Biligiriranga Hills

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Biligiriranga Hills
Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Brhills kkatte.jpg
BR Hills as seen from Krishnayyanakatte reservoir at the foothills near Yelandur
Map showing the location of Biligiriranga Hills
Map showing the location of Biligiriranga Hills
Location in Karnataka, India
Location Chamarajanagar, India
Nearest city Mysore 80 kilometres (50 mi)
Coordinates 11°59′38″N 77°8′26″E / 11.99389°N 77.14056°E / 11.99389; 77.14056Coordinates: 11°59′38″N 77°8′26″E / 11.99389°N 77.14056°E / 11.99389; 77.14056
Area 540
Established 27 June 1974
Governing body Karnataka Forest Department

The Biligiriranga Hills, (Kannada: ಬಿಳಿಗಿರಿರಂಗನ ಬೆಟ್ಟ) commonly called B R Hills, is a hill range situated in south-eastern Karnataka, at its border with Tamil Nadu (Erode District) in South India. The area is called Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary or simply BRT Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a protected reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Being at the confluence of the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, the sanctuary is home to eco-systems that are unique to both the mountain ranges. The site was declared a Tiger Reserve in December 2010.

Location[edit]

Map of Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, showing Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in relation to multiple contiguous protected areas

The hills are in the Yelandur and Kollegal Taluks of Chamarajanagar District of Karnataka. The hills are contiguous with the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary to the south, in the Erode District of Tamil Nadu. The hills that give the range its name are situated 90 kilometres (56 mi) from Mysore and 160 kilometres (99 mi) from Bangalore. The hills may be reached either from Yelandur or via Chamarajanagar.

The hills are located at the easternmost edge of the Western Ghats and support diverse flora and fauna in view of the various habitat types supported. A wildlife sanctuary of 322.4 square kilometres (124.5 sq mi) was created around the temple on 27 June 1974, and enlarged to 539.52 square kilometres (208.31 sq mi) on 14 January 1987. The sanctuary derives its name Biligiri from the white rock face that constitutes the major hill crowned with the temple of Lord Rangaswamy or from the white mist and the silver clouds that cover these hills for a greater part of the year.

Accommodation is available for tourists within the site.

Biligirirangaswamy Temple[edit]

The hills are famous for the temple of Lord Ranganatha or Lord Venkatesha which is situated on the highest peak of the hill range, on the 'white cliff' which gives the hill its name. The local form of the deity is called Biligiriranga and is depicted in a unique standing position. The Annual Car festival of the deity held during “Vaishakha “in the month of April, is famous in the region and attracts thousands of pilgrims from far and wide., the ratha festival is celebrated at Biligiriranga Hills. The local tribes present a large pair of slippers measuring 1-foot (0.30 m) and 9 inches, made up of skin, to the Ranganathaswamy once in two years.[10].

The temple consists of the idol of Sri Biligiri Ranganatha and Ranganayaki the Lord's spouse.This temple is of greater significance for many Srivaishnavites. Special pooja to the deities are performed on Fridays.

How to reach B R Hills[edit]

By Road (From Bangalore): Take the Bangalore – Mysore highway, and drive till Maddur. Turn left after leaving Maddur and drive till you reach Malavalli. Continue driving past Malavalli and get to Kollegala town. BR Hills is another 30 minutes drive from Kollegala.Those who come from Coimbatore can take either KSRTC or TNSTC to reach Chamarajanagar, buses ply every 20 minutes. Train : Nearest train station is in Chamarajanagar, 40 km from BR Hills. Daily 6 trains connect Chamarajanagar with Mysore and one among the six goes to Tirupati via Bangalore . Flight : Bangalore International Airport, 220 km from BR Hills, is the nearest International airport, connected by all major destinations in the country. Coimbatore Airport,185 km from BR Hills, is nearer International Airport.But Coimbatore has connectivity to all metro cities of India.In 2020 Mysore Airport is expected to become an International Airport but it is closed .Then Mysore Airport will be the nearest to BR Hills

Dodda Sampige[edit]

The Big Michelia champaka known as "Doddasampige" is holiest of all for the soliga tribes in Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple(BRT) Wildlife sanctuary in Chamarajanagar district. Doddasampige(Michaelia Champaca), A sacred grove revered by the soliga's:

There are a large number of "champaka" trees together with several covering the area with thick shadow. To the east of the riverbank, of the river Bhargavi( a tributary of the cauvery) stands a gigantic champaka tree, about 43 metre in height and the girth of trunk measuring about 20 meters. The 600 years old Big Michelia champaka known as "Doddasampige" is holiest of all for the soliga tribes and other local people. The tree is compared to Lord shiva, who is having a braid. The "Doddasampige" has been the God of the soliga tribe's, who perform the fire dance surrounding the tree on the eve of "Maha Shivarathri" festival. The tree bears usual flowers of both reddish and yellowish color during April. On the east side of the platform there are more than 100 lingams, which are worshipped. This champaka tree, a sacred symbol to soliga tribal people, symbolises the tribal relation with nature.

