Gudekote, Bellary - Cave Paintings, Fort and Bear Sanctuary

Gudekote Fort
Exploring Gudekote Fort with our Young Trekker
'Gudekote' is a small town situated on the Bellary/Ballari - Kudligi State Highway. As usual, having passed by this place many a time, we had an urge to visit here but never got a chance to do so. Finally during the last year Dasara holidays, we managed to plan a visit to this place. It was quite hectic and we started the day by exploring the Fort at Ramadurga, Shree Ramalingeshwara Cave Temple, Nayakanahatti Temple and the Prehistoric Sites of Kumathi and Hulikunte. We reached Gudekote around 4.15 pm and were contemplating whether or not to climb the hill fort as this place has been declared as a bear sanctuary. We inquired at a few places and found it safe to climb the hill and decided to give it a shot. We parked our vehicle and walked towards the hill in pursuit of another exciting adventure.
Gudekote, Bellary, Karnataka
Four of the Five Hills surrounding Gudekote as viewed from the Doregala Hill
Birdseye View of Gudekote
Bird's Eye View of Gudekote
History of Gudekote and Fort: Gudekote is derived from two Kannada words, 'Gudi' meaning  Temple and 'Kote' meaning Fort. Hence, Gudekote literally means a Temple-Fort. There are 5 hills surrounding the town of Gudekote namely, the Doregala Gudda, Someshwara Gudda, Agasara Gudda, Harijana Keri Gudda and Karadi Gudda. Gudekote was occupied since the Neolithic period, and many prehistoric artifacts have been discovered by researchers here. Later this place is said to have been under the rule of the Mauryan dynasty, based on the Ashokan edicts found at Brahmagiri, Ashoka Siddapura and Jatinga Rameshwara. It then came under the rule of the Satavahanas, the Kadambas, Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Kalyana Chalukyas, Hoysalas and the Palegars (chieftains) of Hosamaledurga. Subsequently, the Gudekote Palegars under the patronage of Vijayanagara Kings ruled this place between 1506 AD and 1757 AD and gave a tough fight to the Bahmani dynasty. King Gundala Nayaka established the Gudekote Palegar Kingdom, followed by Bommatharaja, Chinnayaraja, Immadi Rajjappanayaka, Jatingi Raja, Ramappanayaka, and Shivappa Nayak. The Gudekote Palegars improved the mud fort here by replacing it with a strong stone fort during the 16th century. This place was captured by Hyder Ali and later went fell into the hands of the British with the defeat of Tippu Sultan, who had control over this place till 1947 which later was added to the then state of  Mysore.
Gudekote Fort Trek
The Initial Climb
The Young Trekker Growing out of Shadows
After a short climb, we reached a site that seemed like a prehistoric settlement or rather would have been a perfect place to have one! The cave paintings here only confirmed that this site indeed was a prehistoric settlement. Though most of the cave paintings have been vandalized by modern graffiti, we were able to identify a few, with most of the remains seeming no less than a puzzle! The paintings were similar to the ones at  Jatinga Rameshwara and Anegundi, and hence must have belonged to the same period. We spent quite a good time here trying to decipher these paintings, as it always arouses the sense of creativity, imagination and humor in us. Deciphering paintings has always been a fun activity and hence we enjoy it. After a while, we proceeded further.
Prehistoric paintings Gudekote
Cave Paintings
Prehistoric rock shelter Gudekote Bellary
Cave Paintings and The Rock Shelter
Gudekote, Forts of Karnataka
Gudekote Fort
We were greeted by the first tier of the fortification which opens into a flat land, perfect to have a settlement. There were remains of a few buildings and also a stepped well. On exploring the area, we found another building structure of a much later stage, probably built by the British. This place seemed like a storage place for food, being devoid of any doors. We found a unique carving on a rock further, resembling that of a soldier with a spear in hand, and with very assertive and alert eyes! We continued our climb further only to realize that there was no clear path hereon, except a few ruins spread here and there. We settled here for a few minutes while the sun was setting behind us and after sometime started our descent. We reached the village and went straight to explore the Tangalli Mahal built in Indo-Islamic style by the Palegars  and  enjoyed the cool breeze there. This must have been a grand two storey structure which sadly today is in shambles. The hills and forests around Gudekote have been declared as a 'Sloth Bear Sanctuary', according to a notification of 2013 and second only such wildlife sanctuary after the Daroji Bear Sanctuary near Hampi of Bellary district.  This however, is yet to be opened for visitors and is considered to be larger than Daroji.
Gudekote fort entrance
2nd Fort Gateway of Gudekote
Stepped Well Inside Gudekote Fort
Dried Stepped Well Inside Gudekote Fort
Stepped Well, Gudekote, Bellary, Karnataka
Another Dried Stepped Well
Carving, Gudkeote fort, Bellary, Karnataka
Unique Carving
Gudekote, Forts of India
Ruins Inside Gudekote Fort
Store house, Gudekote Fort, Bellary, Karnataka
Store House Probably Built by the British
We also remember seeing a few rock paintings on the Gudekote - Bellary road during our other travels. Being very curious each time we saw them, we decided to check out what was in store this time and reached that spot, which falls inside the limits of a Bear Sanctuary. There were a few unique cave paintings under rock-shelters which were quite difficult to decipher. The sunset was an indication to end the day's adventure. It was a great day, one of those where we explored 2 forts, a beautiful cave temple, a popular local pilgrim center and 3 prehistoric sites. Hereon, we drove towards Bellary for our next adventure.
Tangalli Mahal, Gudekote, Bellary
Tangalli Mahal
Gudekote Bear Sanctuary Karnataka
Prehistoric Rock Shelter With Paintings
How to reach Gudekote: Located on the Bellary - Kudligi road, it is about 60 km from Bellary and 30 km from Kudligi. 
Accommodation: There are no options available for accommodation in Gudekote. One can stay at Kudligi which has limited options, however the best would be to find a stay in Bellary overnight. Our usual place of halt is Hotel Ashoka Residency with an affordable budget.
Places to Visit Around Gudekote: Sandur, Kudligi, Kotturu, Ujjaini, BrahmagiriAshoka Siddapura, Jatinga Rameshwara, Sanganakallu, Bellary, Hampi, Nayakanahatti, Kumathi, Hulikunte and many such.

