Showing posts with label Ramanagaram. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ramanagaram. Show all posts

Ramadevara Betta Kote, Fort Ramanagara

The Fort at Ramadevara Betta is a large one with 7 tiers. Much of the fortification still remains intact and one can get a clear picture of the mighty fort that once stood here. The lower fortification extended up till the river Arkavathi and had enclosed the erstwhile town of Ramagiri. However today, the town has disappeared, with a few mango groves and farms taking its place. The lower fortification on the river bank is still intact at a few places. Except for the fortification and temples around, most of the other structures are lost. There are at least 5 water ponds  present at various levels of fortification, apart from the river which has served as a source of drinking water.  

Rama Devara Betta
Old Steps With Fortification

From the entrance to the fort, a tier of fortification with old steps is visible to us. Currently, there are well laid steps leading us to the temple dedicated to Lord Pattabhirama.  There are two routes from the temple site, one towards the lower fortification which takes us through 3 tiers of fortification up till the river and the second takes us to the upper fortification. First time during our visit, we chose the route towards the river. At the 5th gateway near the temple is a beautiful carving of Lord Krishna accompanied by Lords Garuda and Anjaneya. Going further down the steps, we reached the spot of Kote Anjaneya Swamy which is believed to have been installed 700 years ago located close to the 4th gateway. While we offered our prayers to the lord here, we came to know from the priest about the presence of a carving of Lord Rama's feet further down for which we had to cross two more gateways to reach. 

Rama Devara Betta
Locally Known as 'Ramana Gundu'

Rama Devara Betta
Bird's Eye View From Top of Rama Devara Betta

On one of the rocks on our way down is a carving of Lord Ganesha and a little further lies a water pond. After exploring around, we walked further down to reach the spot of the carving of Lord Rama's Feet. We met an elderly person who upon inquiry went on to explain the story about Sri Kempegowda taking refuge near the place of the carving and also getting a dream of building a fort here. He also narrated that Sri Kempegowda found some treasure here from which he was able to build Bengaluru. There is a small temple built recently that houses a carving of Lord Anjaneya along with other sculptures. We were also informed that a walk of about 10 mins from will lead us to the first tier of fortification near the river. As we had other plans, we could not explore that side of the fortification and it was also too late to trek towards the upper fortification. 

Rama Devara Betta
5th Gateway of Ramagiridurgam

Rama Devara Betta
Lord Ganesha Carved On a Rock

During our next visit, we explored the upper fortification wherein the 6th and 7th gateways remain completely destroyed. The route towards the top is easy to climb except for the last stretch. This last stretch is known as the Honna Kumbhi Betta. A a security guard appointed by the forest department always remains stationed at this point to control the crowd movement. This place is so named since it is believed that Sri Kempegowda found a  treasure here, thus the name honna (gold) and the shape of the hill when seen from the Bengaluru side is conical and thus the name kumbhi. Right at the start of this stretch is the famed carving of the Vanara King Sugriva. A set of rock cut steep steps lead us to the top. The top most part of the fort is a big plateau region with one big water pond and ruins of fortification  spread here and there. The views from the top is simply astounding and mesmerizing. We spent some time here after which we got down to have the darshan of Lord Pattabhirama. Anna prasadam was also served at the temple (served on weekends and special days). 

Rama Devara Betta
Climb Up to Honna Kumbi Betta

Rama Devara Betta
Water Pond

 The Fort  is believed to have been built/strengthened by the Nadaprabhu Kempegowda's Family. Later, it was captured by the Mysore Wodeyars, after which it came under the control of Hyder Ali and  finally was captured in 1791 by the British under the captaincy of Welch. The people who lived here slowly moved out and settled in Closepet (erstwhile name of Ramanagara). Buchchanan says that "The place is dreadfully infested by tigers, especially the fort, which occupies a large rocky hill, capable of a very tedious defense, even without any assistance from art". During Buchanan's visit here, this place was inhabited by the Eriligaru/ Iruligas (a local hill tribe). 

Best Place to Visit around Bengaluru
Ramadevara Betta Viewed From Arkavathi River Bank

Shree Ramagiri Kshetra, Ramadevara Betta, Ramanagara

Having visited here a few years back, we wished to re-visit this time around with our two young travel partners Adhi and Diya, hoping it would not be too crowded owing to the current COVID situation. But surprisingly, this place was crowded as usual portraying one of the normal days. We were now in two minds whether to continue as per our plan or change the location since the parking itself seemed over crowded. As the kids were all excited to explore this place after seeing the pictures of vulture on the sign boards along the way,  they wished to spot one and hence we moved ahead as per plan! They were all the more excited thinking they would get to spot  'Jatayu and Sampati', the vulture siblings born to Lord Garuda (King of Birds) and his consort Unnati.

