Monday, July 2, 2012

Hi-tech Dream



My wife and I were walking along an elevated walk-way in a posh area in the city. It was well past mid-night, could be a little too early in the morning – say around 2.30 – 3. It was very cold, and as usual, I was wearing only a cotton shirt but my wife was covering herself well with a woolen shawl. We were talking about so many things, including our visits to remote places where the sky was so clear that you could see so many stars that you don’t see in the polluted city skies. As we were talking, I looked above and asked her if she could make out some of the stars and constellations.

As if by magic, suddenly there appeared in the sky, by the side of all important stars and constellations, their names in red-laser light. I showed it to my wife and exclaimed the advancement of technology, and asked her to read the names, as I was not able to read because I was not wearing my spectacles. She read out names like Betelguese, Rigal, Castor and Pollux the Gemini twins, Aldebaran, Ursa Major, etc.

She wondered how names could appear in the sky and I replied saying that a space education center or planetarium must be around, because they only could have such hi-tech equipment to beam laser labels in the sky. And soon enough, as we were walking further, I saw the large doors of a big building open up and people coming out of it. Immediately, the lights in the sky also went off. We wondered what was happening there and our attention shifted to the name board, which read “Madras Astronomical Society” and the wordings “Laser Light Show – Every Second Saturday night – book in advance”. I told my wife that that explained the red labels we saw in the sky.

Finishing our walk, we went back to our house. While opening the door, I heard the buzz of a moped horn at the gate and realized it was almost time for the milkman. I wanted to check the exact time and looked at my digital wrist-watch, pressing the light button. It is here that the dream mixed into reality. I realized I was really pressing the light button on the watch and time it showed was 4.18 am, the room very cold due to the air-conditioner and a mild shower outside making the room temperature drop even further. My mother was deep asleep nearby. My wife, my daughter and her newborn baby were all sleeping downstairs. And, somebody was really buzzing his moped’s horn outside.
Oh what a wonderful and real-like dream it was! May be that technology exists in some part of the world, where you could flash a text high in the sky for people to read, who knows! It being too early to get up, I closed my eyes to force a sleep, to wake up as usual at 5.30, but the beauty of the dream still remains fresh in my mind, two days after I dreamt it, that I am able to vividly recall and record it here!

Don't ask me why the people coming out of the building should have, in the first place, gone in at all, since the laser was only being beamed out in to the sky!  I am only narrating what I saw in my dream.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Baoji


Sri V.S. Murthy - expired 8 June 2012, at 73 years.

I think I should have done this like ET Balu – he chronicles his memoirs of persons associated with him – relatives, friends, business – when they are still there, and shares these with all, but it's too late now. I’m sure Baoji would have been happy to see what my thoughts are about him.

It would not be incorrect to say that after Aji, he was the pillar uniting our family. Known for his energy, discipline, affection and service, he was liked by all around him and no function was complete without his presence. He always attracted everyone with his ability to keep people of any age group engaged in good conversation on a topic of their choice and liking. He would keep Damu busy with conversing in Madras-Tamil, Vasanthi with his comparative experience in dealing with different banks and my father-in-law with pension related topics, all with the same level of interest and enthusiasm. No wonder everyone liked him so much.

What I narrate could be viewed as my angle, but I think the main reason he was so popular (may be unpopular with some too!), was because he was honest, well-meaning, straight-forward and open-speaking. He might have had disagreements and difference of opinion, but I don’t think he ever disliked or hated any person. If you needed counsel, he was always by your side, guiding you the right way.

He was very calculative, which is understandable if you could take note of the fact that he had come up the hard way in life, born in a big family of eight siblings, and had to shoulder major responsibility right from the days he started earning. He took care of his sisters so well. Being a railway man with a transferable job, he worked at many places and made a mark wherever he was posted. Because of his transfers, we have had the privilege and oppourtunity of seeing places by visiting him during vacation. I can never forget my visit to Gadag when he took us to the famous heritage site at Hampi and to Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur. Nor could I forget my visit to Guntakal when he gave his scooter for me to learn riding.

