Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Monday, March 20, 2006

In Search of Musi

Upodghaatam (Introduction)

Thoughts of a batch trip - and institutionalising the idea of batch trips in my Institute has been on my mind for quite some time. [More on this later]

Identifying right places - and ensuring that the first set of batch trips happen successfully is in a large sense the first target that I was looking at. Looking for places which are not yet explored by many of the students on campus was one of the ideas. In the process, the first to come to my mind was Anantagiri Hills.

Long time ago, in my tenth standard - I heard of Anantagiri Hills for the first time. I remember one of my aunts telling me that their trip to this place was extremely good and they had a lot of fun. She told me that the place is good if you wish to go trekking.

Years passed. Having come to IIIT, some two years ago, I remember making some noise about Anantagiri Hills and a trip there. Nothing materialised. Having decided to put the best effort towards materialising a trip, I decided to check out for myself how suitable Anantagiri was for a trip.

Musi and Anantagiri Hills

A few months back I spoke to a guide at AP Tourism Dept. who said that Anantagiri would be a great place for visit and in fact the Tourism Dept. has identified it as a potential place for tourism and so on..BUT currently there is nothing developed and
our department would be greatly benefitted if you could give us a write up about how your trip went. [ :o :o]

To find what happened to this place later, a Google Search on "Anantagiri Hills" took me to those Anantagiri Hills near Visakhapatnam - which seem to be very popular with tourists! So, I searched again to find the Anantagiri near Hyderabad. And I come to know that Anantagiri is a place around 70 kilometers from Hyderabad and 6 kms from Vikarabad. What was more interesting to me in the information provided was that Anantagiri Hills is the birthplace of the river Musi, the tributary of Krishna on the banks of which my city Hyderabad was built. Take a look here at the typical description given for the same:

Anantagiri Hills (A Passage to Paradise)

A surprise feature in the rocky, brown landscape of the RR District is the Anantagiri hill range. This startlingly beautiful hill station is an ideal and upcoming summer resort. With ancient cave-like structures and bathing ghats, with the temple of Lord Ananta Padhmanabha built centuries ago by a Muslim king – this is yet another place that bears testimony to the glorious history of the land.

(note that this does not have any indication about Musi!)

Some other description said the presence of lush green meadows and so on... - a beautiful scenic picture was presented to my mind. For me, the fact that these hills are the birthplace of Musi was the reason driving me the most. Musi - the river which now turned into a drain due to terrible mismanagement - could it still have the grandeur and the majesty that it once had?

I remember reading about the good old days of Musi. One may take a look at this.

My father once bought me this monthly Telugu magazine called "Musi" edited by Sri B N Sastry - and in the issue that I happened to read - the editorial had a piece by Mr. Sastry on those days of Musi's floods and the days when Hyderabad never dreamt of water shortage. It was a very passionate piece of writing which makes one feel sad for our misfortune to have missed those days of Musi's might. (One shall find this magazine "Musi" on stands even today. You may buy it and read and I don't think you'll regret it)

As I pointed earlier, my intention was to have a nice batch trip and fresh water stream would be an ideal location,in every sense, was what I had in mind. A picture of a fresh water stream, springing out of the Anantagiri hills - that was Musi in my dreams, a lovely scenic place with lots of open spaces - that was my imagination. Surprisingly, cave-like structures, the temple at Anantagiri = these did not at all come in my view of the place. Somebody also wrote that Anantagiri was the place where several medicinal plants grew.

Here we go

On 5th of March, after good amount of coaxing and cajoling, two friends of mine, let me call them Hagol and Aie, agreed to come and we set ourselves to go explore Anantagiri. That was a pleasant day, Sun was mild on us and a perfect day for travel.

The previous day, Aie found some link on the net where some fellow said "Don't waste your time at this place, there's NOTHING there!" - and so Aie was the one who was expecting the least out of the place, but he was ready to go out there and explore the hills, Hagol convinced him to come. Hagol was his jolly good self, not much worried about what was to come. As for me, musings about Musi.

A seven-seater to Nanalnagar, and you find a number of buses for Vikarabad. We were informed that we shall not have good food facilities at Anantagiri, so bought some snacks and junk food to spend the day. Got into a bus at around 9:45 AM or so. The conductor of the bus was from Anantagiri itself. And I asked him about the place and - if it be a good place for a batch trip? He said - "Oh, well, fact you might also want to visit Kotepalli Project - do not miss it"... okay.. so we had someone telling something good - I felt happy.

Aie has this interesting habit of capturing views from different angles and directions on his camera. So as we were moving on this road towards Vikarabad, somewhere after we passed Chevella I think - he started taking photographs of the empty road behind us (being an Rf, I could attach some value to each of his photos) - we got to sit in the last row of the bus. I was sitting beside admiring at his keenness to capture those "Kodak Moments" on a Digital Camera - don't remember which company's it was.

