Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Kanva Dam and Ramadevarabetta (Karnataka)

I didn’t know that there is a vulture sanctuary near Bangalore. As soon as I knew, plan was put in place to go there. Due to headache, Divya dropped out at the last minute. So finally it was me, Gokul and his mother-in-law. We left Bangalore before dawn and reached the sanctuary just around sunrise. It was too early, sanctuary is yet to open. Well, without wasting much time, we changed our destination to Kanva Dam; located close to Ramanagara city. 

Google maps showed us the shortest distance; unfortunately not the best road. So we ended up going via narrow broken roads through villages. Cows mostly in white, black and white; some where in different shades of brown were roaming freely. Houses were mostly small and located close to the road. Slowly we started seeing a water body on one side; however, dam still eluded us. Finally we entered a much wider road and reached the dam quickly. 

Kanva Dam

This reservoir was formed as a result of damming the Kanva river in 1946. Located in Ramanagara district, Kanva dam occupies close to 800 hectares and aids in irrigation of fields.

Main gate was closed, however there was an opening in the side and we went inside via that. Major outlet of dam was close to the main gate itself. After crest gates there was a long earthen bud which blocked the water and formed that reservoir. Other side of the bund was a steep slope, lined with lengthy coconut trees. I sat at one place; Gokul and his mother-in-law continued walking; Gokul was pointing at something and explaining about it to mom. I looked in that direction, didn’t notice anything special. Well, I sat down in the green grass and looked at the water for sometime and then walked through the earthen bund and joined them. Atmosphere was cool and reservoir was calm and clean. We walked till a rusted iron structure which was slightly pointed to the dam. From top of that structure, it looked like a kind of valve through which water was gushing out to the other side. Hardly five people were there in the vicinity of the dam. 

Landscape around the old dam was quite beautiful and natural. After being the part of nature for close to eight decades, dam fit well in to the naturally scheme of things! As sun moved up, we started walking back. Sanctuary might have been opened by this time. 

Temple and Vulture Sanctuary

This sanctuary was established in 2012 to protect vultures, who are one of the essential part in the animal chain. For many vultures are not that glamorous animals and focus is probably less on protecting them. The drop in vulture numbers are alarming. It is estimated that, 97% of the long billed and 99% of the Egyptian vultures have disappeared.  Environmentalists and bird watchers campaigned to have the area declared as a sanctuary. In 2012, around 346.41 hectares was earmarked as a protected area for the vultures. Although I didn’t find any, as per the records this sanctuary is home to long-billed, Egyptian, white-backed vultures.
While we were about to take a turn to sanctuary, one police personal requested for a lift. We stopped and picked him up. On the way, he told a lot of things about that place etc. Close to sanctuary he got down from the vehicle and showed us where to see the vulture. I hardly see anything in the direction he pointed. Probably Gokul has sharper eyes as he was agreeing to everything. Did he really see the culture or the place? Police guy looked at me and tried again, this time I saw the point in the rocks which matched his description but not any vultures.
Anyway we said good bye to him and went inside the sanctuary and parked the vehicle. There was a good number of people there. A lot of them were actually came to visit the Sita-Rama temple on the top. "It is believed that Sri Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana lived here for a certain period during their exile life. Hayagriva hand sculpted the idols of Sri Rama, Seetha, and Lakshmana which reside in this temple. There is a Kalyani (pond) which is said to be formed by Sri Rama's arrow when Seetha couldn't find water for bathing. There is a Saptharshi hillock on the side of this hillock which was formed by Seetha's curse to Saptharshi (Seven sages) because they were peeping at the pond when she was bathing". The famous Gabbar Singh's hideout (from Sholey movie) is said to be visible from this viewpoint.
Even Gokul's mom was very much interested in the temple and praying there. However, it was not easy to reach there, there were a lot of steps to climb. Please note that easy is a relative word here; probably this will be very easy for someone else. However, stuck in the home due to COVID for a long time and laziness - not much Physical activity other than eating!! took its toll.

Slowly we started climbing, Gokul's mother-in-law was the most fit among us. She hardly required any break. However, we both took three to four breaks. After a while we reached a small temple on the way and soon the two located close to the top of the hill. In fact its this temple which attract a lot of crowd not the sanctuary. In a relatively flat place there were two temples; one was a small Shiva temple and  the other one, Rama-Seetha temple, was relatively big.

