Ulavi's many attractions

Travel

Ulavi's many attractions

MANY WONDERS: The ‘Aakalu Gavi’ is a cave that has a cow-like stalactite. Photos by  the author

Situated midway between Dandeli and Karwar, the little town of Ulavi is well known for its Channabasaveshwara temple and is an important pilgrim destination, especially for those belonging to the Veerashaiva faith.

It was during the 12th century that the great thinker Basaveshwara, who was a minister in the court of King Bijjala in Kalyana, began to spread the message of equality and social justice. The king, misled by his advisors, ill-treated the minister and his followers. This resulted in an exodus of the saint and sharanas (his disciples) to safer locales.

While Basaveshwara chose Kudalasangama as his abode, where he eventually attained salvation, splinter groups formed by his disciples went away in different directions. A young man called Channabasavanna, the saint’s nephew along with his mother Akka Nagamma and a horde of followers managed to reach Ulavi after trekking up and down the rugged mountainous terrain.

The innumerable rocky boulders and caves were useful not only to protect themselves, but to safeguard sacred scriptures, known as Vachanas, from Bijjala’s army which was after them. In the course of time, the values expounded by Channabasavanna gained popularity and attracted devotees from far and wide.

Much after Channabasavanna’s time, a samadhi and a temple dedicated to him were built, making Ulavi one of the important pilgrimages of the State.

Later, the temple was renovated and many shelters were built for the thousands of devotees who throng here particularly during Magha Poornima in February when a ten-day festival is celebrated with a great fervour. The temples of Akkamahadevi, Veerabhadra and Etthi Kayuva Basavanna are the other shrines here.

Nature’s bounty

Apart from its religious significance, Ulavi, situated in the cradle of the Western Ghats abounds in natural wealth. With numerous caves and shapely stalactites, this place is surely a speleologists’ paradise.

The farthest of the caves is the Mahamane Gavi, eight kilometres away in a dense forest where Channabasavanna had meditated. Closer to Ulavi are many other caves, the famous one being the Aakalu Gavi that looks like a cow. The limestone rock here is about 800 ft tall and the cave is situated about 50 ft above the ground. A ladder embedded into the rock takes one to a ledge and after carefully scaling it, one has to crawl through the narrow mouth of the cave.

Once inside the cave, the stalactites are bound to mesmerise you. The other caves include the Vibhoothi Mantapa which is at the ground level with a fairly large entrance.

The attraction here is a conical grey rock with a smear of  limestone dust revered and used as vibhoothi (sacred ash). The cave of Panchalingeshwara is a deviation from the main trail, a kilometre into the forest, and has steep steps. On the way back to Ulavi is a natural spring called Haralayyana Chilumi. This water is believed to be sacred.

Ulavi is not just about caves alone. At a couple of places are the ruins of old fortresses though their history and importance are not well documented. But the waterfalls tucked away in the jungle about five kms from the town is a must-visit. The Channabasava Jalapatha, also called Kodathalli falls is a 50-ft drop from a stream. The sound of the falls in the middle of the pristine forest cover is truly refreshing. 

Getting there

Ulavi can be reached from Dandeli (60 km east) or from Karwar (85 km southwest) both of which have an overnight bus service from Bangalore. Karwar also has a railway station.

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