Sunday, January 27, 2019

Moonlit Sunrise Trek to Channagiri

RTC Bengaluru's plan for a drive-cum-trek to Skandagiri to witness the beautiful sunrise amidst the clouds was organized on the 20th of January this year. The event was led by us (teamgsquare), Prateek (Mystic Rider) and Shashank Gowda (localite). After many people showing their interest in joining the drive/trek, around 40 people were confirmed for the trek. While Trigo (Prashanth) along with his 4 friends were joining us from Hyderabad, the rest were from 'Namma Bengaluru'! After many discussions with the leads regarding the trek type and route, we finally zeroed in on the regular Sunrise trek to Skandagiri.  The D-day arrived and bang on! All the participants had gathered in front of Esteem mall, Hebbala by 1.30 am as per the schedule. It was quite surprising and rare to see all the trek participants gather within the said time. From here began our much awaited journey to reach above the clouds! We numbered 37 in total, traveling in 6 cars and 4 bikes.

All Set  to Vroom!!
By 2.45 am we reached the temple of Sri Bhoga Nandeeshwara  at Nandi and were waiting for Shashank's arrival. After waiting for nearly 25 minutes with no fruitful result, we decided to head on towards Skandagiri to secure a place for parking our vehicles. By the time we reached here, we were shell-shocked to see an ocean of people thronging to get the permit to trek. A rough estimate of the number of people would be around 2k,with each one trying to squeeze in and fight in order to secure a place for the trek. Meanwhile, Shashank along with his two friends joined us at the Skandagiri parking lot. Seeing the huge crowd of people assembled and the number of incoming people, the trek leads, without a second thought decided to forgo the scheduled trek at Skandagiri and instead trek the neighboring hill of Channagiri. Although our idea was good, we were now stuck in the parking lot as the chaos at Skandagiri had only started to build up. With the forest guard's denial of permission to trek and the increasing number of people, the parking was jammed with no movement of vehicles on either of the directions. Besides, time was running out as we were bent upon doing a sunrise trek, somehow! Finally Shashank along with a few locals helped cleared the mess and without wasting any more time, we drove towards Channagiri, located about 14 km from here.
Moon and his Reflection on Water
After reaching the hill base of Channagiri, we realised that the members of a car and bike who were supposed to be following us had missed their route. All of us were waiting for them to join us to start the trek. Although the biker was able to locate us, the ones in the car had driven off to some other place. Prateek and Shashank tried their best to trace the car back until they gave up, after Arvind from that car informed them about being run out of fuel and also being quite far away from the destination. Unfortunately, the four from Arvind's vehicle couldn't join us. Once the rest of the team were back to the hill base of Channagiri, the trek began under the moonlight. We were down to 36 plus +3 infants and had to reach the peak of Channagiri before Sunrise. Thus began our conquest of Channagiri hill. Though at the outset it seemed like a small hill to trek, we realized after trekking a while that it was no joke to conquer this peak. Having read about this hill before, I was quite sure that this was going to be one heck of a trek.
'Channagiri' is one among the 5 main hill peaks of the Nandi hill-range, the others being Nandi, Bramhagiri, Skandagiri and Kaurava Kunda. Channagiri is the second tallest peak of this range, only after Nandi hills. There are basically two routes to this hill peak. The easier route starts from Sultanpet via well laid steps and is taken during early morning treks so as to catch the sunrise. The less easier route is through the forest via Channapura, which is a longer and steeper trail. Thanks to Shashank who lead us to the second route via Channapura forest. Everybody started the trek and the entire hill belonged to us at that moment! This route was surely a blessing in disguise for us when compared to trekking at Skandagiri. It would've been more like walking in a fair amongst thousands of people had we trekked Skandagiri. It was a decision well-made and in-time, most importantly with the consent of all the participants. Our only goal now was to make it to the peak top of Channagiri. We were now racing against time for the sunrise!
