Visiting the Mesmerizing Temple – at Gangaikonda Cholapuram

The glory of once mighty Chola Capital (for about 250 years) is now a nondescript town situated on the highway between Neyveli and Kumbakonam. The place is 34 KM from Kumbakonam, 255 KM South-West of Chennai, and 44 KM from Chidambaram.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram means the ‘Chola city that won over the rulers of the Ganges’ is home to the magnificent and very well-maintained Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple, a part of the UNESCO Heritage site of  the three Great Living Chola Temples. King Rajendra Chola 1 son of  Raja Raja Chola built this elegant Shiva temple during early 11th century to celebrate his conquest of lands up to present day Bangladesh. The temple is replica of the Big temple of Thanjavur built by the greatest Chola, Raja Raja Chola.


Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple – main entrance view

I live in Chidambaram, and I’ve been to Gangaikonda Cholapuram couple of times before, but at that time I was generally not ready to appreciate it. And now being a bit more mature enough to appreciate our rich history and art, a visit to such place excites me. Reading more make me realize the glorious past of Chola Kingdom who controlled whole of South-East Asia.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram is a temple that stands intact today as a testimony to  terrific fusion of devotion, architecture, sculpture, craftsmanship, and determination of the golden period. As we enter into the serene premises, there stands the marvelous monument.


Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple amid green and serene surroundings

There is no fees for cameras, no strict checking, no large crowd, and no restrictions either. It is a pleasant and peaceful experience to roam around the temple amid green lawn, and soak in the ambiance under the shadow of trees, and can click as many pictures. A majestic Nandi obstruct our gaze of the 182 feet tower (Vimana).


Side view of the massive Nandi (H-11 feeet; L-15 feet)

The most striking aspect of the temple is its majestic Vimana (tower) above the Sanctum, which is octagonal in shape of Dravidian architecture.


Vimana rises into the sky, visible from far away around the town.

There are three entrances to the mandapa of the temple – one in front, and two on either side, and they are all guarded by pairs of guardian deities. The walls flanking the side entrances are decorated with elaborate carvings depicting episodes from the Hindu mythology.

One of the most beautiful sculptures adoring the wall is the one of Shiva placing a crown on the King’s head.


The Sculpture of Shiva with one of his devotees


Goddess Saraswati

Years have passed by but this temple is standing intact , it is standing there even after about 950 years. The image of glorious past stays with me as we drive down back to home.

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Yercaud: A Cosy Small Lake Hill

A quaint little hill station on the Shevoray hills in the Eastern Ghats nestled in flourishing green grass plots and prolific hills, Yercaud may not resonate the popularity of other hill stations despite being surrounded by beautiful coffee plantations amid pleasant weather, and filled with natural beauty and an abundance of flora and fauna. Yercaud means “Lake Forest” in Tamil, signifying the abundance of forest surrounding the lake on top of the hill.

It is located at a distance of 30 KM from city of Salem, and at the altitude of around 1500 m above sea level. The 20 hairpin bends uphill from Salem to Yercaud is a beautiful ride with magnificent vistas all through.

Staying in Shevaroy hotel on a hillock surrounded by valleys of trees, and on the other side of the Yercaud Lake, we drove around amid chirping birds, moving clouds and a slight drizzle to wander in the alleys up the hill, and captured a glimpse of life in and around Yercaud.

(1) Pagoda Point 

Also known as the Pyramid point, the Pagoda point offers excellent views of the city of Salem below. Some of  villages of Yercaud were visible from this point. We spent some time here soaking in the misty view of the hills across.


The plains of Salem below from Pagoda point, Yercaud


Salem city as seen from Pagoda point

(2) Montfort School

This school was founded in the year 1917. A huge and attractive school with extensive playing fields, swimming pool, serene chapels and beautiful gardens. The wall beside the main entrance gate has many faces of great personalities sculptured on it.


The Motto of Montfort School: Virtue and Labour


Sprawling campus of Montfort School

(3) Rose Garden

We spent for some time in rose garden of Yercaud. There are some amazing varieties of rose plants here amid amazing landscape.


Rose Garden

(4) Yercaud Lake

Surrounded by a meticulously maintained garden with flowering plants and series of trees on one side, roads on the other two and a deer-park on the fourth side, the lake, also known as Emerald Lake is where every tourist makes his first stop.