Egyptian Vulture Couple
Egyptian Vulture Couple

'Ramanagara' is one of the few vulture sanctuaries across India and Asia. We are fortunate enough to have visited the other two vulture sanctuaries across India - Orchha (Madhya Pradesh) and Anjaneri (Maharashtra). Out of the 9 species of vultures found in India, Ramanagara district is home to 3 of them, namely the Long billed vulture, the Egyptian vulture and the White backed Vulture. Although we have spotted Egyptian vultures during our journeys across Ramanagara district over the last few years,  we always wished we could spot one on the Ramadevara Betta. This time, we were in for a surprise! We spotted a  Long billed Vulture and this made our kids very happy. 

Egyptian Vulture Parched on a Hill, Ramanagar

Long Billed Vulture Couple, Ramadevara Betta
Long Billed Vulture
Ramadevara Betta with its  many neighboring hills is closely  related to Lord Rama. There are many stories of Lord Rama associated with Ramadevara Betta, as the name itself suggests. Lord Rama during his 14 years of exile is believed to have stayed and spent some time here. In all likelihood, Lord Rama would have stayed here while proceeding to Lanka to kill Asuraraja Ravana and free Sita Matha. Although most of the stories narrated by the priests here suggest otherwise, that Lord Rama stayed here accompanied by Sita Matha and Lord Lakshmana. This is debatable since the widely accepted place of Sita-haran (kidnapping) is Panchavati which is located in Nashik on the banks of  the river Godavari and Hanuman-milan (Rama meeting Hanuman) is Kishkinda, the environs of Hampi and the capital of Vanara Raja Sugriva, both of them situated towards the north of Ramanagara. Lord Rama's journey during his exile was mostly southward and having spent most of the time during exile in "Dandakaranya", which is believed to be somewhere around Chitrakoot in Chhattisgarh (Central India), it is unlikely that Lord Rama visited this place along with Sita Matha. 

Lord Rama's Journey during Exile
Lord Rama's Journey During Exile

Undoubtedly, there is enough proof to believe that Lord Rama stayed in Ramadevara Betta. However, the time of his stay could be post Hanuman-milan, during the Lord's journey towards Lanka with Vanara Sainya (army of vanaras). One of the most interesting stories associated with this place is Lord Rama's killing of Kakasura (the crow demon, who is also the son of Lord Indra) with an arrow made of a blade of grass (dharbhe hullu), when it was troubling Sita Matha. Finally, Kakasura seeked refuge and pleaded for forgiveness from Lord Rama when the other gods declined any help. As Lord Rama relieved him from being a crow which was the demon's cursed form, it is said that no crows have ever been sighted in and around this place. This story finds its mention in the Ramayana, when Lord Hanuman meets Sita Matha for the first time in Ashoka Vatika of Lanka. It is when Lord Hanuman requests Sita Matha for giving a proof of meeting her so he can show the same to Lord Rama, that Sita Matha narrates this story to him which only Lord Rama was aware of. Along with the narration of this story, she also handed him her bridal jewellery Chudamani as proof. The episode of Kakasura is believed to have taken place somewhere around Dandakaranya (near Chitrakoot ) on a river bank. Therefore, the occurrence of this incident  in Ramadevara Betta is clearly debatable

Bird's Eye View of Dhanushkodi and Sri Rameshwara Temple
Sugreeva's Carving, Ramadevara Betta
Vanara Raja Sugriva's Carving on one of Rock
The other story linked with this place is about the Vanara Raja Sugriva after the coronation of Lord Rama. King Sugriva wished to possess a murti of Lord Rama in the form of a king so he could worship the Lord back home at Kishkinda. He therefore got a murti of Lord Pattabhirama carved and got it blessed by the Lord himself. While returning on his way back to Kishkinda, he heard an 'Akashavani' (a voice from the sky), asking him to stop there and kill the demon Handigundi or Sukhasura, who was troubling the maharishis in meditation (tapas) at Ramadevarabetta. Therefore, King Sugriva placed the murti there, fought the demon Sukhasura fiercely and killed him. The demon after his death is believed to have turned into a hill, which is locally known as Handigundi. Handigundi is located about 4 km from the Ramadevara Betta. A few years back we had the opportunity of trekking this hill too. Post the killing of Sukhasura, Sugriva came back to the place where he had kept the murti of Lord Rama but was unable to move it. While doing so, he heard another Akashavani which ordered him to leave the murti there since the Lord wished to remain there only. Thus Sugriva installed the murti and returned to Kishkinda. An interesting fact related to this story is the rare finding of the carving of Lord Sugriva on this hill. Later, Sri Kempegowda renovated this temple sometime during the 16th century and much of the current structure of the temple is attributed to him. In the 1990's, the temple underwent another renovation. The murti of Lord Pattabhirama here is very divine, where the Lord is seen seated on his throne with Sita Matha on his lap accompanied by his brother Lord Lakshmana and his ardent devotee Lord Anjaneya.