He disliked over-spending on anything. He would allocate a budget and operate within that. He would plan ahead and execute on time, every time. He hated lethargy, and would not sit idle for a moment. He would always be doing something, and there would always be something for him to do!

He would keep us mesmerized with stories of his work experience – working day and night in remote inaccessible areas, helping install a statue in a township, taming a union bully, and many such stories. But the most interesting of them all was his own narration of how he kept his steam locomotive ready in prime condition during a top-level inspection. While others had chosen to lavishly decorate their engines and do all sorts of unnecessary things to attract (rather distract) the bosses’ attention, he had kept the steam loco perfectly cleaned, oiled, lubricated, filled up with coal and water, steel parts shining and other parts clean and tidy, ready with full-charge steam to haul a full length of 80 freight wagons. The moment the Board member who was doing the inspection boarded the engine, all Baoji needed to do was to tug the wire to hoot the whistle and start the engine, and explain in his own high-decibel high-enthu style the functioning of the shed and the statistics of its capabilities. The Board member, needless to say, was impressed beyond bounds and awarded the first prize to Baoji’s shed. A steam-loco replica honoring his service at the shed still rests in his house.

He was a man known for his deeds. After retirement and settling in Ambattur, he devoted time to religious activities. His leadership style was very evident when he was elected to head the managing committee of the Sri Raghavendra Swamy mutt. He regularly visited all relatives and kept in good contact with us all. He regularly participated in the Vishnu Sahasranama recitals. During the early stages of his retirement, when Aji was alive, he would visit Kakkalur Anjaneyaswamy temple every Saturday and would bring the prasadam to her, without fail. After her demise, the frequency of his visit to Kakkalur started to decline, but he was without fail making it to the Laksharchana prior to Hanumath Jayanthi. To compensate the declining visits to Kakkalur, he started visiting the Santhana Srinivasan temple every Saturday. I know how genuinely he prayed for the well-being of Preethi and for the safe delivery of Jeevthi. I was so happy that he was there at the hospital when they brought the child out to show her to the world.

We have never seen him unwell, not even suffering a head-ache or fever. For such an energetic and compassionate man to leave us all suddenly without any indication was certainly cruel fate, but everybody who knows him will have a consolation that he died the way he wanted to die – just like that in sleep, without giving any trouble to anyone even in death.

The void created by his departure cannot be filled. He will be missed very dearly by all who knew him and have been with him even for a short span of time. I don’t think there is any necessity for the usual prayer for a soul to rest in peace - for the kind of person he was, for the service he did to his family, his country, his relatives and friends and finally to the society, I am sure his soul will find the most comfortable seat in heaven and start thinking of how to improve that place.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kundugol



At first, I thought they were made of wood and finely polished. Solid mahagony. Though short of height, they were quite wide and had extensive art work done on them. Only when I touched them did I realize that these were pillars of rock so finely chiseled and polished. A real treat for art lovers. So neatly hidden in a temple situated away from the hustle-bustle of farming activity outside.





What I am talking about is the extra-ordinarily crafted pillars in the Sambulingeshwara temple in Kundugol, a remote village some 40 km from Hubli. So remote you don’t feel its existence even from 50 metres on the highway. A sharp left turn on a semi-laid road for about 2-3 km, you reach a village with few houses and suddenly the driver stops in front of a row old, short-walled houses and asks you to proceed through a narrow gap between two houses. The passage runs for about 15 feet and suddenly you are out in the front yard of the beautiful temple.



Even from there, you don’t notice anything special. A normal, low-roof temple building is what you get to see from a distance. Only as you near the temple you get to see the beautiful pillars – so many of them stacked so close to each other, you are in a dilemma which to look first.



We decided to have darshan first. The deity in worship is the small but beautiful Linga in a neat sanctum-sanctorum that has been paved with modern tiles during the last renovation. Just outside the sanctorum is a huge Nandi, again beautifully carved. In this part of the country, it is customary to view the Lord through the horns of the Nandi, as you can see the lady worshipping here.



