Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bicycle Rogered :-(

Oblong Rear Wheel :-(((

Now I can crib of drunk drivers first hand.

bikezone topic:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Words are no match for this


United Colors of Sunset

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Maari Jaatre [ last part of the five ]

Maari jaatre in Sagara is held once in three years. It is a fortnight long festivities in honour of the town deity - Maarikamba, mother who slays all evil. Maari is worshiped by all castes of Hindus and hence the festival gets the support of one and all in the neighbouring hundreds of villages. Since it is election year, quite a few ticket aspirants seem to have let the money flow freely so that they could get as much publicity as possible during the jaatre. Hoardings and banners were seen as far as in Shimogga. Although all castes worship the deity, they way they do it different. On the first day of the jaatre, it is the brahmins who do the pooja in the form of elaborate rituals involving some Yajnas and Homas. Very few men known as purohits do the pooja on behalf of all other brahmins. On the subsequent days the other castes do their poojas. Their pooja is more broad based unlike the brahmins. Until recently there was the custom of sacrificing a kona (male buffalo). This year following intense objection from the animal rights organization, it has been toned down a bit. Now only some blood is drawn by doing a small incision. The kona lives to see another day and its stature raises - almost divinity. Usually most of such fairs end with a grand cart pulling ceremony - usually on the last day. However, since we visited the jaatre in the middle of it, we would not know how it is done in Sagara. All these rituals are done in morning and evenings are exclusively for making merry.

In front of the temple there is a stage. Every day, renowned artistes of Karnataka perform for a couple of hours. On Friday, it was the turn famous light music singer MD Pallavi to entertain us. Just when we arrived there, she started the ever so popular "elli jaarito manavu...." We listened to her complete the song... But since the inflow of people to the event was far greater than the number of seats provided, we had to just move on. At the corner of the street, the same was being projected on a huge screen. There was live relay of this through out Sagara on a local cable network. Technology rocks. After the famous artistes, it is the turn of the local talents to show off. School children, and enthusiastic housewives form a handy pool of talents. Add to the natural excitement the anxiety of being on TV... we get a lot of comedy and amidst all that, some really useful exposure for genuine talent.

On one side of the stage was the queue to give offerings to Maarikamba. The queue was running into at least a thousand people. Each one had one set of Hannu-Kai material. It is the traditional offering to the deity consisting of - A coconut, couple of bananas, flowers - usually chrysanthemum or varieties of dahlia, incense sticks, camphor, a packet of Kumkum (vermilion) and turmeric. The coconut is cracked open in front of the deity. Cocunut water forms the base for theertha after being offerered to hte goddess. The banana's skin is peeled just a little as if to make believe that Maari accepted the fruits. Camphor and incense sticks are lighted and circled clockwise in front of the goddess. This is to please Maari with the good scent. After all these, flowers are circled around every thing that is offered and hurled at the feet of the goddess. That completes the offering for one worshiper. The archakas (people who perform the above ritual) are so efficient that the queue of thousand people does not seem stuck at all. After the offering procedure, the Hannu-Kai material becomes prasadam.

The jaatre perimeter starts almost a kilometer from the temple. Vehicles are not allowed in this area - thank fully so. The sheer amount of people simply amazed me. Most of them, like us, were not keen on buying anything - just watching and waiting for anything to catch their eye. The whole road was lined with merchant stalls from all over the country on one side. On the other side of the road are the foodie carts - Bhelpuri, masalapuri, gobi manchurian, churmuri, dosa, chilli bhajji, jilebi, masala papad and what not... Mind you... all these are out side the food court which officially hosts countless other stalls.

So many people, so many conversations happening at the same time... What is a jaatre without whistles and children running around blowing them? whistles and horns of various kinds form the base noise of the jaatre. We bought a dozen of them for each one of our team in Bangalore ;-). Then there is melodious flute by the flute merchant. I know I will not be able to re-create the melody if I bought one. In spite of craving for one, I stayed away. Then there are the cloth merchants calling for people to visiting their stalls - "3 trousers for a hundred", "2 tee for fifty"... "limited stock left"... "only in this jaatre"... and so on. The ice-cream carts (such a permanent fixture in jaatres) were not going to stay quite either... vanila, pista, strawberry, chocolate, "3 cups for ten rupees", "cone for five rupees", "come and taste it, pay only if you like"... The loud speaker every now and then reminds people to be aware of their children and other valuable belongings. Every now and then a Bhadrappa or a Chandre Gowda is requested to come to the information center because their beloved wives have lost track of them (probably they were engrossed in trying out the imitation jewelry too long). I bet the husbands are giving each others a hi-five and eating Davanagere Benne dose together. After a while a little boy went on to report its parents were missing. Amidst all these, I closely followed Vinaya and Sneha making sure I never lose sight of them. I knew how to get back to Vinaya's house... But my geography went for toss under all those disco lights. Every direction looked the same as the other.

I will try an describe some of the stalls to the best of my understanding. The most famous stalls (no surprises there) were those selling toys - all kinds of them. Cheap plastic ones from china have swarmed the market. Cars, buses, trucks, guns, water guns, canon shots, mobile phones and anything that can be made of plastic could be found there - seriously, even chairs, buckets, mugs and other house hold items. I even picked up a Rubick's puzzle for 20 bucks. Haggling is the order of the day. Items can be usually bought at half the initial offer price. Next most popular item for sale was jewelry - imitation of course. For villagers (most of who are BPL) who get to see them once in three years - the excitement is as good as seeing the real ones. Ladies of the house usually get a jaatre grant from the patriarch of the family. Add the year long savings (form rounding off expenses) to it and they have a tidy sum to blown away during the festivities. They use this very judiciously to get all the girls of the family all the decorations they need until the next fair - nail polish, ear-rings, neck-laces, bangles, hair-band, ribbons, fancy clips, bracelets, anklets... Next attraction for the ladies was the guy selling Mehendi stickers, rangoli stencils and other day-to-day items that sell cheaper during the fair. Like always, women start buying even if they do not need it - in the name of "anticipating the future need".

Another item that was popular was the miss-universe beauty crowns. Ah! which little girl can walk away from one? Just like the boys find it very hard to go past the mask guy selling spider-man, bat-man, clown, chucky masks. Women however get glued to the stalls that sell kitchen-ware. Dining sets, coffee-sets, plates, soup-bowls, and a whole lot of other china-ware. China-ware now refers to that they are all "Made-in-china" not that they are "made of porcelain". The handle-with-care tag is now replaced with for-rough-use because are cheap. The college students swarm the poster vendors to pickup portraits of their idols. MS Dhoni seems to be the flavour of the season closely followed by SRK. There were no takers for the posters of Gandhi, or Bose - partly because they are out of fashion, and partly because the painter did a shoddy job. Gandhi was seen laughing as if he just heard a new sardarji joke.

Since there were so many stalls selling boys toys, the doll makers for the little girls did not want to stay behind. Fairies and fancy hats were sold exclusively for the girls. There was one stall just meant for key-chains. Pretty fancy ones. There was the ever popular smiling buddha, the "I love You" heart shaped ones, the cricket bat ones... One could even personalize them by writing names on the key chains. Lastly, the bags... How many bags does one person need? I fail to understand the logic behind such huge collection of bags. There were at least a couple of stores with tens of thousands of bags in each one of them. Are they banking on people shopping beyond their estimated carrying capacity and there by buying more bags? or are the people of Sagara are simply of the "bag loving" kind (- multi baggers)?

The next stop was the food court. There was separate area ear-marked for food vendors. Just like the Bangalore malls, one could buy from any vendors and get it to a common place to eat. Just that the prices were only a fraction of what they would cost in Bangalore. Since Vinaya's mother had fed us really well before we left for the jaatre, the food court failed to attract us. There were a couple of sweetmeat stalls that were selling the signature bendu-battasu-sakkare kaadi. This is a permanent fixture in any fair all across Karnataka. All are made from sugar and some flour - thereby hugely popular with the kids and those with a kid-like heart. Sakkare kaddi means sugar stick... and that is exactly what it is. There is another variety that has a khara kaddi (something like a chakkli), or fried channa dal in the middle. Those are popular among adults since they are not overly sweet.

What fair can be complete without high excitement rides. We took a ride on the huge giant-wheel. It has about 12 cars each capable of seating 4 people. However, no body would be comfortable if more than 2 sat in them. Its costs a nominal Rs25/- per ride. It started out slow and only later slowly picked some speed. I kept praying that the kid in the car above mine did not throw up. He closed his eyes out of fear during the second turn and did not open untill we were done ;-) From the top of the wheel, one could see real the extent of jaatre... the maari gudi, the mout ka kua, and a sky view of all other rides. Only after we got down did we come to know about the accident that happened the previous day at the giant wheel. One of the cars had come off... and two people plummeted to the ground. One did not survive the fall and other was critically injured... The wheel owners had eloped immediately, fearing being lynched by any mob. The wheel was grounded for a day and let to be operational only after a thorough inspection. But how much confidence can one put on these inspections? Had we known this earlier, we may have not ventured on the ride. Truly, ignorance is bliss. Other rides were tora-tora, various merry-go-rounds, trains and so on... net result of all of them would only be cerebral dis-orientation... There was this mout-ka-kua where motor cyclists would dare to ride (and perform antics) on the walls of artificial well. They defy the gravitational force by countering it by the centrifugal force. That is how fast they must be. Since there was a long queue for it and limited excitement for us (all three of engineers who knew the laws of physics) we let it pass.

