Thunderous and tranquil

Thunderous and tranquil

Our decision to visit Chunchanakatte is impulsive since we have an extra day in Mysore. We toss in a snack bag with some munchies and a dozen water bottles, and begin the 60-km drive on the road to K R Nagar from where we will proceed to our destination.

After leaving the state highway, we travel, for the most part, on reasonably well-laid village roads flanked by rich green fields on either side, lustrous in the aftermath of the monsoons.

A mélange of colours greet us at the entrance of Chunchanakatte, a small, nondescript hamlet that gets its name from ‘Chuncha’, who was its local chieftain, and katte, a small dam that was built during his time. The large statue of a cow on a raised mantapa-like platform dominates the tiny village circle.

Daily rituals are in progress at a leisurely pace. There is lazy bantering going on in the midst of what appears to be a haat or cattle market. The setting is entirely pastoral. Moving right from the circle, we drive down a narrow muddy path in the direction of our destination — the Kodandarama Temple and the Chunchanakatte waterfalls on the Cauvery river in the Western Ghats.

Temple tales

Paradoxically, the ambience is one of quiet calm despite the thunderous roar of the Cauvery as she tumbles down the Chunchanakatte cascade! We first visit the temple before exploring the surrounds to delight in the aqua deluge.

Myth and folklore abound in Chunchanakatte, a place that was sanctified by Lord Ram who is believed to have halted here during his 14-year exile, and availed the hospitality of the tribal couple, Chuncha and Chunchi.

A trio of idols of Ram, Lakshman and Sita adorn the sanctum sanctorum of the temple that is built on an elevated area, accessed by a flight of broad steps. A unique aspect of the temple is that Sita’s statue is on the right side of Ram, in contrast to the traditional left position. According to a legend, Ram is believed to have given a boon to a certain sage who desired to see Sita on Ram’s right side. A couple of langurs accompany us to the top and continue to tail us as we move around the precincts.

As we watch the aarti in progress, we are, strangely, struck by the fact that except for the chanting of mantras by the priest, we no longer hear the roar from the adjoining waterfalls, the symphonic rhythm of which was audible to us even as we reached the last step up to the temple. “True, you do not get to hear the sounds here,” the priest says, narrating a yarn to authenticate the phenomenon.

It goes thus: Fatigued by Sita’s constant complaints, Ram cursed that women, unless absolutely warranted, should not talk unnecessarily. Being female, River Cauvery’s roar is therefore not heard in the temple sanctum! A tall tale indeed! Thanking the priest for his narrative, we proceed to the falls.

Legends continue to dog us. At the waterside, we find out that during Ram’s exile, Chunchanakatte was a bone-dry region. However, when Sita expressed the wish to cleanse herself with water, on Ram’s instructions, Lakshman shot an arrow on the rocks and water began gushing out in an avalanche, in three different shades. Some devotees insist they can see the three distinct colours of water even today.

But, my eyes cannot perceive the distinction, except for the frothy white and a biscuit brown, I’m certain, from the silt of the river bed that the Cauvery carries in her wake as she traverses over several rocky outcrops.

Shimmering cascade

Fables apart, Chunchanakatte waterfalls is enchanting with some unique formations. As the Cauvery plunges 60 feet down from every nook and corner of the rocky bed, she forks out into several smaller cascades, making numerous pools as she gracefully glides over rocks and boulders of various shapes and sizes.

One such tumble, falling on a flat L-shaped structure, is particularly attractive, appearing like a pearl white drape of embroidery! Chunchanakatte falls, where many Kannada films have been shot, is favoured by picnickers for its picturesque locale.

The village transforms into a riot of colours every year during Makara Sankranti when a huge mela takes place. Needless to say, visiting Chunchanakatte during the monsoons is a treat because the Cauvery is in full cry and Chunchanakatte turns more roguish and frenzied than ever.

How to get there

The only means to access the waterfalls is by road. Buses ply frequently from Mysore, which is 57 km from the falls. It is about 15 km from the K R Nagar town centre. Private car rentals are available from Mysore. Chunchanakatte is very much a rural area and except for petty shops, no restaurants or cafes are available. For overnight stays, Mysore offers a plethora of options for accommodation, including star and budget hotels.

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