As you come out to the entrance hall (mantapam) of the temple, you are struck with awe at the numerous pillars, each one different from the other in some respect, so beautifully holding the roof. There is a small hole in two of the pillars, and local people say milk and water used to ooze from those two holes! From where, there is no answer.



The exterior of the temple is again well adorned with exquisite art work out on panels of redstone on all sides, but these, having been exposed to the elements, have not been able to brave the weather like the pillars inside.

On the way out, I noticed that even the exit stairs had an extraordinary yali-trunk railing carved elegantly in white granite. On the whole, though the temple is small and remote, it has etched a permanent place in my mind. Such is the art work there. If you happen to travel to Hubli, please allocate some time to visit this beautiful temple.



Oh, I forgot to mention an important piece of information – the temple is understood to have been built by Chalukyas in the 11th Century – that is right, it is more than one thousand years old! Fortunately, it has escaped the attention of subsequent rulers who had a fetish to destroy such beautiful works of art like they have done in other places.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gol Gumbaz


A visit to Bijapur doesn’t get complete without a visit to the Gol Gumbaz.  More often, that is the purpose of visit to Bijapur for many.  It was as young boy of probably 12 or 13 that I had visited Bijapur the last time, and I did visit the Gol Gumbaz.  Thus, the recent visit rekindled the vague and faded memories of my boyhood when my uncle took us to this wonderful place, which was more than 40 years back.  So it was eagerness that occupied my mind as we set out to visit Gol Gumbaz.  The narrow flights and the dark corridor of the dome was all that remained in my memory, something like what we see in old black-and-white films.

Gol Gumbaz means round dome.  Round dome it is, but what the name doesn’t reveal is that it is a unique monument of its kind and the awe it strikes on the visitor, every time one visits the place.  Built in 1659 by Mohammad Adil Shah II, this dome is raised on a square base, featuring an uncommon structure of interlocking pendentives that, through the eight intersecting arches, connect the square base of the building to the circular platform on which the dome is built.  This is a unique architectural design.  Adding to this feature is the astonishing size of the dome – with a diameter of close to 38 metres, this is easily one of the largest unsupported domes anywhere in the world.   Again, the floor area of over 1,700 square metres is the largest floor area covered under a single dome anywhere in the world.  I wondered how many people are aware of such a magnificent architectural marvel sitting quietly in the small town of Bijapur.

It was cold and windy early in the January morning that we went there.  We were almost the first to arrive.  The entry fee is a pittance.  Once you enter the complex, the dome is what strikes you first with its enormous size.  Only as you near the structure you realise that the building you saw under the dome is actually a different building in front of the dome!  This first building houses the museum.  As you cross the museum and another small half-built building behind it, you get the first real view of the impressive building and the unbelievable dome.  The square building is cut on the corners to make it octagonal, and a narrow stairway is built on the cross sides on all for corners.  A beautiful minaret is built projecting out on all the four corners, its floors serving as balcony for the landings of the seven floors.  The final flight of stairs leads to the open terrace from which you get to see and feel the dome up close. 


The bottom rim of the dome outer is decorated with lotus petal like pattern, eight of which have a small opening that lead you into the dome, where a huge circular platform is built.  The view from here is amazing.  The tombstones of the Adil Shah and his relatives look so small down on the ground floor (the actual graves are in the basement cellar). The platform has a brick parapet with vertical openings.  On the outer walls of the platform, eight benches have been constructed for visitors to sit and marvel at the wonder.  As you step on to the platform, you realise that there are more eerily amazing features to the dome.

The platform is called the whispering gallery and has excellent acoustic properties.  Even the most minute, feeble sound can be distinctly heard at the opposite end.  Thus if you sit on the bench and whisper at the wall, even in your faintest voice, it can be clearly heard on the other side of the platform.  It is said that on a quiet day, even the tick of the wrist-watch can be distinctly heard on the other side some 100 feet away!  Not only that, any loud are sharp sound you create echoes 10 to 12 times and reverberates around the dome several seconds.  The longest recorded here is 26 seconds, again a setting a record for the longest reverberation in a building anywhere in the world.  Though we were the first to arrive, there were people already in – sitting on the bench and reciting Quran in a loud harmonic voice and the recital reverberated so much that it kept ringing in your ears even after they had stopped reciting.


Once you feel, enjoy, take in and absorb the marvel and get out of the building, the fresh, cool and strong morning breeze sweeps you, making the visit all the more pleasant. From here, one gets a good view of the garden below and of the old town of Bijapur.  On the way down and out, I realized that the memories of childhood were painted more with the brush of adventure, as against the brush of informed appreciation of the architectural marvel that our mature brains have become used to as one gets older.




Now, when you visit Bijapur, you still realise that a visit is not complete without a visit to the Gol Gumbaz, but there are more places in and around Bijapur.  Read about the places and make your plan accordingly, but don’t miss Gol Gumbaz, for that is a place one must see and experience.  Few more photos I took there can be seen at www.flickr.com/photos/raghu_ambattur/sets/72157629099093345/

Saturday, April 28, 2012

We don't get to see everyday..

In the hustle of city life, as I was commuting to work I got a fleeting glance of this baby yesterday and remembered to take my camera today. Looks like there is a small demand for donkey's milk, and this one and its mother were tethered on the roadside to catch the needy ones' attention. Having got down off the bike to photograph, I also got a feel of the animal - they are so warm and friendly, want to get petted and don't feel shy of your getting near them. In fact, the young one felt so smooth and silky all over! The owner says people do get attracted by the foal and take time to get off their vehicle, come near and photograph, and I was the nth person to do so! I was glad to hear that.





Monday, April 23, 2012

Rubbing salt to wound!

It was funny.  The baby at home had a minor problem in her belly button, with a small portion of raw flesh jutting out and a moist layer forming on it every day and wearing out by next morning. Surfing the net landed on the problem as umbilical granuloma and several solutions discussed three ways of attacking the problem - mostly by applying silver nitrate, less so by copper sulphate and one by advising soidum chloride (for one week)!  So, there is some truth in the saying rubbing salt to wound - it may irritate, but it also cures!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jeevthi

My first letter to Jeevthi (whenever she is mature enough to read and understand this!)


Jeevthi15

It was a working day for me – Monday, 19th March 2012. Preethi, your mom, was due for a check-up. The due date for your birth had already crossed on 16th March. The investigations revealed that the baby (that is, you) had started positioning itself and delivery could happen any time in the next few days. If there were symptoms or emergency, we were told to get Preethi admitted directly in the labor ward any time. If not, we were to bring her for check-up this day, 19th.

The day started with a different note than usual. Preethi had not slept at all the previous night due to continuous lower back pain and the need to go to the bathroom several times that night. She was wondering if this signaled the start of the labor pain, but was not sure. But from her looks, I thought so and left for office with a second thought running through my mind whether I would be able to be at the hospital at the time of your birth.

Once at the office, work took priority and I got involved and immersed in clearing accumulating work one by one when I got a call from your grandma Vasanthi around 11 am saying that the check-up revealed the baby had positioned itself well for coming out and we could expect the delivery by that evening itself; and, therefore, she had got Preethi admitted immediately. That moment on, my concentration went off the office work and thoughts started revolving around Preethi, whether, being tender and having been brought up that way all through, she would cope up with the strenuous ordeal of delivery.

But Preethi proved us wrong. Fortunately, she and Prasanna had undergone a preparatory guidance programme for expectant parents. Whether or not that course prepared her physically, it certainly had her mentally stable and prepared to take on the delivery very easily in her stride, a fact confirmed by the doctor and attendants that she was doing the right things and cooperating very well in their efforts to have a normal delivery much as possible. By about four in the afternoon, the real contractions had started and we were told that the birth could happen in a couple of hours.

I couldn’t sit in the office any more and left immediately to the hospital, to join the eager crowd waiting there – Prasanna, his parents and my wife. We waited with bated breath for the good news. Emotions were running high in every one of us present there. Praying for a safe delivery, I recited Vishnu Sahasranama and other slokas, though thoughts were straying widely and wildly. Every time the door to the labor ward opened, the would-be grandmothers swarmed the nurse enquiring about their child.

