Friday, October 17, 2014

Savanadurga Hills (Ramanagara - Karnataka)

Sorry.... I know, I vanished for almost a month from blog-o-sphere.... Well, I'm back now and I'm pretty much tanned.... Here's more of the recent trip to Bangalore and surrounding places. Took suggestions from a couple of bloggers and read a few blog posts and the first place to venture in Banglore turned out to be Savana Durga. I found this place at The Loapers blog. 
8 of us in 2 cars, we left early... We managed to find a nice place to eat in the NICE road and reached the base hill before 10 am. The road was pathetic for about 15km to reach the location. There's a temple there, and to cater to the temple, there are quite a space for parking. 

I enquired a tender coconut seller there, Mr.Gulzar, about which is the Karigudda (black hill) and which is the Biligudda (White hill). Biligudda is supposedly more accessible than Karigudda, which requires permission and rappelling equipment. We headed to the Biligudda through a small dirt track which shares its entrance with the Savanadurga MPCA (Medicinal Plants Conservation Area).
There were arrows painted on the rocks that lead you to the top of the hill. By all means, its a slope-y, rocky, terrain. No shade, no trees, no soil, nothing!!! 
There's a fort atop. Sections of the fort was visible from the base. There were some walls, some pillared mandap-s etc. The fort was supposedly built in 1543 under Vijayanagara Empire. It 1791 it was taken over by British by Lord Cornwallis.

From one side, the hill is almost vertical and perfectly vertical in the top half. One of our friends managed to climb it from that side till half and walked across to join us in the more accessible passage. 
What do you see first in the above pic? The 'Abhay Eesha' graffiti on rock? Spot a little green T-shirt in that expanse of slope-y hill? That's one of our guys. Those letters are 'that' huge!!! I still can't comprehend how could someone climb all that way up and write something larger than human size???

At almost one third, there's a section of the wall in ruins with a mandap behind it. But helps to provide shade. There are quite a lot of people who climb till this point. I thought the view from here was fabulous, but I had more coming up. 
From there further atop was a little pillared mandap which served as a home for an uber friendly dog there! Beside the mandap, the top a portion of the fort wall itself served as the pathway to reach atop. 
There were certain crevices in the rocks that were, well... pretty much comfortable! Till this point a cool drink seller kinda accompanied us hoping to sell some and we didn't disappoint him. 

Further atop there was another point with 2 walled mandaps - a brick one that was pretty much intact and a granite one that was almost in ruins. This place have been used as an accommodation(!) or cooking area (!) for some trekkers!!!! 

Behind this was a small pond created by a water hole. The plants that grew in here and their reflection in the water was beautiful.

A bit higher was another pillared mandap and the slope-y rocks almost came to an end and there were boulders with dirt tracks between them. At that altitude, there were some trees atop. Right atop was a little mandap with a Nandi in it, facing south.

Yup, I had reached the top. 4024 ft. high from ground. The wind was awesome. Cauvery was flowing beside. The view was breathtaking.... Not many reach atop, very few do. When we went, there were none there. When we were leaving, another group of about 5 people reached. I could even sleep there, it felt that peaceful!!!!
I could definitely give you a tip or two. 'When' you venture here, is very important. When its too hot, you'll get dehydrated, when its raining, the wet rocks get slippery and are just deadly... Venture in cooler months, when there isn't rain. Even then take enough water. Wear good shoes - in our gang the ones who wore Reebok Reeflex and Zig Pulse felt the most comfortable! No, its a fact, I'm not endorsing the brand!!! There's a little kiosk type place, where food is available. Well, its actually home cooked food. For better hotels & restaurants you have to reach NICE road. The last 15km of the road is like the crater of the moon - be prepared! Take cash, esp. in smaller denominations - there are no atm-s anywhere in vicinity and for all the tender coconuts, water, cool drinks, tipping, food you've gotta pay in cash!

From Bangalore: 50km via Kengeri

Photo Courtesy: Pics 5 & 10 by Gokul; Last pic by Sundeep.

Dedicated to Venkat & gang!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Settavarai Stonage Rock Art (Villupuram - Tamil Nadu)

Before we go to today's post, first is a news. I just started the FB Page dedicated to this blog. Do lend your support by liking the page!
After wrapping up the 3rd place, here comes the 2nd place... It's called Settavarai. The name of the place made me wonder, coz Setta means Dead in Tamil. But then I came to know it came from Sitthar Varai meaning the hillock of Tamil saint!
This was a rather uphill task. I mean quite literally! From the base its a short walk across a plain from behind the village houses.
Then there's an almost non-existing way to walk uphill. 

Just opposite was this another hill and I loved the way its rocks were placed and the way plants have grown among them!

They route uphill is filled with broken granite and in some places the archaelogical dept has made some ladders attaching boulders!
I think its the natural location of this place that kinda protects it from getting vandalized. Its almost half an hour to 45 mins to climb uphill in that route.
Before reaching atop, we did stop at a location to have something to eat and regain some energy. There atop behind a fence was the rock art! That's Gandhirajan and Veera Raghavan resting for some time. 
The most important drawing here is of this animal. Probably a goat with flames drawn all around it. There's an unidentified object in front of it. My best guess is that its a axe!
Unlike the other 2 places, here are some palm prints. Unusally some palms had 1-2 fingers missing. Gandhirajan's opinion is that, in those days, some people gave fingers are offering to Gods. So these plans may have printed by people who gave such offering.
Some symbols were also there. One was this curvy line, with dots forming straight line. 
Also spotted some fishes.... 
... and some geometrical patterns too. 
3 small boys, from the local village also accompanied us to the hill top. They were so much faster in climbing up and could climb slope-y boulders without any hold or support! I couldn't help but think, if you give training in anything since childhood, that get so easy to do, even the most difficult task! Once again while climbing down, at the same location where we rested earlier, we stopped for a nice group pic. One of those little boys clicked the shot with our camera!
Not just the rock art, here at Settavarai, the location, the trek, the view everything was definitely mind blowing!!!