The fair did not show any signs of winding down at all... but my legs had started to hurt. We had to head back home for dinner. Every night there would be a Yakshagana (folk drama enacting stories from mythology, very famous in coastal and malanad Karnataka) at the Gandhi maidana (= gound). People wander the streets of the fair till midnight and then proceed towards the Yakshagana stage. Typically that lasts till day break next day. Then they catch buses to their respective villages and go home looking to come back in the evening.

One thing was glaringly apparent. No matter what a person worries about at other times, he is oblivious to all such matters at the jaatre. Happiness quotient in a jaatre shoots through the roof. Clearly, you don't need money to be happy.

I may have just one more post if Vinaya reminds me of some thing that I have missed ;-)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Linganamakki Backwaters, Sharavati valley [ part 4 of probably 5 ]

So much traveling on Friday ensured that I slept like a log. We woke up late and had a elaborate breakfast - delicious akki rotti with mast makkan. It was only after that did Vinaya disclose the the plan for the morning. It was not visiting fair (Maari jaatre) but Sharavati back waters. His college friends who arrived at Sagara that morning had the same problems as us during the journey and hence were also late. Add some organizational delays... and it was already 11:30 ish by the time we left home. We picked up Kirana and gang from his home and headed south - the same road we took to Ikkeri. The road is not all that good. Its not too bad either... Its the kind of road that remain in this semi-torn state for ever.

We passed villages after villages before we enter the reserved forest. This is the Sharavati Valley forest. Although it is a reserved forest, one can still see some human habitation. Apparently they are very small villages of five to ten houses. Still, there is good (predictable) bus service to this part of state. We went round AvinahaLLi and reached a place called Hulidevarabana (means - home of the tiger god). Now neither the tiger remains, nor its godly stature - just the name. However, on the same road, a few kilometers earlier, there was a sanctuary which claimed to have a few tigers and lions. At Hulidevarabana, we took a right turn to go towards Holebagilu (means - gate towards the lake). In fact, the place is exactly that. We reached Holebagilu it was already an hour past noon. We had missed the Barge that takes busses and cars to the other side...

For those of you who are wondering what is the big deal about backwaters... A dam is constructed across Sharavati at Linganamakki. The main purpose of the dam is generation of hydro electricity that powers half of Karnataka. Once the dam is constructed, it means that River practically flows or not entirely on human will. This storage of water inundates vast areas of land. Lot of people have to vacate their homes and businesses. On paper, they are relocated. But in most cases the destination is only nothing more than a promise. I had heard, read, seen movies, about the pain that the displacement of people that inevitably happens when a dam/reservoir is constructed. I had seen the backwaters on the map - a big blue coral like shape. But none of those helped in guessing the size of this thing. Its huge... extremely huge. What you see in the picture (first from top), is just a narrow streak of water body formed at the the perimeter of the storage area in between two hills (range). This reservoir has submerged thousands of villages containing fertile farm land - thereby adversely affecting the farmers. It has swallowed up acres and acres of forest land. Even now, one can see half submerged dead trees that once stood proudly over all their neighbours... It is almost as if they are in denial that their land is no longer land but water. People on the other hand have moved on and tried to build their lives all over again. But i guess, they are feeling just the same.

Ok, we had missed the barge - and thankfully so. If we had not, we would be stuck on the other side because the barge would not return until the bus (scheduled to come more than an hour later) from other side arrived. Perhaps before the dam was built, there would have a road connecting places like Nittur (famous by the Ninasam) and Sagara. But now, one has to either take the barge or take a round about road. Since we missed the barge, we had ample time to take lot of photos. Almost every body had a digital camera and we went on a clicking frenzy. At the deeper side of the river (can i still call it a river, now that it is no longer flowing?) we saw a school of fish like creatures moving as a group. I had seen such organized swimming only on TV - that too only in deep see fishes. There was enough confusion as to whether they were fish or tadpoles. After about an hour, we finally got tired of shooting. Finally we headed back.