References:
1. Book on "Ballari Jilleya KotegaLu" By Dr.M.Kotresh
2. Journeys Across Karnataka

Related Posts:
1. Channarayana Durga Fort
2. Ambajidurga Fort
3. Kavaledurga Fort 
4. Rock Engraving of Usgalimal 

Moonbow at Unchalli Waterfalls, Sirsi

Unchalli waterfalls, Siddapura Uttara Kannada
Unchalli Waterfalls
Sometime back,  having read about the phenomenon of a Moonbow or Lunar Rainbow occurring at a few waterfalls around the world, we wondered if we would ever get an opportunity to witness this rare phenomenon. The chances seemed were very minimal or nil, owing to the locations of its occurrence previously. The formation of Moonbow has been documented in 5 locations of waterfalls throughout the world so far, though there could be many such places where the Moonbow would form. One and only such place documented in Asia is our favorite waterfalls of Unchalli. We have the privilege of visiting Unchalli quite often, as Sirsi is always on our annual pilgrimage tour. This year however, we were unable to visit Sirsi earlier due to various reasons. Somehow, we got a chance for a quick visit to this place during the last weekend. As we wanted to visit Unchalli falls in the evening, we had to meet a few locals whom we knew from our previous visits and seek help to get the required permission.
Moonbow Unchalli Waterfalls
Note the Faint Moon Bow
Moonbow Unchalli Waterfalls
Chandra Dhanasu, Unchalli Falls
A Moonbow or Lunar Rainbow is a celestial phenomenon similar to the  usual rainbow, but formed only during moonlight. They are very rare in occurrence and invisible to the naked eye. Moonbows are very faint and believed to occur during a full-moon or bright-moon night. Though capturing them in the right angle is very difficult, there are a few who have been chasing Moonbows at Unchalli since a few years and have succeeded in documenting them only last year. As Unchalli waterfalls comes under the area of reserved forest, there are restrictions of movement during the night times and a strict ban is imposed on camping here. The locals were quite helpful in getting us the necessary permissions from the forest department for a late evening visit.
Moon Over unchalli Falls
Moon Over Unchalli Falls
I, along with my friends reached the house of the local friend around 6.45 pm that evening. Taking a moment to refresh, we quickly started our walk towards the view point of the waterfalls. Though that night was a half-moon night or Ashtami Chandra, the falls was clearly visible and we were enjoying our moonlit descent towards the view point. We made sure to be well equipped with torches to help us descend. The view from the watch tower was just splendid! The scene is indescribable in words or sentences! It  would easily convert any normal man into a poet. But I instead chose to photograph this spectacular scene, which was quite difficult due to the dim light. After a lot of trials, I  managed to get a couple of decent shots of the waterfall. While I zoomed in to take a look at the picture, I was shell shocked to see that we had additionally captured a Moonbow! A quite faint rainbow it is, but is yet so exciting to realize that very few people in Asia have ever been able to witness and capture it. Thoroughly and unbelievably excited I was! Holding the same excitement on reaching home and transferring the pictures to my system, I had a closer look just to reassure it was a Moonbow. I was happy that we were able to capture it on camera. Thus making Unchalli closer and dearer to us. Don't miss to stop by a short video tour on Unchalli waterfalls.
Trek at Unchalli Waterfalls ,Sirsi, Uttara Kannada
Descent to the Falls
Waterfalls of Karnataka
Unchalli Waterfalls

