Siddhas of the Western Ghats

The forest hills of the Western Ghats, specifically in the districts of Belgaum and Uttara Kannada, are dotted with Kirawala, Dongargoan, Balewadi and Handi Badagnath Siddha Naath spiritual Maths.

Kirawala and Dongargaon Maths are located at a height of 900 ft, while the others are at a height of 700 ft. Wildlife is often sighted during mornings and evenings here. There are hardly any good roads that lead to these retreats except the Handi Badagnath Math, located five km inside the forest.

As we set out into the forests to understand their lifestyles, we were initially met with a lot of scepticism from the siddhas who live in these jungle retreats. Slowly, though, they opened up.

The siddhas belong to Naath Sampradaya. They are mostly dressed in saffron or white. They are nature lovers, and worship agni (fire). Some of them have agricultural lands donated by people from surrounding villages.

Guru-shishya tradition is highly regarded by these yogis. Membership in the sampradaya (tradition) is always conferred by initiation (diksha) by a diksha-guru –either the lineage-holder or another member of the sampradaya whose ability to initiate has been recognised by his diksha-guru. There are highly qualified people who have joined this sampradaya. There are doctors, engineers, philosophers and others. A highly educated siddha from Uttar Pradesh who visited the Handi Badagnaath Math and refused to disclose his name, tells us about the lives of the siddhas. We met a M Sc. Microbiology post-graduate, and a rank holder, who became a siddha 12 years back. After staying with these siddhas for four days, we came back with many experiences and memories. But the most enduring of them all was the image of a siddha standing all night on one leg chanting mantras, with bloodshot eyes, and holy ash smeared all over.

Manjunath Sullolli

Far from the madding crowd

There are lots of places to visit in Bagalkot district including the famed Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakoota. While travelling from Badami to Pattadakal about 16 kms from Badami, I chanced on a water falls. It is located about two kms from the main road in a village called Jalihala in Badami taluk. The water falls is known as ‘Huligemmadevi Kolla’. Water cascades from a hill 80 feet high. There is also a small cave temple of Lord Shiva. When you look around, it is a rocky hill with some greenery in every direction. It is a perfect picnic spot, away from the madding crowds.

Aravind V S