We took a day trip to Krishnagiri this past weekend. It is a town in Tamil Nadu, about an hour and a half east of Bangalore. It’s main claim to fame seems to be that is sits at a road junction between the superhighway to Chennai on the coast and the half built superhighway heading towards points south.
Lonely Planet does not mention Krishnagiri; not even an “overlooked gem” mention, which Tiruvannamalai gets. They don’t seem to get many visitors there; especially westerners. For example, when I stepped into a shop to see about buying a cola (you can buy Coca Cola and Pepsi in the remotest corners of the world it seems), the elderly proprietor –who was Muslim judging by his white skullcap, knee length white kurda, the fact that an Urdu girls school was across the street and there were women in Burkas on the street – stared at me, slack-jawed. I felt like I was in the presence of an Islamic Gomer Pyle. He did not know any English and I was wondering if going to fetch Siva from the car to have a Tamil speaker present would help. This seemed to be an Urdu speaking pocket and I’m not even sure this guy could speak Tamil. Fortunately, his middle-aged son was not so stunned by the sudden appearance of the green antennaed alien in sunglasses. I asked him if he had cola.
No Coca Cola, only Sprite. You want?
I demurred and bid the slack jawed purveyor of Sprite and his son a good day.
Krishnagiri may not be in the guidebooks, but it certainly is at least as nice as Nandi Hills and certainly worthy of a day trip from Bangalore. The town is dominated by a mountain, on the top of which rests the ruins one of Tipu Sultan’s forts. This mountain is in effect a slightly rounded mesa and the old fortifications ring the outer edge of the table top. The rest is scattered ruins set in wild nature. There were hardly any people up there even on a Saturday afternoon; only some kids taking a swim in an old ritual pool from the Sultan’s time and a few Pentecostals singing the praises of Jesus in Tamil. We could picnic and explore to our hearts content.
This being India, there was a shrine on the mountain-top. Krishnagiri being heavily muslim, it was an Islamic shrine. What struck me was how colorful and almost kitsch it was. (no, I did not take my shoes off and step inside, but it was an outdoor shrine overlooked by a giant rock) Somehow, I was expecting something austere and almost Calvanist as the wahhabist variety practiced in the Arabian peninsula largely defines my stereotypes of Islam. I don’t know if it was a Sufi shrine. To my knowledge, Sufism has a lot of mysticsm thrown in; somewhat resembling the Catholicism of Central and South America.
The mountain top was repeatedly visited by a pair of short toed eagles and I think that Sammy and I found a baby monitor lizard. They can theoretically grow to six feet, but as “Iguana” (a local misnomer for the monitor) blood is reputed to have magical healing properties, most don’t live to get any bigger than a couple of feet long. Oh and don’t let them hit you with their tail! It will turn you into a hijra (transvestite); or so our driver once told Daniela.
Oh and did I mention that we did a lot of exploring? I felt like Indiana Jones for most of the time.