At Hulidevarabana, we took a right to go visit another beautiful spot called Hasirumakki. Barge here would take us to the road leading to Kollur. So to say, it is no different from Holebagilu. But lesser number of people know this place and hence was more peaceful. Since it was dry season, we drove across the river bed to go to the another side of the lagoon. By then, it was way past lunch time and all us were very very hungry. We quickly devoured 4 different kinds of rotis (akki rotti, jolada rotti soft, and two kinds of hard rotti) with at least five-six different kinds of side dishes. I really lost track of their names half way through.. each one of them was as pleasing and stimulating to the tongue as the other. We had fresh and ripe papaya, sweet chikku and banana for dessert. The drive back was spent listening to eternal classics "DTPH" and "KKHH" and over analyzing the photos taken...

How to reach Holebagilu and Hasirumakki?
Hope you do have access to google maps. Sagara-HoleBagilu and Hulidevarabana-Hasirumakki.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keladi - Sagara [part 3 of a few]

Next stop in Sagara sight-seeing is the original capital of the Nayakas - Keladi [ಕೆಳದಿ](see previous post to know who the Nayakas are). Its about 12 Kms from the town's center towards North. Once you get out the town, the road is almost deserted. The scenery along the way alternates between beetle nut plantations and forests with acacia trees. Among other things, this tree is used to make paper. It requires very less attention and grows very fast. But like Eucalyptus, it comes with a exclusivity clause. Not many other plants can be grown in its vicinity. So, people here and in my home town of Kota jumped on this opportunity to earn some extra money and started growing acacia in most of their non-arable land. The monetary intent may or may not have worked out. It sure has made the region more greener. The plantations on the other hand need very fertile land, ample irrigation and lot of care. Hence, once can see them only near the villages - closer to human habitation. Along with beetle nut people grow pepper, plantains, beetle leaves. Cashew and Jack fruit trees are also popular. However, they are grown usually for domestic consumption only.

Where is Keladi?
The temple at Keladi

12 Kms of peaceful driving leads us to the Keladi temple. This temple has two compounds. The outer one seems to be more recently built by the archeology department (which maintains a museum). Inside the inner compound, there is no grass (unlike Ikkeri), only coarse granite - like the ones we find on side walks of Old Bengaluru. The temple has two shrines - Narasimha (half lion - half man incarnation of Vishnu) and Eshawara. That leaves any historian confused as to whether the Keladi kings were Vaishnavites or Shaivites. AFAIK, there was considerable animosity between the two and hence a single temple for both Gods has to either be a compromise or a speciality.
The inside of the temple
The ceiling
Outside the main building is the Garudagamba, a traditional minaret found in South Indian temples. On top of this minaret, there is a small idol of Nandi - perhaps a Shaivite influence. As we enter the temple, the first thing that strikes is the ceiling. The carvings here are not on stone, but wood - very nicely polished wood. Although, they have withstood the test of centuries, they may not last long if proper care is not taken. Be it wood or stone, the intricacies of the carvings amazes any visitor equally. As we move to the adjacent shrine (that of Narasimha), the ceiling is back to stone carvings. But has another surprise for us. The double headed eagle has been the emblem of KSRTC since ever. Now we know where they got it from.

Gandaberunda - KSRTC
Some interesting idols/carvings
The pillars and walls of the temple have numerous stories to tell from mythology. There are a few that are interestingly obscure. For instance there is this idol of Shiva (in human form) and Parvati on the customary pedestal of a Linga. According to mythology, Lord Shiva was cursed not to be worshiped in any 'human' form. There is another half made carving that has idols of Hindu gods on their respective animal rides - prototype of an ancient temple complex? What is this Chinese looking guy doing? There was one carving with a bunch of monkeys - monkeying around. There is a sheep man with his hands folded as if in prayer. I do not know any reference to any such creature in Hindu mythology. There are these mysterious horsemen found in Ikkeri also. The two lizards sizing each other up is present here also. Conspicuously missing are the dancing damsels. All in all, the intrigue continues.

Outside the main shrines, here is a Veeragallu and a Mastikallu. Veeragallu is a stone carving that narrates a heroic death of a warrior in a battle. Mastikallu is an epitaph glorifying the death of a Sati - wife who jumps into the funeral pyre along with her husband. A Mastikallu usually has three images. At bottom, there is a depiction of how the lady lived her life. The center image is a picture of companions preparing her Sati. The topmost image shows her worshiping her favorite god (in this case Lord Shiva). This is to show that she has already attained salvation. Veeragallu usually has only two images. The bottom image is a war scene glorifying the fight. The top image shows the warrior with God. The tradition of Mastikallu and Veergallu is very own to Karnataka and not found else where (at least in this format).