Our humble request to all is 'Please take prior permission from the concerned authorities before heading into the forest area during nights as it comes under reserve forest area'. Also, entry to the falls is prohibited after 6 pm. Remember not to litter the place and leave it as it is for others and future generations to enjoy. 
You can also read one of our experiences at this waterfalls here.

References:
1. Times of India
2. Landscape Wizards 
3. Time and Date 
4. Wikipedia

Related Posts:
1. Neelakurinji - A rare bloom
2. Dandeli - Resting in the lap of Nature
3. Biking in heaven, Kodagu

The Most Important Prehistoric Sites of India: Sanganakallu and Kappagallu, Bellary

Dolerite Dyke, Sanganakallu
Dolerite Dyke, Sanganakallu
'Sanganakallu' and 'Kappagallu' are important prehistoric sites located about 5 km from the district of Bellary. The prehistoric sites are spread across these two villages and surrounding areas, covering more than a 1000 acres. These sites are considered to be the earliest human settlements in South India and hold a very important position in the prehistoric studies of South India. They are of keen interest to any archaeologist who is studying prehistory, since these are a few sites which have been under settlement for a very long time covering different phases of the prehistoric period. Sanganakallu and Kappagallu have been inhabited since the Mesolithic period and would have been in full glory during the Neolithic period, and continued also into the Iron age. The excavations here have yielded many clues regarding their agricultural practices here, majorly millet cultivation. The Birappa Rock Shelter here has been dated to the Mesolithic period, and continuing till the Iron age. Radiocarbon dating of Birappa Rock Shelter has given the indication of dates as far back as 9000 BC (11000 years back). This site was first discovered by William Fraser in 1872 AD, although the first extensive study of the site was carried out by B. Subbarao in 1946. This site was further studied by Z.D.Ansari and M.S.Nagarajarao in 1965 who established the fact that these sites were associated with the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic periods. However, the most extensive and advanced study of this site was carried out in 2002 by Dr.Boivin and Ravi Korishettar. Sadly, these sites today lie in a state of neglect and distress.
Hiregudda, Sangankallu
Hiregudda, Sanganakallu
During our last Dasara holidays, we had a chance to visit this site. We reached Sanganakallu village in search of Sri Ramadasa who knows every rock of this hill. With the help of the villagers, we found his house and on requesting him to guide us through, he informed about his busy schedule that day and told us to come the next day. We agreed and set out the next day morning to pick him up and prompt to his words, he was ready waiting for us. The hill complex is about a km from this village and as we reached, we found a good shady place to park our vehicle and began our adventure for the day. Sri Ramadasa is one who has dedicated his entire life exploring this site and understanding them. It is always good to go around with a learned guide while exploring such sites in order to get a good insight and a complete picture of them. Sri Ramadasa describes the names of the hills as Hiregudda, Sudalamattigudda, Sadashivagudda, Choudammagudda and Sannarachammagudda. He drew a map of these hills in our book to explain the location and the horse shape formed by these hills, which was quite interesting! We finally began our journey of exploring this wonderful site.
Kappagallu Ash mounds
Destroyed Ash mound
Ramadasa explains that the government had proposed plans of developing this site into a tourist attraction and its proximity to the district of Bellary would be an added advantage. Some work related to this project underwent, which finally was halted permanently due to various unknown reasons. The sad state of affairs across the country and our greed takes over the need. The day this site develops as a premium tourist spot in Karnataka, the entire quarry lobby here will be under threat. This is the primary reason why this project did not take off. Though the quarrying has considerably reduced, significant damage has already been done, which is quite evident. It is sad that such sites across our country are dying in neglect without any kind of protection or any intent to protect. People like Ramadasa are the only guardians of such sites, who have ensured that whatever little left is protected and shared to the outer world. The Government should always involve the locals in improving such sites. The locals must be educated regarding the significance of such sites by conducting various  programs and holding discussions with them. Locals are the key to protecting such large sites and the government should rightly ensure that they promote these sites as tourist attractions.
Musical Rocks, Sanganakallu and Kappagallu
Musical Rocks, Sanganakallu
