Tag Archives: Bangalore treks

A day out at Kaiwara

Our company has recently changed its working calendar and now, we have our weekly off on Wednesdays instead of Sundays. When I woke up this Wednesday morning, a weekend for me and when the rest of the world is working their asses off, halfway through their week… I sat wondering how I was going to kill the rest of the day amidst the four walls of my house, all jobless.

Then suddenly, I remembered a place that a friend had told me about, long ago. She had done her internship at ‘Kaiwara’ during the final year of her MBBS course. I jumped out of my bed and began to google for it. With lot of information available online, I was able to jort down a list of places to see in and around Kaiwara and with a quick route map. I dragged my mum along, pulled the car out of the garage and zooommm we went…….

List of Places covered:
Narayanapa Mutt; Bheemeshwara temple; Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta; Tapovana; Vaikunta betta; MahaKailasaGiri Betta; ChenaKeshava Cave Temple; Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

The details:
It was around 09.00.a.m. when we started from Bangalore. We reached Devanahalli from where we took the Vijayapura bypass road. At an average speed of 60kmph, a drive of a good 45min from the Bengaluru airport is what it took us to reach Kaiwara.

As soon as one enters the Kaiwara town, a small lane on the left leads you to the Narayanappa ģMutt. This is where Saint Narayanappa attained ‘Jeeva Samadhi’ and the mutt is currently being managed by the M.S.Ramaiah trust. Half a kilometer away from the Mutt is the ‘Bheemeshwara temple’. This is where the mythology has it that Bheema killed Bakasura while the Pandavas were in exile. There is a group of small temples there, each named after the Pandavas within the same premises. Overlooking the Mutt is the Bheema baana Betta or Kaiwara Betta. We thought of skipping our visit there, considering the number of steps we had to climb up. Maybe a hike that I can plan for some other day.

Entrance to Vaikunta betta
The Entrance to Vaikunta betta

We drove for one kilometer further and reached ‘Tapovana’, the place where Saint Narayanappa used to meditate, back in the days. There is a small garden around there, which can be given a miss if you wish. Few yards uphill from there, we reached the ‘Vaikunta Betta’. At the base of the hill is the ‘Amaranareyana Temple’ dedicated to Lord Vishnu built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. With our climb upstairs, we reached the ‘Yoga Narasimha Temple’. The structure seemed to be ignored by the visitors. But we enjoyed the calm in this cave temple, believed to be the place where the Lord appeared in front of Narayanappa. The temple terrace had an excellent view of the entire town. A word of caution though: With too many monkeys around there, it was no monkey business.!!

A view from The Vaikunta temple
A view from the Vaikunta temple

We then commenced the best stretch of the drive. After an uphill drive of 5kilometers, we wondered how beautiful Mount Kailash (in the Himalayas) could be if the lesser known ‘MahaKailasaGiri Betta’ in Kaiwara was this beautiful. Atop the hill, is a set of newly chiseled man-made caves that houses 3 temples.

Enroute to Kailasa
Enroute to Kailasa

Unlimited food is provided to every pilgrim/visitor at KailasaGiri temple and the Mutt between 12.30.p.m and 3.00.p.m. So, we decided to hog some yummy temple food at Kailasa Giri itself. By this time, we had covered all the places I had enlisted in Kaiwara. But it was still 2.30.p.m and we had a lot of time left. While coming downhill, we decided to follow a signboard which indicated the way to ‘ChenaKeshava Cave Temple’. But it was quite a disappointment after reaching there. We could’ve probably skipped the visit to this place.

I then remembered someone mentioning about ‘Venkateshwara Temple’ in Alambagiri, located about 10kms from Kaiwara. The place is supposedly famous for Paper made handicrafts. So, we decided to explore this place too. But some renovation work in this ancient temple was in progress and there were absolutely no shops in that place (forget handicrafts stores). We were disappointed again by the unfruitful drive until there.

Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple (1)
Alambagiri Venkateshwara temple

As per google, there was ‘Ambaji Durga Cave temple’ 7kms away from Kaiwara, and we tried to enquire with a few locals about the place. But nobody seemed to have heard of it and hence, we thought of giving it a miss too. With this, we thought it was time for us to return back to where we belong to- The Bengaluru city.

