Scaling the boulders of Ramanagara Hills

posted in: Asia, India, Karnataka, Nature | 8

Basanti……In Kutton ke saamne mat nachna

Arrey Oh Sambha! Kitne Aadme the?

Yeh Ramgarh waale apni betiyon ko kaun chakki ka pisa aata khilate hain re.

The classic dialogues from the superhit 70s movie – Sholay seemed to echo back at me from every possible direction. And why not? I was climbing the Ramanagara Hills – the very spot where the iconic movie was shot. A day trip from Bengaluru, Ramanagara hills makes trekking absolutely rocking! (Pun Intended!)

Trekking in Ramanagara Hills is a great option for a day trip from Bengaluru
Trekking in Ramanagara Hills is a great option for a day trip from Bengaluru

A lot of us have just breezed past the massive rocky hills of Ramanagara enroute to Mysore. There are a few of us who have landed here owing to the famous Ramanagara trekking routes. However, this time I ended up in the search of the elusive creatures of Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary. While those mighty birds refused to come out, I still discovered plenty as I scaled Ramadevara Betta Hills.

If you are looking for more day trips from Bangalore, consider Galibore Nature Camp by the River Cauvery. 

The rest of the post is a tale of me scaling these boulders while imagining the Bollywood world of Sholay. Of course, as is the norm, you will also, find useful tips on how to plan your own adventure in these Sholay hills. So lace up buddies and follow me through the maze of these mighty rocks.

About Ramanagara Hills

Ramanagara is actually a small town known for sericulture. This has earned it the sobriquet of “Silk city of Karnataka.” The surrounding red rocky hills attract plenty of enthusiast rock climbers and trekkers from the surrounding cities of Bangalore and Mysore.

Ramanagara Town - as seen from Ramadevara Betta Hills
Ramanagara Town – as seen from Ramadevara Betta Hills

The Ramanagara hills have been a backdrop for many legends. It is no wonder that you will find temples sitting high up on many of its peaks. Here and there, there are caves and in and around it, interesting and rare wildlife like the Egyptian vultures.

However, what made Ramanagara famous was the 70s superhit Sholay. In fact, it earned it a new name – Sholay hills.

A small introduction to Sholay

If you are from India, then you will definitely know about Sholay. And even if you are not from here, you will know Amitabh Bachchan. He is one of the main stars in this Ramesh Sippy Bollywood hit that broke many records.

The movie is an action-adventure that is based on a dacoit – Gabbar Singh who has terrorized the surrounding village – Ramgarh. A cop attempts to capture this most-wanted dacoit and ends up losing his arms and his entire family. As revenge, he hires two criminals (one being Amitabh Bachchan) to capture Gabbar Singh alive.

Ramangara hills provided the shooting locale for most of the movie. It is in these hills that the dacoit is shown to have resided. And naturally, when I climbed it, I could picture Gabbar giving me an evil grin!

Phase one of Ramanagara Trekking

Frankly, Ramanagara trekking was a secondary objective when I planned this day trip from Bangalore. It was about spotting the vultures in the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary. Initial research told me that the sanctuary opens at 9 am and that is exactly when I landed there. However, it was just my luck that on that very day, they decided to not lurk around.

The start of Ramanagara trek
The start of Ramanagara trek

The sanctuary is actually built around a particular hill called Ramadevara Betta (means hill of Rama). There is a temple atop this hill that can be accessed by a staircase of over 300 steps along the rocks. A quick chat with the Pundit of the temple at the entrance led us to believe that we had a better chance of spotting the vultures from the peak. And so, began our climb.

Giant Spider that had me distracted
Giant Spider that had me distracted

Somewhere along the way, a giant spider’s web attracted my attention. And in a bid to capture it with my lens, I strayed towards a smaller ledge with a very picturesque setting. As I posed for that perfect picture, I heard him – “Tera kya hoga Kalia”. (What will happen to you, Kalia?)

Along the Ramanagara Hills
Along the Ramanagara Hills

The scene that formed in my head had Gabbar whacking his whip on the rocks while his cronies cowered in the narrow ledge. In my imaginary version of the movie, I saw them dashing away back to the stairs and climbing up at top speed. ….And that is exactly what I did!

