Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shimoga - The Southern End of Ashokan Empire

Badra Dam
Before going further let me tell you something about Shimoga’s history.


Shimoga (aka Shivamogga) is the head quarters of Shimoga district and located on the banks of Tunga River in Karnataka. According to some historians this district is probably the southern end of Ashoka's Maurayn Empire.

Shimoga saw the reign of many kings and dynasties like Kadambas (4th century), Chalukyas (6th century), Gangas, Rashtrakutas (8th century), Hoysalas (11th century), Vijayanagara (15th century), Kheldi Nayakas (Shivappa Nayaka is considered as the prominent of Kheldi Nayakas) and then the region came under Mysore kings, and later in 1947 integrated with Union Of India.

Coming to the City

After a long journey from Sagar, bus reached Shimoga bus stand. Here both private and KSRTC terminals are close to each other. My first job was to find Durga hotel, where I am planning to spend the night. With a map in hand, it was not a difficult task. After having bath, I left the room to roam around. After walking for a while, I suddenly remembered about Shivappa Nayaka Palace.  Why don’t go there? Well this time, map didn’t prove much useful. I went through the road following the map, but the palace was nowhere in sight.
After checking with a lot of people and walking for half an hour I reached in front of palace gate - only to see the locks. I checked my watch once again - it’s not even 5 ‘o’ clock (and Saturday is not a holiday for ASI museums). Then why? I was told to come again on next day.

Slowly I started walking back to the main road. Music was coming from various Ganesh idols planted close to the roads; people from Jain community were assembled in a building and various cultural programs were going on there; in between I saw a small road going towards the river. People were sitting on the banks and engaged in fishing; couple of minutes there as well.

As per the plan, in next day morning I went to private bus terminal to catch a bus to Badra River Project. Here I met Sahil. He is from Lakkavalli and working at a shop in Shimoga. In fact he missed the last bus in previous night and now waiting for this one to go home. We waited there for another 15 minutes. On the way to Badra dam we talked about various things, about Shimoga, Badra, Tunga, Bangalore, Baba Budan Range, Chikmanaglore, Kuvempu University etc.  After a while we reach in front of his college and university – Kuvembu University. Some more minutes to reach Badra Reservoir...

Badra Reservoir

Bhadra River originates from Gangamoola near Kudremukha - located in beautiful Western Ghats. Various tributaries will join the river before it reaches Lakkavalli. A big dam is built in Lakhavalli forming a huge reservoir behind it. From Lakhanvalli river continues her journey and cross Bhadravathi city. In Koodli she will shed her identity and join with Tunga to form Tungabhadra. Tungabadra will later join with Krishna (close to Alampur near Kurnool, Andra Pradesh) and finally find salvation in Bay of Bengal.

One can see the dam from road itself. I opened the rusted gates slowly and walked in. White water was coming out of dam’s two slightly opened crest gates. After checking with security guard, I took the steps on my right to reach the top - only to see another closed gate. There was a small opening, covered by bushes and trees. I walked slowly through that slippery path, which led me right in to the waters. From there, I could see various small islands popping their head out of the water; painted their body in green colour. At one end, there was a small bridge connecting an island to mainland.

Gate was opened for visitors by the time I came back. I had to put the camera inside as the visitors were not allowed to take photos. The reality is, a lot of people were taking  photos using mobile phones (which were stopped later by the guards). I don’t understand this concept. Now-a-days cameras on many high end phones are comparable to that of entry level DSLRs. Moreover, all these information is available through net – Google earth etc. Then why authorities want to restrict only cameras?

I walked to the other side, curiously looking at the mapping instrument, mechanism to open the crest gate, crest gate etc. The second one is mammoth equipment imported from Germany!!! On the other side, pure water drops in white colour is jumping out of the slightly opened crest gates and touching the ground.
After spending some more time on the top I left for Shimoga. Interestingly, I got the same bus I came in.

