Saturday 16 February 2013

The Hindu and Muslim rocks

Thousands of years ago, when Hanuman was returning back home-flying in the air- from Sri Lanka, he saw a huge boulder which was slowly rolling down from its perch on a hill.
He saw the havoc that the boulder would pose to the people of the village below the hill if it rolled down. He then pushed back the huge boulder with his thumb and ensured that it would remain firmly rooted to the ground.
To prove this legend, there is still a thumb mark that you can see on the face of the boulder. The thumb impression is frozen on the rock and it is popularly called the “Hand of God”.
The rock stands as it is today, precariously perched at the edge of the hill. It would look as if it is going to fall any time but it has remained as it was put back by the money God. In case it falls today, it still has the potential to destroy at least half of the town below the hill.
Locals believe that the rock would stay as it is as long as civilization exists. There are so sure of the hand of Hanuman that nobody talks of the boulder or even fears that it would roll down.
This rock has got its own name, one of the few to do so. It is the Hindu rock. By the way, there is a Muslim rock too.
The Muslim rock too has romantic tale to narrate.
A little over two and half centuries ago, a Muslim soldier, who was the son of a Palegar of Budhikote, climbed the rock here and offered prayers. He was born in Budhikote and he knew the area around very well. A devout Muslim, he clambered on to the rock and offered prayers facing Mecca.
There are impressions or marks visible on the rock even today which testify to this act. The name of the man who prostrated on the rock and prayed regularly every day for several years: Hyder Ali, the father of Tipu and among the first Mysoreans, to take on the British.   This  perhaps could be the only hill which has rocks named after two religions and each with its own fascinating history.
This is the hill of Mulabagal in Kolar district. The hill rises over the ancient temple town and looks like a guardian of the area.
For the uninitiated, Mulabagal is on the way from Bangalore to Tirupathi. As people crammed in all types of vehicles whiz by, only a few care to stop at the once bustling Eastern capital of the Vijayanagar. Even among them, only a handful make it to the hills, which for the most part of the year lies deserted and desolate.
Even trekkers, climbers and Nature give this hill a miss. They  prefer several other hills around Mulabagal which are more tall or more difficult to climb than this hill.
The hill presets an interesting study in geology. It mainly  comprises a series of rocks of various shapes and sizes and of course the most prominent among them is the Hindu and the Muslim rocks.
The hill is not only a place of trekking climbing but it has its link with history too. Epigraphs and history suggests that on October 4, 1768, the Battle of Mulwagul, which was part of the First Anglo-Mysore War was fought on this very ground.
It was here on October 3 , that Hyder  saw the army of the Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah. The Nawab had allied himself with the British  in their war against Hyder.
Hyder was on his way back to Bangalore from Guuramkonda when he saw the Nawab’s garrison billeted at hill here.
Hyder then quickly fell on the Nawab’s men and the British sent reinforcements under Colonel Wood.
The combined forces of the British and the Nawab recovered the lower fort of Mulabagal but were unable to beat Hyder out of the upper fort. The next day-October 4- Colonel Wood went out with a few companies to investigate movements and he was quickly surrounded  by Hyder soldiers.
When the battle began, another office, Colonel Brooks, and two other British men of arms dragged two cannons to the top of a nearby hill. Brooks then called out saying “Smith! Smith!, even as he fired the cannons at Hyder’s well-tuned army.
Both Hyder and the British thought that Colonel Smith was arriving with reinforcements. Hyder ordered his troops to fall back, enabling the almost defeated Colonel Wood to rejoin with Brooks and other reinforcements from Mulwagal.
Hyder realised his tactical error and renewed his attack, but the British and the Nawab held firm. Both sides lost men-Hyder close to 1,000 and the British 200.
However, the ferocious manner in which Hyder had attacked the British convinced Colonel Smith that he would be unable to effectively besiege Bangalore without first defeating Hyder in open battle.
The East India Company was left redfaced at the result of the battle and it  blamed Smith for the failure to decisively defeat Hyder. It  recalled him to Madras.
Hyder then regrouped from here and took the opportunity to besiege Hosur. Here again both Hyder and Wood met. Colonel Wood marched in relief of the town. As Wood approached, Hyder  raised the siege, attacked Wood's column and overran his baggage train in the Battle of Bagalur.  Hyder  captured supplies and arms and  drove Wood in disgrace toward Venkatagiri.
Wood was recalled and the East India Company replaced him with Colonel Lang. This was off no consequence as Hyder went from strength to strength and even came upto the gates of Madras and the British were forced to negotiate with him.  
Nothing remains of the battle now save the name of the town Mulabagal. In ancient days, it was known as Mudalabagilu meaning the eastern-door.
It was the eastern most frontier and, therefore, the entrance to the Vijayanagar empire. The town boats of a massive Hanuman temple with the idol being consecrated by Arjuna. Sage Vasishta is believed to have installed the idols of the main deity Srinivasa, Padmavati and Rama-Sita-Lakshmana at the temple.
The town is associated with the Ramayana and there are several tales about it. One of the hills still has the ruins of a fort which is worth a visit.
Another hill nearby is famous for being the first point the sun rises throughout Karnataka.
Mulabagal is about 100 kilometres from Bangalore and it is easily accessible by road. It is situated on the four-laned national highway.

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