NEHA MUJUMDAR cycles through Anegundi and returns enthralled by its history

Agroup of langurs has shattered the quiet of the Anegundi morning. They jump across the tin sheets that are roofs. A dog barks, furious. Children babble with excitement.

We have come to Anegundi, in search of both rest and adventure. We stay at a local guest house run by the Kishkinda Trust, which is the UNESCO-appointed organisation in charge of ensuring the region’s sustainable development.

Anegundi is considered the ‘playground of the Ramayana’; locals insist that the events of the Ramayana transpired here. Located in the newly-formed Koppal district of Karnataka, it is an overnight bus ride away from Bangalore — there are plenty of Karnataka state buses to the nearest town, Gangavathi, after which the Kishkinda Trust usually arranges for transport.

One evening, we set out in search of pre-historic drawings, to be seen on a cave nearby. We go round in circles. Soon, we realise: asking for a cave — the ‘guha’ — won’t help; it is when we ask for “paintings” that we hit gold, and are enthusiastically pointed in the direction of a field.

(We have cycled, renting two fancy, light, and expensive bikes from a local business. We have cycled to Hampi, as well as within Anegundi. The ache has set in, but we decide it is bearable for the sheer joy of cycling on traffic-free roads. )

A man yells at us from atop one rock, encouraging us to walk into the fields opposite. Another man comes down. “Paintings?” we ask, pointing towards the rock. He nods and asks us to follow him.

We walk through the fields, under the blazing afternoon sun, unsure of what exactly lies in store, especially since there are no signs of it being a ‘touristy’ area: no crowds, no boards even. But our fears are unfounded.

Hampanna knows what he’s doing: it turns out he has been acting as a guide at the little-known spot for years. He takes us to one spot, with drawings of deer; in another, there is a tiger; there is also a dramatic painting of a snake.

Some things are easier to find than the paintings. The Anjanadri temple, with its over-500 steps to be climbed — is indicated by a number of boards on the way. The climb is worth the while not just as an athletic or religious feat: the view, 563 steps (we counted) above Anegundi, is truly spectacular. In the distance, we can see the ruins of Hampi, as well.

Anegundi is Hampi’s sister, and she is a bit of a chhupa rustum , as it happens . The village may not directly offer the grandeur of the ruins you can sight at, say, the main palace area or the elephant stables at Hampi. But then, neither is Anegundi plagued by the crowds, the commerce, the noise. The town square, with its shops and the occasional motorbike, or the langurs we saw that morning — that’s as busy as it gets. Anegundi is perfect for a long walk, to recharge, to sit on the benches below the trees. A coracle ride across the Tungabhadra is another option. There is also the simple Hoova Café, for nibbles.

As we leave, we are reluctant to head back to busy city life. Perhaps the only problem with Anegundi is it deserves much more than a weekend slot of life.


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ANEGUNDI

  • GETTING THERE:

    The KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) runs buses to the nearby town Gangavathi. The nearest train station is Koppal, after which one can take a bus to Anegundi.

    WHERE TO STAY:

    Guesthouses or cottages, run by The Kishkinda Trust (www.thekishkindatrust.org)


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