Those trekker's who are visiting BRT wildlife sanctuary would like to visit Doddasampige by trekking. The forest area is a home for many medicinal and other endemic species. The scrub vegetation type of forest is a home for "Adina cordifolia", "Zizyphus", "Emblica officinalis", "santalum album", "Doispiras", "chloroxylon" and "Acacia sps". The moist deciduous forests which includes Terminalia paniculata, Terminalia tomentosa, Terminalia chalbula, Terminalia bellerica, Dalbergia lattifolia, Lagerstromia lanceolata, Tectona grandis and Pterocarpus marsupium. The semi evergreen forests which includes Kydia calycina, Michelia champaca, syzigium cuminii, Boschofia javanica and Bombax celiba. The BRT is witness for 79 species of woods. Among them, Palaquium elliptium, Mesua ferrea and Dlea glandulifere are important. Apart from the above listed species woody climber(liana) Entada pursuata with its large pods is present near B.R.Hills. The BRT sanctuary is mainly Combretaceae- rich forest. Variety of Orchids are also present in the sanctuary. The rare variety plants like Lillium nilagiricance and Remusatea vivipara grown in this area. The soliga tribes are accustomed to use more than 300 herbs for the treatment of various aliments.

Hill range[edit]

The BR hills links the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats allowing animals to move between them and facilitating gene flow between populations of species in these areas. Thus, this sanctuary serves as an important biological bridge for the biota of the entire Deccan plateau.

The BR hills along with the Male-Mahadeshwara (MM Hills) range forms a distinctly unusual ridge running north-south amidst the plains of Bangalore (~900 m above MSL), Mysore(~800 m above MSL) and Krishnagiri(~450 m above MSL). The peaks of these lofty range rise as high as 1800 m (BR hills 1400 to 1800 m; MM Hills 1000 to 1200 m). The highest hill is Kattari Betta, at 1800 MSL. Various observations point to a possible biogeographic link between BR hills and Nilgiri ranges.

Panoramic view of the Biligirirangans. The pointed peak is Malkibetta, to its left is the high ridge of Honnematti.

Biogeographically, the sanctuary is unique. It is located between 11° and 12° N and the ridges of the hills run in the north-south direction. It is a projection of the Western Ghats in a north-easterly direction and meets the splintered hills of the Eastern Ghats at 78° E. This unique extension of Western Ghats constitutes a live bridge between the Eastern and Western Ghats with the sanctuary located almost in the middle of this bridge. Thus, the biota of BRT sanctuary can be expected to be predominantly of Western ghats in nature with significant proportion of eastern elements as well.[1]

Climate and vegetation[edit]

The sanctuary, ~35 km long north-south and ~15 km wide east-west is spread over an area of 540 km² with a wide variation in mean temperature (9 °C to 16 °C minimum and 20 °C to 38 °C maximum) and annual rainfall (600 mm at the base and 3000 mm at the top of the hills) The hill ranges, within the sanctuary raise as high as 1200 m above the basal plateau of 600 m and run north-south in two ridges. The wide range of climatic conditions along with the altitude variations within the small area of the sanctuary have translated it into a highly heterogeneous mosaic of habitats such that we find almost all major forest vegetation types – scrub, deciduous, riparian, evergreen, sholas and grasslands.

The forests harbour close to 800 species of plants from various families and shows a close affinity to the Western Ghats.[2]

Flora[edit]

The Biligiris are Charnocktite hills, covered with tropical dry broadleaf forest, part of the South Deccan Plateau dry deciduous forests ecoregion. The forests range from scrub forests at lower elevations, degraded by over-use, to the tall deciduous forests typical of the ecoregion, to stunted shola forests and montane grasslands at the highest elevations, which exceed 1800 meters. The forests form an important wildlife corridor between the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, linking the largest populations of Asian Elephants and tigers in southern India.


Fauna[edit]

Bull elephant walking in BR Hills forest

The most conspicuous mammals in the BR Hills are the herds of wild elephants. The BR hills is the only forest east of the main Western ghats mountain ranges in the central southern peninsula to harbour these pachyderms in large numbers. The forests were the study area for R. Sukumar, a scientist who studied the elephants of the area in the early eighties.

A recent survey has revealed the presence of 17 tigers in this sanctuary.[3]

The forests are well known for many gaur, the largest bovines. BR hills are a good place for viewing many other large and small animals. There are about 26 species of mammals recorded in the sanctuary.

The other mammals include sambhar, chital, the shy barking deer which are quite common here and the rare four-horned antelope. Carnivores include tigers, leopards, wild dogs, lesser cats and sloth bears and among arboreal mammals two species of primates and three species of squirrels including the giant flying squirrel are recorded. A recent (2005) survey of tigers by DNA analysis of scat samples has revealed 17 tigers, although the number may be more. 254 species of birds recorded in the BR hills.[4][5][6][7] These include the enigmatic southern population of the White-winged Tit (Parus nuchalis), a specimen of which was collected by R. C. Morris and now housed in the Natural History museum at Tring.

A recently discovered species includes a microhylid frog Microhyla sholigari, named after the Soligas, an indigenous tribe that inhabit these hills.

