The Biligirirangana Hills, (Kannada: ಬಿಳಿಗಿರಿರಂಗನ ಬೆಟ್ಟ) commonly called B R Hills, is a hill range situated in south-eastern Karnataka, at its border with Tamil Nadu (Erode District) in South India. The area is called Biligiriranganatha Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary or simply BRT Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a protected reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Being at the confluence of the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, the sanctuary is home to eco-systems that are unique to both the mountain ranges. The site was declared a tiger reserve in January 2011 by the Karnataka government, a few months after approval from India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Map of Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, showing Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in relation to multiple contiguous protected areas
The hills are located at the easternmost edge of the Western Ghats and support diverse flora and fauna in view of the various habitat types supported. A wildlife sanctuary of 322.4 square kilometres (124.5 sq mi) was created around the temple on 27 June 1974, and enlarged to 539.52 square kilometres (208.31 sq mi) on 14 January 1987. The sanctuary derives its name Biligiri (Kannada for white rock) from the white rock face that constitutes the major hill crowned with the temple of Lord Rangaswamy or from the white mist and the silver clouds that cover these hills for a greater part of the year. The hills are in the Yelandur, Kollegal and Chamarajanagar talukas of Chamarajanagar District of Karnataka. They are contiguous with hills in Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Erode District of Tamil Nadu to the south. By road, they are about 90 kilometres (56 mi) from Mysore and 160 kilometres (99 mi) from Bangalore. The road leading to the village on top of the hills may be approached either from Yelandur or Chamarajanagar.
Biligiri rangaswamy temple
The temple of Ranganatha is situated at the edge of a bare cliff overlooking the northern parts of the sanctuary. The bare rock-cliff looks white in colour, giving the hill its name (Biligiri in Kannada means white hill). The deity is often referred to as Biligiriranga and is depicted in a unique standing position. The Ranganatha deity at this temple is possibly the only standing form of Ranganatha, attributed to Tipu Sultan’s rechristening of a previous Venkatesha temple, when he visited these hills during a hunting expedition. This may have happened to attract patronage of the Sultan as he was supposed be a patron of Ranganatha. Other deities in the temple include those of Ranganayaki and several Alvars. An annual car festival is held during Vaishakha in the month of April. Every two years, the local Soliga tribe present a large pair of slippers measuring 1-foot (0.30 m) and 9 inches, to Ranganatha..
A large Michelia champaka known as “Doddasampige”(from Kannada for large Champak tree: ದೊಡ್ದಸಂಪಿಗೆ) is one of several sacred groves of India of the Soliga people. The tree is believed to be several hundred years old and its large canopy provides shelter to a number of lingas worshipped by local communities, including the Soligas. The tree is on the banks of a river, Bhargavi. On the occasion of Mahashivaratri, several festivities including dance and prayers are traditionally performed around a fire by the Soligas.
The BR hills links the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats allowing animals to move between them and facilitating gene flow between populations of species in these areas. Thus, this sanctuary serves as an important biological bridge for the biota of the entire Deccan plateau.
The BR hills along with the Male Mahadeshwara Hills (MM Hills) range forms a distinctly unusual ridge running north-south amidst the plains of Bangalore (~900 m above MSL), Mysore(~800 m above MSL) and Krishnagiri(~450 m above MSL). The peaks of these lofty range rise as high as 1800 m (BR hills 1400 to 1800 m; MM Hills 1000 to 1200 m). The highest hill is Kattari Betta, at 1800 MSL. Various observations point to a possible biogeographic link between BR hills and Nilgiri ranges.
Panoramic view of the Biligirirangans. The pointed peak is Malkibetta, to its left is the high ridge of Honnematti.
Biogeographically, the sanctuary is unique. It is located between 11° and 12° N and the ridges of the hills run in the north-south direction. It is a projection of the Western Ghats in a north-easterly direction and meets the splintered hills of the Eastern Ghats at 78° E. This unique extension of Western Ghats constitutes a live bridge between the Eastern and Western Ghats with the sanctuary located almost in the middle of this bridge. Thus, the biota of BRT sanctuary can be expected to be predominantly of Western Ghats in nature with significant proportion of eastern elements as well.
Climate and vegetation
The sanctuary, ~35 km long north-south and ~15 km wide east-west is spread over an area of 540 km2 with a wide variation in mean temperature (9 °C to 16 °C minimum and 20 °C to 38 °C maximum) and annual rainfall (600 mm at the base and 3000 mm at the top of the hills) The hill ranges, within the sanctuary raise as high as 1200 m above the basal plateau of 600 m and run north-south in two ridges. The wide range of climatic conditions along with the altitude variations within the small area of the sanctuary have translated it into a highly heterogeneous mosaic of habitats such that we find almost all major forest vegetation types – scrub, deciduous, riparian, evergreen, sholas and grasslands.
The forests harbour close to 800 species of plants from various families and shows a close affinity to the Western Ghats.
By Road (From Bangalore): Take the Bangalore – Mysore highway, and drive till Maddur. Turn left after leaving Maddur and drive till you reach Malavalli. Continue driving past Malavalli and get to Kollegala town. BR Hills is another 30 minutes drive from Kollegala.Those who come from Coimbatore can take either KSRTC or TNSTC to reach Chamarajanagar, buses ply every 20 minutes. Train : Nearest train station is in Chamarajanagar, 40 km from BR Hills. Daily 6 trains connect Chamarajanagar with Mysore and one among the six goes to Tirupati via Bangalore . Flight : Mysore Airport is the nearest domestic airport, Which has tri-weekly non-stop flights to Bangalore operated by Spicejet. Coimbatore Airport, 185 km from BR Hills, is nearest international airport. But Coimbatore has less connectivity compared to Bangalore International Airport which is 220 km from BR Hills.