Conclusion:

  • Kaiwara alone is a nice place to plan a drive with family or a group of biking friends. Though it was a small trip, it was a pleasant one.
  • Kaiwara is famous for silk rearing & weaving. You will come across several houses stacking up the cocoon rearing trays for most of your way. Maybe you should try to pick up some silk stuffs while you are there or get hands-on working experience at silk rearing.

Devanahalli- The town within a Fort

On a casual weekday off, dad and I decided to take a train trip to some random place on the fringes of Bangalore. So, with tickets that costed us Rs.4 per head, we headed towards the platform. We boarded the Yeswantapur-Devanahalli Passenger train. What surprised us what this train with 5 bogies had just 5 passengers, for a round trip. That makes it 1 passenger per bogie 😛

Anyway, the journey towards Devanahalli began and considering that the train still plied well within Bangalore, it felt like we were riding through some unknown green route. We alighted at Devanahalli Railway Station, a small structure from the colonial era (Updated as on Yr.2019, the structure doesn’t exist any longer. It has been demolished making way for a newer station that now welcomes modern passengers who alight here to go to the Bengaluru International Airport) We decided to undertake some exploration and started to walk towards the main town area of Devanahalli.

Places of interest:

Birthplace of Tipu Sultan, Fort Devanahalli, a few ancient temples located within the fortress.

Devanahalli railway station
Devanahalli railway station

The Details:

Enroute, we came across a large stepwell (the only memoir of an once existent temple) which was all dried up now. As we continued to walk further from there, we came across several ancient temples along our way.

Things to see in Devanahalli
An Old temple pond

Before the Bengaluru Airport was shifted to the neighbourhood of this little village, Devanahalli was already popular as the hometown of Tippu Sultan, often referred as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. We arrived at a small mantap like structure which has an engraved stone that mentions it as the Birth place of this controversial ruler in South India. With this structure lying right by the side of the main road, it didn’t seem very exciting to me to think of whether this famous ruler was born by the road side (or so it seemed).

Tippu's Birth place
Tippu’s Birth place

As we continued to walk further, we came across a large walled structure. With rain water stagnating by its side, excavation waste from the city dumped at the entrance, unpaved dusty roads and all that, it seemed to me like it was a neglected piece of history with a first glance. As we passed through the super narrow doorway in this wall, we realized that we were entering a fortress.

After entering it, we decided to walk on a raised platform along the inner side of the fortress wall. It was a walk longer than we expected it to be and we soon realized that it is one whole town that actually exists within the walls of the fort. The actual ‘Devanahalli’ from the history books existed within the walls and what one knows around the highway is just an extension of the town that overgrew the walls due to the boom in real estate that followed the commencement of the airport.

Things to see in Devanahalli

But after walking so much around this place, it felt like there was nothing much in this place that spoke about Tippu’s valour that is often spoken about in history books.Talking about back in the time in history and with my experience of visiting Srirangapatna (a stronghold of Tippu & his father), Devanahalli as a town lacked development.We walked around the place till evening and were able to cover one half of the Fort. But, with that we had already exited from the other end of the town. We boarded a BMTC bus back to the city from there.

Closing Remarks:
• A good day for a jobless person like me seeking for offbeat places around the city
• It isn’t an exclusive place, but if someone has couple of hours of transit at the airport and don’t know what to do, this is an option. It is the nearest place to venture out in a taxi from the airport as Bengaluru city is too far to reach.

Gold Market to Gold Fields in a Railbus

One Saturday off in a month and the crunch for exploration was at its peak… Dad and I decided to board the train to sit in a bus that runs on rails.. I mean.. We wanted to travel in the “RailBus”. There are only 2 railbuses still running in the country, one runs on narrow guage and the other runs on broad gauge. While the former is a part of the Kalka-Shimla mountain railways, the latter is operated by the South western railways. And we were interested in the one closer to home i.e. in South India. It plies between Bangarpet (literally translates to Gold Market in Kannada) and KGF a.k.a. Kolar Gold Fields.

Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station
Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station

It leaves Bangarpet at 9.00.a.m and returns by noon. Again leaves Bangarpet by 5.30.p.m and returns before its dark. So, technically we wanted to reach Bangarpet before 9.00.a.m. But the laziness that had set in because of a hectic work week, we woke up late and boarded the Bangarpet-Bangalore express at 9.45.a.m from Cantonment railway station. So the entire idea of railbus travel flopped even before it happened. Jeez..!!!