Tunga – Badra Sangam at Kudli

My next destination was Tunga – Badra sangam at Kodli. From Shimoga stand I got a bus, which is passing around 2km away from Koodli (15 INR from Shimoga stand). After a while, I got down at the stop and started walking through that old and tired road dotted with holes. Here I met Sheik. He is in his early teens, dropped from school and working in a shop in the city. He was good in Hindi; I would rather say Urdu. Both sides of road were devoid of any human presence.

Talking about various things – Koodli, Shimoga, Gulf countries etc - we walked forward. When we reached his village, he showed me the way to go forward and ran to his hom for late lunch. Pot holed road gave her way to concrete ones. Soon after crossing the famous Sangameshwara Temple I reached the Sangam.
Some 15-20 people were either standing or sitting in the steps. After removing the shoes, I went in. A family was doing some poojas for salvation of their forefathers. I walked towards the tip and looked straight to the Sangam. Tunga River on my left; Badra on my right; joining at this point and forming Tungabadra in front of me and then flowing away in search of salvation, carrying the prayers of many others.

After a while I left the Sangam and went in an auto (which later proved a costly mistake) to bus stop.

Tunga Dam (aka Gajanur Dam)

Gajanur Dam is located some 14kms away on the sides of Shimoga-Thirthahalli road.
Buses to Tunga Dam start from a bus stop close to the stand. I went there and boarded a bus. After a while bus took a sudden right turn and moved to a small road. That road was so small that, branches of trees from both side were sometimes blocking the way.

What if any vehicle came in opposite direction? Forget about another bus, there was not enough space even for an auto. It looked more like a wild elephant running through a sugarcane plantation. Not a single bus came opposite to us. Would I stick in Gajanur for the whole night?

In this journey I met Somashekhar. He studies in a school close to dam. He explained me that, it’s a short cut to reach Tunga quickly!!! I didn’t think we were running late, then why on earth a private bus want to take a shortcut reach the destination?

After a while we got down at Tunga river project. This dam is still under construction. With 16 crest gates this dam structure is big compared to just 4 gates of Badra. However the reservoir formed by Tunga is much smaller than that of Badra.

By the way ‘Sakrebailu’ elephant camp is located on the next stop. If you get time don’t forget to go there.
Somashekhar and I undertook a long walk to get a full view of Tunga Dam; finally we got a view point. I felt like he was also reaching that point for the first time.

After spending some more time there, I told good bye to Somashakhar and boarded a bus back to Shimoga. By the time I reached the city, colour of western horizon change from Orange Red to whitish black.

Mysore Pak

Shimoga is also famous for ‘Mysore Paks’. Earlier Sahil asked me to try in ‘Venkateshwara Sweet House’ for sweets. It took a while for me to find it out. They gave me a very hot piece as sample. It was really good, one of the best piece I ever had. After buying sweets and having ‘Pani-Poori’, ‘Masala-Poori’ and ‘Masala Dosa’ on the way to bus stand; I finally sat in a chair waiting for my bus to come in.


How to reach?

By Road
NH 206 connects Bangalore with Shivamogga (274km). This road passes through Tumkur, Arsikere, Banavara, Kadur, Birur, Tarikere, and Bhadravathi. KSRTC operates a lot of services in this route.
Shimoga is accessible from Sringeri, Dharmastala, Hubli, Agumbe as well.

By Rail
Shimoga is connected to Bangalore and Mysore directly. For those who come from other states try nearby rail junctions like Birur Jn etc.

By Air
Shimoga airport is still under construction. Try Bangalore airport and take a bus or train.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jog Falls – A day on the banks of Sharavati

From View Point

“Which is the biggest water fall in India?”
“Jog is on which river?”
“Hmmm... Sharavati”

When I was in school, these questions used to appear in history question paper or asked in quiz programs (People now consider ‘Nohkalikai Falls’ of Meghalaya as the tallest plunge waterfall in India).

My journey to Jog was postponed multiple times due to unprecedented heavy rain falls in Western Ghats during the beginning of this monsoon. Because of this I missed a chance to get a glimpse of Jog during those precious months when Sharavati furiously falls in to those gorges. On the other side, because of the same reason, I was able to go all the way to the bottom. If the amount of water is high, then one need to view Jog from a distance.

