This is a two-part series. I started writing it as one story, because they are so intimately intertwined, but the article got so big that it made more sense to break it up into two parts for ease of reading.
Avani is a tiny hamlet in the Mulbagal Taluk (group of villages) of Kolar district, just 80 km away from Bangalore. The first part of my journal describes the history of Avani and the reason behind the creation of the Ramalingeswara group of temples that lie at the base of Avani hill or Avani Betta as it is locally called.
After a thorough exploration of the 10th century Ramalingeswara temple, we started on the hike towards the hillock – made popular by the epic tale of Ramayana. Every boulder on this hillock has deep mythological connections. This hill itself is said to be the location of the hermitage of sage Valmiki.
For those who are not so familiar with the story of Ramayana – when Sita was banished by Rama, her husband and the king of Ayodha, sage Valmiki sheltered her here at his ashram. It was here at this ashram that Sita gave birth to twin boys, Luv & Kush.
Avani Betta Trek
The Avani Betta Trek is relatively an easy one. The hillock has steps carved in to make the climb easier. Still, it is advised to begin the trek before the blazing afternoon Sun comes up. It was only early March and yet it was extraordinarily hot.
Midway through the climb, there is a nice resting place surrounded by huge boulders. Created about 3-4 billion years back, these boulders are witness to everything humanity has ever achieved. The strong breeze was comforting and we sat down for a breather among some of the oldest granite rocks in the world.
The trail gradually opens out into a wide space filled with interestingly shaped boulders, some precariously placed. One of the common sights at this place is small stacks of stones put together all over the hill. These are prayer stones created mostly by childless couples who frequent the Sita Parvati temple at the summit, wishing for a child of their own.
On this wide area of the hill we found ourselves surrounded by multiple boulders in different shapes and sizes. These boulders are a part of what is known as the Eastern Dharwar Craton. A craton is a piece of the Earth’s crust that has existed as a solid since they were first formed on this planet. Since that time they have been pressured and eroded by weathering agents forming somewhat recognizable shapes from our current lives. In my opinion this one looks like a burger bread.
Beside the burger bread rock, this boulder standing on the edge looks like a flying saucer caused by millions of years of erosion by the natural forces.
Beside the boulders lies a small pond, said to be created by Lakshman to help Sita obtain water on the hill. But it doesn’t fit into the logic of the historical tale, since the brothers Rama and Lakshman never knew about the whereabouts of Sita during the time of her exile. Moving on…
A side view of the same boulder. Doesn’t it look like a carrot?
En route to the summit, we came across various caves, which once belonged to sage Valmiki and Sita respectively along with other residents of the hermitage. The descriptions though are in Kannada, so if you don’t understand the language, it’s better to hire a guide who can explain in yours.
This is the most beautiful section of the hill. Open spaces, lovely breeze, trees to provide shade, sigh… it would make a wonderful place to set up a night camp.
Below is a cave where sage Valmiki lived. He performed penances in this cave. The mud here is considered sacred and is believed to have medicinal properties. Locals collect this mud, soak it in water and then drink that water in order to cure their illness. It is said Luv and Kush took birth in this very cave.
By this time I was a bit dehydrated and on top of that I realized I had left my water bottle in the car. We stood in the shade for a while before moving on. Although the Sun was beating down upon us, the boulders kept us in the shade, which were surprisingly cool with the strong breeze helping us along the hike.
Further up the trail we found a natural pond, which is believed to be the place where the ashram residents used to wash their clothes. Today lovely lotus flowers adorn the pond.
Below is a close up of the same boulder we have been seeing from the base of the hill. It is kind of a trademark boulder which identifies the hill from the others surrounding the region. It is said Sita witnessed the battle between Luv-Kush and Rama from the top of this boulder.
Sita Parvati temple atop the hill
Right after the natural pond, there is a last bit stretch of stairs that took us straight to the temple.
It took us about and hour to reach the summit. Of course it can be done faster with younger feet.
This is the main temple in Avani and is one of the few temples which has the deity of Sita worshiped here. This ashram is also the place where Sita becomes one with the Earth. We were early. The inner sanctum was closed, unfortunately the priest hadn’t arrived yet.
According to ancient scripts, it was initially a Parvati temple. Locals say that goddess Parvati appeared to Adi Shankaracharya in his dream and expressed her desire to establish a Sita statue next to hers. A deeply devoted Adi Shankaracharya executed her wish and since this temple came to be known as Sita Parvati Temple.
We took some rest after reaching the summit. The landscape surrounding the Avani hill is full of small lakes and scattered boulders.
After a refreshing rest we started our descent. On the way back we saw some people making their way up the hill – to the temple.
Festivals at Avani
A yearly jaatra (fair) is held in Avani during the Maha-shivaratri festival. A Ratha Yatra is also held in the month of July at the Ramalingeshwara Temple. Many devotees visit the temple during this time but they also leave behind a mess.
Ride back to Bangalore
The hike had left us sapped of energy. The descent was a lot quicker and after grabbing a couple of soft drinks from the village store, we began our ride back to Bangalore taking back with us, a slice of history.
On the way we stopped at a marigold farm to take some pictures.
The drive back to Bangalore was more or less uneventful and we were home by 2 pm.
If you are a person who loves history or someone who just wants to get away from the city’s buzz – this place is an easy getaway. The hike though easy is still fulfilling. The heritage attached to the place is interesting and keeps it from become just another boring hike.
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