As abt Hagol, not really sure what he was doing. So, I was in my world, Hagol and Aie were discussing about how would things be if our batch were to go to this place for a trip and so we moved closer towards Vikarabad, I found a huge water body - must be a huge lake = with good amount of water in it...and I was of the impression - may be this was Musi... but well - Aie was there to remind me - look the water is not moving - I wouldn't think it is the same. There was still that "may be - the water from Musi might get siphoned into this...and all kinds of wild thoughts..." After sometime the water was no where to be seen, confirming that it was a lake, but a huge one for sure.

Vikarabad, Anantagiri and the trek

At around 11:45, we got down at Vikarabad. The bus conductor asked us to get down at the Vikarabad center, from where one would find autorickshaws and even taxis towards Anantagiri. Anantagiri was 6 kilometers up the hill from Vikarabad. On the way to Anantagiri, we noticed that there was a Govt. TB Hospital there. The place definitely had a serene look - and the temple of Lord Ananta Padmanabha was not very far away.

Aie said let's go further ahead and go for trekking. So, I agreed, and all the more concerned about the batch trip - we went there - found this - place into the forest.
Somehow, I later felt I should have insisted on visiting the temple first and going for a trek later. So, there we were, three intrepid (ahem! let me call ourselves so) fellows, going inside this forest area to see if we can get some wild encounters :D

We were moving around the hills right behind the temple. Aie says - "okay, so we go in search of Musi - I have some sense of the way to locate water sources - so follow me" - so we follow Aie. There were lots of open spaces in the area, because most of the trees were cut and used as firewood possibly - at some places there were trees with no leaves - shining in silvery white - and they looked really beautiful when seen from a distance. We went close to see for ourselves - we notice that they were burnt and it was all ash - evenly spread out ... I must say that the scene looked tragic. We moved on...

Aie is a keen observer. He noticed broken bottles of beer, and other drinks around there and pointed out that this place has already been visited by people. We found several locations where broken glasses, etc. were scattered and my mind went back to those days when I used to watch those serials like "Anve's**t'a" and as Aie said let's go further inside the forest - I was wondering if we would find some dead body or a skeleton.. - as I kept repeating something like this - Aie was worried and felt as though I needed some psychologist's help :))

So we kept roaming... Hagol has a great amount of energy - on the way we found some log - the size of javelin - it was quite heavy - may be 5 kgs or so...and he decided to go on this javelin throwing - okay...Aie also tried..and yours truly also succeeded in throwing it for quite a distance :D

We kept walking, walking along the dominant forest trails. It was grassy everywhere, and it was all dry - there were sufficient indications that the place was used as a grazing field for cattle belonging to the area. The footprints of cattle were there to be seen, and at least we imagined them to be the ones of a tiger (!) - there was a talk of how we should go on to find at least some animals and not return till we see them. We were still close to the road, which we could see from the top of the hill. We kept checking the view from the top of the area at regular intervals whenever we came close to the edge of the hill.

On the way - we saw a few ant-hills which were quite big. I was wondering if we might come across snakes, there seemed a possibility of snakes living there. At least Aie and I wore shoes, whereas Hagol was happily trotting with his slippers on.

In the midst of a silent afternoon on the hill, we heard the noises made by motor vehicles. Interesting thing about Anantagiri Hills was - in one of the websites - they mentioned that this was a perfect place for Honeymoon Couples! Certainly we did not see anything till then that fit the description. Hagol pointed out to a couple at a far distance travelling on a bike and said - Oh yeah! finally a couple! - it turns out in the end - that they were a couple of males on the bike :))

We just kept walking following the intrepid Aie's lead. At least I was wondering how long he wanted to me to walk with them. Hagol was keeping good company with Aie. I did not have a sleep all night, and decided I could get some sleep on the way to Anantagiri, but unfortunately I could not do that. And now, I must have walked for at least an hour by then. I was hungry as well.

We read on the web that this place does not provide anything to eat. So, we bought ourselves some chips and biscuits at Nananagar itself. Had some of them, I must tell you that biscuits are definitely not the ideal way when you're on such a trip. At least I felt it. Somehow I mustered some more energy and moved on with the other two who had some good sleep, were full of energy to go explore the hill and it appeared as though they were not read to stop till we came out from the other end of the hill.

