Dual forts of Avalabetta and Gudibande
To reveal the hidden secrets of two mighty hills of Avalabetta and Gudibande fort, one needs to make only a short drive outside to the North of Bangalore. The drive is scenic and should take no more than 2 hours. It is ideal to start in the early hours of the morning if the traveller wishes to complete the trek and return the same day. If not, there is a guest house on the hilltop of Avalabetta, built by the Karnataka State department and many hotels in the nearby town of Chikkaballapur which provide appropriate lodging facilities.
The mythological history of Avalabetta or Avalakunda is interesting when the ocean was churned by the gods and demons, many creations, both good and bad surfaced. One of them was the holy cow and it is believed to have landed here. The supposed hoof marks of the cow can be found on a rock. In later years large numbers of cows frequented this hill which gave the place the name Dhenugiri (Dhenu- cow, Giri- Mountain). The hill houses the Lakshmi Narasimha temple and villagers take great pride in offering the first milk of their cattle to the deity worshipped here. The place offers a lot of opportunities for climbing, bird watching or learning about rocks.
Terrain, travel and lodging
There was only a trail covered in bushes until a few years back, but now, thanks to the involvement of the local government, some amount of construction has taken place, which makes the hike a relatively easy one. The state forest department of Karnataka has taken the initiative to maintain this place and also built a guest house here. This is a convenient place for staying the night for travellers wishing to cover both the hilltops in the village of Gudibande in one trip.
Adventure seekers often like to pitch tent in the forest and camp for the night and skip the hotel accommodations entirely. If this is what you choose, it is best to carry one’s gear all the way from the city, which includes tent and associated gear, water, climbing gear and shoes, food supplies which can ideally be eaten out of a can and basic health and first aid kit, as the nearest hospital of any standing is at least 20 kms away. A handy supply of high SPF sunblock never goes a miss .The town of Gudibande itself provides very meagre opportunities where food, accommodation and emergency medical help is concerned so it is best to be prepared when traveling. If not camping, it is advisable to make arrangements for lodging and hotels in the nearby town of Chikkaballapur, Karnataka, 40 kms south of Gudibande, with tariffs starting at Rs. 1500 and above.
Gudibande is a multi level fort built by the local chieftain Byre Gowda, over 400 years ago, located 24 kms from Avalabetta. This fort can be said to be a concise replica of the Madhugiri fort. The fort has seven levels with interconnecting routes which would help soldiers flee in the case of emergency. The main feature of the fort is the rain water harvesting system with over 19 ponds cut out into solid rock at different levels of the fort. On the summit of the fort is a Shiva temple which is believed to be one of the 108 Jyotirlingas of the Lord Shiva. The strong pillar with a strong base has well sculpted images. One can also view the Byrasagara reservoir from the summit. The fort is smaller than the other forts around Bangalore, and is completely deserted, as it is so off the beaten track. There are reconstructed steps at the beginning, which make the climb relatively easier, but they ruin the historical beauty of the fort. However, these eyesore steps end very soon and then the hike is a picturesque one. At a normal, non climber pace, it takes about an hour to reach the summit. The fort offers a great opportunity for the architects and explorers as well as the hiking and climbing enthusiasts. After climbing a few turrets, one finds oneself at the summit at the temple of the Lord Shiva, and the atmosphere, with the silence that surrounds creating a deeply spiritual atmosphere. This has to be one of the most underrated treks in and around the city of Bangalore. It offers a very decent climb with exploration.
There are many other places to visit around the town of Gudibande. The Lakshmi Venkataramanaswamy temple constructed by the Cholas, the Narasimhaswamy temple, a sort of cave haven, hewn out of solid rock, also gives the town its name. Gudi is temple and Banda is rock. Surasadmagiri hill and Amani Byrasagara lake are beautiful hills and great places for hiking. The hill contains thirteen ponds and two temples, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Amani Byrasagara lake was constructed by Byre Gowda in the 16th century. It makes for a beautiful day trip or a quaint weekend getaway, away from the beaten trail, full of adventure, natural beauty and excitement.
Place: Gudibande Fort Trek.
Distance: 100 x 2 = 200km from Bangalore, Karnataka, 139 kms from Ananthapur in Andhra Pradesh.
Directions: Bengaluru – Hebbal – Devenahalli – Chikbalapur – Gudibande
Ideal for excursion with friends and family with minor exertion trekking, hiking, walking and sightseeing thrown in.
Getting there: Drive, some Karnataka state buses ply between Bangalore and Chikkaballapur district.