Once at Bangarpet, we walked from the railway junction to the dusty town and boarded a private bus that took us to KGF which had passengers 2.5XFOS (2.5 times the Factor of Safety) the bus was designed for..!! And our arrival at the destination was rather fast considering the time we had before we died of suffocation due to the availability of very little air to breathe(forget Oxygen) in the completely choked up bus 😛 (I seriously don’t know how to put our plight in words..!!)

The Cyanide Dumps
The Cyanide Dumps

KGF.. The road welcomes you with a continuous stretch of this really awesome looking hill on one side and an old dusty town on the other side. It is dusty because it is a mining hub and it has a hill because of the same reason.. These hills are called cyanide dumps- the slurry left over after gold extraction from the mines using Cyanide based alkalis are dumped here and this has hardened over time making it look like a hill. It reminded me of the formations in the Grand Canyon for some reason.

Kotilingeshwara Temple
Kotilingeshwara Temple

From here, we again boarded a bus to reach the “Kotilingeshwara temple”. This place is said to have more than 1 crore Shivalingas, all donated by people. Though I’m not a very religious person, I wanted to visit the place for the history it unfolded. It was soon pack-up time for us as the scorching sun had sucked out most of our energy. But, most importantly, we had to return to Bangarpet before we could miss a glance of the sole reason of our trip..!! And.. We were back at BWT junction as per schedule.

The loner was resting in the shade of a tree. And the loco pilot obliged to open the door and let us have a look inside of the train. It felt nice to see the last one left in the country but the trip ended soon. Ofcourse, it was with a heavy heart that we could not travel in it 😥

The RailBus in Karnataka
The RailBus
The RailBus in Karnataka

Have you been in a bus that travels on railway lines???? Do share your experiences below. I’d love to hear them!

The Western Ghats- To Save or Not ?

There is much ado about the Western Ghats getting tagged as a World heritage site by the UNESCO.

So, like everyone around me here, I too am excited about sharing my views on it.

Firstly the stronger points for consideration:

  1. The western Ghats is home to very rare species of flora & fauna- many snakes, frogs, birds etc. are critically endangered and also unique only to these Ghats.
  2. These ghats stop the wind from the east and bring rainfall to the south.
  3. The major rivers of the South are rain fed and originate here.
  4. I being an ardent nature lover would definitely support to save the ever lush green ghats.

Now, the points not to consider:

  1. There are a no. of tribes living in these Ghats like the Soligas, Kurubas, Maleya-kudiyas etc who will all be forced to vacate the forests and will be disturbed from their natural habitat though the government may promise them of providing alternate homes.
  2. The Coorgs (Kodavas)- by themselves are a very small community fighting hard against the “Jamma Bane” issue and now have yet another blow. Many localites holding lands in the identified areas will be forced to vacate and this will inturn force them out of Coorg.
  3. Myself being a hardcore Kodavathi, I would never be able to take this by my stride.

And now, the strongest of them all:

  1. The Ghats are a rich source for mining, timber and a major hub for tourism leading to severe deforestation in the name of building resorts, nature sports and the likes.
  2. It is important to consider that our beloved elected representatives are frequently in the limelight for the mining scams. The major share of resorts in this region are owned by big names and are tucked away deep in the core area of the jungles which compete for providing the best tiger spotting, elephant spotting, wild hunting, etc. etc, activities for their guests. So there is a valid point for these scamsters to fight against the prestigious tag.
  3. The heritage tag limits the human entry to most regions. Let alone restrictions on activities like trekking, hiking etc. just walking around this place without knowledge would lead to high penalty.

But, what if this has an impact on a Coorg’s lifestyle: the tag has come as a much needed  respite for a nature lover like me. We are Coorgs at the end of the day. We have lived our way through thick jungles, heavy downpours, deep dark nights, wild animals in our porticos. And that’s the way we enjoy our life at it’s best. So we can definitely live strong with thick jungles. We want our Green cover to be saved…!!

I am frustrated of being helpless and just a mute spectator watching the depletion of green cover in the name of development. I can hardly see any development in my area other than the fact that big names (let me say powerful people) are buying properties by offering good money and settling down in Coorg, becoming stake-holders in resorts etc and turning all their black money white.

