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Granite monoliths of Ramanagaram

Last updated: 29 June, 2009
Akber Ayub 15:57 IST

Standing on the crest of the Ramgiri Hill, 2.5 km off the Bangalore-Mysore highway and some fifty kilometres from Bangalore, I took in the panorama: open expanse of land punctuated by green fields, groves and thickets, interspersed with grasslands and the sensuous curves of scattered hills.




Cruising down the smooth highway earlier, I was finding it hard to keep my eyes on the asphalt ribbon stretching in front, and at the same time savour the countryside, when the turning to Ramadevara Betta came up suddenly, even as the silk town of Ramanagaram appeared in front. As I drew closer into the village, three monolithic granite hills loomed large. The largest, called Ramgiri reared up directly in front, an immense monolithic mass of granite appearing to have split vertically, poised delicately on its summit. As the road begins to climb the rocky landscape, I came upon a bend skirting a gorge between a large dome-shaped rock and Ramgiri.

The Sholay hills
“A wooden bridge was constructed to span the gorge, on which Amitabh Bachchan finally fell to the bullets of Gabbar Singh,” says a shepherd nearby. Indeed, Sholay, the celebrated Hindi blockbuster was shot on these rugged hills, as also David Lean’s Passage to India and Attenborrough’s Gandhi.

The road ends abruptly at an elaborately decorated archway, leading to a flight of steps stretching beyond. The summit holds a temple complex and a gazebo offering a panoramic view of the plains below. A large pond adds to the charm.
According to locals - some eking out a living in the cluster of ramshackle dwellings at the base of the hills, with their small patches of land - rabbits, foxes, bear and even peacocks are spotted here.

Dr S LThimmiah, a septuagenarian practising in his clinic in nearby Ramnagaram, and president of the Ramanagaram renovation committee, is ardent about these hills.

Part of the Eastern Ghats
“This is part of the Eastern Ghats,” he says, “a narrow belt of scattered hills 30 kms wide that extends southward up to the lofty Nilgiri ranges.”

He continues, “The British called this place Closepet, after Barry Close, who settled here as the first adjutant general of erstwhile Mysore, under Lord Cornwallis during the time of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. It was renamed Ramanagaram after Independence.”
He adds, “Tippu Sultan’s army had made it their bastion during the many wars they fought with the British.”

Kootagal, another hill nearby, looks more like a cluster of massive pillars, seemingly tottering on their base, some leaning over threatening to topple, others erect, amid a heap of debris at their feet. Some distance away, is a great heap of granite with a pronounced hump at the summit, resembling a kneeling elephant.
A wild elephant is said to have slipped on its summit once and hurled to its death. Nevertheless, today this is a haven for the adventurous, especially trekking and rappelling enthusiasts.

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