Ominous Signals

Yeah, coming back to the vehicles, we saw an auto emerging from somewhere - I must say it appeared strange - at least as far as I could see, I could not find from where it came out. Around 50 meters from where we were, there were some trees and the auto came out from there. When we crossed the trees, I did not understand from where it could have emerged. And there were some 4-5 people inside the auto. What were these people doing out there? Moreover, that was a Sunday afternoon, and I could not find a way from where they may have come - Aie asked the driver of the auto - How deep is the forest? - The auto driver - said "Quite, so you guys are goind inside, be careful not to go far deep into the forest, you might get lost, and you'll keep going in circles. " - Then there was this other fellow in the auto who looked at us - top to bottom - and says - "be careful - this is a place has medicinal plants - they are not good for health" - He notices our shoes, Aie's and mine,frowns and says - "oh, you are wearing shoes!" - His words seemed to have jolted to me. It struck me something like if we were to move further with shoes on - we might be disrespecting the forest goddess - and just as my thoughts we going somewhere, Aie gives a smile back to the Auto people, and moves on...- and I was like OMG! Normally, having heard something like what those people said, I would not venture to go further ahead deep inside. But you see, Aie's company is different.

We followed Aie, there seemed some strange scent of the area - which was nice.(may be attributed to the medicinal plants (?)) So, finally, Aie declared - we have come to the edge of the hill... it's now a downward journey - to the plains. This area had good number of trees, greenery, Aie points out that - Look this is the trail of the water. And yes, it appeared as though water flows there during the rainy season...The rock seems to have been cut by the continuous flow of water, and it was clearly visible. In a sense this was the steepest location in our entire journey. Now, I somehow got this josh - and I moved quickly ahead down the trail. It felt good when I could easily go down without much hassles - Aie and Hagol - were there behind me passing comments on my new found energy - in fact in this path - both the sides there were thick bushes, and then there was this talk of the tiger as well - this could be a nice place for tigers to hang around - they are known to hang around near the water streams...Once we moved down along the path - we were again on the level ground - a plateau like area - from where we could see the other side of Rangareddy Dt. Aie and Hagol were ready to sit there and stay back as well - ... but when I looked at my watch it was close to somewhere around 2 PM, which meant we have been walking already for around 2 hours! We did not see Musi's trail yet! Not visited the temple of Lord Anantapadmanabha!

Batch Trip??

As I said - I was thinking of a batch trip - so I used to ask these two guys who were with me - how they felt this place would suit for the trip - their reply was - let's not worry about that now, we have come here - let's enjoy and think about it later. In the end it turns out that they say - hmm...batch trip... not all may like it - but then, we can have a set of enthusiasts to come along and have fun, basically.

Our way out of forest

Now that the point of batch trip was out of my head, I was more or less like - let's GET BACK! God knows what was going on Aie's mind, and Hagol doesn't think of bothering his mind. Okay, finally, Aie said - let's move back - so now we were on our return path. Do we remember the path that we came along? I had my doubts. Aie was confident. So, okay....

Climbing up the steep path of the waterless-stream was a nice feeling. Aie took some photos of our struggle up the path. He was leading us back towards the road. On the way this time, Aie finds some flower which appeared beautiful to him - he starts smelling it despite my repeated requests asking him to refrain from doing anything that might be harmful - you see that area had medicinal plants! Aie laughs and asks me what I would do in case I faint having smelt this flower. I give some standard answers.

We were moving ahead, and just when everything seemed fine, to my distress, Aie and Hagol spotted a path that we haven't explored and they insisted on exploring it for ten minutes. I felt like I had just the energies to drag myself out of the forest. They asked me to wait out there and started walking. I gave up. After five minutes, just as I was losing sight of them, I felt that if I were not to keep them alerted, they might as well keep walking towards the interior. By the way, they wanted to move in that direction so as to see at least a rabbit if not a tiger! I hurried and started running in the direction and finally after some effort caught up with them and pointed that it's already ten minutes, and time to get back.Somehow Aie's watch has a different time setting. He insists - 2 more minutes! Okay, I resigned..and walked on :(

Having reached a huge tree and seen another big ant-hill, Aie decides, let's get back. So we were now on our way back.It was almost 3:30 PM by then!

Surprise Turn

When we were more or less back to the path that we were taking, I was on the dominant trail - Aie says No, No - that's not the path, we have to move along the other direction. And he said - you follow me guys. My gut feeling was we were not on the correct path. Well, Aie already started moving in that direction. The path got narrowed down as we went further. There was a dead end in that direction, we had to turn right, and as we went that way - we ended up at a temple of a Goddess Kali. So, Aie and Hagol go there, pray and were sitting there, and I, was not enjoying it at all. Aie said - He wanted to bring us to this place - as though he knew it earlier. Anyway, so I moved towards the temple, Aie said - "Turn around" - and the moment I turned around - I found the head of cock hanging out there. That must have been offered as a sacrifice. Aie asked me if I noticed - and when I said yes - he pointed out another dead cock's head! There were two heads - hanging out there within 2 feet distance from where I was standing. Meanwhile Hagol was relaxing looking at a picturesque view of Vikarabad. I asked Aie to talk a photo of the two hanging heads. And he captured it before I knew it!

