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Wednesday 7 October 2020

The spectacular Devarayanadurga and a natural spring called Namada Chilume

A spontaneous day trip from Bengaluru to the picturesque hills of Devarayanadurga, during Covid times.

An alarm that wasn’t set right marked a bad start for my Sunday but I managed to make it better, by heading for a great day trip to the scenic rocky hills of Devarayana Durga near Tumakuru.

A picturesque view from the Devarayanadurga hill which houses Shri Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple on its top
A picturesque view from the Devarayanadurga hill which houses Shri Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple on its top

The spectacular hills of Devarayana Durga and the natural spring called Namada Chilume are nearby Tumakuru city, (Tumkur), which are about 73 kilometres from Bengaluru (Bangalore) city's center, in Karnataka, India.

Popularly known as DD Hills, Devarayanadurga hills takes its name from the Durga (meaning fort) that existed here historically. Devarayana Durga literally means Devaraya's Fort. It has its highest elevation of about 1,200 metres (approximately about 3,937 feet), and houses the historical temples such as Shri Yoga Lakshi-Narasimha Swami temple on its top and Shri Bhoga Lakshmi-Narasimha Swamy temple on its foothills.

The trip begins

It was 5:00 am on a Sunday morning of the 04th of October 2020, when I woke up to the sound of an alarm that wasn’t set right, which marked a bad start for my Sunday. I finally found the button to turn it off after a lot of struggle, and that killed all my desire to go back to bed. This made me recall a similar incident which happened a decade ago, just about a year after my marriage. The incident was that we had planned a trip to Devarayanadurga on that day, and we were all up trying to find where the alarm was and turn it off.

It immediately occurred to me as a good opportunity to turn this into something good and relish some memories by going for a trip with my wife and my 8 year old son. I carefully woke them up from their sleep, promising them that they wouldn’t be disappointed. My son was excited as he loves hiking, but my wife was all grumpy as this was not a pleasant déjà-vu. My son helped me convincing her and we quickly finished the morning chores and began our journey towards Tumkur.

This COVID-19 year of 2020 has imposed a lot of restrictions for avid travellers like me, but that adrenaline rush to go out is sometimes uncontrollable. As we embarked on our day trip, we took all the necessary precautions; most importantly, wearing a mask with spare ones in the car, hand sanitizers - both in the car and my wife's handbag, plenty of water, some food for the afternoon, and some snacks for the journey.

All this was complemented by at least 15 minutes of best practices advice to my son by his utmost caring mother - "Do not touch the railings, maintain distance from others, don’t take off your mask unless you absolutely have to, don’t eat anything outside, do not touch your face...”, and so on. Although it seems boring to children when they repeatedly hear the same thing, we parents feel contented that we are doing our best. During these unprecedented times, we may not be perfect in being careful, but we do try our best.

Now, let's get to the good part of this story - our journey to Tumkur. It took us about an hour and a half to cover the stretch of 70 kilometres from Bengaluru to Tumkur. The traffic wasn’t as bad and there were still some usual struggles at the Nelamangala Toll booth, where some FastTag RFIDs were either not being read or did not have sufficient balance in them. I do want to thank the government for introducing the FastTag system which has made it so seamless for travellers and indirectly helped reduce contact, thus reducing the chances of the virus’s spread during this Corona pandemic.

Namada Chilume, a natural spring

On reaching Tumakuru, we took the exit before entering the city, and our first stop was at Namada Chilume. As I write this post, it appears that one can also take the exit at Dabaspete itself, but my ignorant mind had to follow what Google maps had to offer this morning.

The main entrance gate to Namada Chilume deer park.
The main entrance gate to Namada Chilume deer park.

Ample parking space is available outside the deer park. There's also a botanical garden on the other side of the road this deer park, if you're interested. There were quite a few who were inside the deer park for their morning walk. As soon as you enter the park, you find a large enclosure filled with spotted deer, towards the right side.

Walking path beside the deer enclosure in Namada Chilume
Walking on the path beside the deer enclosure.
Spotted deer in Namada Chilume park
Spotted deer inside the park enclosure.
Nandi sculpture near Namada Chilume
A beautifully sculpted Nandi in the park, crafted from granite. Unfortunately, its head has been damaged.
Walking towards Namada Chilume, in the deer park.
Walking towards Namada Chilume, in the deer park.
Approaching Namada Chilume, in the deer park
Approaching Namada Chilume, in the deer park.
Walking through the beautiful park of Namada Chilume
Walking through the beautiful park, over the rocky granite ground and through lush green foliage.

As you keep walking, a little ahead about 500 to 600 meters, you find the Namada Chilume spring well which is surrounded by a cage-like structure built by authorities, to protect it from acts of vandalism and abuse.