It was a Friday night; I boarded a BMTC bus to KSRTC’s Magestic bus stand in Bangalore. Traffic was very heavy- travelling each kilometer felt like an eternal wait for the next world. I reached majestic in time and boarded the bus to Jog. After a while, conductor came and verified tickets from a couple of people sitting behind me – interestingly neither he asked me nor did I give my tickets to him. After a while, I got call from an unknown number. I attended the call nothing was audible. After couple of minutes, I got another call from the same number, this time I was not even able to pick that call.

Finally bus started moving, her wipers were working non-stop to clear water from the front glass. Conductor came back and started verifying tickets from all. This time he saw my ticket, hold it for some time, look towards me and told “we called you twice, but you were disconnecting the calls’!!!

Rain was gaining strength.

From Majestic, you will get a lot of buses to Shimoga and some to Sagara as well. However there are only one or two KSRTC buses directly Jog (from Bangalore). In case you are travelling in train you can get down at Shimoga, Sagara, Talaguppa (this one is the closest) and catch a bus.
Close to morning we reached Shimoga, and then Jog. I got down at a stop close to Jog view point. From bus stop view point is hardly 2-3 minutes away. After paying 5 INR for entry (no separate charge for camera) I walked towards the view point. 

Close up

In front of me Sharavati was falling down to great depths, forming one of the biggest waterfalls in India. It was like, a name which I saw only in school text books acquired flesh and blood and standing in front of me. The sad point was, amount of water falling down looked like a skeleton of what it supposed to be. It looked like a poverty stricken kid who was eating only twice in a day for the past three years.

Problem here is the dams, which controls the water flow to the river. In short, if shutters are down then there won’t be much water to fall down in the first place. Moreover, other than monsoon there aren’t many factors which compels the authorities to open the dam.

At this point, waters from Sharavati are falling down to a depth of 290m (or 960ft) in the form of four distinct segments called - Raja, Roarer (which meets Raja on its way down), Rocket and Rani. One can reach the bottom of these falls using steps – 1389 or so – built by authorities. During early monsoons, when Jog is on its majestic shape, this path will be closed.

Here I met a guy called Mathew. He is originally from Thrissur district of Kerala and works here as a guide cum driver for tourists. Along with him, in his taxi, I went to see the power station, Dam, Rani, Raja, Rocket and Roarer falls more closely. After a while we came back and he dropped me at Jog view point.

With Mathew on the way to another view point

Next step was walking to the bottom of the falls through labyrinths of steps, that also with a backpack. People – even the very young and kids coming opposite to me– were struggling to climb the steps. It took a lot of time for me to reach the bottom.

After the steps, it’s river plane. A lot of boulders were blocking the way to go further close to the falls. I walked and jumped over many of them to get a better view.

960ft long gigantic wall was standing on my both sides; water was falling down from the top of it in an animated fashion. That sound and various other sounds produced by river were indeed music to ears. However, other than water, a number of common trees and a group of fearless butterflies there was nothing much to say about flora or fauna. I tried to walk closer to the falls over those slippery boulders and finally sat down over a rock on the river level to see the falls.
I don’t remember how much time I sat there. Finally it was time to leave Jog, hence woke up and turned around. The next thing I remember is waking up from water. Camera was on my one hand, and phone fortunately inside a sealed hand bag. I did the only thing I can do – remove the droplets from it as fast as possible.

Various segments of Jog - from different view points
Finally it’s the time to go up. After seeing the big backpack one guy even wished me good luck. It was really a hard and tiresome journey... At some points numbers of steps are engraved on the stone, to encourage or to discourage? I was completely drenched in sweat by the time I reached the top.

Suddenly two police personal called me from a nearby outpost located close to the view point. They opened my backpack and checked all the items.

“From where you are coming?” (Question was in Kannada)

I didn’t get the meaning at first; second one repeated the question - “From where you are coming?” (in Kannada itself).

I simply told them “Kannada gothilva” (I don’t know Kannada)
By this time I made it out what they were asking, they repeated the question again in English – 

“You are from Bangalore and don’t know Kannada?”
Well for a moment I cursed myself. I could have say – ‘Kerala’ - and there won’t be any unnecessary comments.

