White hills amidst green fields

White hills amidst green fields

Chamarajanagara district abounds in scenic splendour and with two exquisite hill temples, it offers a picture of peace and serenity. One of them is the Biligiri Ranga Hills at an altitude of more than 5000 ft, located 90 km south of Mysore.

The route from Chamarajanagar, the district headquarters offers a visual treat as the road meanders through nearly 50 km of forests abounding in sandal wood, teak and herbal plants. The area is described as an elephant country but these majestic animals are not normally visible in the mornings while peacocks and small wild animals cross the roads at times.

Sanctity

On the same route is a gigantic 130 feet high Champak tree with a circumference of nearly 20 m said to have delighted sage Parasurama and his wife Renuka with its fragrant yellow and red hued flowers. A nearby platform has more than 100 lingas. However one has to traverse through a rough track of 4 km to reach the spot. Bhargavi, a large stream and a tributary of Cauvery flows in the vicinity and is described as having been created by Parasurama for his rituals.

Nearby is the Kyatedevaraya Gudi, a wild life sanctuary, home to elephants, gaur, tiger, leopard and 250 species of exotic birds. All places around BR Hills have associations with mythology and history. Brahmanda Purana calls Biligiri as ‘Dakshina Tirupati’ on the basis of an episode where Ranga goes to Svetadri Parvata to get soap nut powder for his wife’s oil bath. On the way, he falls in love with a Soliga girl and settles down there. Thus the Soligas, a hilly tribe consider him as their brother-in-law and offer services during the car festival.

The first historical record of this place dates back to an inscription of 1667 AD hailing the Lord as Tiruvenkatanatha. When Tippu Sultan visited this area for hunting,the deity was renamed as Ranganatha and thereafter has been popularly known as Biligiri Ranganatha, as he stands on a white stone (bili giri) hill. In Sanskrit, it is called as svetadri.

Elements of beauty

Tall ramparts, spacious prakara, wooden mahadvara, beautiful relief figures, mithuna sculptures, Dasavatara figures on the pillars of the navaranga, bronze figures of Srinivasa, Anjaneya and Manavala Mahamuni and Alamelu Mangamma’s shrine are the highlights of the Temple. There is also an exquisite Garuda Vahana and a pair of deepada malli (lady with the lamp).

An equally enchanting place of the district is the Gopalaswami Betta described by tradition as Kamaladri, on the summit of which is the temple dedicated to Narayana as Gopalaswami.

Blessed with a salubrious climate, the entire hill is enveloped with fog and mist endowing a snowy appearance and hence the name Himavat Betta. The area is surrounded by holy ponds of Chakratirtha, Gadhatirtha, Shankatirtha and Gopalatirtha with five more such water bodies at the lower elevation. In all, there are more than 70 such ponds offering water holes for the elephants which at times even enter the temple premises.

The temple of Sri Gopalaswami stands singularly at the top of the hill and barring a forest bungalow, does not have any residencies around it. The Temple dates back to 1315 AD and belonged to the Cholas, but was completely renovated by the Mysore Wodeyars. The sanctum as well as the idol are dotted with Hoysala features with attractive carvings on the door way. The prabhavali is equally ornate.

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