The rocky terrain at Ramanagara has several tales to tell. It was here that the iconic Indian film Sholay was shot in the early 1970s. The town of Ramanagara became the Ramgarh village in the movie. It were these rocks that formed Gabbar’s den.The sleepy village that hosted the crew of Sholay four decades ago has now transformed into a bustling town in the periphery of Bangalore on the Mysore Highway. Ramanagara is a beautiful place to drive from Bangalore. It can also be reached by local busses plying between Bangalore and Mysore. The town also has a railway station with trains from Bangalore and Mysore.
Ramanagara is located about 50 kms from Bangalore on the way to Mysore. A small detour from the highway brings you to the Ramadevara betta, better known as Sholay rocks.
Much of the area which formed part of the movie, is now out of bounds to visitors and consists of private residences and farms. As we enter the narrow road leading towards the rocks, an old man comes up. He claims to have worked as a helper staff with the Sholay crew and guides us around the area. He points towards the area where the temple and the mosque shown in the movie were set up. In another direction he says the water tank was set up. He also shows us the place the wooden bridge was constructed where several fighting scenes of Sholay were shot. He also tells us that most the rocks which formed part of Gabbar’s den are now hidden within the vast green stretch that now is also a Vulture Sanctuary.
Some 346.14 hectares of the rocky terrain in Ramanagara has been declared as vulture sanctuary in 2012. It is home to the endangered Long-Billed Vultures. According to one estimate, only 6 such vultures are left in the sanctuary which was once home to more than 2000 of these endangered birds !
Parking the car at the footsteps of a hill, we start walking up the steps. There is a temple on the top that can be reached after climbing 400 steps. There are several viewpoints along the way up the hill. The temple is said to be more than 1000 years old.
Ramanagara drew a lot of attention after Sholay was released in 1975. Nearly a decade later, David Lean’s ‘A Passage to India’ was shot there as well. But over the years, the town’s cinematic past has been forgotten. Barring a few handful Sholay fans, curious tourists and movie buffs, Ramadevara betta is now visited mostly by trekkers and nature enthusiasts. Many adventure groups come here for face climbing, boulder climbing, chimney climbing, hill climbing, rock climbing etc. Ramanagara is best visited early morning. Some areas are under the forest department and by dusk, the gates to the sanctuary area are closed.
The view from the top is amazing, probably still as nice as what Gabbar would have had from his den up on these rocks. The rocky terrain and the greens extend as far as the eyes can see, till they merge with the clouds in the distance. As the sun slowly comes down in the horizon, we make our way out of the gates of the sanctuary before they get closed. May be next time we could plan an early morning trip to this place.