When gold in the mines of Kolar dwindled and came to a halt more than a decade ago, its rich history and temples which were obscured by the mines until then have come out to entice the visitors. Known as Kolahalapura when the Ganga dynasty ruled from 350 CE to 550 CE, Kolar was the capital during the reign of its first ruler. Budhikote in Kolar was where Hyder Ali, the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom ruler was born. His ancestors are laid to rest in Kolar. The popular sufi saint, Hyder Vali's dargah is in Mulbagal near Kolar. Along with its many temples, a wonderful synthesis of Hindu and sufi culture is evident in Kolar.
''Bangalore belege bitraa?'' (Did you leave early in the morning from Bangalore?), asked a passerby at the Someshwara temple as I stopped my bike after a nice morning ride from Bangalore. I smiled and nodded in response. Kolar with its rich history is a nice ride away from Bangalore and the people here are used to seeing travellers and bikers in their neighbourhood. Narrow roads from the town led me to the towering sculptured gopuram of the 14th century Someshwara temple. The temple has beautiful Vijayanagar style architecture with numerous carved pillars and intricate works. Surrounded by many mandapas (halls), the central shrine is Shiva with a nandi sculpture in front. Unfortunately, photography isn't allowed inside the premises. However, that gave me ample time to enjoy the extensive art work.
A short distance away is the popular shrine of Kolaramma built during the Ganga period. The entrance gate has nice carvings on its sides, but overall the sculptures are few in comparison to Someshwara temple. The temple has inscriptions in Tamil from the Chola period when they took over after the Gangas. Locals believe the shrine of Durga to be a powerful one.
|Carvings on the entrance gate
The road from Kolar took me past the boulders and fields of Mulbagal to Kurudumale Ganesha temple. Dodging the boys selling temple paraphernalia, I walked up to the impressive 13 foot high Ganesha sculpture. Built during the Chola period, the temple is set amidst boulders and barren lands. Nearby is another Someshwara temple with nice carvings.
|Someshwara temple, Kurudumale
The colourful Hyder Vali dargah looks vibrant in the otherwise insipid Mulbagal. There were quite a few visitors when I walked into the dargah. Baba Hyder Vali was a popular 12th century Sufi saint who is laid to rest at this dargah and both Muslims and Hindus pay their respect here. A curious local was keen to know whether I only took photographs. I repeated my smile and nod to answer him. Seemed like he wanted to strike a conversation and stared at me for long as I rode off.
|Hyder Vali dargah
A long narrow road from Kolar which was almost devoid of any settlements or people took me to the cluster of temples at Avani. There are many temples here, Ramalingeshwara being the most prominent one. It has nice sculptures on its outer pillars with inscriptions on walls and a dark inner sanctum. I couldn't see even a wee bit until the priest lit the lamps and the linga showed up in that dim light. Adjacent to this lies Lakshmanalingeshwara shrine, a more ornate temple with carvings on its pillars and on the ceiling. Believed to be built in the 10th century, it has a large much larger linga than the one in Ramaingeshwara. Definitely the most beautiful shrine among all the temples here. Shatrugnalingeshwara temple is similar to Lakshmanalingeshwara but with much lesser carvings. The complex also has other temples such as Subramanya, Vali & Sugreeva, Vigneshwara and a few mandapas too.
|Carvings on the ceiling
The most popular temple in Kolar is Kotilingeshwara temple located at Kammasandra. This temple is believed to house almost one crore lingas in various sizes, including the tallest in the world. It also gets the the name Kotilingeshwara for the same reason (Koti means a crore). With innumerable lingas everywhere, this pilgrimage centre is one of the most quirky ones I have been to. There are also many small shrines within the complex apart from the lingas.
Kolar is an ideal one day getaway from Bangalore for history, architectural and religious enthusiasts. Though it is now referred to as the city of milk and silk, it is Kolar's rich history that attracts the present day travellers to this town which was once known to have had the deepest gold mines in the world.
Kolar is 68 Kms from Bangalore on NH-4
Kolar to Mulbagal- 32 Kms
Kolar to Avani- 31 Kms
Kolar to Kotilingeshwara temple- 30 Kms
Food and Breaks:
There are couple of eateries such as MTR, Adigas and a few more which are ideal places for a break, snack and rest. They also have other facilities such as ATMs, restrooms etc.