A lone Nandi sits on top, overlooking vast swathes of fields, small towns, and hillocks at a distance. He is witness to historical events that have occurred here over centuries. The small mantap where he rests marks the end of the trekking trail at Savandurga, one of the largest monolithic rocks in Asia. Situated about 7 miles from Magadi town, Savandurga has become one of the many trekking hot-spots around Bangalore, testing the rock climbing skills of enthusiasts. There are said to be seven routes to climb this rock, the easiest one being the route along the electrical lines laid all the way to the top.
Named Savandurga by Immadi Kempe Gauda, this hill fortress was believed to be unconquerable until the British took over in 1791; Lord Cornwallis has written a detailed account about its capture. The hill looks imposing as one drives closer to it and it is easy to understand why it is called the ‘rock of death.’ The Nandi mantap looks like a small square on top and all visible sides of the rock look steep and dangerous; only upon reaching the base does one see the rock’s gentle slopes.
For those who don’t want to trek but still want to enjoy nature, Savandurga has a lot to offer. The base of the temple is surrounded by a forest; with thick bamboo groves and dense shrubs, this was the first layer of defense one had to get through. This is one of the factors contributing to naming the place Savandurga. Some part of the forest has now been converted to an herbal plantation and is open for people to explore. It is said that the forest has close to 60 identified species of trees. A lot of these trees are used for local herbal medicines.
Apart from this, there are two temples – Sri Savandi Veerabhadraswamy Temple and Lakshmi Narashima Temple. The former temple is of Dravidian style and situated inside a courtyard; the structure is beautiful and worth a visit. The latter temple, though, is an old temple which has been renovated and painted, thus losing some of its old-world charm.
The initial stretch of the Savandurga trek is on bare rock with small boulders, and if it is done post 10 am, there is no respite from the heat. As one gains height, the Arkavati River surrounded by green trees becomes visible at a distance.
A short while into the trek, one encounters the first of the many remains of the fort walls. This spot is well-suited for enjoying some rest in the shade that the trees here have to offer; the next shaded patch comes along only after a long distance. If you observe birds that hop around, the chances of finding a Blue Rock Thrush, White-browed Bulbul or Rock Agamas are high around this area.
The steepest climb of the trek lies beyond this stop, and takes one to the next fort wall, post which it is a gradual incline. The rock has some depression here and it is quite possible that rain water was collected here during the good old days. Closer to the top, one comes across some trees and dilapidated old structures which are currently used as a place to camp or cook. This is also the place where one is likely to find Oriental Honey Buzzards perched on tree-tops. At the slightest disturbance, they take to the air.
The last leg of the trek breaks the monotony of walking on the rock with the sun blazing down; one now needs to walk under gigantic boulders. Stretches along this leg are strewn with plumeria, and the air has the whiff of wild-flowers and resonates with bird calls. It is also a spot where one has a chance to sight the elusive Yellow-throated Bulbul.
A short climb from here and you are filled with a sense of achievement, for you are finally at the Nandi. Beautiful sights beckon you and if you are lucky, the endangered Egyptian Vultures might give you an audience. Standing on top of the hill and taking in the views, you will understand why the lone Nandi never left.
Getting there and tips:
Savandurga is about 60 kms from Bangalore towards the town of Magadi. There are no popular restaurants or eating joints on the way. The base of the hill has small shops and canteens that serve idlis, some snacks and packaged drinks. While travelling here, it is advisable to carry food. As the climb is steep, it is advisable to stay on the route suggested, or if one is not sure of the route, there are guides who can be hired at the start of the trek.