We started in the morning, stopping at the several locations to pick up the people joing this trip. The kids all excited and peals of laughter in the air. Greeting and teasing children and adults alike. Every one like true Indians were loaded with food and more food. After an hours journey we reached a dhaba and our bus pulled into the parking lot. The deserted dhaba all of a sudden sprung into activity only to realise all we need were tables and few chairs for the senior members in the group. They provided and watched while all the kanadiga's enjoyed food brought from home. If we had a way we would carry even pots and pans thats the way it is here. We took care not to litter the place and was happy no one not even the kids needed to be told. Infact it was the teenagers in the group who went around with a garbage bag to collect the waste from all 42 people. The breakfast consisted of Chapati and potato sagu, mixtures, mysore pak and kesar burfi. It was not my type of breakfast so I just took a little bit. Then there were couple of rounds of bisi-bisi /hot hot filter coffee that was carefully packed in huge thermoware and served in paper cups.
Our first destination was Ghati Subramanya, after darshan we proceeded to Vidur Aswathpur. The ride in the little ghats was like a rollercoaster . Vidur Aswathpur is a small place of great importance. It is here that Vidur from the Mahabharat did penance in the Dwapar Yug. There is a peepal tree still alive here that is famed to have been planted by Vidur himself.
In the late afternoon we proceeded towards Bagepalli taluk, just across the Karnataka border into Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh. It is a small town of Gadidam with a big Lakshmi Venkateshwara Temple. The kids jumped out of the bus as we reached there and started their game of cricket while the adults settled down for the day.
That evening was a precursor of the next day's celebrations. We gathered in the temple sabha mandap and two under twelve boys sang devotional songs and stotra. Their voices echoed in the temple and its surroundings. Encouraged by the response of the audience recieved by the children a lady immediately grabed the mike and started singing some song in here nasal tone. I prefered to take a walk instead in the huge courtyard, watching the moon move slowly in the pitch dark sky and the monkeys chattering away. It was so intense to see many monkey babies clutching the mothers as they were disturbed by us, so many people descending onto this temple that does not get many visitors.
Dinner was served at 8.30 pm, consisting of rasam and rice but after a tiring day even that was welcome. It was prepared by cooks who had been brought along with us. I then went and sat with the group of villagers singing folk style devotional songs while one of them held the rythm on the Daf. After a long time I was feeling so relaxed. I distributed the chivda and Dharwad peda I had got along to all those who wanted a post dinner snack. After Shata-pavale most of us retired to our shared rooms in the dharmashala. They were clean but spartan and it was time to sleep on the satranji, a cotton mat, ideal for a warm night.
Next Morning the day began with a rush to the bathroom to get ready for the morning Abhishek. I took a picture of this and then I ran out off charged cells. So its sad I do not have pictures of the Garudotsav. After the Abhishek the breakfast was served. Everyone stuffed themselves like they would not get food for the next few years. Hot idlis, kesari bhat, medu vadas because it was going to be late for lunch.
Then started the Garudotsav, I was participating in it for the first time. A chariot was decorated elaborately with fresh flowers. It was a riot of colors, smells ruling my senses. Then one by one the men were invited and the host put a garland around their neck to bless and honor them. The garlanded men took turn to pull the chariot around the temple while the women followed behind the chariot with flowers and chamar. The whole ritual took me into a world I had never experienced before. I felt like I was part of the documentaries aired on National geographic.
After 11 pradakshina, holy circumventing the chariots stopped in front of the temple. Then all went in to the sabha mandap to celebrate the wedding of Lord Venkateshwara. That was then followed by a noisy music performance. This performer is from Mysore, as he sings in his high pitched voice he displays a couple of thousand photographs of various gods and especially Krishna. I for one don't understand Kannada that much and got a headache with the noise yet there were others who enjoyed it. I sat in the hall with everyone till the end of the program that went on for 3 hours, ask me what a torture it was.
It was a relief that lunch was served after that and the food served was a wedding meal, Lord Vekateshwara's wedding meal. I don't even remember how many items were served neither do I remember what I ate.
4 - 5 green chilies
handful of curry leaves (variation)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup water
Oil to fry
In a big bowl take the flour. Make a well in the flour and add salt, turmeric powder, caraway seeds, sesame seeds. Coarse crush green chilies in mortar and pestle. Add the crushed chilies to the flour in the well. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and pour it over the flour and in the well. With a wooden spoon mix the flour. Do not do it with hand as it may cause a burn. Then add the water and knead a tight dough but smooth dough. Let it rest for atleast an hour. Cover the dough with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.
They are crunchy and an excellent accompaniment with tea or coffee. It aslo surprises people as people associate shankarpale with sweetness. This is a different kind though.
Shatapavle is the of walking hundred steps after dinner to help digestion, before one retires for the day.