I used to eagerly wait for the rainy season to start so that I would get my monsoon holidays while I was in school. And now, I am even more anxious that this rainy season may pass by without even seeing a “rainfall”. Yes, only conservation of these ghats can bring us the rains that we need.

I am frustrated with the fact that the place where is grew up catching little fishes and crabs with my cousins as a little girl beneath big boulders is now nothing but a fully concrete platform for the tourists to rest on.

What I once knew as a beautiful waterfall and a place where my grandpa gave me my swimming lessons is now nothing but a pool of sewage flowing from the town littered by ruthless tourists. The stench of this mess gets tears streaming down my eyes everytime I stand on the very same concrete platform and try to recollect the good old greener and cleaner grandpa days…

The Bramhagiri hills
The Bramhagiri hills

And here I sum up (with lines from a famous song of a Bollywood movie):

Give me some sunshine, give me some rain
Give me another chance, I want to grow up once again…

– 3 Idiots

Haniyur – A village with simplicity

It was a visit due for a couple of years now… Subbanna uncle is a family friend of ours and after repeated invitations from his family; the long pending plan had finally materialized. Mom woke up early that morning and prepared sufficient food for the two families. The idea was that the two families- Subbanna uncle’s and our’s, ate lunch together. We left home around noon towards Haniyur, a small village located at around 10kms away from Rajanukunte on Doddaballapur road. That’s where the Subbanna family lives, a little away from their farm.

As we entered Haniyur village, we were welcomed by fragile houses with mud smeared walls, dry- unpaved roads which had never seen Asphalt, dusty animals and open drainage running up to their brim in front of the houses on both sides of the road. When we arrived at his house, the door was locked and the neighbors informed us that the family was off to their farm. So, we decided to meet them in their farm itself rather than troubling them to walk back home in the hot sun.

Asters horticulture farm
A warm welcome laid by the Asters’ garden

Their farm extends to a very large area that has been divided into several portions depending on what crop is grown. The crops are largely short term and comprise of fruits, vegetable and flowers. This time around they had Asters’ flower garden and a grape vineyard. While the elders in the family were busy with the labourers, the youngest member of the family- Uncle’s grandson was busy playing with the water pipes that were laid for drip irrigation. They were all excited to see us in their farm and some welcome drink (Tender coconut water) was sanctioned immediately. We told them that we would be having lunch with them in the farm itself and opened all the packages we had carried with ourselves. For salad, we had fresh tender cucumbers from the garden. Main course was ‘Kodava food’ from my mom’s kitchen and some nice ‘Ragi-Mudde’ from the Subbanna family’s large lunchbox. Yummy lunch ended with fresh chikkus, guavas and plantains- all from his farm. No restaurant could make up for the cool, fresh and pleasant ambience under the grape vine, in spite of the scorching sun seeming ruthless just outside.

Grapes vineyard visit
Clockwise from top left: Onion farm; Grapes vineyard; Gerkins farm; raw grapes

Later, we walked around their farm and the village and breathed in the rusty country side as much as we could take in. After having a hot cup of chai from the fresh milk from the cattle in the family’s backyard, we decided to bid good bye to this wonderful family.

Local dieties and place for worship
Some kind of a place for worship of the Local deity

It was still around 05.00.p.m, when we started from there. We decided to take a small deviation from our road and visit a temple located at around 4kms from Haniyur before heading towards the city. I’m not a temple kind of person, but for my parents’ sake, we went to the “Madurai- Shaneeshwara temple”. We were done with the darshan in 15mins or so… and headed back to the grind.

Conclusion remarks: There was no set agenda, just catching up for lunch with some old friends in the shades of a simple village and farm. The simplicity of the people who live there and the simple, yet tastiest food from their kitchen, with fresh and chemical free vegetables from their own garden… It’s a different feeling. We the city souls will never understand what money can’t buy. ‘Keeping it simple’ is the way of life!

A lazy weekend at Railway Gollahalli

This is yet another outing from our endless list of random weekends. This time, it was the three of us. Dad, bro and myself who boarded a random train with a ticket to a random destination. We first enquired about the next earliest train leaving from Yeshwantapur railway station. And then decided the destination based on the parameter of distance that the train would cover such that it is not too far from the city and it is easy to find a transportation to return to the city. After the destination was decided, we bought a ticket and headed towards the platform.