As Sanganakallu and Kappagallu are two villages separated by the Hiregudda hill range, this site has been named differently by various archaeologists depending upon the approach used. The villages together were one of the earliest settlements in South India, which overlapped with the mature Harappan civilization. There are many interesting sites in and around these places such as the Peacock Hill, Dolerite Dyke Petroglyphs, Hiregudda Stone Tool Factory, Kappagallu Ash Mounds, Birappa Painted Rock Shelter, Village Site, Stone Circles and other Megaliths.
Natural Blasting of Rocks
Natural Blasting of Rocks
We began our ascent to this hill only to be stopped by an exposed soil profile showing us the formation of different soil layers, due to the continuous settlements here. Our guide showed us various rock weapons such as the axes, spears, pounding stones and some weights which were in use back then. A short climb from here brought us to a site which had the maximum number of petroglyphs or rock carvings. The Ghante rock, translated as the Bell-rock welcomes us to this fascinating world of Petroglyphs. On this rock are 2 carvings, that of a bell and the other of a bull. Our guide explained that the bull depicted here is quite similar to the Gangiyeddu's cattle decoration (a beautiful cloth tied to the hump of the bull).
Kupgal Petroglyphs
Ghante Rock
The carving of a big bull welcomed us to this site and from thereon, almost every other rock we saw had petroglyphs or rock carvings on them! The carvings of bulls in various sizes and shapes clearly dominated the others. Our guide went on to explain that these probably indicated the direction towards the temple of Lord Basavanna and were aligned accordingly. The first of the baffling carvings here was that of a 3 horned bull.
Pre historic Bull Carvings
Bulls Everywhere
Three Horned bull carving Sanganakallu
Three Horned Bull
 One of the different and interesting carvings here was that of a water bird, probably a crane with a circle carved behind it, signifying a water body. Sri Ramadasa told us about the existence of a lake previously in the direction of the birds beak, which was probably being depicted in this diagram. This reminded us of an interesting article we had read, titled 'Prehistoric men drew maps'. It may have been the early stage of depicting directions/maps through drawings that enabled any new person from the other tribe/places who visited or settled here to navigate more easily. This is only proof to the vision of our ancestors as maps were invented only about 5000 years ago, which was much later.
Anicent Rock carvings, Karnataka
Carving of Waterbird
Panchayat Stone/ Court Hall - We reached a site which as per our guide was a meeting hall or court, where the leader of the tribe met the visitor and gave judgement in case of any dispute. The  terrain here was flat, which could easily accommodate about 20 to 25 people and also housed a huge slab which served as the leader's seat.
Pre historic Court Hall
Panchayat/ Court Hall
Bull-Axe Wheel - The next intriguing carving here was that of a bull-axe wheel consisting of 5 bulls, which may have been the representation of a calendar that helped people prepare their lands just before the onset of monsoons. On closer observation, one can identify the axe carved in the shape of bulls legs and five such interlinked bulls forming a wheel in combination.
Bull axe wheel Carving, Sanganakallu
Bull Axe Wheel Carving
Long Horned Sambar Deer -  The next etching that caught our eyes was the beautiful depiction of a Long Horned Sambar Deer, which probably roamed here freely back then. It is disheartening that this animal is currently listed as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. Though the climb became a lot more difficult hereon due to the rocky terrain, the sight of such carvings kept us engaged.
Long Honrned Sambar Deer
Carving of Long Horned Sambar Deer
Earliest Rock Musicians - The people of various settlements occupying this site made musical instruments out of the rocks found here. They made grooves of such kind on the rocks that when struck emitted different musical notes. Such musical instruments have also been found at other similar sites such as the kettle's drum at Hirebenakal and the drum at Mosalayyana Gudda at Hampi. Such musical rock instruments must have been an inspiration in the construction of many musical pillars that form a part of temples.
Prehistoric Rock music, Sanganakallu
A Prehistoric Rock Music Instruments
Other carvings sighted were that of a Barasingha, a few aroused men and erotic scenes.
Rock carvings of Erotics scenes
Carvings of Barasingha, a Few Aroused Men and Erotic Scenes
And Lo! Finally, we witnessed the most beautiful and unique of all carvings of this site. Of all the carvings here, this carving of a big three horned bull  stands out, with each of its horn resembling a trident/trishula. Our guide named this carving as the Nandikeshvara Kamasutra Panel, since it also included the depiction of a few erotic scenes. A peacock carving is also seen here along with the carving of an elephant.
Rock Carvings, Sanganakallu
Wow What a Scene !
Nandikeshvara Kamasutra Panel
Nandikeshvara Kamasutra Panel