From Alambadi: On the way from Alambadi to Kilvalai, comes a village called Kandachipuram. There a right turn leads to Kilvalai and a left turn leads to Settavarai. 12 km on that road and a right turn at Kulakkarai Palama St and at about 2 km you'll spot the board of Tamil Nadu Archaelogical Dept.

On Google Maps: 12.167427, 79.259446

Dedicated to K.T.Gandhirajan & Veera Raghavan

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kilvalai Stoneage Rock Art Site (Villupuram - Tamil Nadu)

Reminding once again.... I just started the FB Page dedicated to this blog. Do lend your support by liking the page!
As I said in the last post, here's about Kilvalai. Actually pronounced Kilvazhai in Tamil. It was almost evening by the time we reached there. Yup, we had a little traffic jam in those roads. 
In that little mud tracks, where we were trying to ride our van, we came face to face with this truck filled with sugarcane. After a bit of struggle, a sweet, kind request to the man who was unloading the sugarcanes, finally got the vehicle a bit more to the side, to let our vehicle, pases through and also gifted us a couple of sugar canes!!!

A bike or car could have been taken till the boulders, by in our case, the van had to be parked close to the road and we had to walk up to the boulders, through several rocks, heavy thorns, eucalyptus plantations, etc finally we managed to reach the boulders on which the painting were made. 
There are 2 such boulders and we skipped the first coz the second was more extensive. Very sadly, very very sadly. the paintings here are almost going away. They're very faint. Sharing just a few here! 
One of the painting was this, depicting 3 people. 1 seated on a horse with a sword on the side. 1 more standing beside him. 1 more who looks like he's inviting these 2 people.
Another painting was of 4 people, who appear to be standing on a raft.
Another looked like 5 symbols. May a word and may be that was the script of the language that existed then!

We stood on the boulders, till the sunset, and started our journey back.... Coming up next is the post on the place we went second, the awesome Settavarai - wait n watch!!!

From Alambadi: 10km via Sengamedu, Kandachipuram. A right turn at Kandachipuram, followed by 5km ride with first lead to Melvalai and then Kilvalai. A dirt track on the right, close to a govt., building is our path. 

On Google Maps: 12.036842, 79.340298

Dedicated to K.T.Gandhirajan & Veera Raghavan

Friday, September 5, 2014

Alambadi Stoneage Rock Art Site (Villupuram - Tamil Nadu)

Before we go to today's post, first is a news. I just started the FB Page dedicated to this blog. Do lend your support by liking the page!
Recently while teaching art history at a college, I was telling about Lascaux and Altamira Stone Age Rock Art, I thought why the hell are we sitting a classroom while I can very much take them to similar sites when they are so near by and that's exactly what happened. We started off a wee bit late, and reached Villupuram at about 12 noon. Well, 25 people trying to co-ordinate with each other, has its own disadvantages!!!
The first site was supposed to be Settavarai, which needs a bit of trek, but at 12 noon that would be just plain stupid. So our first stop was Alambadi, a site of New Stone Age drawings. 
The location immediately reminded me of Dhalavanur, in the middle of paddy fields. For a change, this was in the middle of millet fields! Right there, surrounded by cultivation, were a few boulders of rocks and a little temple atop. The locals said that the temple was of Lord Muruga and people planted spears (that's what Lord Muruga holds) as an offering. There was little ladder to reach the top, but half way through is what we were interested in. 
On a boulder that has a natural cleft that inclines inwards & downwards, that's a huge wall that served as a graffiti base for our own forefathers. The entire wall was filled with layers and layers of drawings drawn over several years, overlapping each other. Mostly done in red color with Red Ochre.
Right at the centre was a huge 'something' which was elongated and had 4 legs. Any guesses??? That's a monitor lizard. In a later period, the same monitor lizards were shown with more detailing. The little lines around them are the hairs!
They were 'hunters & gatherers' remember? So they obviously killed monitor lizards also for meat. But they also made a point to draw what they saw inside the lizards. These are called 'x-ray drawings' by archeologists in which, within the outline of animals, their inner organs esp.,  the intestine is shown. 
There was also this human face, probably that depicted a mask, probably a ritual mask!!!
Something that intrigued me was this 2 feet. That made me think, if Pasupathi seal of Indus valley is from which Lord Shiva was derived, probably this painting of 2 feet should be from which Vishnu Padham was derived!!!  
There was also a pond depicted with an animal (most probably a deer) on its bank. 
There's a tree with 2 fishes beneath them.
There's an older painting of a bull and 2 calves.
Also there's some animal, may a deer, caught up in a trap.
What caught my attention was this. A tree with 2 honeycombs on it and a fellow climbing it, depicted half way through!!! Think of it, our stone age ancestors knew how to take honey out of honeycomb more than 3000 yrs ago!!!!!!

After a bit of rest, our next stop was Settavarai, but that post has got to wait. Next post would be on Kilvalai where we went after Settavarai. 

From Tambaram, Chennai to Villupuram: 140km via Chengalpet, Tindivanam
From Villupuram Bus Stand to Alambadi: 30km (26km on Thirukkovilur road via Perumbakkam & Mambalapattu) and right turn. 4km via Karanai, Sengamedu).
Around that area look out for a rock boulders formation to the right. When you spot one walk across the cultivation to reach it.

On Google Maps: 12.017320, 79.295343

Dedicated to the experts who accompanied us, K.T.Gandhirajan and Veera Raghavan.
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