Just a little after 5.45 pm, I saw a nurse carrying a tiny red baby bundled in a towel opening the door and calling my daughter’s name (officially, Sukanya), and announcing the birth of a girl baby (that is, again, you!) and gave the basic details – normal delivery, weight 3.02 kg and time of birth as 5.33 pm. We all jostled our way towards the nurse and in our eagerness to have a close look at you, we even forgot to thank God at that moment, and to congratulate each other! Prasanna, your dad, openly admitted he was so emotional as to feel like crying and we could see for ourselves how he felt so happy to have you and so concerned about your mom going through your birth. You dad’s side had all the more reasons to celebrate – you are the first girl child in their family since Athya, after a gap of almost 75 years!

Before we could register the bably's little details in our minds, you were whisked away. It took a whole three hours and a little more for us to get to see Preethi and you again. Preethi came out walking on her own as if just out of sleep! A nurse brought you out again in a bundle of soft towel. What a joyful time it was to see my baby having matured into a lovely woman and giving birth to her own baby! And doing it in perfect style – no unnecessary panic, no unduly long wait, no worries about any complications, etc. Your mom was so appreciative of you for not causing any difficulty to her, such a sweet, lovely baby you are!

Look who all had come to see you at the hospital – we, your mom’s parents, your dad’s parents, Geethamma, Kaka, Athya, Ramesh Kaka, Murthy Bavoji, your mom's aunt Lakshmi and even Gowri! It was well over 10:30 when all of us - but for your dad and Vasanthi - left for home; they stayed to ensure that you got a room and be by your side for immediate necessities. Priya aunty came the next day and joined you alongside Vasanthi at the hospital to take care of you.

The rest of your stay at the hospital was uneventful except for the high bilirubin count you had, for which they put you on ultra violet radiation for two days, your discharge from the hospital taking that much longer than the usual three days for a normal delivery. We thought that would hurt you, but you seemed to enjoy the warmth of the blue-lit table! Thus, you came to our home at the most auspicious time – Friday evening on Ugadi day, portending good for your and your mom’s health and well being. I will put it the other way – the time you came to our home was the most auspicious time!

May God bless you both (and your dad too) with all things good in life – good health, long life, wisdom, peace of mind and prosperity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Whirlwind

Whirlwind Tour


Not the way to take a holiday, but we had no choice, because my Sammandhi had organized this keeping in mind my interest in photography, for which I am grateful to her. Look at the places we covered in 4 ½ days:

Sundy 22 Jan 12 (9am to 9pm)

1. Sri Venkateswara Temple, Hubli

2. Sri Shirdi Sai Mandir, Hubli

3. Sri Sambulingeshwara Temple, Kundugol

4. Gayatri Devi Mandir, Mundugol

5. Jalasia Bird Sanctuary

6. Jalasia Lake bed

7. Lama Colony (Tibetian Monastery)

8. Glass House/Musical Fountain at Hubli Park

Monday 23 Jan 12 (8am to 11pm)

9. Idugunji Ganesha Temple

10. Murdeshwar (Shiva) Temple

11. Gokarn (Shiva) Temple

Tuesday 24 Jan 12 (8am to 10pm)

12. Sri Amirtheshwar Temple, Annigeri

13. Sri Trikuteshwara Temple, Gadag

14. Jodu Hanumantha Temple, Gadag

15. Sri Veeranarayanaswamy Temple, Gadag

16. Sakambari Temple, Banashankari

17. Badami Caves

18. Mahakuteshwara Temple, Mahakuta, Bagalkot Dt

19. Pattadakkal

20. Aihole

Wednesday 25 Jan 12 (8 am to 11 pm)

21. Golgumbaz, Bijapur

22. Imbrahim Roza, Bijapur

23. Bijapur Market

24. Koodalisangama

25. Alamatti Dam/Park

Thursday 26 Jan 12 (8 am to 12 noon)

26. Onkal Chandramouleeshwar Temple, Hubli

27. Sri Raghavendra Mutt, Hubli

28. Hubli Market

I took some 900-odd photos, out of which about 250 have been selected (it used to be 10% earlier, I am happy the good ones have increased to roughly 30%!), processed and saved in separate albums in my flickr stream. www.flickr.com/photos/raghu_ambattur/sets.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Adventurous Ahobilam

Nature at play

(or Arduous Ahobilam as you deem it fit, depending on your physical fitness!)

