Guides to accompany devotees visiting Nagamale near MM Hills
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Guides to accompany devotees visiting Nagamale near MM Hills

March 6, 2024

Private vehicles prohibited from operating till March-end

Henceforth devotees visiting Nagamale near Male Mahadeshwara Hills (MM Hills) in Chamarajanagar district will be accompanied by guides to ensure both visitor safety and the preservation of wildlife, which faces threats due to the large influx of people.

In response to recent developments impacting forest resources and wildlife, the Forest Department has imposed a temporary ban on devotee visits to Nagamale from Feb. 17 until the end of March. According to the order issued by Forest officials, only priests conducting customary rituals at Nagamale are permitted to visit, while all others, including trekkers, are  strictly prohibited.

Nagamale is home to a historic cave believed to be the site where Lord Mahadeshwara undertook penance before revealing himself to his devotees. This legend continues to draw devotees visiting MM Hills to Nagamale, which is located 14 kms away from the hill shrine.

Over the years, the number of devotees, especially those with vows, has significantly increased at Nagamale. Despite the absence of a proper road from MM Hills to Nagamale, devotees have continued to visit the cave temple on foot.

Number of vehicles multiply

Recognising the challenges faced by devotees and the risks associated with the route through forested areas, Forest authorities began constructing a rough road to Indiganaththa village in 2010. This allowed private vehicle operators to transport devotees up to six kilometres, with the remaining eight kilometres covered on foot.

Initially, the number of vehicles operating in Nagamale was modest, but it steadily increased to 10, then 50 and eventually reached 100 vehicles. The surge in devotee numbers led to a demand for more vehicles, resulting in a rise in violations, including the operation of vehicles without Fitness Certificates and Motor Vehicle Insurance Cover, and some even lacking   registration plates.

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The violations persisted unchecked, with vehicles exceeding the capacity of eight passengers, and passengers even occupying the bonnet and roof of the vehicles, resulting in a total of 18 to 20 passengers per vehicle. Concerned by numerous complaints regarding these issues, the Forest Department has imposed a temporary ban on vehicle movement to Nagamale.

A haven for trekkers

Nagamale is also a haven for trekkers, who frequently embark on hikes from MM Hills, often disregarding the narrow passages, traversing dense forests and navigating elevated and sloped terrain. Unfortunately, these trekkers have been leaving various types of waste behind, posing a significant challenge for the Forest Department to manage.

To control unauthorised trekking activities, the Forest Department is implementing an online system for trekkers to obtain permission before venturing towards Nagamale. Trekkers will be required to register their names online and pay a stipulated fee, with the Forest Department making necessary arrangements for this purpose.

Forest officials are considering deploying unemployed youths from villages along the route to Nagamale as guides. These guides would accompany visitors, including both vehicle-bound travellers and trekkers. It is proposed that the amount previously paid per person (Rs. 120 to Rs. 140) to travel in vehicles to Nagamale should now be paid to these guides.

No intention to restrict devotees: DCF

G. Santosh Kumar, DCF of Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Division, emphasised the need for accountability in the event of accidents, given the excessive number of travellers.

In a recent incident, a resident of Bengaluru was attacked by a wild elephant while trekking towards Nagamale at 9 pm. Considering these incidents, a temporary ban has been imposed on visiting Nagamale.

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However, he clarified that there is no intention to restrict devotees, but rather a deep concern for their safety. Local youths will be trained as guides before being deployed, which is expected to ensure compliance with regulations and mitigate indiscriminate waste disposal in the forest.

Subsequently, a fee-based system will be introduced to reopen Nagamale to tourists and visitors, operating under the  new guidelines.

Devotees can visit Nagamale by foot till Mar. 10: Forest Dept.

In view of Mahashivarathri Jathra Mahotsava on Mar. 8 at Male Mahadeshwara Hills, devotees can visit Nagamale near the Hills by foot from Mar. 3 to 10 between 6.30 am and 10.30 am and have to return by 5.30 pm, according to the permission issued by Forest Department.

Recently the State Forest Minister had issued an order banning trekking in Forests across the State.

Complying with the order, trekking had been banned in Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Division too. However, it was permitted to allow only those trekkers who book online, to trek from Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Division to Nagamale.

The ban on visiting Nagamale by vehicle continues to remain in force. The disposal of plastic waste in forest area is prohibited and the violators will be dealt with a stringent action, warned DCF (Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Division) Dr. Santosh Kumar.


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