Mastikallu and Veeragallu

Outside the temple, one can find a two room museum. It has a sizable collection of items ranging from - royal proclamations, certificates, dresses, manuscripts, coins, weapons, measuring vessels, paintings, maps, portraits and so on. There was one painting that caught my eye (read wrath) - It depicted the Queen of England wearing a dress which was made up of maps of all her colonies. This changed my entire perception of the Keladi Kings. Whose side were they on? The mysterious horse men could well be Brits... Irrespective of loyalty of Keladi Kings, the museum needs to be more professional. The manuscripts are stocked in pathetic condition. I am not even sure if any ONE has ever gone through them. Who knows what knowledge is hidden in those palm leaves?

How to reach Keladi?
Please click HERE to see the route on Google maps.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ikkeri - Sagara [part 2 of some]

Ikkeri is about 4-5 Kms from Sagara depending on which end of Sagara are you at and which route you take to go out of the city. The traffic arrangements for the fair meant that we had to take the Sagara Outer Ring Road to get out of Sagara. Detailed map on the right. Ikkeri used to be the capital of Keladi Nayakas for some time. Keladi Nayakas were subordinate kings to the Vijayanagara emperors. As the empire fell into the hands of the Sultans, some of the subordinates declared independence. They provided good governance until being railed in by Hyder Ali and subsequently by the Brits. What remains now is just a glorious temple.

Where is Ikkeri?
Aghoreshwara temple, Ikkeri

Lush green lawn
Once we enter the temple compound, we were welcomed by one of the best maintained lawns that I have seen in quite some time. It was pleasing, both to eyes to the feet. The good lawns in Bengaluru often come with the "Don't walk on grass" tag.
The main deity of the temple is Aghoreshwara. It is one of the several names of Lord Shiva. It means 'the lord of 14th night of the darker half of Bhadrapada month' to signify some noble act (probably slaying of some demon) performed by Shiva on that night. But outside the door of every temple for Lord Shiva, there has to be Nandi, the divine bull and Lord Shiva's ride. The bull always squats with its front leg bent to form a loop. It is a belief that if one can crawl below the leg, his wishes will all come true. In spite of it being so tempting, I passed the opportunity of seeing all my dreams made true by divine intervention.
Nandi, the bull - ride of Lord Shiva
Damsels (inside and outside)
Inside the temple, the roof is supported by majestic stone pillars with beautiful carvings. The center four pillars form four corners of a stage where perhaps the temple dancers danced during any religious congregations. The temple has chequered windows on the northern side that lets in the gentle nothernly sunlight at this time of the year. I can only imagine how wonderful the temple would have looked when the setting sun creates mesmerizing patterns through the windows. A little later, the light from oil wicks would take over and the loud chants of the mantras glorifying Lord Shiva would fill the air. How could anybody escape such mysticism? On either side of the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum, stand damsels guarding the entrance. Similar damsels also feature on wither side of the main entrance too. There is a Ganapathi statue to the left of the sanctum sanctorum as in every Shaivite temple. Although the temple is neat and tidy, the lack of professional 'archeological' maintenance is glaringly apparent.

Soldiers (Brits, Sultans or Hyder Ali?)
Outside the main temple, is the temple of Akhilandeshwari (sorry if I got the name wrong, it is another name for Parvati - wife of Lord Shiva). I do not understand why madam's temple is outside the main temple. Lord Shiva has this weird habit. At times, he is the most rigorous vairagi practising detachment towards everything - even his own wife. At other times, he is known to internalize his wife to become Ardhanareeshwara (half him, half her). This temple looks pretty ordinary to until one notices the pillars - actually the horse riders on the pillars. Who are they? One of them definitely looks like a Brit and another one looks like a Muslim invader. If he were a Brit, do the dates add up? I have never heard Brits featuring in any other temple. They were busy to building Churches and Missionaries. More unlikely that iconoclast Muslims would like to be featured on a temple pillar. It is possible that some artisans may have sneaked this in return to a favor from a Brit or a Bahamani sultan or even later to Hyder Ali? Any which way you see it, it is amusing to see some thing out of the ordinary.