Inside Rama-Seetha temple there was a lot of crowd and some bajan was going on there. We went inside and came back; just outside the main door there was prasadam. This time we met the police personal, to whom we gave lift earlier. We talked about the place and temple; in fact the conversation was between Gokul and him as he was the who can converse in Kannada better. 

Later Gokul's mom went to Shiva temple and requested the priest to do some poojas. That will take some time. From here one can see majestic hillock on the backside of the temple. Our destination standing on top of that. We three started walking and finally reached the point from where we need to climb vertically. A number of steps were cut in to the rock and an old rusted iron railing offered people something to hold on. 

It was not too difficult but very risky one to climb. Gokul persuaded mom not to go. She looked at the railing and steps ahead for some time - thinking what to say. Well, continued persuasion was very effective; finally she agreed to go back and wait for me in the temple. For me the view from top of that hill was too tempting to miss. So I continued further and reached the top. Wow, it was indeed a good view. I looked for a good position and sat there for next 30 minutes. 

Way to the top

View from the top

Top of the hill was very flat. Two girls and one guy were creating different videos for Instagram reels or for some other apps. They started recording before I came and continued even after I left!!! First time, got the realization that its not easy to create reels. People really spend a lot of time to create those. At one end, there was a group playing Hindi songs from a portable speaker. At a distance, two guys were trying various position to get the better photo. Hardly any one was there at the furthest end. After walking around, I came back to my previous position and sat there. From the top, views are always good!! Suddenly Gokul called and told that, they are exploring some other temple somewhere down and will be back soon. Well, some more time to spend on the top. Finally it was time to go back, so used the steps chiseled in stone and came down and walked towards the temple. 
Gokul and mom reached there some time before me and they completed some poojas. When I reached there. preist was giving some prasadam to her. Its time to climb down the steps and visit the final destination in this short trip - Cocoon Market. 

Government Cocoon Market, Ramanagara

Spread over two acres, this market is believed to be one of the largest cocoon market in the continent. As per their website, around 40 to 50 tons of cocoon are sold here in everyday. 
There were 4-6 police personals deployed near the gate. I walked towards them and requested permission to go inside. They initially looked confused and were not sure whether to say yes or no. After a miunute they asked for an identity card. I gave my driving license and waited. One guy took it and read the details couple of times. Looked like they are still not sure whether to say yes or no. Finally they asked us to go to the first floor and meet the person in charge. We climbed the steps and reached first floow. One office room at the left side was open. Light was turned on in that room and at the person in charge was sitting at his desk. 
I requested for permission to see inside of that market. He looked at me (Gokul was standing at the door step and mom was outside of that room) and asked – what is your purpose to go inside? It’s a valid question, I was neither a seller nor a buyer. I told him that we are coming from Bangalore and never saw cocoon in the past, so just want to take a look around quickly. 
Its from here things became wired. He repeated the same question, as if he never heard my answer. Bewildered, I repeated my answer. He could have said, yes or no and would have been the end of it. By this time, Gokul slowly came inside and he was standing almost mid way between me and the door. Officer continued his conversation; its possible that we may carry some diseases and it might affect the cocoon in his warehouses or thousands of people who deal with that everyday. Well, I just wondered what additional germs we might carry compared to thousands of people in and around that place! Also this happened during the third quarter of 2022; by that time people started wearing masks. Even the officer who spoke with us was not wearing one. 

Well that supposed to be the end of the visit. Most often (if not always) one can’t win over a government official by arguing on something. Being right is doesn’t help in these arguments!!! He kept on saying something and again asked what is your purpose to visit the market. This time, I didn’t repeat the answer; turned and walked towards the door. Gokul was standing at the same place and looking at this drama. While walking back, he started asking Kokul to tell me about the dangerous in visiting inside. I didn't wait for his sentence to finish; came down; collected my ID card; looked inside the market from the gate and left. May not be close, atleast I saw what a cocoon is.
I never understood why the beaurocrats behave the way they do. In many cases they were quick to reject any request and make people wait; just because they can do so. Almost half a year later, similar incident happened at Mulli checkpost in Kerala-Tamilnadu border. Tamilnadu forest guards forced us to drive all the way back to Coonnor and take Coimbatore - Palakkad road to reach Mannarkkad. That time, I could see Kerala checkpost couple of hundred meters away; but no they were adamant and didn’t let us pass!! More on that in Mulli article.


Gokul and his mother-in-law exploring the dam

Taking a break

At the top

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