Monday, February 4, 2013

Coorg

I got introduced to Coorg, perhaps sometime in 2003, as I visited the Honey Valley Estate in lush green mountains and forests of Coorg, as part of soft skills training from my organization.

My stay of two days there was fascinating. We did tracking, played different games and involved ourselves with some team building exercises in the mountains and greenery of the Kakkabe region.

Coorg is full of Coffee plantations and spices.

The simple food there at Honey Valley Estate, was tasty and hygienic, I liked the coconut chutni most.

Perhaps in September 2005, I visited Madikeri, the heart of Coorg, along with my wife and family of Himangshu Agarwala.

We spend two days there roaming around different tourist attractions.

From last few months, I was getting inclinations to visit Coorg again with family and kids.

14th January, was off for kids as Makar Sankranti day. I asked Vikas if we can make a plan for Coorg, he agreed and we started plannning for trip. I booked a quails and hotel there as it was along weekend, and so with family and kids no risk please.

One thing I noticed that in general the hotels are quite costly at Madikeri. Not sure but most probably due to huge inflow of tourists from Bangalore and Mysore.

But still there was a little bit of hesitation in me, primary reason was that just a fortnight ago, we were back from a 12 days of total trip of Gujarat, and so a feeling of taking rest was there. But then I thought that kids are having long weekend and we should utilize it.

Plan was to start at 630 AM from my house, but the cab came late, the driver told me that he got confused with my address. Perhaps he was lying, but anyway I did not got involved in arguments and left at around 720 AM from my house.

Around 8 AM, we reached to the home of Vikas, they were waiting for long, and soon we were on way to much awaited destination.

The route from Bangalore to Madikeri is as below:

Bangalore – Ramanagaram – Mandya – SriRangapattanam – Hunsur – Kushal Nagar – Madikeri.

Total distance is about 260 KMs.

We need not go till Mysore, just after SriRangapattanam, there is a PaschimVahini Kaveri Bridge. After crossing that, we need to take an almost U-Turn towards right side and take a state by-pass road to go towards Hunsur.

Many people get confused with the name of Coorg or Madikeri or Mercara. Coorg is the name of a region in Karnataka. Like Rayal Seema and Telangana in Andhra, Purvanchal and Awadh in UP, Vidarbha in Maharashtra etc. Madikeri is the heart of Coorg region and all the tourists head towards Madikeri for stay and to roam around Coorg.

The average elevation of Coorg is about 1525 meters above sea level. It is on the lush evergreen plateau of the Western Ghats.

This region, as known by its inhabitants, is Kodagu and its inhabitants are known as Kodava.

Kodava are a martial race and many of them are in armed forces of motherland. The first field marshal general Kariappa was also a Kodava.

One more thing, many people feel that Coorg is a hill station, though I personally don’t feel so. Coorg is not a hill station in my view. Rather Coorg, based just next to Western Ghats is a fascinating place for families to relax in vicinity of green mountains and entry point for trekkers.

It is said that a prince from the Haleri dynasty, Muddu Raja founded Madikeri in 1681 AD under the original name Muddu Rajakeri, which became Madikeri. Madikeri is officially known as Mercara.

We took NICE road for Mysore and soon were on Mysore Road for Madikeri.

A brief halt at Mac’D was planned for breakfast, but then we went to Kamath Upachar instead to fill our tummy. Mac’D we did not found that suitable for breakfast, that day.

Then we moved ahead and our next stop was Bylacuppe.

But before that, we stopped at a bridge on Kaveri. I had many Pooja items, Rudraksha Beads and Dieties calenders, that I had to put at some sacred place. I just put them near the ghat of the mother river and we moved ahead.

As we crossed Hunsur, the greenery took the place of concrete to sooth the lungs and eyes. Road was good and so even though Lord Bhaskar was in full glory and our Single AC was not that effective on middle and back seat, we did not faced much problem.

Bylakuppe is home to two of the many Tibetan settlements in India, established by Lugsum Samdupling (in 1961) and Dickyi Larsoe (in 1969). It is about 6 KMs from Kushal Nagar.

Namdroling Monastry @ Bylacuppe
Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh is famous the world over as the capital of Tibetan Government in Exile. Not many people know that a Tibetan town, Bylakuppe flourishes about 90 KMs from Mysore on way to Madikeri.

Leaving the Madikeri Highway, we took left turn towards Bylacuppe. Lush green fields and smiling Tibetan faces welcomed us.

The houses looked different with their tiled roofs and bright colours. It feels pleasant like having walked into a place that is peaceful and colourful.

About 2 KMs from here is the famous Nomdroling Monastry.

Namdroling Monastry @ Bylacuppe
We parked our vehicle at the designated parking place and eneterd into the compound of monastery. There are a few shops here and also rooms for monks. Going further we reached the compound of Golden Temple.

The Golden temple has huge Gold plated copper idols of Guru Padmasambhav, Buddha and Amatyus. Guru Padmasambhav or Lama Rimpoche, introduced Buddhism in Tibet. Amatus is said to be the guardian diety of health and herbs.

We spend some time in the serene environment of temple. It is an excellent place for meditation, except the huge inflow of tourists.
Padmasambhav, Buddha and Amatyus @ Bylacuppe

Mural Paintings on the wall are beautiful. There are full of tales of demons and angels. Tibetan Buddhism, as per my understanding, has huge influence of tantric way of religion. 

In an adjacent building is a prayer room. I had visited it last time, But it was closed, when we visited here.

We spend some time in shopping outside the Monastery and then headed towards Cauvery Nisargdham.

Cauvery Nisargdham is an island on Cauvery maintained by Karnataka Government. Its forest like ambience is a pleasant surprise in vicinity of cities full of concrete. It is about two KMs from Kushalanagar town and 28 KMs from Madikeri.
Nisarga Dham




We were hungry by this time so first took thaali meals at one of the food joints at the gate of the Nisargadham.

Now refreshed again, we went towards the scenic 64-acre island, surrounded by the Cauvery river.

We took the tickets and accessed the island through a hanging bridge. The greenery is just breathtaking from here.
On way to Nisarga Dham
This island is full of thick foliage of bamboo groves, sandalwood and teak trees. It has lovely river bank. People can reside also here if booked in advance.

We started exploring the island, its tree top “machan” are a place to be. We also went down to the river and spend some time in lush green banks of Cauvery. 



Elephant ride is an attraction here. So far I had never done this before. Now was the opportunity and we utilized it.

It was very nice to ride elephant which was a privy only to the kings and nobles. I felt like one of them.

A deer park is closeby and kids feed them with cabbage.


Feeding Deer @ Nisarga Dham
 We returned back towards the gate and then stopped for some 10/15 mins at a small “movie theater”. They show the movie on tigers. I have seen that already at National Geographic channel.

There is a rabbit park near the entrance bridge. Lazy rabbits, indifferent to humans around them were lying down there, perhaps waiting for evening meal.
Tusker to take us ride @ Nisarga Dham
We took much required tea there as kids enjoyed the sweet corn.

We took the road now to Madikeri, reaching there by 6 PM. 

The hotel was good and also the dinner. So we decided to take all our meals here only during our stay.(Crystal Court).


Myself and Vikas went out for a pleasent walk to the main town about 1 to 1-1/2 KMs further the hotel. Environment was pleasing and it was a good walk just chatting and walking down mamory lane to college days.


Sunday morning, we got ready early and after a good breakfast at hotel, started for Baghmandala and TalaCauvery.

Morning Mist @ Madikeri, Coorg
Sunday morning, we got ready early and after a good breakfast at hotel, started for Baghmandala and TalaCauvery.

Morning weather was very pleasent and soothing to eyes and body. Lush greenery on the surrounding hills was very pleasent experience.


Baghamandala is about 36 KMs from Madikeri and is into a beautiful valley of Western Ghats.


In little more than an hour we reached there.   


Bhagamandala is situated on the river Cauvery. Here Cauvery is joined by two tributaries, the Kannike and the mythical Sujyoti. It is considered sacred as a triveni sangama.


Water is not deep here and also flow is very moderate. One can easily cross the river with water not more than waist. Many people were taking bath here. Though we just sprinkled the water on us.


The water was very cold and though I had some inclination to take bath, my geyser instinct prevented me to do so. We the urban animals have gone away from nature. As per Ayurveda, taking bath daily in pleasently cold water saves us from many diseases.


Many pilgrims after taking a dip here performs rituals to their ancestors.


During Tula Sankramana which falls around mid October, pilgrims assemble here in large numbers.

Bhagamandala
Now we went to visit the famous Bhagamandala temple, which is very close to the triveni sangam. Here shrines dedicated to Bhagandeshwara (Shiva), Subramanya, Mahavishnu and Ganapati are there. This temples is built in Kerala style.

During 1785–1790, the area was occupied by Tipu Sultan. He renamed Bhagamandala to Afesalabad. The temple got suffered during this time. Some broken elephants still seen inside the temple are perhaps attributed to him. In 1790 King Dodda Vira Rajendra wrested Bhagamandala back from him.


We went into shrine paying our homge to Shiva and then to other shrines.


It was quite hot and Lord Anshumaan was showering heat and glaring light from sky. We took coconut water first and then started for Talacauvery.


I heard that a short distance from Bhagamandala is the temple at Padi, which houses the deity Lord Igguthappa and is considered as to be the most sacred shrine of Kodava. Though I didnot visited. May be next time...


Time to move to Talacauvery, the birth place of one of the most sacred rivers in India, The Cauvery.
Talacauvery, the birth place of Cauvery
Talacauvery is about 48 KMs from Madikeri and 12 KMs from Bhagamandala.

The route from Madikeri to Talacauvery via Bhagamandala is quite scenic one. The road passing through Lush greenery and mountain ghats is a very nice experience.

Talacauvery is located on the slopes of Brahmagiri hill at about 1275 meters above sea level. Many hills with origin of rivers have same name. Near Nasik, the origin of Godavari is also at a hill called Bramhagiri.

There is a small pond and shrine. This is known as the birth place of cauvery. next to this pond, which once can see from the upper level, drop drop water oozing out. The waters are then said to flow underground to emerge as the river some distance away. I heard that during rainy season, a visible flow can be seen here.

The waters are then said to flow underground to emerge as the river some distance away.

On Tulasankramana day (the first day of Tula Masa month, according to the Hindu calendar, which normally falls in mid October) thousands of pilgrims flock to the river's birthplace to witness the water gushes up as a spring at a predetermined moment. 

The associated legend with the birth of Cauvery river goes like this. It is said that once there was severe draught in south India. Sage Agastya could not see this plight of people, trees and animals and went to Himalayas to bring a stream of Ganga to south. He worshipped Lord Shiva and as per his advise, Sage Agastya took the Ganga water in his Kamandalu and started his journey to South.


When he reached this place, which is today Talacauvery, he thought of meditating near a Peepal tree. Lord Ganesha) took the form of a crow and perched on the kamandalu of Agasthya and toppled it. Out poured the Ganges and started flowing as Cauvery.


One sapling of the old peepal tree is still there just above the sacred pond and also are the shrines of sage Agastya and Ganapati here.


It is believed that the Kadamba Kings who ruled southern and central India in the 4th Century A.D. brought Brahmins from Ahi Kshetra (in the foothills of Himalayas, todays Bareilly in UP) and put them in-charge of various temples in south India. It is from them (Shivalli and Tulu Brahmins) that the priests of Talacauvery temple have come from.
On Top @ Talacauvery
We paid our reverence and roamed in the surrounding areas. The place is quite scenic and blissful.

There are steps going towards the top of the hill. We decided to go there with ascending about 250 odd steps or so. The view from there was breathtaking. Though authorities have not developed it properly. The place is bit dangerous as there was no baracading on the steep slopes, so we kept kids holding them tightly.

Spending some time there we descended back and took the qualis back to hotel at Madikeri.


We took lunch and after taking some rest we decided to go to Abbey falls, which is one of the most famous attractions in Madikeri.


It is located about 8 km from the town.


This waterfall is located between private coffee plantations with coffee and spice bushes and trees with pepper vines. The walk through these plantation is very good. There was quite a good rush, But later I realised that the water flow was not that huge that I witnessed during my last visit. If the water flow is good, it generates a mist and standing on the nearby bridge in the mist is a very nice experience. 



Abbey Falls
Perhaps to observe that we should be here just after monsoons.

The hanging bridge constructed just opposite the falls is much appreciated by tourists. The bridge is closed from other side. So one can just walk on the bridge to observe the beauty of nature and catch them into cameras.

Though warned, many people, specially youngesters try to go down and many people have lost thrir life on the slippery rocks. We ball should not cross the limits of adventure and should follow the instructions.

This fall forms a stream and finally becomes one with Cauvery.

We spend good time there observing the nature and then returned back stopping at places and capturing the time in our cameras.

Our next destination was the Madikeri Fort.


Though it does not look like the same "category" of forts like Red Fort or SrirangaPattanam Fort etc. It is a small fort, which was originally a mud fort. It was built in the last quarter of the 17th century by Muddu Raja.


Later this fort was rebuilt in stone by Tipu Sultan, who captured and renamed Madikeri as Jafarabad. But soon the erstwhile Madikeri Monarch wrested it back around 1790.


Today, the palace inside the fort serves as the office of district collector as well as museum, district prison, the Kote Maha Ganapathi Temple and the Mahatma Gandhi Public Library.


At the entrance, on the right side as we enter, there is a museum, which has some cannons, and other artefacts of the time. Earlier it was a temple, which was converted into a church by british, known as St. Mark's Church.


Now it has been converted into a museum by the Archaeological Department. The museum houses historical artefacts, along with a section dedicated to Field Marshal Cariappa.

Though I was not happy as I felt, there is mismanagement here. This are not properly being cared.

There is a pond inside the palace, which has a tortoise made of stone. This has initials of King Vijayarajendra engraved on it.
Madikeri Fort
The north-east corner of the entrance of the palace is marked by two life-sized stone replicas of the royal elephants. Nearby is the Ganapati temple. Though it was closed, when we visited, but we can have darshan from nearby.

I also climbed on the stone wall moat and walked from near the temple till the elephant replicas, capturing things in my Nikon. Kids were playing and runninbg in the compound here and there. They were enjoing good times.

Evening was approaching se decided to go Omkareshwar temple.

When we reached there, were disappointed to know that it was still closed and will open by 6. So we went to Raja's seat.
View from Raja Seat
Raja's Seat (Seat of the King) is a garden overlooking the green and beautiful Coorg Valley. It is one of the most important tourist attractions at Madikeri.

The structure is small square in brick and mortar of four pillars bridged by arches, enhanced by beautiful surroundings. This lovely spot was a favourite place of recreation for the Rajas and hence the associated with them. It is built on a high level ground with a commanding view of the cliffs and valleys. Both sun rise and sun set are a view to enjoy from here.

Raja Seat
We took a round of park and then setteld below a canopy a distance further away from Raja's seat structure.

The golden light of the setting sun alog with small and big green cliffs, with mist and clouds pyaing with them was a splendor to watch. Web spend some good time there just sittung and relaxing our eyes and mind and gossiping. 

Train Ride near Raja Seat
Nearby is a Toy Train, we came out of Raja's park and took ticket to ride. It took a small circle of around 3/4 minutes. The train is similar to the train that are there at Cubbon Park, Bangalore or at Kankaria Lake, Ahmedabad.

Though it was a small in size and ride as compared the above two. But anyway we enjoied it. 

Raja Tomb (Gaddige)
Now time was to go to Omkareshwar temple. Meanwhile I thought of visiting Raja's tomb, more famous as Gaddige.

Gaddige is the mausoleum of the former Kodagu kings Doddaveerarajendra, Lingarajendra and Rajaguru Rudrappa. The two identical structures are the tombs of the king Doddaveerarajendra and his queen. They are close to each other, built in Indo-Sarcanic style. There are central domes supported with four pillars at the corners. The right tomb is of king Lingarajendra, built in A.D.1820 by his son king Chikkaveerarajendra. The left tomb is of Royal priest Rudrappa, built in 1834. Nearby are buried two royal officials, Biddanda Bopu who died fighting with Tipu Sultan and his son Biddanda Somaiah. 

It was around 6 PM so we thought to have darshan of Lord Mahadev in the form of Omkareshwara.

Omkareshwar Temple
The Omkareshwar Temple at Madikeri is very famous destination. The temple construction has impression of Islamic architecture with a dome in the center and four Minarets at four corners.

It was built by King Lingarajendra II in 1820. Legend has it that the King put to death a Brahmin to fulfill his political ambitions and in order to appease the spirit of the Brahmin, the temple was built.

It is said that the killed Brahmin became a "Brahmarakshasa" and started troubling the King. It left the king only when the king brought a "Shivalinga" from Kashi and installed it after building a temple. The shivalinga was named as "Omkareshwara" and regular rituals were performed.

The King inscribed the history of the temple in a copper plate which is fixed at the entrance door frame.

There is a water tank in front of the temple and in the middle of the tank there is a "mantapam" connected by a causeway.

As we entered the temple complex the aarti was in progress. With drum beats and "Nagara" the volume and the blissful environment was just mesmerising. I remembered the similar experience that I had at Somnath Temple during evening Aarti.

We just infront of the Lord of Lords, "Mahadev", the God of Gods, with all humbleness and prayed him. He is the one who destroys all the sins and Karma and bestows all devotees with eternal bliss.

Time was now to return back to Hotel.

As everybody relaxed after a busy day, Vikas and myself again took a walk to the town square.

Then a good meal and the goddess of sleep took us in her lap.

Monday morning was our third and last day of trip. Though we had plans to visit Dubare and take the return route via Kutta and Nagarhole, later we dropped Nagarhole route in wisdom of time and restricted ourselves to Dubare and then return back to Bangalore.

It is off Mysore Madikeri road. Near Gudde Hosur (4 KMs from Kushalanagar)we took turn towards Siddapura. About 15 KMs on this road, we found the board of Dubare Camp.

As we reached here, we have to divert again to a small and very bad road to reach the camp about 2 KMs away. Initially our driver refused to take us there and we looked for other Mahindra Jeeps. But they were overcrowded and not easily available so we persuaded our driver to take us there.

Though the road was bad but manageable. Even three wheeler Bajaj auto were going there. I felt that perhaps some middlemen employed by Mahindra Jeep owners were persuading visitors to avail there services.

Slowly braving the very bad road, we reached Dubare Elephant Camp.

The elephants for the Mysore Dussehra festival are trained here.

We need to cross Cauvery stream to reach the camp. There were two operators. We took ticket from one of them and took his boat turned into motor boat to cross the stream.

The boat journey was good and kids enjoied too much. They tried to put the hands in water, though I admonished them.

Getting down was not properly planned. It was at a very small place with people trying to enter the boat were blocking the way of the people trying to get down. Path was via roots of a huge tree. These roots were easily inviting trouble as it is easy to fell down there.

Authorities should take a note of this.  

There were many elephants bathing there. We also did our bit by throwing and pleasing the old power engines of India.

Bathing the elephants @ Dubare
Kids also played a lot in waters there throwing waters on elephants and on each other.

Then we went on the island and fed the elephants. They were taking their breakfast after morning bath. I heard that in morning they do "pooja" also with "ghanti" etc., but we could not see that.

It was becoming hot and humid now. We took coconut water there to recharge ourselves.

Now we had to cross the river. It seemed a herculean task as many people were there waiting for boat to come without any queue. I was a bit nervous as with kids I did not wanted to enter into "stampede". Vikas asked the other operator if he can take us. This another operator has a good place to enter the boat and also there was not much rush. I was angry on myself that I should have taken tickets through this operator.

After discussions with Vikas, the other operator agreed with a nominal fees and we took his boat and crossed the stream to reach "mainland".

Though after reaching there, the operator didnot asked us for fees. Thanks to him!

We took the very bad road again to reach Siddhapura main road.

Now we were on way back to Bangalore. Again we stopped at Mac'D. I was on weekly Monday fast so didn't took anything. All others enjoied the favourite burgers, chips and ice-creams.

Evening we were at Bangalore at Home sweet home!

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