Good Morning
Armed with torches and accompanied by the lovely moon-light, our trek went on smoothly. The terrain was quite steep and rocky mostly, while at a few places we had to pass through thorny vegetation.  The Trigo group were ahead of us while the rest of the team trekked together, until at a point where Ravi sir's wife started to feel a bit uneasy. As the terrain would only get more difficult to climb, sir made the right decision of halting their trek at this point and stayed by his partner. Kudos to you both sir for making it up till here! The rest of us continued our trek amidst laughter, fun, music and halts at regular intervals. We finally reached a point from where it seemed like the trek was complete. But it was a 'so close, yet so far' kind of a situation! We motivated ourselves to keep going and our final ascent to the peak top was quite steep. Slowly and steadily, one by one, all  the participants reached the top and picked up their spots for photography. We were just in time to catch a glimpse of the Sunrise, although coming in a few minutes earlier would've surely helped! Unfortunately for us that day, the skies were clear with no signs of any clouds. A small bonfire was set up to make ourselves warm.
Beautiful Morning Sky
There is a small beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Anjaneya/Hanuman at the top. After taking his blessings and spending some time enjoying the sunrise, chit-chatting and munching on snacks, we began our descent from behind the peak. However, a few of them decided to stay back for photo ops. Our descent was quite tiring and as we were all extremely hungry, we wanted to make it to the base as early as possible. We met Ravi sir's family along, who were eagerly waiting for us. We finally  reached the place where we had parked our vehicles. A small lake besides our car park made the entire setup look more beautiful. We were now waiting for our breakfast to be served! While Shashank checked upon the breakfast arrangements, we all rested and waited for the others to join us. Though our initial plan was to have breakfast near the village of Nandi, we decided to serve the breakfast at the hill base only as a few of them were yet to complete the trek. While some team mates (Chaluve Gowda sir and family and Vishwa) decided to move on without having breakfast, the others spent time chatting and having fun. I and Shashank left to bring the breakfast. As we brought the breakfast, our last few team-mates had just made it to the parking and their timing was perfect!  The breakfast comprised of Idli, Vada, Chitranna (lemon-rice), Chutney and the famous Mysore Pak. The food was very delicious, especially the combination of lemon-rice and the spicy chutney. We were happy people now and turned pretty lazy and reluctant to leave this wonderful place.
Second Serving (PC : Prateek)
Munch Time (PC: Prateek)
The sad truth was that we had to head back home. We planned to take a small break over tea/coffee in between along the highway. However, due to a small confusion caused by me, we ended up reaching Shashank's farm instead. Prateek and the biker gang decided to ride ahead, halt by a tea shop and wait for us to join. Meanwhile, we dropped the Trigo group at Shashank's place from where they were heading back to Hyderabad. But by the time Prateek shared their location of the tea shop, we were already on the Rajanakunte road towards Yelahanka, much ahead of them! We somehow couldn't make it to our tea/coffee break to bid our good-bye's to the team. All of us headed back to our homes after ending one of the most memorable treks! Kudos to the team for completing the trek! 
Group Photo (Bigger the group, more difficult to organize for a group photo!; PC: Prateek)
The Trek Team
1. Teamgsquare (Me, Amrutha, Adhi and Diya) in our loyal Mahindra Xylo 
2. Abhyuday, Tarun and Arjun in Toyota Etios 
3. Chaluve Gowda and Family in Volkswagen Polo 
4. Satishewara with 2 kids in Mahindra Bolero 
5. Ravi Shankar and Family in Mahindra Scorpio
6. Arvind and his 3 friends in Maruti Alto 
7. Shashank, Rocky and Abhi in Mahindra Thar 
8. Prateek and Shikha in Yamaha R15
9. Gaurang, Maaz and Himanshu in their Bikes 
10. Vishwas and Hiren in Pulsar 150 cc
11. Chaitra, Anuradha, Madhu, Rashmi and Akshata, car pooled with others
12. Trigo Prashanth, Naveen, Sadik, Niranjan and Sachin, car pooled with others