The spring called Namada Chilume, surrounded by a cage-like protective structure
The spring called Namada Chilume, surrounded by a cage-like protective structure.

Namada Chilume literally means "A Spring of Tilak" in Kannada, and the place resonates the name. A legend titled "Namada Chilume", inscribed in Kannada language on a stone slab installed here by the Deputy Conservator Of Forests - Tumkur, on 9-7-1996, which says that Lord Rama and Sita were at the hills of Devarayandurga during their fourteen year vanavasa.

As this legend narrates, Lord Ram, when searching for water to anoint his forehead with a tilak, couldn’t find a water source anywhere around the place. He then took his bow and arrow, and shot an arrow which pierced a boulder and created a spring, and hence it got the name as "Naamada Chilume" for he used this spring's water for his naama or tilak. It appears to be a natural spring coming through the rocks, and this spring is apparently perennial, one that doesn't dry up.

A vast granite hill, near Namada Chilume
A vast granite hill, near Namada Chilume.
The structure surrounding Namada Chilume spring, as seen from this granite hill
The structure surrounding Namada Chilume spring, as seen from this granite hill.
A relaxing area in the Namada Chilume park
A relaxing area in the park.
A couple of monkey mothers on the trees with baby monkeys, in Namada Chilume park in Devarayanadurga
A couple of monkey mothers on the trees, tending to their babies.

It's very quiet and peaceful in the park and the only things you hear are the birds chirping and the monkeys screeching. Although the water from the spring is in the purest form, I resisted my urge from tasting or touching it, even though there were several others who were delightfully drinking it, spraying it on their head out of devotion and also ignorantly splashing it at their friends for fun.

Also, for reasons that I do not know of and do not understand, some people threw coins into the spring water as if it was a wishing well. I wouldn’t have thought much about touching the water if we weren't under the current Covid situation, where we know that a simple indirect touch can get you infected. We spent about 30 minutes near the spring, sitting on a boulder and unwinding ourselves before we decided to move ahead.

The temples and the scenic hills of Devarayanadurga

The narrow road leading to Devarayanadurga, uphill from Namada Chilume
The narrow road leading to Devarayanadurga, uphill from Namada Chilume.

It took us another 20 minutes to reach the tollbooth at Devarayana Durga. The name Devarayanadurga literally translates to “Devaraya's Fort” in Kannada. It is said to be named after the Mysore King Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar, who had built a fort on these rocky hills in the 17th century CE, and this fort is said to have seven entry points.

Several inscriptions and historical remains dating back to the Hoysala and Vijayanagar periods, is reported to have been discovered in and around this place. This place is said to have been known as Anebiddasari, and later as Jadakana Durga, before it attained its current name[1]. These days, some Bangaloreans also refer to it in a shortened form and simply call it DD Hills. Devarayanadurga hills, or DD Hills, is a great place for trekking enthusiasts, and it provides a spectacular panoramic view.

The highest altitude of Devarayana Durga hills is about 1,200 metres which is approximately about 3,937 feet, as per the topographic data on Google Maps as well as OpenStreetMap. I could see some remnants and ruins of the fort walls here, but there I didn't see much signs of a fort visible at the top.

Devarayanadurga houses temples dedicated to Shri Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy (high above the Devarayanadurga mountain top, at an elevation of about 1,200 metres or approximately 3,937 feet), Shri Bhoga Narasimha Swamy (on the foothill of Devarayanadurga mountain, at an elevation of about 1,050 metres or approximately 3,445 feet), and a very modest shrine called Shri Sanjivaraya Temple (also on the foothill) which is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. (Namada Chilume deer park's elevation is about 900 metres). Devarayanadurga Temple complex has three holy ponds known as Narasimha Theertha, Parashara Theertha and Pada Theertha.

The steps leading to the higher mountain peak which as Shri Yoga Narasimhaswamy temple on it
The steps leading to the higher mountain peak which as Shri Yoga Narasimhaswamy temple on it.

On the road to Devarayanadurga, you first arrive at a toll booth near the foot path to the hill top which has the Yoga Narasimha Swamy Temple. A parking ticket costs Rs. 20, and the attendant informed us that Shri Bhoga Laxmi Narasimha Swamy temple opens at 10:00 am. As we were early, we had to spend the next 20 minutes there as they wouldn’t open up the gates for the uphill stretch. There were a few bikers though, who had figured out a rough alternate and narrow road which connects to the road uphill at some point. I wouldn’t recommend doing that as the travel is restricted for a reason and that’s for our safety.

This place is nothing like what I had seen 10 years ago, when I was the only other person who was there in a car. Over the last several years, this place has attracted several travellers, bikers, couples, and hikers alike. I saw quite a few locals and also Bangalorean cyclists who had mounted their bicycles on their cars and had stopped at several places on the stretch between Namada Chilume and Devarayanadurga. They would find a good spot to park their car and cycle all the way to the top of the hills and then back.