Outside the compound of the temple is government mint (tankashaale) of Keladi kingdom. Even though the mint is long gone, it still attracts greedy believers who hope to unearth some gold coins during rainy season.

How to reach Ikkeri:
If you have access to Internet (duh!!) please click HERE to see the route from Sagara to Ikkeri on Google maps. Refer to my previous post to reach Sagara from Bengaluru.

Thanks Vinaya for being a wonderful guide.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sagara Maari Jaatre [part 1 of many]

I was itching to get out of Bangalore for some weeks now. The perfect excuse came in the form of a casual invitation from my good friend Vinaya (featured in the photo. Hero - ain't he one?) to come and witness the Marikamba Jaatre of Sagara. I gladly (and quickly, not giving enough time for him to change his mind) accepted. For lack of week-end tickets, we advanced our trip by a day both ways. I could go on and on about KSTRC's step-motherly treatment towards non-Mysore-Mangalore routes... but that would only steal the focus from such a beautiful place I am going to describe hence forth.

In spite of all the discomfort, I did steal some sleep over night. By day-break we had crossed Bhadra river and approaching Shimoga. Still 70 odd Kms to go. The route from Shimoga to Sagara has good roads despite running through typical forests of western ghats. Forest on either side is deceptively dense. Teak seems to make both economic as well as environmental sense. The forest department has conveniently planted lots of them in the forest on either side.

However, human inhabitation and subsequent deforestation is on the rise as ever. Vinaya was telling how, couple of years ago people stumbled upon (by generous information support from the agri department) a new crop (mette jola, some variety of maize) that requires very less water, effort and fertilizer. With in no time, people were seen sowing seeds on un-utilized government land (read: forest land). Now, there are fences around them. Couple of years later, the same people will approach the government to regularize their 'encroachment'. Yes, agriculture must be provided with all support (monetary and infrastructure). But unscientific, ad-hoc encroachment is not fair. It only gives rise to cartels and thereby hurt the very people it was aimed at helping.

On the other side of the road one can see huge struts carrying some MW of energy from Jog Falls to Bangalore to light up the city. This shaves off a 500 meter wide strip of forest all the way. There are supposed to be no trees growing beneath the wires. For some reason I could not understand, there were 3-4 sets of poles of varying heights. Can they not just add more wires to the existing ones? As additional information, I learned that there is a transmission loss of 60% by the time the power reaches Bangalore. Blame the sub-standard Aluminum wires. Why don't we use copper? Because we can not guard them. Same reason we can not grow sandal wood in our back yard. Same reason why hotels in Bangalore have to close by 11:30. Same reason why women (non-IT, non-BPO) can not work in night shifts....

At about 0930 we reached the city of Sagara. It has a railway station too. In the pre-independence days, there used to be train service from Bangalore to Sagara. Now, the track from Shimoga to Sagara remains in meter gauge while the rest is in broad guage. For some time, they ran a single car train from Shimoga to Sagara that took an awful three and a half hours to cover the 70 Kms. Now, guage conversion is going on... Hence no service. Just like the Bangalore-Mangalore story, even Simoga-Sagara guage conversion story seems to be never ending.

Sagara is a small little quite city with old congested down-town and modern extension areas. It has a beautiful lake at the eastern end called Ganapathi Kere (in the photo). I was told that city municipality got the lake cleaned with lot of efforts over the last 3 years. On the Banks of the Lake is a Ganapathi temple that shares a wall with a Mosque. This has been cited as an example of co-existance as well as brewing tensions between the two communities at various times. Varada river runs right though the city. This is the source of water for the Sagara town, while the lake is the dump (after treating the waste). The down-town of the city is about 2 Kms from here, which was where would be the 'Maari Jaatre'. For a town of its size, Saraga seems to have a large number of Hospitals - 12 medium to big sized ones. Looks like sagarites are very fond of second opinions ;-)

The roads are narrow and patchy. There is an occasional cow or a buffalo on the road (that promptly responds to honking by getting off). But who cares... as long as the traffic keeps moving. I guess, we Bangaloreans will find driving any where else pleasurable. Sagarites get full marks on the environmental awareness. Either by choice or lack of alternative choice, there are many bicycles on road. Hope it stays that way. The next most common vehicle is the omni-purpose Maruti Omni. One rarely finds the ego-feeding 4x4s, SUVs or any other big cars. There are gardens in almost every house. Colorful, fragrant flowers in most of them.

Still to come: Ikkeri, Keladi, Sharavati Back waters and of course, the Maari Jaatre itself. I promise to try keeping them short.