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Ratnagiri Fort - Hosur, Krishnagiri

Ratnagiri Hill Fort
The 12 forts built in and around Krishnagiri by the Vijayanagar Kings to protect their territory were collectively called as the 'Baramahal'. After successfully capturing the 'Navadurgas', we are now on a mission of capturing the Baramahal. The Baramahal comprises of the forts at Krishnagiri, Rayakottai, Balagondarayanadurga, Ratnagiri, Tattakaldurgam, Jagadevidurgam, Maharajakadaidurgam, Virabhadradurgam, Anchettydurgam, Gaganagiri (Periyamalai), Mallikarjunadurgam and Shoolagiri. On the 1st  of January this year, we explored the fort at Ratnagiri which is the situated closest to Bangalore and is comparatively a smaller hill to climb.
'Ratnagiri' is one of the lesser known forts around Krishnagiri. There is hardly any information available related to this place apart from a few photographs courtesy of Google maps. We decided to explore this place on the New Year's day and make it more memorable. Reaching this place was quite easy, thanks to Google maps! Additionally, the locals were kind enough to direct us towards the fort. There is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Rama at the base of this hill, built during 15th century by the Vijayanagar kings. It was unusual to see the large number of people at the temple here. We offered prayers at the temple and went ahead to explore the fort.
Entering the Fort
Second Gateway
Pathway under the Rocks
We were pleased to see that much of the fortification remained intact and were excited to explore it further. We entered the first gateway and walked towards second one. This gateway exhibits Vijayanagara architecture with ruins of a few structures besides it. A little further, we came across another gateway and as we entered though it, we found a series of beautiful rock-cut steps leading us to the top. We were informed to climb bare-footed as the placed is considered sacred and we obliged  by removing our foot-wear. We personally always feel it's also a lot easier to climb bare-footed! We reached the next gateway which is complete and the best among the surviving gateways. Close to this gateway is a huge water pond devoid of any water in it. At a short  distance from here is a ruined temple probably dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Descending down hereon, we reach a beautiful place comprising of two rocks carrying carvings of  Lord Anjaneya, Lord Perumal Swamy and Lord Krishna. This place is much revered by the locals who frequently visit them. Behind these rocks is yet another water pond. 
Rock Cut Steps
Fourth Gateway
One of the many Water Tanks
Lord Anjaneya Swamy
Wild Flower
Grinding Stone and some Rock Etching
We reached the upper most tier and as soon as entering, we witnessed the ruins of buildings which probably could be that of a palace or a housing complex. We spent a good time exploring these structures. We also found a nice shaded area to sit and munch on the snacks we had carried, taking care not to litter anywhere. After some rest, we started our descent and reached our vehicle in a while. We were glad to have spent our first day of 2019 in a grand way, exploring one of the lesser known forts built by our great ancestors.  
Top Most Gateway
Ratnagiri fort and Palace.
Ruins of a Palace
Ruined Temple
Lord Anjaneya Swamy inside Lord  Ramaswamy Temple, Ratnagiri
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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Huliyurdurga Fort - A Legacy of Sri Kempegowda