In fact what happened was, they saw me sweating and panting that too in an early morning. So they were very much eager to know how I reached there? After hearing that I am coming from the bottom of falls there were no further questions.

Me in Jog

After standing idle in the bus stop for half an hour I got a local bus to Shimoga. My plan was to get down at Sagara and visit ‘Sigandur Chowdeshwari Temple’ if time permits; otherwise go straight to Shimoga. However the bus went very slow, stopping every now and then till I reach 

Jog – Sagar – Shimoga bus route pass through some scenic areas. Light rain added a different flavour to those agri fields and forests.


How to Reach Jog?

By Train:
Talaguppa station (closest one)
Sagar (SRF): For Sagar 30 km

By Bus:
Direct KSRTC buses are available to Jog from Bangalore etc.
Alternately you can take a bus to Shimoga/ Sagara and collect another one to Jog from there.

By Air:
Hubli Domestic Airport (HBX) 130 km.
Mangalore Domestic  Airport (IXE): 200 km
Bengaluru International Airport(BLR): 340 km

Goa International Airport(GOI): 246 km

1391 Steps? 

This is not a tree

Is this a picture?

Eternal Beauty

Pure water

On the way to Sagara - Captured from a running bus

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Daudia Khera: GoI is forgetting her dreams and chasing delusions

The very idea of ASI conducting surveys and excavations were always interesting for me. That type of work requires extreme patience and dedication over a long period of time to complete. They really did a good job in restoring historical sites (Hampi, Sanchi etc). However, some recent developments in ‘Daudia Khera’ village are not at all encouraging.

For those who are not yet familiar with the sequence of events unravelling in this small village, located on the banks of Ganga, let me explain it briefly. All started with the dream of an 65 year old ‘Shobhan Sarkar’, who has a large local following. According to him he got "a divine intervention" that there is a deposit of 1000 tonne gold under the remains of an old fort. Interestingly it didn’t stop there. According to reports, intervention by a cabinet minister made ASI to start digging the area for gold!!!

By the way, in Google maps that place is already marked as '1000 tonne gold spot'!!!

Question is not only about the validity of claim, but also about the way our administration works. Frankly speaking, I don’t see any possibility for 1000 tonnes of gold to be there. According to a report by Business Standard in August, total amount of gold currently with GoI is 557.7 tonnes only!!!

Now look at the situation in hand. Someone made a claim, and government jumped into the bandwagon for the reasons best known to them; and ASI became ready to spend its time and effort in it!!!

Interestingly government press release says nothing about the dream of Mr Sarkar. It says, ...Report of the preliminary investigations of GSI was received from the Ministry of Mines on 8th October, 2013 (the GSI report mentions “this prominent non-magnetic anomalous zone occurring at 5-20 m depth indicative of possible non conducting, metallic contents and/or some alloys, etc...”)...On the basis of GSI report it was decided by ASI to undertake excavations at the site to try to unearth and determine the nature of the reported deposits...”

Is this the way we want our government to function? Is this the way we want our ASI and GSI to function? Tomorrow someone else can have a dream, will ASI repeats the same procedures there as well.



1. A Spirit Moves India to Launch a Treasure Hunt - WSJ
2. Proposed Archaeological Excavation at Sangrampur (Daundia Khera), District Unnao, Uttar Pradesh.  - GoI

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Paradise Lost Two: India – 2007 – 2013

When UPA-I came to power with the baggage of anti-market idealists, people naturally expected that it may not be easy for the new government to introduce critical reforms. However an event at the end of that term – Indo-US – nuclear deal created hope. UPA-I even went to the extent of dumping their critical allies – left groups – for saving the deal. Agreement was passed by parliament.

Riding on top of the fresh energy accumulated from this fight, popular National Rural Employment Guarantee Yojana and weakness of opposition UPA came back to Delhi with more fire power. This time expectations were high - reformer Manmohan Singh is heading the government, Left groups are almost down and out, Congress can easily assemble the required numbers...