Three families joined in this exciting trip to Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh, to visit the nine shrines built at various places around the small town of Ahobilam, some of them quite high in remote places in the Garudadri-Vedadri hills of Nallamala range.

We booked our tickets from Chennai up to Cuddapah and engaged a car and a van to get to Ahobilam which is about 120 km from Cuddapah. 

Our train arrived a tad late at the station at 5 am, and we were able to reach the guest house  (boarding place would be more apt, as there was nothing else at that place) in the Nava Ahobilam complex at around 8 am.  The drive from the station to Ahobilam was fantastic, with the chillness of winter forcing its way even through the closed windows.  Visibility in some stretches was limited to just about 50 meters due to dense fog.  Driving through such conditions reminded me of a quotation I had read somewhere which went something like this  – “life is like travelling on foggy road – you can never see beyond a distance, but you make it to the destination anyway”.   Forgive me if this happens to be a famous quotation and I have made some mistakes in recounting it as it is. 
Misty Dawn
Getting ready seemed to be a difficult task after the night journey.  The group consisted of members as young as 14 to as old as 76, and we took our own sweet time to report to the Ahobila Mutt, where we would be given directions for the two days.  After a quick visit to the Lakshmi Narasimha temple, we had breakfast at the Mutt.  We were advised to first  visit the Pavana Narasimha shrine situated some distance away.  Those were not sure of being able to cover the distance by walk were bundled into a jeep.  The rest of us started our trek from Upper Ahobilam, which is about 3 km from the town, Lower Ahobilam.   The trip to Upper Ahobilam is generally made with your own vehicle.  But the trip to Pavana shrine is done only on the jeep provided by them, because the route is too rough, bumpy and slippery all at the same time.
Slippery slope   Twining stem

From the Ahobila Narasimha shrine at Upper Ahobilam, the path to Pavana is about 7 km, with steep steps for about 2-3 km and very rough footpath for the rest of the distance, both winding their way through the ups and downs of the hills. It looked easy at the beginning, but soon we realised it was not so. Slowly the chillness of the morning vanished and an uncomfortable warmth settled.  There was no air at all and though it looked lush green all around, they all stood still.  May be age was a factor too, as I had visited the same place three years ago, but I did not struggle like this then.  What looked like never ending flight of steps finally ended and rough terrain took its place.  Walking down the hill was enjoyable.  Fortunately, since we went as a group, we were able to forget our pains then and there.  The girls were giggling all the way. The young guide Narasimhan kept entertaining with his singing and dancing of popular Telugu and Tamil film songs.  The ladies had something to talk about all the time.  The energetic of the men went ahead and waited for the rest of the group to join and once the slow trekkers (yes, we had upgraded ourselves) reached them, they started on their fast forward march again. My interest in photography further delayed my already slow walk, and after about two and a half hours, we were able to reach the Pavana Narasimha shrine.  God only knows why He chose his abodes in such desolate places. Presuming He must have had a reason, we quietly worshipped without any complaint. 

Pavana Narasimha shrine

The way back was equally difficult, this time the foot path seemed never ending and we began to wonder when we would reach the steps!  Back to Ahobilam at 4 pm, we had a (very) late lunch and took some rest, before starting for two shrines on level ground, the Yogananda Narasimha shrine and the Chatravata Narasimha shrine, which are at a relatively short distance from Lower Ahobilam. We came back around 7, visited the main temple again and after a light food, went back to our boarding place. As we had to report at the time by 4.30 am for the Dhanur month pooja, all of us set alarm for 3.30 am and stretched ourselves on the bed.  In less than a minute, most of us were already in sound sleep, mine very sound because of my snore.