'Huliyurudurga/ Huliyurdurga', literally meaning 'the fortress of  the tiger town' is located about 28 km from Magadi and 75 km from Bengaluru. Huliyurdurga is currently a hobli of Kunigal taluk in Tumkur district. A visit to this place was long time pending for us and after reading many articles about the failed attempts to reach the peak, we were a bit skeptical to step ahead. While our dear friend Prashant (popularly known as Payaniga) who has spent considerable time in this town confirmed that very few have made it to the top, we only imagined how challenging the trek would be!! Also, most of the locals acknowledge that it is quite difficult to reach the top. Last week, while doing a research on the same, I came across an article that gave details about the completion of Huliyurdurga trek in 20 minutes! Inspired by this, we  were bent upon reaching the peak top of Huliyurdurga. There was  no looking back this time around!!
Huliyurdurga Fort/ Kumbhi Betta
 The Fort of Huliyurdurga is popularly known as 'Kumbhi Betta' and the hill fort here was built by Sri Kempegowda, who was the then chieftain of Magadi town. This hill though small in size, carries natural advantages of being incorporated as a hill fort. The fort later came under the rulers Chikka Devaraya Wodeyar, Hyder Ali, and Tippu Sultan in turns, after which finally in 1792 the Marathas and the British together laid siege to the fort. They eventually captured and destroyed the fort as they believed it was not worth saving it. Up to 1873, Huliyurdurga remained as the taluk headquarters after which it lost its prominence and currently serves as a hobli. This place was surrounded by thick forests and we still get the feel of the same while traveling along the Magadi - Huliyurdurga highway. The name Huliyurdurga is attributed to the tiger (huli in Kannada), which was a frequent visitor to this place. There are a few ancient temples at the base of the hill believed to have been built during the reign of the Wodeyar's.
Huliyurdurga Fort Entrance
Sri Kumbhi Ganapathi
Vertical Limit 1
The Climb
Reaching the hill base of Huliyurdurga was quite an easy task and the fort seemed inviting. We parked our vehicle at the entrance of the fort. Hereon, steps are laid up till the temple of Lord Sri Kumbhi Ganapathi. We had a casual conversation with a local who was involved in work in his cattle shed. He informed us that climbing up till the fort is not advisable with kids around. Hence we decided to climb as much as possible and then take a call. We reached the Sri Kumbhi Ganapathi temple in no time and investigated for the trek path here on. Finding two routes, we took the one of which had which had directions marked, while the other path went around the hill. We reached a point where there were multiple arrows pointing towards 3 directions! We took the route as per directions towards the left and reached a point from where the route seemed to disappear. The only way up was to climb the steep hill from here or return to explore the other two paths. We continued to hang on, take time to strategize and challenged ourselves to trek further. While our 3.5 year old team-mate Adhi climbed up quite easily on directing him for multiple stops and then proceeding, our 1 year old was very cooperative and we three joined our team-mate in some time. Though the ascent was somewhat possible, we knew that getting down would be definitely challenging!! Meanwhile, Adhi led us to a door way and we followed him to another hill with gradual slope.
Path of Ascent on the Steep Slope
The Fort Wall
Final Frontier
Ruins of Building atop Huliyurdurga Fort
Ragi Grinding Stone

The upper most tier of the fort had ruins of a few buildings, springs (water ponds), powder magazines, durbar hall, granaries, etc. We spent some time here exploring the ruins. In the meanwhile, my wife wished to climb the brick wall of a ruined structure and did so. On spotting a dead leaf mantis on the inner wall, she spent time capturing the mantis who seemed really dead (owing to its name) and happily posed for us. After some time, we decided to head back and reached the spot from where the descent was challenging. Fortunately, our team work was fruitful and we were able to reach the safe spot without any mishap. The rest of our descent was easy. After reaching down, we visited the Sri Gopalakrishna/Venugopala temple built at the base of the hill. The temple architecture resembled that of the Mysuru Wodeyar style and must have been built during the17th century. This temple is a Trikuta and houses murtis of Sri Guru Shankaracharya and Goddess Lakshmi in the two garbhagrihas. Besides this temple is the Sri Lakshmi temple built during the same period. Sadly a few years back, owing to the greed of the people, this temple has been damaged in order to find hidden treasure, if any. During this incident, the main murti of Goddess Lakshmi Devi was damaged and now the temple is not in use. From here on our way back towards the town, we sighted the Kote Anjaneya Swamy temple and a Nandi Mantapa, probably indicating the presence of a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva on the hill. Thus ending another successful quest, which coincidentally also was our last capture of all the Navadurgas, the nine forts built around Bengaluru by Sri Kempegowda.
Dead Leaf Mantis 
Water Pond
Base of the Damaged  Murti of Goddess Lakshmi Devi
Sri Venugopala Swamy Temple
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