Emerald Lake, Yercaud


Beautiful garden on the bank of Yercaud Lake

Shevaroy hotel was seemed to be a comfortable place to stay, one and half KM from bus stand and a stone throw distance from Yercaud lake, in a quiet neighborhood, with helpful staff, rooms overlooking the valley below, and a sprawling campus that included many recreational facilities.


Morning view of the valley through the large window of the hotel room.


In the middle of the Shevaroy Hotel 

We had a short but unforgettable experience. Being in Yercaud was just delightful.

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Oral Rehydration Salts: A Wonder Medicine

Since its discovery in 1960’s, Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) solution has been used successfully in millions of cases worldwide for the treatment of dehydration due to diarrhea. From 1978 WHO recommended a single formulation ORS to treat or prevent dehydration from diarrhea of any etiology, including cholera, and in individuals of any age. It has been used successfully for more than three decades in millions of cases worldwide and contributed substantially to the reduction of mortality from diarrhea, especially in the developing nations.

In 1987, UNICEF termed ORS  a medical breakthrough of the 20th Century. It said “no other medical breakthrough has had the potential to prevent so many deaths over such a short period of time and at so little cost

Standard ORS formula: This formulation is slightly hypertonic that contains 90 mEq/liter of sodium with a total osmolarity of 311 mOsm/liter (Table1). The osmolarity of body fluids is in the vicinity of 286 ± 4 mOsm/ kg (often referred as 280 mOsm/ liter). Although the WHO-ORS is effective in the prevention of diarrhea, there has been concern that the solution, which is slightly hyperosmolar may risk hypernatremia, especially in infants. In addition, WHO-ORS does not reduce stool output or duration of diarrhea.

table 1


Reduced osmolarity ORS solution: Various studies in recent past showed that the efficacy of ORS solution for treatment of children with acute noncholera diarrhea is improved by reducing its sodium and glucose contents, and its total osmolarity to 245 mOsm/ liter. The 13th WHO Model list of essential medicines has replaced the standard ORS formulation with a new reduced osmolarity ORS (RED OSM ORS) 4. The composition of the New WHO-ORS (RED OSM ORS) is given in table 2.

table 2

Since 2003, WHO and UNICEF are recommending the use of a new ORS formulation of improved effectiveness. Although this single ORS (REDUCED OSM) formulation is recommended, WHO and UNICEF have previously published criteria, which remain unchanged, for acceptable ORS formulations. These criteria are listed below (table3); they specify the desired characteristics of the solution after it has been prepared according to the instructions on the packet.

table 3

Rational use of ORS: There are a number of brands of ORS products available in the Indian market which do not adhere to WHO specifications. Additionally, many patent and proprietary ORS products are irrational. There are many ORS products, in Indian Market, containing high glucose concentration to improve the taste and thereby the sale and the profits. The ORS products containing a high concentration of glucose not only become ineffective in a person suffering from diarrhea but also cause osmotic diarrhea and exacerbate the existing situation.

Because of the improved effectiveness of reduced osmolarity ORS solution, especially for children with acute, non-cholera diarrhoea, WHO and UNICEF now recommend that countries use and manufacture the RED OSM ORS (having osmolarity of 245 mOsm/l) formulation in place of the previously recommended ORS solution with a total osmolarity of 311 mOsm/l. This reduced osmolarity ORS may be used in place of standard ORS for treating adults with cholera, but careful monitoring is advised. The health care personnel’s (especially pharmacist’s) intervention in making a sensible decision of using reduced osmolarity and standard WHO-ORS solutions based on the information discussed is likely to promote rational use of ORS solution.





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Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: An Indian Perspectives

The general population in India usually will say that Pharmacy is a medical store or a place where you buy your medicines. Most people do not think about Pharmacy as a profession.

The word “Pharmacy” is derived from the Greek word ‘PHARMAKON’, meaning a ‘drug‘ or a ‘medicine’. Pharmacy is a health profession that has the responsibility for ensuring the safe, effective and rational use of medicines. Pharmacy revolves around medicines and their users (i.e. patient) with special emphasis on the development and manufacture of medicines, their supply, proper use and therapeutic effects. The ultimate concern of pharmacy is to ensure that the patient receives the appropriate medicines and benefits from the proper use of these medicines.

