Cycle Tour: Exploring Some of Bengaluru’s Oldest Shrines

Temple trails and hot tiffin.  
Bangalore on cycles
Bikes are a great way to explore Bengaluru and beat the traffic. Photo courtesy Unventured

“Please like Ragigudda Temple on Facebook”, the sign read. Standing just outside the sanctum sanctorum of a temple named after a fabled heap of ragi (finger millet) that turned to stone, our group of 12 looked on in amusement. Clearly, even the gods had no choice but to change with the times. The Ragigudda temple was a stop on a cycling tour with Unventured, a Bengaluru-based adventure travel company; I’d signed up for a Temple and Thindi (breakfast) trail, an 18-km guided route covering four famous temples in the southern region, led by Gurudeep and Tejaswini.

Our 18-km ride started bright and early at 6.30a.m from Lalbagh Gardens, which was also the last stop. Breakfast was at Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR), a much-loved 91-year-old restaurant where Sundays are filled—packed actually—with happy customers who don’t mind spending some time in the large waiting area. Along with stories on how MTR invented the rava (semolina) idli during World War II, sample crisp dosas laced with ghee, aromatic kharabath (a semolina-based preparation) and chandrahar, a deep fried maida dessert doused in khoya. And don’t miss the coffee—it’s served to a select group of customers (Unventured cyclists included) in tumblers made of real silver.

The first temple on the route was the 800-year-old Subramanya Swamy Temple, made in honour of Lord Shiva’s eldest son, Muruga. Just off a busy street in V.V. Puram, the towering, intricately carved entrance to this temple is reminiscent of Madurai’s famous Meenakshi temple. This is one of the oldest temples in the city, and houses gilded Tanjore paintings as well as a silver chariot, brought out only during the annual “peanut fair” on the adjoining street—celebrating the resident God’s favourite food.

Ragigudda temple

These rock sculptures are found inside the Ragigudda temple complex. Photo: Akanksha Ohri

Riding through the now steadily increasing city traffic, past malls, apartments and corporate buildings that make up modern Bengaluru, we found our way to the Facebook-friendly Ragigudda temple in JP Nagar. The cool stone floors and the calming notes from the nadaswaram (an oboe-like instrument used to wake up the gods) were a welcome change from the clamour outside. We paid our respects at the Hanuman and Annapurna devi sections of the temple, and walked to three enormous slabs of pale grey stone outside, with beautiful sculptures of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh carved onto them. Legend has it, the three gods loved the area so much when they visited, that they decided to stay here forever and turned themselves to stone.

Next up was the Big Bull temple in Basavanagudi. This features a 15ft tall Nandi, carved out of a single slab of granite by farmers trying to appease the rogue bull that was ravaging their crops. The same complex also has the reportedly 3,000-million-year-old Bugle Rock, on which Kempe Gowda, the city’s founder, built one of the four watchtowers that marked the boundaries of Bengaluru in his day.

The Gavi Gangadeshwara temple

The Gavi Gangadeshwara temple is said to have been carved out of a single rock. Photo courtesy Unventured

The last temple on our itinerary was the Gavi Gangadeshwara temple in Gavipuram. This one is a unique cave temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said to have been carved out of a monolithic 9th-century rock. A very low and narrow path cut into the rock goes around the temple (claustrophobics beware!). At 5’3″, I was bent perpendicularly at the waist, but our 6ft-plus Brazilian and Scottish tour mates had to scramble through on all fours!

The tour is a fun activity to do over a weekend, alone or with company. If you’re a local, there’s little here that will surprise you, but if you’re new to the city and want a small glimpse into a part of its culture, with a little biking thrown in, it’s a fun way to navigate the trail.

Good to know

Carry drinking water, sunglasses, and a windcheater as it could rain.

Use the washrooms at the restaurants or petrol stations on the way if you need to; the ones available at the temples are very basic, and in most cases, are Indian-styled.

If you’re unfamiliar with geared bicycles, ask the tour guides for a run-down before the tour begins. There are a number of slight uphill and downhill slopes on the way and the wrong gear can make cycling along those a real pain.

Pack a snack, just in case the tour goes on longer than planned.

Traffic can get quite intense after 10a.m., even on weekends, so stay near the guides if you’re not comfortable riding along crowded roads.

Follow Unventured’s Facebook page for updates.

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    Akanksha Ohri is Web Intern at National Geographic Traveller India. While pursuing her Masters in Communication from Bangalore, she's always looking for a chance to pack her bags and set off on a little adventure. Otherwise, she's gushing over P.G Wodehouse and Wes Anderson, or thinking about food.

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