We spent 20 minutes by taking a leisurely walk around and climbed a few newly built steps that takes you to the base of the mountain where one has to park their vehicle and start climbing.

Some carvings of Hindu deities Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and their divine animals, Nandi the bull and Shesha Naga the serpent, respectively, on a rock surface in Devarayanadurga
Some carvings of Hindu deities on a rock surface. To the left, there's a figure of a Shiva-linga with his divine bull Nandi seated below, and Lord Shiva is pictured in a dancing pose with his trident weapon trishula. To the right, there's a figure of Lord Vishnu in a reclined position and his serpent Shesha Naga providing him shade.
On the steps to the Devarayanadurga hill peak
On the steps to the Devarayanadurga hill peak. The beautiful and serene environment here is so soothing.
The Sunday morning sun shines between the trees
The Sunday morning sun shines between the trees.

We were distracted by the roaring sound of the vehicles that started all of a sudden, and realised that the gates had opened.

We walked back to our car and then drove first towards the nearby Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple which was about half a kilometre from there, as we wanted to avoid getting lost amongst all those passionate and impatient travellers on cars and bikes, who were in such a hurry to get to the peak.

Shri Bhoga-Lakshmi-Narasimha-Swamy Temple of Devarayanadurga
Shri Bhoga-Lakshmi-Narasimha-Swamy Temple of Devarayanadurga. Also seen in this picture, are a monolithic deepasthambha (a light post) to the left, and a partial view of a shala-shikara of a shrine inside the temple enclosure.

Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy is a similar but not exactly the same form of the deity Shri Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy on the hilltop.

Shri Bhoga LakshmiNarasimhaSwamy temple of Devarayanadurga
The entrance to Shri BhogaLakshmiNarasimhaSwamy temple of Devarayanadurga, featuring a Vijayanagara-styled entrance gopura, and ornate parapets. The size of this gopura is much smaller than those seen in Hampi.

Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple is located at the foothill of Devarayanadurga. At the entry of Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple, we had our temperatures checked and our hands sprayed with sanitizers by the temple authorities before we were allowed inside the temple’s premises. It took us about 15 minutes to complete the darshan in a very slow moving line, and some persuasion by priests for some dakshina. I felt a little odd at first, but then empathised with them, recalling how this pandemic has financially affected so many people, including priests. I smiled at the priest, offered some dakshina and started my uphill journey towards Yoga Narasimha temple.

We went further uphill of Devarayanadurga hills, to Shri Yoga Narasimha temple on its top. It was a 15 minutes journey through a very curvy road. The road was good except for some confused and show-off bikers who apparently do not know how and where to park their bikes. We found a parking spot among 20 other cars around and started climbing the steps uphill towards Shri Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple. It was stressful for me and my wife as we hardly get any exercise these days, but my son took off as if it was nothing. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the top. There were around 350 to 500 steps which were laid out well and have sufficient seating arrangements on both sides - a great improvement from the last time I visited this place.

Steps leading to Yoga Narasimha Swamy in Devarayanadurga
Steps leading to Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple above the highest peak in Devarayanadurga. You can see the remnants of a fort's wall and entranceway here.
Spectacular view of Devarayanadurga foothill which houses Shri Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple
Climbing the steps to Shri Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple above the highest peak in Devarayanadurga, I turned back to see a spectacular view of the foothill below which houses the Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple, with a picturesque hillside in the background. You can also see the large rocky edge to the right, which is a great viewpoint in the below hill.
The entrance gopura to Shri Yoga Narasimhaswamy temple on the highest mountain peak of Devarayanadurga
The entranceway to Shri Yoga Narasimhaswamy temple. The Vijayanagar styled brick and plaster entrance gopura is very modest in size, but is very ornate and beautiful.

I must warn you that you should be extremely careful here, for the monkeys here and are highly skilled in snatching away what you have, and they won’t think twice before doing that.

Once again, our temperature was checked and our hands sanitised, before entry into the temple on the mountain. The temple has been nicely restored and the darshan of Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha and Goddess Lakshmi was comforting.

Yoga Laskhmi Narasimha, who is brilliantly adorned in an altar, is the form of Lord Narasimha found in a seated yoga position with folded legs, with Goddess Lakshmi accompanying him. There are many temples where Lord Narasimha, one of Lord Vishnu's several avatars (incarnations), is found in this yoga form. The spectacular monolith of Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha near the Shri Krishna temple of Hampi, is one great example of this form. The architecture of the temples, their pillars, and the sculptures here may remind you of the typical Vijayanagara style of building temples.

Monkeys near the Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha temple pond
Monkeys near the temple pond.

