Captivating Kalya

Captivating Kalya

The quaint village of Kalya in the Magadi taluk of Ramanagara district casts a spell with its old-world charm and interesting stories

The white gopuram of Kaleshwara Temple

Sharing a deep sense of curiosity and an unfounded affection for small towns, my friend Dinesh and I decided to drive down to Magadi a few Sundays ago. The proximity to Bengaluru (65 km), and the fact that the Kempegowda clan - the founders of Bengaluru — had built a fort here were additional draws for embarking on this trip. After we spent the morning in Magadi meandering through the markets and exchanging pleasantries with flower sellers, we were rudely awakened to the fact that the mud fort existed only in memory. What remains of it are scattered ruins of little significance, and at places, a half-hearted attempt at restoring its ramparts.

Lucky spottings

Casting aside our disappointment, we decided to head towards Kempapura village to visit the tomb of Kempegowda I, at the suggestion of a local. We paused our journey to appreciate the beauty of a wayside lake, trespassing a mango orchard fringed by teak trees on our walk to its bank. From here we spotted a white gopuram of a temple perched on a hillock, sticking out against an overbearing landscape of giant, rusty boulders. The sight was alluring enough to change our plan and take the next dusty road leading in its direction. And it was this road that led us to Kalya, a village at the foothill.

While our primary intention was to make our way to the temple on the hillock, we lingered to soak in a bit of the laid-back vibe of the village. We stretched ourselves in the verandah of a Hanuman temple witnessing farmers ushering their bulls to the fields and curious little girls in pigtails coming out to say hello. An elderly man walked up to us and demanded to know what brought us here, unused to visitors coming this way. We strolled the village to the sounds of bleating goats and Sunday television, taking pictures of traditional homes of stone masonry and terracotta tiles.

The 'sthambha' that belonged to a Jain temple that existed in Kalya
The 'sthambha' that belonged to a Jain temple that existed in Kalya

As we began on the path to the hill, we were joined by Swami, all of 17 years, who became our self-appointed tour guide. We didn’t mind of course, and we were only glad that he turned out to be a delightful storyteller. Swami enlightened us to the fact that Kalya has quite a history, and in ancient times, it was referred to as Kalavati Pattana or Kalyana Pura. He led us first near the fields of pigeon peas situated at the base of the hillock where a huge stone pillar stood. It seemed quite gigantic and I was reminded of a similar one I had seen at Panchakoota Basadi in Kambadahalli. Swami told us that this too belonged to a Jain temple that once existed here, that was made of wood and eventually burnt down by non-believers, leaving only the stone pillar behind.

Swami was now joined by two of his friends, Ganesha and Shiva, and together we trekked up the rough flight of stairs leading us to Jangama Math, a Shaivite monastery. A stone gateway opened out into a small sanctuary with shrines and Nandi bulls all generously coated in lime, flourishing bilva trees and a lingering sense of placidity. We rested there for a while. The location also offered sweeping views of the plains below, Swami pointing out to a large open well he and his friends would have been diving into, had it not been for us.

The main sanctum of Jangama Math has remained locked ever since the last ascetic who inhabited it, Siddalinga Aaradhya Guru, had passed on, and is open for worship only on certain days of the week. However, Swami egged Dinesh and his two friends to climb over an adjacent rock and jump straight into the courtyard of the Math. I was too scared to attempt, and stayed back. Once inside the premises, Swami and his friends entered a cave for a glimpse of the samadhi of an 18th-century Shaivite saint, Sarvasheela Chennamma.

Legends & lore

After everyone returned from the Math, we made our way to the summit of the hillock, clambering on boulders, wrestling thorny shrubs and navigating slopes of steep inclination. It wasn’t easy at all, and at certain places, we had to hoist ourselves up with the help of a rope that Swami had thankfully carried with him. Once at the top, it was a moment of glory as we surveyed the haze-tinted panorama around us. Swami pointed us to a gigantic boulder towards the north and had yet another interesting story for us. Chavundaraya, the commander who commissioned the statue of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola, had apparently considered this boulder for the making of the statue. He, however, had concerns about the rigidity of the rock and hence gave it a pass in favour of another. I can’t vouch for the credibility of the tale. It might just be folklore after all. But Swami kept us perpetually enchanted with his tales!

The Jangama Math atop the hillock at Kalya
The Jangama Math atop the hillock at Kalya

We rested in the shade of one of the boulders, expressing aloud our bewilderment at how few of them sat so precariously, as if the defying laws of gravity. We then trekked towards the northern side of the hillock and finally reached the temple that was the reason behind our detour. The Kaleshwara Temple is a modest shrine. On a cluster of rocks behind the temple stood a stone mantap from where we took a lot of photographs of the village and the lake from where we had first spotted the temple. Swami led us to another samadhi nearby, of the 12th-century Telugu poet and follower of Basavanna, Palkuriki Somanatha.

As we began our descent back to the village, I realised that the hillock is no ordinary one. Even if half of Swami’s tales are indeed true, it seemed like great souls had chosen it for their spiritual and creative quests, while many even choosing to become one with the earth here? We were fortunate to have serendipitously stumbled upon these rocks with little clue about its fascinating past. We bid our goodbye to Swami and his friends. We didn’t want to hold them back any longer from their weekend swim.

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