Exploring Karnataka – Kolar District

So that happened. To be honest, I didn’t think I had it in me to wake up at 4.30 am. But wake up I did, after about 10 min of trying to come up with a legitimate reason to give up the whole idea of heading to Kolar at the crack of dawn.

Yes, Kolar – the destination for the day, primarily chosen for its proximity to Bangalore. My friend and I set off from Majestic at around 7.30am from Platform 3. The buses are frequent and cost around INR 70.00. We reached Kolar bus stand by around 9.00-ish and that’s when the story started.

We found an auto from the bus stand that was willing to take us to the nearby Kolaramma Temple for INR 30.00 (TBH, it is just within walking distance. We opted for auto because we were a bit late and were not sure how long the temple will be open) Incidentally, while planning the trip, I tried, in vain, to find out the timing of the temple. Even now, I have no accurate idea of the timings – it was open till 10.00am on a Sunday is all I can say. The Kolaramma Temple was quaint. Small, but quaint. It took us barely 15-20 mins to see the entire place. It is also pretty famous and draws huge crowds on certain days, an inference I made from all the crowd control measures found inside. It wouldn’t eat up much of your time. After the temple visit, we realised that we are pretty hungry and set out to find a place to take breakfast. After roaming around the entire town, which is pretty small and old school, we ended up at the hotel in the bus stand. And let me forewarn you – Don’t eat from there! The food sucks. Which is why we ended up setting off to Anatara Gange in a semi-hungry state.

Kolaramma Temple
Kolaramma Temple
Inside the Kolaramma Temple
Inside the Kolaramma Temple

Antara Gange is a range of mountains that you first get a glimpse of when you enter the district of Kolar via bus. It is around 4km from the Kolar bus stand – it should cost you around INR 50 to go there – beware of auto drivers just outside the bus stand who’d charge you INR 70-100 stating that they’ll have to ‘return empty’! We had asked a vendor inside the bus stand how much the autos charge you normally, so when the first auto bhaiyya said 100 bucks, we knew better than to take it.

The steps that lead up to the Ganesh temple, Antara Gange, Kolar
The steps that lead up to the Ganesh temple, Antara Gange, Kolar

Now the Antara Gange mountains can be climbed in 2 phases – first there is a series of steps that take you to a temple that is built at the slope of the mountain. The deity is Ganesha and the temple had a decent number of devotees offering prayers when we reached. Now the climb is pretty steep with around 100-200 steps, but no worries – you’ll be escorted by hordes of monkeys throughout. Once you reach the top, the real trek begins. Climb the rocks and you’ll find a narrow path covered with trees and bushes – once you pass through the “portal” (as I like to call it) the mountains beckons. The trail is pretty straightforward – most of the stones even have rough steps carved on them!

The climb up from the Antara Ganga Ganesha temple
The climb up from the Antara Ganga Ganesha temple

We climbed our way to the top of a mountain where we found a bunch of trekkers with a young local boy acting as a guide – apparently, they were in pursuit of the famed Antara Gange caves. Since it was 12.00-ish by then and hot like hell, the breakfast-deprived duo (aka us) decided not to join the team. We found a cosy spot by a tree at the top and rested for a good half hour, gushing about Wild, Reese Witherspoon and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and enjoying the view, after which we had an uneventful trek downhill. Autos were readily available at the base of the mountain (INR 50) to the bus stand from where we took a bus to Bangalore.

And the view from the top. Worth the climb, don't you agree?
And the view from the top. Worth the climb, don’t you agree?

All this took just half a day. I was back in my room by 4.00pm.

P.S: You could also try visiting KGF (Kolar Gold Field), the Kotilingeshwar Temple and Someshwara Temple, situated around 35 km from the Kolar town (nearest railway station is the Bangarapet). Frankly, we were too exhausted from the lack of sleep and food to head out there. Antara Gange also offers considerably challenging cave exploration treks which could be undertaken at night – moderately dangerous, yet worth the effort, I’m told! Btw, don’t forget to carry plenty of water when you set out for the trek!

P.P.S: In case you are planning a trip to the place and need any info, please feel free to post your query in the comments. The primary reason I decided to document the trip is the lack of detailed info about the place – you know, the kinda of things that actually help you plan the trip, especially if you are a geographically challenged newbie like me. 🙂

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From NBT To FTII: Is The BJP Indulging In Political Favouritism?

A few days back, the internet was flooded with news of the apparent unfairness of Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the new chief of the esteemed Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. It took me a moment to piece the face in pictures with that of the mustache-sporting, crown-wearing Yudhisthir who spoke spasht Hindi and had me hooked to the TV every Sunday morning. I spent around 10 fruitless minutes trying to recollect what else he has in his kitty to justify the entrustment of such a big responsibility before I came across an article that explained his political affiliations and – lo behold! I wasn’t in the dark anymore.

Picture Credit: FTII Wisdom Tree
Picture Credit: FTII Wisdom Tree

Interestingly, the phenomenon of political favoritism when it comes to official appointments is not a new one. It is common practice for political parties to pull out the wrong color grass and replace it with the right one – it has been done before and it will be done again. However, nepotism in the field of education is exceptionally lethal and should be done away at any cost.

Educational institutions have, and will continue to be, the breeding grounds for the future citizens of our country. It is here that ideas arise, ideologies are discussed, and studied and impressions formed. Hence, it is of utmost importance that these arenas of knowledge not be limited by any kind of political or religious agenda or arm-twisting. However, this is exactly what the current Government is doing.

First, Baldev Sharma, former editor of RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya‘, was appointed as chairman of the National Book Trust. Then, Vishram Ramchandra Jamdar, a professed RSS swayamsevak, was appointed as the head of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur (although he was not among the four shortlisted candidates for the post), not to forget the much publicized resignation of Dr. Amartya Sen from the helm of Nalanda University, which was followed by the repainting of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) with a cluster of saffron supporters. And now this. Read it all together and you’ll realise that the paranoia and suspicion that greeted the news of Chauhan’s appointment was not uncalled for.

FTII, which had been home to the likes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Raj Kumar Hirani, to name a few, has long been a space that treats cinema as an art. This is hugely relevant in today’s times than we imagine, because it still adheres to viewing cinema in its hugely multifarious role for social comment, socio-political reflection, and as an important cultural tool that makes sense of the society we live in. Considering the importance of free speech in the constructive criticism of society, the government and the culture in general, it is of utmost importance that the spaces that facilitate the same not be under the shadow of any particular political entity. This is particularly valid in the current scenario where the opposition party (or what is left of it) is as effective as a pen without a nib.

Last that I heard, the FTII students at Pune have launched an indefinite strike against this blatantly political appointment. Taking into consideration the reports that Chauhan was picked ahead of lyricist Gulzar and filmmakers Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who were apparently shortlisted by the ministry for the top job, this is not surprising. Meanwhile, Chauhan maintains that he doesn’t understand the reasoning behind these ‘blind protests’ and that he is planning to meet the students in person and try and address their concerns.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to mention that the reign of the BJP government has been peppered with controversies of favoritism and U-turns from Day 1, which is amusing since it is for the same that they had pointed fingers, with much gusto, at the earlier government. Needless to say, this is not going to be the last of the many controversies that the ruling party is so very fond of unleashing. In the meantime, as the headline of a leading daily goes, appointment of ‘Yudhishtir‘ has triggered an FTII ‘Mahabharat’”.

(This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz)