A day trip to India’s golden city

What would it be, to stand atop a gold mill tailing dump and be a sole witness to century old gold fields, sophisticated mining machinery and the deserted British colonial township of yesteryears? Or how would it be to stand amidst a shakthi and tantric temple which dates back to Ganga period and hear stories of sacrifices and wishes fulfilled from the bygone era?

If this is the kind of experience you are seeking then head out to Kolar, one of the prosperous towns of Karnataka during the British era.

KGF. Pic: Usha Hariprasad

History of Kolar

Abandoned forts, temples, hero stones and some very old gold mines greet you in this history rich city. Kolar was the first capital of Ganga dynasty till about 4th century. The 22 odd forts were built by Gangas, Hoysalas and other dynasties.

The city was then known as Kuvalala and Kolahala Pura. The city got the name "Kolahala Pura", a city of turbulence due to the battle between Chalukyas in the north and Cholas to the south. Legend also has it that the name stuck after a violent battle between Parashurama (sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology) and King Kartavirya Arjuna.

After the Gangas, Kolar was ruled by Cholas, Hoysala and Vijayanagara rulers, Deccan rulers, the British and finally the Maharaja of Mysore. Kolar is also associated with stories of Ramayana. It is believed that sage Valmiki lived here and there are also legends associated with Sita and her sons Lava and Kusha of Ramayana epic.

Kolar district now has 5 taluks namely Kolar, Bangarapet, Malur, Mulbagal and Srinivaspur. The Kolar taluk is famous for its ancient shrines namely Kolaramma temple, Someswara temple and Antaragange.The KGF and Kotilingeshwara temple are in Bangarapet taluk while Mulbagal is famous for Avani, Kurudumale temple and Virupaksha temple.

Places worth a visit

Kolaramma temple

This temple is an ancient shrine dating back to Ganga period. The temple is dedicated to goddess Parvati who is the presiding deity of Kolar town. It is built in Dravidian style with a lot of renovations from Chola and Vijayanagara Kings. The main temple and its beautifully carved statues are attributed to Ganga Kings while certain structures in the southern part of the temple are built by Chola King, Rajendra Chola. The entrance to the temple and its pillars are the additions of Vijayanagara Kings.

You can find many Chola inscriptions in Tamil, Kannada and grantha characters inside the temple dating back to the 10th century. You can also find a four and a half feet tall hero stone, belonging to Ganga period depicting a battle scene complete with horses, soldiers, elephants etc inside the temple.

A few interesting facts about this temple are

  • The temple was a prominent Shakti worship site and a tantric temple. The proof for this lies in the stone slabs inside the temple. These stone slabs are memorial stones with pictures depicting sacrifices taking place in the temple. You can also view the depiction of tantric goddess with a bow on the temple walls.
  • The temple houses two shrines, one for Kolaramma and the other for Saptamatras (seven mothers). The temple also houses a shrine for scorpion goddess, Chelamma. It is said that if you wish to ward off scorpion bites, you will need to pray to this deity. There is a small pit near the shrine which is said to contain scorpions. During April and May at certain days a scorpion is said to come from this pit and sit near the deity.

Somesvara temple. Pic: Usha Hariprasad

Someswara temple

This is an ancient 14th century temple of Shiva and is every architecture enthusiast’s delight considering the heavy work done in the temple. Different parts of the temple have been built in different periods with the main temple being Dravidian style and the rest of the temple in Vijayanagara style .The magnificent entrance, the main temple, and the marriage hall are all beautifully sculpted in Dravidian style. The outer walls of the temple have delicately carved figures of lions battling with elephants, rosettes, men on horses and other mythological characters.

The black granite kalyana mantapa is especially very ornate with intrinsically carved workmanship in all its four pillars and octagonal base. There is also a massive pillared Mukha Mandapa with 64 well carved pillars. The pillars have lion brackets projecting out of them and the some of the minor pillars have 16-sided fluted type pillar design. Some of the carvings also depict trade activities of the olden days and have influence of European and Chinese style architecture.

Antargange hills. Pic: Usha Hariprasad

Antaragange

Four kilometers away from Kolar is Antaragange which is also known as "Southern Kasi". The stream Antaragange which means Ganges of the Deep originates from rocks, goes to a small tank and then gushes out from the mouth of a bull and then to a larger tank. Above the bull’s head is a structure belonging to the Paleyagara dynasty’s times. The foot of the hills is also said to have the ruins of an old town. Atop the hill you have granite Neelakanteshwara Shiva temple. The hills behind the temple are ideal for trekkers as it offers cave exploration, camping, rock climbing and hiking activities. For more details you can contact bmcindia.

