The Marabar Caves - page 3

There was no suitable location for the upper caves at Savandurga, so the film crew moved 25 miles south to a mountain called Ramdevarabetta, near to the town of Ramanagaram. I had to do likewise, so although the guides offered to climb with me to the top of the Karigudda mountain, that would have taken 4 or 5 hours, and I hadn't the time to spare that day. Eager to be off, I bid them farewell, and hoped that I would come back for a longer visit on another occasion. The taxi drove south to the small town of Ramanagaram, surrounded as before by a stunning array of hills and mountains.

Ramanagaram was formerly known as Closepet after Sir Barry Close, the first British resident in Mysore to hold the post after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, and is still often called Kalispet, a corruption of its original name. It was established in 1800 to open up previously dense jungle and to help secure the road to Srirangapatnam. It takes its more recent name from the nearby hill, Ramgiri. The name Closepet was given to the local granite, which runs in a band 20 km wide due north through Tumkur into Andhra Pradesh, often giving rise to the astonishing rock formations that I could see all around me. Dry farming predominates on flat land between the bizarre granite boulders, with ragi (finger millet), other millets and gram being the most common crops to be cultivated. The government of Karnataka plans to open a theme park based on the movie-making industry here, and much of the recent blockbuster "Sholay II" was shot in the area.

Upper cave entrances at Ramanagaram - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Upper cave entrances at Ramanagaram

We stopped in Ramanagaram to ask a local man for directions: he knew nothing about any films being made in the area, but when I drew a simple sketch of a hill with 3 doorways in it, he knew instantly what I meant, and volunteered to show us where the caves were. Just a short drive out of town and my goal was reached: the three caves exactly as they were in the film. There was one important change, though: instead of being located high in the hills, they were right next to the road. It must have been very convenient for the huge amount of equipment that a film-crew needs when shooting. As before, the 'caves' were not caves at all, but just shallow doorways cut into the rock. I was told in Savandurga that disfiguring the mountain in this way caused great offence to some of the locals.

Climbing the 'hill' at Ramanagaram - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Climbing the 'hill' at Ramanagaram

The scene above is just after the cross-over point in the film, when the location changed from Savandurga to Ramanagaram. In the scene below, Dr Aziz and Adela Quested reach the upper caves. The guide has preceded them, and is sitting on a rock near the closest entrance. The profile of the mountain, above Aziz and Adela, was obviously considered not imposing enough for the film, so a matte was added to take the profile to the top of the frame.

Dr Aziz and Adela Quested reach the upper caves - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz and Adela Quested reach the upper caves

Dr Aziz and Adela Quested at the upper caves - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz and Adela Quested at the upper caves

Dr Aziz goes for a cigarette - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz goes for a cigarette

Tim Makins outside one of the upper cave entrances - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The author outside one of the upper cave entrances

Miss Quested goes into the cave - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Miss Quested goes into the cave

Although a number of cave entrances were cut, only one was used for close-up shots. Miss Quested goes into a cave. Dr Aziz sits outside another whilst having a cigarette, but it was the same entrance used in both shots. Only the angle and the added vegetation is different.

Dr Aziz has a cigarette - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz has a cigarette - 1

Dr Aziz has a cigarette - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz has a cigarette - 2

Closeup of cave entrance - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Cave entrance - closeup

Looking along the line of the caves - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Looking along the line of the caves

In the studio - looking out of the cave - Click to show full-size image in new browser
In the studio - looking out of the cave

The real view out of the 'cave entrance' - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The real view out of the 'cave entrance'

Dr Aziz looks for Miss Quested - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz looks for Miss Quested - 1

Dr Aziz looks for Miss Quested - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz looks for Miss Quested - 2

A similar view in 2002 - Click to show full-size image in new browser
A similar view in 2002

The two shots above, a film-still and my own photo, show the line of cave entrances cut into the cliff face. I wish that I had had the film-stills with me at the time, to try and match the shots.

Ramdevarabetta Mountain - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Ramdevarabetta Mountain

This photograph, taken by L. Shyamal and saved on WikiPedia, shows a larger view of the Ramdevarabetta Mountain. The three cave entrances can just be seen in the centre of the image. Ramanagara has its own page on WikiPedia here.

Dr Aziz looks for Miss Quested - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz looks for Miss Quested - 3

Judging by the rocks and the vegetation, the scene below must also have been taken at Ramanagaram.

Mrs Callender's car picks up Miss Quested - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Mrs Callender's car picks up Miss Quested

In the film we see Miss Quested, crying and disturbed, run down the hill in some panic, dropping her Sola Topi on the way. At the bottom she meets Mrs Callender in a motor car, and gets a lift with her back to town. (Incidentally, the film has a small continuity error here, spotted by jinx Moore: When climbing up to the caves, Miss Quested is wearing white shoes, but when she runs down, she is wearing black ones!).

Dr Aziz runs back to the lower cave - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz runs back to the lower cave

Dr Aziz, from his vantage point at the upper caves, sees Miss Quested get in the car and drive off, so with Miss Quested's dropped binoculars in hand, he leaves the upper caves and runs back to Mrs Moore at the lower cave - the scene below thus jumps back to Savandurga, where the remainder of his descent is made. Too late to prevent the mishap, Mr Fielding arrives at the lower cave after getting a lift from Chandrapore with Mrs Callender: the reason her car was available for Miss Quested. Mr Fielding meets Mrs Moore, and soon after, an agitated Dr Aziz arrives and tries to explain the situation. They pack up camp immediately, and return to Chanderapore.

Mr Fielding arrives at the lower cave - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Mr Fielding arrives at the lower cave

How To Get There - Savandurga

The easiest way to Savandurga from Bangalore is to drive along NH17E to Magadi and a little before the town take the left turn to Ramanagaram. Ten kilometres later, you will reach Nayakanapalya, another left turn will lead you to Savandurga. Frequent buses ply from Bangalore to Magadi, 49 kms away. There are also buses direct to Savandurga, though check the times, as they leave early in the morning. Ramanagaram is on the main Bangalore to Mysore road.

Savandurga has few facilities for the traveller, though Temple choultries, which provide very basic accommodation and cooking facilities, are available near the temple. The locals are very hospitable though, and for a small payment, may provide you food and accommodation.

Near the village is a medicinal plant centre and a small zoo maintained by the forest department.

Countryside near the 'caves' - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Countryside near the Ramdevarabetta 'caves'

How To Get There - Ramdevarabetta

Ramdevarabetta Mountain is about 3km from Ramnagaram, and about 52km from Bangalore. You can catch a KSRTC Banglore-Mysore bus and get off at Ramnagaram. An auto-rickshaw can then be taken to Ramadevara Betta. Alternatively, a day taxi will let you visit both Savandurga and Ramdevarabetta in one day. Route: Bangalore Mysore road Kengeri Bidadi Ramnagaram, then take the left turn after the KSTDC yellow signboard to Ramdevarabetta Mountain.

Whilst you are there, you may also wish to visit the adjacent lofty and colorful Hindu temples, reached by climbing 300 or so steps to the top of the hill. There are two temples, one dedicated to Anjaneya (Hanuman) and the other to Lord Ram. They are said to be over 1000 years old, and were built by the Magadi chieftain Kempegowda. You will see the deities of Ram, Lakshman and Sita. The views from the top of the hill over the surrounding countryside are superb.

View from the top of the hill - Click to show full-size image in new browser
View from near to the temples

 

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