Therefore, Pharmacy is an essential part of the healthcare system.  It is a profession that focuses on improving the quality of people’s lives.

What is Pharmacy (as a profession)?

Pharmacy is the art and science of preparing and dispensing medications and the provision of medicine-related information to the public (Source – Remington: The science and practice of pharmacy). It is a health profession based on the chemical, biological and medical sciences. It is concerned with the design, evaluation, production and use of medicines and the provision of medicine related information to the public (Source

Pharmacy generally is a professional academic program for students wishing to become registered or licensed pharmacists. It is a diploma (also degree) program that prepares students upon successful completion to be eligible for registering and become registered pharmacists.

Pharmacists: Having obtained a Diploma in Pharmacy (D. Pharm.) or a Degree in Pharmacy (B. Pharm.) and recently a Pharm. D., you are only able to practice as a pharmacist when you are registered with the State Pharmacy Council (registered pharmacists).

The registration of pharmacist is governed by the Pharmacy Act, 1948. Being a registered pharmacist you are obligated to abide by the laws that govern pharmacy practice in India, demonstrate good ethical and professional responsibilities towards discharging your duties.

Who are Pharmacists?

Persons who are professionally qualified and licensed to practice in a community pharmacy or in a hospital are pharmacists. They are health care professionals whose professional responsibilities and accountabilities include seeking to ensure that people derive maximum therapeutic benefit from their treatments with medicines (FIP Statement) including their chemistry, their formulation into medicines, and the ways they are used to manage diseases.

Pharmacists: Your partner in health. A pharmaceutical expertise or other words pharmacist is able to comprehend:

  • How and why medicines work
  • How they are developed, formulated and administered
  • How they are used in the treatment of disease or ailments
  • How to promote safe and proper use of medicines

Pharmacy Academic Program:

To study Pharmacy you will need to first build a strong foundation in Pharmaceutical Sciences. The pharmaceutical sciences combine a broad range of scientific disciplines that are critical to the discovery and development of new drugs and therapies.

Pharmaceutical Sciences deals with the scientific basis of the physical, chemical, biological and the medical aspects of medicines.

Pharmacy profession in India comprises of industrial, practice and other sectors.

1) Industrial Pharmacists work in the pharmaceutical industry with other disciplines in producing medicines of the highest quality and safety. Their works are not in direct contact with patients, yet contribute to the health care sector.

Industrial Pharmacists research drug compounds and develop new medications. They test medications for efficiency and safety to ensure medications are produced accurately, and they engage marketing and promoting new drugs to consumers. An industrial pharmacist may also be responsible for conducting clinical drug trials to evaluate a drug’s effectiveness and to determine potential risks or side effects.

2) Practicing Pharmacists work in the community and in hospitals as members of the health care team and have special responsibilities for the use of medicines, and in general in direct contact with the patients.

Practicing Pharmacists are close contact with patients and so have an important role both in assisting patients to make the best use of prescribed medicines and in advising on the appropriate self-management of self-limiting minor conditions. Pharmacists are also in a close working relationship with other members of health care team – doctors, nurses, dentists – where they are able to give advice on a wide range of issues surrounding the use of medicines.

3) Other sectors – Drug regulation,  Drug quality control, Academia, Research and Development.

Major areas of pharmaceutical sciences 

(1) Pharmaceutics: The word ‘pharmaceutics’ is used in pharmacy to encompass many subject areas that are all associated with the steps to which a drug is subjected towards the end of its development. Pharmaceutics is the study of relationships between drug formulation, delivery, disposition and clinical response. Put at its simplest – pharmaceutics converts a potential drug into an effective medicine that can be administered to a patient in a safe and convenient manner. (Drug – A substance used in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a disease or as a component of a medication).

