The adventurous foursome that we are, we set off to discover a few places we found only in KSTDC pamphlets. With a load of hearsay and a couple of maps we hit the road in a small family car to 'Chikka Tirupati' via Whitefield. And continued to hit it every once in a while. But never once thought that opting for the rural route was a bad idea. (At the final turn out of Bangalore, a jobless group attempted to give us a hiccup by questioning our route and motive- it was the first day of Benny Hinn's prayers; across the road tyres were being burnt. A good deal of 'My good man,' diplomacy and a grudgingly permitted detour later, we could continue on our way).
Most travelogues and guides flood you with usable and sometimes dated info on popular tourist beeline ends, smoothly motorable 'beaten tracks' and cushy spots to eat and sleep. For a change we veered away from just such a repeat, and that's how we found our way to a Vaishnavite temple ('before Cholas' - said the priest) amidst a handful of hamlets. A homely but clean-on-the-inside mess provided us with staple idlis, puris and 'Avarekalu bath'; coffee to wash the fare down would have to wait a while!
Wending our way on routes frequented more by tractors than plush cars; we passed rose and marigold expanses, tomato ('Manasa' variety), chilli, potato, cabbage, cauliflower, Bengal gram, mulberry plantations and mango and eucalyptus groves. Roses and tomatoes beckoned: we stopped to admire, chat with the locals lovingly tending their wards, pitched in at farm work for a while, and familiarised with the onward route.
Kotilingeswara, we found, was one big park of Lingas, lining pathways in all sizes amidst Bilva and Amla trees, but all in one single colour and shape - tens of thousands, amounting to 35 lakhs at the last count. One can do 'prathishta' (consecration) to add to the target of one crore for a price starting at Rs 1300/. The temple houses shrines for several Hindu deities, Manjunatha, Panduranga, Srinivasa, Panch-mukha Ganesha, Pancha-mukha Hanuman, Rama-Sita-Lakshmana, Ayyappa, Annapoorneswari, Santhoshima, and Kanniga Parameswari, besides the Navagraha and Saint Raghavendra. The biggest Linga is some 108 ft tall, and matched by a huge figure of Nandi. The temple's history begins as recently as 1971. Between 12:30 and 2:00 pm, prasada-lunch of anna, saru and majjige is served to all visitors. One can browse at a spiritual art gallery located adjacent to the temple.
It was a short drive to Bangaru Tirupati, you can't miss the arch marking the entrance from the road to Mulbagal. The temple dates to Brigu Maharishi's days, and is built on rocks. The shrine is reached after a climb of several hundred steps; the deity is seen through a chequered window. At a different level is the shrine for the consort Padmavathy, which dates to mid 19th century.
Mulbagal lies just off the NH4. This taluk shows better signs of rural progress: roads are broader and even. The famous spot here is the temple for Hanuman, installed by Arjuna after the Mahabharata war. Sage Vasishta is said to have installed the idols of the main deity Srinivasa, as also Padmavathy and the Rama-Sita-Lakshmana trio.
Off the Srinivasapura road going north from Mulbagal, we reached Kurudumale. Two temples, within a hundred feet of each other are now protected monuments, as proclaimed by notices put up by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Someswara temple, where restoration work is under way was built and dedicated to the locals by King Raja Raja Chola. The priest very patiently led us (in Kannada though – this is my understanding of his narration, and any errors in facts, figures and names are all mine alone) through the Chola King's times depicted on some of the pillar-sculptures, worked on by the Raja's shilpi Jakanachari. After a plunder some centuries later, just about fifteen of the original 30 odd idols have been found and reinstated.
The Ganesha temple has a much more hoary history dating to the Krta Yuga. The idol is said to have grown from a 'salagrama' stone (originally from Gandak river of Nepal) through the four Yugas to attain its present size. The Hindu trinity together installed the idol - hence the name Koodadri colloquialised to Koodumale / Kurudumale in the name of the place. The idol stood by itself through the ages; the Vijayanagar king Krishnadevaraya built the temple around the idol at the request of the locals. (See ‘Soaking in legends at Kurudumale’, Deccan Herald, 23 September 2004 for more details).
A recently built Prasanna Venkataramaswamy temple is located along a 1.5 km detour on the road back to Mulbagal. Have time, can go. The place is called Doddaguruki / Vedagiri. (See Deccan Herald dated 20/01/2005).
Getting back to Mulbagal, it's a smooth turn into NH4 towards Bangalore. 5 km down the highway is a fairly huge Ayyappa Kshetram. As we drove back the 80-odd km home, the huge red ball of fire that had made its presence felt through the day was setting at the far horizon, keeping us company a good part of the way. Kamat group's Upachar, located after the Kolar bypass, is a decent refreshment halt, 20 km short of Hoskote, and is one standard stop for the KSTDC bus services.
That was a good twelve hours well spent. With an earlier start and a couple more hours in hand, it is possible to complete the day with a trip to Kaiwara, a Forest Department maintained resort via Chintamani traveling northwest from Mulbagal and get back on the highway near Hoskote.
Chikka Tirupati (35 km from Bangalore): Turn right at O farm Cross, Whitefield (10 km).
Kotilingeswara: On the right, 3 km short of Betamangala. Travel on Bangarpet-Betamangala- route (Waypoints: Malur, Tykal, Bangarpet)
Bangaru Tirupati: 8 km from Kotilingeswara on the road towards Mulbagal. Entry marked by a stone arch.
Kurudumale: 10 km northeast from Mulbagal, off the Srinivasapura Road.