Showing posts with label Trek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trek. Show all posts

Nagamalai Fort- A Lesser Known Fort Near Krishnagiri, A Good Weekend Trek From Bengaluru

The Mighty Hill - Nagamalai 

Our search for the twelve forts constituting the “Baramahal” or “the twelve Palaces” this time lead us to Nagamangalam, situated in Krishnagiri. We had spotted a hill fort from Jagadevi fort during our visit to that place but we were unable to explore this fort.  Finally, this year, on a fine Sunday morning we decided to explore this hill. After having a good breakfast at one of the hotels in Krishnagiri and packing enough food to survive during the trek, we headed towards Nagamangalam. Reaching this fort was easy as were aware of the location. Confirming the route again to the hill base with the locals to ensure we were on the right track, we reached the base of the hill fort. The locals helped us find the start point of the trek.

Nagamalai Fort 
Not much of the history of this forts seems to be documented in the English literature. The only reference we were able to find was the “Madras District Gazetteer - Salem”.  It is mentioned in this that Nagamangalam was one among the twelve palaces constituting “the Baramahal”. This information was sufficient for us to explore the fort. The fort seems to have been built during the rule of Channarayapatna Palegar, Sri Jagadevaraya who also built the fort at Jagadevi. Although the fort of Nagamangalam has more resemblance to Thattakaldurgam in terms of its location and architecture, the absence of any temple here signifies that it was built during Sri Jagadevaraya's rule, similar to the Fort of Jagadevi.

The trek initially is through the forest path after which we had to cross a small hillock to reach the base of the main hill. Hereon, the trek turned more adventurous. We had to climb a 70-degree inclined slope and without any proper route nor support while ascending, it was quite a challenge to overcome this stretch until we reached the ramparts of the fort. Here we were welcomed by a small door, probably used for emergency escape during any contingencies. Moving further along the walking path lead us to a point which deviated into two routes, one leading downwards and another leading upwards. We decided to take the downward route first to explore the main portions of the fort.

The Young Trekker

The Wild Trek Route
A nicely laid staircase led us downwards to the main entrance of the fort. Half-way down the staircase, we spotted the living area of the fortress on the other side. However, we wanted to explore the gateway area first and come back to exploring this later. The gateway here is very beautiful with Lord Ganesha sculpted on its lintel. Lord Ganesha seems to be the istha devata of Sri Jagadevaraya, which is quite evident across the forts built during his period. This fort gateway is associated with a building probably one that served as a guard’s room for the soldiers to rest. The top portion of the gateway made of brick and mortar seems like a later addition. After exploring the gateway, we walked along the ramparts to reach the living area of the fort.
The Slope

Enter The Dragon Moment 

The Well Laid Steps

The Gateway 

We headed straight towards the structure that looked like the base of a Mahal/ royal palace/ residence of army chieftain. This beautiful structure is made of locally sourced stones. Besides this structure is a huge granary. Further ahead are 2 structures resembling an armoury, a place to store gun powder and other ammunitions. There is a big rain water harvesting pond which probably was the main source of drinking water. The water here was clean and clear except for the fallen leaves. There is a big bastion overlooking this living place, which served as the vantage point to keep an eye on the enemies. This single tiered hill fort probably served more like a military outpost to Jagadevi fort. The Bastion gave clear view of Jagadevi fort; any attack over there seemed to have alerted the army here. We now halted for some rest and food under a shade.

The Remains of Palace

The Structures inside the Fortress

The Major Water Source
We emptied our packed food in no time since we were dead hungry. After resting for a while, we headed towards exploring the upper part of the fort and started to back track. We came across a beautiful carving of Lord Anjaneya on a stone. As we get down from here, there are remains of the foundation of a structure resembling a mantapa, the foundation or the base platform was seen having some carvings of animals. Now, it was time for us to start our descent.  While descending the 70-degree slope, we were very cautious and carefully got down the slope. Rest of the descent was uneventful.

The View From Big Bastion

Remains of Structure Probably Residence

The Other View of the Residence

Inside the Armoury 

The Ruins of Armoury

The Bastion 

The Mantapa

Kote Anjaneya Swamy
One of the interesting aspects of this place was finding a dolmen on the inclined slope. Although we did not sight or find any rock art or cave paintings apart from the dolmen, this place seemed perfect for prehistoric settlement owing to the presence of numerous caves and rock shelters. The Fort is well preserved naturally due to its location and not many people venturing here. The overall route is easy except for the slopy stretch, but is quite lengthy being about 8 km (to and fro).
Fort Gateway & The Trekker 
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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....