Pharmaceutics, therefore, is concerned with the scientific and technological aspects of the design and manufacture of dosage forms. It is the most diverse of all the subject areas in pharmaceutical sciences and encompasses the following:

  • Physical pharmaceutics – Study of the basic physical chemistry necessary for the efficient design of dosage forms (dosage form is defined as a system for carrying drugs)
  • Bio-pharmaceutics – Study of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) of drugs following administration
  • Dosage form design – Design and formulation of medicines
  • Pharmaceutical technology – Manufacture of these medicines
  • Pharmaceutical microbiology – Study of the avoidance and elimination of microorganisms in medicines.
  • Drug delivery Systems – It is an intra-disciplinary field of pharmaceutics that covers the precise delivery of drugs to the body using principles of biomaterials and device technology

(2) Pharmacology: It is the study of the effects of drugs on the functioning of living systems. i.e. It is the science of drugs, including their composition, uses, and effects. Falling within the purview of pharmaceutical sciences, Pharmacology focuses on exactly how drugs work (i.e. mechanism of action) and what kinds of reactions certain drugs cause in our bodies, and how they are used therapeutically. Following are various sub-areas:

  • Anatomy (the study of the structure of organisms and their parts)
  • Pathology (study of examination of organ and tissue to make diagnosis);
  • Physiology (scientific study of function in living systems);
  • Biochemistry (is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms);
  • Molecular biology (molecular basis of biological activity)

(3) Pharmacognosy: It is defined as “the study of the physical, chemical, biochemical and biological properties of drugs or drug substances of natural origin (Natural Drugs) as well as the search for new drugs from natural sources”.

Pharmacognosy is the study of natural product molecules that are useful for their medicinal, ecological, gustatory, or other functional properties.

Within the field of pharmacognosy, many diverse and exciting areas are being studied, including:

  • the study of the medicinal properties of natural products, for the purposes of drug discovery;
  • the development and use of analytical methods for quality control of natural products in the marketplace;
  • the study of the use of traditional remedies by native cultures;
  • the microscopic evaluation and species verification of medicinal or economically important natural products;

(4) Pharmaceutical Chemistry is an interdisciplinary field that deals with synthesis, design, structure activity relation, analysis, assay and purity quantification of drugs as chemical compounds. It is the chemistry of drugs and of medicinal and pharmaceutical products. Pharmaceutical Chemistry is applied in the preparation, synthesis, and standardization, interpretation of drug interactions and analysis of chemical substance for medicinal use.

The fundamental concepts and principles in organic, inorganic, physical, medicinal and analytical chemistry are applied to drugs and pharmaceuticals and then relate these concepts to drug synthesis, manufacturing and quality assurance in the practice of pharmacy.

(5) Pharmaceutical jurisprudence (or Forensic pharmacy): It derives from the Latin term juris prudentia, which means “the study, knowledge, or science of law.” The knowledge of pharmaceutical jurisprudence is indispensable in any walk of pharmaceutical profession.

It is the study of rules and regulations of pharmacy, pharmacy practice, and relating to drugs and pharmaceuticals.

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New Drug Research And its Development: An Arduous Path

Throughout history, various methods have contributed to the advancement of public health and quality of life. Of these methods, Drug therapy (pharmacotherapy) has certainly been the major factor in extending our life expectancy. The history of drug research and development is a most important event in the story of man’s triumph over diseases. The arrests of epidemics of life-threatening and widespread infectious diseases, the control of intractable diseases and physiological disorders and genetic illnesses have come under the influence of powerful and relatively safe drug products. It is painful for us to imagine that a century back more than 15 million people in Asia were wiped out by the plague; that the same period every seventh German over age of 16 died of tuberculosis; 20 million people died worldwide from an influenza epidemic in 1918-19; and just six decades ago every second patient with pneumonia succumbed to this disease.

Today in advanced countries a person can, on the average, live twice as long as his great-grandparents, whose life expectancy at the end of the nineteenth century was barely 40 years! This is expected to touch 100 years by 2020. In India, a person born in 1920 could expect to live only 32 years. Today we can expect to live over 69 years and the life expectancy is estimated to cross 78 years by 2021 with improved sanitation and public health along with drug therapy. Public today best recognizes the great achievements of drug research who owe drugs and medicines their good health and frequently even their lives.

