Oct 23, 2012

Exploring Navil Theerth Gorge

While researching prehistoric sites and megalithic tombs in Karnataka I stumbled upon an article on Navil Theerth, near Saundatti. The article was about a meter high stone slab with etchings on it which was believed to be prehistoric art; the stone slab was discovered in 1978 by a well known archaeologist of Karnataka; the drawings on that stone slab were similar to drawings on tablets from Indus Valley. Impressive! The article gave out an approximate location of the stone. I guessed with that much info I should be able to locate it provided it's still intact and unmoved.
October 20, 2012. I left home by 6-30, a brief stop at Marewaad to pick up Malatesh and off we went. Unfortunately Dharwad-Saundatti road had not seen much progress in 7 months, with the tarmac stripped off, the road was in terrible condition till Inamhongal. Pointed stones with sharp edges lay scattered all over.. sharp enough to pierce car tyres. Inamhongal-Saundatti stretch was untouched the ride felt heavenly. Renuka Sagar was in view, we drove around it and climbed the ghat section towards Munvalli. At the summit of the hill is Navil Theerth Dam complex. We turned left into the road leading to the dam and started looking for a the stone slab.. nothing. We were about to park the car under a Neem tree at the transport office, we saw a person walking.. surely he must be living here. Perhaps he could help us.
I showed Mr.Shilledhar the sketch of the stone in my notebook and asked if he had seen this stone. He was suddenly alert- "what will you do to it if I tell you where it is?" I assured him the stone will not come to any harm, we just want to see it and take few pictures. He said it's in a tomb near the the reservoir bank and volunteered to take us there. We drove down hill, parked the car the locked gate across the road leading to the dam. After a short walk we could  see the tomb with a foot high black slab with Persian or Urdu letters engraved on it. No, this is not what we are looking for. Back the gate Shilledhar happened to meet his uncle Imamsaheb and cousin Hassansaheb. Imamsaheb, a cattle herd most of his life, claimed to have seen the stone atop the hill but he wasn't sure of the stone would still be there. On these hills are several dozen windmills. Construction activity might have moved stones. Even though this location did not match what was given in the article I wanted to check.
We were five of now, we scanned almost half a kilometer of the plateau's edge, no meter high stone slab with a round top. Imamsaheb said it might have got picked up by stone sellers who come here with tractor-trailers. Oh no! I wish we have missed locating the prehistoric monument... hope its standing some where and we rediscover it.
Thanks to the rain in Western ghats, Renuka Sagar is almost full. The day was cloudy but warm. up here with the wind blowing heat can't felt.

At one point we saw a spot that showed signs of a burial site.. the area would be slightly raised and the stones partially buried.

 Left to right- Imamsaheb, Shilledhar, Hassansaheb and Malatesh. We discussed other possible locations. Imamsaheb suggested us to check out Ramlingesvara temple. We thanked the trio and said bye. We drove down to Navil Theerth dam parked the car close to the gate. For this early in the morning the visitors traffic was quite high.. ah, these are the people who are returning home after a visit to Yellamma temple. We had home-made upit for breakfast and climbed to the temple in the side of the valley close to the dam.

The temple is well kept. The temple is definitely ancient, perhaps Chalukyan. We explored the temple surroundings, Malatesh went inside too bit no sign of the prehistoric stone. I lost hopes of locating it.

We could see a group monkeys playing on the trees. Sandstone rock wall next to the temple.

Within the temple complex are 3 caves, one big and two small. Malatesh at the entrance of the main cave - Kalidevi cave. It's about 25 feet deep and 8 feet high. Obviously this cave is much older than the temple here. Archaeologists say that this is a early paleolithic site.. these caves might have been inhabited by humans long time back.

Also, much recently, Sri Kumaraswamiji meditated here many years and attained enlightenment. After which he moved to Dharwad and established Tapovan. Perhaps Swamiji had spent many of his days in this cave.

This the smallest cave. Though small it was spacious enough for 4 or 5 adults.

 We climb down into the valley.. its a scary feeling with the reservoir almost full behind that short span of concrete wall.

I told Malatesh "look we are going to walk across Malaprabha river now :) All gates of the dam closed tightly there was just a trickle of water flowing out. Water flowing between rocks creating gentle falls made soft gurgling sounds. In the distance I could hear a group of youngsters near the temple.

Having known this to be a prehistoric site I got busy looking for stone implements. Most pebbles were well rounded but to my surprise I got a chocolate colored cuboid shaped stone! That's something rare. The gorge is a straight kilometer before it turns left and then curves to the right towards Sindhogi-Munvalli.

 That's the group of ITI students from a village close to Murgod town.

 The flat stone next to the pool caught my imagination; that's a nice spot for a bath or relax there with feet in cooling off in water. Was that a prehistoric bathing spot? Quite possible.

Deep int this valley it was sultry, we could feel the humid weather. Hot weather affects Malatesh pretty quickly. There he is cooling off in fresh flowing water. It's my experience too; after a long trek in hot weather, dipping feet and hands in flowing water really takes away tiredness. The refreshing feeling  makes you feel alive.. something like the punch line- alive is awesome. I was trying to imagine a prehistoric ancestor in Malatesh's place bathing after a tiring hunting session.. couple of his tribesmen also bathing close by.

With a foot of water flowing here, it's a great place for kids to play.

I think the short break energized Malatesh. I asked if he was ready for a 4 km trek in hills to locate a fort. Yes came the reply. Back at the temple, as we came out we found two men, very much dam employees. We showed them the sketch in the notebook. One of the men said that one of the stones inside the temple could be it. Thank you so much. We scrambled back to the temple with the five ITI boys in tow and searched every corner of the temple with LED lamps. No, they were inscriptions. Disappointed, we decided to leave.

On the way out, we stopped by another possible burial site.

We must have asked some 10 people if they had seen a stone slab with etchings on them. I wonder how many thought we are nuts searching for some stone. I pray for the prehistoric monument; hope its protected and preserved, where ever it is.

We drove down the ghat section towards Munvalli, Tallur was our destination.

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