Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Visit to Sonda on June 27-28 2009

The lack of rains in Bangalore and the sultry weather conditions drove me to make a quick plan to head to the Western Ghats. The choice of destination was a non-descrepit place called Sonda in Sirsi district.

History: Not aware of a lot of history, but Sonda happens to be the seat of Shree Vadiraja Theertha and is one of the 8 Mutts that govern the Krishna temple in Udupi. By a tryst of destiny, I happen to belong to this particular Mutt and have visited this place on atleast 2 previous occassions. The temple itself is around 700 yrs old and Shree Vadiraja Theertha was the 20th guru in the lineage of Shree Madhwacharya Theertha, who propounded the Dwaitha philosophy of Hinduism. The current head of this Mutt is the 36th guru and goes by the name of Shree Vallabha Theertha. The previous guru, Shree Vishvesha Theertha passed away in 2007 after heading the Mutt for more than 50 yrs.

Left from Bangalore by the 10.30 pm Rajahamsa and reached Sirsi by 7.45 am on 27th morning. We heard that the bus for Sonda had just left and the next one was not expected for another 2 hrs. I was not at all disappointed since it was raining and I spent the time wandering around the town, breakfasting over 'buns' (a delicacy of North and South Kanara districts of Karnataka) and enjoying the rain. Our bus eventually arrived and after a 30 minute ride for a distance of 19 kms, we reached Sonda. Upon reaching the temple, we found out to our dismay that all accommodation was booked and we were left with nowhere to stay. But my mother and I are made of stout stuff and we decided not to be bothered by such minor hiccups. Leaving the worry of the night stay at the back of our minds, we did the round of the temple and paid our obescience to the resident dieties and the Vrindavana of Shree Vadiraja Theertha.
The lunch gong was sounded at 12 pm and after stuffing ourselves with the good food that was offered by the temple, I headed out towards a lake near the temple to do some birding while my mother decided to do some reading of the devotional books that she had wisely carried along to cater to situations like these.
The birding was not very exciting, but I found directions to couple of other 'tourist' spots nearby. So, I headed back to the temple and lugged my mother for a walk of 3 kms to a Venkataramana temple. What was relieving of this temple was that there was not a soul around, the gates to the temple were closed (not locked) and we were pretty much left to ourselves. We marvelled over the architecture for a while and then headed back to our HQ.
On the way back, we noticed a board to 'Tapovana' which is the place where Shree Vadiraja Theertha used to meditate and the lord used to appear to him. While we were comtemplating to make another 3 km walk to this place, a localite appeared on the scene and suggested that we do not make this walk since the route goes through forest and in these season there are bound to be leeches by the dozen. Considering that I was bare-footed and that my mother already was not too keen on simply ambling around, we returned to the temple. I took off once again, armed with my mammal guide to make some enquiries with the locals on the possibility of the LTM (Lion Tailed Macaque) infesting these forests. Ventured into the forests, enquired with the locals and got negative results. Hanuman Langur - Yessir, Bonnet Macaque - Yessir, LTM - No Sir :(

It had become dark by then, and not wanting to be lost in the forest, I made haste to the temple just in time for the evening puja. The walks in the afternoon and evening had made me hungry and though I had intended to skip the dinner (after the heavy lunch that I had), I was actually looking forward to a good meal and a nice sleep after that. To my dismay, my mom suggested that we have 'Pallara'. To those who do not know what a 'Pallara' is, it is nothing but any food item without rice. So, while the sensible people headed to have the regular dinner, my mother and I and few other people sat down for the 'pallara' which my mother assured would be served in sufficient quantities so as to satiate my appetite. Though the dinner was good, there was only one serving and I had to wash my hands with still a major portion of my stomach desiring for more food. Thankfully, the bus journey on the previous night and the exertions of the day had made me quite tired and the moment I slipped into my sleeping bag, I was sound asleep.
The next morning, we woke at 6 am, took a dip at the temple tank, paid another round of obescience and packed our bags to head to another place called Swarnavalli, around 9 kms from Shree Vadiraja Mutt.
Once there, we walked around the place. Couple of lines on this temple. This was founded by Shree Adi Shankaracharya and is dedicated to Lord Narasimha, Goddess Durga and Lord Shiva. It also houses a Veda Pathashala and the place reverberates through the day of the young lads chanting and learning the vedas and upanishads. Rather pleasing to the ear, much like any child singing rhymes.
The river Shamala flows nearby and I dragged my mother to see the river and also to visit the Sondha fort, which I was told was along the banks of this river. Lunch was at 2pm and we had a good 4 hours to finish this tour. As on the previous day, when we reached the bridge to cross the river (the fort was on the other bank), we met another friendly local who again put the fear of leeches. This time I had my footwear, but my mother would have nothing of it. So, we walked back to the temple, left my mother there to continue her reading and I walked back to the bridge, crossed the river, took the path along the bank which after about 100 mtrs led into the forests.
After about another 1/2 km, I reached the 'fort'.
The place had a huge stone bench (Raja's Seat), 6-7 cannons and a Shiva temple.
Rather sad king I thought to have a fort this small!! After resting there for a while, I began exploring the forests, when I realised that the earlier place I had seen was something like the king's 'durbar'. The fort itself was huge and was taken over by the forests. Strewn all around were mutilated rock carvings of an era gone by, just lying around. Saw 3 bath-tub kind of structures.
Wanted to explore some more, but time was running out since I had to return to the temple for lunch and then catch the 3pm bus back to Sirsi.

To our luck, the afternoon puja went on longer than usual, due to which we had to miss the 3pm bus and opt for the 5.30pm bus instead. To kill time, I convinced my mother to visit a place nearby called 'Sasyaloka'. This is a fine place maintained by the Karnataka Forest Department and a local NGO and houses saplings of rare medicinal plant, flowering plants, foreign plants etc.
My mother gamely tagged along, but a chance encounter with a snake, made her turn back to the safety of the temple while I ventured ahead and returned an hour later.

On reaching Sirsi, there was one last place I had to visit and this was the Marikamba Temple of which I had heard a lot.
Fortunately this temple was just about 1 km from the bus stand. Rounded up this walk with a quick Bhel puri and contentedly we boarded the 7.45pm Rajahamsa bus which then safely deposited us in dear old Bengaluru at 5.30 am on 29th June 2009!!



Blogger Sanjeev said...

Nice place, nice photographs and nice write up!! must go there sometime. And nice to know a pedigree acharya ;-)

July 6, 2009 at 3:22 AM  
Blogger Aarti said...

Very interesting place... never heard of it...

August 20, 2009 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Good write up.... Will plan to visit the place :)

December 9, 2012 at 10:16 AM  
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