Way of the Cross and mountain of hope

Realty changing reality of temples, chapel at Hanumagiri

Way of the Cross and mountain of hope

Trust folklore and legend, you have nothing short of a pilgrim centre: A hillock housing a chapel at the foothill, a Cross, one temple each for Shiva and Hanuman on the top, and decades of ritualistic practices cutting across religions.

But trust the commerce of a metropolitan city and you have a huge parcel of land ready for commercial exploration.

Annamma Betta (hill) or Hanumagiri as known today is struggling to cope with the latter, land waiting to be turned into expensive apartments, office spaces or used for other commercial ventures, in the manner other hillocks around Uttarahalli have been converted. Located around Uttarahalli and Ittamadu in Bangalore South, there are several stories that the locals have about Annamma Betta.

Most famous is the annual fair (iatre) that sees hundreds of people flock there a week before Good Friday, a practice known to exist for more than 50 years as locals remember and over centuries as legend has it.

Following this, people observe the ‘Way of the Cross’ on Good Friday, the day Jesus is believed to have been crucified.

But the hill, which is being eaten into, has lost a big portion on one side where a residential housing project is being developed and a compound wall is snaking around on the other side.

The way of the Cross, which has 14 stations of the Cross, official maps in possession of the locals reveal, has been occupied by the compound.

For Udaya Mary, the concern is not of others’ commercial gains. “We just want the temples and the way of the Cross left to us,” she says.

The chapel and the land surrounding it at the foothill belongs to St Antony’s Church, Uttarahalli.

Married to Francis, whose family is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the property for more than two generations, Mary is a bearer of several confessions. She is the bearer of tales of the past.

“This is a pilgrim centre. Annamma is a deity,” she says.

And, going by ‘Karnataka Janapada Aacharanegalu’ (Karnataka Folk Practices), a book authored by S C Ramesh of the Kannada University, Hampi, Annamma assumed the status of a deity during the time of Tipu Sultan.

He says that when a company of Tipu’s soldiers was camping on the hill, a group of them tried entering Annamma’s home with ill intentions and that she ran up the hill where she was followed.

“She eventually jumps to death. The soldiers, who realise their mistake, bury her, in the present-day Church property,” he says.

Her grave/tomb has since been moved a few metres.

Inscription on the Cross, however, reads: “This place has been named after a virtuous, pious, chaste and saintly woman by name Anna. Legend has it that she was engaged in prayer and penance on this hill way back in 18th Century. She died witness to Christian faith.”

Mary says that people from different religions come to the place and light lamps, candles, leave notes et al, praying to Annamma. “They come here with all kinds of problems from not finding a suitible partner for marriage to being unemployed,” she says.

Chandrashekar aka Jnanashekar, says that special poojas are also conducted at the temples on the hill.

“Shivaratri is a big festival here, and there are some special poojas offered to Hanuman twice a year,” he says. The dates may have varying references, but stories converge.

And today’s story of people praying to retain their ‘Way of the Cross’ and temples, while construction equipment laboriously quarry the hillock, will also stay regardless of the future of the place.

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