For years, Nandi Hills used to be a popular picnic spot for people in and around Bangalore. But not anymore. Ashwini Y S explores the hills to find out if it is worth a visit today
Nandi Hills (Kolar): Nandi Hills derives its name from Anandagiri, for one experiences satisfaction and happiness on top of the hills. Unlike other tropical hill stations, Nandi Hills had evergreen vegetation, saw perennial rainfall and was crowned by floating clouds.
The rain, clouds and chilly weather ensured that the people around the hills did not see the Sun for months on end. But that was then. Today, villagers in Nandi and Sultanpet rue that such salubrious weather existed just 20 years ago and is a mere wisp of reminiscence now.
From abundance to having gone completely dry, Nandi Hills has to pump water from 4 km downhill now. Sparse rain has also dried up the sources of the Arkavathy and Palar rivers. Close to 5,000 people visit the hills every weekend, earning Rs 75 lakh per annum for the horticulture department, which maintains the hills. The department has posted only 25 personnel here despite these revenues. They work in shifts and find it hard to maintain the 96-acre area.
The usual problem of littering hounds the hills too. Though dustbins have been placed all around, tourists are careless while disposing garbage. Marauding monkeys who raid the dustbins have only compounded the problem. Horticulture department (Nandi Hills) special officer Shivanna agrees that it is an ordeal to maintain the gardens. “Some flowerbearing plants are unique only to hill stations. Despite the staff keeping a watch, you find flowers plucked or petals damaged.’’ Nandi Hills has a number of attractions, but visitors are left to fend for themselves as there are no guides to take you around. Also, structures like the Gandhi Nilaya and the Tipu Lodge are out of bounds for the public.
Then again, all these problems don’t take away the stark beauty of the hills. Thick eucalyptus groves, planted during Tipu Sultan’s time, and other flora and fauna give their unique flavour to the hills. Trekking, birdwatching, mountain biking and paragliding are other attractions.
Nandi Hills was home to the Cholas, Muslim rulers and British colonisers. While the Cholas left behind an incomplete Nandi sculpture and two Shiva temples atop the hills, Tipu Sultan planted several trees and enhanced its ecosystem.
He fortified the hills to ensure his protection. He also chose a steep incline to punish those who had deceived him, which later came to be known as Tipu Drop. He built a charming summer palace and a lodge.
Between 1834 and 1861, Lord Cubbon visited the hills and built the Cubbon House. This spacious bungalow is now used as a guest house by the horticulture department. It has 20 rooms and can be booked at the department head office in Lalbagh. Prices range from Rs 250 to Rs 1,000 plus taxes.