Sri Pattabhirama Swamy Temple, Ramadevara Betta
Sri Pattabhirama Swamy Temple

Lord Pattabhirama Murti, Rama Devara Betta
Lord Pattabhirama Murti
Lord Rama during his visit to this place installed a Linga known as Sri Rameshwara to offer daily worship to Lord Shiva. This temple too was renovated during Sri Kempegowda's rule in the sixteen century. The Rama tirtha/ Dhanushkodi / Nydile tirtha is a beautiful ದೊಣೆ (spring water pond) between the two temples. This tirtha/ doNe/ honda is believed to be the creation of Lord Rama when he shot an arrow there in order to get drinking water. The depth of this tirtha however is not known. An elderly person we met here shared many interesting stories about this tirtha (will be shared in a separate post). In 2014, when we visited here in April, this tirtha was full with clear water. The water from this tirtha is used for the Lord's abhishekam (bathing of the deity) and in the preparation of Naivaidya (offering of food to god). The water is also believed to have many medicinal properties having the powers to heal many incurable diseases. 
Sri Rameshwara temple, Shiva linga Installed by Lord Rama
Sri Rameshwara Temple

Nydile Tirtha

Wherever there is a kote/fort, there is our Lord Anjaneya! There are 5 murtis of Lord Anjaneya in total on the Ramadevara Betta. However, none of them here is seen carved with either his 'gada' (mace) or him carrying  'Dronagiri' parvatha (hill). All the carvings depict the Lord in 'Abhaya Hastha' (blessing hand) posture. As per the archakaru, this posture also means the Lord declaring that he is here to protect his devotees. The carvings are believed to be a swayambhu or self manifested. Except for the one at the entrance of the Ramadevara hill, the rest of the murtis are depicted with sowgandhika puspha (flower) in one hand, similar to the ones across this region especially in places associated with the Kempegowda and family. We happened to visit 4 of the 5 murtis here during our visit. 

Kote Anjaneya Swamy, Ramadevara Betta
Kote Anjaneya Swamy

To be continued....

Sri Panchalingeshwara Swamy Temple, Bettahalli, Magadi

"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations", so do the wrong ones too! Many a time leading to unknown beautiful destinations!
Information Board 
We were headed for a trek towards Hulikal near Kuduru in Magadi taluk of Ramanagar district. Little did we know that missing the turn that would take a deviation from Kuduru towards Hulikal would lead us to such a beautiful lesser known temple. Still unaware about the turn missed, we drove about 5 km ahead and reached a village named Bettahalli. Only then did we realize we were heading in the wrong direction and decided to make a U-turn. While driving back, a sign board directing towards Sri Panchalingeshwara temple caught our attention and as usual, we were curious to go ahead and explore! And so we did. At the outset, the temple looked new, but we ensured that we explore its interiors. Words are not enough to describe the great work being carried out by Shri Dhramasthala Manjunatha Trust in renovating/restoring beautiful but forgotten historical temples. Kudos to the team for their continuous and self-less support in preserving our rich heritage and history.
Temple Inauguration Details
Never judge a book by its cover. True to this, as we stepped in we found this temple that seemed new from its outlook to be an ancient historical temple indeed! It underwent restoration only to preserve most of its originality. The temple is believed to have been built in 7th Century  by the Cholas, although there are no evidences pointing towards the same. No inscriptions of any kind have been found here. The temple architecture and murtis inside resemble the Chola style of architecture though this place was under the rule of Gangas during the 7th Century. This makes it difficult to assign the period of its construction. However, it can be safely confirmed that the temple was built/renovated by the Cholas sometime during the 11th Century, owing to its stye of architecture.
The Navaranga
Sri Panchalingeshwara temple at Bettahalli is a Panchakuta temple  dedicated to Pancha (5) Shiva Lingas namely - Sri Mahabaleshwara Swamy, Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy, Sri Pathaleshwara Swamy, Sri Vaidyanatheshwara Swamy and Sri  Arkeshwara Swamy. There are 4 devakosthas in the Navaranga of the temple housing Sri Umamaheshwara Swamy, Sri Veerabhadra Swamy, Sri Durga Parameshwari, Sri Ganapathi and Sri Shanumuga.
Lord Arkeshwara
Lord Mahabaleshwara
Lord Mallikarjuna
Lord Pathaleshwara
Lord Vaidyanatheshwara
The murti of Sri Umamaheshwara looks very beautiful and the divine couple are depicted to be seated on their Vrishabha vahana. The lady caretaker was more than happy to give us details about the renovation of this temple and the annual jatre/fair held here. It was quite interesting when she also informed us that during restoration, the entire temple was dismantled but somehow they were unable to dismantle the Nandi murti placed in the Navaranga. Therefore they had to cover the murti and proceed with the restoration work. We spent  sometime going around the temple and later we moved towards Hulikal as per our original plan.
Lord Nandi
Sri Umamaheshwara seated atop Vrishaba
Dwarapalakas at the Entrance

