Tekal is a small town guarded by two hills on the Malur-Bangarpet Road. Located 65 kms from Bangalore, it can be reached via Hoskote on NH4. Tekal was the headquarters of a large part of the Vijayanagar empire that extended as far as Salem, North Arcot and South Arcot. It was Goparaja, the ruler of the Saluva dynasty, who developed this town and erected a well structured two tier-fort surrounding the whole township.
It is said that during its golden days Tekal had 101 wells, 101 temples and 101 cannons. Most of them are in ruins today. The king had also built a large tank called the Gopasagara.
The two hills that dominate the place are actually colossal boulders of odd shapes. The northern hill is called Kurmadri. It is the terminal point of Shathashringa range from Kolar. On the southern side of the hill, reached by a narrow mud road, stone cut steps lead to the cave temple of Bhoo-thamma. Besides the Shiva temple, a few narrow steps on the right descend to an underground cave with a perennial spring. On the left you will find another cave with an earthen image of Muneshwara and a pond.
Avid cave explorers can do some adventurous climbing over boulders to crest of the hill where ‘Rokkada Gavi’ (a cave of treasure) lies. An easier way to reach here is from Ullerahalli, 3 kms north of Tekal.
Also found on the crest is a rocky depression in the form of a large cauldron. A giant lamp is lit here on Ugadi day every year. The Muzrai department donates 5 tins of oil and 10 meters of black cloth for the wick.
Hemadri, the southern hill, is smaller but not quite to easy to climb. As there are no steps here, scrambling up the steep rock face is the only way to get to the top. The two circular bastions that remain at the top confirm the existence of a fort. The dhone, which is dry, opens into a tunnel which is said to lead to the temple below. However, Hemadri is known for its large cavern, called Bheemana Garadi, with an unbelievably large area of more than 900 sq.ft. This cave, formed by gigantic boulders, is believed to be the place where Bheema practised wrestling. Watch your step here as this is treacherous terrain. Remember to use the services of a local guide.
Watch out for wild bees and the odd panther which could be lurking in one of the many caves. Fear of panthers prevents villagers from sending their cattle to graze on the hilltop. It is said that King Goparaja used to hunt tigers here and earned the title, Pulibetegaara.
Among the shrines at Tekal, the temples of Anjaneya Swamy, with a 7 ft image, and Someshwara are worth visiting. Certainly not to be missed is the Chola style temple of Lakshmivaradaraja Swamy. The unique feature here is the 4 ft high image that has a gulaganji seed on the thumb to signify that the deity here is that much more powerful than the Varadaraja at Kanchi. That is how the town got the name Tekanchi, which means southern Kanchi. This became Tekal in later years.
The temple complex is spacious with a pakashala and kalyana mantapa on the premises. There is a shrine of Lakshmi is in the south west corner. The story goes that sage Bhrigu, who lived on the adjacent hill, used to reach here through a tunnel to worship the goddess in the night because every morning garlands of fresh flowers were found at the shrine. It was he who consecrated the lord here and the small stone ‘Bhrigushila’ at the foot of Varadaraja symbolises it.
The inscriptions in old Kannada and Tamil at the entrance are the most intricate among the 25 inscriptions of the period 1310 to 1499 AD.
Sri Seetharama Shastry and his son, Sri Sampathkumar, have put in a lot of effort to maintain the temple, but a lot more needs to be done to give a facelift to this temple.
The Vaishakha Shuddha Poornima car festival and Saturdays of Shravan draw a large gathering of devotees.
Whether you climb the hills, explore the caves or worship at the temples, your visit to Tekal will surely be a memorable one.