View from the first landing of Ramanagara Hills

The rest of the climb to the first landing of Ramanagara hills
The rest of the climb to the first landing of Ramanagara hills

The rest of the climb up to the temple had somewhat flatlined. If Gabbar were chasing me on a horse, he would have well caught up with me. Finding an escape route would have been tough coz those boulders around me had no hand holds or even foot crevices with which I could have heaved myself up.

The smooth rocks of Ramanagara are difficult to climb
The smooth rocks of Ramanagara are difficult to climb
The first major landing where the biggest temple is located
The first major landing where the biggest temple is located

The first landing marked by the Ramaswamy temple came up within minutes. For many, especially the devotees the trail ended here. I could, however, see beyond. I realized that if I had any chance of spotting the vultures, I had to go on. But not before appreciating the view of Ramanagara hills from that landing.

View from the first landing of Ramanagara Hills
View from the first landing of Ramanagara Hills

Temples of Ramadevara Betta

The small Ganesha shrine on Ramadevara Betta
The small Ganesha shrine on Ramadevara Betta

While you enjoy the views that I have shared of the jagged rocks, a quick note on the temples of Ramadevara Betta. The Rama temple is the main one here but there are smaller cave temples that you will encounter along your trail through the Sholay hills. The first one is that of Lord Ganesha, where the rocky facade of the Ramanagara hills has been carved into the deity. The 2nd one is that an idol of Lord Shiva, sheltered under one of the grooves of the hills.

Lord Shiva in one of the small caverns of Sholay Hills
Lord Shiva in one of the small caverns of Sholay Hills
Lord Hanuman - etched along the rocks of Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary
Lord Hanuman – etched along the rocks of Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary

Further on, after the Rama temple, before you embark on the steepest climb of Sholay hills, you will see a colorful Lord Hanuman etched out of the rock. While there are no elaborate shelters around these idols, they are still worshipped. Dried flowers and offerings on plantain leaves are left along these spots. As hikers, do make a note of them and step away from them – at least out of respect.

Ramaswamy temple in the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary
Ramaswamy temple in the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary

The exact age of the Rama temple or these idols is unknown. The main temple has been around for centuries and is highly revered by the locals. Legend has it that the main idol here was established by the monkey king- Sugreeva when he returned victorious after a fight with a demon. The temple has a beautiful ceiling and is well worth one glimpse before you leave Ramadevara Betta hills.

The cursed Sadhus and Sita’s Pond at Ramadevara Betta

The last mile - steps cut into the boulders that form Ramanagara Ramadevara Betta
The last mile – steps cut into the boulders that form Ramanagara Ramadevara Betta

The folklores of Ramanagara hills don’t just stop at the temples. There is a very interesting one that lies at its apex. But for that, you have to go beyond the Rama temple. This is when the trail becomes a little rugged. Towards the end, you reach this one big boulder with tiny steps cut into it. The locals have added a small hand-rail but trust me, it is no easy climb.

Textures and colors of the Ramanagara Hills
Textures and colors of the Ramanagara Hills

Conquer that you will will emerge to a flat top with breathtaking views of the rocky peaks of Ramanagara. The textures and the colors was what kept me mesmerized for some time before I noticed a freshwater pond – popularly referred to as Sita’s pond. It is believed that Sita used it for her ablutions. The pond is forbidden for visitors as it has an unknown depth. Either way, it is quite scenic and a perfect place to sit and watch the hills around.

Sita's Pond - on top of the Sholay hills
Sita’s Pond – on top of the Sholay hills

Now face the direction of the steep staircase you climbed. On the left hand side, you will see a hill with seven jagged ends. Legend has it that these are actually seven sadhus who have been cursed into stone because they saw Sita having her bath in the pond.

Can you spot the seven sadhus?
Can you spot the seven sadhus?

As I scoured the stone faces of the hills, I noticed a winged beauty fly into one of the caves. Clearly the enigmatic vultures had chosen to hide there on that day. I waited there for a while, hoping to get a better look at them. While I could not see them at all, my mind was playing its own Bollywood track. After all, who knows, they might have been detained by the dacoits of Sholay. 😉

Quick note on the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary

Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary's Information Center
Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary’s Information Center

Ramadevara Vulture Sanctuary is home to Egyptian long-billed vultures and white-backed vultures. Besides these birds, if you are lucky, you might even spot a bear or two. There is an information center located right at the base of the hill that helps you with the key spots these creatures like to habitat. Sadly, on the day I planned my trip, it was closed and I was left with my own trail. Hopefully, you will have better luck. And even if you don’t, make the most of the trail through Sholay hills.

