If you happen to be travelling along the Karwar-Gokarna belt in Northern Karnataka, chances are that sooner or later you are bound to hear about Yana. Tucked away in the Sahyadri Range of Western Ghats, Yana is a treat both for nature lovers and pilgrims owing to its unique rock formations and interesting legend.
There was a time about a decade back when the very mention of a trip to Yana would have evoked a sense of intimidation and called for plenty of preparation in terms of physical and mental endurance. However, thanks to the growing popularity of this spot, it is no longer as isolated as it used to be and although physical fitness does count, it is definitely not pushed to extreme limits. That said, when you plan a trip to Yana, a few things that you should be prepared for entail a long walk through a canopy of greenery, black dust in and around the rock formations and caves and a strong smell of ammonia within the caves which is attributed to bats.
Having parked our car at the designated parking area, we resisted the temptation of indulging in ice creams and tidbits being sold at the shop right outside the rickety wooden gate and embarked on our hike. Whether it was owing to the dense trees around us or that it was six in the morning is something that I am unable to decide but somehow the walk was cool enough to keep us from feeling exhausted and refreshing enough courtesy of abundance of flora and fauna.
At no point in time while covering this stretch did we catch an obstructed view of the sky above and this was owing to the overhanging branches of tall trees that lined our path. Another memorable aspect was the constant whirring sound which we later learned was the cicadaâ€™s way of expressing objection to our presence in his green abode. For all those who are not aware, cicada is an insect which thrives in tropical climes and spends its entire life on a tree, thus earning for itself the nickname of â€˜tree cricketâ€™. Crystal clear water meandering its way through the wilderness was yet another site that left an indelible impression on our minds.
We must have walked for about 45 minutes when the famous limestone rock formations, namely Mohini Shikhara and Bhairaveshwara Shikhara loomed into view, rising like towers against the cerulean morning sky. It was time to recount the legend wherein a demon named Basmasura impressed Lord Shiva with his penance to the point that the Lord blessed him with a boon wherein all he had to do was to keep his hand on someoneâ€™s head to turn that entity into ashes. Unfortunately, it was Lord Shiva on whom Basmasura decided to make his first attempt, thus causing the Lord to flee and seek refuge with Lord Vishnu.
In a bid to rescue his fellow God, Lord Vishnu assumed the avatar of a beautiful woman, named himself Mohini and presented himself in front of Basmasura. Undoubtedly the demon was immediately mesmerized by her beauty and proposed to her. On her part, the lady challenged him to a dance competition and through a series of movements led him to keep his hand on his head, thus activating the curse and destroying himself.
According to the devotees, the ensuing fire was so intense that it blackened the rock formations as also the soil, which accounts for the presence of black dust in this area. To commemorate this event, the taller of the limestone rocks has been christened as Bhairaveshwara and the shorter as Mohini Shikhara.
Drawing closer to the peaks, we observed a number of temples within the cluster at the base and while the lingam located in the deep recess of the rock was explained as being a natural formation, the temples dedicated to Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha were creations of man. After having offered our prayers, we made our way to the foot of the caves and the mention of climbing 900 steps did serve as demoralizing factor.
Treading carefully, we entered the caves within to find ourselves surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites not to mention a strong batty stench that would make anyone feel nauseous. With sharp edges marking the narrow alleyway and the caves opening up to the sky in patches, we found ourselves in a constant dilemma as to whether to look up and exclaim or to look down and save our feet from getting bruised. We did manage both, although I must admit that stepping out into the open and breathing fresh air was a big relief.
Overwhelming though the interiors were, it was inevitable to be shrouded by a feeling of claustrophobia after some time. Adding to the growing consternation was the presence of bee hives along the overhanging ledges wherein even a single touch was sufficient to activate the entire swarm of bees.
On the hike back, we decided to stop at the stream and wash off the back coating of dust off our hands, legs and faces followed by a small picnic. By the time we arrived at our starting point, it was almost noon and we were eagerly looking forward to a sumptuous lunch courtesy of the huge appetite that the Yana trip had given us.