Sunday 7 April 2013

The temples and a forest

Though its is very near to Tumkur and a little more than an hour’s drive from Bangalore, it is an oasis of wildlife. It is home to over 250 species of butterflies and also hosts India’s largest butterfly.
It also is the home of the Yellowthroated Bulbul (Pycnonotus xantholaemus), which is sighted in interior peninsular India and nowhere else in the world. This bird is categorised as Vulnerable by Birdlife International - IUCN’s official red list authority for birds.
This is also the second oldest reserve forest in India and over the last few years, it has had wildlife enthusiast and conservationists in a tizzy as tigers have once again returned to this area. The Jim Corbett of Karnataka, Kenneth Anderson, in his book “Nine rouges and one man eater” mentions about the man-eater he killed in Devarayanadurga forests, which he named “The Hermit of Devarayana Durga”. This was somewhere around 1950s.
The forests here are part of  undulating hills and plains and they have for centuries also been a place of pilgrimage for the famous temples here. This is the Devarayanadurga state forest (DDSF).
The Devarayanadurga area consists of three hilly elevations. Kumbhi Hills is he highest among the three and the Yoga Narasimha temple is situated here at an altitude of 4200 feet. Another temple dedicated to Narasimha-called the Bhoga Narasimha-is located at the foothills.
The Devarayanadurga forests have witnessed several changes in its boundaries since it was first given protection status by the British far back as in 1853.
The forests got a fresh lease of life when they were notified as a reserve in 1907. The forests adjoin several revenue pockets and both the forests and the land under the control of the Revenue Department are home to a wide spectrum of flora and fauna.
Devarayanadurga is actually a small hill station and its rocky hills are surrounded by forest and the hilltops are dotted with several temples including those dedicated to Yoganarasimha and Bhoganarasimha.
The hills are at an altitude of 3940 feet. It is also famous for Narmada Chiluma, a natural spring considered sacred and also considered to be the origin of the Jayamangali river.  This gorge, where the Jayamangali originates, is called Jaladha gundi. The river then flows north .
A small brook called Garudachala, originates in the south eastern portion of Devarayanadurga forests and flows towards north and join Jayamangali near Holavanahalli. Another river, Shimsha, which is a tributary of Cauvery, originates in the south and flows south-west and joins Cauvery.
The Forest Department has developed a nursery of medicinal plants near Namada Chilume and there are about 300 varieties of rare ayurvedic plants.
The Narmada Chilume is at  the base of the hill on the road leading to Tumkur. According to a legend, Rama was on his way to Lanka to battle Ravana and he halted here. As he did not find water anywhere around to wet the Nama, he shot an arrow into the ground and water came gushing out. This is the (Rama)-Namada chilume. The spring can be still seen and there is a foot impression of Rama near by.
A little away from the current Government guest house and facing the spring is an old, dilapidated guest house constructed in 1931. Renowned ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali stayed here in 1938 during his visits to the forests. Interestingly, there is a moist deciduous patch behind the building, adjoining the huge rock face and Dr. Salim Ali had collected moist-deciduous bird species in this area.
The forests are also the place where ornithologist Dr. S. Subramanya for the first time spotted the Yellowthroated Bulbul. These birds can be seen in fairly large numbers and there are only a handful of such sites in south India.
The forests around Devaranayadurga village in Tumkur district are a haven for rare and threatened wildlife and they are also the catchment  area for several streams such as Jaya and Mangali.
The Devarayanadurga forests comprise 42 square kilometers and one can spot panthers, leopards, sloth bears and Yellowthroated Bulbuls and Hanuman langurs.
This forest is one of the few areas in Karnataka, where wild Hanuman Langurs can be spotted roaming freely. Some of the bords that can be spotted are Blackwinged Kite, Honey Buzzard, Govinda Pariah Kite, Brahminy Kite, Shikra,  Crested Hawk-Eagle, Booted Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, King Vulture,  Long billed Vulture,  Whitebacked Vulture,  Scavenger Vulture, Short-Toed Eagle,  Crested Serpent Eagle, Shaahin Falcon, European Kestrel, Grey partridge and Grey Junglefowl,  Little Grebe
,Pond Heron,  Cattle Egret, Little Egret.  Redwattled Lapwing, Green Sandpiper,  Pintail snipe , partridge, dove, parakeet, cukoo, koel, pheasant, owl, swift, kingfisher, Green barnet, bee eater, drongo, myna, shrike, warbler, flycatcher and many more.
Some of the reptiles commonly found here are Termite Hill Gecko, Rock Gecko,  Southern House Gecko,  Common Garden Lizard, IIndian Chemaeleon,  Common Skink, Snake Skink, Monitor Lizard, Blind or Worm snake, Rock Python. Common Wolf snake,  Checkered Keelback,  Green Whip snake, Rat snake,  Spectacled Cobra and  Russel's Viper. 
The forests continue around Kambakallu betta, Hosati kallu betta, Chinnagara betta, Devarayanadurga hill, Talavara betta and Sigekoppalu betta.
The Devarayanadurga forests are situated along the hill chains running across the eastern part of Tumkur district. This range marks the boundary between the Krishna and Cauvery river basins.
The chain of hills commence with Kamandurga(1078m) and Nidugal(1062) in Pavagada Taluk and continue through Midigeshidurga (1141m) and other hillocks embracing some prominenet peaks like Madhugiridurga(1200m),  Chennarajadurga (1141m), Koratagere (886m) and Devarayanadurga (940m) itself. The Devarayanadurga is part of the range running westward towards Banglore district, represented by Shivaganga and Savanadurga.
The rocks of Devarayandurga are mainly of metamorphic type, characterised by the presence of granite and disrupted by large outcrops.
Devarayanadurga has an undulating terrain sloping steeply towards east and west, between Urdigere and Tumkur. It was earlier known as Aane biddasari and Jadakadurga. The current name is in honour of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyer, who captured the area in the late 17th century.
The temple of Yoga Narasimha is believed to be more than 1000 years old. There is a sacred pond adjacent to the temple called Pada teertha. The source of Pada teertha can be traced by exploring the Sri Pada teertha cave. The cave is devoid of any natural light and it has some steps to take you inside. You can make out a sma;; lake and the shape of a wheel (known as Sudarshana chakra) nearby it.
For a bird’s eye view of the surrounding countryside, climb to the top of Kumbhi hill. This will take you about 10-15 minutes. At the top there is a stone structure with a bell known as Garuda Gante.
The temple timings are morning 10 a.m,, to 1 p.m., and again from  2 p.m., to 8. p.m. On the way to the Yoga Narasimha temple, you can see the idols of Hanuman and Garuda at the small temple of Garudanjaneya.
You can drive or trek to the temple top. Devarayanadurga is 65 km from Bangalore by road and just eleven kms from Tumkur. The nearest railway station is Tumkur and Dabbaspet (25 kms). Devarayanadurga can also be approached through Kyatasandra.
The KSTDC operates a hotel in Devarayanadurga called Hotel Mayura Meghadoota.

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