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How to get to Ramanagara Hills?

Ramanagara is just 50 kms from Bengaluru. It is very well connected by the Bangalore-Mysore highway. There are a lot of buses that leave from Bangalore and stop at Ramanagara. Alternately, one can even hire a cab to the place and back.

One needs to take a right turn near the huge Hanuman statue in Ramanagara town. This is on the main road itself. Avoid the smaller lanes that Google maps suggest.

Ramanagara has its own railway station. From the station, one can hire an auto to reach Ramadevara Betta. The nearest airport to Ramanagara is Bangalore airport.

What is the best time for Ramanagara trekking?

In terms of the season, winter is the best time to head out for Ramanagara trekking. Monsoons make the trails quite slippery and summers can get extremely uncomfortable around those rocks.

The Ramadevara Betta trail is open from 9 am to 5 pm. This is the same timing for the Ramanagara vulture sanctuary.

What are the other places to see in Ramanagara?

Besides the Ramadevara Betta, you can go rock-climbing at Savanadurga and the SRS hills. There are a lot of adventure companies that organize hiking and rock climbing expeditions here.

The Kanva Reservoir is a great place for birdwatching. A little further away is Janapada Loka – a cultural center for local art, dance and music.

Travel Tips

  • I would rate this particular hill trek (Ramadevara Betta) as easy.
  • Needless to say – flat shoes or hiking shoes are best suited for this hike. If you are entering the main temple, you will have to leave the same behind.
  • There are no rest-rooms along the trail.
  • Carry lots of water. Also, apply sunscreen before the hike.
  • There is a small fee for cars to the Ramanagara vulture sanctuary. You will also, have to pay an entrance fee of INR 10 per adult.
  • Please do not litter and leave your plastic bottles around the place. There are quite a few dustbins kept along the trail. Please dispose of your waste responsibly.

Booking resources

  • Klook.com has several listings of hiking and other outdoor activities in Ramanagara Hills. You can use this link to book the same online.
  • If you are looking for good hiking shoes, consider using Amazon for your purchase. In fact, it is perfect for purchasing any of your travel requirements. Do consider clicking through this link and purchasing the same. 
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.

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8 Responses

  1. Jamie

    Loved reading about this great day trip opportunity from Bangalore. The Ramanagara hills look like such a spectacular scenic place to visit. Everything is so beautifully colourful and the temples are undeniably gorgeous and moving. Those steps at the very end look intense, but very much worth it for the view!

  2. Chloe Beaver

    Wow, I never knew about the Ramanagara Hills! While I’m not a big fan of vultures I would love to visit for the rock climbing. I can only imagine the great routes there. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Raksha

    I have been to Ramanagar a couple of times but I have not gone trekking there. I love the rocks and the dry hills there and yes how can we forget Sholay. I would love to go explore the area again the next time I am in Bangalore.

  4. Paul Healy

    I must admit, I’ve never heard of Ramanagara before but it looks like a fantastic place to get out and explore nature. Although I’m not sure I’d be too happy coming across that giant spider, it looks huge! But, I’m sure the hiking would be amazing, the views look incredible. It reminds me a little of Uluru in Australia, although much more forested. I love the idols painted into the rock.

  5. Subhashish Roy

    Who doesn’t love watching Sholay again and again and thanks for this great tour of Ramnagara Hills. Fascinating place and the beauty of the surroundings around Ramaswamy Temple and the temple itself is so peace giving. I wonder how you were sitting on the slope of the mountain so coolly.

  6. Yukti Agrawal

    I loved Sholay movie because of the backdrop of beautiful village Ramanagar. Good to know that this is a day trip from Bangalore. The view from first landing of Ramanagara hills is beautiful. Spotting Sita’s pond and seven sadhus must be interesting here. Even offering prayers at Ramaswamy temple in between is also a great thing to do here.

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