But financial crisis of 2008 and huge scams fundamentally altered the equations.

India walked out of 2008 crisis somewhat happily (but it displayed the cracks in the system). We even maintained the pre-crisis growth rates when other parts of the world were shrinking. Indians in a way became over-confident and even started thinking about moving ahead of US, Germany, China and dreaming about a super power position. Politicians gave big statements to media and public (without much action on the ground).

Then we saw the worms coming out of the closet – telecom, PDS, Adarsh, Irrigation, common wealth games, coal, Taj corridor, Iron ore and many more – which shook the conscious of general public and they lost faith (if anything remained in the first place) on bureaucracy. Amount of money involved in these deals are so high that it is difficult to write it down in a paper. Can you tell me, in five seconds, how many zeros are there in 1.4 lakh crore rupees?

From that point onwards it became difficult to tell which one is faster – Indian administration or snail? In many cases they failed to take any decision at all. Situation was (and still is) so bad that, whatever decision they take people started smelling something wrong in it.

One biggest problem happened in this era was (and still is) the loss of Parliament’s primary. Lawmakers were more engaged in walking out than walking in. They hardly spoke about something which made sense; attendance came down; there was hardly any debate; in case there was any, it may have little to do with the issue in hand.

Is this the way parliament functioning in other countries? I recently viewed discussions on England’s House of Commons on YouTube. Even in the Australian parliament – during the famous (or rather infamous) reply from then Prime Minister Julia Gillard to then Leader of Opposition Tony Abbott. That speech was so damning for Abbott. Still I didn’t see any kind of fight club formed there; no one went close to speaker’s seat shouting nonsense on top of their voice!!! Standards are good in US Senate and House of Representatives as well. Now you may have some examples where functioning of parliament is worse than us. Let me remained you that we are looking forward not backward.

It is interesting to know that, we became more sensitive (or over-sensitive!!!) during this period. Our religious belief became so fragile that, it can’t withstand any criticism at all. Debates are often reduced to game, where contestants are looking for – who talks louder and non-stop?

Other problem came up during this period is the extra-heavy focus on vote bank politics. Both media and political parties started calculating their chances based on the total number of people belonging to a particular caste/ religion in that area. In Karnataka, UP, Bihar etc political parties decides candidates based on these numbers. Often it has nothing to do with the capability contestants or the idea they are representing. What more now a day’s various media houses are conducting election sample surveys based on how people from a particular community is most likely to vote.

People lost interest in politics; they may look to the statements of probably finance minister and (or) Prime Minister (and now RBI governor as well) to decide on which sector to invest. Slowly but steadily there is a feeling rising among middle class – politics doesn’t matter!!! I really don’t know when they will realize the foolishness of that idea.

GoI churn out laws which often turned out to be more restrictive as well as retrospective. In one shot government changed the legal framework not only for the future but for past as well. Financial departments of foreign companies often find themselves sitting on top of a 11kW line. The case in point is Vodafone.

All of sudden GoI woke up about the role of Mauritius in FDI coming to India. Who (even in the government) don’t know that, foreign funds and companies are routing money through Mauritius in order to save tax? Nothing happened all of a sudden.

It is true that there are many companies running like ghosts across India in search of thousands of acres of continuous land. GoI can hardly do anything there, we are neither living in China where government can allocate land overnight and face no serious threat nor we are in Australia were a lot of empty is space is available. Most iron ore deposits are covered by pristine forests and others are in populated areas. I don’t expect government can bring radical changes overnight, but that’s not the case with reforms in retail or defence.

What more? Even implementing GST is proving to be a herculean task. This framework is still not acceptable to a good number of states even after adding all the waters from Arabian Sea.
This lack of courage is even visible in implementing strict financial principles. Most of the government run programs are suffering heavy leaks, cost overrun and(or) time overrun.

It was not that GoI couldn’t do something, but financial prudence and rationality is often overridden by the desire to achieve popularity and votes not matter whether that policy is aligned with the best interests of the nation.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thouand Educational Channels from HRD ministry? Why?