Dolmens of Talavadi

While ascending the Talavadi hill, we spotted a Dolmen like structure on its neighboring hillock. I had marked in my mind to explore this hill after our descent. Once we were at the base of the hill, we went ahead to explore the Dolmen/megalithic site. A short climb led us to a flat portion of the hill and we walked straight to reach the Dolmen site. Yes!  It was a huge dolmen with a stone circle. But the sad part was that it remained slightly damaged, although most of its parts were in place.   The stones used for the construction of Dolmen were huge and nicely dressed, having an even surface. The size of the cap stone of this Dolmen was roughly around 6 feet by 6 feet in length and breadth with its depth/height varying between 4 to 10 inches.
Disturbed Dolmen (No.1)
There was a natural water pond nearby and while exploring this area, we found another dolmen with a stone circle. But this had been completely destroyed with just only one of its stone slabs standing, while the rest were missing. Probably the stones were removed from here by miscreants. This stone Dolmen is very much similar to the first dolmen in its dimensions, going by the sizes of the stone circle and stone slab. After finding this, we became more curious and started to investigate this small hillock for more such structures. We went on to find another stone circle that lied completely disturbed. While walking around the hill, two fully intact Dolmens in another neighboring hill caught our attention and we were intrigued to explore that too!!!
Remains of Dolmen With Stone Circle (No.2)

  We tried to figure out the way to this neighboring hill which seemed nearby, but since no direct route was present, we decided to circumvent and reach this hill. This walk was much longer than we thought as we had to cross numerous small hillocks on the way. On one such hillock, we spotted a Dolmen without stone circle. The Dolmen was in a much better shape though a bit disturbed. Except for its front stone slab, all the others laid in-situ. Probably, this never had a front slab or it has gone missing. An anthill present inside the Dolmen obstructed our view and we couldn’t see much. 
Solitary Dolmen on Hillock (No.3)
Moving on from here and after walking for a good 15 minutes, we reached a check dam. After crossing the check dam, we entered into agricultural lands walking across which we found a bigger Dolmen that had been excavated by the locals in the greed for treasure; the site however would have carried plenty of bones and pieces of pottery. Here in this land we could spot few dolmens spread across, but the land comprised of standing crops which prevented us from venturing inside for inspection. Finally after crossing all the farm lands, we found a small foot route to the hillock on which we spotted the two intact dolmens. 
Excavated Dolmen ( No.4) 
Dolmen Along With Standing Crop (No.5)
Intact Dolmen ( No. 6 &7)
Finally after exploring the area we reached the spotted that had intact dolmen giving us a fair idea of the Dolmens once stood here. One of them had porthole on the eastern stone slab and only one we had come across here with porthole. These two were also so same size we had come across this area. Though nothing remained inside these dolmens, it was good to see them intact. From here we took other route were we came across the place which looked like ancient quarry site. Little further we found the fort wall probably the first tier of the Talavadi Fort. So we completed the circumventing the hill on which we spotted the dolmen. Thus completing adventurous trek and exploration.
Talavadi Hill in the Background
Dolmen No.6 
Broken Port Holed Slab 
Our efforts in finding any documentation related this place went in vain. By looking at the style and sizes of the stones, the Dolmens can be safely assigned to a period between 1000 BCE – 300 BCE. There are two articles in the KarnatakaItihasa Academy which mentions about the presence of megalithic sites around Kootgal hill, although they fail to mention about the existence of these dolmens. We only hope that the remnants survive the test of time and human greed. Megalithic structures are mysterious and need in-depth study in order to understand their purpose, rather than superficially relating them to burial practices. Off late, a lot of research is being carried out in this direction in order to gain more clarity.
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Talavadi Fort, Ramanagar - A forgotten fort


