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27 July, 2007

150 years later, Devarayanadurga Forest chugs along...

I recently came upon some facts on Devarayanadurga forests, not known to many outside the forest department. Most of these are mentioned in Letter No. 3676, dated the 20th of November 1906, from the Conservator of Forests in Mysore. This makes an interesting read for any one who knows about this wonderful piece of woodland, considered to be the earliest reserve forest not only in Karnataka but also in India.

Devarayanadurga at present is a 42 sq km forest located on the outskirts of south India's Tumkur City. It has a population of wild langur, chital, leopards and wild boars. It is home to nearly 250 species of birds and more than 50 butterfly types. It feeds tens of streams that quench the parched throats of tens of thousands of surrounding villagers. The forest forms a major catchment area for the two streams- Jaya and Mangali. These streams have been dammed at Irrakasandra Project and Teeta Dam (the well-known Goravanahalli Temple). Downstream they join the Northern Pinakini River in Andhra Pradesh, that ultimately empties into the Bay of Bengal.

1853: The earliest protection was started in 1853, when these forests were protected under revenue department by the British.

1868: After fifteen years of partial protection in the Revenue Department, the ownership of this forest was transferred to the Forest Department and it was constituted a State Forest. It then had an area of 18 square miles (46.62 sq. km), according to Captain Vansomeran's memo appended to his annual report of 1873-74. The same remained unaltered till 1877-78.

In 1879: The forest was surveyed and mapped by the Mysore Topographical survey Department, according to which the computed area was 11 square miles and 256 acres (29.52 sq. km), but somehow this area was not taken into account, and the old estimated area, v.i.z, 18 square miles, continued to be shown in the accounts.

Between 1880 and 1882: The forest was, without formal enquiry, extended, by the addition of an estimated area of 6 square miles (15.53 sq. km), chiefly on the north, east and west.

1883: On 6th February 1883, according to notification No. 38 under Section 9 of the Revised Forest Rules of 1878 in force then in the Mysore Province, the whole Devarayanadurga forest block was re-demarcated and its boundaries were notified based on the lines demarcating the forest from the villages surround it. But the notification did not specify, the actual revised area of the block.

In 1891-92 and 1893-94: About half a square mile consisting of Vaddarahalli and Chennaveeranahalli Jodi lands was excluded, as 'they had been wrongly included in the demarcation line and the net area of the State Forest has thereafter been continued to be shown as 29 ½ square miles* in the annual returns of this office'. (*76.40 sq. km)

In 1889: The area was further extended east on the orders of Mr.Ricketts, late Inspector General of Forests, by the addition of Doddavadibetta Block, estimated to compromise about 6 square miles (15.53 sq. km), and this block was notified by the Government in 1895 ( No.3839 – Ft. 227, dated 12th October).

In 1896: Col. Walker noticed during his tour in the district 'that the forest extended from time to time without formal settlement, was encumbered with numerous rights and privileges, and accordingly ordered a careful investigation into the latter and the revision of the boundaries, if necessary'.

In 1897-98: The settlement was, accordingly, carried out by a revenue officer in concert with the District Forest Officer and was finally disposed of by the Deputy Commissioner. The then Conservator of Forests, Col. Walker, was satisfied with the settlement. The boundaries were finally rectified.

1906: With reference to para 2 of Government Order No. R. 15437-8 – Ft. 169-06-03, dated the 1st June 1906, the revised boundaries of the Devarayanadurga State Forest were forwarded for publication, both in English and '*Kanarese*' (as Kannada was probably called then) in the Gazette.

1907: On 19 February this year, the final notification of the forest was published vide Govt. Order no: 7591-Fr-120-06-3. This notification included 16.88 square miles (43.72 sq. km) of area as Devarayanadurga state forest.

Other interesting years of Devarayanadurga forest:
1939-1940: Dr. Salim Ali 'celebrated' the new year here during his study of birds of the erstwhile State of Mysore. The hill myna recorded by him then is not to be found here today. The yellowthroated sparrow was 're-discovered' by a WANC team in 2007 after a gap of 69 years (read about it here).

In 1960s: Kenneth Anderson shot dead 'The Hermit of Devarayandurga' as written by him in his book Nine Man-Eaters and One Rouge.

In 1996: The then DCF, Dr. Uday Veer Singh (of the Lokayukta Karnataka Mining Report fame) reported  sighting a tiger.

2000s: A tiger was subsequently reported occasionally by local nature lovers and forest staff between 2000 and 2006. While some say it is a wild animal that has sneaked in here, a few contend it might be one from 'Touring circus' or private captivity, that was released here as the Forest Department tightened its noose on captive big game in mid-1990s.

For those wanting to know the current conservation issues of this and other wilderness areas of Tumkur and surrounding districts, please visit

For more information on DD, kindly visit

I would appreciate correction of any mistakes. Comments/ suggestions welcome.

In conservation,

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ameen,
    Came across your comments on quarrying in The Hindu. Wanted to get in touch with you. I have addressed the following mail to Hasiru Usiru in Bangalore. This might be interesting to you as well:

    Dear Seshadri (of Hasiru Usiru),
    As I told you over phone, the Freedom Dam will be held on Aug 5 at Palace Grounds. A close friend of mine and environment enthusiast, Levine Lawrence, is in the team organising it. He was suggesting that the eco groups of Bangalore could take up a stall to spread the message. I recommended Hasiru Usiru. As I told you, he will be giving a stall at Rs 1,000 a day -- extremely cheap by any standards. Even if four or five of us chip in, it will come to Rs 200 or so. There will be more than 20,000 people at the event, and you can display various material at your stall, including information on the parking lot at Cubbon. Please send him a mail ( and confirm booking for the stall. Sesh, you can call me at my residence (28385302).
    I have included his mail and an attachment for your reference.
    Also, I want to mention that large-scale quarrying in Devarandurga State Forest requires our immediate attention. We not only stand to lose our natural resources, but historical relics as well. The capital of the Ganga empire, Manyapura, is close to this area. Unchecked quarrying stands to wipe out all relics. Last week we saw a megalithic burial site near Nelamangala, and a sluice gate of the Ganga period. All of us should immediately address this situation.
    A historian friend of mine is also ready to approach INTACH (conservation society) to announce a press conference on this topic. Maybe all stake-holders -- eco-clubs, trekking/ adventure groups, organic farming communities, historians -- could get together on this issue.

    (You can call me at 080-28385302)


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