Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Unplanned outing to Chikballapur

Till early morning 1 am, we hadn't decided where to go today -- a holiday for us journalists on account of Ganesha Chaturthi. After considering many getaways around 100 km from Bangalore, and rejecting many, we decided to go to Skandagiri, which we were told, is a popular trekking spot, near Nandi Hills on the Bellary Road, ahead of Bangalore International Airport. It is about 70 km from Bangalore. We had no intension to trek, but decided to head to that place with some basic knowledge gained from websites.

We left Bangalore around 8 am. On the way, I suggested that we might also check out the birth place of renowned engineer Sir M Visvesvaraya at Muddenahalli near Nandi Hills, where there is his museum and his samadhi.

There are lots of flowers on the way. 
To Muddenahalli

On the Bellary Road, the National Highway 7, follow the sign to Bangalore Intenational Airport. Go past the deviation to the airport, along the highway, and look for the signboard that indicates a left turn to Nandi Hills. Turn left.

Caution: Do not speed on that stretch from the highway to the foot of the hills, because there are many unmarked humps on the road. High time the local authorities clearly marked them.

The memorial of Sir M Visvesvaraya
We reached the foot of hills around 9.30 am. Don't expect to get breakfast on the way. There are restaurants, but we didn't find any of them open. So it will be a good idea to carry enough snacks and drinks. Had light snacks from a small road side hotel, where only Maggi and bread omlette, and tea were available. We were advised by a friend to go first to Muddenahalli and then go to Skandagiri.

To go to Muddenahalli, take a right turn at the foot of the hill, also called Nandi Cross. (A left turn from there will take you to Nandi Hills.) There are signboards that indicate the birthplace of Sir MV.

We reached there around 10 am. Amazingly well maintained place. There are good sign boards to guide you. To the left of the State of Bank of Mysore is the building that houses the museum of Sir MV. Beside the SBM, you see a gate that leads you to his memorial and a beautiful garden. The tranquility of the countryside is striking. The memorial and the garden are very well maintained, unlike Nandi Hills where you find litter and rubbish strewn around, besides dogs and monkeys. May be because not too many people come here.
The building that houses Sir MV's museum, also his birthplace

The museum has some priceless items. One is a Woodstock typerwriter that Sir MV used in 1923. Then you have a list of his routine when he was 25 years old and when he was 95 years old. There are also his university certificates and a copy of the Mysore Gazzette notification of June 10, 1919 appointing him as the chief engineer. Another antique is a huge dictionary that was presented to him by Charles Waters, principal of the Central college in 1881 and used by Sir MV till 1961. There is an excellent quote, a guiding principle of Sir MV: "If you buy what you don't need, you will need what you can't buy."


Rock at Skandagiri
It is also known as Kalavarahalli beta. After you drive out Sir MV's memorial, take the first left. You reach a small village, I guess it is Kalavarahalli, and at the T-junction, take a left turn. You reach a Shiva temple. To the left of temple is the Omkara Jyothi Ashram or the Papagni mutt. Vehicles can be parked beside or in front of the temple.

We reached there around 12 noon. At the Omkara Jyothi Ashram there is the samadhi of Mariyappa Swamiji, who passed away just three months back. We were told Swamiji, who built the ashram, was a close disciple of Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living Foundation. Every second Sunday, there are Bhajans at the Ashram prayer hall, attended by 400 to 500 people.

One can go up Skandagiri by trekking. We were told that trekking is banned, after some tragic incidents. But locals said you can go up the hill. It takes about 3 hours. There are two routes up, from either side of temple. We didn't come to trek. We decided to walk up a little just to get a feel of the place. We went up via the right side of the temple. There was a herd of goats grazing. Barring that, the entire area was deserted.
Rock at Skandagiri

There are some breathtaking rocks, big and small. The hills around you are imposing. We decided not to talk for a few minutes, just to soak in the serene environs. It was so quiet, no sound from anywhere, but for the occcasional chirpings of a bird or two. The short climb up the hill was good. We got on top of some rocks, and just sat there looking at the expanse around us bareft of any human habitation. Around 1.45 pm, we decided to leave.

Sri Bhoganandeeswara Swamy temple
This is on the stretch between Muddenahalli and Nandi Cross (from where one road leads you up to Nandi Hills). So, you can visit the temple even on your way to Muddenahalli.
Bhoganandeeswara Temple

Just after we entered, we stood amazed looking at the vast premises that houses the temple. The temple proper is not visible from outside. Inside it spreads over a good area and is unbelievably impressive. So, please do get inside to see the intricate architecture and carvings on the walls and pillars. There is a stunningly beautiful temple pond.

No authentic information about the history of this Shiva-Parvathi temple. Some websites say that it was built in stages -- from 9 century onwards -- across many years by different ruling dynasties. It seems, this is the oldest temple in Karnataka. The temple structure is fabulous. The beauty of temple pond took our breath away.
Bhoganandeeswara Temple

It was around 3 pm, and we realised we had not had our lunch. Checked into a restaurant. It took a long time for them to serve our food. That's the way it is in most restaurants. We didn't go to Nandi Hills, the most popular tourist destination in this area. We started our journey back to Bangalore around 4.30 pm.

On our way back, got grapes for Rs 35 per kilo. Not of great quality, we realised later. The taste of the sample that the lady offered tasted much better than the actual one we bought. Anyway, it's a steal at that price.

Devanahalli Fort

At Devanahalli, we took a left turn on the highway to see the Devanahalli Fort. It was specially designed to resist cannon fire. In 1761, Tipu's army which was guarding it, fell to the advancing British troops. The fort is very impressive, and mercifully it has survived all these years. From top of the fort you get good view of the highway and surrounding areas.

We reached back our homes around 7 pm.

Poor state of monuments

One only wishes the government could take better care of these priceless historical structures. The best way is to decentralize the administrative control of the huge Archaeological Survey of India, allow it operate a local revenue generating mechanism at individual sites that will supplement the grant it gets from the government. The money thus collected locally should be ploughed back into maintaining the premises and structures. It is so sad to see these monuments and heritage structures lying neglected.

The scare at temple

Like at most tourist spots, here too we encountered hangers-on, who were asking for money. I found two people reeking of alcohol entering the Nandeeswara temple premises, not the temple proper. I also found one man smoking. Both at Sir MV memorial and at the temple, people approached us asking for some money. Anything from a rupee to Rs 10, depending upon the circumstances, is all that is required to get them out of the way.

At the temple, we saw a man in his 30s may be, who didn't look normal, approaching two of us. When we sat, he came and sat near us. We then got up and moved away. Then, I felt that he was moving faster towards one of us. That gave me a scare, especially since he didn't look normal. He kept closely following us. We didn't have any change to give him, and we told him so. But, still he moved to towards us. Then, a couple told him to go away, and to our relief, he went away.  

We had a wonderful time, nevertheless. The level of satisfaction was much higher because we hadn't actually planned this trip; and it went of without any hitch whatsoever.

Nandi Hills is the most preferred destination, if don't miss out these wonderful places were went today -- Sir MV's memorial at Muddenahalli, Skandagiri, Sri Bhoganandeeswara Swamy temple and Devanahalli Fort.


  1. Lovely pictures, Pradeep. Looks like you had a wonderful time.

  2. Ya it was a good trip. Will share the photos after I download them.

  3. Nice one, sir. I once missed the left turn from Bellary Road towards Nandi Hills, and reached Chikkaballapur. Then I accidentally took a different route that reached Nandi cross from Muddenahalli side. The road was very narrow but that stretch was beautiful.

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