Carving of a Leader along with his Disciples.
Guide for Sanganakallu
 Our Guide Sri Ramadasa and in the Background is a Carving of Leader along with his Disciples  
A rock with carvings of foot and hand impressions.
Carvings of Hand and Foot Impressions
A Maduve (Marriage) yantra is carved here, which is still followed by the locals during their marriage ceremonies.
Maduve Yantra
Maduve Yantra
This could probably be the earliest reference to goddess Lajja Gauri, the goddess of fertility. We were able to spot two such carvings here, one very elaborately carved with a lot of details and the other which was much simpler. These carvings are pretty much similar to the carvings found in Usgalimal of Goa .
Earliest Carving of Lajja Gauri
Carving of Lajja Gauri
Hereon, our guide took us to the Pitlappa temple where people continue to worship even today, especially during the festival of Nagara Panchami. A small opening between the rocks forms this simple temple and is probably one of the earliest temple, devoid of any murti as of today. We are not sure whether any murti was installed here initially.
Pitlappa Temple, Sanganakallu
Pitlappa Temple, Sanganakallu
Pre-historic Scribble Pad -  This probably seems like one's to-do list or scribbling their ideas when struck to their minds so as to remember them later. There are a lot of carvings here that are simply out of this world. We spent maximum time here deciphering these carvings.
Prehistoric Scribble Pad, Sangankallu
Prehistoric Scribble Pad, Sanganakallu
Carving of a 6 Bull-Axe Wheel
Carving of a pack of dogs.
Carving of a Pack of Dogs
As the weather was too hot to continue further exploration, we gave up the plan of visiting the stone factory. We descended down and headed straight towards the ash mound here. This ash mound is one of the 4 ash mounds surviving today, though partially disturbed. To know more about it, do check our post on Kudatini Ash Mound.
Kappagallu Ash Mounds
Kappagallu Ash Mounds
We went further and explored the Birappa Rock Shelter located close by the village of Kappagallu. Some of the paintings here can be dated to 9000 BC (Mesolithic period). Lastly, we spent sometime playing in the cold waters of river Tungabhadra flowing in a canal nearby the village of Kappagallu. What an amazing end it was to our journey! We later dropped Mr. Ramadasa to his house and thanked him for taking us around and explaining each and every rock in detail during this wonderful and informative tour.
Cave Paintings, Birappa Rock Shelter
Cave Paintings, Birappa Rock Shelter

References:
1. Wikipedia
2. Megalithic
3. Journeys Across Karnataka

Related:
1. Chandravalli Cave Pre-historic Site
2. Dolmen Circles of Doddamalathe 
3. Prehistoric Anthropomorphic Statues of Kumathi