New drug development: Since the thalidomide disaster in the 1960’s and following Kefauver-Harris amendments to the FDC Act in 1962, the development of a new drug had to meet increasingly stringent requirements. Federal food and drug administration’s (FDA) approval is required for a new drug to be marketed in the USA and many other countries. Marketing approval in India and most countries depends on the status of the drug in other countries particularly in the USA, Great Britain, and Germany. United States FDA in this regard is considered to be the most thorough in the world. After the discovery of a new chemical entity (NCE) and only when the requisite series of pre-clinical studies (in animals) demonstrate adequate safety, the drug’s sponsor can file an Investigational New Drug application (IND) to the FDA. The total time of drug development from the period of discovery to final approval averages approximately 12 years (depicted in Fig. 1).


At pre-clinical testing stage animal pharmacology and toxicology data are obtained to determine some degree of safety and efficacy of the drug. The clinical testing takes place after submission of the IND application to the FDA. The post-marketing surveillance of drug usage is conducted to detect infrequent but significant adverse effects. The progressive sequence of clinical testing is given in Table 1.


When all the clinical trials are completed, an NDA is submitted to the FDA for review and approval. The resulting prolongation of development times through different steps leads to higher expenditure before a new drug goes to market. Today invention of a new drug and its development costs as high as US$ 1.1 billion at 2011 prices. This cost, however, does not include the cost of numerous failures.

The normal development time for a drug varies between eight and fourteen years (average 12 years). The rule of thumb in search for a new drug: only one out of approximately 10,000 compounds synthesized in the laboratory manages all the obstacles and become a drug. The road to a new drug is long. Even when a chemical entity close to being a marketable drug has cleared all the phases of test and development, there is another cumber- some procedure- the application to the registration authority. The application with thousands of pages of documentation carrying evidence of quality, safety, and efficacy is submitted to legal authority. All these efforts required to solve the equation: – optimal efficacy plus minimal side effects equals a safe drug.

Meanwhile, the question confronting today is one side society’s justified desire to reduce health problems with the use of the drug and the other side its escalating cost resulting from the development of a new drug. FDA approval certifies a drug as safe and efficacious for its labeled indication(s). It doesn’t address the key issue, whether the additional cost associated with possibly only marginal benefits can be justified.

A man has existed for million of years but has been assured of quality drug products and good drug therapy from about 1940’s. Notwithstanding the public, in general, pay more attention to the degree of potential risks and higher cost of a new drug than to its benefit. Drug research is still indispensable. Of roughly 30,000 diseases that we know today, only about 10,000 can be treated pharmacologically, many of them inadequately. In addition the possibility that a drug that is safe today may have to ban tomorrow as a result of new findings. The need of drug research and its development is greater today in face of many incurable diseases and of course the impending worldwide life-threatening catastrophe.

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Transdermal Patch: An innovative approach for controlled drug delivery

Medicines that are administered by oral and parenteral routes still dominate the technology by which drugs are delivered to the patients for treating diseases and ailments. However one form of delivery system where drugs are delivered smoothly through the pores of skin into systemic circulation, known as transdermal drug delivery (TDD) has provided an attractive alternative to oral delivery of drugs and is poised to provide an alternative to hypodermic injection too. These delivery systems are Band Aid-like strips and are broadly known as transdermal patches or simply a TD patch.

The patients have only to attach a patch to a suitable and convenient part of the body (upper arm, chest, behind ear, trunk etc.) and do nothing except reapply it every predetermined time. Besides, you don’t need a doctor or a nurse to put the patches on you. The first transdermal patch, a three-day patch that delivers scopolamine to treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness—was approved for use in the United States way back in the year 1979. This TD patch provided a novel form of drug delivery and was a therapeutic breakthrough. Today, there are more than 20 drug molecules as transdermal products containing drug(s) for chronic pain management, contraception, hormone replacement, and tobacco cessation. Some of the molecules are scopolamine, nitroglycerin, estradiol, clonidine, nicotine, testosterone, lidocaine, fentanyl, norethidrone acetate and oxybutymin The transdermal patch marked the beginning of the advanced era of non-invasive systemic drug delivery.

The transdermal patch or the device which is the cornerstone of this innovative technology comprises five discrete layers. The outermost layer is a backing layer of polyester film, followed by a drug reservoir which is a suspension or solution of a drug in a suitable vehicle. The third layer consists of micro-porous membrane of varying pore size that controls the release of the drug from the system to the skin surface. The fourth is a thin, adhesive membrane, which is used to fix the patch to the skin. And the fifth and lowermost is the protective peel strip.


