Misty mountains beckon

Standing majestically amidst the dense forests of Bandipur at a height of about 1500 m is the famous Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, the tallest peak in Bandipur. Atop the hill is a temple dedicated to Lord Venugopalaswamy.

Built in the 1300s by the Hoysala king Ballala, the temple continued to receive patronage from the erstwhile Mysore rulers, the Wodeyars, before being transferred to the State. As the hill is at all times covered with mist and has a temple dedicated to the deity, Venugopalaswamy, the place is named Himavad (covered in mist),
Gopalaswamy (Krishna) and Betta (hill).

The approach road to the temple is steep and is the only one available. As the hill is
situated in the middle of the forest, the entire area comes under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department.

One needs to pass through the department check post before proceeding up the hill. The movement of all vehicles is strictly monitored by the Forest Department. All vehicles are thoroughly checked for food items, alcohol, etc and if found, these items need to be deposited at the check post. Care is taken to ensure that even plastic bags are not allowed into the forest area.

After completing the necessary checks and paying the toll, we were finally allowed to continue. We were allocated a time limit of 1.5 hours. The road up the hill is not well maintained and is narrow. The entire uphill journey is arduous. Many of the cars, unable to sustain the climb, stopped midway, forcing other vehicles to bypass them.

Parking on the hill top is limited. The temple is a fairly big structure with Dravidian style architecture. The statue of the main deity, Venugopalaswamy, is in a dancing posture playing the flute.

The temple and its surroundings are a photographer’s delight. A vast beautiful meadow extending from the temple up to the tip of the mountains is bound to draw your attention. The area surrounding the temple is said to be inhabited by elephants and tigers, thereby making it impossible to stay back on top at night.

Except for the temple, an old guesthouse and a Forest Department bungalow are the only other structures present, further discouraging night stay. With our allotted time duration about to end, we started back.

The return journey was easy and eventful. We happened to spot a herd of elephants grazing in the forests below and stopped to take a few pictures of them. We also happened to notice some visitors enjoying snacks smuggled in and throwing away the plastic bags. It is important that people appreciate the steps taken by the Forest Department staff to prevent littering in the forests.

How to get there

Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta is about 220 km from Bangalore. Take the Ooty-Mysore Road on reaching Mysore and continue up to Gundlupet.
After Gundlupet, one needs to take a right turn at a place called Hangala. Make sure you make enquiries on reaching Hangala, as there are no sign boards to mark the turning. The State transport corporation, KSRTC, also plies special buses during Dasara to this place.

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