KGF mines. Pic: Usha Hariprasad

KGF (Kolar Gold Mine)

The Kolar gold mine is one of the oldest mines and it is said to have produced a sizeable amount of gold during the British occupancy. It was the pride of Mysore Raj and India until it closed down in 2001. The mining of gold in Kolar can be traced as early as Indus valley civilization. The champion mine, one of the deepest mines in the world was operational from the 5th century. But large scale mining only happened in 1850 under the British.

A visit to the place shows you the vast cyanide dump of the mines which have accumulated over hundred years or so. Climbing the dumps some of them 30 meters height, gives you an eerie feeling of the days gone by. The dump machinery and the closed gold mine town gives you a glimpse of the once thriving city filled with Anglo-Indians, geologists, mine supervisors and labourers from nearby districts.

Now the KGF city has a large scale industry of earth-moving equipments established by BEML.

Kotilinga. Pic: Usha Hariprasad

Kotilingeshwara temple:

How would it be to view 90 lakh Shiva idols at one glance? This is what Kotilingeshwara temple (which means one crore Linga idols) at Kammasandra, Kolar boasts of. Here you will find Shiva idols of all sizes. The biggest Shiva Linga is 108 feet high and is one of the largest in Asia. Opposite to this Linga is a statue of a bull which is 35 feet high.

Apart from Shiva temple you will also find eleven other temples dedicated to various deities like Santhoshima, Hanuman, Ganesha etc. There is also a big Bilwa tree where scores of cradles and turmeric threads are tied by devotees wishing to conceive a child. Nearby there is also a small temple lake.

The temple plans to get the number of Lingas to one crore very soon. People wishing to install an idol need to pay a minimum of 751 rupees to the temple. Kotilingeshwara temple also boasts of arranging free mass marriages and free midday meal facility for the devotees.

somesvara backyard. Pic: Usha Hariprasad

Other excursion sites

Other noteworthy places you can visit in Kolar is Bangaru Tirupati which is an ancient shrine on rocks, Mulbagilu and Avani for trekking and ancient temples.

Getting there

Kolar is 72 kilometers from Bangalore and is located on Bangalore-Chennai NH-4. If you are driving, then take the route Bangalore-Hoskote-Kolar. If you wish to travel by bus then you get buses to Kolar from Majestic bus stand. By train, you will have to alight at Bangarapet and then catch a bus to Kolar. The journey takes about 2 hours or so from Bangalore.

Where to eat?

En route you have the famous Kamat Upachar hotel after Kolar bypass, where you can indulge in some delicious south Indian breakfast. For lunch, you can try out Woody’s or Shanti Sagar near Kolar. You can also partake lunch at Kotilingeshwara temple if you reach before 2 pm. Accommodation is provided in Woody’s and Shanti Sagar. For farm holidays, you can also try out the Morritt farm holidays.

Accessibility

Except for Antaragange which requires one to climb around 300 steps, all other places are easily accessible by children and elders. Beware of monkeys at Antaragange.

So what are you waiting for? Head out to this history rich city and check out its numerous forts, temples and ancient monuments of the yester years and enrich your history quotient.

About Usha Hariprasad 17 Articles
Usha is a resident of R.T Nagar and a travel enthusiast.

3 Comments

  1. Some important experiments in fundamental physics were conducted in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) for a period of about 4 decades starting from 1950s. Neutrino, a fundamental particle , had been discovered near nuclear reactors in the 50s. But natural neutrino was first discovered in the mid 1960s in the deep mines. this discovery created lot of interest at that time. Later in the 1980s another fundamental experiment called the proton decay experiment was conducted . Apart from this , important experiments in the field of cosmic rays were also conducted. The reason for conducting experiments in mines is that it is relatively free of noise due to other particles in nature. I remember the climate of KGF in the 60s was quite similar to that of Bangalore.The story of KGF is probably similar to those of mining towns everywhere in the world. The only gold that one can find in that town today is in the ornaments worn by the natives !

  2. Nice article, a cupla more photos would have enhanced its beauty.

    Can you publish a similar write up on Melukote which is as important as Kanchi and Srirangam in TN for Sri Vaushnavas? It has also scenic spots, many kalyanis and kolas, picnic spots. It can be done in 2-3 instalments with lots of photos. Your journal is very classy as well as trendy. A salute to you all.

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