Ambajidurga/chintamani Fort



Caution: An entry to this hill is strictly restricted and a board instructing the same has been put up in order to prevent people venturing into this hill. Updated: As per the comments by Umesh Sir and Sudhakar, the restrictions have been removed and people can visit this place.

Good Morning Ambajidurga
          Ambajidurga, the second fort we were on a look out for, between Kaivara and Chintamani, seemed so near yet so far way. Ambajidurga is situated atop a hill adjacent to the very well known cave temple of kailashgiri and the temple authorities have banned the entry to this hill fort owing to the unfortunate incidents that have taken place here a few years ago. long back, during our visit to Kailashgiri, we had inquired about Ambajidurga and temple authorities  simply denied its presence and refused to give any information, only saying that Ambajidurga was another name given to Kailashgiri. When we told them that the fortification on the neighboring hill was clearly visible and insisted on details about the fort, they replied that there was no route to the hill and no one can go there. So we did not bother much about it, and thought we will explore this place when the time is right. This day was not too far from the day that we conquered Rehmangarh! We were much eager to conquer Ambajidurga. We reached the spot from where the hill base from where fortification was clearly visible. An old lady who stopped by told us about the route to the hill top and gave us directions. We were glad that a route to the hill top existed and went ahead following her directions. The hill was gigantic and we looked too small in comparison to its massive size.
First tier of the Fort
Lord Hanuman Temple and The Fort Wall
Broken Gateway Arch
   Overnight rains had made the path slippery, but that didn’t matter much to us as we were engrossed in the thought of reaching the fort. Our initial climb was a little tricky as after reaching a certain point, we realized we were heading in a wrong direction. We halted and to changed our course of climb and headed in the right direction. After a few minutes of trek, we reached the first tier of the fort on the first hill (or the lower hill) and rested here for a while. Later, a short walk lead us to the  top of the first hill which was an open plain land having a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and a few fort ruins. We were able to view the fortification on the upper hill but found no specific route. After investigating, we finally decided to make our own path and succeeded in our venture within no time.  We were at the fort entrance, and had a bird’s eye view of the surroundings including the now dwarfed fort of Rehmangarh.
Fort Entrance and Rehmangarh

Water Tank
Lord Shiva Temple
  The hill rises to about 4400 ft above mean sea level and was initially fortified by the local Palegars, which was then rebuilt by Tippu and finally fell into the hands of the British. There is a small temple atop the hill dedicated to Lord Shiva and a few ruined structures and water tanks. We were quite happy for having explored this fort too. We spent some time at the top and started to descend slowly and carefully down the hill. Our descent was a little tiring but calm, until we heard a person standing at the hill base shouting and signaling us to come down quickly. Initially, we thought of him to be a shepherd boy   calling out to his cattle, but later realized he was indeed waiting for us! Once we reached the base, he literally started shouting at us asking whose permission we had taken in order to go to the fort and my wife retaliated saying, we had inquired and only at the old lady’s suggestions, we decided to climb as she had not warned us about any restrictions. While he forced us to accompany him to the temple authorities, we insisted him on showing his identity card and if he did, we would surely go with him. Somewhere, we thought he was boasting about himself being a guard to the hill we had just explored. He argued saying there was a big board put up right at the entry point which strictly restricted any further entry. Truly, we were not aware of such a board. There was an exchange of words between him and us, and on demanding him to show where the board was put up, he took us a little away from where we started our trek and alas! There was the board! We told him that we had taken the path present much before this board and therefore had missed seeing it. We also questioned him about his absence during the time of our entry at the starting point. If he were to be a guard, he should have done his duty and cautioned us. We would have not ventured further at all. Finally a person associated with the Kailashgiri temple management who by chance had come to pick him, spoke to us and warned us in a rough tone saying that the place we had just ventured was really not safe and we shouldn’t have gone so far. On saying that we were not really aware of the board as it was put up in a wrong place and  since we had already made a safe return, there was no use of telling us now not to have ventured. There was an exchange of words again. It was slightly upsetting as this was the first time we had encountered such a rude behavior. Though our conversation ended sourly, we were quite happy that we had already explored the fort before they came and realized we would have missed so much, just in case destiny had taken us on the route towards that board! 
Lord Hanuman
 Mt Kailashgiri

Dwarfed Rehmangarh
Kissing the Clouds
     This was our dual-fort-adventure that ended with destiny being on our side. With both the regions being popular tourist spots, it’s quite hard to believe the fact that these hills are actually unsafe. We personally did not feel so, but who knows. Many places in Kolar district are considered unsafe, including the Antharagange hills. 

