By: Vijayshree Kurumilla
If you are planning to go to Anantagiri Hills at Vikarabad, be sure to stay for a night there, to actually experience the place. I had been there in the 1990’s on a picnic tour, for only the day and I remember, walking through a dry deciduous forest and seeing, the immaculately maintained TB sanatorium. The forest here is supposed to be endowed with some herbal plants, which gives the air a healing touch. The rooms in the sanatorium were completely, occupied by the TB patients and you could find them, taking a walk through the jungle, when I visited it, at that time.
This time we were staying for the night at the Haritha resort. We reached there at around 1.30 P.M in the afternoon, and checked into the second floor room. (The top most floor) You get a panoramic view of the forest, from the balcony of the room, besides a close look, at the tall and sprawling trees, around the resort. As we drew our chairs into the balcony, we could see, this was a bird lover’s paradise. Mynahs, Kingfishers, little green leaf coloured birds, dark green coloured birds and orange breasted birds, could be spotted, amongst a multitude of them, flying here and there, amongst the trees. I never had such a close view, of the Eagles soaring, in the sky, with their wings spread out and now, I could see three of them, gliding in the clouds.
In the evening at around 6’0 clock, we decided to go to visit the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple, which they said was very close by and so, decided to leave the car at the resort and go, by a walk through the Jungle. There was not a soul on the road, excepting for vehicles speeding past. My sister and I, put my niece, in between us and you could see, my niece was getting terrified of the Jungle.
My sister was not making it any better for her, as she scared her with stories like, ‘You know there are leopards prowling in these Jungles,’ and my poor niece was already seeing the spotted big cat, everywhere, around her in the dense woods. ‘I saw something, what was that?’ was her constant refrain.
I remembered when we were kids and we stayed in our village which was isolated, with dense forests surrounding it. Then, when we slept on the cots, outside the house in the night, we would squabble over, who would sleep, last in the row, as, we were always told, that the Tiger, when it came, took the person, sleeping last in the row. No matter how hard I pleaded against it, I always ended up, sleeping last in the row.
My niece was looking suspiciously at us, whether we were up to defending her, in case the leopard did make an appearance. Suddenly, there was a movement on one side, as if some animal was rushing towards some prey and my niece, breaking loose from us, ran to her father’s side. I could not make out, what it was. The silence of the Jungle was pierced with the calls of the peacocks.
We reached the part, of the TB sanatorium area. I looked for the red coloured buildings which housed the patients, all I could see now, were ghost bungalows with, no patients, staying there for recuperation. They were in shambles and the wilderness had completely claimed them. They could have been utilized for, the large number of patients, in the chest Hospital at Hyderabad but have been left, in a state of neglect and disuse.
The air is really good for anyone, in need of a healing touch and that must have been the idea, when they were constructed in the Nizam era. It was quite famous and well maintained, even in the 1990’s. I have a feeling that they have been deliberately left in that state, so that they could build some resorts in their place. This forest is a reserve area and is protected, and has survived destruction, on account of being enlisted, thus.
We were at the temple at last. This temple is a 400 year old one, constructed by the Nizam, and is yet another example, of religious harmony, which existed, then. We decided to come again the next morning, to look at the caves, where the saints meditated, once upon a time. Darkness was already upon us, and we were dreading, the walk back to the resort, through the Jungle. Thankfully, we could get an auto, to take us back, to the resort.
Fog had completely covered the forest and from the balcony, I could see the lighting play as the thunder rolled, and the dark skies filled with a spectacular show, which, only Nature could put up, for us. The next morning, we took our cups of tea and gazed at the foggy forest, if we could spot any animals. We saw a deer, which made its way, in search of some food in the trash heap, just across the wall of the resort. People staying in the rooms were flinging plastic bottles, and trash, into the forest side. There were trash bins in every room. I do not know what fun, do they get by littering the forest. If their idea is to choke the animals in the forest, they are doing their job very well.
We set off again towards the temple, early in the morning and my niece was unhappy, as her father was not accompanying us. We tried to tell her that at her age, we were running around, all alone in the forests surrounding the village, but she only thought we were mad or thought it was just another story. There was a muddy lane which, was going into, the inside of the Jungle and as we began to walk, towards that side, my niece refused to budge. She refused to walk in that direction even at the risk of being called a wimp. Her father came just in time, and on the way we saw a peahen, ambling across, on the other side of the road.
There are steps adjacent to the temple leading down towards the caves and you could see a whole lot of them, where the saints meditated. A little further down, there is a ‘Moksha Gundam’, for people interested in taking a dip in its holy (murky to look) waters. Even this pool and also what looked like rows of rest houses for the pilgrims were constructed by the Nizam. The sands of time have eroded a large section, of the rest houses and one could discern them, in ruins. Near the trees, adjacent to the pool, we noticed, a peculiar way in which stones were heaped and asked someone, if there was some significance to it. He said, ‘Pilgrims coming here, think of a wish and then place small stones, one over the top, of the other and that is how, so many have come to be assembled at one place.’
The best part of the trip, was when you go further down, from the pool, it leads you into a trial into the deeper side of the forest. The trees were magnificent, and towering in their length and breadth. Mango, Tamarind, Peepul, Banyan, Laburnum trees were amongst many others, which formed a canopy, making the place, shaded and cool, even, in the sweltering summer. The fragrance of Jasmine wafted through the air, as some of the trees had flowers, resembling some kind, of a wild jasmine. The forest was so inviting and I kept on walking alone, as if it was calling to me, but I could hear everyone hollering away, asking me to return quickly. I turned back, but only in charm of those great trees which must have been witness, to hundreds of years of our History.
On our return journey, we picked farm fresh Mangoes being sold outside the orchards, at very low rates. Most of the crossroads on the way have been renamed as, ‘Telangana Chowrashta.’ Anantagiri hills have managed to retain its charm, even if it is denuded of its forest, to some extent. Even in the hot summer, by four in the evening, a cool breeze starts blowing and if you are lucky, you might even be greeted with a shower. Then, the forest is covered in a veil of mist.
1.Avoid weekends, as the place gets swamped by people coming in droves.
2. When you venture into the deeper parts of the jungle, it is better to walk in groups. Not for the fear of wild animals but some psycho might just be wandering there and you would not want to be part of a real life horror show.
3. Plan for a two nights stay, as there is a lot to explore and I missed seeing Kotapally lake, which lies in the forest, due to shortage of time.