Artistes wake up to the uses of coffee plants

Aane Mahal is a small town near Sakleshpura in Shimoga district. The town draws attention thanks to wooden art pieces lined up on either side of the road. These are made out of coffee roots, branches and stems. Dry coffee plants which were earlier used as fuel are now turning into art pieces here.

After a few years, the coffee plant stops producing berries, or the production drastically falls. At this point, planters uproot such plants and opt for fresh saplings. These old plants are now being bought by artisans. The Robusta coffee variety is ideally suited for art pieces, which are priced in the range of Rs 100 and can go up to several thousands.

“We procure dried coffee plants from Chikmagalur, Mudigere, Balehonnur, Sakleshpur and nearby coffee estates. After making art pieces, we apply a coat of varnish to make them look attractive. Several people who travel on this road, stop by to pick up the art pieces,” explains Riyaz, who is now an old hand at making such pieces. Many people in the village are dependent on this for their livelihood, and coffee has woken them up to new possibilities.

Irshad M Venur

Bellary Nala, once the ‘river of life’

The Bellary Nala (BN) takes its birth in the Western Ghats, east of Yellur village, located south of Old (erstwhile) Belgaum, whose known antiquity can be traced to the second century BC (Madhavpur-Vadgaon). The river attracted the early settlers. It relentlessly moves on, to merge with the Markandeya near Hudli-Ankalgi, northeast of Belgaum. While many forest streams like BN struggle to retain their perennial nature, the relatively untouched stretch of the Markendaya is marked by river rapids and fast flows.

For centuries, Bellary Nala was the dominating force shaping the growth of Old Belgaum, Khasbag, Madhavpur-Vadgaon and Shahpur. These areas were known for their flourishing saree trade and traditional banking services even in the old times.

This attracted waves of dynasties – Satavahanas, Kadambas Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Rattas, Vijayanagara emperors, Bahamanis, Adilshahis, Marathas (feudatories), and finally the British encounter (General Munroe). With the British rule, for the first time in its history, Belgaum became a seat of regional and military administration, with a first-class cantonment status due to its salubrious climate and logistics, which is an enchanting part of the city even today !

Bellary Nala, the once ‘river of life’ of Belgaum City and a regular geomorphic feature meandering its way around the hills, is almost dry and has stopped progressing. Even the waters are changing (in quality) turning hostile to aquatic life.  For all this, flood management measures, reckless urbanisation, the new Expressway or Golden Quadrilateral and ecological degradation of the Western Ghats take the blame.

One hopes that this free-flowing river will not be “re-appropriated” and its waters will continue to flow.

Manjunath S Tyalagadi

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