Cycling to Nandi Hills, Bangalore
Last week, I had a business visit to Bangalore for a day and it happened to be a Friday. I took the opportunity to stay back for an extra half day and used it to cycle to Nandi Hills, the famous hill station near Bangalore.
Nandi Hills is a group of large monolithic rock structures. Nandi Durg, a fort that was built on top of the highest hill in the Nandi Hills by local chieftains and then further fortified by the famous Tipu Sultan. The fort was considered unimpregnable due to the steep slopes of the hills till 1791 when General Cornwallis stormed it and gained one of the most significant wins against Tipu Sultan.
The allied army was well-supplied, and Tipu was unable to prevent the junction of forces from Bangalore and Bombay before Srirangapatna. After about two weeks of siege, Tipu opened negotiations for terms of surrender. In the ensuing treaty, he was forced to cede half his territories to the allies, and deliver two of his sons as hostages until he paid in full three crores and thirty lakhs rupees fixed as war indemnity to the British for the campaign against him. He paid the amount in two installments and got back his sons from Madras
Nandi Hills is situated about 65 kilometers away from Bangalore. It is in the same direction as the new Bangalore International Airport on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway (NH-7). About 25 km after the airport, there is a turning to the left for Nandi Hills Road (SH-104).
I managed to rent a mountain bike from a local agency and got it delivered to my hotel in Koramangala.
I started early at 5 am from Koramangala and used Google maps navigator to lead me to the Bangalore International Airport. Luckily the weather was great. It was not raining but was still cool. I had an uneventful ride till Nandi Hills Road as the NH-7 highway is quite broad, and the surface is pretty good.
Just before the turning to Nandi Hills, there is a Jain temple under these massive rocks, with a large painting of the Mahavir on the rock face. I did not visit the temple for lack of time, but noted its location for the next time.
Once you turn from the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway (NH-7) on to the Nandi Hills Road (SH-104), on both sides of the road there are orchards of grapes and banana
Further ahead on Nandi hills road, this beautiful marigold flower patch was full of orange marigold flowers washed clean in the recent rains
As you approach the Karahalli Cross, where you turn left on SH-74 towards Nandi Hills, you start getting a view of the majestic Nandi Hills. It is evident when you see these hills from far, their unique giant monolithic rock structures. This hill resembles a sleeping bull and presumably one of the reasons for the name of the hills
About 15 kilometers after you turn onto SH-74 from SH-104, there is the Nandi Hills main road to the right, with a prominent sign on the road. Then starts the last 7 kilometers that are a gradual but consistent climb from about 2950 ft to the top at 4851 ft – an altitude gain of 1900 ft. All along, the road goes winding through the hills, and the temperature gets cooler and cooler. The vista of the hills on one side and the vast valley on the other are mesmerizing!
Along the way, you see groups of monkeys sunning themselves, huddled together for heat
Finally you reach the arched gateway of the Nandidurg fort that is built on the top of the hill. The fort and the road has been reconstructed and restored from as early as 1952
As you enter the fort, there is a parking lot for two wheelers. Only four wheelers are allowed to enter through the second entrance that seems like a second layer of defense within the fort.
Though two-wheelers are not allowed inside the second layer of the fort, I managed to convince the security guard to let me take my cycle in – the logic that he did not really buy was that the cycle does not run without the two additional wheels – my legs :)
As you enter the fort, the road curves upwards to the top, and you pass the fort ramparts with the bastions at various locations. The fort walls are giant in height and width, and the hillside is steep. No wonder the fort was considered unimpregnable!
The interior of the fort is well maintained, with botanical gardens that have many different species of plants and trees, all marked with tags that identify them. The roads are in a good shape, and they lead all over the hill top through the fort.
The Yoga Nandeeshwara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, with its grand Chola architecture and sculpture is situated on the top of the hill ‘Amrita Sarovara’, which means the lake of ‘Devine Nectar’
The temple is adorned with intricately carved figures on several pillars
A pillared passage runs all around the temple for devotees to take the “Pradakshina” or circle around the deity
You can walk all around the top of the hill fort. At various places, there are metal stands created to stand and enjoy the stunning views of the hills and the vast valley beyond
This panoramic shot was taken from one of the observations posts. Luckily there were no clouds today and one could see the valley far into the distance
In the center of the fort, there is a well-maintained garden that consists of several species of plants and birds. The forest acts as a substrate for cloud condensation and every morning the trees are covered in water. This allows for many moist forest species of plants and animals
The evergreen forest patch on top of the hill is a wintering location for many migrant species of warblers, flycatchers and thrushes. In the middle of the garden lies this beautiful English-style bungalow that was the summer retreat for the then Commissioner of Mysore, Sir Mark Cubbon K.C.B. Later, Jawaharlal Nehru’s stay here gave it the present name of Nehru Nilaya. It was also the venue for the 1986 SAARC Summit
To the left of the fort entrance looking over the fort wall is Tipu Sultan’s Lodge – a rectangular two-storied structure. Constructed of brick, mortar, and wood, it has a series of compartments and a verandah with pierced balustrades. Tipu Sultan is said to have stayed in this building whenever he visited the place during expeditions or for hunting.
A small passage runs through the center of the lodge that leads to a series of steps that lead down the hill – probably a secret escape route in case the fort is captured by enemies. Wonder if this was used when the fort was attacked and taken over by Cornwallis!
There are quite some attractions within the fort, but due to lack of time, I had to exit early. This green door decorates the quarters that lie within the fort wall next to the entrance.
I had a flight to catch and so rushed back to Bangalore. I had rented a cab to pick me up for the way back. Further, the bike’s back brakes had completely given up – so I did not get the pleasure of riding downhill this time. That alone is a good enough excuse to come riding here again. And I just have to see the Nandi statue in the temple at the base of the hill which could be one of the possible reasons for the name of the hill.
My first ride in Bangalore turned out to be great fun – and am looking forward to more rides when I visit next.