Villagers build 3-km road across Bettadapura Hill
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Villagers build 3-km road across Bettadapura Hill

October 25, 2022

Pool in Rs. 13 lakh to build road to Chola-era Sidilu Mallikarjunaswamy Temple

Kushalnagar: Villagers of Bettadapura and surrounding villages in Periyapatna decided to have faith in their own abilities to carve a road out of a hill after failing to get the administration and public representatives to move to their plight even after repeated requests. After a mud road has been built, the elected representatives and officials have now assured them of asphalting the same road.

This is the story of Bettadapura or the ‘Land of Hills’ where people from seven villages came together to construct a road to the historic Chola-period Temple of Sidilu Mallikarjunaswamy at the top of Bettadapura Hill. The road now will be useful for 14 villages and also thousands of people who come to the Temple all year round.

Sidilu Mallikarjunaswamy is the family deity of many villagers here and despite this, there was no access to the Hill. They had to climb crude steps, numbering about 3,000.

The Hill rises to about 1,600 feet above the plain and to about 4,389 feet above sea level. The Forest Department had built a crude road for them to undertake afforestation in the rocky terrain. But this crude road was not fit for vehicles to travel.

There was an urgent need for a road from Bettadatunga village’s Basaveshwara Swamy Temple till Sidilu Mallikarjunaswamy Temple that is up to three kilometres. The villagers initially sought a road from elected representatives and officials. With no one coming forward to fund the new road construction, they decided to do it themselves.

From 3,000 steps to just 150

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As Sidilu Mallikarjunaswamy Temple came under the Muzrai Department, permission was sought to construct the road. Now as the road is a reality, devotees have to climb just 100 to 150 steps to reach the Temple instead of climbing the earlier 3,000 steps. Villagers of Bettadatunga Colony, Megalakoppalu, Kelagina Koppalu, Kudukuru Koppalu, Kudukuru, D.G. Koppalu and Bettadatunga villages pooled in money to fund the road.

Under the leadership of Yajamanaru Siddaramegowda, Thippegowda, Yashodhara and Panchayat Development Officer Mahadev, the villagers collected Rs. 13 lakh ­— Rs. 2,000 from individual houses and the rest from donations and contributions — and hired an earthmover to do the job. It took over three months for the road to be completed and now vehicles can carry devotees right to the Temple steps from the foothill.

Deevatige Habba

This year, the road will benefit thousands of devotees who will gather at the Sidilu Mallikarjunaswamy Temple on the day of Balipadyami for the Deevatige Habba (Torch Festival) where innumerable torches are lit and carried across villages through the night.

The Temple is one of the hidden marvels and it was built by Cholas more than 1,000 years ago. Legend says that the Temple was believed to have been hit by lightning around Deepavali time. Hence derives the name ‘Sidilu’ which means lightning in Kannada. Also, Deevatige Habba is held once a year during Deepavali in which over 4,000 people from the surrounding villages also take part.

The foot of the Hill hosts many temples which are deities for the surrounding villages. The devotees take a 22-km procession encircling the Hill with a burning torch in their hands. As is the age-old practice, villagers travel with lights all through the night through the forest area and reach the Temple.

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The torchlight stick is either made of rosewood or teakwood and they are readied months before Deepavali. The sticks are covered with bamboo and layers of cotton clothes are wrapped around the bamboo and the stick.

The cotton cloth is then oiled and devotees carry their own oil containers to make the flames burn all night. After they reach the Temple, prayers are offered, thus marking the culmination of the festival.

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