This press release from HRD Ministry is indeed mind blowing. Ministry want to open 50 new educational DTH channels!!!

According to the press release, "HRD Ministry will soon launch 50 DTH educational channels... stated by the Secretary (HE)... channels will be different from the existing programmes on air including Gyan Darshan as new one will be more interactive... air programmes which will be live and not pre recorded... new initiatives will be one of the largest anywhere in the world of its kind... number of the channels will be increased to one thousand... has spent more than one billion dollars for ICT. Over 400 universities and twenty thousand colleges have been linked with bandwidth..."

I don't know what they are planning to do with 50 new channels. Problem with existing educational channels are neither they are up to the mark nor much interesting. I watched Gyan Darshan somewhat regularly in the past, which led me to wonder what they are planning to achieve by that?

If universities or government don’t have good quality contents then there is no point in launching thousand channels. We are not competing for some Guinness world record contest in total number of educational channels available in India.

Let me ask the ministry, do they have any idea about the popularity of Gyan Darshan itself? Why don’t they do something to improve the programs there? Government want to spend more money in ICT infrastructure? Fine; want to increase the bandwidth available for schools? Fine; want to increase computer literacy? Fine; but don’t immerse us in below average content transmitted over wonderful infrastructure like EDUSAT.

Ministry officials need to see National Geographic, History channel etc for a day and understand what is meant by quality. What about YouTube? Many Indian universities already have presence there. For e.g. youtube channel ‘NPTEL’ run by IIT Madras. Moreover YouTube may soon available in TV sets as well. Why don’t use those facilities?

Bring talented professionals from art-movie sector; bring in private sector; create a network of selected teachers to create/ assist in creating contents; and popularize it among the students. We don’t need thousand channels; 5-10 channels with quality content can serve our purpose.

Also remember that channels needs to be the output of creative process not the one to be mass manufactured by HRD ministry.



1.       Ministry of HRD, GoI.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Developing Diesel Engines in India

Finally Maruti (MSIL) is planning to do what it supposed to do decades back - manufacturing engines.

According to ET report, "Maruti Suzuki is exploring...plan to build its own family of diesel engines, to power vehicles across segments. So far, Maruti has been relying on Italian carmaker Fiats 1-3 multi-jet-diesel engines...diesel engines will be developed with key inputs from its Indian subsidiary's R&D... at Rohtak in Haryana”.

It’s already late for Indian companies to focus on critical technology sectors like engine etc.

The problem is Maruthi is currently a subsidiary of Suzuki, so to what extend that engine will be developed in India is yet to see.



1. Maruti Suzuki exploring plan to build its own family of diesel engines - ET

Monday, October 7, 2013

M-Blocks from MIT

Anyone heard about the theory of colonising planets using self duplicating robots? In short, program and equip robots with capabilities for mining and manufacturing; sent them to other planets; in this new planet they will mine for ores, convert them to metals and manufacture new robots with same or better capabilities; then send the new ones to other planets; and the process will continue.

This may look an unrealistic fantasy story. Indeed it is. But many radical path breaking discoveries emerged first as unrealistic fantasies.


MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) scientists came up with cube shaped robots (known as M-Blocks) that can "flip, jump and assemble themselves into different shapes".

According to a BBC report, "M-Blocks are currently controlled by computer instructions sent over wireless radio, but in future the researchers hope algorithms can be loaded on the blocks directly, making them entirely autonomous and capable of adapting to different environments".

MIT document describes M-Blocks as, "the robots are cubes with no external moving to climb over and around one another, leap through the air, roll across the ground, and even move while suspended upside down from metallic surfaces.

Inside each M-Block is a flywheel that can reach speeds of 20,000 RPM; when the flywheel is braked, it imparts its angular momentum to the cube. On each edge of an M-Block, and on every face, are cleverly arranged permanent magnets that allow any two cubes to attach to each other."

With these discoveries we may add one more step in the direction of self assembling bridges, new ways of doing critical surgeries etc.


For more details, Read

1. Surprisingly simple scheme for self-assembling robots - MIT
2. 'Terminator' self-assembling cube robots revealed by MIT – BBC