The name Kolar evokes in the minds of many, nothing but the images of the famed Gold Mines, which by the way is now shut. Even though the Kolar Gold Fields (a.k.a KGF) are now abandoned, this district of Karnataka is by all means still a gold mine. A gold mine for the ever-wandering tourist. A gold mine for the avid devotee. A gold mine for scholarly archeologist. My R&D into Kolar yielded a long list of places-to-visit. Ironically, most of these places are temples and temples are, as a principle something that I avoid while on trips. But, given the nature and significance of the temples, I was ready to make an exception. Foremost on the list was Anthargange, which also happens to be the closest to Bangalore. Then there are places/temples with mythological significance. There are also these ancient temples from our country’s glorious past. Temples built by the Cholas and the Chalukyas. Add to that there’s the Kotilingeshwara – the one crore shivlinga temple and the Chikka Tirupathi.
The plan was to first get to Anthargange, and IF the body permits, to move on to the other temples. I said IF, because Anthargange has a good vertical trekking trail on offer. We left for Kolar at 7 in the morning and hit the Old Madras Road. The route is very straight forward. Once you take the Old Madras Road, you get off it only at Kolar, which is roughly about 65 kms. There’s a road sign which tells where you take the left turn to Anthargange. From the highway it’s a mere 5 kms to Anthargange.
The temple at Anthargange is famous for its natural spring water source from the rocks believed to be coming from the Ganga of the north. No one really knows the actual source of the water. The source as one can see it is a small crevice from which a steady stream of water flows down into the temple pond. What happens after it flows into pond is something that’s not very delectable to the eye. There are scores of people taking bath (with soap and shampoo), kids jumping into the pool and splashing water all over creation and the like. And right before the water falls into the pond from an elevated platform that looks something like a jump board of a swimming pool, there are hordes of people (not devotees) collecting The Water in water cans and water bottles. From the looks of it, this source of water serves as the drinking water supply (not to mention the bathroom) for the whole of Kolar. I say that because, it looked like the whole of Kolar were there either collecting water in their cans or taking a bath.
Visiting the temple was not our primary motive. It was the hiking that began from the temple. The hike up the hill was challenging especially if you have Asthma. So here were two Asthma sufferers pitted against the mighty rocky terrain of Anthargange. After about an hour or more (we really lost track of time) we were, as we presumed at the top of the hill ranges. And to our surprise we found a village on top of this hill. But no, the villagers here do not have to hike this path every day to reach their home. There is a motorable road one could take to reach here. The hamlet up this hill looked a sleepy one. As we began to wonder what to do next, we found a few (6-7 year old) kids playing in the Raagi fields. So when we asked them what else this place had to offer, the kids replied there were caves further up the hill. Yeah apparently the hill still goes higher.
The kids were now our official guides to explore these mysterious caves. I say mysterious, since I’ve not encountered anything in relation to Caves in my research on Antargange. Now the only problem with this guide-business was that we had five of them. Nobody was ready to let off of an opportunity to earn some money. Though we designated only two of them as our “official guides” the other three tagged along. After a little bit of scheming among the guides, they sent back the youngest and most gullible guide back with a toy as a bribe.
Our guides for the day were an enthusiastic and energetic lot, compared to us lethargic city folks. One of them, from time to time even plucked Guava fruits for us. Pretty sweet – the guava and the guide who offered it. Just like any good guide, they showed everything that could be captured with your lenses. Finally after another hour or more of hiking we reached the so-called-caves. So-called, because these caves were never inhabited. So-called because these caves can never be inhabited, except of course by tiny midgets or seven year old kids. The kids took us deeper and deeper into the rocky formations. The gaps between the stones were so small and our bodies so huge, that many times it seemed impossible to go through. But somehow we went further and further. Most times on all-fours, sometimes contorting our bodies in unimaginable shapes and sometimes sliding down rocks like on a slide in a playground. And then finally we found a crevice between two rocks where we just could not go. It was so narrow that we got stuck after just a couple of kids. But the silly kids were so confident that we could cross, that my co-traveler tried and almost dislocated his nose when her tried to keep his face straight.
The kids then showed us a different path for the exit. And by the time we got out, I had a couple of bruises on my elbows and knees and even managed to twist my shoulder again (as a result of an accident couple of years back). But we were never more glad to be finally out. That place there, could kill a claustrophobic.
The way back was pretty uneventful except for the continuous chatter of the kids, and their stories. They told us quite a number of stories, but after knowing eagerness to talk bull, I wouldn’t put any of those guide-stories here. After tipping out little guides (all of them) at their village (Paparajanahalli), we started to make our way down to Antargange. But soon we realized that folly of our intitial misconceptions of this sleepy hamlet. The place was suddenly hip and happening - and how. There we found an agricultural well where about forty young men and kids were assembled around the well and splashing themselves into it. On the main road though there was a large gathering of young men who had some kind of drag-racing-cum-wheeling competition going on. Next to the local tea-stall hangout place was a large swing suspended from a tree where again young men were swinging away to unbelievable heights.
Unable to believe this sudden transformation of the place we walked back to Antargange. Now with most of the devotees gone, the temple was quieter on the devotional front but noisier on the recreational front. It was all fun and frolic for the kids and men who came to the temple for their afternoon swim in the swimming pool (ex-temple-pond). However there was no variation in the number of people carrying the spring water back to their homes or businesses where they sold the water. We took this opportunity to have a closer look at the Fountainhead of the water. Surprisingly the stream just kept coming from an elevated platform, between two tiny Nandi statues. We filled out bottle with this stream and to our surprise, it tasted as pure as a natural spring water can be. It was a real life saver for our parched throats. Somewhat rejuvenated by the generous amount of stream water we made our way back to so-called mineral water haven of Bangalore.
Getting-there: Old Madras Road -> Left at Kolar 65 kms later -> Left before Bus Stand.
Must-Do: Keep yourself hydrated. Taste the natural spring. Explore the Caves - if possible.
Must-Dont: Carrying excessive baggage. Even backpacks and waterbottles and coats are a liability while exploring the caves. Littering, bathing and the like. Claustrophobics should stay away from the caves.
Road Report: Good Roads after T.G.E (or a similar combination of alphabets) Extension. But too many diversions, because of the laying of the 4-lane roads.
Food: Kamat Upachar, 10 kms before Kolar - A must!!!
My Rating: 6.5/10