All of us must have had quite a comfortable and sufficient sleep, because the next morning  I found that for a large group like this, I did not have to hurry anyone up to get ready.  We were there at the temple on the dot.  After a lengthy worship with all the chant of hymns,  songs and prayers as is customary of this period (Dhanur or Margazhi in Tamil) and a good darshan, we ate the delicious prasadam that was given in such ample quantity that we skipped our breakfast at the Mutt and started very energetically  to complete the balance six shrines in one go.

Starting at Upper Ahobilam again, we visited the Ahobila Narasimha shrine and began our trek through boulders, rocks and pebbles strewn by the stream running through towards the Varaha Narasimha shrine.  Though the path was tough, it was not as daunting as the previous day’s climb.  In fact, this was very refreshing, partly due to the early start (7.30 am) and partly due to the combination of stones and water providing a comfortable pressure to our feet.  From there, paved steps and rough path started again.  The oldest lady of the group was carried up hill on a makeshift ‘doli’,  a bedsheet hung like a hammock on a bamboo pole and lifted by men at both ends.  The way to the Jwala Narasimha shrine is very scenic, adventurous and enjoyable.  Water falling off the rocks hanging over the head gives a much needed cool relief. The photographs will stand testimony to the beauty of this place.  More photos can be viewed at my flickr stream, under "Ahobilam 2012" at  www.flickr.com/photos/raghu_ambattur/sets.
Doli
         Shining shower

I had intended to climb the Ugrasthambam, the highest point and a solid vertical rock that rises majestically above the hill tops.   The young members and quite a few of the seniors were willing too.  However, we were told that getting up and down the rock, besides being risky, would also consume enormous time – upwards of two hours at the least – which we could not afford to lose on this day because we had to return on time in order to catch the train at Cuddapah.  My wife was also a little concerned about the difficulty I had in making the trip to Pavana the previous day.  Reluctantly, I renewed my vow to visit Ahobilam the third time sometime in the near future, at least for  climbing this rock.    

Getting down the same path for half the distance and then diverting through another path winding through one of the hills, we reached the Malola Narasimha shrine, a beautiful place that can be seen from the other hill too.  Monkeys at these two shrines are daring enough to snatch things from pilgrims, looking for any eatables.  It is not advisable to carry plastic or flimsy bags, as these can be easily torn by the monkeys when they pull from behind you without your knowledge.

This completed the shrines on the hills and we were left with only two to cover.  The Karanja Narasimha shrine on the road itself, and the Bhargava Narasimha shrine which was about 3 km on another side but which could, again, only be reached through the all-terrain jeeps.  If you have imagined these vehicles I mention are hi-tech, please drop any such idea. These are just high chassis, 4-wheel-drive, old (sorry, very old) jeeps, with tyres balder than the baldest of heads and shining brighter than even the full moon.    The path to both Pavana and Bharghava shrines is so bad that they can’t afford to damage new, even relatively new, vehicles on these routes. The only point worthy of note as far as these vehicles are concerned is the skill of the people who drive them amid the jutting boulders and sinking sand, finding a balance to pass the vehicle over mounds as high as six feet! They seem to drive by gut feel and I wouldn’t be surprised if none of them holds a driving licence.
Difficult down
We were back a little early for lunch than the previous day, at 3pm! Since our visit was comfortably over, we relaxed a little till it was time for us to leave Ahobilam, which we did at around 6 pm with a fully satisfied feeling of two days spent really well after a very long time.  The last time I was here, though it was only end-February, the broken rocks and stones on the footpath were frying hot.  This time around, though the sun is mildly hot just after noon, it was not hot and there was greenery all around. To top it all, the company was good – with people in all age groups, there is scope for broadband chatter and fun.  The best time to visit Ahobilam, I think, is this – between third week of December and second week of January, and with some good company to drive boredom away.  Do make it when you still have the wanderlust.
For more detailed, religious and spot-specific information on Ahobilam, you can visit  http://www.ahobilamutt.org/us/information/visitingahobilam.asp.
Good-bye Ahobilam!