From here, you can walk to the fort view point, which is towards south direction, along the route that leads towards the Devarayanadurga Inspection Bungalow (view below map for details). If you're prepared to trek or climb, there are more viewpoints around here, but you should be very careful.

And then, on your way back down the steps to your vehicle parking below, or while you were climbing up itself, you must stop at a couple of viewpoints to take some great pictures of the magnificent views that show winding roads, miniature cars, and mountains and hills all around, along with a small village and a couple of lakes.

A spectacular view from above the steps to Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple on Devarayanadurga's highest mountain peak
A spectacular view from above the steps to Yoga Narasimha Swamy temple on Devarayanadurga's highest mountain peak.
>A spectacular view from above Devarayanadurga's highest mountain peak
The parking area below is seen here with a magnificent backdrop of the hillside and the lush green lands below.
A spectacular view the small village on Devarayanadurga's table top peak
A spectacular view of the small village at Devarayanadurga's foothill which houses Shri Bhoga Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple.

Finally, once we were back at the foothills, we took some rest, played some cricket in an empty parking lot and were back to Bangalore by 2:00 PM in the afternoon. A day well spent for my stressful mind, had some good family time, enjoyed losing myself in cricket with my son, and my body thanked me for showing some mercy on it by taking a good walk.

A Map of in and around Devarayanadurga

Zoom in or out using the + and - on the map for detailed view. We've marked some points worth visiting here. Some of these points may require climbing uphill by foot.

Get Directions to Devarayanadurga from your place of choice
Note: The directions will open up with Google Maps in a new tab.

Tips for Travellers

  • Bengaluru (Bangalore) to Devarayana Durga is about 72 kilometres from the city's centre (and about 62 kilometres from Yeshwantpur), if you take the diversion to the right at Dabaspete. This way, you will first find the junction with the road that leads to Devarayanadurga hill's temple town, and Namada Chilume will be further ahead from this junction.
  • Bengaluru (Bangalore) to Devarayana Durga is about 75 plus kilometres from the city's centre (and about 65 kilometres from Yeshwantpur), if you take the diversion to the right at Kyathasandra, just before Tumakuru (Tumkur) town, which is what we did in our trip. This way, you encounter Namada Chilume before you get to the junction that leads to the Devarayanadurga hill's temples and town.
  • Namada Chilume is 6 kilometres away from Devarayana Durga. You can choose whichever route you want, just zoom out the above map or look for directions to Devarayanadurga or Namada Chilume, from your starting point or place.
  • Namada Chilume site is open from 8am to 5:30pm, while the Devarayanadurga temple opening timings are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • You should be highly cautious about the monkeys here who are very agile, and they can snatch away whatever you have in your hands, and they won’t think twice before doing that.
  • Do not make a commotion or misbehave in and around the temples. You may be there for a picnic or to trek and may visit the temples along your way, but maintain strict decorum as they're also a holy pilgrimage place with active worship continued there by devotees since centuries.
  • Do strictly follow the Covid prevention guidelines of wearing a mask, carrying a hand sanitiser and using it when required. And yes, the mask goes over the nose and do not keep touching it once you've worn it. (Not required anymore as COVID guidelines are no longer mandatory. However you may still carry a hand sanitiser if you wish.)
  • Carry water bottle, and some water as well as a hand wash if you want to wash your hands before proceeding to eat, if you plan to eat there. Be careful about the monkeys, and ensure that you do not litter.
  • If you decide to eat outside, in a restaurant or an eatery in these Covid times, make sure it is clean and consume only hot and freshly prepared food or drink in there. (Not required anymore as COVID guidelines are no longer mandatory. However eating at a place with better hygeine is a good practice for any time.)

Getting there and getting around: Transportation

You can easily plan a day trip to Devarayanadurga and Namada Chilume from Bengaluru city, either in a four wheeler or a two wheeler, whether you have your own, or by hiring one. There are buses to Devarayanadurga from Tumakuru city, should you choose to travel by public transport, and there are many buses from Bengaluru to Tumakuru.

Best times of Visit

The summer can get quite hot, and hence may not be suitable. It's best to visit during winter, or during October to February, when there are great blue skies with some white clouds or a clear blue sky, and no rains. The monsoons have their own charm, but it can be very cloudy and misty, blocking the great views, and the rocks may get too slippery if you intend to trek on them. Check the weather before you travel.

Places of Stay

One can stay at Bengaluru city (Bangalore) and plan a day trip. Also, one can stay at an affordable hotel or a lodge in Tumakuru city (Tumkur) too if that's convenient and works out for you. Devarayanadurga is about 17 kilometres to the east from Tumakuru city.

References :
[1] Of history, spirituality & natural beauty - By S V Upendra Charya, on Deccan Herald. January 09, 2012; Updated: Jan 09 2012, 17:56 IST.

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