So, at around 2.00.p.m.on a lazy weekend, we boarded the train going towards Tumkur. After a good 20minutes or so, we arrived at our destination, a small station called “Gollahalli”. Since every corner of Bangalore has a village named Gollahalli, it is normal if you are wondering which Gollahalli I am talking about. This one is called “Railway Gollahalli”. I don’t know why the name, maybe because it is the only Gollahalli connected by trains or so…

After alighting at the railway station, we decided to explore the village using our favorite mode of transport: “leg motor service”. Like always, we started to walk in a random direction from the railway station, without a set destination. We walked and walked, miles together… It was a thorough exploration of the rustic side!

We spotted a good deal of blunders with English which could give one a hearty laugh. And of course, the fresh village atmosphere, an unending list of birds, lush green farms, the charming village folk- All which definitely plays its magic on people like us who are frustrated with the hustle & bustle of the metro.

funny translations on roadside shops
Mutton stall- Matan steel- ಮೇಕೆ ಮಾಂಸ shop

It was a village that is neither of any scientific or architectural recognition, nor of any historical or mythological importance, but yet an amazing place in its own way. We were our own guides here. We did not want to ask for directions from any localite as we ourselves did not know where we wanted to go… We continued to walk… reached some main road… we further followed the main road… we reached Nelamangala BMTC bus stand. This was where our exploration ended and we boarded a bus back to the city.

Birds spotted around Bangalore
Birds at Railway Gollahalli

Closing Remarks: Be not a Columbus or an Amerigo, but one must definitely explore a new place, try out a new dish, make a new friend. It feels AWESOME 🙂

Up, close and personal with wildlife at Bannerghatta

I believe that we develop interests based on the environment and the social circles that we are exposed to. Born in a small hill-dwelling community whose lineage takes pride in hunting games, it once got me to think where my interests towards nature and wildlife conservation came from. Although I couldn’t join too many dots, one significant period was my high-school days where I would have long conversations with a friend, about animals’ health, their behavior, their habitat etc. Her father worked in the Karnataka forest department. I thus chanced upon once, to stay for a couple of days along with her, in the official quarters located inside the Bannerghatta Biological park.

A stay dating back to June 2007: Five friends and I embarked on this memorable trip (yeah, I can call it life changing too.. It probably changed my perspective about zoo keeping and keeping animals in captivity).

Day 1:
After bracing through long traffic jams and burping on our pre-booked lunch at the Jungle resorts within the park, it was Safari time for us. Even though I’ve been to Bannerghatta innumerous number of times in the past, this was a nice experience. On my previous visits as a normal visitor in the zoo, I would have to buy separate passes for each section. But this time, I was exploring the place with special privileges. The herbivores safari, tiger safari, lion safari, bear safari all done by sunset time and we unwound at the quarters.. You have 6 chatter-box girls in one house and what do you expect? A lot of gossip 😛 The evening thus passed by. The cook served our dinner and post that, we all geared up for one of the most memorable nights of our lives.

Photos of wildlife taken at Bannerghatta National park
Deep inside the jungle

We were all set for “The Night Safari”. The forest guards would go on their regular night beats in the forest and this time, we would accompany them. Apart from being the first experience for all of us out at night in deep jungle, what was more exciting was that we were going in an open pick-up vehicle. As the eeriness of the deep dark wild started to excite us more and more, we got a better understanding of such places at night. While we were being attentive and soaking in all the sensuousness of mother nature, we spotted some wild animal that crossed our path.. and then came back and stood infront of our vehicle. I thought it was some sort of a wild cat and my jaws dropped in awe. I shouted in excitement, “Cat, Cat!”. Then noticing the weird glances I received and the silence of others, I realized I had to shut up. A friend was quick to realise what it was. She shouted “Leopard, Leopard!”. Imagine a LEOPARD, totally untamed and WILD.. right infront of us…!!! The driver halted the vehicle. Another friend yelled out, “Don’t stop, don’t stop.. Move move..”. But the driver took the jeep in reverse and closer to the cat. The leopard had now walked past our jeep and come to the rear side. At a distance of less than 10meters or so.. Instead of pouncing on us and grabbing one of us, strangely the leopard ran away within a few seconds. PHEWWW… still feels like I just woke up from a dream..!!

