If you have been looking around for a short getaway from the city that can be organised without much of a hassle, you should be driving on the road to Tumakuru. The destination is Mandharagiri, a moderate hillock set in a quiet scenic surrounding with a lovely lake in the vicinity. Add to that a temple complex dedicated to Jain tirthankaras and a uniquely shaped monument and the place very well serves as a quick getaway from the city. As you drive on NH4 towards Tumakuru, just after Hirehalli, at about 60 km from Bengaluru, your attention is caught by a dome-shaped rocky hill on the right with a white line across its face. The arch on the right welcomes you to Mandharagiri Hill, a little more than a km away. The village here is known as Pandithanahalli and on its northern periphery, the hillock rises from the ground in a gradual gradient. As you come closer, it becomes discernible that the white stripe on the hill is a flight of steps to the top.
What an entrance!
It was a bright sunny morning as I headed towards Mandharagiri during my recent visit. Passing through the arch on the highway, I reached the base of the hill where the vehicles can be parked. There is an expansive open courtyard on the left with statues and monuments, but I chose to climb the hill first. Though the rock face is not very steep, to enable the visitors, a series of steps, 436 to be exact, have been hewn out of the rock. The flight of steps is also painted white so that on sunny days they do not get heated up for the barefoot climbers making it to the top. An arch to the right leads to a recently built kutcha road to the hilltop where cars and smaller vehicles can go.
I made it to the top pretty quickly and paid a customary visit to the shrines. Enclosed in a courtyard are four simple temples, two of which are dedicated to Chandranatha, and one each for Parshwanatha and Suparshwanatha. The idols are simple too, but the tower is very well decorated with colourful images.
Getting behind the shrine, I was simply stunned by the view of a beautiful blue lake. Surrounded by a ring of hills, the enormous lake presents a delightful view. The lake, which used to be called Padmavathi Kere earlier, is now known as Maidala Kere. Once upon a time, this was the main source of water for the whole of Tumakuru, I learnt.
The views all around are amazing too, with endless stretches of green fields punctuated by little hillocks. The slopes from the hill led to the lake through large shapely boulders. Taking a short walk along the edge of the water, gently caressed by the cool breeze, was indeed an exhilarating experience.
Getting back to the base, I was in for more surprises. The sprawling courtyard is where the statues and pillars stand. The imposing statue of Sri Chandraprabhu is what draws your attention immediately. Built on a high pedestal, the statue in pure white reflects divinity at its best. Facing the statue is a 50-foot-tall stone pillar, the manasthambha. Walking a little further on the lawns, I came to a wonderful attractive monument. The uniqueness of this structure is that it is built in the shape of a pinchi, a wand always carried by Jain munis to ward off insects and creatures.
Like a peacock
Spread over an area of 2400 sq ft, the 81-foot-tall monument was built in 2014, told Ajith, the man in-charge of the project. It took 18 months to build at a cost of Rs 90 lakh, he added, and that the monument called Guru Mandir was dedicated to Sri Acharya Shanthi Sagar, a highly revered saint. With the outer walls decorated with motifs of peacock feathers, the Guru Mandir is a star attraction. The spacious interior houses the statue of the saint while the walls are adorned with large paintings depicting the life of the saint. The atmosphere is quiet and conducive for meditation. Guru Mandir is also the first ever monument built in this style as mentioned in ‘Unique World Records,’” says Anantharaju, the manager. According to him, Mandharagiri, which is also called by other names such as Basadi Betta and Athishaya Kshetra, has a history of about 1,100 years. In 2007, saint Pramukha Sagara performed chaturmasa here after which the statue of Chandraprabhu and the manasthambha were completed in 2008.
With an easily climbable hill, wonderful monuments and a vast blue lake to relax nearby, Mandharagiri makes for a pleasant day trip from Bengaluru.