Where myth, history and beauty meet

A blend of mythology, history and scenic locales, Madikeri is every traveller’s dream. Nothing like a weekend trip here to rejuvenate your tired soul, writes Swapna Dutta

It is a sluggish, cloudy morning. We are on our way to Madikeri, a place known for its calm, cool, peaceful and pollution free atmosphere. The very word Coorg spells wooded slopes and colourful scenery. Also, coffee and cardamom; black pepper and honey. The landscape is somewhat rugged but the misty mountain ranges that comprise ridge after ridge of lush, green forest reaching out to the bright blue sky is a sight to behold. The road is remarkably smooth and well-maintained and we are hardly aware that we have been climbing up steadily. It is easy to understand why Coorg was one of the places the British chose to settle down and continued to occupy it for over a hundred years; it was their ‘ Scotland of India’.

Madikeri, the charming capital of Coorg district, is located at an elevation of 1,525m above sea level. As we look around, breathing in the refreshing mountain air, we see the red-tiled bungalows that dot the hillside and a bustling market place at the heart of the city. There are acres and acres of tea and coffee plantations, orange groves, and undulating paths — all in all, a breathtaking view. The place also has a distinct old world charm about it.

Madikeri or Mercara, as it was called earlier, was founded in 1681 by Muddu Raja, a prince from the Haleri dynasty. It was originally called Muddurajakeri and was later shortened to Madikeri. Apart from being one of the most picturesque hill stations in South India, it is also the place from where the river Cauvery originates. It is generally believed that Coorg was ruled mainly by chieftains and local princes until the 17th Century. A number of inscriptions and copper plates found in different parts of the state denote that it was under different dynasties at different times; the Gangas, the Haleris, the Kadambas, the Cholas, the Kongalvas, the Changalvas, the Hoysalas and the Nayakatas being the most prominent ones among them.

The main sights of Madikeri town include the charming well-tended park in the heart of the city known as the Raja’s seat. It is said to be the place from where kings watched the setting sun along with their queens. The pavilion offers a gorgeous view of towering hills, green valleys full of paddy fields and forests and the road that looks like a curved ribbon lying way down below.

We next visit the Omkareshwara temple built by Lingarajendra Wodeyar II in 1820. The temple that has a beautiful tank in front is a mixture of Gothic and Islamic architecture. The Madikeri fort, an imposing structure that can be seen from almost the entire town, was originally built as a mud fort by Mudduraja along with a palace in the 17th Century. It was later rebuilt with granite by Tipu Sultan. When the British took over, they added a portico and a clock tower to the building. The fort building now houses a prison, a temple, a chapel, a museum and assorted government offices.

There are a number of tombs and memorials of historical importance in Madikeri. There is the Raja’s tomb which is a beautiful structure. The others comprise the tombs of Lingarajendra built in 1820 by his son, the tomb of a royal priest Rudrappa built in 1834 and the tombs of two brave soldiers who died fighting with Tipu Sultan.

The next day we make our way to the Talacauvery, located 44 km away from Madikeri on the slope of the Brahmagiri hills where the Cauvery originates. It is one of the important sacred places in Karnataka and is always full of pilgrims.

The place is marked by a tirtha kundike or a tank where the river emerges as a perennial spring and flows underground again, emerging a short distance away. From Talacauvery there are steps leading to the peak of the Brahmagiri from where one can get a panoramic view of the whole place.

How to get there

Madikeri does not have an airport; the nearest one is in Mangalore from where one can hire a taxi to get there. KSRTC runs a number of buses to and from Madikeri which are quite comfortable. Depending on where you live, hiring a taxi or going by car is also a good option as it is difficult to find local transport for sightseeing. From Bangal­ore it takes just under six hours to get there.

Stay is not a problem as there are a number of budget hotels, homestays, medium range and luxury hotels as well as resorts. But it is always advisable to book in advance as the place could well be full of tourists and pilgrims just when you plan to visit it.

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