We were then told that the leopard had littered cubs somewhere in the vicinity and hence, ran away. The forest guards know their forests and its inhabitants. The leopard was frightened about a threat to its babies and hence ran away to protect them. They are usually in defensive mode during these time unless attacking is an absolute necessary. The Safari continued.. We spotted bisons, antelopes, spotted deers, neelghais, wild cat, black bucks, mongoose, rabbits, so on and so forth… The nigh safari was indeed an experience in itself!

Day 2:
Next morning we all woke up before sunrise and again, headed towards the jungle. This time, it was a morning ride with a hope of spotting a few wild elephants. As we travelled deep, deeper and deepest into the forest, the terrain got more bumpier and rocky. The painful ride however, did not yield any good sightings apart from fresh elephant dung everywhere. But, some wonders of the jungles that we had missed in the darkness of the previous night, made up for the disappointment of our morning ride. Picture these little scenes: hundreds of butterflies flying out of a bush, all at once; the glittering clear waters of the lakes lost in the deep jungle; many more.

After reaching back to the quarters, we immediately headed to a pond located behind the quarters. It was bathing time for the pachyderms at the zoo… Two majestic sweethearts walked past us, with a calf: Vanaraja, Darshan & Baby Nisarga (Those are the names of the elephants at Bannerghatta). We too stretched ourselves to give them a scrub and in the process, got all wet with the ever playfull little Nisarga.

Photos of elephants taken at Bannerghatta National park

It was our zoo time post breakfast. In a separate area, an elephant calf named Geetha was in deep slumber. The calf who was barely as old as a month-and-a-half was guarded by her mother. We accompanied the mahout to feed them and spent. During this, the little one woke up and we got lucky to spend some time playing around with her. She would nod her head and playfully chase us. We would run around the tree until both of us got tired, and then start the cycle again. While at this, the vetinerary doctors of the zoo welcomed us to the backyard of the Vet-hospital. Under their supervision, we got an opportunity to touch, carry and care for wounded or sick animals that were being treated there. Among them were an alligator, civet cat, guinea pigs, rabbits etc.

Later in the afternoon, we visted the SOS centre. I didn’t even know such a place existed within the premises despite coming to the zoo several times in the past Special privileges! This is a rehabilitation center for wounded lions, tigers, bears etc. These animals are mostly rescued from circuses, bear charmers etc. treated here before letting them into the actual zoo area. This is a public prohibited zone. The handsome Siberian tigers were my favourite.

Sloth bears at the SOS center in Bannerghatta National Park
At the SOS centre

Next was the drive uphill- to Udige bande. We got a nice view of the ‘Bannerghatta National Park’ from here. You can find innumerous dolmens here, believed to be the place where the local tribes once laid their dead ancestors to sleep. There is also another large rock, called as the Barber’s stone which is believed to have been featured in Dr.Rajkumar’s ‘Gandhada Gudi’ movie.

Views of the forest cover at Bannerghatta National park
From Top left: 1.The view from Udige Bande, 2. The Barber’s stone, 3.The Dolmens atop Udige Bande, 4.View of a small check dam constructed by the forest department as a watering hole for the wild animals.

Day 3:
We were taken to the tiger and lion conservation area. The pictures taken here are something that I would be flaunting for the rest of my life. Not all get a chance to touch and play around with tiger cubs 😉 The big cats that are ready for their breeding / mating are brought here. After the cubs are born, the parents and the cubs are nurtured here until the cubs are of a suitable age to go back to the wild. Here, there is no wild as such. They are let in the safari area to mingle with the other cats in a controlled space, which is also another form of captivity.

A tiger cub at the animal breeding center at Bannerghatta National park
Playing with a tiger cub at Bannerghatta lion and tiger conservation area

We took a walk around the museum and got a few insights into preservation and conservation of our natural heritage. We then headed to the last part of our long weekend. The butterfly park was newly set back then and it was a good crowd puller among the public.

To my experiences of going on wildlife safaris and what I had watched on discovery & Nat-geo, I guess this trip gave me a new insight into wildlife conservation. Until now I had only been hearing and watching it. This trip gave me an opportunity to EXPERIENCE it. You cannot connect with nature unless, you get up, close and personal with wildlife.