Talavadi is a small nondescript village off Ramanagara – Magadi road. Though not much history about this place is documented, it has in store many untold stories. Last Sunday, we got a chance to trek Kootgal Betta we spotted this fort and decided to trek next week. We planned and reached Talavadi quite early in the morning to start our trek.  I was accompanied by my son Adhi and my friend Shashi Kiran. We had our breakfast in Ramanagara and reached the deviation off the Ramanagara – Magadi road. Hereon, we began our off road drive to reach the base of this hill.  We had to make a few enquiries with the locals about the directions to reach the hill base and the trek route thereon. An elderly person informed us that it would be difficult to climb this hill as the route had been engulfed by grass and other thorny vegetation, and gave us the directions vaguely. We thanked him and decided to move ahead towards the hill base. 
Challenging Climb Near Bengaluru
Talavadi Hill Fort
We had to park our vehicle at a point from where there was no motor-able road, and had to walk to until the start point of the trek. At the first look, the hill seemed small giving us a thought that it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to scale the hill. We started our search for the trek route and reached a small temple dedicated to Udbhava Anjaneya Swamy. The guardian Lord reminded us to search around for the presence of any fort or its ruins.  After taking the blessings of the Lord, we decided to move ahead and actually had to almost circumvent the hill in search of a proper route to climb. After walking for almost 15 minutes, we reached a big water pond. Just by the side of the pond, we sighted a path which seemed trek-able and hence decided to ascend from here. 
Water Pond and The Fort
Sri Udbhava Anjaneya Swamy
 The initial climb was quite easy and straight forward, and we reached a tier of the fort wall.  Here we met two boys from Bengaluru who were also there to explore the hill. As we struck a conversation with the boys, I realized that they too were in search of the right path to continue their climb. I volunteered to search the environs for any path that could be walk-able.  Meanwhile I requested the others to rest at a place in shade and went in search of the route. After exploring the surroundings for some time, I zeroed in on the most probable route that could be taken to reach the top. I called the others to join me, along with Shashi and Adhi. Shashi took charge from here leading the way. Seeing the route that was to be taken hereon, the two boys gave up the trek and left the place without informing us! The vegetation was dense with tall grass and thorny shrubs.
Wade Thru the Grass and Thorny Shrubs
The Rock Cut Steps
Kootgal Betta
We continued to crawl under the grass and thorny shrubs and finally reached a point from where we were almost sure about the path further. Shashi did a wonderful job in finding the path and we reached a spot which had big boulders on either side. We sighted much fortification on the left boulder and so decided to explore it. The boulder was very steep with rock cut steps to aid the climb and passing these 15 odd steps was one hell of an experience! We reached the top of the hill which housed a ruined mandapa kind of a structure along with a fresh water pond. The fresh water pond was filled with many beautiful white lilies.  We spent some time enjoying the sight of the water pond and its surroundings. 
Fresh Water Pond
Flying High
Mandapa and Nadadwaja
White Water Lilies
As per an inscription found near Ramanagara (EC Vol 9 Ch 16) dated 1351 CE, Talavadi was ruled by a local Palegara named Bomanna, who was a feudal king under the rule of Bukkanna Vodeyar of Vijayanagara Kingdom. Later Sri Kempe Gowda captured and strengthened this fort, which mostly served as a military outpost during his rule.  Though much of the fortification has been damaged, its remnants give a good picture of what a grand fort it was once. The formation rocks are such that they served as natural defense from the three sides and the fort was only accessible from one side. At a few places, we were able to spot horse shoe marks which are a common sight across forts built by the Kempe Gowda clan. 
Horse Shoe Marks
Cliff Hanging
The descent posed us a challenge where we had to cross the 15 steep steps and we had to literally cliff hang for some time.  The descent across the grass and thorny path too was a bit challenging as we had to overstep and pass through them. Once we were out of this, the descent was easy. As we continued our descent, we spotted something really interesting on the neighbouring hill and decided to check them out on reaching the hill base.
The Dare Devil
Full View of Talavadi Fort
Hunt Begins
 To be continued. ….
  
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