & we were back home :)
We took the road to Allguda, Kadapa, Rayachotti, Madanapalli, Chintamani, Hosakote, BLR.
Watch out for the amazing ghat section between Rayachotti & Madanapalli. Even Lorry drivers overtake you in the ghats as the roads are pretty wide. The roads are just amazing to zip around. Very well maintained state highways which hardly gets you bored. But once you cross the Chintamani RTO, the roads are bad. Lot of construction work going around. Better to take the Kolar road but it will definitely add 40 km to your trip.
Things to plan:
Food : Not much of options available if you don't like south Indian spicy food.
ATM: No ATM's in Ahobilam. Nearest one is 25 km away.
Medical: Didn't see any major nursing homes either. But you have basic physicians.
Fuel: Don't mess around. Get your tanks filled before you exit Allaguda.
Ahobilam - Allaguda - Kadapa - Rayachotti - Madanapalli - Chintamani - Hosakote - BLR.
BLR - NH7 upto Pyapili junction - Banaganapalli - Koilakuntla - Nandyal - Allaguda - Ahobilam
The route shown on google maps is same until Banaganapalli but then routes to some patchy roads not good for your suspension.
All in all, reached home safe & sound. I would really admit that 3 days without mobiles, laptops & TV was worth the drive. Pretty tired with the driving but still would do it again another time just for the shear joy of being with family & friends in open nature.
signing off till the next trip