Monday, November 23, 2009

Warangal - Summer 2009

Where shall we go ‘constructively’ was the big question that was haunting my mind that Thursday evening. I had an inkling that there will not be another chance for a trip in India for quite some time to come, the reason which all of you would know by now. I have to thank my roomie, who understood my unstated intent for pushing for the trip and stood by me to make it happen. Had he known me a little lesser, this could just not have happened. Given the time constraint of one day and our serendipity with transport timings (especially the Govt. buses), the distance of the place had to be less than 200 km. After discussion and re-discussions, Warangal came emergent as the winner. Warangal is a ‘big’ town in Andhra Pradesh, NW of Hyderabad and an educational hub boasting of medical and engineering colleges at par.

And so we were on our way to Warangal, early in the morning, in a train, amongst a few other hundred people hustled up in a compartment. And to gain entry into it requires an act of hop, step and jump - Hop around the doors as the train taxies in, step aside for a quick prayer and jump into the train hoping to survive nothing short of a stampede. We were six in number, and two of us managed to 'catch' seats for the all of us in the train. And after the inevitable and innumerable "jaragandi's" we were all set for the four hour journey. As the sun rose, so did the temperature, driving home the geography lessons of yesteryears as regards the climactic conditions of central India. However, when we finally got down at Warangal, our travel instincts took over and we pit-stopped for a breakfast which a normal person would enjoy provided he were blind and had a severe cold. We were neither, but we weren't normal people either ;).

As per our agenda, we decided to pay the Warangal fort a visit right away as it was the closest(10-20 min) to the station. And to this effect we took an autorickshaw which was shockingly economical only to be shocked still when we saw 'the fort'. It actually took us ten minutes to believe that a garden with remnants of a few rock sculptures and a hillock with a 'mandap' was their definition of a fort (not to blame the locals for there was a big fort there in the 12th century). But, if I were to look at it today, I would say we kind of enjoyed it there despite the blazing sun and dehydration. For the serious tourist, you could probably spend around 1-2 hours here but definitely not more. We loafed around the place for about the same time clicking god-knows-how-many pictures. This place is ideal for taking pictures if you planning to upload them to a matrimonial sites (perhaps one of my co-traveler can give you more tips for success in this regard).

Our next destination as expected was lunch (Oh yeah, we guys have voracious appetite esp when we are traveling) at an AC hotel outside of which the hoteliers claimed to sell the best 'crap curry' available in the town. After eating (translate to hogging), we paid the 1000 pillar temple which was close by the precincts of the town. Again, we were stumped by the nomenclature, as there were hardly 10 pillars in the temple that we counted and re-counted just in case. And then we realized, since we Indians invented zero, we had the privilege of using them a couple of extra times as per our liking. Finally, the mystery unraveled when we overheard a guide stating that there were thousand vertical edges in the temple structure, the carvings on which made it look like a pillar. As is the tradition, we snapped (my patented contextual verb) a few pictures and went our way to our final destination - the Ramappa temple.

Having grown wiser with the experience of our morning, we weren't anticipating what was told to us about one of the largest temple almost 900 years old. Again for the serious tourist: this temple is quite on the outskirts of Warangal and it would be worth your while to engage your own transport. We again took a 'share auto' (a unique Indian way of commuting in regions of sparse transport facilities) to the temple and were warned adequately by the auto driver that we won't readily find transport back to the city( the temple is a good two hour drive away). As is the case with most foolhardy youth (which I still am), the spirit of revolt took over us and we decided to comfortably discredit his opinion.

When we reached the temple, I was literally left speechless about the absolute magnitude of the temple. It was just colossal and magnificient! We were fooled yet again - everything that we heard about the temple fell way too short for what it should be credited for. If you are any interested in olden-day architecture or photography (I was in for both), this is the place to be. It doesn't have the glamour of the Meenakshi amman temple at Madurai, but it is no less magnificient all the same. Believe me, I have taken a handful of my pictures of the year at this place. A note for those who are interested in spirituality - you might have a totally different reason to visit the place altogether, I assure you that it would be worth your while.

We spent a magical 4 hours at this place and lazed around the temple and had fun to our fill until the dusk embraced us. I might sound poetic now, but on that day, little did we realize that we were microns away from being forced to spend the night under the open sky in this almost desolate location with our primeval evolutionary ancestors for company. We reached the bus stop (a road-side clearing with a couple of tea-shops) at around 7 hoping to catch the bus that luckily for us (we were told then) was late and was still awaited. After waiting for an hour, we were again told that the bus had a decreasing probability of coming given that it was late by two hours. And while we waited for the bus, another version of information reached us stating the bus might not turn up at all. That was it! Now we were getting more anxious and the vada's (I'm sure they were a day old on the very least) that was un-hygienic a short while ago seemed more lucrative now. We started gobbling up whatever we could find and between our lamentations about the Indian bus services managed to polish off whatever was left of the leftovers of whenever-that-was-made. We even tried to negotiate a deal with a jeep that apparently popped out of no-where, but the driver's ploy to hike the tariff on a per minute basis acted as a deterrent to that end. And so there we were, the six of us, swearing off our damned luck in a language which (hence, I'm not including in here) I'm sure would not be understood in the domestic circles.
Soon enough we could see that the two elderly folks, the only shop-residents, who were clearly new to seeing 9 PM were our only company and who more due to suspicion than graciousness let the candles(I don't really remember if we had electricity there) burning for us. As the time for the last bus went past, we were so thoroughly anxious that we even considered walking our way back in the dead of the night(7 km) and hitchhike our way back to Warangal. If you think darkness is scary, imagine darkness with primate hands groping all around you! Just when I was mentally preparing for a 'night-out' there, a bus came around saving us from further extrapolation of our sundown adventures.

Clearly, our adventure would not be of much interest to my readers, but I do have to make justice to our trip by including the above narrative. For, after-all, this blog is as much for me as for my readers and it might as well be a refresher for our trip a few years down the lane. That said, I hope not to have shrugged off prospective visitors from making this choice of trip - This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've visited as a traveler. On a parting note, I would highly recommend this trip to be taken with your own transport facilities for you to enjoy unrestrained by the faculty of time.

Facts and Figures:

Duration: 1 day for the entire trip
Transportation mode: Hiring a cab right from Hyderabad would be highly recommended
Cost: Cannot probably give you an estimate as we traveled by public transport which was ridiculously inexpensive.
Season: Non-summer, Non rainy days - Probably Feb/March might be a good time.
Comments: If you chose to visit Ramappa temple by public transport, please do so early out in the day.