I had not planned on this hike but it just happened. At the village of Kigga is a locally famous temple dedicated to a form of Shiva, the Rishyashringa temple. Supposedly a temple more ancient than the Malahanikareshwara temple at Sringeri, the temple pujari gave me a sort of a guided tour. I could follow very little of what he said in fast Kannada. I could gather that much of it was legendary with very little in the way of verifiable historic facts.
Within the inner courtyard is a superb Nandi sculpture. After seeing similar ones at many temples I can say that they there are all of a standard posture. If there is variation and room for artistic creativity, it is only in the details of decorations upon the Nandi. This particular Nandi wears a round bell which when struck with a finger emits a distinct sound. Children with speech problems are brought to this Nandi for cure.
The Nandi stands before the main temple which has three parts – the front mandapa, the inner vestibule and the inner sanctum. Men are allowed into the inner vestibule but like in Dharmasthala they must be bare-chested. The linga appears to have a natural form and texture, at least it is not smoothly sculpted. Two wonderful dwarpalakas guard the entry to the inner vestibule. Many bells hang in this temple.
I enquired with the temple pujari about the trek to Narasimha Parvata. I was told that it is about a 5-hour trek up and down, through forest territory. As I was about to start on this trek I was accosted by a villager. I was advised to take a guide since many paths criss-cross in the forest and it was easy to get lost. So I took his advise, went back to the temple and waited for a guide. A short wait turned to a longer one. No one seemed to be sure if a guide would be available. Many names were mentioned and messengers sent out. After 20 minutes of wait, I grew impatient. I took leave of the villagers and started out.
Since I was running short of time and a little less confident of venturing alone into the forest, I decided to walk to Sirimane Falls. This is about 5 km from Kigga along a good road. There is nothing much I can say about the falls. It is small and lazy. Perhaps after the rains it would look better. A road worker near the falls commented that this would be a much better place if there was a temple as well. I guess a temple works best within the Indian context.
The easy hike combined with stunning views of the forests and hills all around made it a worthwhile trek. On the whole, this time of the year is good for trekking. The weather is warm and not as hot as in summer. The altitude of these hills is a bonus. Just keep your cool when you pass village dogs. Barking dogs seldom bite.
When I returned to Kigga, I had news. A forest ranger had come by. Everyone had assumed that I had gone to Narasimha Parvata. So the ranger had sent out two boys to intercept me. They had returned without finding me. The ranger had blamed the villagers for allowing me to go alone and without a permit. I have come to realize that, guide or no guide, you must do your research and get a valid permit before venturing into protected forests.
There was a bus from Sringeri to Kigga at 8 am. I am told that there are buses every hour. For the return, I didn’t have to wait long for the bus. It takes only 15 minutes to get to Kigga.