Haunting beauty of the hills

Haunting beauty of the hills

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Haunting beauty of the hills

 Anoop Gopal Singh visits Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta and is smitten by the sights on offer. The hill, enveloped in fog, also has a charming temple. Without the regular throngs of tourists or rows of shops selling ‘pooja’ paraphernalia, it is a spot for some quiet contemplation.

 

The mention of Gopalaswamy Betta pops up during a conversation on the topic of hills in and around Mysore. Curiosity aroused, one boards a KSRTC bus that passes through Nanjangud, Gundlupet and other tiny hamlets along the way.

 

And then, one touches the winding path to the hill. The majesty of the place and the silence there are all-pervading. Immense vistas of barren land below slowly metamorphose into swathes of greenery. There are green gaunt trees; the peepul, the banyan, teak, the bauhinias. Halfway up the hill, a sea of helianthuses spring a surprise on you, particularly so, if it’s the monsoon.


Temple tales


The hill is also known as the Himavad Gopal Swamy Betta. On top of the hill is a temple. The typical hustle and bustle of other temples on the tourist circuit is missing here. A single-tiered gopura (tower) and a dhwajastambha (flagpost) with the balipeetha (altar of sacrifice) leads one into the sanctum sanctorum of the legendary Gopalaswamy shrine.

The symmetrically sculpted and chiselled idol makes for a great sight. The idol is of Gopala playing on the flute under a tree with his consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama on either side.

A feature that may not catch your eye instantly is the water that trickles down from the roof of the sanctum sanctorum onto the idol, keeping it constantly clean. According to the priest at the temple, it is mist that drips precisely on the head of the idol, hence the name ‘Himavad’ for the deity. Others say it is water in the rocks that drips onto the idol.

It is said that king Ballala built this temple in the 14th century. Mythology has it that sage Agastya performed intense penance and Lord Vishnu promised him to reside here. Of the many ponds around the temple, the most prominent one is ‘Hamsateertha’, which gets its name from a crow which dived into the depths of the pond to turn into a swan (hamsa) and take the route to heaven.


Nature beckons


The region has elephants, thanks to its being a part of the Bandipur National Park. The common blanket of vegetation here is a terrestrial creeper with a rare bunch of flowers that occurs in two colours, a purple one flanked by two yellow flowers.


As the day progresses into afternoon, an out-of-the-blue transformation starts to happen. Green hills which appear radiant with the outline of their peaks set against the clear blue sky go hazy with the sun getting lost in the clouds.


Fog begins to settle on the shrine and the hills. The clouds now turn thick and grayish black.


Soon, there is thunder, and the eucalyptus trees blanketed by mosses and ferns start swaying wildly like the lashing of waves in an angry sea. Rain drops start slamming the hill and the valley around, making for a great sight.


A lot of wildlife abounds around the temple. No wonder the hill was a much loved location for our Maharajas. The Wodeyars of Mysore are said to have patronised the temple.
After a brisk spell of rain, the lush green landscape comes into view bathed and washed, with the black boulders amidst the green flooring around the temple appearing like crouching elephants.


What strikes a visitor to the hill is the surprising absence of the usual flock of shops and the noisy crowds in the vicinity of the shrine (there are no shops selling the usual pooja paraphernalia).

On the way down, a visitor can get a glimpse of elephant families. As the hamlets start to re-emerge in one’s field of vision, one is unwillingly drawn back into the hustle and bustle of urban life.


And yet, the tranquility and grandeur of the sacred hill leaves one with the feeling of an unexplained presence.

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