Anjaneri Fort Trek, Nashik, Maharasthra

'Anjaneri' is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman, similar to the hill of Anjanadri near Anegundi. However, it is very difficult to ascertain the original birth place of the Lord among these two. Anjaneri is believed to be the birth place of Goddess Anjani Matha, the mother of  Lord Hanuman/Anjaneya.  There is an ancient temple at Anjaneri dedicated to the goddess. It is unique as it is believed that there is no other temple built for this goddess. We can ascertain that this place has some association with Lord Hanuman. However,  Lord Hanuman is believed to have spent most of his time at a place named Kishkinda/Kishkinde. Kishkinda of Ramayana has been identified as Anegundi and its surrounding areas in the state of Karnataka. Although there are a few other places claiming as the birth place of Lord Hanuman, Anjanadri Betta of Kishkinda is the closest in relation as per the Ramayana. Nashik too has a deep connection with Lord Rama. It is at this place Lord Rama's brother Lakshmana cut the nose of Shurpanakha (Ravana's sister) leading to the kidnapping of Sita Matha. It would be wonderful to trace the route taken by Lord Rama from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka during in his exile.
Anjaneri Hill from the Bus Stop
Good Morning
Anjaneri Landscape
 My initial plan was to trek the fort at Harihar which a much popular trekking destination and therefore booked a cab for the same through an app. However, the driver had cancelled the booking due to some reason for which no notification was sent to me. I woke up in morning only to find out that the cab booking was canceled and the next cab pick-up would easily take at least 45 mins. Thus I dropped the plan of trekking Harihar fort and instead decided to go to Trimbak, a popular pilgrimage center and one among the 12 Jyotirlingas. Meanwhile, I stumbled upon the fort of Anjaneri which is located en-route to Trimbak from Nashik and is a popular trekking destination. It is worthwhile to mention that the bus connectivity between Nashik and Trimbak is commendable and available throughout the day and night. I boarded the 5 am bus in the morning and after a journey of about 45 mins, I got down at the Anjaneri cross bus-stop from where the trek base was about good 2km. I had to cover this distance by foot since no vehicle was available in the early morning hours.
Sun Over Anjaneri
Anjaneri Lake
Contrasting Colors of Life
There are well laid roads up to the trek base. However, I took the shorter route by foot used by the locals  and reached the trek base. What lovely sight it was! On one side was a big lake with blue waters and other encompassed a mesmerizing sunrise. Finally after a good 30 min walk I reached the trek base where there were a few shops and none were open except one that was just getting opened. An elderly person who ran this shop told me to wait for 5 minutes while he prepared some hot tea for me. Here, there were few boards giving details about the ecological importance of Anjaneri apart from being protected as a vulture sanctuary. I filled up my water bottle while the hot tea was getting ready. Though I generally do not prefer drinking tea, the tea here was probably the best that I have ever had. Steps are laid from here till the plateau and in between at a few places, railings have installed for support. Many locals ascend the hill on a regular basis to offer prayers and  perform for daily pujas to Goddess Anjani Matha.
Jaina Cave Temple
Lord Parshvanatha Tirthankara
Goddess Anjani Matha Temple
Lake on the Anjaneri Hill
More Trek Options Near Nashik
Navara Navri Fort
 The first temple that I came across here was a small Jaina cave temple dedicated Lord Parshvanatha. There are 2 murtis of the Lord caved in 2 separate chambers of the cave. A short climb from here leads to a plateau region from where one has to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the temple dedicated to Anjani Matha. After offering prayers to the goddess, it was time for another cup of hot tea. A further ascent hereon leads us to the peak of Anjaneri hills. Though no fortification exist here today, once a grand fort was erected which was destroyed by the British. At the beginning of the next series of steps is a small water pond in contrast to the big lake seen below. There are a few cave temples here which I wanted to explore while descending. I continued my climb and reached the peak in about 20 minutes. The views from here were  breathtaking and no words can describe it enough. There is a small temple at the peak which is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman.
Goddess Anjani Matha
Birth Place of Lord Hanuman
Hanuman Gupha
Tales of Two Lakes
CONTINUED HERE ...

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