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Monday, May 07, 2001

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The twin pinnacles of Yana


J.Kamath

They stick out of the dense jungles of Northern Karnataka like towering monsters -- dark, ominous and wearing an unmistakable cloak of mystery. They catch you unawares when they suddenly burst into your line of vision.

Deep within the verdant forests and meandering streams you suddenly come across the two -- darkest as dark can be -- rocks recklessly punching their way through the luxuriant greenery. As you stand there gawking, you somehow cannot resist rubbing your ey es in disbelief and pinching yourself to reaffirm that what you are seeing is not an apparition or a dream.

The needle sharp peaks of these two monoliths jab the sky. The taller of the two rocks at 120 metres is the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and slightly smaller one at 90 metres is called the Mohini Shikhara.

What makes the visual impact even more enduring is the almost complete absence of tourists in this area. The rather poor state of the road ensures that only the determined few make it to Yana. Till a few years back, there was no motorable road and, at th at point of time, only a hardy trekker could savour the beauty of these dark giants.

Yana has mythological significance as well and -- as is common with all such places -- is the epicentre of many a legend. And the most popular fable is associated with the evil demon Bhasmasura, who, after considerable penance to Lord Shiva, extracted th e power of reducing to ashes anybody on whose head he placed his hand. But the egoistic Bhasmasura soon decided to test this boon on his benefactor! To escape from the demon's evil intentions, Shiva came down to earth and hid himself in the dark nooks of these rocks at Yana. Seeing his plight, Vishnu assumed the form of a seductive female dancer -- Mohini -- and managed to win Bhasmasura's affections. She wily challenged him to a dance competition and induced him to place his hand on his head. The unwit ting demon did just that and was reduced to a heap of ashes.

Legend says that the heat generated in this combustion of Bhasmasura was so intense that the limestone -- which the rocks are composed of -- turned black. Adding credence to this legend is the presence of loose black soil scattered around the monoliths w hich locals believe as the demon's ashes.

There is a temple in the vicinity with its own brand of distinctive earthy charm. It has an idol of the Saint Bhaireveshwara, which is believed to be svayambhu -- self-generated. Water from a spring on the rock above drips delicately on its braid.

A Shiva linga can be also be seen within the precincts of the temple but curiously no worship is offered to it. It is believed that this shiva linga was once in the sanctum sanctorum along with the main idol but was shifted to the present place many year s ago. Bronze icons of Ganga and Chandika are located in an adjacent cave.

A small path to the left of the temple leads one to a series of rock caves and a walk through this bat-infested labyrinth can be an eerie experience.

A lot of effort has been made by the Forest Department of Karnataka to keep Yana clean and, today, it is no longer the litter-infested place that it used to be. The priests at the temple are also very fastidious about its sanctity and their devotion to Y ana is absolute.

The easiest approach to Yana, is though Kumta or Sirsi located in Northern Karnataka. When driving down the highway between these two towns the deviation that leads to Yana has to be taken at the village of Kathagala -- about 20 km from Kumta or 45 km fr om Sirsi. Yana is 17 km from the turn-off point and though the mud road is motorable during the dry season, trekking the entire distance is strongly recommended.

For a larger part of the journey, thick trees provide an ideal canopy and meandering streams wait patiently for your tired feet. Birds chatter amongst themselves and monstrous butterflies teasingly dart across your path. It's virtually a trek through nat ure that the city-bred are rarely exposed to.

An alternate route is to go to Sirsi, then drive 34 km to Sundholle via Anegundi. Yana is a 3-km trek from this point.

A daily but unreliable bus service is available from Kumta leaving in the early hours of the morning. The same bus returns in the evening depending on the mood of the driver. In case you intend camping at Yana, remember to take your tents, as the priests will not allow you to stay in the temple premises.

Pic.: The Bhairaveshwara Shikara at Yana.

Picture by the author.

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