A Generic Transdermal Device

As soon as the patch is attached to the skin, drug diffuses out of the system through the skin into blood circulation by percutaneous absorption. The amount of the drug to be released can be adjusted by controlling the membrane or polymer matrix complex.  The size of the patch is consistent with the type of the drug and the dose required. For example, a dose of 0.5 mg scopolamine for three days requires a patch of 2.5 sq. cm. in area.

The transdermal patch offers a number of advantages scores over oral medications that include the avoidance of first pass metabolism & GIT degradation, allows for the administration of drugs with narrow therapeutic window, can reduce frequency of dose for relatively short acting drugs, eliminates the need for hypodermic injections, and simple application. The drug needs only once in 2/3 days or even a week from a patch instead of several times a day.

The major limitation of transdermal patch is the low skin permeability of most of the drugs. Only relatively low dose drug are suitable for (first-generation) transdermal delivery.  Nonetheless many drugs have been developed with skin penetration enhancer (categorize as second generation) and third generation tragedy targets layer of stratum corneum to enhance penetration of drug. These advances in third generation transdermal delivery, particularly with microneedles, are enabling a wider range of drugs to be delivered through the skin.

Considering the recent advancements and all those discussed, time is not far away when patients need not take drugs orally or through injections, simply to attach a TD patch to a convenient part of body instead.

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The Allure of Famed Hoysala Architechture at Belur and Halebidu

My earliest memory of Belur and Halebidu in Hassan District of Karnataka, a State of India  was in February 1986 when I visited it as a group of newly joined faculties and was completely taken aback in by these architectural splendours which were built centuries ago.

Known for its famed impeccable masterpiece of temples on intricate stone carvings and sculpture, Belur and Halebidu provides an insight into ancient Hindu culture and Karnataka’s rich history.


Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

On 14th August, 2016 I made a leisure trip to the ancient capital  twin temple towns of the Hoysala Dynasties with my family (daughter and wife) to soak in the beauty of amazing artistry  created on stone amid the backdrop of quaint landscapes.  Being only around 220 KM from Bangalore, we reached the destinations by an Ola cab. The drive to all the way to Hassan is smooth and mesmerizing with paddy fields and distant rocky hills on both sides of the  road.

The Chennakeshava Temple of Belur, dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built between 11th and 12th centuries by the Hoysala Dynasties. It is the temple that is the highlight of this town, which is a mix of tradition and modernity.

The guide has answers to all queries of visitors. The temple was built to commemorate Hoysala’s victory over the Cholas. The guide explains, the four steps of carving that forms the base; Elephants in the lowest frieze denotes the stability & strength,  above these are the Lions that symbolize courage, next are Horses showing speed and finally Flowers representing the king as considerate towards his people.But whats most astonishing is that no two elephants, lions, horses or flowers are similar in carving!


Four steps of carvings along the walls of Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

The surface of the temple exterior is intricately filled with carvings, stories from the Ramayan, Mahabharata, Puranas, Upanishads and other mythological stories executed in the most authentic way, and also the beauty of womanhood and tradition followed in the past.


Beautiful ornate horizontal pieces of stone art depicting God and Goddess


Lord Vishnu as Narasimha

Around 16 KM from Belur is Halebidu, the Old City. It was one of the capitals of Hoysala Dynasties in the 12th century. Magnificent Hoysaleswara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is the major attraction here. Similar to Belur temple, it is adorned with the exquisite portrayals of the mythological tales.



Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu

Hoysalas were great patrons of art and architecture. They built  more than 1500 temples to establish their supremacy in the region. Chennakeshava at Belur and Hoysaleswara at Halebidu are the most spectacularly ornate temples in the area.

Belur and Halebidu, I believe, cannot be explored in one 2 hour visit. Like many others who thinks that the ancient capital towns of Belur and Halebidu is all about those stone carvings, a visit to this places is an eye-opener. A short visit can barely seen anything beyond the tourist angle, nonetheless one takes a lot back from here.

Amid these stone carvings, one did not need to know the story or the history in details, but for me just being there was a great feeling. It was simply overwhelming.


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