Management[edit]

Map of the BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary showing the four ranges and the borders. The white areas are non-forest settlements and coffee estates

The forests are managed by the Karnataka Forest Department. An IFS officer of the rank of a Deputy Conservator of Forests is in charge of the sanctuary. The officer operates from his office in Chamarajanagar. For administrative convenience, the sanctuary is divided into four ranges – Yelandur, Kollegal, Chamarajanagar and Punjur ranges, with the Kollegal range being the largest. Each range is in turn headed by a Range Forest Officer.

People and culture[edit]

For hundreds of years, this region has been the home for the semi-nomadic Soliga tribe. The forest regions of Yelandur, Chamrajanagar and Kollegal, including the hilly tracts and foothills of Biligirirangan and Male Mahadeshwara in the southern part of Karnataka, are inhabited by nearly twenty thousand Soliga tribal people. The Soligas inhabiting this range were nature worshippers originally, and revere a large Champaka tree (Michelia champaca), called Dodda Sampige in the local language.[8] (See Soliga section for details)

Randolph C. Morris, a Scotsman introduced Coffee into the hills in the latter half of the 19th century. The estate he established at Honnametti was maintained by his son Col. Ralph Morris, a hunter-naturalist, who published prolifically about the Natural history of the hills in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. He left the hills after independence, and the estate is privately owned. His daughter, Monica Jackson, revisited the places and wrote about her memories in the book Going back. Among the many reputed guests that Col. Morris had, were Dr. Salim Ali, who visited him during the Birds of Mysore survey and E P Gee, a naturalist. The estate still preserves the home of the Morrises. Not far from this estate is the Honnametti Kallu, a boulder which gives a metallic clang when struck with a rock. Soliga legend has it that the rock has gold within. Honnametti itself means 'golden footprint' and refers to a legend that the Lord Ranganatha leapt across the hills changing his shape at each step and leaving his footprint on the hills.[9]

The hills are famous for the temple of Lord Ranganatha or Lord Venkatesha which is situated on the highest peak of the hill range, on the 'white cliff' which gives the hill its name. The local form of the deity is called Biligiriranga and is depicted in a unique standing position. The Annual Car festival of the deity held during “Vaishakha “in the month of April, is famous in the region and attracts thousands of pilgrims from far and wide., the ratha festival is celebrated at Biligiriranga Hills. The local tribes present a large pair of slippers measuring 1-foot (0.30 m) and 9 inches, made up of skin, to the Ranganathaswamy once in two years.[10]

Anthropology[edit]

There have been numerous megalithic burial sites that have been discovered from within and in the immediate vicinity of the sanctuary, testifying to the presence of indigenous people in these regions for a long time.

There are two local NGOs which work for integrated tribal development and biodiversity conservation in the sanctuary.

Threats[edit]

Quarrying in the fringes of the hills is rampant after the brief lull of activities during the time when the dreaded bandit Veerappan was on the run. After his death, the quarrying activities have taken off with renewed vigour with strong political backing. The forest department and the local NGOs were instrumental in banning disposal of plastic within the sanctuary.[11]

Overgrazing, firewood collection etc. are other threats.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Srinivasan, U. and Prashanth N. S. (2006): Preferential routes of bird dispersal to the Western Ghats in India: An explanation for the avifaunal peculiarities of the Biligirirangan Hills. Indian Birds 2 (4): 114–119.PDF
  2. ^ Ramesh, B. R. (1989) Flora of BR Hills French Institute of Pondicherry
  3. ^ Ganeshaiah, K. N., R. Uma Shaanker and K. S. Bawa. (1998) Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary: Natural history, biodiversity and conservation. ATREE and VGKK, Bangalore
  4. ^ Srinivasa, T. S., S. Karthikeyan. and J. N. Prasad. (1997) Faunal survey of the Biligirirangan Temple Wildlife Sanctuary. Merlin Nature Club, Bangalore.
  5. ^ Islam, Z. and A. R. Rahmani. (2004) Important Bird Areas in India: Priority areas for conservation. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, BirdLife International, UK and Oxford University Press ,Mumbai
  6. ^ Aravind, N. A., D. Rao, and P. S. Madhusudan. (2001) Additions to the Birds of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Ghats, India. Zoos’ Print Journal 16 (7): 541–547.
  7. ^ Srinivasan, U. and Prashanth N.S. (2005): Additions to the Avifauna of the Biligirirangans. Indian Birds. 1(5): 104 PDF
  8. ^ Somasundaram, H. N. and Kibe, R. V. (1990) Soliga – the Tribe and its Stride, Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra, BR Hills
  9. ^ Monica Jackson (1994) Going back. Banyan Books. pp.205
  10. ^ BiligiriRanga Hills (B.R.Hills) | Ghoomlo
  11. ^ DHNS (1 April 2011). "Students make BR Hills plastic free". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 

12. Nixon, A.M.A, Rao, S., Karthik, K, and Ashraf, N.V.K. 2008. Conservation of Malabar civet (Viverra civettina) in Kerala and Karnataka:Final report submitted by Wildlife Trust of India to Ministry of Environment and Forests, India.

External links[edit]