The distance from Sagar to Thirthahalli is about eighty kilometers and we could have reached Thirthahalli before nine the previous night if we had not stopped at Sagar. But I had expected the route to be pleasant and picturesque, and so, had decided to stay at Sagar and resume the journey in the morning. Moreover we had stayed at the same hotel (Varadashree) at Sagar on our trip to Jogfalls few months back and my son had found the ‘Uddinavade’ (spiced urad dal batter, deep fried in the shape of a donut - also known as ‘meduvada’ - Tarla dalaal’s decsription) served for breakfast to be very tasty and crispy and that it was accompanied by quite a good ‘Sambaar’ (Dal and vegetable curry). It is not usual to find such ‘Uddinavades’ these days and he hoped that he may be able to get it once again.
Talking about eatables, remember that I mentioned the name 'Hayagreeva' in my previous post? The name of Lord Vishnu when in the form of a horse? Well Hayagreeva is also the name of a very tasty sweet dish prepared using Chanadal, grated dry coconut, poppy seeds and jaggery. It is supposed to be the signature dish of Madhwa Brahmins and is usually part of the offerings to the lord (called 'Naivedya') at Sodhe mutt. Almost always it is on the menu for lunch at the mutt. During the jackfruit season one may enjoy a very tasty Sambaar of locally grown tender jackfruit followed by Hayagreeva. Heavenly! If you can forget your cholesterol, blend a dollop of ghee with Hayagreeva and experience bliss! Lunch is served early at Sodhe. We went there late this time and missed saint Vadirajas blessings in the form of this gastronomic bliss. This Hayagreeva, I believe, has its origins in the cooked grams Sri Vadiraja used to offer to lord Vishnu. But let me not keep going off track and get along to day two.
The night halt at Sagar scored on both counts. Both the Uddinavade and the route to Thirthahalli were enjoyable.
We reached Thirthahalli by ten in the morning and it was not difficult to locate the house of Sri Krishnaswamy, who had kindly offered to host us. I had heard that Thirthahalli is surrounded by many places worth visiting, all of them close by, beautiful and calm. We found this to be very true. But the town ship itself was not as I had imagined. In my imagination it was a sleepy, clean and quiet place with well spread out old houses. It was anything but that. Thirthahalli is a dusty and congested township with very narrow streets and a very busy main road polluted with smoke and dust. The main road runs across the town not different from many such small towns in the state.
After we had our lunch and rested for a while we decided to visit a nearby hill, called ‘Kundadri’, a single rock hill which provides a panoramic view of the Sahyadri range all around. I was told that we could drive almost to the top of the hill and reach the pinnacle by climbing some steps from there. My son saw the hill from a distance and offered to take over the wheel but I wanted to show that I was not scared of hills. I refused his offer and continued to drive. As we climbed higher and higher the road went steeper and narrower and my heart started beating faster and faster. With every U turn, which I was negotiating in first gear, the gradient increased and I was worried as I had no lower gear to resort to if it got worse. I was ready to accept the loss of face and hand over the control to my son but it was difficult to even stop and change hands. Fortunately the climb ended before my heart exploded. I stopped the car and got out thankfully. I had proved my driving skills and had saved my face but at a considerable cost to my heart.
Kundadri has a Jain temple at the top and a pond, which I believe, never dries up. Plenty of fish in the pond. There was an exhilarating view all around and we spent an hour there enjoying the sights.
On our way down we encountered another car that was climbing up and I thanked god that I did not find one coming down when I was struggling to go up.
Midway between Thirthahalli and Kundadri is a place called Bheemana katte where one can approach the Tunga river and also find a small stretch of river beach of white sand. One of the Pandava brothers Bheema, is said to have constructed a bathing platform there overnight, for his wife Draupadi, using huge boulders and hence the name Bheemana Katte ( A ‘katte’ in Kannada is a platform). We did find a platform there, concrete and tiled, built not by Bheema but by the Karnataka PWD. You may contest the name and call it PWD katte but it will not lessen the beauty and serenity of the place. The place was very peaceful and there was no one around except the four of us. No wonder Pandavaas had selected this to be one of the places to stay during their Agnaatavaasa (Stay incognito as per their agreement with Kauravas).
We stayed there for sometime enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and the gentle sound of the flowing water. It was getting dark and getting difficult to see clearly the individual members of the school of small fish, moving in the shallow water near the shore.
We reluctantly turned back from Bheemana katte and headed home to enjoy the hospitality of Sri Krishnaswamy and family.