The Hesaraghatta de-tour

My wants are vague… This weekend I wanted to drive through countryside. As you may know, my mother worked for a government bank, a subsidiary of NABARD that lends agricultural loans. While she was processing one of the farm loan files, I had once chanced to take a glance at the filename- Hesaraghatta. Through her, I had heard that Hesaraghatta is an important centre of several agricultural research in India. I had been familiar with the campus of Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra (GKVK) in Bangalore and the amount of green cover there. Hence, I assumed that there must be a lot of greenery around Hesaraghatta too, and decided to head there.

We started from home at around 8.00.a.m towards Hesaraghatta. We first passed through a village called Aivaragandapura. It is a small village that gets its name from the Pandavas. ‘Aivara-Kanda-pura’ translates to ‘A village that has seen the five people’. There is a temple complex dedicated to the Pandavas who are beleived to have stayed here, briefly during their exile.

We continued our drive to catch up with our plan of going to the area of agricultural research. The government run research institute is spread across a massive area and is divided into separate sections, each having its own administration and permit requisites. We first reached the poultry farm. Various poultry breeds are kept in separate enclosures for research purposes. Along with several native varieties, we also saw Ostriches, Emus, turkeys, ducks, white geese, grey geese, swans etc. With permission from the concerned authorities, we could also visit the Indo-Danish cattle farm. I was awestruck with their size. They were massive, comparable with elephants. I mean, really! There is also rabbit farm, pig farm etc. which we thought of giving a miss because we could not figure out the route. Hesarghatta is also a centre for Horticulture-research. You will pass through large stretches of seasonal flowers, mango orchards and other farm crops.

Birds at the poultry farm at Hesaraghatta
The birds at the Hesarghatta farms

We were done with our pursuit of agricultural research and still had a lot of time with us. We decided to drive around and explore hesaraghatta a little more. We drove further ahead and passed through a narrow pot-holed road. We stopped by a high wall by the roadside which we learnt, was the once famous Hesaraghatta lake. This reservoir served as an important part of water supply to Bangalore City in the past. This is now just a stretch of barren land, open for cattle grazing and a playground for some village boys who go there for a game of cricket. These days, it barely fills even during the heaviest monsoon. While we stood on the tank bund, we could see some village youth playing cricket on the tank bed with a little water at the far end of the large area. The breeze was indeed good and that’s why we spent some time walking along the tank wall.

From there, our eyes fell on a direction board that read “Nrityagram”. It sounded familiar and it struck to me that it was a Gurukul dedicated to “Learning Dance”, founded by the famous danseuse Late. Pratima Bedi. When we reached there, we were told that the place was not open to visitors. However, there was hope. A portion of the beautiful dance school (constructed of natural materials) is now maintained by the Taj group. They run the “Taj Kuteeram”, a nice cozy resort. We dropped in for light snacks and coffee, as we were well into evening. We walked around the area and spent some good time amidst the chirping birds and the splendid nature. Since the setting sun was coming down, we thought of heading back home.

Taj Kuteeram / Nrityagram in Hesaraghatta
The Taj- Nrityagram, at Hesaraghatta

Half a kilometer from The Taj towards Bangalore city, we saw many vehicles going to a place to our left. The place looked secluded but made us curious to check out what was in there. We followed the vehicles that were going there. Oh, believe me! It was a nice suspicion. There lied a vast-neverending-wide-open stretch of plain-land. All those vehicles were actually ferrying some film crew. So that means, we also got to be on the sets of a movie shoot. A stage was set, some other make shift pillars were put up etc. We learnt that, many many movies and ads are shot here almost everyday. This barren land is converted to anything from a helipad to a swimming pool, a crowded village to a concert hall depending on the requirement. It is popularly called as the Hesaraghatta Grasslands.

the Hesaraghatta grasslands
Top: A movie set at Hesarghatta grasslands; Below: The grasslands

We also had a good view of the sunset from the open area. It was getting dark by then. So, we drove back to the hustling and bustling city—away from the calm and rusty countryside. It was hard to believe that such calmness prevailed in our very own Bengalooru. I will surely go back there soon.. Very soon… It was a total get away from the maddening city life.