So, having relaxed there, I lead the pack so that Aie would not take us somewhere and we end up roaming around in the forest all day. Aie was ecstatic that he found this temple in the midst of the jungle. The dominant trail that we were taking this time around, appeared alien to me. And I was just hoping that we were on the right path. Fortunately for us, we found someone coming that way. This man was pitch dark, and his hair very roughed up, he looked as though he may be one of those mavericks stuck in the jungle for a long time...but he seemed also like one of those sent by the Forest Goddess to guide us out of the forest. He asked us to follow the trail that we were taking - and we will get to the temple road. That was a nice assurance.

Final Leg - Most Satisfying

This was the last leg of our journey in the forest. And the most satisfying one too :) As we were moving out, Hagol noticed a beautiful RGB (219-145-45) colored small bird (Aie said that was a woodpecker)- that went just swoosh in front our eyes...We started following it, it hid itself in the grass around but somehow Aie managed to take some pics. Just when we thought we missed out on this bird, there was another bird - which was light bluish pink color which came in our sight. That must have been some kind of a pigeon. This time it was a couple! We could not capture the two together but I think there's a photo with one of them. We kept walking and finally by around 4:30 PM we were out of the forest... A great experience for sure and seeing the two birds was at least some icing on the cake.

The Temple

Having refreshed ourselves with some cola, we moved towards the temple. The temple was being renovated, and there was some construction activity going on. It was a rock-cut cave temple. There was a path downwards from the temple, where the Temple's Tank (koneru) was there. The steps there were quite huge, not very high but definitely steep.

The place had a nice view as compared to the dry forest that we explored earlier. Here there was a lot of greenery around. We also found some old arches indicating a Muslim architecture - and as we went down - on the look out for Musi, Aie and Hagol went around to explore the arches around which looked like balconies to some office.

Search for Musi

I went straight to the tank, there were two sections there, and on one side there were a few boys, getting ready to take a bath. On the other side, there were a few ladies, and a girl sitting there. I asked them if they knew where the source of Musi was - and they were like - What's Musi? - We do not Musi - Then may be I thought they might know it by its original name - Muchikunda - I asked them - "Ma'am, do you know where does the river Muchikunda take birth?" - And they were certainly puzzled at what I was asking. All this happened in Telugu - and there was a lady who commented that - this fellow does not seem to know Telugu and we do not know his language - that is the problem! - I was basically shocked! These ladies were all speaking in typical Telangana - and I was speaking in Coastal Andhra accent which certainly seemed alien to them.

As my thoughts were analysing the accent related issues, there was a lady for who it struck that we (Hagol, Aie and I) have come on a wrong direction for Musi. She wisely advised us that one would find Musi - which was now a dead river in Hyderabad - and I was like - Why is it that a local of Anantagiri have a problem with identifying with Musi? and I was sad :( It was not just in this place - even in Vikarabad - it was the same case. No one seem to have a clue about Musi! And that website proudly indicates

Thankfully, there was this girl - who seemed more or less of my age - who also seemed to have received some school education who understood what I was asking. She explained to the ladies about what I was saying and she told me that they were not from the place either.

I had bad experiences already and Aie comes to poke fun at me asking - where's your Musi? - My final aim - to find Musi was to go ask the temple priest about Musi. So we climbed the stairs.

As I pointed out earlier, the temple of Lord Anantapadmanabha was built by a Muslim King and it has a Masjid like entrance. So we entered from the Masjid like entrance - the priest was just about to close the temple - it was around 5 PM then...looking at us he invited us inside the cave-like place. When one looks at the whole place - one can clearly notice that the place has been carved out of the hill.

I asked the priest to tell us the sthalapuraana - the local history. He told us - The idol of Lord Anantapadmanabha - which was installed by Markandeya Muni (the priest tells - this is the same Markandeya as the Bhakta Markandeya - the great devotee of Lord Siva) is one of the biggest salagramas ever found in any temple. This cave was the place where Markandeya Muni performed penance, and the sthalapuraana had many other interesting details. He showed us a path beside the idols which he said was an underground passage to Kashi... No where was a mention of Musi made ...

Then came the BIG PICTURE - when I asked the question related to Musi - "Sir, what about Musi - or the Muchikunda river?" - "Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, it takes birth from the feet of Lord Anantapadmanabha" and you are right - it is also called Muchikunda river - when I asked if we can see the birthplace - oh no - that cannot be done - for it flows from inside the Lord's tank (the same tank that I spoke of earlier )down the hill...(!) What it basically means - Musi flows as an antarvaahini

The mythical Musi in my dreams, that a small stream that flows out of the hills, and on the hill - there is a beautiful temple of Lord Anantapadmanabha, and a nice picturesque setting - all the imaginations - lay shattered. So much for being an Rf :(.

[Next time - Our travel to Kotepalli project]