Sacred & scenic

Sacred & scenic


Sacred & scenic

An ancient temple deep in the forests, a spectacular waterfall, and a view of the high hills of Kolikkamale — all make B V Prakash’s visit to the sleepy hamlet of Thodikana well worth it.

It was almost dusk as I drove towards a tiny obscure town on the highway between Madikeri and Sullia. The path snaked through the high mountains of the Western Ghats with lush green foliage all around and tiny streams and miniature falls along the way. It was the fabulous scenery that made the going tardier and eventually it was after dark that I could reach Aranthodu.

I was heading for another sleepy hamlet called Thodikana tucked further away, seven km into the forest. With the entire forest road immersed in darkness, it was quite an adventure before I stopped at the house of Vasanth Bhat, an important person of the locality and  magnanimous in his hospitality.
At four in the morning, we left in his car for a temple in the vicinity. It was still dark, and we could hardly see River Payaswini as we crossed a bridge built across the river. The temple dedicated to the deity, Mallikarjuna, here is revered highly by the people of surrounding villages and it has a rich history. With an unspoilt, charming waterfall in the vicinity, a pool for shoals of fish and an astounding view of the high hills of Kolikkamale, Thodikana qualifies as much as a place of great natural beauty as a destination for the devout.

The Mallikarjuna temple itself is not imposing, with short walls all around and a pyramidal tower above the sanctum. The high flagstaff is plated with copper. There is no sculptural extravagance either. But the outer walls of the shrine do have a series of colourful frescoes depicting the legends of the temple. As we took a walk around, he explained episodes from mythology around which the paintings are woven. According to him, the temple has been in existence for 3,000 years. This spot was in the middle of the forests of Thodu and Kana and got the name, Thodikana.

Natural beauty

According to mythology, the temple was a true abode of nature with pristine rivers, waterfalls and rich wildlife. Sage Kanva, who was in search of a secluded place for his penance, made this place his own. The legendary Pandavas, during their exile, also stumbled on this place.

Arjuna who needed the mighty weapon of Pashupathastra to overcome the Kauravas thought this was the ideal place to perform penance. Installing the linga at the foot of the waterfall, he observed a rigorous penance when Shiva and Parvathi appeared with Vishnu in the form of a fish and bestowed him with a boon.

Mythology also has it that the place was sanctified by the visit of gods, Hari and Hara, giving the falls the name, ‘Devaragundi’, meaning ‘a waterhole of the gods’. The temple was well maintained during the times of Ballala rulers and much later by the kings of Coorg.

Over the years, smaller shrines were also added. Till recently, pilgrims visiting Talacauvery, the birthplace of the Cauvery, used to trek through Thodikana.
An important spot to visit here is the Shastara Vana forest and the stream flowing next to it called Mathsyatheertha or Meenagundi, teeming with hundreds of large fish. They are considered sacred and are well protected.

At a kilometre and a half towards the south of the temple is the Devaragundi Falls, an undoubtedly stunning spectacle. To reach the falls located amidst the forest,  I followed the guide trudging uphill through the arecanut groves and wading through knee-deep streams.

The twin white cascades dropping from about 30 feet look mesmerisingly beautiful.
Forming a little pool, the stream rolls down into the valley. The pool is said to be deep and dangerous.

Walking back from the temple, I was stunned by the magnificent view of the Kolikkamale and Bhagamandala hill ranges in the south-west. Thodikana is not only a divine place but a locale with stunning natural beauty.

Getting there

Thodikana can be reached either from Madikeri (37 km) or Sullia (18 km) via Aranthodu on the highway, and a further 7 km into the forest. You could also hop into a bus (with an hourly frequency) from Sullia to reach Thodikana.